Christ was not a Christian, Buddha was not a Buddhist – Chapter Seventeen

Christ was not a Christian, Buddha was not a Buddhist – Chapter Seventeen

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Religion brings many benefits but causes many problems.

Seven years ago, and before moving into psychotherapy, I attended a 10 day, live in Vipassana meditation course. I was feeling stressed with the politics being played out at work and had already decided to leave the company and focus on my studies in psychotherapy. It was done on a whim. I had web-searched for a course and what interested me was the fact that you didn’t have to pay. You could donate at the end of the course if you could afford to or wanted to, but it was not a requirement for attending the course. I found that centres had sprung up all over the world and all were paid for through donations, and everyone helping on the course was a volunteer. I also liked the idea that we were not allowed to speak for the full ten days. I was ‘talked-out’ and wanted some space.

The course was secular, which was good because I had no belief in God. At an early age my parents, (father a Catholic and mother a Protestant) made a point of not pushing me into religion. I remember being hit by a nun with a walking stick for playing football on the Catholic football field and chastised by a vicar for playing in the church grounds. If these were God’s representatives I thought there couldn’t be a God. This lack of belief was helped along by the war in Ireland between the Catholics and Protestants (although being pulled out of school because of a bomb scare and sent home was a joy I looked forward to!) The British have been so pillaged and plundered by the Vikings, Romans, French and Germans over the years that no-one seemed much bothered about the odd bomb threat. We were just lined up in an orderly fashion and marched to the front yard before a roll call and then despatched home. On this ten day meditation course my lack of belief in something more would be challenged.

meditationI sat cross legged on the floor for the first meditation session. We were told to focus on the breath, as it passed back and forth through the nostrils, with our eyes closed. That lasted all of twenty seconds then the mind wandered off for a few minutes before being caught and returned for another twenty seconds. It was not as easy as I thought it would be, with the mind jumping like a mad monkey from tree to tree. The second thing I noticed was my foot going numb and my ankle and back beginning to ache. Ten minutes in and I was beginning to doubt my ability to stay the course. Each hour we would break and limp out into the sunshine on numb feet wondering what we had got ourselves into. I decided that, if I got through the first six days, I would make the ten. Over the subsequent days my focus became more concentrated and my mind wandered less; but the pain didn’t abate. I would long for the end of each hour. DVDs and CDs taught the technique and the reasons for it. At the end of the one hour session the CD would spring to life with a minute of talking. There was a sense of relief as the CD kicked into life but that minute seemed to go on forever. By day four, a strange thing started to happen. I could feel sensations all the way around my nostrils and through my nose. It felt like my nose was getting bigger and growing out of my face. I would check the mirror between sessions but it didn’t look any different. We were asked if we had experienced any nasal sensations and yes, we had.

Day five continued in the same painful way. I was limping in and out between sessions and hoping I hadn’t permanently damaged something. But then a new technique was introduced. We began to focus on the top of the head and become aware of the sensations there. Once the sensations were felt at the top of the head, we moved in steps down through our bodies until we reached those aching knees and feet. Now here was the trick; we had to observe the sensations throughout the body with equanimity, not good or bad, not with a craving for the good sensations or an aversion to the uncomfortable sensations. Well, believe me. I had an aversion to what I was feeling in my back, knees and feet. I was in pain. My little western body was used to sitting in a nice comfortable chair. It might be okay for some guy from India 2500 years ago when there might not have been too many chairs around, but I had spent nearly fifty years in comfortable chairs with back rests. I was definitely feeling an aversion to the pain.

I persisted and eventually began to feel pleasant sensations running through my body. I found this interesting. I was becoming aware of more sensations both subtle and gross: (gross sensations can be pain, discomfort or dull thick sensations). The end of day six came with great relief. For the first time I was confident of finishing the ten days. I retired to bed that night feeling quite proud of myself and decided to meditate while on my back before I slept. It was much more comfortable than sitting cross legged and in pain. Soon the cascading sensations could be felt throughout the body but there seemed to be a higher vibration to them and these vibrations seemed to be getting faster and stronger – almost pulsing. It seemed more pronounced – in my head, hands and feet. There seemed to be a cascading flicker of lights beneath my eyelids like Roman candle fireworks. The last thought I remember having was, ‘just join the dots,’ meaning the vibrations in the head, hands and feet. And then zap. The thoughts stopped. Time stopped and I was no longer aware of my body. There are no words to describe the experience because it was beyond mind and body, but I will try. Pure bliss and a feeling of pure love, and it seemed like I was basking in a golden glow. At that instant, I felt a sense of knowing of some higher intelligence: of some higher power; something more than the little me; a quantum consciousness, a feeling of pure love and acceptance: something I can’t describe. Call it what you will – Nirvana – a state of non-suffering – non-duality – you can’t describe the indescribable. Try to describe the taste of an apple. It can’t be described in words: only experienced.

