January 1, 2015

A Way of Bringing About Change in the World

“Be the change that you want to see in the world” (M.Gandhi) 
While I obviously continue to read and write, I slowly come to a very important conclusion: my spiritual foundation is located on the battlefield of everyday mundane activities.
Therein lies all philosophy, all I can call spirituality and religion or, at least, I can say that only there they are put to the test. Without these tests, „spirituality” will get trapped in the realm of beautiful thoughts and declarations of intent, like in a desert decorated with artificial flowers.

Theoretical science without this kind of attempts inevitably leads to sterilization. When getting in touch, on a daily basis, with people always in a hurry, always nervous and sometimes malicious, becoming able to see them as embodiments, as specific instantiations of the Divine – this, indeed, means to have a life dedicated to the spirit.

Dealing with challenging people and life-situations in a compassionate manner is a way to transform the world, to make it better, even without making it into a purpose. Especially without turning it into a purpose.

By just accepting a world of beauty and horrors and regarding the existence as a whole, as neither bad, nor good, but „just the way it is”, without fighting, without resisting it, one can manage to, somehow, paradoxically, make it better. This is the paradox of the non-action in action. The first prerequisite of any attempt to transform the world is to not persistently and compulsively want IT to be better.
I cannot change the world; all I can do is BE the change that I want to see in the world.
Note should be made that the urge to post this kind of “food for thought” was brought about by two friends sending me their best wishes and a happy new year during the night. I received many other “best wishes” and “happy new year”-s in the meantime, but these two messages echoed like a mysterious transforming tune in my mind. I could feel, somehow, that these two friends actually ARE the change that I want TO SEE in the world.
May they continue to be what they are and may the peace be with you all.

December 25, 2014

How the Christ Will Be Resurrected by the Buddha. Religion Is What We Make It

-A dialogue on the future of religion with Brad Radziej-
All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost..
 The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring..

Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.(J.R.R. Tolkien)  

Brad Radziej: I have two main points to this inquiry on why humans are religious:
1) What we generally consider to be religions were all formed during different points in human history when civilizations themselves were formed.
Different geographical regions developed civilizations at different times in history, but in each occurrence a religion was developed along with that civilization.

The term "religion" has been homogenized to only refer to "civilization religions", and not to "tribal religions" and many times, in the west, it is narrowed down even further, to only refer to Abrahamic religions, negating Buddhists, Hindus, Jains and Taoists etc.

But regardless of the above, all religions were basically formed (also) as a means of adapting a cultural morality, laws and code of conduct, as well as a philosophical foundation for civilizations to adhere to. As we banded together physically in the formation of civilizations, the need arose for us to also band together mentally, philosophically and spiritually as well.
As the burden of survival was decreased by community cooperation, there was more down time to be spent philosophizing about anything & everything.

And so, religion was originally intended as a means toward forming a better lifestyle that everyone would benefit from. This flood of new ideas was highly accepted, which was why there were so many prophets, gurus etc., all offering different religious philosophies throughout these prospering civilizations.
Some were scam artists, whilst some were legitimate, which situation has never changed.
The good ones stuck, and developed into what we now know as the major religions. And throughout history they have been transformed in numerous ways, some good and some bad. But the idea that religion itself is bad, or just one thing, is overall a detriment to humanity.

In recent times we have become obsessed and fixated by disbelief, criticism, cynicism, and overall skepticism in regards to religion.
This obsession with debunking religion, is just plain foolish!

Not that we should not call a fraud, "a fraud", or call corruption, "corruption", but to fixate upon this without attempting to positively reform and re-implement religion as a tool for binding us together, reforging and cultivating positive and wholesome practices and behavior is a big mistake.
These days’ people are only concerned with pointing out the wrong in religion, and very few are actively & assertively attempting to promote the right in religion.
Religion is what we make it.
And it should be used to cultivate a positive lifestyle for the benefit of all.

So, to be a stubborn critic of religion, and to identify this cynicism with being intelligent, without putting any effort towards reforming or acclimating the basic principles of all religions, is far from intelligent!

2) The Buddha never negated nor confirmed the existence of an afterlife, because he said that it was beside the point.
Regardless of your belief..
a) no afterlife..
All there is - is this "present life".

b) heavenly afterlife..
What you do in this "present life", dictates what happens to you in the afterlife (heaven or hell).

c) reincarnation..
What you do in this "present life", dictates how you will be reincarnated in the next life.

All scenarios point at the importance of this "present life", therefore regardless of your afterlife beliefs all that you should be concerned with is this "present life"!
And so, accepting & practicing the Buddha’s "eightfold path" is then mutually beneficial, regardless of what afterlife scenario you agree with.

