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Thread: The Buddha's Mistakes

  1. #1

    The Buddha's Mistakes

    I am going to split this off from another thread, because an important topic ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly
    I guess the Buddha's story would be a problem if we knew for sure it was factual. Even if it was an accurate story then he did leave before he experienced the path, and so in real terms was a hungry person looking for answers, perhaps therefore making questionable decisions. Another way of looking at it is to read Nhat Hahn's reworking of the tale whereby the Buddha leaves everything for the sake of everyone including his son- the bigger picture. Hahn wrote it in a very human (although simplistic) way but it works.
    its all story though much like our own lives........
    Is it time to sit again?
    Rich
    viewtopic.php?p=39584#p39584
    Well, we all make questionable choices in our youth ... although they do eventually get us right where we are now.

    And the Buddha certainly performed a service for the greater good of all sentient beings ... even at sacrifice of his own family.

    It was the culture of the time for religious seekers to cut themselves off from ties to family and social duties ... and the Buddha was a man of his times, doing much as was done by other Indians on the spiritual path.

    As was said, the Buddha before his enlightenment was certainly not quite the same fellow as before ... nor yet "the Buddha". Still, the Buddha continued to emphasize literal "home leaving" even after his insights under the Bodhi Tree ... a practice that continued for thousands of years to this day.

    While the Buddha's child was certainly not left to neglect ... that cannot be said of all the wives and children left alone as the Buddha encouraged thousands of men to leave their families behind and join his flock after the Buddha's enlightenment.

    Perhaps the Buddha was enlightened on some key aspects of Truth ... but that does not mean he was enlightened on all aspects of Truth.

    The Buddha's teaching at that time emphasized cutting our ties as the way to cut attachments, leaving emotional relationships fully as the way to quell desires ... all very different from flavors of Buddhism emphasizing 'non-attachment amid and expressing life's connections and relations', seeing through excess desires even while holding lightly healthy and balanced desires. This is a positive development in Buddhism.

    So, one need not agree with every choice and idea professed by the old boy to still find treasure in this Practice. There were other likely "clunkers" too (so much superstition and nonsense in parts of the old teachings). So long as the Buddha was 90% right, and right on all the central points ... it is fine if he made some needless and ill informed calls on the rest.

    Just because the guy was "Buddha" and "enlightened" does not mean one need agree with all his so called "enlightened choices".

    Gassho, J

  2. #2

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    Agreed Jundo.

    None of this worries me though either way as there is still not enough evidence for his existence. Does this matter? I don't think so providing the teachings are valid, and the only proof we need of that it is to live them.

    Its like in therapeutic work we sometimes tell stories about real or imagined people and situations. These are done as carefully constructed metaphors to elicit change below consciousness. They don't have to be true to elicit the desired response. If the road map gets us from A to B we don't worry who wrote it.......

    Just as an aside, if the Buddha existed he was a product of his times, as I said somehwere else on here I think. The teachings on dependent origination would show that we can't separate this man, his time and culture and his teachings completely from each other. Neither can we do the same today ourselves. Enlightenment in delusion?

    All the best

    Rich

  3. #3

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    Part of this thread reminds me of a story I heard. I think it was Marcus Borg talking about what may constitute "truth" in stories handed down through his own faith. Now (if it was him) he was relating his experience at a North American First Nations Conference. A speaker rose and went to the podium to make a presentation of a Native American teaching on first causes; how the world began. Taking first a moment of personal silence, the speaker with great dignity began this way: "Now I don't know if it happened exactly this way, but I know that it is the truth".
    There were times when I saw/heard/read a teaching and wondered if it was really delivered at Vulture's Peak in front of thousands of Bhikkhus. It matters little to me now, though . Faith comes from a different place in Buddhism, I think. A place of confidence rather than 'belief'. Confidence in the teaching. Of these there are some which can be deduced by logic and reason, while others require a view toward a deeper meaning perhaps.
    Buddha's teachings? Do I need to make a decision about the "historical Buddha". Not at all. Because even if it was not Gautama, then the one or ones who conceived of them were Buddha. I can rest in this.
    These are just my thoughts...
    Gassho,
    Don

  4. #4

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    So, one need not agree with every choice and idea professed by the old boy to still find treasure in this Practice. There were other likely "clunkers" too (so much superstition and nonsense in parts of the old teachings). So long as the Buddha was 90% right, and right on all the central points ... it is fine if he made some needless and ill informed calls on the rest.

    Just because the guy was "Buddha" and "enlightened" does not mean one need agree with all his so called "enlightened choices".

    Gassho, J
    When I said I didn't understand how he could leave his family I was speaking from my experience and apparently he did what he needed to do at that time. I didn't mean to imply that he was wrong back then but we are living now and what is right now is often different. I do accept the buddhas central points but am still working on verifying and clarifying them

    /Rich

  5. #5

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly
    I guess the Buddha's story would be a problem if we knew for sure it was factual.
    Not for me. As long as the teachings are valid (which I will find out for myself), I don't really care if the Buddha ever existed, if he left his kids, if he had no idea what cause earthquakes, etc. The teachings don't depend on a supernatural being - or even a "good person" - to make them valid (or invalid).

