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 for living.

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 with nothing.

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 are pushed!

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 astray!

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.

< Previous  -   Next>

Home  -   Against The Stream  -   As It Is  -   Because I Care  -   Behind The Mask  -   Boleh Tahan -   Just A Thought -   Let Me See  -   Lotus Petals  -   Not This, Not That  -   Parting Shots  -   Ripples Following Ripples  -   So Many Roads  -   This, Too, Will Pass  -   Wait A Minute!  -   Your Questions, My Answers  -   Download  -   Funeral  -   Links  -   Contact