Following the logic of “the Buddha,” it is a mistake to focus on the person of the historical Buddha, or any other person, and that for multiple reasons.
What we should focus on is consciousness. Full stop, end of discussion. We have discussed how concepts can be useful, but they are ultimately a distraction. Even “consciousness” is a concept. We cannot meaningfully offer any predicate about “consciousness,” even a name, without distracting from the direct experience of it.
But most people are badly distracted from their own “consciousness” as the result of decades, lifetimes, of habit, so we need to try to get them to focus on the experience, and human language is the best, least imperfect, tool we have to pursue that goal. If you can read, chances are you can grasp this paradox and keep meditating until consciousness, um, overtakes your consciousness entirely, until you see awareness as aware of awareness. It’s meta.
So “the Buddha” is a double distraction. The image we have of a person who corresponds to “the Buddha” is also just a concept. We’re all just concepts in the end. “The Buddha” was just a concept when he walked the earth. Trying to awaken to “consciousness” by following “the Buddha” is an error piled onto an error.
Further, “the Buddha” taught “not self,” which is a critical component of his teaching. This is sort of the same idea, stated in different terms. Especially 2,500 years after his death, any “Buddha” we refer to is just an idea, a concept, which is all he, or any of us, ever was or is. There’s no there there. It is not wrong to believe that we do have a reasonably accurate record of what “the Buddha” taught during his lifetime. We can, I can, attest to the effectiveness of the core practice of “Buddhism,” meditation, and recommend it unreservedly to all other persons. I am far more awake now than I was when I started meditating. It is a practice, and as such it rewards consistent effort over time.
But we could as well call it “Ancient Indian meditation,” or just “meditation,” instead of “Buddhist meditation,” although “Buddhist meditation” does have a certain valence in the United States that “meditation” by itself lacks. The only reason to do any of this is that it is essential to meet people where they are and try to communicate with them using whatever tools work. In a highly amusing, hugely ironic, double switch back, this concern for labels is just recapitulating the same mistake.
So laugh at me for writing this, laugh at yourself for reading it, and keep meditating.
We have a book.
Please help spread the word.