PadmaVonSamba wrote:viniketa wrote:For some time now (perhaps 15 years), I've been contemplating the question of whether or not Buddhism is 'elitist'. I've been fighting this conclusion, but the evidence from things I've read or seen seems to indicate it is, and has been so since almost the beginning. As much as a prescription for suffering, the teachings of Buddhism seem to lend themselves to justifying one's own elitist leanings. This seems so not only in the teachings on karma (a convenient way of dismissing the suffering of 'others') and accumulating merit, but also so in the description of the qualities of a Buddha along with the almost racial implications of terms included in Nāgārjuna's Dharma-sāṃgraha.
I'm very interested in reading others' thoughts on this, especially thought that indicate this is a wrong-view of the teachings.
No, Buddhism is not elitist.
All beings have equal potential to realize the perfect cessation of suffering.
But people also have different types of obstacles.
Obstacles, however, can also be used as stepping stones.
Whether one can turn his or her obstacles into stepping stones depends on many factors.
Feeling superior to others (elitism) is a very difficult obstacle to overcome
but overcoming it is the basis of humility,
and that is the first step in letting go of ego clinging.
If one sees elitism as being intrinsically either good or bad,
then there is no understanding of emptiness.
First, please make a distinction between the dharma teachings, said to be the words of the Buddha,
and the institution of buddhism.
Second, holding "karma' as a justification of the suffering of others is a misunderstanding.
The karma is what ripens in the mind, and has little to do with material or 'external' objects.
For example, a person who is greedy and stingy in this life will experience poverty in the next life.
This doesn't mean the person won't have money. That person may very well be born into the wealthiest of families.
But that wealth will never be enough. That person will always feel he doesn't have enough
and as a consequence he will suffer the pain of poverty.
That is what is meant by karma.
Instead of going by what Nagarjuna may have said about the Buddha's appearance,
go by what the Buddha says in the Vajracchedikā Prajñāpāramitā (Diamond)Sutra:
"Subhuti, what do you think?
Can the Buddha be recognized by means of his bodily form?"
"No, Most Honored One, the Buddha cannot be recognized by means of his bodily form.
Why? Because when the Buddha speaks of bodily form, it is not a real form, but only an illusion."
The Buddha then spoke to Subhuti: "All that has a form is illusive and unreal.
When you see that all forms are illusive and unreal, then you will begin to perceive your true Buddha nature."
. . .
" Subhuti, what do you think, is it possible to see the Thus Come One in his physical appearances?"
"No World Honored One, it is not possible to see Thus Come One in his physical appearances.
Why? Because the physical appearances mentioned by the Thus Come One are not physical appearances."
The Buddha said to Subhuti,
"All appearances are empty and false.
If one sees all appearances
As no appearances,
Then one sees the Thus Come One."
It's usually a good idea to refer to the earliest texts to get a real sense of what the Buddha was discussing with his disciples. The Diamond Cutter Sutra is not from the earliest period of recorded texts, but it is an early Mahayana text and seems to capture well the style of the Buddha's teachings, and it may be derived from a very early text or oral teaching. In any case, the Buddha truly broke the mold when he taught outside the Brahmanic norms, and established a Dharma that would be democratic. In other words, he rejected caste, and taught the Dharma to all people regardless of their position in society. So, the original intent of Buddha was this open, democratic and free Dharma. To the extent that modern teachers or sanghas set up high societal bars to reach, economic barriers to enter, or design seminars only for the CEOs, the glitterati and the wealthy, this is a violation of what the Buddha intended. Whenever I see these 'glittered up' seminars, or ads that suggest special teachings at $10,000 a pop, I recoil. These kinds of seminars are shameful and only serve to diminish what Buddha was trying to teach.