Title- A Timeless Doctrine & Freedom of Thought

A Timeless Doctrine



I have often wondered how Buddhism came to be called “Akalika” which means “timeless”—that it exists for all time. The more I see the changes that have taken place in Buddhist culture or religion, the more I see how it keeps on adjusting to the needs of different eras, populations, individuals, the more I see that it has been possible for the Buddha to evolve a message that would remain eternally fresh.


So if Buddhism has an application today and if Buddhism has a place in modern life, it is because of that timeless applicability, emanating from a set of eternal values. To talk of a characteristic of being eternal is a very paradoxical way of presenting or describing a religion which has the principle doctrine of impermanence at the bottom of it.


The characteristic of timelessness comes from the fact that it had understood that everything continues, but continues in a flux, in a process of continuing change and evolution.


Thus Buddhism was able to adjust to different times and civilizations. We can therefore without any hesitation approach any aspect of Buddhism as something relevant and applicable to us today.


What are these elements that make Buddhism timeless? Let me take just a few of them. First of these would be the recognition of the responsibility of the individual. The Buddha is one of the most remarkable religious teachers who emancipated man from all bonds— a Godhead, a creation, sin or any other characteristics that you  inherit from anyone else ( other than whatever you yourself have done).


So when the Buddha says that each person is his own master, he promulgates a principle whose applicability becomes stronger as Man begins to get more and more confidence in the control of himself and the environment.


So if, today, with scientific and technological development, Man feels that he has come to a point where his own intellect makes him superior to anybody else or makes him able to solve any problem that he has, whether physical or ethical or political or whatever, would not the principle that Man is the master of himself— that he has to be responsible to himself because whatever he does he inherits— become one of the most important ways of looking at himself?


So this fundamental approach to making man free from all bondages, spiritual and otherwise, is one of those very important doctrines of Buddhism that have contributed to its timelessness.


As we advance, as greater progress is made by Man, there will be the greater need for him to assert that he is the master of himself. The more he asserts himself to be the master of himself, the more he is reiterating the Buddha’s own statement: “Atta hi attano natho” , means “Man is the master of himself & whatever he does he inherits




Freedom of Thought



Then comes another equally important doctrine. The doctrine of open-mindedness— the liberty of thinking. Buddhism not only frees us from a Godhead or supernatural ties but also liberates mankind from dogma.


Let us visualize the time when the Buddha was preaching. It was a time when various religious teachings were in a ferment and India of the 6th century B.C was one of the most interesting places that one would like to be in. Religious teachers propounding various types of doctrines were vying with each other to have more and more converts.


Besides these new teachings, there were religious systems that were deep rooted. In all these religious systems, the theory was: “We have found a way”. “This is the correct path”. “You come, you will be saved”.


Into their midst comes the Buddha who says: “Do not believe what your books say. Do not believe what your teachers would say. Do not believe what your traditions say. Do not take anything merely because it comes to you with the authority of somebody else. Make it a personal experience. Think for yourself. Be convinced. And once you are convinced, act accordingly”.


Now this was very refreshing manner in which man was given one of the greatest freedoms that he is fighting for, the freedom to think for himself. And this again is a doctrine or a principle, which gains for Buddhism its timelessness, which gains in its relevance to the times as mankind advances.


If under feudalism, if before the present advances were made, we were not able to assert so much our right to think for ourselves, as these advances take place we will be asserting that right more and more. We will be wanting to feel that we try to be convinced, after our own investigations, after we have been able to go through the principles, the facts, the pros and cons. This we consider an inviolable right. This is the second doctrine,freedom of thought, whose applicability to modern times, and future times, would continue.



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