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The Buddha Taught Happiness
This article on The Buddha Taught Happiness was first published in April of 2014 and refers to a series of Dhamma talks and discussions at our weekly classes and half-day and full day retreats from January through March of 2014. We had talks and discussions on the core teachings of the Buddha. Reviewing what we had covered during only a few months showed a remarkable commitment from our Sangha to continue developing understanding of the Dhamma. We reviewed the Buddha’s teachings on:
- The Four Noble Truths
- The Eightfold Path
- Karma and Rebirth
- Anicca – Impermanence
- Dukkha – Disenchantment
- Anatta – Non-Self
- The Five Clinging-Aggregates
- Dependent Co-Arising
- The Three Refuges
The main reason I had for presenting this material in a short three months was to keep the Buddha’s teachings in context and to (hopefully) generate an understanding of why the Buddha taught what he taught. There were some very enlightening discussions and some very insightful questions asked. Many of the questions asked show the depth of understanding we all have developed together. The purpose of this article is to address some of the questions that arose in more detail and after some reflection.
I also want to share some background about my own experience with the distraction and confusion of dukkha and how my understanding developed. I hope this leads to a better understanding of why I teach what I teach. I teach only what I know to be true from my own experience. I also only teach what I know to be a direct teaching of the Buddha.
I believe it is wrong speech to misrepresent the Buddha’s Dhamma. Cultural influence, individual views, and a lack of thorough inquiry has led to a “thicket of views” within Buddhism perpetuated by sincere but misinformed and misguided teachers.
The Buddha did not teach an all encompassing “Dharma” where all paths labeled “Buddhist” would develop what the Buddha describes as “awakened”: Unbound or Released from clinging to self-referential views. The Buddha was not concerned with presenting a scientifically provable dhamma. He did not teach a dhamma that was impossible to understand and develop. He taught a singular and well-focused Dhamma accessible to all who would develop it.
How can we know if we are developing the Buddha’s Dhamma or a later adaptation or accommodation (to the original teachings)? The Buddha taught only in the context of the Four Noble Truths. Every discourse he ever presented was in this context. “”Vision arose, insight arose, discernment arose, knowledge arose, illumination arose within me with regard to things never heard before: ‘This is the noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress’… ‘This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress is to be developed’… ‘This noble truth of the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress has been developed.'” The Buddha, Samyutta Nikaya 56.11
The only path the Buddha would teach is the Noble Eightfold Path.
If a teaching further reinforces views of the self it is not the Buddha’s Dhamma. If a teaching tries to re-establish a view of self to some other impermanent realm, it is not the teachings of the Buddha. Another realm can simply be establishing a view of the self in a “happier” or more “peaceful” mind state. Re-establishment of a “self” is often attempted in imaginary realms of emptiness or reward.
Attachment to these newly acquired views can be very difficult to recognize or abandon. Once acquired they can seem a part of a search for understanding when in actuality they are more distraction. If a teaching does not develop understanding through heightened wisdom, virtue, and concentration, and does not develop the cessation of conceit, it is not a teaching of the Buddha.
The Buddha taught only one subject: The origination of suffering and the cessation of suffering. He taught this one subject for the most compassionate of reasons. He wanted human beings like himself to find real and lasting happiness in life as life occurs in the environment of impermanence. Ultimately the Buddha taught how to end wandering in “samsara” and cease the cycle of birth, sickness, aging, death, and all unpleasant experiences.
The teachings of the Buddha are often misunderstood as pessimistic. The First Noble Truth is a realistic understanding of the nature of a human being’s life experience. The result of realistically facing the problem of unhappiness and unraveling the chains of Dependent Origination that clings one to suffering is lasting happiness. (Here is an article on Dependent Origination)
His awakening brought understanding of the cause of unhappiness and a path leading to lasting happiness. The Buddha taught that the cause of unhappiness is ignorance of The Four Noble Truths. Due to a lack of understanding an ego-self that is prone to clinging is formed and, through conditioned thinking, continually reinforced. This ego-self is referred to as not-self (Anatta) throughout the Pali Canon. I will explain not-self later in this article. To end the suffering of not-self the Buddha taught Four Noble Truths:
- The Truth of Dukkha (suffering, stress)
- The Truth of the Origination of Suffering (clinging, craving)
- The Truth of the Cessation of Suffering
- The Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering
To reiterate: the Buddha’s sole purpose for teaching was to bring true and lasting happiness to all who would whole-heartedly and with Right Effort informed by Right View engage his Dhamma. The Buddha’s dhamma did not include anything that did not directly develop his stated purpose or would likely lead to further confusion. He would not teach anything that further distracted an already confused mind. The Buddha understood that teaching any subject that created further confusion would have been cruel. History has shown the Buddha to be the essence of compassion informed by true wisdom and clear and insightful thought.