Buddhism, then, is the "mechanism whereby human beings can feel good in the present moment".
So feeling, or being religious, is then not dependent upon an afterlife scenario at all (unless you don't consider Buddhism a religion?).
It is merely a matter of cultivating a positive lifestyle, right now, for the benefit of all, in this present life!
Lucian Dantes: I totally agree with you when you say that “religion is what we make it”, I really needed this insightful view. I must confess that I thought of you when writing about the "afterlife" perspective in religions, because I don't think that the "afterlife" expectancy is the IT thing in authentic religious life. This is not about Buddhism only; Jesus himself never mentioned the perspective of the afterlife in plain words. Expressions like “to be born again”, “to be like children”, to act like “lilies in the field”, to be “resurrected” are metaphorical in essence.

Jesus’ whole idea of the afterlife is comprised in this verse in John, 4.23:

“But the hour comes, and NOW is, when the true worshippers shall worship the father IN SPIRIT, and IN TRUTH: for the father seeks such to worship him.”

Therefore: it is not "tomorrow" and it is not "in body"..., but is "now" and it is "in spirit"

I hope that everything you said about people negating the clear religious essence of Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, Taoism etc. will become only a past, an "illiterate" stage in the history of religion studies in the Western hemisphere.
There is no excuse in the 21st century for those who still adopt a dogmatic Christian view and appropriate the idea of religion and spirituality. No one can "possess" the Christ, as no one can "possess" Buddha-consciousness, not even the Buddha himself (but on the contrary).

But when someone builds-up a sense of self-identity around an idea in the head (Jesus, the Buddha and what not), which becomes a solid, ossified structure of beliefs - this is all dogmatic truth and I can accept it until it becomes militant and aggressively intolerant and proselytizing. 
Brad Radziej: Well, you certainly hit the nail on the head, so to speak, with the term "possess"!!
From my observations, it is precisely these two key ignorance factors, pertaining to an exaggerated false-idea of, "possession & self-identity" that is at the heart of the problem.
These two factors manifest themselves in innumerable ways, and all of which are detrimental to both the individual and society. Because without thus exaggerated idea of a self-identified possession, there would be no cause to result in conflict.
For example, a self-identified possession of either belief/disbelief will inevitably result in conflict.
The thing is that neither side is open, or willing to discuss the similarities regarding behavior and conduct that bind them!
This to me is the real value in the Buddha’s teachings on the Middle Path. Because, what you believe/disbelieve is totally besides the damn point!!

If such attachments to a self-identified possession of belief/disbelief only result in a world full of conflict and turmoil, then apparently this is the problem that must be addressed and rectified!
Funny enough, the method of resolving such a problem couldn't be more simple...
The four noble truths:
(the facts of life )
1)there is a "result"..
or problem; conflict & suffering (anger, greed, envy)
2) there is a "cause"..
which results in conflict & suffering; self-identified possession.
3) there is a "result"..
or solution to this problem of conflict & suffering; virtuous thought & behavior.
4) there is a "cause"..
which results in virtuous behavior; the eightfold path to enlightenment (i.e. the Middle Path of virtue)

And so, there is a cause which results in conflict & suffering.
If you don't like the result, then deal with the cause.
The cause being an exaggerated false-idea of self-identified possession.
The remedy being the wholesome cultivation of eight aspects of life, which can be can be simplified into three categories.

The eightfold path:
Wisdom training-
the cultivation of virtuous..
1) thought, (or view)
2) intentions.

Ethics training-
the cultivation of virtuous..
3) speech.
4) action.
5) livelihood.
Meditation training-
the cultivation of virtuous..
6) effort.
7) mindfulness.
8) concentration.

No inherent belief system, no static dogma, no afterlife scenario, no deity, no commandments, no laws, no mysticism, etc..
Whether or not you have a belief pertaining to any of the above factors is totally irrelevant, in regards to implementing the Buddha’s eightfold path.
Whatever belief/disbelief you have, is totally compatible with practicing this method of cultivating wisdom, ethical conduct, & meditative awareness.

Why "the four noble truths & the eightfold path", is not already hanging in every school, business, and government building is totally beyond me, and I think that it is unfortunate that it is not.
Especially considering that it does not prescribe to any particular religious view or belief, but rather to all beliefs & views that are considered as humane & just.
And the fact that the very problem that it directly addresses, is what keeps it from being properly understood, accepted, and implemented, would be totally hilarious, if it weren't so tragic.

Lucian Dantes: Buddhism is apparently so appealing because it doesn't have static requirements, no dogmatic truths, it is some kind of therapy. The Buddha designed it this way. However, I regard it as more than that - as a non-theistic religion, with all the afferent consequences, which I don't want to discuss now, because the subject is to vast.

