Buddhism is a placebo


This might shock you, shock many of you. I think Buddhism, the whole Dharma practice, is a placebo. You know placebo? Placebo. Placebo is a pill, it is a fake, it is not a medicine. Sometimes you give it to someone saying that this will work. And they eat and they think it works. Whole Buddhism is that. And Buddha said so. It is not that as if I am making it up actually. Buddha said that. The path, it’s a deception but it’s a necessary deception. It is a necessary deception. Let’s say you and I are in the dessert. You are very thirsty. Everywhere you look you see mirage and you think it is a water. And you say you really want to go to this water. Now I have been to the desert and I know you are hallucinating. Now I can be very unskilled, little bit of compassion but no skillful means, no wisdom. And then I can tell you: “Hey you shut up, this is not a water, this is a mirage.” That is not going to help you. So if I am a compassionate, skillful, then I might say: Yes. Even so knowing that this is not true. Because I know that you will not hear me saying this is not water. I will have to say: “Yeah, let’s go.” I might even go with you. And as we get closer you yourself will see it is a fake. And this is what we call skillful means of the Buddha. There is a thousands of that. How many? Eighty four thousands placebos.

(direct audio link)

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4 Responses to Buddhism is a placebo

  1. greg says:

    The practice is a placebo, but is the fruit of the practice also non-existent? Well at the ultimate level: yes! But if following the Noble Eightfold Path has as its result the fruit of social cohesion, then the placebo suddenly has become a medicine capable of curing the relative ills of social disorder. Even a placebo has the power to cure. A medicine is defined by its capacity to cure. A placebo that cures becomes a medicine. 84,000 placebo, 84,000 medicines!

  2. Cheryl says:

    I actually disagree with the post. I’m not shocked by it. The placebo effect has been well documented for many kinds of illness and mental problems. But a placebo isn’t going to cure you of cancer. Since everything sentient beings have done since beginningless time has been meaningless, it’s all an illusion. Sometimes we got some good karma, sometimes some bad karma. You can’t even remember the times you were a great god/goddess nor can you remember the time you spent in the hell realms. So you could very well just say “Aw fuck it. It’s pointless to bother.” Dependent arising cannot be separated from ultimate suchness, so in an abstract sense you’re already enlightened.

    But I don’t think that’s what the Buddha was saying. If he really thought that upon attaining enlightenment and buddhahood, he wouldn’t have bothered to turn the wheel of the Dharma at all. He would have walked straight back to his homeland, boinked his wife, told his father and servants to prepare the war elephants, archers and soldiers and gone off and conquered the whole world. If you’re omniscient, you’ll never lose a battle.

    No, he remained a simple barefoot Buddha teaching the Dharma for free to anyone who asked.

  3. Shaun says:

    He’s saying the path is the necessary placebo to get to reality, or enlightenment. There’s no way around training the mind. But don’t confuse Buddhism with Buddhahood, or our true nature. Yet, without the path we would remain in samsara or worse. Hail to the placebo in the lotus!
    Wink wink!

  4. dorjeduck says:

    Sorry that there is no reference in this post from which teaching this excerpt is, if i find out i will post it.

    In my understanding I go with Shaun, the crucial bit seems to me also that Rinpoche is calling the path a “necessary deception”.

    ps http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJESCSD70oQ

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