Is Buddhism True? | America Magazine

Before “Buddhism” became the religious family of traditions it is now – with its many schools and an elaborate tapestry of beliefs, rituals, and doctrinal and metaphysical systems exhibited in voluminous scriptural sources – it was a path spirituality and a simple way of life as experienced and taught by a man his contemporaries revered about 2,600 years ago as an “awakened” (Buddha). Transmitted from Asian societies to the West in successive waves since the end of the 19th century, Buddhism is now part of the cultural and spiritual landscape of many Western societies.

What an award-winning and best-selling author Robert Wright (The evolution of God, the moral animal) present in this new book and asserts that “true” is a distilled “common core” which, he points out, can be found across the spectrum of Buddhist teachings and practices. Wright’s concern is not with doctrines or beliefs as such, but with spiritual practice which can bring about a transformative change in one’s outlook on oneself and the world, and therefore on one’s whole way of being. He writes from his own experience and reflection based on years of meditative practice under the guidance of his Western Buddhist teachers. These observations are delivered in a down-to-earth, highly readable style, with witty banter and self-effacing humility that give the book its distinctive appeal and persuasive power.

Some readers may view the book as the gleaning of a “Buddhist cafeteria,” and thus miss the significance of its message.

Some readers may dismiss the book as the gleaning of a “Buddhist cafeteria” or relegate it to the category of “spiritual but non-religious” literature which proliferates today, and thus miss the scope of its message. Wright himself maintains a cautious tone: “To call myself a Buddhist, it seems to me, would be almost disrespectful to the many Buddhists in Asia and elsewhere, who have inherited and maintain a rich and beautiful religious tradition.

The spiritual practice that Wright advocates in this book derives from Buddhist mindfulness and insightful meditation, but practitioners of other Buddhist forms of meditation, such as Zen or Tibetan dzog chen– or, for that matter, Christian forms, including centering prayer or contemplation according to Ignatian spiritual exercises – will find resonant characteristics that also occur in their own inner journeys through the silent terrain. Those familiar with the Spiritual Exercises may recognize, for example, what Ignatius calls “consolation without cause” in Wright’s description of “powerful feelings of bliss or ecstasy” or “the gift of tears” for which Ignatius was also known.

A secular naturalist himself, Wright invites readers of all faiths to engage in a simple (though not easy) form of spiritual practice which can, even gradually and quietly over time, have vital implications for our lives. individual and collective. Accepting this invitation to meditative practice can open our eyes (read: “awaken”) and indicate a way to address the critical issues facing our global community as we find ourselves on the brink of nuclear war or nuclear war. ecological destruction or both.

Wright puts his finger on the crux of the problem in a few lines in his second chapter:

Just look at all the tribalism – discord and even open conflict along religious, ethnic, national and ideological lines. Increasingly, it seems, groups of people are defining their identity in terms of clear opposition to other groups of people. I consider this tribalism to be the biggest problem of our time.

This “tribalism”, which Wright names in a later part of the book as “the central evolutionary value of the particularity of the self”, is none other than what the Buddha saw as the deceptive notion of “self” which stands out from ” the other. “This is the root cause of the unsatisfactory and deplorable state of our human condition as it unfolds in our individual and community existence. Christians would identify this with the” original sin “that drives us humans fallen, to destructive thoughts, words and actions (i.e., “real sin.”) Wright demonstrates how meditative practice can expose this illusory notion of the self for what it is, as cause of our own pain and suffering, for it is the cause of the pain and suffering that we inflict on each other.

With meditative practice, we are able to take action to free ourselves from the spellbinding power that this tribalism has over us.

With meditative practice, we are able to take steps to free ourselves from the hypnotizing power that this tribalism has over us, to bring forth the wisdom of clarity, and to usher in a world in which “metaphysical truth, moral truth and happiness can align… a world that… appears more and more beautiful — something to marvel about. Indeed, what a wonderful world that would be.