The Buddha - Saint or Guru
Karma (action/reaction) determines man's merit; and 'punya' (merit) is the invisible root or matrix from which, according to Buddhism, everything originates that is worthy of a name: health, talent, riches, good family, beauty, etc... During his previous lifetimes the Buddha-to-be acquired so much 'punya' that, as a result he was enabled to attain His Supreme Awakening - not only did he obtain this, but the physical prerequisites too, without which not even the thought of Enlightenment would have been possible. The quest for merit is thus of immense importance, not only in Buddhism but also in Hinduism, Jainism, Sikhism and other Schools of spirituality associated with the name of Yoga.
In striking difference to the above, Confucius is supposed to have said in the books
now known as the Classics, "destiny distributes riches and long life irrespective of merit." Both Confucianism and Buddhism have exercised an enormous influence, not only on the people of China, but also on so-called "barbaric" tribes outside of the Middle Kingdom. On one hand it is emphasized that everything depends upon the individual himself and on the other hand nothing whatsoever can be done by the individual's own effort. If one were to extrapolate a bit further, the question of the validity of a divine agency, as introduced to us by teachers or represented by a guru (without church (or guru) no salvation!) would probably be of great interest to many men!
Whether Confucius was a guru or not is irrelevant, the fact remains that he was a teacher. The Buddha never claimed to be anybody's personal saviour - "Buddhas only show the Path: you yourself must walk the Way... Whether you believe in retribution, heaven and hell or not, it doesn't matter; the consequences of your actions will always have to be undergone..." In both cases we have extraordinary men who taught - that which seems to be opposite in character. And thus we have arrived at the very centre of mentality: ambivalence - duality - polarity! Dichotomy is the cause of conflict. In spite of the dictum "all gurus teach the same," hardly any two gurus seem to say the same thing (maybe it's just out of professional jealousy?). The guru is supposed to reconcile opposites. Yes, but where in practice can we find such a wonderful man? The past has seen lots of gurus - even nowadays we have plenty. "There are more gurus than pupils!" Who is actually willing to learn? Who is willing to give up his authority to become a pupil? May, whom can you teach? "We learn while teaching!" - Bravo! no wonder there's so much confusion and so many contradictions are offered wholesale.
Next to"'Jainism there is hardly any other School which emphasized self-reliance, as much as Buddhism did. No God, no Soul: the 'anatta' doctrine (think! theistic dogmas would entirely fall to the ground if deprived of these two ideas!), such is the Dharma whereupon the honest adherent and sincere devotee is asked to rely. And yet the fact remains that over the last 2500 years the "godless" Teaching of Sunyata (=Void) has been propagated with considerable success. Well, it is through that inestimable factor of merit that the Buddha Dharma could and still can exist; taking its worthy stand among competing doctrines, yet the Buddhist torch-bearer, the 'ariya puggala' (=noble disciple) is totally purged of all missionary zest and zeal. It was and is this priceless value of merit: its acquisition as well as its transference to others, that made both the "religeux" as well as the laymen interested therein, and thus it became one of the key stones of the Buddhistic culture. The accumulating of merit proved to be attractive to many people, especially as it outlasts everything else here on earth and becomes thus the only link between the here and hereafter. "The brotherhood of the Buddha in the Dharma is the incomparable field for acquiring merit... it deserves salutation, gifts and veneration" says the text. Merit enables man to obtain everything and anything under the sky - and probably in heaven too. How is man so differently endowed in character, intelligence and mystical experience? Is it not due to merit's favours? Some sort of a spiritual "bank account" - such is 'punya'.
As we've already said our mind is intrinsically dualistic. It depends upon a high degree of Insight to have a profound Understanding of man's ambivalent mentality and then reconcile the same in what is known as the Total Vision. A scholar is no saint and a saint is seldom a scholar. The intuition and cosmic vision of which saints of all climes and times have spoken is of a mystical nature; and revelations are not always compatible to intellectual learning and schoolmanship, hence the dilemma of so many tongues. The Man who has the Vision of the Absolute KNOWS: IT is his own Direct Vision; while a scholar only "knows accordingly," according to the books. It is reported that the Buddha on one occasion took a handful of leaves and asked his disciples whether this few leaves were all that
the jungle has to offer or not? "No lord, the jungle has much more foliage than that which is in your hand." "Well, similarly the Tathagato has more to say, he knows more than he reveals... What he has told you is comparable to the handful of leaves in his hand. He only told you the Essentials, that which is conducive to clarity of mind, stillness, inner peace and is leading to detachment and dispassion."
What is the use of the food that you have eaten to anyone else? Everybody has to eat for himself! Similarly everyone lives his own individual (miserable - selfish) life from which he/she does or doesn't attain Enlightenment. All those wonderful realisations of bygone sages and past saints are redundant in today's world. "Buddha" is in the present moment, and only such a Living Buddha has value to us. This all-important clue is WISDOM, namely the Dharma taught as SELF-RELIANCE. Reality is only here and now;and to see that what actually is, That Is Enlightenment. But do we do this? We dream, we hope, we have visions, and therefore we have our own "version" of reality - our know-ledge is indirect (through our senses) and not direct (without mind.) To SEE directly, one has to become One with It All. However for such an Awakening no methods are available! It happens of its own accord; and maybe it is only happening when the Law (Tao/Dharma) - different to the laws which we know intellectually - allows us to enjoy the fruits of our merit... To see the utter helplessness, and yet, being moved by Compassion to help: that is "Buddha", the Man who has solved the paradoxes of life. He was a Man and became a God. He is, as any other Buddha was, basically a selfless person, has no motivation whatsoever and is not interested in any material gain; free from any scheming,he abides in strict neutrality and sets a high example for mankind. Since anything we do is just another entanglement which creates new conditionings (cascaras), the Buddha is primarily concerned with e-conditioning i.e. NOT-DOING, and through this 'avidya'(=ignorance) is dispelled in favour of 'prajna' (=wisdom). Liberation from "hang-ups" reveals itself as our Emancipation in 'samsara' i.e. Buddhahood - the cycle of birth and death doesn't exist anymore.
The mere presence of a Holy man is of course an inestimable blessing. "In thy presence all our sorrows and worries are forgotten; Silence is Fulfilment; here we feel blissfully happy and content." Such is called 'darsana' - the inexpressible Vision of mutual Understanding. If, however, in the absence of such a Noble Person we attempt to take things in-to our own hands and consequently they turn topsy turvy, well it's not the fault of the Buddha or the Good God.
Guidance is absolutely necessary and of great importance.
In the "Tao Teh Ching" it is written that when the sages and saints began to teach that which is Good, the knowledge of that which is Bad appeared. The people became conscious of Good and Bad, this distinction being the outcome of scholars and teachers:generations of schizoids. A Buddha is an adopt in Dialectics (Yoga) i.e. the Wisdom of the Paradox, which is the only means leading to a Unitive Understanding whereby the opposites are cancelled out in favour of the neutral Absolute: Buddhi-Yoga - a higher way of reasoning based on Intuition. In China and Japan we have splendid examples of the same in the performance of Chan and Zen, expounded by many great Masters. They all knew the Transcendental Wisdom called 'Prajnaparamita. To overcome duality is the aim of all the Buddhas: "Samsara and Nirvana are One." He who knows That, no explanation is necessary; and he who can't see That, all explanations are useless.