11. Scope

There seems to be a sheer endless number of books about Buddhism in ciruclation and there seem to be even more books around trying to give advice about all kinds of self-improvement. The vast majority of both classes of books are, sadly enough, a rehash of other books which, in turn, are already recantations about even earlier books.

Aggravating the lack of originality, there are very, very few books in which the authors refrain from employing highly dubious language constructions like "you can't...", "we never will...", "all of us have to...", and so forth.  The majority of authors is simply not aware of the impact of their own words. However, the common argument that a criticism of this careless usage of language is unjustified because 'everyone is writing this way' or 'not everybody has time to study semantics or NLP', is very much off the mark.

A survey of Pali Canon, the earliest recording of Gotamo's teachings, is showing that he himself carefully abstained from using any such semantic construct. All his examples, are stated in the form 'if a man would be doing such and such, the results of his actions would be such and such.." He did not say 'thou shalt' or 'thou shalt not'. By showing the outcome of a situation depending on certain conditions, he demonstrated the basic laws of life in just the way a scientist would go about it.

The danger of careless formulations is considerable and there is a significant movement, based on the Polish-American Count Alfred Korzybski, which is going so far as to assign the entire cause of insanity at large to the uncritical usage of language'.

In the first part of the book there will be several sections on language itself and further down the line the most devastating but wide-spread formulation 'all life is suffering' will be analyzed and its utter insanity and inherent dangerwill be discussed. Needless to say, that there is no evidence that Gotamo ever said anything close to it and even rejected any such interpretation of his teachings at several occasions.

The combination of careless or even reckless usage of language with the subject of the human mind reveals a shocking probability: which is that the respective authors may not have understood the very basics of their self-chosen topic in  the first place.

This sad circumstance influences the scope of this book significantly. It may even be a major factor in its very existence: if there would be a better literature available, there would be no purpose to undergo  the travail of writing  yet another book and to expose the author to the immanent risks of the 'Teacher's Paradox' which will be discussed later.

Another factor for chosing the scope of this book is the emergence of various philosophies and practices in recent years which are either having goals similar  to the ones of Gotamo Siddharto or that provide very valuable toolsor perspectives in its pursuit. Some 'Buddhists' insist that "Buddha's" would be the one and only way to freedom. They ignore, however, that Gotamo restricted himself to communicating only the most vital basics that would be understandable easily at the time of his last life, now more than 2,500 years ago. He did not exclude other possibilities or additional tools as long as they would lead to the awakening of a person. Ironically, he did exclude specifically some of the practices that now, for many, form the picture of 'Buddhism': in the Western World: chanting, praying, and relying on someone else other than oneself.

As a direct result of these considerations the scope of this book encompasses the portrayal of the original teachings of Gotamo Siddharto side by side with the most obvious deviations that evolved over time and a comparison and, if possible, integration of contemporary views and techniques of liberating oneself from the yoke of unclear thinking and seemingly unexplicable passions and desires.

Gotamo's main theme is of fundamental importance for every living being. It would not make sense to address only those who are already familiar with his teachings. Outlining the most spectacular abberations of his philosophy is providing an additional motivation for this book since they show the pattern of how a conclusive and comprehensive philosophical system can be twisted over time, yielding in many cases the exact opposite of its initial proposition.

Because of the most fundamental obstacle to understanding, namely the assumption that one already knows the topic to be investigated, it can be expected that many 'Buddhists' will not be willing to have a fresh look at the concepts discussed in this book. Such a tendency is typically amplified when people are locked into a rigid system that is characterized by authority and tradition. Nevertheless, for the few who are willing to think again and from scratch, extensive quotes from the Pali Canon are given.

Many of the contemporary techniques of expanding one's mind can be summarized. In any case, special care is given to a comprehensive bibliography and, where applicable, pointers to World-Wide-Web pages are being provided. The latter are, of course, more transient than about anything else in this transient world.

With one expection all discussions of theistic religions are excluded. However, there is no reason why followers of theistic religions should not enjoy or benefit from the discussion. In particular, many 'Buddhist' sects are following the patterns of  theistic religions. A follower of any of those sects may indeed feel more disturbed by some of the conclusions in this book than a follower of a Western theistic religion.

Another topic which is excluded is politics. Even though it is tempting to analyze the deterioation of Gotamo's philosophical system from a political or socio-cultural angle, it would not contribute to the understanding of the issues at hand and rather add confusion and volume to an already wide field. In many cases, the connection is so obvious that any added word would be superfluous.

Lastly, since this book is being written with direct feedback from some parts of the Internet community it is possible but not likely that the focus is shifting during the creation of the book.

Copyleft © 1998 by Maximilian J. Sandor, Ph.D.