Oct 26, 2010

Was Buddha Murdered for His Progressive Teachings?

By Grant Lawrence
In his new book, Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, to be out in the US early March, this author of eight other books on Buddhism claims the Buddha was a man whose teachings were regarded by his contemporaries as not only radical, but "queer" enough for him to be denounced by one of his own former disciples as a "fake", who not only managed to win the patronage of the three most powerful political figures of his time, but was worldly enough to survive in the midst of court intrigues, murders and betrayals, effectively quelling a rebellion within his own flock before he was done in by the ambitions of his own family.

But it is Batchelor's findings on the Buddha's last days that are the most startling: in the last 10 months of his life, Batchelor says, the Buddha, old and ailing, saw his two main disciples die, one of them brutally murdered, and was forced to flee with a handful of loyalists from all the three political bases he had spent a lifetime building up, until he was possibly poisoned to death by one of his many rivals, leaving a pretender to take over the community after an intense power struggle..

The story of the Buddha's death always seemed a bit odd to me and a bit convenient.
The story goes that an aged Buddha sat down to eat a meal that included spoiled pork. The Buddha ate it and shortly after died.

But is there something more to the story?

Here we have a man that has ordained woman monks, spoken out against the caste system and any other form of slavery, and called humanity to use their heads as well as their hearts.
If you consider that woman were often expected to practice Sati, in which they would kill themselves at their husbands funeral pyre. Also consider that there was an entrenched and brutal caste system and that the Buddha allowed untouchables to become Monks. Then you might come to some understanding how progressive and transformational the Buddha's teachings were to the society of his time.

So it is only reasonable that there would be attempts on the Buddha's life.

And there were.

The texts talk about a few attempts on the Buddha's life. The Buddha skillfully avoided being killed.

But in his old age, was the last attempt successful?

It is possible, and maybe even likely, that the Buddha was poisoned on purpose. Perhaps the Buddha understood that it was his time to go and took the poisoned meat knowing that the Dharma would flourish without him.

The Buddha's death would certainly be viewed as convenient to those warring Kingdoms that wanted to continue to War. They certainly would have welcomed the end to the Progressive ideas and the Progressive visionary.

The Buddha may have been assassinated just like other great Progressives throughout history that act to make a real change in society. It is often the fate of those that have the wisdom and the ability to make a real change in society to water the seeds of their Progressive work with their own blood.

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