May 7th, 2014
illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
Many of my followers live in the Bible-belt in the USA. Many of them suffer from 'isolation', among people who force upon them their own beliefs and expectations. [Others live in Hindu India, or in Muslim countries, and also suffer from 'isolation'… the below can be adapted accordingly.]
Many of my followers suffer from narrow religious environments they live in, not necessarily because the surrounding traditions are intrinsically bad (e.g. Buddhists share a lot more with Christians than most believe!), but because these environments accept only one tradition. So it concerns me when I see buddhists fall into the same fault of exclusion.
We all know that different 'sorts' of Christians are discernible.
Some Christians make their God appear rather stubborn, arbitrary and hardly compassionate.
This is done by clinging to the literal reading of passages from the Bible, e.g. from the book of Leviticus, justifying much discriminations.
This is done by constant quoting, but not necessarily so much reflecting on what is quoted.
This is also done by cherry-picking, e.g. rejecting some of the rules from the Leviticus as 'Jewish', because Jesus said so… while keeping other rules (e.g. to justify homophobia), without Jesus much saying to do so though!
But some other Christians make their God appear as Love, apparently in closer accordance with what Jesus said. These Christians find an un-ending source of inspiration in the Bible, towards compassion, helping their neighbours, caring for the poor, rejecting the temptation of separating themselves from the suffering of others!
This is done by taking the responsibility to interpret what is given (parables, similes, examples), embracing the responsibility to reflect and not to project old judgements onto new cases with different evidence, different context.
This is done by listening to principles and to the heart, without rigidity, simply doing one's best, forgiving oneself and others for failures, attempting to mend what can be corrected and doing one's best again!
This is done without cherry-picking (rendered unnecessary once literal reading is dropped) but also without setting impossible standards (Ambitious goals and ideals? yes. Expectations? no).
Of course, an interesting point is that all these Christians might be well-intentioned! Many Bible-bashers are utterly convinced they do so for your own good!
In Buddhism, we often focus on 'intention', as the first step to get right… but the next step is "skilfulness in means" ;-)
Well, dear declared 'buddhists'… assuming you were Christians, what 'sort' of Christians would you aim to be?
And if that's the kind who shares with the world, who embodies Love and Compassion, who aims high but with resilience and creativity in the face of difficulties, then why would you —as a buddhist— cherry-pick literal readings in the Pāḷi Canon or other corpuses, cling to certainties and thus act like Dharma-bashers, the new Bible-bashers in town?
Some of the Bible-bashers happily discard other Christians if the latter actually embrace the message of Christ about Love: « if you don't agree with my interpretation of how the Bible should be read, you're not a true Christian! »
Some Dharma-bashers seem to happily discard other Buddhists if the latter actually embrace the message of the Buddha about non-clinging: « if you don't agree with my interpretation of how the texts should be read, you're not a true Buddhist! »
Hopefully, the above simile got the point across.
« Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? » (Matthew 7:3)
We have to give to our Christian friends that they don't seem afraid to do some critical self-enquiry… Are buddhists able to do the same, in particular if they identify with a specific 'school' of Buddhism?
Is being a 'Buddhist' about bashing others with certainties, quotes, "calls to authority" logical fallacies and literal readings as support? Is establishing a Dharma-belt the goal of holy life? Do you imagine a Dharma-belt to constitute a new Dharma Age?
The cessation of suffering comes with the cessation of clinging, to views… all views, including 'Buddhist' views (second noble truth)!
Some use the Dharma as an un-ending source of inspiration and a gate into sharing and living harmoniously with others…
Can one cling to a particular version of the Dharma as being the one Truth, even if the said version most probably states that 'clinging' is the cause of cyclical suffering?
Curiosity about, and respect for, other forms of practice (notably other forms of Buddhism) than our present 'own' is crucial. I'll post tomorrow about the Buddhist textual support for the 'interpretative' approach. I'm afraid there's a lot of material, so it will not be a short read!
the transformation of human consciousness through meditation is frustrated so long as we think of it as something that I by myself can bring about, by some sort of wangle, by some sort of gimmick.
Because, you see, it leads to endless games of spiritual one-up-man-ship. And of guru competition. Of my guru being more effective than your guru. My yogas are faster than your yoga. I am more aware of myself than you are. I am humbler than you are. I am sorrier for my sins than you are. I love you more than you love me.
There’s this interminable goings on where people fight and wonder whether they are a bit more evolved than somebody else and so on.
— Alan Watts, It Starts Now - Alan Watts