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tinythinker

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tinythinker last won the day on May 2

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About tinythinker

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  1. Re-evaluating "belief" And Focusing On Compassion

    Yeah, and for the record (not that anyone asked) I don't think orthodoxy is a boogey-man, and while I agree that simply giving intellectual assent to a set of historical propositions itself is a poor basis for religion or co-pilot of faith, even the more expansive view of faith described in the TED talk requires that we do believe in the sense of accepting the reality of something, in this case, of a Higher Power that orients, inspires, and sustains us. Otherwise what is one loving, prizing, holding dear, committing oneself to, or engaging with? A comforting abstraction? A ungrounded set of ideals? As Christianity and so many other sacred traditions teach, we find the Divine in every experience, the sacred in all phenomena, God in everyone we meet. It takes a true disciple of Jesus, a genuine Bodhisattva, to open themselves to the reality of their own pain and suffering, let alone that of the world. Bless you and everyone like you. I am just a half-believing idealist who is struggling to regain his faith and practice.
  2. Once Upon A Time I Was Christian

    2 CENTS: The path of uncompromising honest inquiry can take you many places, so long as you don't get bogged down on a sand bank from over-correcting your course (the tension of the dialectical inquiry). I went from conservative Christianity to deism to agnosticism to bitter atheism to secular seeker to secular Buddhist to spiritual Buddhist to interfaith mystical inquirer and have been heading back towards Christianity from a completely new direction. Labels and social/mental constructions come and go - stay true to your heart and keep a clear head.
  3. I doubt there are many who visit here who haven't heard about the assault on Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church last Sunday by a gunman who wanted to attack the "liberal movement", or the two people who died as a result. I wanted to have a thread here because despite a few of the issues I have with some aspects of UU culture or UU structure, they are prominent and historic example of Progressive Christianity. The Unitarians and the Universalists began as Christian denominations who came to see that if Jesus is the incarnation of light and life and if God is love then any sacred tradition which seeks light, celebrates life, and participates in love is worthy of respect and their adherents are fellow seekers and followers and of truth. Hence the union of the groups into the Unitarian Universalist Association, which accepts anyone of any or of no specific sacred tradition who is in agreement with their seven principles affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person. In the UU tradition of drawing on sacred traditions, particularly from its Judeo-Christian heritage, I offer the following: A selection from The Book of Lamentations (portions of chapter 3)... He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light; indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead. He has walled me in so I cannot escape; he has weighed me down with chains. Even when I call out or cry for help, he shuts out my prayer. He has barred my way with blocks of stone; he has made my paths crooked. Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, he dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help. He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows. He pierced my heart with arrows from his quiver... He has filled me with bitter herbs and sated me with gall. He has broken my teeth with gravel; he has trampled me in the dust. I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity is. So I say, "My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD." I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. And the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi... Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy; Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
  4. Too Many Choices

    I agree with what you wrote, but it wouldn't so much be uncomfortableness on my part so much as not wanting to give a false impression. As for the specific suggestion, it is appreciated, but I just don't feel UUA is expressing its principles and its potential in a way that would adequately challenge and support me at present. I will quickly add that this is just true for me. I don't presume that is true for anyone else. And I am not living up to my principles and potential either, so I am not putting myself above anyone. And I haven't been to the UU church in my new town either, so they could surprise me (though from the sermon titles online I am not holding my breadth).
  5. Too Many Choices

    If you have read (or get a chance to read) Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers Hanh does a good job of offering a liberating appreciation of the concept of faith and the Holy Spirit as well as an interesting interpretation of the first several lines of a Apostle's Creed which comes from his own insights as well as his lifelong friendships and dialogues with Christian (often Catholic) priests and laypersons. I am sure there are Christian theologians who offer similar ways of appreciating such statements as a matter of trust and fidelity. Still, there is the question of honesty (see below). Which again brings up the questions of (dis)honesty. Let's say I am all egotistical and I think "Ahh, I have moved beyond one level of belief and appreciation to another, so while I am saying the same words they have a different/deeper meaning for me than for those of a more legalist/literalist mentality." If the Church doesn't make a big deal about such nuances, that is one thing, but if I am in a situation where such a practice could be misleading then don't I need to clarify "I affirm X, Y, and Z but this is what it means to me..."? Especially if it became clear people were attributing views to me that I not only may not hold but may actually oppose? I am all for the flexibility to be sure, and I appreciate where you are coming from, but is it really possible to be accepted when going for Tradition without a little bit of deception by omission? That is something I have been concerned about, especially as I will be moving to an area that will tend to be more conservative, not less.
  6. Where Is Everyone?

