|Austere days of struggle (dhammawheel.com)|
With them Yogi Siddhartha gained valuable skill in samadhi (intense concentration) but not enlightenment and liberation from samsara. He had tried extreme pleasure as a prince in the palace. He now tried severe asceticism -- starvation (anorexia mirabilis), holding his breath, not lying down, rarely eating, not caring for the body, exposure to the elements, and seclusion. Both were counterproductive.
|Reclining Buddha entering nirvana with arhats, Nanzoin Temple (Jepster/flickr)|
Foolishly today many of us, following in the footsteps of ancient Brahminical and "Hindu" (a recent all-encompassing tradition systematized by Adi Shankara from very ancient texts and Vedic/Brahminical traditions existing at least from the time of the Indus River Valley Civilization up to and including lip service to the Buddha and Mahavira, the founders of the two most popular shramanic traditions that rejected the Vedas, Buddhism and Jainism), mistake the goal of the shramanic Buddha and that of Vedic Brahmins.
But the Buddha corrected the teachers of his day, rejecting what the Brahmins taught and what his two wandering yogi teachers had taught him, in favor of what he found by his own efforts as a bodhisattva striving to become a samma sam buddha, a Supremely Enlightened Teacher.
|Rohatsu, Jōdō-e (Danny Fisher)|
Is it any wonder, therefore, that Mahayana exalts itself successfully opposing a strawman tradition it set up as Hinayana -- teaching, like the Brahmins, that "Nirvana is Samsara" when it is almost by definition the opposite? (Almost since nirvana cannot be known or defined by concepts, but only known by experience).
And rather than focusing on the historical Buddha, the Brahmins created Mahayana Buddhism in India within 200 years of the Buddha's passing -- created a tradition wherein all the many gods of the previous pantheon became Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Then of these Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, who went on to become Kwan Yin, soon assumed the position of greatest prominence, subordinating insight-wisdom in favor of promoting emotional-compassion.
That may not have been what the world really needed (to gain freedom), but it is certainly what it wanted. Sexism in the Judeo-Christian world met with a similar backlash, leading to the rise of the Virgin Mary as the supreme figure of day-to-day veneration. The Buddha was not sexist, nor was Jesus, but the worlds they taught certainly were, and the temple priests (Brahmin/Hindu and Philistine/Jewish) they corrected were.
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Sr. Kathleen Deignan, CND (MonasticDialog.com)
I have always thought it an interesting coincidence that the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the feast of the Buddha’s enlightenment, Bodhi Day, both share this date, December 8. Koans: engaging riddles, provocative questions that if lived awaken insight and a fuller understanding of life...
Bodhi Day 2012 (David Victor Vector)
Happy Bodhi Day! (Danny Fisher)