The Buddha did not teach a Dhamma a rooted in the compulsion to explain all (impermanent) phenomena. He consistently refused to answer questions on subjects such as eternalism, infinite versus finite existence, transmigration of a “soul,” what the “self” might be, and many more.
The Buddha could easily have answered these questions and “prove” how deep his understanding and how vast his knowledge. He could easily have performed “miracles” to impress and gain even more followers. He knew that this would be engaging in wrong speech, wrong action and wrong livelihood. As one who had overcome the world he had put all unskillful, ignorant, and petty actions aside.
The Buddha taught to be mindful of three defining characteristics of human life: Anicca, Anatta, and Dukkha. Understanding anicca ends the confusion and delusion of compulsively defining a “self” through craving for establishment in impermanent objects, events, views, and ideas and, once established, clinging to those forms. It is by craving for establishment, and clinging to forms defining establishment, that suffering arises.
The simplest way to describe the Buddha’s teaching on Anatta is this: anything that the self clings to, whether objects, people, events, views, or ideas, or the pursuit of happiness through acquisition of objects, people, views, or ideas, will create confusion, disenchantment and lasting unhappiness – let them go. In other words, the self you think you are is the self that is prone to suffering. It is a self born of a lack of understanding and no matter what theoretical or experiential knowledge not-self acquires, it will never develop understanding.
Still another way to see this is by definition and association. The ego-self is defined by attachments. Association is another word for attachments and the ego-self is defined by its associations. Who one associates with and what one associates with defines what the ego-self will experience as much as any other attachment. This does not mean that we should have no associations. It does mean we should be mindful of all associations. Do our associations support developing understanding within the framework of the Eightfold Path? Do our associations increase our own and other’s confusion and suffering through validation of our own or other’s unskillful actions? (Fo a direct teaching on associations see the Sambodhi Sutta.)
The Buddha did not teach that there is no self, only that the self we have fabricated through an observable process is not worth defending or continually reestablishing. Anatta, not-self, refers to an ego-personality that has arisen from ignorance and it is this ego-personality that is prone to endless confusion and suffering. Not-self, or a continually self-referential personality, has created endless clinging views that are all subject to impermanence and suffering.
The insight into this one thing, that all discursive self-referential views brings confusion suffering, is the jewel of the Buddha’s teachings. Within the framework of the Eightfold Path all views of self are recognized and as new ones arise they are quickly abandoned. It is not-self, the ego-personality, that is subject to dukkha. It is only this impermanent and insubstantial ego-personality that is to be abandoned.
I was asked a highly relevant question this past week: If the Buddha were alive today would he teach in the same manner? I believe he would. Despite the passing of time the Four Noble Truths are still Four Noble Truths. Impermanence is still the experience of not-self in the phenomenal world. Dukkha arises from clinging to views of self. The Eightfold Path will still develop understanding so that true happiness will arise. Nothing has changed in the world of impermanence. I don’t see any reason why the Buddha might change his teachings. From my experience the Four Noble Truths still provide what the Buddha promised they would: understanding and release from clinging, confusion, and suffering.
There is always a desire to “modernize” the timeless teachings of the Buddha. The world has yet produced another human being that has had the understanding and the wisdom of the Buddha. No scientist, academic, psychologist, sociologist, or political leader has ever been able to lead people to freedom from suffering and to abiding happiness. This is not to say that scientific and intellectual knowledge has no value in living in the impermanent phenomenal world. The pursuit of intellectual knowledge can prove as distracting as any other pursuit. Gaining knowledge of “modern” explanations of phenomena will always be gaining knowledge of impermanent states. The views developed in this pursuit if attached to will simply reinforce impermanent views of an ego-personality.
