Wednesday, 21 September 2016 07:27

The wisdom of Buddhism

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Why Gnosticism Did Not And Cannot Take Hold In This World

Ozodi Osuji

Many of the early Christians were Gnostics.  Many of the church fathers, such as Saint Augustine of Hippo, before they converted to what is now called Catholicism, were Gnostic Christians. The early Christian church was dominated by Gnostics such as Mani and his Manichean Gnostics. Indeed, some of the apostles allegedly wrote gnostic gospels, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Judas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalen. In 1947 a treasure trove of Gnostic gospels were discovered at Dag Hammadi in Egypt; these writings date to the third century of our common era.

The question is: what led to the death of Gnosticism and if Gnosticism is resurrected (as Helen Schucman tried to do in her book, A course in miracles) would it take hold in the modern world?

After studying Gnosticism for many years I came to the conclusion that the death of early Gnosticism was not as a result of what we were told: that those who became the Catholic Church persecuted Gnostics and drove them out of existence; no one drove Gnosticism out of existence; it died because its theology is incompatible with this world. The present attempt to resurrect it by A course in miracles is a flash in the pan and is on its way out, too.

Gnosticism cannot exist in this world. Why? It is because Gnosticism has absolutely no use in this world; if what it is trying to accomplish is accomplished this world would cease existing.

People want to be in this world and do not want to end their existence in this world.  Gnosticism's goal negates the existence of this world; human beings who clearly want to live in this world will not struggle to accomplish the goal of ending the world they want to live in.

What succeeds in this world is the religion of the ego; ego based religions, such as the Catholic Church, Protestantism and Islam succeed in this world for they embrace the egos gospel.

The ego is the part of us that separated from our real self and takes on human forms and wants to adapt to the exigencies of this world. The ego is at home in our world of space time and matter. The ego wants to scientifically study its home, understand it and devise technologies to adapt to it.

The ego came here to survive in the world not to escape from the world.  To the ego the world of space, time and matter is real and it wants to make the most of it.  The ego began this world, built it and maintains it.

The Holy Spirit has taken the world the ego built and rebuilt it, reinvented it, reconstructed it in the world of light forms; the Holy Spirit would like us to escape from the world of the ego and come live in the world of light forms.

If we listen to the gospel of the Holy Spirit which tells us to negate this world, to escape from this world we would not do what we have to do to adapt to the exigencies of this world.  We would have the promise of the world of light forms. Alas, the world of light forms is not easily attained.

Perhaps, human beings have been in their present form for about 100, 000 years. In that many years' perhaps 100 human beings have actually attained the world of light forms. That makes it an average of one person in every one thousand years! That is not exactly a good record to make a religion that asks people to negate our world and go to the world of light forms acceptable to them.

If it were possible for many people to do what Gnosticism asks them to do and experience the world of light forms that it promises them, many people would have embraced that religion. If many people accept it the ego and its world would come to an end.

Hinduism is the same as Gnosticism; it, too, does not appeal to many people. Buddhism, on the other hand, has found ways to make itself articulate the truth contained in Hinduism and Gnosticism and yet encourages people to live in the egos world and the result is that many people embraced it.

Buddhism is the religion of most Asians (Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, Cambodians and Vietnamese etc.).

Buddhism's appeal has a greater reach than Hinduism because of "the wisdom of Buddhism"; that wisdom lies in it telling its followers to accept this world as it is and do what adapts to it but do it in a detached manner.

"Chop wood and carry water "is the philosophy of Buddhism. It, in effect, tells you to understand this world on its terms and do what it requires of you to survive in it but to do so with the realization that there is another world, the world of light forms.

Go ahead and be an ego and seek ego things but do so with detachment so that if you do not get those ego things you do not feel disappointed; even if you get them know that they are ephemeral.

The ego and its world are transitory; they are here today and gone tomorrow. We are born in body, have egos and struggle for our ego survival and live for, may be, 100 years and die. When we die all the things we had accumulated in the ego remain in the egos world whereas our bodies and egos die out. The ego is destined to die and disappear from existence yet we struggle for its survival.

Our planet earth in two billion years will begin its dying process. The sun has enough energy to last five billion years. In about two billion years the level of hydrogen in the sun would be less. It would begin fusing helium to carbon. This process will continue for another two billion years. As it does so it would be getting hotter and hotter. The heat it generates would dry water on planet earth.

In about two billion years planet earth would be dry, as dry as today's Mercury and Venus and, as such, cannot support biological life forms.

