The renowned haiku master from the land of the rising sun – Basho – once said “Kill the Buddha ~ do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what they sought”. There seems to be a great amount of wisdom in these words. I think he was onto something when he wrote that.
I have observed and practiced Buddhism up close along with having long discussions with some of the monks in the high Himalayas. Lately, I am finding myself questioning every dearly held belief regarding faith, devotion, and the role of a guru.
Buddhism primarily focuses on being compassionate, on ‘becoming’ the Buddha. Instead of leading me to my own truth, I felt it was trying to impose a shiny version of how I should be as a human. Rather than accepting what I truly was, I was trying to attain something I inherently might not be.
This caused internal conflicts and to soothe that, I filled my days with rituals that led me away from the core of what I should have been looking at. It is said that Buddha left four Noble Truths, but there are no records of him writing them down.
What we know is what was passed on to us by traditional word of mouth teachings. So, what if there is a possibility that his disciples shared forward their own understanding of the message and appropriated his words to their ego’s understanding?
In the blindness to ‘become’ the Buddha, I certainly felt lost and tried to cover the confusion with so-called spiritual experiences. I ran behind finding gurus, which eventually always led to disappointments and more disillusions.
A decade back, going through an existential crisis, I had spent almost a month in the Himalayas, just aimlessly wandering about. Here I met a 110-year-old ascetic living a solitary life. On one of the evening conversations with him, I spilled my anxieties to him and he said, “the guru you are looking for is right where you are, you do not need to go anywhere else”. Being naïve as I was, I thought this to be the place which I called home and once again started looking for a person that I could find my guru in. This led me to some brilliant individuals, through whom I have learned a lot, there is no denying. However, at the end of the day even they were humans and circumstances led me away from them. It was only when the isolation set in and I started questioning every single thought and belief on my own, I have come to realize what that ascetic meant.
The guru that I was searching for was within me, I truly did not have to go anywhere else. Looking within, I have found my golden compass, which I am still learning to use. This has been the single biggest breakthrough on my spiritual journey.
So, when I stumbled upon Basho, I could not help but realize that Buddha’s emphasis was to eliminate suffering. However, what if accepting the suffering the way it is, that is the real key? In Maya, suffering is a given; eliminate one, another arises – accept something and it falls away. While in this world and of this world, true freedom is an illusion.
Maybe Basho meant what he said, what do we know – kill the Buddha – but in this context, I find another’s words full of wisdom too
“None are so hopelessly enslaved as those who falsely believe they are free” ~ Goethe