Buddhas for Burning

I think we have understood that dogmas in a world of constant mutation are necessarily false? And since we know that everything we formulate in words, that is, seen dualistically, is inevitably deformed, we can readily understand that all doctrines, religious, philosophical, scientific, cannot represent more than a reflection of truth.

Men and women who seek doctrines, study them, endeavour to follow them, are impeding their own progress. The Masters, from the Buddha down, in their frequent condemnation of 'discoursing' have made that clear, and in declaring that there must be no attachment to, or identification with, the Dharma itself (or any dharma), that even the teaching of the Buddha himself must be discarded, have left no room for doubt on that score.

Doctrines, scriptures, sutras, essays, are not to be regarded as systems to be followed. They merely contribute to understanding. They should be for us a source of stimulation, and nothing more.

We must create each his own dharma, understanding, and may use those of others to help us to that end; they have no other value for us. Adopted, rather than used as a stimulus, they are a hindrance. As the Zen master stated to the monk whom he found studying a sutra, 'Do not let the sutra upset you - upset the sutra yourself instead.' Some Masters expressed themselves more forcibly, as when they recommended that Buddhas (statues of) were for burning and on a cold day used one as firewood, and in advising, 'If you meet the Buddha, turn aside and look the other way.' Such statements shock the sense of reverence inculcated by the devotional religions, but their meaning, their aim, their importance, are evident.

(© RKP, 1960)

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