So how do we know if Buddhas exist? One way to approach it is to ask, “What does it take to become a Buddha?” In Buddhism, the cause of a Buddha is called the two collections of merit. What this means is, is it possible to eliminate all bad mental seeds and collect a mental seed that would produce everything good?
So we’ll do the latter first: is it possible to eliminate the causes for pain and suffering?
This is the foundation of traditional Buddhism. Buddha sat under a tree and realized four things; but the first and second are what we’re interested in here: what is suffering, and what causes it? Because if we can identify the cause of suffering, then, by extension we can eliminate it. Because if you remove the cause, you must remove the result.
You can remove it,
Because it has a cause.
So this is the root of all we talk about; when I teach why I think people should learn logic, I tell the story of Charles Whitman. His father was raised in an orphanage and went on to own a successful plumbing business; he described himself as a “self-made man.” So what did he teach his son? If you work hard, you’ll be successful. Is that true? (I cover this in my book.) It wasn’t for Charlie. (He got court-martialed and demoted and in the marines, and never achieved financial independence from his abusive father.) So to prove to everyone he was a hard worker and was good at something (the last thing he wrote was, “I never could quite make it. These thoughts are too much for me”), he bought five rifles and a shotgun and shot seventeen people.
This is an extreme example, but we think like this. If I work hard, I’ll be successful. Then when you’re not, you suffer and wonder why. But it was never logical to think that way in the first place.
So run the three tests on our syllogism above and let me know if it isn’t true.