I have an additional comment on the apparent success of Buddhism in the West:
It doesn't strike the collective ego directly, with and opposing dogma, opposing ideology, opposing metaphysical system, with "opposing" things. So, Buddhism doesn't seem to be a great danger for “apex predators” like Christian faith. Nevertheless, it is. Furthermore, it isn’t an enemy, but an ally to the core of the Christian teaching. When you doesn't strike hard, you don't strengthen the ego, but undermine it and eventually reform the set of behaviors and beliefs revolving around the initially authentic experience of the founder.

On another level, Buddhism is very appealing to big corporations, for instance, because a practicing Buddhist is a very well balanced and disciplined person, doesn't show up late at work and doesn't get drunk. In addition, this kind of person has a positive approach and is very productive. A Zen Buddhist has no need for "time-management" training sessions, for instance. I don’t' think that your employers felt the need to send you over to the shrink, or invested money in teaching you how to react, how to negotiate, how to criticize in a constructive manner, how to work within a team etc. You need no training, you stay out of trouble because you have an untroubled mind since the very beginning and so forth.

Nevertheless, the big corporations will be very disappointed after a while, because a practicing Buddhist cannot be fooled around. It is very difficult to control a dispassionate employee who doesn't fear and keep things simple and straightforward. The employers will have to learn this lesson, soon. Delusion doesn't work on Buddhism and our ever growing economies cannot be sustained by a simple living and spiritually oriented population who doesn't buy unnecessary things.

As a conclusion, Buddhist teachings will have a some main consequences, at least in our Western cultures:

1) it is simple (i.e. not very sophisticated, not very metaphysical), the focus is put "on here" instead of "out there", in the "now" instead of the "afterwards, afterlife, past and future". very experiential and very concrete.

2) it will finally reach a very large audience because it is not a belief system and one doesn't have to miss the Sunday religious service as a catholic, whilst practicing zazen..; but as a Buddhist you will be able to thrive on less and this could be the death of our consumerist civilization.

2) willingly or not, Buddhist teaching is a real and ecological psychotherapy and our Western world is in great need of this kind of thing. If you analyze the elements of the eightfold path, you will find out that each one of them will concur in keeping you balanced, alert and calm, besides the spiritual implications. So, the "danger" is that Buddhism will end up as either: a) a psychotherapy similar to yoga school (originally a metaphysical system and an extreme asceticism, a spiritual path in essence) or b) some sort of gymnastics of the mind. I don't know if this is a good or a bad thing, but it's just the way it is. In any case, this is the worst-case scenario. Buddhism can harm no one, except for one’s ego and one’s self-esteem…

3) the best potential of Buddhism as a non-belief, non-dogmatic, non-ritualistic, non-systematically conceptual, non-static and non-theistic religion is that it has the appropriate set of tools for reforming both Christianity and Islam. If you read "Dune" by Frank Herbert, you know what I mean, because the Fremen were Zen-Sunnis, that is: Islamic Buddhists.

Christianity will have to make this big choice: either 1) to remain a religion of faith, a belief system, a system of a given truth, based on the authority of the Bible, the Churches, the whatever and eventually become extinct or 2) to become a religion of experience, which a spiritual and daily practice and, thereby, thrive.
Buddhism has the possibility to infuse Christianity with fresh blood.

Eventually, the Christ will be resurrected by the Buddha:)

I’ll give you an example on how this kind of syncretism is already at work: there is a tremendous number of practicing Christians that are aware of the Dalai Lama’s teachings and his general views and opinions and I think that the Dalai Lama will have a deep impact on those honest Christians who will be able to recognize the Christ-type of message embodied by the Dalai Lama himself.

The Dalai Lama is a Buddhist monk and in a surprising way, he is a good Christian, at least according to the way he acts!. This kind of approach will not go unnoticed: everything that the Dalai Lama did or does is what Jesus himself would do, this is too obvious. I’ve read, recently, a book in which the Dalai Lama was expressing his love for the Chinese people and his deep respect for the Chinese culture. Who does this kind of thing? Millions of Christians will be driven back to the roots of their own tradition and so, "reforged shall be the blade that was broken", just like it happened with the shards of Narsil, which became Andúril...

In regards to the idea of a "beginners mind" approach of S. Suzuki, it’s interesting to notice that Jesus advised on the exact same approach! Without this very important aspect, there is no Christian teaching!
(He said: Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it. – Luke18, 15-17)
And I think that it's this very aspect that has the potential to "reforge" (redirect) Christianity back towards its’ original purposes.