According to legend the man who became the Buddha was born a prince, over 500 years before Christ. Gautama Buddha's real name was Siddhartha, who is also known as the Buddha or "Enlightened One." He was the founder of Buddhism, one of the great religions of the world. He was born the son of a local king in Kapilavastu on what is now the Indian-Nepalese border in Asia. Like the Christ there are many miracles that have been said to have herald his birth.
From a very young age he was screened by his father from witnessing the unhappiness and suffering of the world. He married and became a father, but at the age of 29 he left the comforts of home and began to wander and seek the meaning of all the suffering that he was now witnessing in the world before him. After six years of arduous yogic training, he abandoned the way of self-mortification and instead sat in mindful meditation beneath a bodhi tree.
During his meditations under the bodhi tree, the truth he sought was revealed to him.
On the full moon of May, with the rising of the morning star, Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha, the Enlightened One.
According to the teachings of the Buddha, life is permeated with suffering caused by desire, that suffering ceases when desire ceases, and that it is only through right living and meditation does one receive the wisdom that will release one from the trappings of desire allowing one to escape the cycle of suffering and rebirth.
Buddhism has even been lauded by scientists such as Albert Einstein, who stated that:
- "Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and the spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity."
After his enlightenment under the bodhi tree the Buddha began to wander the plains of northeastern India for 45 years to explain the Dharma, or Truth. For many years he preached the Eightfold path, and the brotherhood of the Buddhist monks and nuns that were drawn to him began to grow in size and influence. In approximately 486 BC, at the age of 80, the Buddha died. His last words are said to be to something like:
- "Impermanent are all created things; Strive on with awareness."
Buddhism gradually spread throughout Asia to Central Asia, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, as well as the East Asian countries of China, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan
However, according to Gurdjieff, the essence of Buddhism deteriorated because of the way suffering was viewed by the religion's subsequent sects compared to it's original teachings.
In Chapter 21 of his book Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson, Gurdjieff speaks of Buddha as follows:
- "The Sacred Individual who was sent to them was coated with the planetary body of a terrestrial three-brained being and was called, as I have said, Saint Buddha…
- "Here it must be noted without fail that at that time there had already been crystallized in the presence of Saint Buddha, as my detailed investigations made evident, a very clear understanding that during the process of its abnormal formation, the Reason of the beings of the planet Earth becomes ‘instincto-titillarian,' that is, it functions only under the action of corresponding shocks from without. In spite of this, Saint Buddha decided to carry out his task by means of their ‘Reason'—so peculiar for three-brained beings—and he began informing that Reason of theirs with objective truths of every kind.
- "First of all, Saint Buddha assembled a number of the chiefs of the third Asiatic group and spoke to them as follows:
- ‘Beings with a presence in the image of the Creator of all things! ‘My essence has been sent to you by certain Enlightened and Most Sacred Final Results, who guide in perfect justice the actualization of everything existing in the Universe, to serve as a helping factor for each of you in the striving to free yourselves from the consequences of those abnormal being-properties which, because of important common-cosmic needs, were implanted in the presence of your ancestors and, passing by heredity from generation to generation, have reached you also.'…
- "One day while instructing some of his closest initiates, Saint Buddha spoke in very precise terms about a means for the possible destruction in their nature of the consequences of the properties of the organ kundabuffer, transmitted to them by heredity.
- "Among the things he said to them was this:
- "One of the best means of rendering ineffective the predisposition in your nature to crystallize the consequences of the properties of the organ kundabuffer is "intentional suffering"; and the greatest "intentional suffering" can be obtained in our presences by compelling ourselves to endure the displeasing manifestations of others toward ourselves."
According to Gurdjieff, the essence of Buddha's teachings concerned the release of mankind from what he called "the crystallized consequences of the properties of the organ kundabuffer." As to what Gurdjieff exactly meant by this organ 'kundabuffer' is still somewhat unclear because he did not go into great detail in describing it from a stricly physiological perspective. But, more then anything else, this organ may be more related to a "psychological organ of perception" that we inherited from our ancestors, which has us perceive reality topsy turvy (as Gurdjieff says) and as a result we invert the fundamental order of reality and "turn it on it's head."
