The Buddha’s message is universal. Yet, there are many schools and interpretations. Over time contrasting versions of Buddha’s teachings evolved in various countries, often blending with local traditions and cultures. In the West, Buddhism has not found its final expression yet. It struggles between mimicking Eastern traditions or developing new interpretations that miss core Buddhist elements.
It is not always clear why the Buddha’s ideas differ from every other religious or philosophical system. His teachings are not just another type of spiritual option. What makes the Buddha’s message unique is its potential to break through the cage the clever and versatile human mind has built around itself.
The Buddha’s message is singular and clear. Yet Buddhism, over time, has divided into many schools and traditions. Even though they all share a common source, their expressions are very different. Depending on how one counts and what one includes, the number of schools is in the dozens.
In the West, Tibetan Buddhism is popular. Why is this so? Maybe western mentality compares intuitively with the Tibetan mindset? Or is it because the West was ready for the exotics of Eastern culture and Buddhism sort of snuck in?
It has been a beneficial introduction nonetheless, and we are profoundly grateful for it. But ultimately, over time, maybe over a very long time, Buddhism in the West will inevitably develop its particular expression. However, a WESTERN BUDDHISM would once again be limited to western culture and geography.
The idea of a UNIVERSAL BUDDHISM has more potential. Universal Buddhism can represent an all-inclusive, non-geographic, non-tradition related, non-religious, non-dogmatic form of Buddhism.
Included are ALL the Buddha’s teachings. Excluded are the philosophical, doctrinal, and interpretational DIFFERENCES distinguish and keep separate the many traditions. Furthermore, UNIVERSAL BUDDHISM includes the richness of western culture. Western art, philosophy, and thinking offer many valuable insights. A richness to be aligned with the Buddha’s ideas to make up a TOTAL, UNDIVIDED picture.
I intend to present a simple, non-academic yet far-reaching overview of the human thinking industry. Over the ages, humans generated a colossal thinking effort. Every action, every improvement, simply every step along the way, small or large, is a result of the cognitive enterprise.
Considering all the past and current world problems, one can ask, ‘How valuable has this massive mental effort been?’ Have the monuments of thinking, such as philosophy, religion, and science, made the world a happier, safer, healthier, calmer, more peaceful place? There is no evidence of this. So what about the future? Complexities are likely to increase. Balance of politics, economies, and people’s mindsets will become more stressed, more complicated, and more fragile.
The time will come. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not in fifty years, maybe not even in a hundred. But ultimately, when humankind has utterly exhausted itself, when thinking universally acknowledges its intrinsic limitations, not out of insight but by the sheer absence of options, then Buddha is ready to step in and offer an alternative.
This time will come; it is a certainty. Maybe you THINK this may not happen? Think no further, that is the problem. Lots of things are going to happen, good and bad. But nothing is going to change for a long, long time.
We can use this time to kind of prepare a notion, a possibility of UNIVERSAL BUDDHISM. It may lead to something, who knows?
First, I will gather information about the significant thinking structures that have formed and transformed society, the environment, and the human mind. Here is no academic approach. My aim is overview, not detail. Detail increases complexity; overview unravels complexity.
I have been a practising Buddhist for most of my life. I observed the progress of Buddhism in the West for over 50 years. I have the pleasure of meditating at length every day. In my view, Buddhism has not yet found its optimal expression in the West. In general, competent, well organised, capable organisations provide high-quality spiritual teachings and support. I admire their good intentions, honesty and altruism. Of course, there have been notable exceptions.
However, there is always a cultural limitation. The perception that all wisdom comes from the East does not hold. The Buddha’s proposition is grand and universal. It cannot be bound to cultural perceptions. Ultimately the idea itself needs to find its own creative expression suitable for whatever culture and environment it has to function in. Therefore, no matter how authentic, the eastern traditions of Buddhism need to understand their limitations. They need to participate in developing a new, timely and culturally relevant presentation. As has happened in the past, i.e. Tibetan Buddhism or Zen Buddhism.
A great mind is a great mind everywhere; a sage is a sage. There is no ‘eastern’ wisdom or ‘western’ wisdom. Rather than colonising the West with eastern ideas, it may be better to fuse similar ideas no matter where they come from. This would make way for the emergence of an indeed UNIVERSAL Buddhism free of division and rivalry.
I have taken care not to transgress any copyrights. If anything has slipped through, let me know. Please feel free to use any part of these pages in whatever way you like. No acknowledgement is necessary.
Finally, everything presented here reflects my personal view, fundamentally based on common sense.