As with all things in human history there is pleasure gained and positive experiences and there is displeasure and negative experiences. Often both experiences have resulted from the best of intentions but lacking true wisdom. Great and significant scientific and intellectual discoveries have occurred to benefit humankind. Scientific and intellectual discoveries have also proven to be devastating to humankind. This is the nature of impermanence and uncertainty.
No matter what understanding of worldly phenomena is developed, this understanding is rooted in impermanence. The problem is not the acquisition of more knowledge in relation to impermanent phenomena. The problem of confusion and suffering as confusion and suffering relates to the ego-personality can only be understood (and abandoned) through ending ignorance of Four Noble Truths.
History has shown that at some point either the current understanding will be supplanted by some new relative truth, or, as predicted, the universe itself will cease to exist. As it is an unskillful view to see the universe as permanent it is just as unskillful to hold views of self (or knowledge of impermanent phenomena) as permanent and never-changing. If there is nothing permanent to any experience why hold onto anything or resist in any way the relentless nature of impermanence?
Despite the cultural and intellectual progress in human history, as a species we are more aggressive and more ill-at-ease now than at any other time in history. Over the last 150 years or so “modern” man has encountered previously isolated and mostly peaceful societies. Post contact these societies inevitably succumb to the aggressiveness of modern man. Our spiritual, political and environmental “climate” is closer to collapse now than at any time in history.
This is not to be negative on the world and all of us on the planet currently. The First Noble Truth continues to describe worldly conditions accurately. The point is we have been pursuing happiness since the dawn of humankind and we are further from true happiness than at any time in human history. We have been pursuing views and we have not been willing to look at how these views came to be and how these views incline thoughts, words, and deeds that are ego-self-perpetuating. The Dhamma is the way of understanding all views and letting them all go.
There is a strong movement today to come to a “unified view theory.” Spiritual and political leaders today seem to believe if we can only reconcile all beliefs and all philosophies by finding a few common denominators and make what is common guide us politically and spiritually we can somehow promote understanding and peace. This only leads to greater confusion and frustration and ultimately greater divisiveness.
A truly wise view would be to honor and respect all views. Each view should be encouraged to stand on its own. Let each view or philosophical or religious system stand or fall on its own effectiveness to bring peace and happiness. Those that wish to develop understanding of the Buddha’s Dhamma as it was originally taught should also do so without succumbing to pressure that the Dhamma be anything other than it is, the direct teachings of the Buddha.
It is not a strictly modern occurrence that current Buddhist teachers or leaders have felt the need to reconcile modern scientific, intellectual or political views to the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha had to be politically aware in order to have a measure of acceptance and protection from political leaders. He did not change his teachings to accommodate those in power. He did not concern himself with intellectual or scientific investigation of his teachings. He knew from his own experience the effectiveness of the Dhamma. He also knew that this type of inquiry to define a “unified Dhamma” did not develop insight, only more confusion. He understood that investigating impermanence of phenomena did not bring understanding. Inquiry into the nature of self in relation to impermanence did.
The Buddha did not set himself apart from other teachings by definition. He did not call himself a “Buddhist” nor did he ascribe any special name to the practitioners of his dhamma or of his sangha. He simply referred to them as bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, male and female followers. Bhikkhu and bhikkhuni are ordinary words meaning someone who leads a virtuous life supported by alms. He did not define his Dhamma by any special name. He did not even call his Dhamma “Buddhism.” He called his Dhamma the Dhamma, a common word at the time meaning teaching or true teaching.
The Buddha had no need to create a special “order” for those that followed his teachings. He created no separate lay/monk/nun order as he understood this in itself would set the Dhamma apart from most people. It would then convey to those that seek awakening a specialness that is inappropriate. He did not invent his own terms for his teachings for the same reason. He did not want to create an imaginary specialness to his teachings. He used the common terminology of his day so that anyone attracted to the Dhamma would know that it was accessible to them.
His Dhamma, though extraordinary in application was presented as entirely ordinary. There were no special “empowerments” or rituals associated with learning the Dhamma. Anyone with the skillful desire to undertake developing an understanding of the Four Noble Truths did so.
The Buddha also did not try to reconcile his Dhamma with any other philosophy or religion. He understood that in doing so the truth of his teaching would be lost and it would certainly not be Right Speech to present his teachings in a way that would generate additional confusion. People of his time were threatened and offended by his focus on his stated purpose. Some in our time continue to be threatened and offended by a focus on the Buddha’s teaching as preserved in the Pali Canon.
