Against The Stream ~ DESTRUCTION AND CREATION
BEFORE WE CAN CREATE
SOMETHING, something must first be destroyed: in order
to make furniture, trees must be felled; to make clothes,
cloth must be cut and arranged.
If we destroy something, however, let us
be sure to create something from our destruction;
let us become artists of life, always striving to
improve things, instead of leaving behind just a trail
of garbage and destruction.
Wherever humans have been, there you will
find garbage, pollution and destruction. Mountains,
forests, rivers, beaches and other places that were
once clean and beautiful are befouled by the passing
of Man. Animals do not make the mess that we do. Why
are we so stupid? This Good Earth is our home, for
a while. It is in our own interests to keep it clean
and care for it, so it will last longer and be pleasant
We can all make the world a better place
to live in. If you like to live on a garbage-dump—
as it seems many of our race do— continue to
throw garbage everywhere; be a garbage person, careless
and dull! But if you prefer cleanliness and beauty,
take care to put your garbage in the proper place,
clean up where others have made dirty, develop community-spirit,
be alert and sensitive, dare to care. A thoughtful
and sensitive person is a religious person.
Criticism is an example of how a thing can
be either positive or negative, creative or destructive.
In this book— as in my other books— I
have criticized a number of things, but not—
I think— destructively. When I criticize something,
I try to offer a better alternative; I do not want
to take away people’s crutches and leave them
All religions embody some truth, some more
than others, but no religion contains all truth. This
is because Truth cannot be transmitted from one to
another; it must be "experienced by the wise,
each for himself" as the Buddha said, or, as
Lao Tsu wrote: "The Way that can be spoken of
is not the Real Way".
Although we may hint at it, all attempts
to define it are doomed to failure from the start.
The word ‘cake’, for example, cannot be
eaten; the word ‘Truth’ is not Truth;
in fact, we can say nothing about it, for immediately
we use the word, we’ve lost it. If we understood
this, we would not hate and fight each other over
our different concepts of right and Truth or Reality;
blood and life are more important than words and ideas!
Teachers of the Way often seem to contradict
those before them, not necessarily because the earlier
Teachers and their teachings were wrong, but because
the attention-span of most of us is of short duration.
If we hear something a few times, explained in the
same way, we think we know it and therefore pay no
more attention; we become bored with repetition and
begin to look for other, more-interesting things.
Therefore, a Teacher who wishes to impart his message
to others must devise new ways to say the same thing,
to present it in different ways, to vary the packaging,
the approach, so that it appears new and fresh; people
do not want ‘stale bread’. The Buddha
said that, in all His years of preaching, He had spoken
about nothing but the Four Noble Truths,1 meaning
that this had been and was the essence of His Teachings,
and everything else He had said centered around it.
Most of us do not go deeply into things,
but only touch the surface. It is true that "A
little knowledge is a dangerous thing". Religious
fanatics usually understand little— or misunderstand—
about religion; their great zeal, coupled with meager
understanding, is very dangerous.
Many of us begin things enthusiastically,
but soon lose interest, like a person who cuts cloth
to make a shirt, but never sews the pieces together;
the pieces of cloth are useless as such, and he has
no shirt to wear. Again, it can be likened to throwing
gasoline on a fire: the flames immediately whoosh
upwards to a great height, but just as quickly die
down again. We should try to keep our interest constant,
burning with a steady flame, instead of high one minute
and low the next.
We are ‘instant-coffee’ people,
wanting quick results, and if we don’t get them,
don’t find Enlightenment or Truth in a Way after
following it for a short time (and not deeply, at
that), we change to another, and another, and find
nothing. Perhaps it is because we don’t know
how to learn, but always wait for someone to teach
us, instead. Today, it seems, many kids go to school
thinking they are thereby helping the teachers earn
a living instead of the teachers helping them; their
ill-manners, disrespect and bad behavior in school
are signs of this.
Religion is commonly considered irrelevant
and out-of-date in today’s ‘high-tech’
world, and given only peripheral acknowledgement,
maybe because religion, down the centuries, has been
presented in dogmatic, authoritarian and unscientific
ways, and has therefore alienated many people. This
is understandable. But does religion have to be unscientific?
