Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Story of Buddha by Hisashi Ōta

Title: The Story of Buddha
Author: Hisashi Ōta (no website found)
Publisher: Ichimannendo Publishing
Rating: WORTHY!

Translated (and I have no idea whatsoever how accurately!) by Juliet Winters Carpenter.

This book was pretty cool. It was interesting, informative, very cleanly and competently drawn in gray scale line drawings and delivered the facts as they’re known.

I’m an atheist, and while I don’t care what people choose to believe for themselves ( it’s their business after all), I am not a fan of organized religion, and I’m an implacable foe of religions trying to dictate to the rest of us how we should live our lives.

Even a religion as ostensibly benign and pacifistic as Buddhism hasn’t won me over, because for me, at its roots, it has no more to offer than does any other religion, so I’m a woodist! Religions are all uniformly making claims they cannot support and claiming knowledge they do not have. None of them is standing on any sort of realistically supported foundation. I don’t trust a one of them because they’re inherently flawed in that they offer power to those who are willing to believe (or fake a belief in) things for which there is neither rationale, nor scientific evidence.

Setting up any organization, and particularly one which can grow to be powerful, based on blind belief is a recipe for disaster and abuse, and we’ve seen how this works out. We’ve seen it repeatedly throughout history and not one of today’s religions has learned a thing from the glaring flaws of past incarnations or versions of these vacuous cults.

None of these faiths can claim any handle on real or useful knowledge of gods, or of any after-life, or any of the stuff they claim to have any insight into. They cannot offer any individual anything more than can simple rational thought. The story of Buddha, though, is interesting, and not of the usual kind. Usually prophets, avatars and messiahs come from lowly backgrounds and can rise from there to positions of power and fame. The Buddha traveled in the opposite direction, starting out as a prince, and descending to a lowly position.

This story is so old now that it’s impossible to know how much of it, if any, is true, but it is related faithfully and accessibly here for anyone interested. My favorable rating is not to be construed as acceptance of any of this story, but of how well it’s told and how interesting it is (for me!).

It seems to be accepted that Gautama Buddha, aka Siddhartha Gautama, aka Shakyamuni (‘shake yer money’ is a great name for most religious leaders isn’t it?!) actually lived. When he lived is debatable. It seems to have been either around 400BC, or around 560BC give or take a decade or two. He’s considered to be nearly contemporary with the founding of Jainism.

Just as with the founder of Christianity, there are no contemporary written records of his existence – we learn of him through records dating after his death, and it’s on these legends and stories that this modern retelling is based. While I recommend this as a great way to get a quick and easy introduction to his life, please understand that this is not the same a recommending Buddhism as a realistic approach to living one’s life – a recommendation which I don’t make.

My problems with Buddha’s view of life is that it’s so negative. He’s obsessed with aging and suffering, and with disease and dying, and in his obsession, he misses all that life has to offer. Buddha was a deadbeat dad; he abandoned his wife and child, which is an appalling thing to do, and almost as badly, he abandons his position. Normally I would not support royalty, which is largely an unjustifiable parasite on any society which tolerates them, but in this case, he seemed (from the stories) to be enlightened even before he became ‘enlightened’.

If he had stayed in his position and became king, then how much good could he have done for everyone? The very suffering and disease which ironically took over his own life could have been at the very least ameliorated if he had used his position of power to help people. He could have done this and also sought enlightenment, yet he chose – if this story is to be believed – to run from it in a most cowardly fashion, and make it all about him instead of about others. That is the biggest indictment against him and makes him decidedly unworthy of founding a religion, doesn’t it?

That said, I do recommend this if you’re interested in learning a bit about other religions. That’s definitely a body of knowledge of which the USA population could certainly avail itself to its betterment, and this does it without getting into any boring detail!

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