The most compassionate man in human history understood that wisdom teaches that making others feel good temporarily while adding to their overall confusion was actually cruel and self-serving and not Right Speech, Action or Livelihood and was rooted in wrong intention. When his teachings contradicted other views he compassionately spoke the truth of his Dhamma knowing that at least the possibility would then be that the Dhamma might be heard and bring an end to confusion and suffering.
He presented his Dhamma and then said “Ehipassiko”, come and see for yourself.
It is due to the need to make more out of the Buddha’s original teaching, to make the Dhamma seem more relevant to current societal and cultural views and individual preferences that has made the Buddha’s teachings difficult to understand and mostly ineffective in relieving humanity’s suffering.
That people have not engaged in the Dhamma as presented does not diminish or negate the Dhamma. It does not indicate that there is something lacking in the Dhamma simply because the Dhamma itself does not provide the motivation or enticement to practice. A distracted conditioned mind will continually seek further distraction even in so-called Buddhist, religious, or spiritual doctrines.
I very rarely talk (or write) directly about myself as I hope to portray the Dhamma as it was intended: a direct teaching of the Buddha. When the Buddha first set in motion the wheel of truth he also created the only true lineage in the Dhamma. From the Buddha’s awakened mind he presented the Dhamma. Any mind that is receptive to the Four Noble Truths and begins to develop understanding is continuing the lineage initiated with the Buddha.
Lineage is established from the Buddha’s awakened mind through the Dhamma to any receptive mind. Dhamma lineage is established through the Dhamma not through individual adaptations to the original teachings.
My own experience coming to the dhamma is relevant here. It was my own confusion with my life and my place in the world that eventually led me to question the beliefs that I acquired from my environment and upbringing. Much like the Buddha, and I suspect all sentient beings, as a young child I was confused and frustrated with the way life in the phenomenal world was unfolding.
I had a difficult time understanding the competitiveness between people. The values that were presented to me seemed to convey a message that a person’s worth was based on money, position and extraordinary accomplishments. As I reached my early teens, excelling in sports and sexual “conquests,” real or imagined, seemed to bring the most recognition and validation of self.
I did not understand why I was confused, frustrated and disenchanted with life. I could not understand the competitiveness around me. My male friends seem to only want to talk about who they hoped to have sex with, or who they already had. I began to understand that even 15 year olds would take to embellishment if it made them look good. The competitiveness that was all around me seemed only to isolate me and all people from each other.
I had an abiding though misunderstood sense of sadness about my family and friends and the world as a whole. Only a very few who had somehow achieved a level of success in whatever field, whether it was tenth grade, business, the pope, or Mickey Mantle, were seen as having true value. The rest of us should try to be like them. I was having all that I could do to be like myself!
I felt there was something wrong with me. Was I just shy? Anti-social? Engaging in small talk and social gatherings were uncomfortable environments for me. I abhorred idle chatter but thought that made me flawed. I had not yet heard of Right Speech!
I was never comfortable with pursuing what seemed most important: girls and talking about girls, achievements in sports, learning subjects that I had no interest in learning, or even looking ahead and trying to get into the “right” college or the “right” profession. I enjoyed having girlfriends, I just did not see how this was an important subject of conversation or that my self-worth was defined by who I was dating. I enjoyed sports and I had some success. The idea that winning was the only thing that mattered made no sense and seemed very aggressive and hurtful. Winning was fine but again I did not see how this changed who I was, or anyone else, but I felt it was supposed to win at all costs.
As with most young people my biggest struggle was to define my own identity. I did not realize at the time that forming an identity on a foundation of impermanence would never bring contentment. In my mid teens the understanding that my life would be an endless competition for status through social, academic, and athletic pursuits was disenchanting and unsatisfactory, to say the least.
I was disenchanted by the “me” I was becoming and the environment of becoming but it was all I knew.
The underlying sadness became more pervasive. This was not a fully realized understanding. I saw that the way people lived their own lives did not seem to bring them much peace and happiness. It seemed that as a society, most people became more competitive, more aggressive and more unhappy as they went through life. Some would manage their unhappiness better than others but many turned to drugs, alcohol, and any number of other compulsions. Some would suicide. Some turned to their pursuit of knowledge and other acquisitions to mask their own confusion and frustration, to elevate their ego-personality to ever-more exaggerated dimensions. For the most part the view of self set in place by late teens was the view most people spent their lives defending and reinforcing.
