Speaking Tree: Filling That God-sized Hole

There’s a thin line separating secular faith from fanaticism, writes Deepak Chopra

People revere the Buddha but don’t follow him, why? That is because they don’t feel motivated enough to seek change. They hold an image of Buddhist monks perpetually meditating, observing strict discipline, and avoiding the world. The images aren’t false, but they aren’t complete, either.

The Radical Surgeon
Like every great spiritual teaching, Buddhism turned into an organised religion…. However, like Jesus, Buddha set the truth before his listeners so that they could choose it as a means to freedom. It’s an inescapable fact that the Buddha was a master diagnostician of the human condition…a physician to the soul. Yet he refused to use words like spirit, soul, or God. He realised that the disease of separation and isolation had progressed so far that spirituality itself was infected. “Soul” and “God” are labels.

Labels fit things you see before you, things you already know. I can label myself an Indian male, a husband and father, a breadwinner, a citizen,
and so on.

Buddha was a radical surgeon, and he cut out all labels that put a name on the unknown. Naturally, people who came to him for comfort and solace were shocked that he proposed major surgery. They saw themselves as humble seekers after truth, which they would hear from his lips. The Buddha knew better than to satisfy them — instead, he overturned their expectations about how truth works.

The Truth About Truth
1. Truth isn’t found in words but through insight and self-discovery
2. Truth isn’t taught or learnt. It is wrapped inside consciousness itself
3. To reach the truth, you must become it. Your consciousness must change until what is false has been left behind. Then truth will exist by itself, strong and self-sufficient.

Let’s say that Buddha wanted us to be nonviolent, to revere all forms of life, to extend compassion even to strangers. This truth already existed and went by the name of ahimsa, often translated as harmlessness.

A physician still acknowledges ahimsa today as a medical duty to first do no harm. But ahimsa can easily turn out to be part of the human disease rather than the cure. I can feel superior to violent people because I am nonviolent. I can occupy the moral high ground and feel safe. I can avoid conflicts and step away when arguments turn into aggression and war.

Faith And Fanaticism
How does Buddha’s purpose fit into the world? His purpose was to bring a kind of spirituality that frees people to live in peace. Right now we desperately need secular spirituality. God has been hijacked by fundamentalism to the point that seekers who don’t want to be coerced by a fanatical concept of faith, have few places to turn to. Buddha opens a path to truth without a church.

Most importantly, Buddha’s truth is not packaged. You can’t turn it into dogma…. Packaged truth is a trap. It can deepen the illusion it was meant to dispel and wind up making us even more separate. Take a spiritual value everyone believes in, like love. People have killed in the name of love and suffered terribly in countless ways. The positive is always woven in with the negative. Does the good of love outweigh the bad? Buddha didn’t measure truth that way.

Inner Revolution
He aimed for nothing less than an “inner revolution”. Coming in from the cold, people yearn for this inner revolution because there is a hole inside them where God used to be. But in many ways that God was only an image, as Buddha would see it. Most people fail to find what they want from spirituality because they remove one image of God only to fill in another (they even turn Buddha into a god, the very thing he denied). Inner revolution, opening a path to liberation, is what Buddha holds out.

Despite the burden of past beliefs that underlie a horrific conflict, Buddha’s cure is taking hold, although we don’t know on what scale.

Secular spirituality forms a separate subculture in every country where people have begun to seek a new way and a new set of beliefs. Their way doesn’t have to travel under the name of Buddha. The essence is about moving ahead, not about labels.

Meditation will not be a practice set apart in your day; it will become the normal state of self-awareness, of being awake instead of asleep.


Published by Speaking Tree