Thoughts on why I didn’t take to Buddhism (the ‘negative intellectualism’) – the importance of belief and one’s character

The other day I saw something involving Buddhism.  This got me to thinking.  Though I like various aspects of Buddhist thought, I never took much to Buddhism.  Most certainly, it has some good points and wisdom in it.  But, to me, there was something that I didn’t like about it.  Something seemed ‘missing’.  Something just didn’t seem right.

Reflecting on this, several points came out:

  • There is no ‘god’ or authority figure (except for the founder). 
  • There’s little recognition of the power and authority of nature and ‘life’.
  • There’s no real sense of mystery in life, that things are beyond us.
  • There’s a strong emphasis on the person as the center of everything.
  • There’s no passion and emotion.
  • A preoccupation with suffering and pain as a central point in life.
  • It preaches a definite ‘solution’ to life’s problems.

These same qualities I’ve seen elsewhere:  intellectualism.  As a result, it gives Buddhism a similar quality to intellectualism.   The main difference is that, in intellectualism, they “think” and in Buddhism they “don’t think”.   As a result, I often jokingly call it “negative intellectualism”. 

I often feel that Buddhism and intellectualism reflect the same attitude, just appearing differently, as opposites.  Both are really a “cranial” (that is, based on principles someone created) point of view that places everything on the person, shedding the ‘power’ of god or existence or life.  In a way, they are both a turning away from nature-as-authority and placing everything on the individual person, almost as if the person is the center of the world.  As a result, the emphasis is not on ‘life’ but on what the person does.

Much of Buddhism, really, is nothing but teaching yourself to ‘be calm’.  In a way, it’s like saying “if you learn to be calm then you won’t suffer as a result of emotions and wants”.  In that sense, it’s almost like an avoidance of ‘bad feelings’.  This is done, frankly, by ‘blanking ones mind’, as well as other techniques of learning to be calm.  In intellectualism this is done by ‘analyzing’ everything and putting things into concepts and principles . . . the exact opposite of Buddhism.  Each ‘solution’ is supposed to get rid, in some way, the pain and suffering of life, especially with Buddhism.  I never liked this idea, of avoiding pain and suffering as a dominant concept.  To me, a world view or ‘religion’ should go beyond that . . . and say more too. 

As part of avoiding pain and suffering the idea is to ‘not feel’, so to speak.  To me, though, passion and emotions are a significant part of life.  In a way, they are life.  To cut them out is to deprive oneself of the qualities that make us ‘human’.  Intellectualism tends to do the same thing, favoring ‘logic’ over passion.  In some ways, they both are philosophies that tend to make a person ‘dead’ inside, which is part of its motive and its ‘saving’ quality. 

A person is ‘saved’ by ‘enlightment’ (Buddhism) or ‘knowledge’ (intellectualism).  In other words, both have a definite ‘solution’ to pain, suffering, and life’s problems.  Once you reach this ‘solution’ then everything is OK.  This means they preach a definite ‘answer’ that a person must strive for.  I’ve always questioned this, that there is a definite ‘answer’ to life that has a specific known path that one must take to reach it.  That sounds too good to be true. 

There is also no god or authority in Buddhism.  The closest thing would be Buddha, the founder.  In some places, though, they’ve practically turned the Buddha into a god and worship him much like a god (which is not what Buddha taught).  There is also little recognition of the power of nature and life.  In general, there is no real acknowledgement of any mysterious divine power anywhere.  This makes me wonder if it can be called a ‘religion’ at all.  In some respects, Buddhism is really only a philosophy.  This, again, makes it similar to intellectualism.  They are both a philisophical point of view that one practices. 

Keep in mind that I am not, in any way, condemning Buddhism . . . certainly not!  I’m just saying that it does not suit my character and temperament.  I’m really describing why it doesn’t suit my character and temperament.  For other people, it may be the very thing they need. 

One thing I have found is that a belief (world view, religion, philosophy of life, etc.) needs to fit a person’s character and temperament.  Many beliefs are geared to a specific type of person . . . many are geared to a specific culture and people.  If a belief does not fit you then it’s not going to work that well.  One way to find out what suits ones character and temperament is to look at other beliefs and philosophies and reflect on what it is that does not seem to ‘feel’ right with it.  That’s really all I’m doing here.

My character and temperement seems to need qualities Buddhism doesn’t have, such as:

  • A ‘god’.
  • A mystery in life, that things are beyond me.
  • A recognition of nature, life, and existence as more than me.
  • A participation with life, god, and nature.
  • Passion and emotions (which means a degree of pain and suffering).

Interestingly, I’ve found that the Hindu god Siva, and the worship of Siva, as having qualities I very much relate to (and some I don’t, being from a different culture).  Whats even more interesting is that its somewhat similar to Buddhism.  Siva is even often portrayed in a ‘lotus’ position similar to Buddha!  I’ve even heard people say that Buddha based a lot of his technique on Siva worship (though I’m not sure how true that is).  But Siva is a god in nature with mystery and authority . . . qualities not found in Buddhism.

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