    It was down quite a while. I just happened to check back and here it is. Unfortunately such crashes and downtime tend to scatter members who then start spending times on other forums.
  7. Too Many Choices

    I like the attitude and perspective displayed by Catholics such as Dorothy Day, Fr. Thomas Keating, Fr. Bede Griffiths, Fr. Thomas Mertion, etc, but I have a lot reservations about the culture of Roman Catholic Church and many of its official teachings and requirements. I like the originality and insight displayed by Episcopalians such as Marcus Borg and Bishop Spong, but I am wary of the divisive debate over homosexuality and I am unsure whether I would be any more acceptable to the Anglicans than to the Catholics. I like the "firsts" of the UCC and its forerunners in terms of ordaining women, minorities, etc and their message that "God is still speaking...", but I am not really looking to go back to even a more enlightened form of American Protestantism. I like the interfaith nature of the UUA, but I don't dig the widespread denial or under-valuing of their Christian heritage or the SC ("spiritually correct") movement to sterilize religion for those who have been wounded by fundamentalism. So... ...rats. What's a picky person to do?
  8. Prayer For People Who Think Too Much

    Sure, it's worth a trip to the library.
  9. New Forum Area

    Yeah, I've done this kind of thing before. It was a forum for either general poems, meditations, prayers, or specific prayer requests. Here is how that forum description appeared in the list of forums... Sanctuary (Alms) Candles sit on the rocks and the ground, they fill the smooth tables and some even float on the small stone-lined pool. They flicker in the gentle breeze. This is a place to come and place offerings of remembrance, prayers, and well-wishes. **NO DEBATING HERE** Moreover, in the instruction pinned at the top of the forum it was reiterated that if you wanted to show your solidarity or support but didn't have a specific comment you could just add a candle like so... ( i ) Hence we had posts like this... May darkness and suffering transform those who experience them and in turn be transformed into a gateway for greater clarity of purpose and capacity for love. They say that in Chinese the word for crisis is also the word for opportunity. May we embrace the strength and courage necessary to find the opportunities in our troubles. ________________________________________________________________________________ ( i ) ________________________________________________________________________________ ( i ) ________________________________________________________________________________ ( i ) ________________________________________________________________________________ I don't advocate or wish to see an exact duplication of what has been done elsewhere, but I did like the feel of that forum (and I do like the candle idea). However it looks/turns out I think it will be a "hit".
  10. Different Paths Leading To Same End

    A common idea that I have run across from highly realized practioners from various traditions is this - Yes, when we get closer to the Source, particularly in contemplative exercises descreasing our false self and increasing our direct understanding of our true nature, the descriptions of the experiences of the saints, mystics, and deeply holy women and men start sounding similar and in some cases virtually identical. However, in order to "get there", one must be firmly rooted in a particular tradition and method, which ironically then allows for a greater genuine appreciation of and sharing with other traditions the deeper you go. Some useful analogies include starting to dig a well in one spot, then stopping and starting somewhere else, so that after a long time and a lot of effort you end up with several shallow pits but are still no closer to reaching the water. Or more on point, there may be many paths to the same truth, but you can't walk them all at once. Just a thought...
  11. I saw it in the local library and had to check it out just on the the title alone. The run-down: It is short, it drags a little in places ("could use more editing"), and doesn't try to go really deep into an intellectual analysis. That doesn't make it unintelligent, and it actually does attempt to be interfaith in its presentation. Instead the book tries to focus on a few main points on issues that trip people up, such as the idea that we need to stop thinking of prayer or God etc as "problems" to be "solved" with our intellect alone. Concerning such overthinking, the author does a good job in diagnosis, and it has hints at some useful prescriptions for this dilemma. The best example involves a literary character taken from a Russian novel who is a seeker of sorts. Following some advice he has been given, the character repeats a short prayer frequently when not engaged in activities that would distract him from it, and keeps doing so as suggested. Eventually, he gets profoundly bored with it, but he keeps repeating the prayer anyway. After a long dry spell of boredom and disinterest, an unanctipated change occurs and the prayer moves from his head to his heart. He no longer needs to say the prayer with his lips or in his mind, even though he still does at times, because it has become almost a living thing. Interestingly enough, from what I have observed and read over the last few years, getting over an initial phase of interest or anticipation and then passing through a tedious period of seemingly endless and fruitless desert of monotony and a virtual loss of total interest seems to be a common theme/requirement of the basic prayerful and meditative practices of (most/all?) major religions. It's a test I haven't passed yet. I get bored, distracted, busy, or frustrated, and working along it is hard to maintain a serious commitment. I would agree with the author's assessment (shared by many others I have read or spoken with) that is made worse by our culture's focus on individualism and consumerism and the desire for relative quick gratification. With so many options, why commit to one path and one practice? (Which is another point of common interest/observation cited by other practioner-authors I have encountered and a point made in the book being discussed - even if you believe all paths lead to one truth you still need to pick a path to get somewhere, and then once you are well on your way you can fully benefit from sharing and learning with those on other paths). Another interesting observation I found was that the author equates having a single-pointed focus as something that comes from your heart rather than your head. I have read and heard quite a bit about different methods for cultivating such focus, particularly in Buddhism but also from some Christian circles, and I have yet to have come across this explicit connection. I wonder if that is why so many people have trouble with working on this focus?
  12. Denomination/congregation Poll

