When I was last in Yangon, I was fortunate enough to be introduced to a true hero of Burma, whose name will remain secret, and who happened to be a Muslim. He was a genuine pioneer for human rights, fairness and secularism in politics. It was a great honour to spend time with him and to listen and learn. In life, we get few chances to meet such strident spirits of conscience.
During our meeting, which lasted two and a half hours, we discussed about so many interesting things, and I was impressed by his directness and honesty. At one point, he asked me, because I am a Buddhist, “Where is the Buddha now?”
He asked me this question not out of disrespect to my Buddhist practice, but because he wanted to test my understanding. Although he was a Muslim, as a Burmese gentleman, he had enormous respect and knowledge about the teachings of Buddhism.
I paused in thought…
“Well, where is the Buddha?” he asked sternly.
“The Buddha is here, now, everywhere,” I replied. “Gautama Siddhartha is not important. In the realisation of ultimate Truth, we learn that there is no separation of this and that. We are the Buddha, the One, but we don’t recognise it, because we are distracted by the clutter and illusions of separation that the ego entraps us in. And even though it is easy to speak of ‘the Buddha’, the label and what it represents, also has no inherent existence beyond concept.”
“I do not think that by labeling myself a Buddhist, or in your case, a Muslim, is enough to allow us to achieve realisation of the Truth. They are only labels, and without right practice, they are equally worthless. However, if we truly come to realise the Truth, we will find no differences, separation and divisions at all. Every mystic and wise master from every tradition around the world has spoken of the fundamental unity of all. Nirvana, God, Allah… are all labels for expressing the inexpressible beyond concept. But, as a Buddhist, I am comfortable to say that this is where the Buddha is.”
He replied, “I am very happy to meet you.”
I have no time for beliefs in the supernatural anymore. I only believe in what is tangible and real in this moment. What lies beyond death will be what it will be at that time, but it has no relevance now, except as a pointless game of speculation.
If there is a God, then whatever it may be will be just as natural as I. A permutation of existence, all-encompassing, entirely universal, abstract and beyond the lexicon of language. God does not need to be called “God”. Likewise, I do not need to be called “I”.
We are continually faced with the inadequacy of language to encapsulate the whole without division or separation. The labels applied to things by words, blind us from seeing things as they truly are, often leading us into beliefs of delusion and fantasy. We have a tendency to fill in the gaps of our knowledge with fanciful ideas, however unproven, to comfort us.
What I am far more interested in are patterns of behaviour that transform the world we live right now. Actions based upon compassion and love, applied through a prism of wisdom, whether by a Christian, Atheist, Muslim, Pagan, Buddhist… have very real effects upon our world. These behaviours should be cultivated and encouraged, because by nature they neutralise the effects of negative activities. They inspire, comfort and increase harmony within communities. We don’t need to have faith in speculative concepts, we just need to observe the results of positive actions, such as compassion. They are apparent, without the need to believe in anything supernatural. There is no reason to believe in the unreal, when the real is so much more magical. It is simply a matter of how we wish to see; a choice of perspective.
…Truth is the manifest of reality as it truly is, not what we wish it to be.