The Buddhist hypothesis

By Bodhangkur Mahathero



The Shakyamuni1 (after his death called the Buddha) appears to have believed the basic proposition of the Upanishad fantasy, namely that only the eternal (i.e. the abiding, the permanent) is real (Sanskrit: sat = true) and that whatever is non-abiding2 (i.e. impermanent, transient, without inherent existence) is therefore unreal (Sanskrit: asat).



No definition of ‘real’ (i.e. Sanskrit: sat) other than its being eternal was provided in the Upanishads, nor indeed by the Shakyamuni.4



The Shakyamuni (self-named as Tathagata) reasoned, at least initially, that pain (Sanskrit: dukkha) resulted if and when one attached to the non-aiding (or impermanent, or that being empty of inherent existence), hence to the unreal. Attaching to the unreal was absurd, futile.


The Shakyamuni’s solution to the arising of pain was that non-attachment to the impermanent, hence to the unreal, eliminated pain.5 His simplistic Upanishad derived view found traction with the naïve and ignorant. The biological view shows just how silly the Buddha’s opinion was.



The practice he initially proposed for achieving non-attachment was the practice of the 4 Jhanas, the purpose of which was the attainment of equanimity (or indifference).6 It was a bury-your-head-in-the sand-technique.7




When he realised that his solution, though perfect for monks, that is to say, for social dropouts, was impractical for householders, and who fed and clothed him, he proposed a whole range of everyday causes of pain, such as desire, greed hatred and delusion, ignorance (Sanskrit: avidya) and so on.



What the Shakyamuni never understood was that pain happens as one sub-function of a guide and control system of a self-regulating, self-adapting organism, the other being pleasure. Neither pain nor pleasure are directly linked to impermanence or the lack of an inherent eternal existence but to an organism’s relative survival capacity in the ever changing and impermanent world.



In short, the Shakyamuni’s hypothesis as to the cause of pain (and pleasure) doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.8 His initial view was quite absurd, indeed irrelevant, and only the naïve fell for it then as they still do today.



© 2018 Victor Langheld










1.    For Shakyamuni read: The Scythian recluse. It is now believed by some that the Shakyamuni was of Persian/ Scythian origin and never actually set a foot in India.



2.    For non-abiding, impermanent, transient read: empty (Sanskrit: sunja), hence absurd.

See:  The Heart Sutra



3.       In the Upanishads, the eternal or abiding was simply named atman = self, elsewhere named Brahman. Both names are metaphors, hence ‘useful fictions.’


4.       The notion that the momentary (collision of 2 data) could also be real was not seriously considered by the Buddha, possibly for lack of imagination. At least one later Buddhist sect grappled with the issue of momentariness (or discrete quantisation) but went under because the implications were too unpleasant.


5.       The original 4 Noble Truths


1.    There is pain

2.    Pain results from attachment to the non-abiding

3.    There is an end to pain

4.    (Here and now) Equanimity (i.e. indifference) ends pain



See:  The 3 Characteristics Sutra






6.    Later on he invented the 4 Brahma Viharas (i.e. divine abodes) meditations and which were shortcuts not just to equanimity (i.e. indifference) but also to the pleasurable feelings of the first three Jhanas.


7.    For bury-your-head-in-the sand read: processing emptiness, and which leads to the 4 Jhanas as benign coma states.












Biology (i.e. nature) derived

4 Noble Truths


1.     There is pain

2.     It results from failure

3.     There is an end to pain

4.     Success ends pain





8.    Indeed, the Shakyamuni’s pain elimination practice is sheer mischief and counterproductive, eventually causing more harm than good, at least for householders. That’s because householders have to survive in the everyday/real world and monks do not.


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