In the school, as the standard of my education improved I had a chance to delve into the one of the greatest religions of the world ‘Buddhism.’ The life story and hagiography of the Lord Buddha is spiritually aspiring. The every Google search and every translated book I read about talks on Buddha’s life either in brief or elaboration. The Buddha who was painted in Buddhist texts as son of great king Suddhodhana was dissatisfied with his mundane life. The four sights (illness, aging death and serenity of the monk) had a great impact on his decision to leave the palace in search of truth.
Leaving aside all the hagiographic details and go by the historical evidence of the time, the Buddhism was found against the backdrop of two other prominent religions of the time; Hinduism and Jainism. The Lord Mahavira has attained the parnivana few years before Lord Buddha. Obviously, Buddha was against hindu’s ritualism and Jain’s extremism. So he founded the truth called middle way neither too right nor too left. Even the hagiography talks about his self-torture and indulgence in quest of the truth to liberate all the sentient beings. That made me wonder how Lord Mahavira attained the nirvana using extreme method when Lord Buddha fond it useless. Who was the liar? Lord Mahavira or Lord Buddha?
Lord Buddha was man of compassion. He wouldn’t want animals to be sacrificed like the Hindu of the time and he wouldn’t want his followers to be starved in search of truth. Therefore, his order would beg for meals during the meal times. His teachings were finding the truth from inside not searching from outside. For the reason, he was against the sacrifice, idolatry worship and ritualism. For him, idol was not the means for liberation. It was means to remember one’s teacher as a mark of respect. So idolism was not a necessity.
However, in the second century, the two school of thoughts on Buddhism emerged as Mahayana(Greater Vehicles) and Hinaya(Lesser Vehicles) which Theravada Buddhist finds quite offensive as of today. Some believed that the Hinayana was derogatory term accorded to some schools because they couldn’t attend the Great Council of Buddhism.
As of my understanding based on life and times of Lord Buddha, the Mahayana is genetically modified form of religion whereas Hinayana is original form of Buddhism. Let’s discuss the differences of two forms of the Vehicles. The Mahayana feels that the Sanskrit is the language of God and sacredness whereas Buddha himself endorsed Pali language for the understanding of general people whereas Sanskrit was only used by power wielding people like Brahmins. Idols are never seen as means to achieve liberation in Hinayana, many religious leader in Mahayana preached idol worshipping as the means to achieve the liberation. Leaving these silly points aside, Mahaya believed that Mahayanist can attain the level of Bodhisattva whereas Hinayanist can attain the level upto Arhat. In the school, one of my Dzongkha teachers explained the Mahayanist strived for liberation of all sentient beings while Hinayanist strived for self-liberation.
With the establishment of reincarnation system in 12th century at Tibet, the Buddhism became more ritualistic than spirituality. In the history of Buddhism, Karmapa became the first incarnated Lama in the world based on the theory that soul of Buddha never vanishes. The coming of Zhabdrung in Bhutan takes the ritualism to another level. One of the examples could be the Thongdrel, liberation by sight. Now there are many types of liberations; the liberation by sight, the liberation by hearing, the liberation by contact. Some reincarnated lamas even asked for sexual favours in the name of liberation by contact. It is also the known fact that if some Lamas see beautiful girls, he will claimed that the girls are possessing the marks of dakinis. Some flattered ladies are too glad to experience the liberation by contact.
The ritualism seems to be getting bigger and bigger in the nation which is considered as the repository of Mahayana. Recently, tooth relics of Sangay Yoedsung were taken on tour to Thailand. In Bhutan, the Sangay Yoedsung buzz made thousands of unquestioning Buddhists flock to Tendrel Thang to be blessed by the holy relics.
If my knowledge about coming of ‘five Buddhas’ is correct, Sangay Yoedsung’s reign as Supreme Lord should be prior to this eon. This eon is under the reign of Lord Budhha. In between the time of Kasyapa Buddha (Sangay Yoedsung) and Lord Buddha, the world should have been extinct once. So, there should be no question of his tooth available in the world.
For argument’s sake, let’s believe that the Kasyapa Buddha was born in Nepal some two thousand years ago as an odd 20 meter tall man. The tooth would be at least 15 centimeters long which seemed quite unlikely. I asked one of my friends whether he believed that the relic is real. He cited me the story of old woman and skull of dog for the reason why he went to receive blessing. He ended saying, ‘I imagined it to be true. Isn’t the Buddhism all about ‘Migpa’?
Our scholars should also send the relic for carbon dating and try to trace the journey of the sacred relics. As the time passed, the faith would be no longer a faith without proper justification. Even the religion has to have concrete logic to be deemed believable to the followers.
Today, the spirituality in people is diminishing by the day. ‘The country is flooded with Truelkus. Every five minute, you will see some trulekus flaunting their cars and Prado in the Thimphu town,’ my friend Karma who worked in a private sector told me. For a female teacher of Chubachu, she got shell-shocked when a so-called Rinpoche invited her to Thailand to stay with him. ‘Anyway, nowdays, you can see even the facebooks flooded with rinpoches or pseudo rinpoches,’ she said with the wry smile. A corporate reporter said she was asked by few lamas to marry them with the lure of buying a building in the Thimphu Town. She refused flatly. ‘I never fall for red-garbed human anyway.’ She concluded, ‘I really can’t understand why some wants to spoil the image and the respect accorded to Buddhism while some people like Jamyang Khentse tries to simplify the religion so much.’
While our pseudo lamas and lamas might be enjoying the status to the hilt, the people are already finding alternative religion. The Christianity, despite government’s reluctance to accept as religion, is fast spreading. They have penetrated from the border towns into central Bhutan. The Christianity has flown in Druk Air and is growing its wings in the nation. When I say this about coming of new God, I am not against Christianity. I am just giving my personal opinions why other Gods are spreading its wings in the land of Buddhism. Buddhism and Hinduism in Bhutan is failing to live upto expectation. These failure is mainly due to Pandits and Lamas with selfishness rather than selflessness. Some people can't afford the luxury demanded by pandits and lamas. some can't event the rituals dictated by the norms of the religion. In short, coming of other religions could be failure of Buddhism and Hinduism to adapt to the needs of the hour.