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Improving Buddhism

Is it Possible?

Other Religions are Good Precursors to Improved Buddhism

Improved Buddhism has a great appeal intellectually, as it dispenses with mysticism, supernatural phenomena or creatures, spirituality and spirits in general, as well as all non-scientific concepts. As knowledge of science becomes more and more widespread, and deeper and deeper on an individual basis, this appeal will heighten and the attractiveness of Improved Buddhism will increase. However, there are more subtle appeals that can cause certain individuals to want to follow its precepts.

 

Someone who was raised in a religious household, or was nurtured or trained by a religious person, has deep subconscious memories of the procedures and teaching that were demonstrated by the household members or by the religious individual who played a large part in the earliest years of the individual's life. Memories do not go away with time, but simply lie dormant or get connected to new experiences. Recall that good feelings, meaning positive neurochemicals and brain activity in certain small centers, arise when familiarity happens, and the familiarity hooks up with some elementary, even instinctual, good feelings from the past. This is the origination of 'liking', when it is authentic and not simply repetition of the comments of others. Authentic 'liking' comes when an experience, such as a taste or a view or a comment by others or a face or anything else triggers a subconscious recall of some other taste or view or whatever else, which was in turn already connected by the brain's neural network with those neurons which generate the positive neurochemicals or trigger activity in the reward centers of the brain.

 

This means that, for example, an individual who was raised in a pleasant household with religious people, and the religious activities were observed, will find some subtle enjoyment from doing activities which are reminiscent of those he observed. Some legacy religions involve praying or meditating, and in this situation, meditating in the Improved Buddhism method should invoke this happy feelings, most likely mild but still definite. There is a multitude of possibilities for this connection back to pleasant experiences, most of which might not be recallable consciously. People who have this might report that they feel something is right, that they just know it is correct without having any scientific or other proof of it.

 

This is how the brains of mammals work; they are born with some instinctual activities that are basic to life support and the growth of capabilities, and these are gradually linked to external experiences to broaden their ability to support themselves and later reproduce. Humans are no different, perhaps with less instincts, but certainly enough to initialize these linkages to external experiences. This linkage happens most strongly with very young children, as their brains are largely empty slates waiting for information input to fill them. Conscious memory comes later.

 

During the next stage of development, from ages around three to six, there is more learning from experiences but also coupled with some vague ability to recall it, and even to verbalize it. Positive experiences from this time include those similar to the earlier ones, but there is also the beginning of verbal teaching or rather training, and these lessons sink deeply into the brain. At this time, behavioral rules are put in place, which cover a gamut of activities and relationships. Someone in their later life may completely depart from his childhood religion, but will still feel that there are rules he should follow and further that there should be rules of behavior and everyone should follow them. Improved Buddhism has some logical rules for behavior, and they are likely strongly overlapping with any other sets of rules that individual learned in his early years. Philosophers might dispute the existence of any such rules, as it is a controversy stretching back thousands of years, but this has no impact on virtually all humans. They instead have feelings generated by their early experiences.

 

Early experiences are not necessarily based on pleasurable experiences, but may involve the fear that a young child feels when threatened or worse. Fear experiences also write deeply into the brain, and an individual might feel behaioral rules are necessary because of them, or because of both pleasurable and fear experiences working together. Fear might be an even stronger indoctrinator than instinctual pleasure, and the human mind is built to cope with it and to adapt to reduce any threats to well-being. Young children have few options but to obey, and so the adoption of a rote behavior in different situations will be something that buries itself deep in the brain, leading eventually to an adult who feels strongly about rules of behavior of different types.

 

When a child reaches the age when reasoning starts, the mysticism and supernatural phenomena that were part of these legacy religions may serve as good exercises in reasoning, and this would gradually diminish the attractiveness of them. This leaves something like Improved Buddhism standing upright and able to meet any standards of reasoning the individual can reach. So, that part of Improved Buddhism which is related to feelings is similar to the legacy religions sufficiently to produce some of the same feelings, pleasure by association with family connections or reduction of fear, while that which is amenable to reason is able to get through the gates of logic.

 

Someone who was not raised with any religious influences around, at least directly, may have secondary influences that also might propel them to Improved Buddhism. If an individual is parented by people who have no religious adherence, but who were raised by people who did, they would still have some derivative feelings that there is a moral code, a code for behavior for oneself and for interacting with others, even though they have no solid background which would lead to it. These second generation partially religious people might produce the same early childhood experiences as those who were within a religion. The young child hears how there are rules for behavior, without hearing any supernatural threats or promises to back them up. A child of this age does not question things from a causal point-of-view however, but is just satisfied to hear things to memorize and act upon from his guardians. Even a third generation religious person, for whom two generations have passed since religion played a role in an direct way in someone's belief system, there could be the feeling that there should be a moral code, or that some specific forms of behavior are mandatory.

 

These people, one, two or three generations removed from an actual believer in a legacy religion, are still eminent candidates for becoming members of Improved Buddhism. They would have some feelings that the existence of a behavior code is obvious, while abstaining from any supernatural justification for it.

 

The other strong drawing point for bringing formerly religious people into a new religion might be community. Many legacy religions have communities associated with each local branch. What community means here is a group of people who are frequently in contact with each other on the basis of shared tasks. Other legacy religions might just be constituted out of neighbors but not friends, and lack such a community.  These would not produce any feelings on this supplemental basis.

 

For a person who grew up in a situation where there was a community, especially a strong community which involved the children in any of a variety of ways, there is an undercurrent of feeling that such communities are desirable and proper. When a novel religion re-creates such communities, they provide a linkage back to the buried memories that bring familiarity, a sense of correctness, and some happiness. Even for people who were in no religion at all when young, but were part of a community, the new religion's communities may serve as a draw.

 

The negative side of linkages back to the activities of legacy religions is that some people may have not have received friendly interactions within them, but instead, they could have been unhappy to be involved or could have had specific unpleasant situations occur, either involving themselves or involving their guardians or friends. This leads to a need for carefully orchestrating community activities, so that no interactions reminiscent of previous unpleasantness arises, as much as possible. Consequently, this means that Improved Buddhism should have strong direction as to how community activities should occur and how interpersonal relations within the community should be conducted.

 

Someone who has current involvement in a legacy religion, and is looking for some other religion which is an improvement on that would be an excellent candidate for Improved Buddhism. So would someone who has previous experience as a child with a legacy religion, or even those one or two generations removed from it, where some lingering traces exist and are passed down through the generations, such as the belief that there should be a behavior code, or where the concept of a community was preserved and lingered in a form which could affect a child. These candidates would have different reasons from someone who had spent time thinking about the utility of religion, either on a personal or a macro scale, and was looking for a religion which would match what his reasoning drove him to. The first type of candidate should be introduced to the activities of Improved Buddhism, as there they will find the positive feelings that might bind them to it. The second type of candidate should be introduced to the intellectual structure of it, the lack of mysticism, the adherence to known science and the sociology that holds it together. Both of these types can become adherents and might even provide useful additions to it.

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