The Buddha was a unifier

(Written on the day that the UK voted to leave the EU after 43 years of membership)

He wandered around much of South Asia during his lifetime, accepting people of all genders, ages, castes, ethnicities, nationalities, cultures/languages, ideologies, etc., and unifying them under a single set of monastic rules (vinaya). The monastic culture he created was about as white-washed as possible of the divisions between people: seniority only from age; no hair, makeup, or jewelry allowed; a unified style of robes that hide the shapes of people’s bodies, that use a common color, and that are sewn together in the pattern of the rice paddies one sees most everywhere in Asia; the same few possessions for everyone (a robe, a bowl, and basic toiletries); a single canonical language (Magadhi/Pali); etc. Some of these things he apparently picked by a spur-of-the-moment decision (e.g., the pattern in which robes are sewn), perhaps because it doesn’t matter much how it is done.

But he also created a democracy, which has caused his teachings (dhamma) and vinaya to be split many times over the millennia — even though doing so is thought by some Buddhist traditions to cause one to be reborn in the worst level of hell (see Avīci) — as people choose to re-divide themselves along lines of gender, caste, ethnicity, nationality, ideology, etc. Monastic people even draw symbolic distinctions between how dark or light-colored the ochre of their robes is (darker sometimes means a more rural or ascetic bhikkhu(ni) or tradition, and lighter sometimes means a more urban or lenient bhikkhu(ni) or tradition).

However one interprets the metaphysics of it (e.g., whether absolute reality is monistic or pluralistic), enlightened people seem to let go of identities and worldliness, preferring peace and unity, and samsaric people seem to cling to identities and worldliness and fight over them.

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