Nirvana for the masses…

Ya know… when organized religion gets hold of a good idea, more often than not the idea becomes perturbed in such a way as to ensure the ultimate indispensability of the organization formed to promulgate the idea. Miguel de Molinos, for example, taught that all we really had to do was contemplate God and we could form a direct channel with the divine — but they imprisoned him and banned his book because the party line at the time, as now, was that you need a professional priesthood to act as go-betweens to carry the messages back-and-forth. Most religions have similar perturbations in their messages. For that matter, so do most branches of the medical profession.

I was just reading an article the other day that happened to mention, in passing, that the “goal” of Buddhism was, at one time, the attainment of Nirvana but later that was later “changed” to be the attainment of Nirvana for all living beings. I’ve heard it both ways. But this was the first time it really struck me that one of those goals could be viewed as self-serving from the point-of-view of the “organization” known as Buddhism. That is, if all you’re interested in is Nirvana for its own sake, you hardly need Buddhism (the organization) once you’ve mastered the basic concepts and meditations. You certainly don’t need the priesthood once you’ve achieved your goal. But… if you can be convinced to postpone your “departure”, as it were, until *everyone* made it out, the organization would always have a reliable cadre of followers.

Now… I don’t mean to sound crass or selfish. I’m all for enlightenment on a large scale and if I am presented with the opportunity to speed up the process for someone else along the way, all the better. But suppose this “enlightment for all beings” thing is really just another perturbation introduced into an otherwise effective system in order to preserve the organization itself and provide job security for the established priesthood? If that were so, would the “goal” of “enlightenment for all beings” seem all that altruistic any more?

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