    I just realized I can't participate in my own poll because I don't attend any kind of service for any religious community. Nuts.
  13. Dust Of The Rabbi

    Slightly off topic, but this is why I find the stories of the disciplies of Jesus as well as of the Buddha so intriguing. I find myself saying, "Sheesh, would I have even gone as far as some of the 'worst' of the students of these figures?" Every story where a student misses the point, falls asleep, becomes cocky, or just freaks out and wants to run away gives an air of authenticity to those accounts that no other element of the stories could. I can only imagine what a book of the New Testament or a Buddhist Sutra based on my life and insights would look like. Extremely disappointing, pointless, and pathetic come to mind. I concur with the general assessment of the OP - nice post! Thanks!
  14. Absolute Relationship, Not Absolute Certainty

    The quote cited from the study guide reminded me of a Hindu/Buddhist quote (that seemed apt and which could be readily adapted to a Christian theme if one wished by using "Satan" instead of "Mara"...): One day Mara, the Evil One, was travelling through the villages of India with his attendants. He saw a man doing walking meditation whose face was lit up on wonder. The man had just discovered something on the ground in front of him. Mara's attendant asked what that was and Mara replied, "A piece of truth." "Doesn't this bother you when someone finds a piece of truth, O Evil One?" his attendant asked. "No," Mara replied. "Right after this, they usually make a belief out of it." -From 108 Treasures for the Heart: A Guide for Daily Living by Benny Liow Yup, yup, yup.
  15. Justice - Liberation And Compassion

