Basis of all religions

Basis of all Religions

By Desmond Yeoh SC

Ceramic Products Manufacturer in Malaysia

Ceramic Products

Jacey was contemplating the difference between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. Theravada emphasises on realising the non-existence of the self (anatta) through meditation and contemplation. A Theravada Buddhist will spend many hours meditating in order to get into deep states of meditation called Jhana where the senses disappears and one experiences only bliss and nothingness.

On the other hand, a Mahayana Buddhist overcomes the preoccupation with the self by developing compassion and focusing one’s attention on reducing the suffering of others. One spends time, effort and money to help others and one gains peace and happiness from doing so.

Both approaches came from the Buddha. Jacey felt confused; how can such different approaches come from the same Master?

The sound of her 10-year old son Jason shook Jacey out of her reverie. She smiled as she listened to the conversation between Jason and his best friend. As she listened to how her son was speaking and his views about things, she could clearly see how her son’s personality has been developed over time by everyone that has come into his life. It is as if everyone who has met Jason has added some memory into his ego that is now forming. His best friend is also now adding to Jason’s ego but giving his own views to Jason; thus adding to Jason’s growing database of the world.

Then it hit her. These memories that are added into Jason are the karmic conditioning that the masters talked about. She could also see that the ego is the accumulation of memories and experiences in one’s life. Jason was telling his friend that it is not right to talk negatively about other people. He thinks this way because his father recently had this talk with him. Jason’s perception of what is right or wrong was implanted into him by others.

Jacey thought about all the things that she perceives as right or wrong and discovered that her perception was put there by others. She tried to find a perception that she could really call her own but she could not find any.

She asked herself; is killing one’s enemy during war right or wrong? She found it difficult to answer this question because she is living in a peaceful country. However, if she is in the middle of a war where everyone was killing each other on both sides, the question would probably not be so difficult to answer.

A question arose in her mind; who gets enlightened? Can accumulated memories get enlightened? Her memories are different from the data stored in a computer only because she has emotions and the computer does not. She remembered reading a story about a man who met with an accident and damaged the part of the brain that controlled emotions. When the doctor tried to fix the date and time for the next appointment, the patient went into an analysis of the pros and cons of different dates, including the likely weather on different dates, but could not make a decision. The doctor allowed him to go for almost 30 minutes before suggesting to meet next Thursday at 2pm. The patient immediately agreed and left the clinic.

Jacey whispered softly to herself, “The ego…does not get enlightened. Memories cannot get enlightened…”

same man diff clothesIt suddenly became clear to her. At the core, there is no real difference between Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. Both approaches aim towards inculcating the causes of happiness and removing the causes of suffering. She can also see that this is the basis of all religions. She realised that if she does not first develop discipline and virtue, no practice and technique can help her find happiness. On the other hand, if she develops virtue, she can find happiness even if she does not subscribe to any religious belief!

She could now understand why there are so many religions and why even within each religion, there are so many groups with varying views or approaches. Everyone has different mental dispositions and will have to find the belief system that is most suited to his current views. It is like a man wearing different clothes to suit the occasion.

Jacey smiled and thought to herself; the basis of all religions is the same. There is really no difference. Orange juice and lemonade taste different but they are essentially water. Both serve to quench one’s thirst.

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. chiaab
    Jan 05, 2013 @ 15:50:10

    dharma taught by bhagawan buddha to individual or listeners are in accordance to their mental capacity or aptitude in understanding and capability to practise the teachings. the teachings maybe different or confusing but in essence the ultimate aim is to end suffering and to attain liberation…..


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