A BUDDHIST 1
Han Marie Stiekema Sermes
Last review December 24, 2005
Q. I am a Buddhist. After having read your book
"Great Mother Buddhism"*, I feel confused about my own principles.
* See the content
of the book.
A. Well, that is a good sign
(laughter). To be a Buddhist is an insult to the Buddha, after all (joke).
Q. Thank you by instantly raising my awareness.
I am happy to be here. Fundamental discussion has disappeared almost everywhere, even
A. I feel great compassion,
because Buddhism is in real trouble nowadays.
Q. You are a doctor. What is your diagnosis?
A. Well, you probably know, a
proper diagnosis has to be preceded by a proper examination.
Q. I fully trust you in this regard. I would
like to hear your opinion, even if it is not a flattering one.
A. Well, I don't have to tell
you, that "the Dharma is in decay". It is something Buddhists were already
writing about, shortly after the Buddha's death. What is happening these days, can be
considered as a conclusion of that process.
Q. What are the main factors involved?
A. It is the consequence of
inherent dualism, the fact, that Buddhism has developed almost totally in a
"other-worldly" direction. There is a "law" saying, that "what
you exclude, sooner or later will start dominating you".
Q. Could you explain?
A. What you fail to integrate -
in this case the "world" - develops itself outside your control. Especially the
forces of self-centeredness, greed and lust for power continue to grow without restraint.
The irony is, that what you wanted to cure, eventually are overpowering you.
Q. I feel a great sadness right now.
A. It is most painful to see,
that the Ultimate Treasure of Buddhism - Enlightenment - the symbol of purity,
authenticity, liberation and sanctity - has become the victim of the forces of
materialism. Enlightenment is meant to overcome selfish desire; yet the reality is, that
selfish desire has annexed Enlightenment.
Q. I am afraid I have to agree.
A. Enlightenment has become
devaluated. It has become an object, something to have. It has become a commodity in the
"spiritual market". Hence, Buddhism is deprived of its most precious gem, it is
like a kingdom without a king, a bank without money or a woman who has been raped.
Q. You indeed feel the vitality being drained
out of the Sangha, and nobody seems to be able to do anything about it.
A. If the Highest Treasure has
been stolen, the whole community feels paralyzed. If the Source - the only Thing being
able to giving hope - has become irreparably damaged, then you are in real trouble indeed.
Enlightenment has lost its liberating potential, its saving quality.
Q. A spiritual burn-out, reflecting the
burn-out you also observe in society?
A. It marks the end of Buddhism
as we know it. The waiting is for a New Buddha, the one who is going to give mankind a New
Treasure, a Treasure higher than the one previously known, a Treasure immune to the
vicious attacks of its enemies.
Q. Wait a minute. Is this the opening up to a
A. In your monk's tradition,
you won't find many connections though. If you want to tune in, you have to open yourself
up to the more unconventional sources, those which never gave up hope for a genuine
Q. Like you have written a short while ago: the
non-canonical "sutra's", treatises, scriptures and the like.
A. Let's start with the
beginning. The main factor involved here is the Buddha's definition of suffering. It would
determine the course of Buddhism until this very day. It states that "life is
Q. Which in the course of time has had
different interpretations though.
A. Important is to understand
the background of the statement. It happened to be a time, in which people were part of a
fixed pattern of tradition, of strong social e.g. religious conventions and control, from
which an escape was hardly possible. People were searching for a way out. Moreover,
confronted with the threats of sickness, decay and death, the search for
"immortality" became more and more prominent.
Q. Please, continue.
A. Spirituality became an
instrument in the hands of those (men!), who tried to escape from the "cycle of birth
and death", which, despite of all transformations it has undergone, is still the
"official" driving force behind liberation.
Q. Which is out of date nowadays?
A. Our situation is totally
opposite. Rather than being embedded in conventions, modernity has "thrown people
upon themselves". Our ego-centeredness has alienated us from the reality within and
without. We are increasingly facing "nothingness". It is the cause of our
Q. Hence, Buddhism being outdated too?
A. If our existential suffering
is "fear of nothingness", suffering has to become re-defined. The
consequence of this our fear is ego-fixation. Through ego-fixation we are being cut off
from reality: "Heaven, earth and the community". Our suffering is not
"life", but the alienation from life. Hence, rather than escaping from life
we have to reconnect to it e.g. restore its wholeness.
Q. But isn't awareness the tool
with which we re-connect to (daily) life already?
A. Our modern existential
situation should be the starting point. It consists of being cut off from reality, to
begin with our own bodies. In order to cope with this our situation will require a total
change of attitude.
A. To start embracng common
reality*. With regard to the body, Buddhist meditation should revere it rather than using
it for its own purposes e.g. its ambition to get Enlightened. They use the body in order
to transcend it. There appears to be a subtle utilitarian attitude behind it. The same is
true with regard to our thoughts, emotions and desires: watching them with the intention
to overcoming them. It requires courage to admit, that deep within there is an attitude of
non-acceptance, a rejection of everyday life.
* Confronted by more and more
problems of "modern" life, (western) Buddhism is making adjustments in favour of
"how to cope with daily life". Some "transform" themselves and become
spiritual/psychological counselors trying to solve problems like stress, depression,
addiction etc. However, without changing the fundamentals Buddhism will never regain its
Q. Aren't you a little too
A. Central to Buddhism is the
quest for Enlightenment. Everything else is secondary.
