My favorite thing about the title of this blog post is that it might get some people a bit hot under the meditation cushion, but it’s not too likely to get my website firebombed. However, had I replaced Buddha with Jesus or Mohammed… well, that could lead to a whole different set of consequences.
And what’s most interesting to me about that is what Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed all have in common is:
They are a collection of lines and squiggles that people interpret into sounds, add meaning to them and then act in some way based on what they think the person who created the lines and squiggles meant.
Anyway, back to the Buddha sucking…
So, many people engage in meditative practice to achieve the goal of awakening or enlightenment. And they turn to their various teachers and books and tapes and workshops and retreats to travel down the “spiritual path.”
Now, I’m not going to argue about the validity of the motive or the existence of the goal or the reality of some sort of path. Instead, let’s just take a look at the success rate of one of the greatest teachers and his students.
The Buddha is often called “The Great Doctor,” because it’s said that he taught 84,000 different people and gave each one of them their own unique meditation technique because he could see exactly and perfectly what they needed to attain awakening.
First things first. In the area that the Buddha had influence over during the 45 years of his teaching, there were approximately 5 million people. So this tremendously powerful teacher only got to about 1.7% of the people in his neighborhood.
Leaving that alone for a second, let’s look back at the 84k who decided they wanted to hear what the ochre-robed one had to say. According to the texts, there were 500 “Arahants”, five hundred people who “Got it” (they are, it’s said, the ones who codified the Buddha’s teaching after the Buddha died).
So, 500 people who reached the goal. Five hundred who got the brass ring.
Five hundred out of EIGHTY FOUR THOUSAND.
Let’s to the math, shall we?
500 out of 84,000 is just less than 0.60% …
The greatest teacher that ever was, according to Buddhists, had a success rate of barely more than one half of one percent.
I don’t know about you, but there aren’t many things I’d put a lot of energy into with those kinds of odds.
Now, granted, if we were all living 2500 years ago in Northern India, there’s no way of knowing if you, me or your noisy neighbor would have been one of the 500… and there’s no way to know now.
As my friend, the meditation teacher Robert Hover, said to me, “The number of beings who must conspire to allow for your awakening is so vast as to be unknowable… so you may as well assume it’ll happen because that’s just more fun… but it’s completely out of your control.”
Kinda takes the pressure off, doesn’t it? 😉