Home » Features » Was The Buddha A Free-Thinker?

To assume oneself
to be right dogmatically is
to be wrong spiritually.

– Stonepeace

Recently, there is an increase in atheists and agnostics (free-thinkers) who are eager to show that it is possible to be secular humanists, to be moral (instead of immoral or amoral), as guided by reason and science; instead of religion. Thus, some religionists see rising secularism as a ‘new enemy’ of religion, which is partly true, as there are popular atheists who seem out to denounce most, if not all religions, as attested by the books ‘The God Delusion’ (from evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins) and ‘God Is Not Great’ (by journalist Christopher Hitchens). Yes, they criticise Buddhism too, inadequately though. (See ‘Related Articles’ for reviews.) If they represent the best of anti-religion thinkers, they are not objective enough – at least, when it comes to Buddhism. The problem with any generalisation is that it generally misrepresents. That said, we should also be mindful not to generalise all secular humanists to be equally intolerant of all religions. Paradoxically though, their thought might harden into ‘religions’ with rigid new dogmas?

In a sense, Prince Siddhartha too was a free-thinker – who made good by becoming the Buddha. Not relying on any divine revelation from any god, he sought personal enlightenment for universal wisdom, out of universal compassion to show all (including humans and gods) a path to the common goal of True Happiness. In fact, he was a highly diligent free-thinker, who freed his mind from the many dogmas of his time, to think for himself, and to forge a clear way out of the thicket of delusions. In contrast, some unenlightened free-thinkers are not enthusiastic to learn and think deeply enough, who thus generalise and trivialise others’ belief and thought systems. Surely, an earnest seeker of the path to ultimate truth (wisdom) and goodness (compassion) must include the humble and careful survey of the possible paths already available. This the Buddha did too, before realising they were insufficient for enlightenment. A free-thinker who keeps his mind truly free and open in a wise and discerning manner is surely on the path to enlightenment!

Some believe they have found adequate morality and meaning through self-reflection. Yet, when their compassion and wisdom is compared with the Buddha’s, they fall short. Surely then, there is much to emulate of the Buddha’s example – who remains the world’s most enduring and iconic spokesperson against violence, sexism, racism, casteism, ageism, speciesism, dogmatism… He even spoke of the need to uphold inter-religious harmony! Such humanistic issues are relevant even to free-thinkers today. History has yet to see anyone more complete in compassion and wisdom, in word and deed. Studying his teachings is both humbling and inspiring – for he towers over us in so many ways, while he reminds us that we can become equally enlightened. If you are a free-thinker, perhaps this is a good time to think twice about the value of Buddhism? As the gently smiling Buddha beckons, don’t just believe in anyone’s teachings blindly. You’re most welcome to intelligently doubt and enquire about his too!

The path to enlightenment consists of stages of:
(1) dis-belief due to ignorance (of truth),
(2) mis-belief due to delusion (about truth),
(3) right-belief due to alignment (towards truth), and
(4) non-belief due to realisation (of truth).

– Stonepeace

‘Even the contemporary literature on consciousness, which spans philosophy, cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience, cannot match the kind of precise, phenomenological studies that can be found throughout the Buddhist canon. Although we have no reason to be dogmatically attached to any one tradition of spiritual instruction, we should not imagine that they are all equally sophisticated. They are not… Buddhism, in particular, has grown remarkably sophisticated. No other tradition has developed so many methods by which the human mind can be fashioned into a tool capable of transforming itself.’ – Sam Harris (The End of Faith)

Related Articles:

Books On Atheism

Review of ‘The God Delusion’
http://moonpointer.com/index.php?itemid=1738
Review of ‘God is Not Great’
http://moonpointer.com/index.php?itemid=1803
Review of ‘The End of Faith’
http://moonpointer.com/index.php?itemid=1737

Buddhism On Atheism

Are Buddhists Atheists?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/11/are-buddhists-atheists
The Cross-Manifestations of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas & Gods?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/11/the-cross-manifestations-of-buddhas-bodhisattvas-gods
Buddhism is Not Hinduism
http://moonpointer.com/new/2010/01/india-adventures-4-buddhism-is-not-hinduism
How was a ‘Creator God’ Created?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/03/can-a-‘creator-god’-be-created
The Bird that Flew Too Far
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2009/12/the-bird-that-flew-too-far
How were the ‘First’ Humans ‘Created’? (Part 1: Summary) [About evolution?]
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/03/how-were-the-‘first’-humans-‘created’-part-1-sutta-summary
How were the ‘First’ Humans ‘Created’? (Part 2: Analysis)
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/03/how-were-the-‘first’-humans-‘created’-part-2-sutta-analysis
The Inconceivable Compassion the Enlightened
http://moonpointer.com/new/2010/09/the-inconceivable-compassion-of-the-enlightened

Buddhism On Religion

Is Buddhism a Religion? (A Brief Introduction to Buddhism)
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/11/is-buddhism-a-religion
What’s the Big Deal about Buddhism?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/11/whats-the-big-deal-about-buddhism
The Twin Criteria for Rejection & Acceptance
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2009/10/the-twin-criteria-for-rejection-acceptance
When is So-Called ‘Buddhism’ Not Buddhism?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/11/when-is-so-called-buddhism-not-buddhism
Are All Religions the Same?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/11/are-all-religions-the-same
Are All Religions Rivers Leading to One Ocean?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/10/are-all-religions-rivers-leading-to-one-ocean
There are Enough Religions Already
http://moonpointer.com/new/2009/07/enough-religions-already
The Importance of Inter-Religious Harmony
http://moonpointer.com/new/2009/11/the-importance-of-inter-religious-harmony

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