Saturday, 26 May 2012

Can a True Buddhist Continue Teaching Buddhism

I have just watched Neuroscience and the Emerging Mind: A Conversation with the Dalai Lama featuring, apart from the Dalai Lama, Larry Hinman of the University of San Diego, V.S. Ramachandran of UC San Diego and Jennifer Thomas of San Diego State University.  It was meant to be a scientific and philosophical discussion of human consciousness.  The introduction was quite promising (they started talking about neuroplasticity, memory, mirror neurons etc.) but, unfortunately, I feel that, ultimately, the potential of having these four speakers gathered in one place was wasted - mainly because of the language barrier.  There was one thing, however, which made me think.  The Dalai Lama mentioned a difference between what he calls the traditional Buddhism (created in India and preserved by the Dalai Lamas and their followers) and many variations of Buddhism which emerged later (and also Hinduism).  The difference lies in the traditional Buddhist belief that there is no soul or self (as the Dalai Lama said, the Buddhist belief in "soulless").  This immediately raised the following question in my mind:

If there is no soul, if the self is just an illusion, why put so much effort into fighting the suffering?

Since it is just the self that experiences suffering and the self is just an illusion, there is no suffering at all as there is nothing real to experience it.  If there is no suffering, there is no place for compassion and altruism - the two things Buddhism (and the current Dalai Lama) talk about and try to promote.  Why would the Buddha decide to help people end their suffering by showing them the truth about the non-existence of the self when there is no suffering and no people?  The act of a true Buddhist believing in what he/she teaches and yet continuing his/her teachings seems absurd when viewed from this (Buddhist?) perspective.

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