Features of the Dhamma
are no dark corners of ignorance, no cobwebs of mystery, no
smoky chambers of secrecy; there are no "secret doctrines,"
no hidden dogmas in the teaching of the Buddha, which is open
as daylight and as clear as crystal. "The doctrine and
discipline proclaimed by the Buddha shine when open and not
when covered, even as the sun and moon shine when open and not
when covered" (A.I,283).
Master disapproved of those who professed to have "secret
doctrines," saying, "Secrecy is the hallmark of false
doctrines." Addressing the disciple Ânanda, the Master
said: "I have taught the Dhamma, Ânanda, without
making any distinction between exoteric and esoteric doctrine;
for in respect of the truths, Ânanda, the Tathâgata
has no such thing as the closed fist of a teacher who hides
some essential knowledge from the pupil."n35
Buddha is an extreme rarity, but is no freak in human history.
He would not preserve his supreme knowledge for himself alone.
Such an idea would be completely ridiculous and abhorrent from
the Buddhist point of view, and to the Buddha such a wish is
utterly inconceivable. Driven by universal love and compassion,
the Buddha expounded his teaching without keeping back anything
that was essential for man’s deliverance from the shackles of
samsâra, repeated wandering.
Buddha’s teaching from beginning to end is open to all those
who have eyes to see and a mind to understand. Buddhism was
never forced upon anyone at the point of the gun or the bayonet.
Conversion by compulsion was unknown among Buddhists and repugnant
to the Buddha.
the Buddha’s creed of compassion, H. Fielding Hall writes in
The Soul of a People: "There can never be a war
of Buddhism. No ravished country has ever borne witness to the
prowess of the followers of the Buddha; no murdered men have
poured out their blood on their hearth-stones, killed in his
name; no ruined women have cursed his name to high heaven. He
and his faith are clean of the stain of blood. He was the preacher
of the Great Peace, of love of charity, of compassion, and so
clear is his teaching that it can never be misunderstood."
communicating the Dhamma to his disciples, the Master made no
distinctions whatsoever among them; for there were no specially
chosen favourite disciples. Among his disciples, all those who
were arahats, who were passion-free and had shed the fetters
binding to renewed existence, had equally perfected themselves
in purity. But there were some outstanding ones who were skilled
in different branches of knowledge and practice, and because
of their mental endowments, they gained positions of distinction;
but special favours were never granted to anyone by the Master.
Upâli, for instance, who came from a barber’s family,
was made the chief in matters of discipline (vinaya)
in preference to many arahats who belonged to the class of the
nobles and warriors (kshatriya). Såriputta and
Moggallâna, brahmins by birth, because of their longstanding
aspirations in former lives, became the chief disciples of the
Buddha. The former excelled in wisdom (pañña)
and the latter in supernormal powers (iddhi).
Buddha never wished to extract from his disciples blind and
submissive faith in him or his teachings. He always insisted
on discriminative examination and intelligent inquiry. In no
uncertain terms he urged critical investigation when he addressed
the inquiring Kâlâmas in a discourse that has been
rightly called the first charter of free thought:
Kâlâmas. Do not go by oral tradition, by lineage
of teaching, by hearsay, by a collection of scriptures, by logical
reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reflection on reasons,
by the acceptance of a view after pondering it, by the seeming
competence of a speaker, or because you think, ‘The ascetic
is our teacher.’ But when you know for yourselves, ‘These things
are unwholesome, these things are blamable; these things are
censured by the wise; these things, if undertaken and practised,
lead to harm and suffering,’ then you should abandon them. And
when you know for yourselves, ‘These things are wholesome, these
things are blameless; these things are praised by the wise;
these things, if undertaken and practised, lead to welfare and
happiness,’ then you should engage in them."
take anything on trust is not in the spirit of Buddhism, so
we find this dialogue between the Master and the disciples:
"If now, knowing this and preserving this, would you say:
‘We honour our Master and through respect for him we respect
what he teaches’?" - "No, Lord." - "That
which you affirm, O disciples, is it not only that which you
yourselves have recognized, seen, and grasped?" -"Yes,
Buddha faced facts and refused to acknowledge or yield to anything
that did not accord with truth. He does not want us to recognize
anything indiscriminately and without reason. He wants us to
comprehend things as they really are, to put forth the necessary
effort and work out our own deliverance with mindfulness.