I noticed that people were increasingly relinquishing responsibility for their own confusion and disappointment in favor of therapists and doctors and prescription drugs and social and “spiritual” “gurus.”
My sadness only increased as I realized that most people blamed themselves for their feelings of inadequacy, no matter their level of achievements. I did not understand why we all seemed to be intently focused on fruitless pursuits. No one appeared to be truly happy no matter what impermanent object, view, or idea was acquired. The world itself was becoming more confusing and frightful. I grew up in time when the phrase “mutually assured destruction” was first used. As a people on this planet we are so insistent on holding onto our views that we would annihilate each other defending them! How can this be understood?
On the outside I would appear to be doing alright with my life. Inside I was a mass of confusion and frustration. The Buddha, when teaching Right View, would speak of being “caught in a thicket of views” and this is certainly what my life felt like. The thicket would only get more distracting as I learned ever more (so-called) “effective” ways of coping. Drugs and alcohol helped for a short while and then only deepened my confusion and distraction. This unhappy life continued until I was twenty-five. Reluctantly I gave up drugs and alcohol and began a sober search for understanding. Eventually I came to The Four Noble Truths.
When I first encountered “modern Buddhism” I found yet another thicket of views with the myriad and contradictory forms of Buddhism all claiming lineage and authenticity. Engaging in these many contradictory forms only developed more confusion and frustration. I took formal vows in a Tibetan lineage (since disavowed.) I pursued Zen, Chan, and Soen with my head spinning in emptiness, nothingness, and koans. I stepped into the PureLand only to find more confusion and a deep irrelevancy with my life.
I could not believe that a Buddha, an awakened human being could have taught all this. I found out that he did not. Through careful study of the Buddha’s teachings as preserved in the Pali Canon, I found an entirely practical and entirely consistent Dhamma that delivered what the Buddha promised!
As I began to understand through the Eightfold Path that it was my views of self arising from a fabricated ego-personality that was the cause of my confusion and frustration, my view changed. I began to understand suffering, my own and others. I came to understand Anatta and the need for Anatta, for the self-referential ego-personality to establish itself in every thought, word, and idea that occurred.
I came to understand that due to impermanence and clinging that the phenomenal world is inherently confusing and disappointing. People too. I need not expect anything to be any different then it was. I understood now how and why modern ”Buddhism” developed such confusing qualities.
First encountering Right View I knew that I needed to somehow change my view. I could end the struggle of attempting to reconcile my inner understanding with my acquired views. I could stop fighting with my “self.”
Recent events returned the great sadness that I first noticed nearly fifty years ago. The confusion and distraction of views is subtle and difficult to recognize. The refined mindfulness that developed in the teachings of the Buddha is for this purpose. To be mindful of views. To be mindful of what views are held in mind at any moment and recognize and abandon views rooted in ignorance.
The views that I acquired were so hurtful and delusional. At fifteen I had no frame of reference to abandon these views. I continued to establish a self based on my contact with my environment. With a measure of misunderstood regret and shame I joined the world, adding more confusion.
Sadness is still within me. It is a sadness that is skillful and purposeful today. I understand my own suffering that arose from ignorance and clinging to views. Understanding my own suffering allows me to understand others. I understand what caused the confusion and suffering in my life. Compulsively clinging to delusional views of my ego-self formed at a very early age. Reacting from those views only created more confusion and more reactionary mind states.
As I wholeheartedly began to develop understanding through the Dhamma, I slowly let go of the need to defend views of self. An aspect of the modern world that has infiltrated much of Buddhism is the notion of self-appeasement. Self-Appeasement is a way to avoid letting go of views by reinforcing views in dogma and rituals, no matter how damaging the view is.
The inquiry of the Dhamma is not inquiry into identifying what views of self would be effective to develop further. The Buddha taught a direct and effective way of recognizing all views. Once recognized these self-referential views are let go of.
Ehipassiko, come and see for yourself, really means “come and see within yourself” the truth of these teachings. Cease being distracted by the world and views of the world. Gain understanding through the Eightfold Path. I now understand that I am to liberate myself from Dukkha. No one else can. No acquired view can. No self-appeasement can. Even attempting to gain understanding by focusing only on the “good” in the world will not lead to lasting happiness. Understanding Anicca, impermanence, has helped develop an understanding of the disenchantment and suffering the Buddha spoke of when describing the truth of Dukkha.
