My Buddha

Vivek Sakpal

Published in Issue II, July 2013

The Buddha, the Enlightened, Siddharth Gautam, or whatever you wish to call, I see just as a human being, who was a rebel, revolutionary person, who challenged the times with his rational and radical approach.

Today we have N number of books on Buddha and his teachings; lots of authors give their interpretations on his teachings and him. The schools had differences and they separated and incorporated their own rituals and practices diving themselves majorly into Mahayana, Hinayana or Vajrayana.  We also have a recent school coming from Osho who also preached on the lines of Buddha, which many may not agree. But the question remains. What was Buddha and what did He stand for?

“The Buddha and His Dhamma”, written by Dr B R Ambedkar, and published post his Mahaparinirvan, portray Buddha as a radical human being in his earlier days. He questioned each and every action, ritual and tried to find his own answers. He also was a revolutionary, He went against what He felt was wrong and challenged it. He was also a law-abiding person who followed the rules and left Sakya Sangha, post the dispute on water of River Rohini.

Today, most of the followers of Buddha are lost in ritualistic approaches. It is not important that one wear white or coloured clothes in a Buddhist ceremony, or one  knows the sutta’s at any instant. I believe if I am a follower of Buddha, I should try and be like him in rational and revolutionary approach.

Buddha had to leave the Sakya Sangha because of the dispute of sharing of water from River Rohini. Dr Ambedkar went on his maiden satyagraha in March 1927, much before Gandhi, over human needs of water at Chavdar Lake in Mahad, Maharashtra.  Today, government of India has privatised water. By definition, water is not a natural resource but a commodity. Seems all the Buddhist and Ambedkarites are waiting for someone to start the protest or wait for problem to reach its peak.  My Buddha doesn’t allow me to rest, He asks me to revolt against the system, be a revolutionary and fight for the justice of water for the people at large. When it comes to water, there is no left, Ambedkar or Buddha. It is just human need of water.

Buddha was so radical that he questioned each an every action of his own and that of others. He questioned the rules, as to why they are in place, what are their implications, and if broken, what is the punishment. On His entry into Sakya Sangha we see, he questioned what are the rules of disqualification of his membership from the sangha, which eventually happened. But the approach to be built within us, as followers of Buddha, is to question, be radical.

Today in Maharashtra we see number of people promoting 22 vows, to the youths. I do not disagree or see it wrong or right. My conscience questions the vows. Are they relevant as it is after completion of 57 years since conversion, are they reaching the right audience, are they making the right impact, and so on. I see a huge number of youth being fascinated by vipassana. Again, I question it as my Buddha taught me, to evaluate before accepting it.

The retired population today is getting back to Dhamma, a good sign, but they are getting into the ritual aspect of Buddhism, not the radical or revolutionary aspect. It is their moral duty and responsibility to impart radical and revolutionary outlook into the minds of the youth, starting from their own children and grand children.

Buddha, is eternal, if he has survived 2500+ years, he will survive forever, we do no need to put efforts to promote or propagate him, his philosophy.  We need to see if we can try and be like him, walk his path and show the world that it is possible to walk that path today. The path of peace, the path of being human, path of being radical, path of being revolutionary for the society and the world of all living creatures at large.

I get disturbed when I read the word Buddhist terror on the front page of internationally acclaimed TIME magazine, with respect to Myanmar Buddhist monks. I have not been there, I don’t know the ground realities, but somewhere I feel one can not clap with one hand. Is Terror word to be associated with Buddha? Who has failed the Buddha? The monks or his followers or his teachings? One needs to re-look at it from multiple angles the same way Buddha would have. I can give my interpretation or views, but that’s not important. It is important that we research; we find who is at fault, and then amend if needed. Buddha was open to change. He believed change. Nothing is permanent, except change, was his teaching. We have stagnated Buddha in time. We have not evolved Buddha. Buddha needs to evolve with respect to today’s time.

What and how would Buddha react is the basic question one should ask to him/herself at any incident or juncture. The answers lead to the rightmost path of Buddhism. My Buddha doesn’t come in a ready to serve plate, where his teachings can give all the answers. The answers are to be seeking, researched and derived, as per the local needs of geography and time.

My Buddha is in me. Its only when I feel I can be Buddha, I shall be a Buddhist. If I place Buddha in a position which I believe I can not reach I shall be a masked Buddhist.

Dr.  Babasaheb Ambedkar converted to Buddhism; he did not replace his earlier religion with Buddhism. Today we may fail him by replacing religions and not converting, or may be with time we evolve a new Buddhist school of thought. But the fundamentals of Buddha’s teaching and his way of life will be same.

Its time we bring Buddha out from the idol and put him in our hearts, soul, breath and blood. Let’s begin by living the Buddha way, Radical and Revolutionary. That is my Buddha.

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