In five billion years the sun dies, along with its nine planets. That is to say our earthly habitat will die and those who live on it will die or move away.

Of course, our egos do not want to die. Therefore, we shall probably discover technologies to take us to exoplanets in other solar systems. We shall probably migrate from one habitable planet to another in our Milky Way galaxy and eventually to other galaxies.

The universe itself will gradually die (in about five trillion years). Before that happens we probably would have the technology to tunnel ourselves to other universes.

There are infinite universes; we will probably go from one universe to another and in so doing our egos seem to survive forever. The universes will exist until all the children of God who left him and went on a journey of separation have changed their minds and returned to their natural state of union with God and each other.

The many universes exist to give us the time to take all the time we need to figure out a way to return home. When all of have returned home the universes cease existing.

Given who we are, we probably would scramble things up, again, and go on another journey to nowhere (for everywhere we go is in God) and struggle to find our way back to God.  This way the game of separation and return continues. The children of God always give themselves something to do with their time and energy.

I am, of course, talking about our collective egos; the individual ego, you and I, live about 120 years; we survive in the egos world through our offspring into the future.

For our present purpose, the issue is what religion survives in our egos world?  Hinduism and Gnosticism does not adapt to this world and therefore do not survive for long in this world. Why?

Hinduism and Gnosticism (both are the same so I will interchange their names) cannot survive in this world because they see this world as a mistake that we ought to correct by leaving it.

Hinduism says that our world is the dream of Atman (parts of God, in Christian terms the sons of God). Hinduism is a methodology on how to get out of this world, how to awaken from the dream of self-forgetfulness.

Hinduism wants to enable you to do what you have to do to wake up from the dream of separation from your real self. In the process it does not enable you to understand the world on its terms and adapt to it.

Hindus do not do what they have to do to cope with the world as it is so that despite possessing great intelligence they are poor.

India is teaming with millions of poor people because they try to live according to their religion and that religion does not enable them to adapt to the realities of this world; Hinduism tells them to extinguish their egos (Ahankara) and leave this world.

To Hinduism there is a different and better world; that better world is the world of Brahman and Atman; that world is called Brahma loca, heaven; it is a formless unified world where Brahman and Atman are one, they share oneself and one mind.

The world of Brahman is our real home, Hinduism teaches. However, there is an intermediate world that Hinduism calls the astral world, the world of light forms, aka the gate of heaven (Nikalpa Brahma loca).

In the world of light forms, aka astral world people still look like they do on earth except that they are now in light forms.

In heaven people are not in forms; people are parts of one self and one mind; people are parts of Brahman.

Brahman is a wave of light and each of us is a particle of light in that wave of light called Brahman. Wave and particle are one; where one ends and the other begins is nowhere.

To experience heaven Hinduism teaches people meditation. In its meditation, aka raja yoga, people are told to reject their egos and bodies and literally escape from this world.

If you succeed in Hindu meditation you would escape from our world and see yourself in the world of light forms.  Since that world is at the gate of heaven and is not heaven, Hinduism asks you to continue meditating until you escape from the world of forms and enter the formless world of Brahman and know yourself as Atman who is the same as Brahman.

If you succeed in doing so you are said to be enlightened and illuminated to your real self.  In all of India and its long history not more than ten people have had this experience of self-realization!

So, as you can see, the goal of self-realization is a goal that is not easily attained. In the meantime, Hindus try to attain it and do not do what they have to do to attain the goals of the ego and live well on earth and therefore live in poverty.

India is a place of poverty because its religion teaches the people not to do what they have to do to properly adapt to the exigencies of this world.

Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism (just as Christianity is an offshoot of Judaism) that while aiming at the same goal of escape from this  world, as Hinduism does, decided to ask people to do what they have to do to adapt to this world.

The average Buddhist does his meditation but does not really expect to awaken from the sleep of Maya. He is more practical and does what enables him to adapt to this world.  Because he also meditates and sees the ego as a chimera, the Buddhist tends to be calm and peaceful.

Of all human beings Buddhists are probably the most mature. They see the things of this world and pursue them but at the same time know that they are nonsense so they do not become beholden to them. This is because their religion's founder, Gautama Buddha, told them to be non-attached to the things of this world.

To understand Buddhism it is necessary to briefly review the life of Gautama Buddha. The story of Buddha began 2500 years ago. A boy was born in Northern India; his parents called him Gautama. His father was a governor somewhere in Northern India. The father groomed him to become a governor so as to replace him. He was given all the luxuries of this world. The father did not want him to see the poverty of India.  They prevented him from seeing the poor, sick and dying. Thus, he grew up only knowing the good side of life.

