When I read about the earlier teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, it impresses me with its “modern” messages. Therefore, if we need a modern type of Buddhism, we just need to look at teachings from Buddha’s earliest sermons.
Foremost, Buddha taught his followers to do away with the trappings of religion. Buddha advised us to stop religious practices such as praying, mantra recitations, astrology and all such meaningless rituals and ceremonies.
Naturally, many religious priests at that time were not pleased with such educations. People would stop making sacrificial ceremonies to Gods. Offerings to the religious priest were affected.
Such a message is not easily acceptable by people, especially after the Buddha’s parinirvana. In times of dire situations, people like to find hope by believing in a “higher” power. That there is a God or multiple Gods looking after human kind. Even Buddhist likes to pray to Buddha or Bodhisattva and etc.
Buddha’s message was modern and simple. Stop praying or blaming God(s). Humanity’s happiness is the responsibilities of Human. That message is known as Karma. Action and its effect.
During our current pandemic, we continue to create karma. If we follow wisdom and practice social distancing, stay at home, good hygiene, social responsibility, self-quarantine. Then we create the Karma that will overcome this virus. If we follow ignorance and gather at temples for mass prayers, meditation etc. Then we create Karma for virus to spread.
Follow wisdom, not ignorance.
The Buddha taught about equality. There is no class, no special caste, no privileged race and etc. Following from the previous teachings about no creator God, it also means that there is no special person acting as a priest of God or oracle of god and etc.
Naturally, a group of people and their family lost their livelihood. People who embraced Buddha’s messages stop making offerings to priests and their family. Since everyone is equal, there is no need to worship another human being.
The monks and nuns of early Buddhism weren’t worshiped by Buddhist. They beg for their livelihood and Buddhist would share a portion of their daily meal with them. They were known as spiritual friends. They lived in accordance to Buddha’s teachings, practiced and demonstrated that enlightenment is possible within one lifetime. They encouraged people to practice Dharma to gain wisdom.
The Buddha taught that, it is our actions that make us worthy of respect. Monks and nuns were forbidden to solicit faith by displaying supernatural feats and miracles. In another word, win the respect of fellow man through their good examples and deeds. Consequently, Buddhist celebrated moral and ethics.
That was the kind of Buddhist community that was established by Buddha.
However, not everyone is ready for such a message. People still want to believe in God(s) / Goddess(s). They still want to believe that some man have special power to intercede with a higher power. Even Buddhist consulted monks and nuns for fortune telling, dreams interpretations, blessed articles, blessings, prayers and etc.
During this pandemic, love our monks and nuns. Make offering to them and support their livelihood remotely (if possible). Mail them a check? Try to contain the virus by not visiting them and exposing them to risk of infection. We do not need to be physically blessed by monks and nuns.
We can support them remotely by wiring funds to them or buying food for them and leaving the food at their doors or gate.(write a note if you want) Our merit will be the same.
Practice wisdom, not ignorance.
Are you a practicing Buddhist or a religious Buddhist?
May all be well and happy.
Stay safe, stay healthy, both physically and mentally..