I listened attentively to this 5-part lecture series by Alex Wynne almost exactly two years ago.
I’m probably going to revisit it now that I’ve learned a lot more about the subject matter, but before I do, I’m going to sum it up from memory.
The Buddha had several disciples. Ānanda is the one with the good memory who learned all the talks off by heart. Sāriputta is the smart one who expounds all the doctrine.
Alex Wynne comes along and pulls this guy called Kaccāyana out of the remotest, darkest, dustiest nooks of the Pali Canon (the earliest Buddhist texts). And he’s like “Everything that comes out of Sāriputta’s mouth is just various responses to (and sneaky reappropriations of) the Brahminical, Vedic Hinduism that the Buddha was defining himself against. So don’t take it that seriously yeah? Kaccāyana’s the one who’s onto it.”
What does Kaccāyana say? Very simple.
So you’re there, in your body. And so long as you’re still breathing and you’ve had some food recently, everything is basically fine.
And then some thought comes along. Sometimes it’s funny, in which case, you giggle. And sometimes it’s a little weird. So you just nip it in the bud, before it becomes papañca — “conceptual proliferation”.
……and that’s it.
So, in light of that, what was the Buddha’s life?
One day he realized “eeh. It’s all just a thought. Why get so worked up? Also, I don’t actually have to do anything. I only have to do something if I take some thought seriously.”
So he’d be sitting there and then he’d be like “I’m thirsty.” So he’d wander over and get some water.
And then he’d be like “I’m hungry.” So he’d wander over and ask someone for some food.
And then he’d be like. “Hmm. Let’s go over there.” And so he’d go over there.
And then he’d be like. “Hmm. Haven’t seen this guy in a while. Why don’t I go see him?” And so he goes over and sees him.
And if at any point he comes across some reason not to go there (say, the road is blocked), he’s like “OK. I guess I’ll go somewhere else.”
And if for some reason he can’t go see the guy (because, for example, he died), the Buddha’s like “OK. I guess I’ll go see someone else.”
And if for whatever reason that was difficult, he’d be like “OK. I’ll just sit here.” And so he did that.
And while he’s going around doing this, he comes across various people. And he looks at them. And they start saying stuff.
And all he has to do is be like “Dude. Whatcha talkin’ about? All you’re saying is assuming this, this, and this. A sense of self, a sense of permanent objects, life after death, no life after death… Where’d you get that assumption? Nowhere, huh? Cool.”
In other words, he’d just wander around and nip conceptual proliferation in the bud. Having done that, the people realize they can just… do that. And so some of them adopt his lifestyle, which has very little conceptual proliferation, because he doesn’t set out to do anything in particular. And other people keep doing what they were doing… but, you know. More chill.
And then he died.
And then there was some conceptual proliferation.
Because you know how monkeys are. They never stop chattering, do they?
And here we are.