Gautama became an adult and got married and had a son.  From age 28 he began visiting areas where the poor people of his time lived, in our present terms, the ghettos and slums. He saw how the other side lived. Beggars littered the streets; the dying and dead were on the streets.  Simply put, Gautama saw suffering and death.  This reality jarred his sensitive mind and he asked: how come people suffer too much? He wanted to find out why it is the case that human beings suffer.

To find out why human beings live to suffer he left his palace of luxury and went to the various teachers of Hinduism.  He studied the various sects in Hinduism and the Yogas:  Jnana, Bhakta, Raja, Karma, Tantra, Ayurveda, Hatha etc.

After many years of intense studies of Hinduism he still had not experienced the self-realization that Hinduism promises.  Being of a single minded nature he decided to go for broke, to find out once and for all whether what Hinduism promises is possible or just a pie in the sky.

He sat under the Bo tree and went into meditation.  He vowed not to get up until he finds out if it is possible to become self-realized. The man just sat there for days on end refusing to get up. It was either he experienced God or he died. He did not want to be part of this world any longer for he had seen through its tinsel nature.

To live in this world is to pursue ego goals and since those are chimerical they are pointless. We live and die so why bother living, the man asked himself? To him the world is a meaningless and purposeless place and he wants out of it. So he just sat there.

Western psychiatrists probably would consider Gautama depressed and fill his body with anti-depressant medications, such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil. Alas their medications do not heal any one of his depression.

Existentialist philosophers, such as Sartre, Camus, Jasper, Heidegger would say that Gautama correctly perceived the nature of being; existentialists say that life on earth is pointless and meaningless; they do not, however, urge us to die but ask us to endure it. The good part of our meaningless existence is that the individual can discover what he enjoys doing, study it and do it twenty four seven and in so doing feel happy and forget the pointlessness of being a human being. That is exactly what I do. I read and write and in the process forget the depressing aspect of being a human being; we are food being prepared for worms and there is nothing we can do about it so as an existentialist I grind my teeth and take it without complaining (who is there to complain to, anyway?).

Like Jesus, five hundred years after him, Gautama was tempted by his ego, aka Satan. The ego/Satan or in Hindu categories called Maya or Mara told him to get up and stop the nonsense of trying to die. The ego promised him wealth, power and good sex (the glories of this world, what Helen Schucman called the double edged gifts of the ego, for the pleasures they give are followed by pain!).

Man, get up and go seek ways to adapt to the world; go get money, power and the most beautiful women on earth, Mara told Gautama.

Gautama said: but what is the use? Money will, sooner or later, disappear. Power is ephemeral; women are fleshpots; as young things women are beautiful but a few years later they grow weak, sicken and age and die; like all biological organisms they rot and smell like shit, so why desire them?

Gautama decided that he did not want anything offered by the ego and its world. He wanted to die and get it over with.

Thirty days later the man's mind finally became freed of ego thinking and he experienced silence (egolessness, no self, is what Buddhists call it). His mind became emptied of all ego and its categories of thinking and escaped from his ego. He entered the world of light forms, aka the astral world.

Since the people in the world of light forms are still in forms Hinduism had told him that they are not his real self. His real-self, Hinduism teaches, is the formless union of Atman and Brahman, so the man still sat there.

Eventually, he transcended the world of light forms and disappeared into Brahman and Brahman disappeared into him. He and Brahman became oneself.

In that state of unification with God, aka Nirvana, he felt eternal, permanent, changeless and peaceful and happy.  He had awakened from the sleep of Maya and is now the enlightened one, the Buddha.

He could have stayed there but no one stays in heaven until all of us on earth join him, for heaven contains all of us.

We are, as we speak, all in heaven as points of light in the wave of light that is heaven but seem to sleep and see ourselves in our world of darkness.

Our world, darkness, is the opposite of heaven, light.

If one of us awakens from the dream of self-forgetfulness he must return to our world of darkness and try to help awaken those of us who are still sleeping.

Gautama got up from the Bo tree and began teaching his new religion.  His new religion is that part of Hinduism that stresses Raja Yoga, meditation.  People gathered around Gautama and called him Buddha, the awakened one, the enlightened and illuminated one.

THE TEACHING OF BUDDHISM: THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS


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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: ozodiosuji@gmail.com (907) 310-8176