Examining the Implications of Buddhism and Christianity: the Empty vs. the Full; the Impersonal vs. the Personal; the Mythical vs. the Historical By Scott Murray Noble
Recently at a stop light I saw semi-trucks passing by. On the platform of one there were the legs and feet of the Buddha. In another semi-truck was the mid-section of the body of the Buddha laying down. And, in yet another semi-truck was the gigantic head of the Buddha on its way to be configured into a unified idol. True to Buddhist philosophy, it was quite detached (please forgive the pun). What is the human attraction to worship and seek a relationship with a man-made object like this?
What is it in the human heart that longs for relationships so much that even in a relationship-denying religion (Buddhism), relationships are still sought out through praying to idols? In Buddhism attachment leads to suffering, and attachments are an obstacle to nirvana, thus hard-core practitioners deny any attachments, including relationships. Yet, most Buddhist temples still have idols, which people pray to, in spite of the Buddhist teaching that the Buddha has ceased to exist, via nirvana, and thus by their own teachings there’s no one to pray to.
The title of this book has a two-fold meaning. On one hand my intention is to unpack ideas and give simple explanations of the sometimes complex Buddhist philosophy. On another level, the word “decipher,” implies an ironic meaning. The primary definition of the word “cipher” is, “zero.... one that has no weight, worth, or influence: nonentity” (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ cipher). Historically, the word “cipher” derives from the Arabic “sifr,” which came from the Sanskrit “sunya” (emptiness): “Zero derives from Hindu [Sanskrit] sunya – meaning void, emptiness – via Arabic sifr, Latin cephirum, Italian zevero” (Gullberg, 26).
Therefore, the word “cipher” is, at its root, very much related to the Buddhist word for emptiness (“sunyata”), which is the end-all negation philosophy of everything in existence. In modern Thai, the word for zero is “soon,” (in Thai this is spelled with a silent “y,” (ย) as “ศนู ย”์ )