November 14, 2017
The Teachings of Lord Buddha were based, not on any scripture or religious tradition, but on Self-realization, i.e., his own direct experience of the truth. Buddha did not follow any scriptural injunctions, but so to say, scriptures followed him. This does not necessarily imply that scriptures he did not follow were invalid! But it does mean, however, that scriptures are validated by personal experience, and till such personal experience is gained it is unwise to accept or reject them blindly. This is the purport of many of the Upanishads, too!
"The goal is unshakeable freedom of mind," said the Buddha. Sri Krishna points to the same goal and declares the same methods in The Bhagavad Gita.
The path is 'The Middle Way'. I have heard many people speak of the Middle Path as though it is broader, smoother, straighter than the National Road! The Katha Upanishad speaks of it as Ksurasya dhara (the razor's edge). The middle Way demands eternal vigilance and constant effort. It is too irksome for the extremists who either accept a certain standard of asceticism, pat themselves on their backs and go to sleep, or others who conceive of a God or a metaphysical category like Brahman or Atman, and since they can answer any question concerning the category, they consider themselves sages. What you conceive of is your offspring and not your deity! One can get used to even the most tortuous forms of asceticism, and it may cease to hurt or think the mind - if that was the original aim.
In a very different context, and perhaps staring from a very different premise, Mahatma Gandiji arrived at the same conclusion: "Man can change his temperament (he can control it), although he cannot eradicate it. Change and control, therefore, require constant effort and eternal vigilance." One who walks The Middle Way will, therefore, be perpetually 'mindful' (to use a favorite Buddhist word). Then desire, aversion, and fear do not bring about an action; every action is thoroughly deliberated, weighed in the scale of mindfulness, and performed in the full consciousness that it is right and should be performed. The follower of Lord Buddha does not circumvent this process even when he feels that he is established in the Noble Eightfold Path and is therefore incapable of straying from it! There is no such thing as a permanent guarantee: you have to be eternally vigilant and constantly striving so long as this life lasts.