Q. Spirituality became alienated from life, is
A. You are a clever guy. By
positioning spirituality as opposed to life, declaring the latter the world of samsara,
Buddhism became an artifact, surely a very beautiful one. As a method, it is justified (to
retire from life for a while, in order to discover your real Self), for a
spiritual-religious movement it is suicidal.
Q. So only by including "life"
Buddhism may be saved?
A. Indeed, in order to start
from scratch we have to go back to the Source in order to totally renew ourselves. As a
representative of the Mother, you will of course guess, what my answer will be to this
Q. Although I know it, I would very much like
to hear it. I feel like a dry river bed in autumn, about to receiving fresh water from the
A. In order to enter a new era,
Buddhism should re-define its objectives. This is only possible by introducing A Higher
Principle. Until now Enlightenment has been the ultimate aim. Because it has become
corrupted we should take refuge in "something" Beyond. Something that is
Q. Isn't Emptiness already incorruptable?
A. Buddhist have forgotten that
"Emptiness" isn't the Ultimate. "Common" Emptiness is equal to
Enlightenment. The reason why it is called "Emptiness" is, that in Realization
the ego disappears. To the ego it is Emptiness, in Itself it is Fullness. The Dutch have a
wonderful word for it: Vol-Ledigheid ("Full-Emptiness").
Q. So we have been clinging to something
A. Indeed. And that's exactly
the problem. Enlightenment can be realized. Hence, the ego started to corrupt it. So
Buddhist have to remember their own original wisdom. The Ultimate is not Emptiness, but
Emptiness beyond Emptiness.
Q. Which is very difficult to understand.
A. Contrary to Enlightenment
Absolute Emptiness (or Nothingness) cannot be attained. That's why Buddhists lost interest
in it. Moreover, over the centuries very few have truly experienced it.
Q. How it can be experienced, if you cannot
A. Enlightenment is destruction
of the ego; Absolute Nothingness is the destruction of Enlightenment. The former includes
ego-death (receiving Enlightenment in return), the latter consists of the Great Death
(Tib. "Delog"), a Moment of Total Annihilation.
Q. Which you claim as your "Threefold
A. The Vacuum (Emptiness beyond
Emptiness) is the Bottomless Abyss of the universe. It used to be called the "Cosmic
Womb". For obvious reasons: all patriarchal religions have neutralized the memory of
preceding times - the times of the Great Mother - "Womb" was replaced by a
* See "Threefold Realization"
Q. In fact, through the "Mother" you
want to bring Buddhism back to its original roots.
A. You may see it like that,
yes. The Mother is the Cosmic Womb - Emptiness beyond Emptiness - out of Which the Light
(Buddhahood) is continuously born. She is the Vessel through Which Buddhism will
experience its revival. Therefore, I would suggest an extension of the "Three
Jewels" to the four-dimensional: Mother-Buddha-Dharma- Sangha.
Q. Please, go on.
A. Obviously, the Return of the
Mother requires the coming of a New Buddha. One therefore has to acknowledge the fact,
that the era of Sakyamuni is over. This is an interim period, in which the Sangha has to
focus on the Coming of the Next World Buddha. An atmosphere of high expectation has to be
created. A longing for renewal should be accompanied by the willingness of every member to
participate in His or Her future Mission: the transformation of Self and Society.
Q. How could that be achieved?
A. Only the Next Buddha, the
One who has been prophesied over the centuries in Sutra's and non-canonical scriptures and
who's actions will be in the name of A Higher Principle - The Great Mother - will be able
to take over the Tradition.
Q. Please, go on.
A. The Dharma is so complex
e.g. versatile, that over the centuries every individual, group or sect had its own
interpretation. This has contributed to the enormous growth. However, its strength has
dissipated with it. Hence, this is the time, in which a new balance between
"Unity" and "Diversity" has to be established. The Dharma has to
support the efforts of the New Buddha, to empower the burn-out Buddhist community.
Q. What could be the first
A. Moreover, in order to
support the regeneration of Buddhism - "in these most desperate of times" -
the New Dharma has to be life-affirmative. It should become a main instrument in
"Restoring the Wholeness of Life". You may choose The Ultimate Sutra, based on
Awareness-Acceptance-Friendship-Surrender and Action for this purpose.
Q. What about the Sangha?
A. The Sangha has to transform
itself fundamentally. Apart from devotion to the Great Mother - simultaneously including
all the valuable things from the past - it has to extend itself into the world. The
distinction between monks and laymen(women) has to be lifted.
Q. As we know in Tibetan Buddhism nuns only
recently are becoming ordained. What is your comment?
A. Women have been always
excluded from the core of Buddhism. They were the "birthgivers" after all,
responsible for the ongoing cycle of "birth and death". Women indeed represent
the substance of life. Rather than denouncing this, New Buddhism's aim is to re-connect to
the latter, hence women should occupy a corresponding position e.g. have equal status e.g.
power on all levels of organization.
A. Incentives for Buddhist
communities have to be developed bottom-up. They have to become integrated with the life
of "common" people. Monks have to start living in streets, neighbourhoods
and districts, spreading their Light in all directions.
Q. I am deeply indebted to you. May the Mother
A. We all owe our very
existence to Her.
Enough for today?
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