    Craig

  6. #6
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    What I just posted to the other thread about this topic:

    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    As for the Buddha abandoning his family... it wasn't as if they didn't have a huge support network, he wasn't leaving them destitute. He had things that were more important to him than being there with his family... and I can respect that. Procreation and biological nurturance versus establishing a teaching that has immeasurably changed the world for the better... we all like to think that nothing is more important than our families, but I don't agree. If my father abandoned me in order to be able to devote himself to the furtherance of humanity, I could quite easily forgive him that... it's a very different scenario than abandoning a family to pursue some hedonistic end.

    Of course all of this has the benefit of hindsight... the Buddha didn't know what impact his leaving his family home would have. But even if he had failed... I can understand that level of commitment, of drive... it's sometimes the biggest beef I have with the practice atmosphere at Treeleaf, that people don't have that kind of passion, that they would be willing to leave everything to know the truth. Thank goodness the Buddha was not so lukewarm about his question that he put it on the shelf for the sake of raising Junior. It's an example I can learn from... as someone who is always putting this practice, this great matter, on a shelf in order to focus on some worldly issue.

    It actually makes me think of Luke 14:26 ("If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple"), which always used to confound me as a strange teaching. But I understand it now, at least in the context of my own Zen practice... if you're not willing to put everything on the line to know the truth, you are doomed to make compromises and justifications that will get in the way of your knowing it.

    I don't think it's necessary to leave one's family... but I think the willingness has to be there.
    All that said, I don't think the Buddha was perfect... I accept that he made many mistakes and/or was limited in his views by his conditioning... his treatment of and attitude toward women is his most significant "mistake" in my view.

  7. #7
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    The way i remember the story is that Shakyamuni leaves his family and after much searching and practice becomes "the Buddha" and then his family joins him. Does it make a difference that he wasn't yet "the Buddha" when he left his family? If he was not yet "the Buddha," then it really wasn't the Buddha's mistake, right?

  8. #8
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    If he was not yet "the Buddha," then it really wasn't the Buddha's mistake, right?
    Well said, I think.

    Also, didn't someone (Dogen?) once say we're supposed to be focused on the moon, not the finger pointing to the moon? That applies even if the finger belongs to Siddartha Gautama, right? 8)

  9. #9

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    There was a story I had read that said after the Buddha attained enlightenment, he returned to his palace and family to show them the True Dharma. His wife confronted him and asked him why he left her and his infant son. He answered that it was to seek enlightenment and the True Path. His wife asked him then, "Did you have to leave to do this? Could you not have done this here ?"

    His answer was: "Yes, I could have, though I did not know it at the time."

    I'd say he was aware of what his choice to leave meant, and aware of the fact that he didn't need to do it after his enlightenment. I would also say that he probably advocated home leaving for those who could not make the above distinction.

  10. #10

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by JohnsonCM
    There was a story I had read that said after the Buddha attained enlightenment, he returned to his palace and family to show them the True Dharma. His wife confronted him and asked him why he left her and his infant son. He answered that it was to seek enlightenment and the True Path. His wife asked him then, "Did you have to leave to do this? Could you not have done this here ?"

    His answer was: "Yes, I could have, though I did not know it at the time."

    I'd say he was aware of what his choice to leave meant, and aware of the fact that he didn't need to do it after his enlightenment. I would also say that he probably advocated home leaving for those who could not make the above distinction.
    Interesting story. Do you remember where you read it?

  11. #11

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by anista
    Interesting story. Do you remember where you read it?
    Honestly, I do not remember the exact source. I remember reading it in paper form, but I did find this which matches up closely:

    http://www.osho.com/library/online-libr ... 2-70e.aspx


    Book Title: The Great Zen Master Ta Hui
    Chapter 18: No Guilt

    He had given his son the name Rahul because in Indian mythology when there is a moon eclipse…The Indian mythology says that there are two enemies of the moon. In the mythology, the moon is a person, a god, and he has two enemies: one is Rahu and the other is Ketu. When the moon eclipse happens, it happens because Rahu and Ketu catch hold of the moon. They try to kill it, but each time the moon escapes from their grip.
    Gautam Buddha had given the name Rahul to his son because he thought, “Now this son of mine is going to be my greatest hindrance, he is going to be my greatest enemy. He will prevent me from going to the Himalayas. Love for him, attachment to him, will be my chains.” That’s why he had given him the name Rahul.
    They all moved into the forest outside the city, where all his sannyasins were staying. In the first sermon to the sannyasins that evening he told them, “My wife Yashodhara has asked me a question which is of tremendous importance. She has asked me, ‘Was it not possible to become enlightened in the palace as a king?’ And I have told her the truth: ‘There is no question of any place, any time. One can become enlightened anywhere – but at that time nobody was there to say it to me. I had no idea of where it was to be found, whom I had to ask, where I had to go. I just jumped into the unknown.’ But now I can say that wherever you are, if you are courageous enough to risk everything for being alert and aware, enlightenment is going to happen.”