Certainly, there must be some mystery and indefinability
about it, but cannot there be an amalgamation of Religion
and Science? Must they always be opposed mutually
exclusive? Not if we would investigate religion, and
taking care not to lose the essence, purge it of its
dross. The world desperately needs religion—
more than it needs further technological development,
in fact. Without religion to guide and monitor our
technology— taking the human element into consideration,
that is— it will be hard to restrain ourselves
from destroying everything with the enormous powers
we have created and developed for that purpose. Our
fingers will itch to push buttons, merely because
we would like to see what will happen when the buttons
But we need to understand religion differently
than it has generally been understood, and not just
accept the prevalent concepts about it. It doesn’t
have to be something archaic that we inherit unquestioningly
from our ancestors. It need not depend upon the past
for its authority. It can be something clear and self-evident
in the Here-and-Now, something that helps us to be
open-minded and wise, ready for the Vision of Truth
that one Master referred to when he said: "You
shall see the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free".
But we must have prepared ourselves first, so that
we are ready to see It, otherwise it will mean little
to us, and may even be dangerous.
Religion is something to be lived, not much
spoken of; it is beyond names and words. I once saw
someone wearing a T-shirt bearing the words: "Every
person is a holy place". That’s it! If
only we understood this, we would live and let others
live, without trying to pin silly names on them. In
the Refugee Camps of S.E. Asia years ago, it was common
to see people wearing T-shirts with legends like "Jesus
Loves You", "Jesus Cares for You",
"International Christian Aid", "Baptist
Refugee Ministries", and so on, handed out by
missionaries trying their hardest to catch fish. The
refugees thus became walking bill-boards, letting
everyone know who had been so good and kind as to
give them clothes. The gifts of the missionaries were
not what they appeared to be, but were means towards
an end: the subversion and conversion of the refugees,
most of who considered themselves ‘Buddhists’.
What tremendous arrogance, to go to the Camps with
this purpose in mind, exploiting the poverty and suffering
of those poor unfortunates just so that they could
gloat over how many ‘heathen souls’ they
had ‘saved’! This is surely religion gone
Everyone who follows a religion naturally
considers their religion the best, otherwise they
would look for another. Buddhists are no exception.
But why do people think their religion the best?
Is it because:
(1) They have investigated other religions
to find out what they teach, in order to choose which
is the best for them?
(2) They are merely lazy and stupid, and just accept,
without question, whatever others tell them?
(3) They are so naïve and egoistic as to assume
that, because it is their religion, it must therefore
be the best?
Sadly, few people fit into the first category;
more fit into the second category, and still more—
maybe we could say ‘most’— into
the third category. And why? Because we all consider
ourselves to be the center of the Universe, around
which all else turns. We think and say ‘I’,
‘Me’ and ‘Mine’ almost continuously,
and consequently think that my way is and must be
the best. We cannot seriously consider that another
way might be better or as good as ours, can we? Over
the years, a number of Christians and Muslims have
tried to convert me, but I know, very well, why I
am not a Christian or a Muslim, thanks!
But if we begin to see things a little differently,
with more clarity, sanity and balance, we will no
longer look at ourselves in such an egocentric way.
We will be able to examine other things, other ways,
and when we do, come to see what is right and what
is wrong, what is true and what is false. It will
no longer be a matter of thinking "I am right
and you are wrong", for we will have stepped
out of our insular way of looking at things. This
is what it means to be ‘born again’, not
to go back to the outmoded ideas and bankrupt answers
of the past, but to see clearly what is Now, as things
always are: New and Fresh. No-one can do this for
you; you must open your own eyes, and see!
Then you will cease calling yourself ‘Buddhist’,
‘Christian’, ‘Hindu’, or whatever,
for no name is adequate or necessary. You will begin
to live, yourself— a little unsteadily at first,
perhaps, but becoming more confident with each step.
And you will not say your way is the best and only
way, for although it may be the best and only way
for you, yourself, it is not so for everyone or anyone
else, as each person must find his own way. And because
each person is special and different, so also, his
way will be special and different. It has been said:
"The Ways to Truth are as many as the lives of
men". We cannot, therefore, proclaim that our
way is the best and only way for everyone; those who
do so (and there are many), merely display their ignorance,
and are like frogs in a well. They have much to learn.
1Suffering, the Cause of Suffering, the End of Suffering,
and the Way to the End of Suffering.