Both Gorampa and Mipam’s understanding of the two truths conclude with the zombie Buddha. Arguing that Tsongkhapa is a nihilist because he and his followers are grasping at the idea of nonexistence, Gorampa claims that when someone is enlightened they only see the ultimate truth and do not see the conventional at all. Mipam, though trying to reinstate a middle way between the two philosophers, also comes to the conclusion that an wakened being can only see through the ultimate. How could someone function if they were not seeing the conventional truth in any way? As we discussed in class, this awakened being is termed – “zombie Buddha.” The idea is that the Buddha no longer has any thoughts of their own, however, the zombie Buddha still functions because their past Karma is propelling them forward. I still have questions about the rational behind the zombie Buddha, for example – even if the awakened being does not create more karma, who is to say that all of their previous karma would run out before they died? But, for the purposes of this short essay, I do not want to delve into the theory itself but rather look at what it means for the practitioner if the Buddha is a zombie. If being enlightened is being a zombie buddha, do you want to be a Buddha still?
Personally… not really. It could be said that this is the only way not to suffer, but if this is the cost for not suffering, is it worth it? And if I don’t want to reach enlightenment does this effect how I should relate to Buddhism? On one hand, to become enlightened is incredibly difficult and as we have spoke about in class, is said to take many eons. And, although we have just started to talk about tantric practices which are said to make it possible to reach enlightenment in only one life time, it is still incredibly difficult and dangerous. Consequently, Im willing to say that reaching enlightenment for me, at least in this life, is not going to happen. And if this is the case, what does it matter what enlightenment truly feels like? On the other hand, Buddhist doctrine is focused on the attainment of enlightenment, and if I don’t want this goal, than what does this say about the other doctrine?
Much of what Buddhism tells us to do such as cultivating love and kindness and meditation has been shown to increase peoples happiness and physical well being. These aspects have become very popular in the West, especially with the mindfulness moment. While I think it is clear that we should be careful how these aspects of Buddhism are appropriated, if we don’t believe in enlightenment because we don’t want it or think its not possible, to what end should we be employing Buddhist technologies and how should we be relating to Buddhism as a whole?