Hitchhikers guide to Buddhism

To get somewhere you can buy a car, and drive there. You have to buy a whole car – just the wheels, or just the engine is no good.
In the same way most meditation lineages (not to mention religions) ask you to buy their philosophy so that you can practice in the ‘right’ way. Then, and here is the catch, you can ‘know’ for yourself. That means you must buy that particular make of car, as only it can take you to the destination. At the destination you will see, sorry… ‘know’ for yourself why this is the correct vehicle.
At least with a meditation tradition you can engage the practice and experience results right away, even If they are not nirvana itself. Other traditions, most particularly some forms of Christianity, require a huge ‘leap of faith’. You have to truly believe, and only then can you get on the road.
Bhakti Yoga is the path of Faith, of dedication and surrender. It is a genuine way of practice, that even the Buddha acknowledged. Our Buddha, known as Sakyamuni or Gotama Buddha, taught the way of wisdom, that is supposedly superior to the way of Faith. Not superior in the destination – because Enlightenment is Enlightenment; there is only one nibbana. But a Buddha who arrives at Enlightenment through faith has less influence than one enlightened through Wisdom. His followers are fewer.
There is another category of Buddhas. One enlightened through Heroic struggle. The Pali word is Viriya, which means effort, but it comes from the word for ‘hero’. The next Buddha will be Maitrayya Buddha, and he will be of this last, and superior kind. Our Buddha claimed, where I have 100 followers, he will have 1000.
In the mean time what do we do? There are so many meditation lineages, even within Buddhism. Even within Theravada Buddhism there are many different lineages. Do you need the whole car to get to the end of the road?
Anther way might be to assemble your own car. But this seems like a waste of much time and energy. We might as well learn from wise people rather than figuring everything out by ourselves from scratch. The trick is to absorb and learn, and let go. Many teachings or ideas might not seem to make sense early on, but at a later date suddenly fall into place. Other teachings seem to make sense, but later you leave them behind. And of course, some will never really be of any use to you. The knack is to look and learn, and try not to judge too much. Naturally, you will find some things useful and some things not – but that is not the same as refuting anything or taking a stance against it (as many meditation lineages do against other systems).
Pick up and use what you can. It is not necessary to buy into anything wholesale. Yes, perhaps you would be better off throwing yourself at the feet of a great Guru who leads you all the way. The only trouble is, what if he is not that great? What if you picked the wrong person at the wrong time?
So instead of buying a car, instead of building your own vehicle, there is another option. The spiritual hitchhiker. Jump ship when you need to. Hitchhikers have less baggage, and more fun. Change vehicles when you need to – do not worry, so long as you are heading in the right direction, pick up and use what ever can take you along that road.

8 replies on “Hitchhikers guide to Buddhism”

  1. You have captured in material goods why I find studying buddhism in Thailand so internally acceptable…

  2. Hi Bill,

    I just clicked on your name and was taken to a blog on golf tips! LOL! I’m sure that’s not the blog you want to post this essay on!

    Of course I can’t speak for Littlebang in any way at all, but I’d have thought that a link to this article would be sufficient rather than re-posting it. Or a blog entry saying how good you found it and then directing your readers towards it.

    Just my personal, un-asked-for, opinion!


  3. It seems to be true. But after years of hitchhiking and fun there comes to be a question of “Is a solid vehicle more reliable moving through the journey of life? The use of spare parts and assorted idealogical beliefs has left me wondering if they haven’t steered me down the wrong road altogether. Have others who took the time to really sort out all the options available and choose one vehicle, arrived somewhere greener? Are they where they are because of the vehicle they drove or are they there because no matter what vehicle they drove that is where they are meant to be? Sometimes the grass seems greener, but then, if now is all there ever really is and there is no final destination, the grass will do just fine right here. And what about vehicles that are made for carrying baggage…..did that affect the course of this journey? It seems all illusory anyway, but maybe it isn’t and at some point maybe all the hitchhiking will prove to have been effective, and maybe it won’t. Maybe a car was never needed at all….maybe it should have been an airplane.

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