    Justice is about equality, particularly reciprocity. This can take the form of vengeance, as in "an eye for an eye", or it can focus on compassion and empathy, in which case an eye for an eye "makes the whole world blind" as Ghandi observed. I think it meant the latter for Jesus. To use an example from a well-known social activist and peacemaker, Thich Nhat Hanh once said he didn't think Jesus would take sides, even against the powerful. This comes from a view that we all co-create the world in which we live, and because of dependent co-arising, what affects one eventually affects everyone. In this view, the best way to help the poor or disenfranchised isn't simply to make it "us versus them" against the rich and the elite. In Latin America, liberation theologians speak of God's preference, or "option", for the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized. But I do not think God wants us to take sides, even with the poor. The rich also suffer, and in many cases more than the poor! They may be rich materially, but many are poor spiritually, and they suffer a lot. I have known rich and famous people who have ended up committing suicide. I am certain that those with the highest understanding will be able to see the suffering in the poor and the rich. God embraces both rich and poor, and He wants them to understand each other, to share with each other their suffering and their happiness, and to work together for peace and social justice. We do not need to take sides. When we take sides, we misunderstand the will of God. I know it will be possible for some people to use these words to prolong social injustice, but that is an abuse of what I am saying. We have to find the real causes for social injustice, and when we do, we will not condemn a certain type of people. We will ask, Why has the situation of these people remained like that? All of us have the power of love and understanding. They are our best weapons. Any dualistic response, any response motivated by anger, will only make the situation worse. When we practice looking deeply, we have the insight into what to do and what not to do for the situation to change. Everything depends on our way of looking. The existence of suffering is the First Noble Truth taught by the Buddha, and the causes of suffering are the second. When we look deeply at the First Truth, we discover the second. After seeing the Second Truth, we see the next truth, which is the way of liberation. Everything depends on our understanding of the whole situation. Once we understand, our life style will change accordingly and our actions will never help the oppressors strengthen their stand. Looking deeply does not mean being inactive. We become very active with our understanding. Nonviolence does not mean non-action. Nonviolence means we act with love and compassion. -from Living Buddha, Living Christ, pp.79-81 If you look at cases where the poor led a revolt to overturn those who had oppressed them, it led to continuing resentment and instability, because each side that is overthrown or driven out will want to get even. A true and lasting solution, from this perspective, requires cooperation and reconciliation from all parties involved in the problem, which won't come about if the hostility of divisiveness persists. That is why, for example, the current Dalai Lama continues to pray for the Chinese and their leaders and to make proposals for the future of Tibet that take their concerns into consideration rather than only the grievances of his own people. This is similar to Gandhi's approach with the British in India, even though the circumstances with the Chinese in Tibet are not the same. That is not the same as saying that these or other similary-minded spiritual leaders and peace activitists do not identify with the poor and outcase or that they do not seek to demonstrate solidarity with them. Instead, it means that they also identify with and extend their compassion to the dictators, the juntas, etc. To go back to a Christian example, someone once asked Theresa of Calcutta (a.k.a. "Mother Theresa") how she was able to spend so much time among people in such dire circumstances. She said that she had realized a long time ago that she had a Hitler inside of herself. It was because she was able to be honest about the part of her that identified with the worst in humanity that she was able to find the humility and patience necessary to sustain her compassion as she identified with the disenfranchised. The liberty and love expressed in the Gospels aren't restricted to any one group. That's the tough part. I acknowledge that Christ's message created conflict, but it was not because he was pitting one group against another but rather because he was challenging everyone to question their assumptions about their identity and what it mean to really get in touch with the Kingdom of Heaven/perceive the Divine. It isn't that the rich and powerful are any less deserving of freedom from their false views and limitations, but rather that they are less likely to give them up because the perceive themselves as benefitting from such "worldly" structures (hence the comment about the camel and the eye of the needle - Matthew 19:23-24, Mark 10:24-25, Luke 18:24-25). The same lesson was offered in the parable of the rich man preparing a banquet as told in Luke chapter 14. As at the time and place those you dined with indicated what class/status you identified with, he naturally invited others of equal status. But they all made lame excuses why they couldn't make it... Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, 'I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.' Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come.' " "The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.' " 'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' "Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.' " In other words, the man had his servants grab anyone and everyone they could find, including the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. And let's not forget that when he has his servants go out one last time, the people they were dragging in from the lanes would have included folks like tax collectors, foreigners, prostitutes, etc. It isn't that the rich and powerful were not invited, they simply found excuses not to go. We can get an inkling that this is relevant to our discussion because right after this Jesus is quoted as talking about the difficulty of following him and of having to be willing to let go of our preconceptions and risk the beliefs and constructed self-image of ourselves that we have become used to and even attached to (to make sure he gets the point across he shocks the audience with pronouncements such as "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" in verse 26). From my understanding, Jesus isn't really asking people to hate themselves or their families, but rather to break free from their preconceived views, even those of themselves and those closest to them. Leave that old view of reality behind. Learn to see instead with the perspective of Christ, i.e., as a human fully in touch with his relationship to/as an aspect of the Divine. It was considered anathema to disagree with or risk the disfavor of your family, but Jesus is saying, Yes you have to be willing to make a choice that your family does not approve of. "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple" (verse 33). This same story of renunciation, taking it back to the Buddhist angle, is found in many places in Buddhist cannon, but nowhere more notably than the story of Siddhartha Gautama himself, who left his life of luxury as a prince, cut off his hair (very symbolic), and put on the robes of a wandering seeker. Neither the Buddha nor Christ, from what I can tell, are asking us to all become homeless street people in dirty robes, estranged from our friends and family and begging for alms, but rather to recognize what attachments are reinforcing the delusions that are keeping us from seeing our true nature (i.e. what misguided views are keeping us feeling separated from God). IMHO, the Church's responsbility should be to work with Buddhists, Hindu, Jainists, Sihks, Muslims, Jews, Earth-Centered traditions, Humanists, and anyone else who shares a kindred vision to the one expressed here in which a global community of true justice, rather than retribution, can also function as a community of healing.
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