It is clear now that we all have to take responsibility for the views we have acquired and the resulting confusion and suffering. It is also clear that by letting go of all views causing confusion and unhappiness I can finally develop lasting peace and happiness. I finally realized that the Buddha taught understanding of suffering not to be pessimistic but to be realistic. He taught a direct way to develop understanding and end ignorance. He taught a practical and realistic way to understand that within impermanence disappointment is ongoing and that there is no value to crave after and cling to what is fleeting. He taught an understandable and accessible way to develop lasting peace and happiness.
Another aspect of the teachings that is often viewed as pessimistic is that the teachings seem to negate the true beauty and joy in living in the world. It is most skillful to be mindful of what is occurring as life unfolds without becoming enamored with anything that is experienced. All attachments are attachments to impermanent objects or ideas. When seen clearly, with true insight, the continual occurrences of worldly events is much more meaningful from a Right View and refined mindfulness – and no further attachments need to ensue.
Mindfulness is often misused today to over-emphasize and develop attachments to mundane occurrences. True mindfulness is holding in mind the fleeting nature of all phenomenal experience. This develops abiding peace and happiness without generating any particular reaction to experience. True mindfulness is a refined mindfulness, a holding in mind, of the Dhamma.
Nature provides great beauty, awe-inspiring beauty. Nature also provides great destruction, also awe-inspiring. Human beings, all human beings have great inner beauty, a potential untouched by clinging. Human beings also have three common characteristics – craving, aversion, and delusional thinking. As a beautiful sunset and a devastating earthquake are part of the phenomenal world, so is the beauty of a human heart and the aggressiveness of greed, hatred and delusion. There is nothing we can do to effect worldly causes and conditions. We can, through developing an understanding and experience of true happiness, and by example and refined mindfulness show others how to do the same. The most loving and compassionate act anyone can take, for themselves and all others, is to end their own confusion and suffering, through the Eightfold Path.
The world itself is a distraction because of its pleasurable and unpleasant aspects. The environment we live in is an environment that generates attachment. One of the first declarations the Buddha made when he awakened was “I have overcome the world.” He was no longer distracted or enamored by the world. He could now be truly compassionate and act with true wisdom.
He also avoided the ego-driven need to attach any specialness to the “present moment” or that there is any power in “now.” The Buddha understood the ongoing becoming that is human life. He understood that an Eightfold Path provides the framework for becoming an awakened human being while avoiding attachments to conceptual states rooted in ignorance of The Four Noble Truths.
It would be foolish not to appreciate the beauty in the world but look also at intention, craving, clinging and aversion. If any of these are present then wrong view needs to be abandoned and the path to understanding Right View developed.
As a species we are so attached to our views and detached from each other. Often connections are formed to others not through tangible understanding but fleeting and insubstantial clinging and craving. Our mixed bag of distorted views develops attachments. These attachments initially provide fleeting relief due to the great distraction they provide. This is played out on an individual, local, national, and global scale.
True friends in the dhamma are rare jewels. The Buddha often referred to this: “When one has a good friend, a good companion, a good comrade, it is to be expected that he will cultivate the Noble Eightfold Path.” (Sambodhi Sutta)
The world has always been a hostile environment where humans fight each other over distorted views, often distorted religious views. All of these views are wrong views and can only be corrected by Right View. As long as we as individuals insist on maintaining wrong views, as long as we as a global species insist on maintaining and defending views rooted in ignorance, there will never be peace and there will never be true and lasting happiness.
The common ground for developing lasting peace and happiness, individually or globally is in Four Noble Truths. If we continue to look outside ourselves for understanding, we will only find ourselves in an ever-increasing “thicket of views.”
The greatest thinker and most compassionate human being understood that the most compassionate act anyone can take is to work diligently for their own understanding and release from the delusion of an ego-self. Nothing is more important for the sake of all human beings. This is precisely why the Buddha, with infinite wisdom, would not be drawn into debates or accommodations that may have been politically correct or intellectually stimulating, but would ultimately cause more confusion and more suffering.
He avoided all things that did not directly lead to understanding. We can all to do the same.
With great compassion informed by true wisdom the Buddha taught one thing: How to develop lasting peace and happiness.