However, this organ Kunabuffer that Gurdjieff speaks of in his book Beelzebub Tales, may reflect itself on a physical level as well, since the physical is but a reflection of the ethereal. But its stricly physical meaning is still somewhat unclear. What is really of importance here is the psychological meaning and implications of this 'organ' to which Gurdjieff speaks of.
The 'organ kundabuffer' relates more to the 'predator's mind' or 'foreign installation' of Castaneda, where we see reality upside down due to the power of imagination working in concert with the distorted perceptions of our false personalities that buffer us from reality. So, this 'organ of perception' from the 'crystallizations' of the organ kundabuffer (as Gurdjieff describes it) relates more to how man perceives the world through 'a glass darkly,' that is, through the eyes of his own egotism and imagination which inverts reality making things opposite to what they really are.
This special crystallization is not defined specifically, but it's by products are described by Gurdjieff as "pride, vanity, self-love, egoism, self-conceit, swagger, wiseacring, imagination, bragging, arrogance" and many more similar terms.
It is, according to Gurdjieff, the by-products of the crystallizations of this organ kundabuffer, that Buddha really wished to help liberate mankind from. According to Gurdjieff, Buddha's teachings eventually became distorted (especially in Tibetan Buddhism) giving rise to the idea of "kundalini," which is really a distortion and misinterpretation of the ideas set forth by Buddha concerning how we may be released from those "maleficent crystallizations" that were crystalized into our consciousness from the organ kundabuffer.
Concerning this misinterpretation of the essential Buddhist teachings, A.R.Orage, who was a student of Gurdjieff, spoke of Kundalini as being a legacy of "mistaken Buddhist lore, … considered to be a faculty whose least result is great inspiration and which may even lead to flashes of cosmic consciousness … (whereas) … in fact, Kundalini is nearly the reverse of all this. It is that attribute in man which prevents his observation of reality as it is…"
According to Gurdjieff, it was the misunderstanding of Buddha's true teachings on how to effectively utilize suffering that led to it's distortions to the present day. This misunderstanding led to the present day misinterpretations of Buddha's original teachings and the idea of kundalini is but a reflection of this misunderstanding.
Regarding this misinterpretation of Buddha's contemporaries on his teachings about suffering, Gurdjieff speaks of this in the below excerpt from his book Beelzebub's Tales on pp. 235, 236 (1992 Edition):
[Note: Gurdjieff refers to "Pearl-land" as present day India]
- "In the course of the conversation that evening, it transpired that all the beings of this settlement belonged to a sect, well known in Pearl-land under the name of 'Self Tamers,' formed by followers of that very religion which, as I have already told you, purported to be based on the direct instructions of Saint Buddha.
- "In this connection I might mention that the beings of your planet have yet another particularity that long ago became proper to them alone, which consists in this, that no sooner does some new ‘religion' arise among them then its followers begin to split into different camps, and each of these soon forms what is called a ‘sect' of its own. The strangest thing about this particularity of theirs is that those who belong to such a sect never call themselves ‘sectarians' as the name is considered offensive; they are called this only by those who do not belong to their sect. And the adherents of a sect are ‘sectarians' for others only as long as they have no ‘guns' and ‘ships' at their disposal; but as soon as they got hold of enough guns and ships, what had been a particular sectarian doctrine at once becomes the dominant religion.
- "The beings both of this settlement and of many other districts in Pearl-land had become sectarians after having broken away from the religion whose doctrine I have studied in detail, and which later was known as ‘Buddhism.' This sect of the Self-Tamers arose owing to the distorted understanding of one of the principles of the Buddhist religion which, as I have already told you, they called ‘suffering in solitude.' And it was in order to give themselves up to this famous ‘suffering,' without hindrance from others like themselves, that these beings with whom we spent the night had settles so far away from their own people.
- "Now, my boy, everything I learned that night and saw the next day of the devotees of that sect made such a painful impression upon me that for many of their ‘centuries' I could never recall it without "shuddering."