  12. #12

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    i finally read this post. although i didnt read all of the post by everyone and only the first one by Jundo it reminded me of something i read.
    its a quote by the buddha which i really like.

    " Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. "


    Gassho, Dojin.

  13. #13

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    that is one of my favorite quotes thank you Dojin._gasho _Andrea

  14. #14

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Dojin
    i finally read this post. although i didnt read all of the post by everyone and only the first one by Jundo it reminded me of something i read.
    its a quote by the buddha which i really like.

    " Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. "


    Gassho, Dojin.
    Gassho
    Shohei

  15. #15

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Dojin
    i finally read this post. although i didnt read all of the post by everyone and only the first one by Jundo it reminded me of something i read.
    its a quote by the buddha which i really like.

    " Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. "


    Gassho, Dojin.
    Absolutely. But also this quote (to prevent us from falling into extremes):

    Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata — deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness — are being recited. We will lend ear, will set our hearts on knowing them, will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering.' That's how you should train yourselves.
    /SN 20.7 (Ani sutta)

  16. #16

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Dojin
    i finally read this post. although i didnt read all of the post by everyone and only the first one by Jundo it reminded me of something i read.
    its a quote by the buddha which i really like.

    " Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense. "


    Gassho, Dojin.
    Hello friends,

    Actually, that part of the Kalama Sutta reads:

    Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher.' Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,' enter on and abide in them.
    This entire practice is counter-intuitive; if someone came up to me and told me that I could be happy by stopping my continual grasping at happiness, that wouldn't agree with my own common sense. It still doesn't, but I know from experience that it works, so I "enter and abide in [it]"

    I see this passage as more of a context to put your faith; trust the wise until you know for yourself.

    Just my two cents. Feel free to disregard it if it doesn't agree with your common sense

    Much Metta,

    Perry

  17. #17

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by AtomicSpud

    This entire practice is counter-intuitive; if someone came up to me and told me that I could be happy by stopping my continual grasping at happiness, that wouldn't agree with my own common sense. It still doesn't, but I know from experience that it works, so I "enter and abide in [it]"
    Thank you, Perry. Finding by stopping the search, having by letting go. It is counter-intuitive at first.

    But the "proof in the pudding" is soon obvious, and the Buddha's genius instantly revealed.

    I have sat this past week with my original statement that "the Buddha made mistakes", and I am going to stick with that view. I even think that it is important and vital in really attaining the heart of this path ... the meaning of "Right View" and the "Viewless View" and "killing the Buddha". I do not think it good, realistic ... even healthy ... to consider that the man had to be right on everything, know all the right answers, that he was never caught in an insolvable dilemma, never fumbled the ball, never made a left turn when he should have gone right.

    THAT would diminish and insult the man's amazing discoveries on being alive in a seemingly imperfect, unsatisfactory world (namely, that there is no "left" or "right" thus ultimately no mistake that can be made ... yet we live in a world of "left and right", and sometimes we are going to go left when we should have gone right ... so be diligent, mindful, and do as you can to head in the right direction in your life ... but if life's fickle forces blow your feet to the left when you wanted to go right, just be there ... and do what you can, if you can, to get back on the good path.) A man who never made mistakes ... who always went right when he meant to go right, never being where he did not wish to be or making a mistake he did not intend to make ... is not as useful or insightful a teacher, and has been reduced to a fairy tale or statue dipped in gold.

    Oh sure, when we leave this little world of "right and left" it will not be an issue ... and we can all be Buddha's in that Pure Land where the paths are clearly marked. But the real value of the Buddha's Teachings in this world are for life on the mountain filled with many paths ... some of which lead off a cliff, some of which lead to a pleasant and mutually beneficial journey ... all of which are a constant arriving home with each step.

    Thus, although it is true that the Buddha left his family "before he was The Buddha" ... he still, after becoming "The Buddha", encouraged thousands of men for centuries to take the tonsure and leave their wife, children, mothers and fathers behind ... some of whom would be left well taken care of (and might do better with dad out of the picture), but so many of whom were abandoned to fend for themselves. I believe that that was a mistake in the Teachings which created de facto widows and orphans, and not necessary to this practice. I do not believe it necessary to say that he saw some higher principle in doing so that we cannot see. He made plenty of exceptions to membership in the monastery ... such as woman and people the King needed for military service ... because he believed it destabilizing ... and he could have made a rule to prevent the creation of orphans and widows left to starve. I believe that the Buddha made some other mistakes too ... because he was a man of his times, did not have all the answers on every subject in the encyclopedia.

    And that is why this Path is so Precious ... because it helps us go right when we go right, and go right and get back right when we go wrong ... beyond left, right, right, wrong..

    Gassho, Jundo

  18. #18

    Re: The Buddha's Mistakes

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    And that is why this Path is so Precious ... because it helps us go right when we go right, and go right and get back right when we go wrong ... beyond left, right, right, wrong..

    Gassho, Jundo
    You got that right
    /Rich

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