I still find the word God not the easiest to roll off my lips. In that moment, I felt that I knew that I was a part of something, but I can’t explain what – and it was a part of me – there was no separation. I also had a strong sense that there is eternal life, or maybe it was a sense of no past and no future, just an eternal now. I find it difficult to put into words. I also had a sense of understanding the perfection of all that is happening in the material world. No thoughts, no words – just a sense of knowing. Maybe I was just experiencing a higher level of consciousness – a mind devoid of conditioned fear. I can understand how some might attribute this type of experience to God realisation. I don’t see it as a religious experience – just an experience that left more questions than it gave answers. I don’t know how long it lasted but I knew I couldn’t stay there, and back I came. The first thought was ‘now I know why people meditate.’ I drifted off to sleep looking forward to the next day. I thought I had it sussed. I was up by 4:00am and quickly off to the meditations hall looking to quickly get back to that place. I was soon disappointed. My mind was pouring forth thoughts that I have never experienced before: that my wife was having an affair with my daughter’s friend’s father. That was impossible. That friends and work colleagues were working behind my back. I had never felt so negative and aggravated. I couldn’t even focus on my breathing for ten seconds without the mind spewing up more rubbish. I was ready to quit. You could talk to the instructor at lunch time if you were having problems and so off I went to see him. I told him of the experience from the night before and he said I had experienced ‘samadi.’ Touching the toe in the river of enlightenment is the way he described it. I told him I wanted it back and he smiled. ‘Craving the good feelings?’ he asked.

‘I just want to get it back’, I said.

‘And the more you crave it the more you push it away,’ he said. That’s just what I didn’t want to hear.

‘But what about all this negative stuff coming up?’ I asked him.

‘You have opened up the subconscious and the defilements of the mind are pouring forth. If you can look at them with equanimity they will pass and be eradicated. This is of more benefit than the bliss: an opportunity to cleanse the mind’, he said. Not the answers I wanted.

I stayed and finished the ten days – the rubbish coming up slowly subsided – but no more bliss. I couldn’t deny my experience, but still don’t like the word ‘God’ to explain it. I felt I was in the knowing of something I could no longer deny, and it wasn’t some little old man sitting up in the clouds judging everyone. It was indescribable, and that knowing has never left me. And the sense of knowing about being eternal has totally changed my thinking about death. What I did lose was any knowing or sensing of any perfection of it all. I could see no perfection in a child dying of hunger, or someone being murdered. That part of the experience was left behind. It was a number of years before I could get close to that experience again and I have still not fully experienced it again in its totality. I have come close to it, but I have stopped chasing it; stopped craving it. I still try to meditate each day and see it as a process of evolution.

I now look at religion through different eyes. I see the Buddha mind and Christ consciousness as the same things taught in different ways but leading the way to the same outcome – eradication of the ego mind to find the true essence of what we are. Buddha was not a Buddhist! Siddhattha Gotama was a man who achieved the Buddha mind: the enlightened mind that no longer sees reality through the filter of the ego. Christ was a man called Jesus, who probably became Christ at his point of enlightenment. Both these men taught basically the same things: non-violence and love and compassion for your fellow man. Both were egoless and full of humility, love and compassion. The Buddha didn’t call it ‘God realisation’ probably because there were so many gods in the other religions going around at the time. He taught a philosophy of training the mind to reach Nirvana – a supreme state of non-suffering. One God was probably a more acceptable way of bringing the teachings to life in Christ’s time.

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In many religions the teachers’ teachings have been distorted by man’s egos.

How many people have died in the name of God and how many crimes have been committed in the name of God? The ego likes to believe that its god is better than anyone else’s god. In many religions the teachers’ teachings have been distorted by man’s egos and the resultant desire to control other people. It’s no wonder that religion has lost its flavour for so many, when we see so many acts of brutality committed in the name of God. The basics of most religions are as valid today as they were thousands of years ago: simply tools to help us to evolve into all we can be. I didn’t have to be a Buddhist to experience what I experienced. I just used the tools set out so many years ago. We can be told something and intellectually we can understand it, but true knowledge only comes from the experience of it.

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There can be no wars fought on religious principles that do not break the basic principles of their teachings.

Christ was not a Christian, he was Jewish. He just didn’t meet the criteria to be the Jewish messiah and so was rejected by the Jews. Christianity started sixty years after he died.

In churches, Christ looks like the epitome of a movie star – tall and good looking. Just the sort of image that God says we shouldn’t have, if we adhere to the Ten Commandments. There is a good chance he looked more like Woody Allen – short, balding and with a big nose. (And I would hope enlightened beings and Woody Allen would have a good sense of humour or I could be in serious trouble.) The Buddha is seen in temples around the world as sometimes fat, sometimes thin. What are we to believe? Didn’t he care about his diet or health? Let’s face it; the overweight image is not an ideal role model for a healthy life! Being overweight was often a sign of being successful in some cultures and in times when food was short. There were no cameras around at that time. Was he worshiping Hindu Gods before his enlightenment? Why was he overweight if he had no cravings? Who knows? We do know that what Christ and Buddha taught had an impact on so many people and still does today – but how much of this comes from them, and how much from the ego of the people that followed – not quite that enlightened? The images they might have created could have been to control us. I am not trying here to besmirch the image or teachings of Christ or Buddha. Their basic teachings have stood the test of time and are as true today as they were then. I am only trying to point out that we need to find the truth of reality within ourselves. And isn’t that exactly what they taught? Principles are more important than the fabricated images. The principles that they taught were supposed to unite men – never to divide. There can be no wars fought on religious principles that do not break the basic principles of their teachings.