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The Abrahamic Religions

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As per a request on another thread, I wanted to hear from you all regarding a thought:

 

It seems that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have some similar traits. I'm thinking in particular of the notion of sinfulness/forgiveness. The message in these religions seems to be similar: man has an innate need for mercy and forgiveness, and this forgiveness can be obtained only through a type of relationship with God.

This is a very "interactive" and "relational" type of belief.

 

Many other religions are not based on a "relationship" with God, and they do not recognize any innate sense of guilt/shame within man's soul.

 

Any thoughts?

 

Blessings,

Brian

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(snip)

Many other religions are not based on a "relationship" with God, and they do not recognize any innate sense of guilt/shame within man's soul.

 

Any thoughts?

 

Blessings,

Brian

 

Brian,

 

Just a quick comment on this statement. It seems to me that although many other religions may not use the word God,most all are based on a relationship with "compassion", 'light', 'reality' , 'truth', and 'life'. These words are not far from the Abrahamic words describing God as truth, life, the light, the way and Love. The word "God" has been so misused and mis-defined over the centuries that using it doesn't really 'speak' or say much. There are also other words for God such as 'the Tao' as one example.

 

As far as recognizing any innate sense of guilt/shame i think the words are different and often looked at from a different perspective but the similarities and understandings exist in many other religions when they are personally studied and lived. For example, guilt and shame in Buddhism is a form of suffering that is recognized as negative thoughts of the egoic self. It is indeed innate to the self.

 

Joseph

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Brian,

 

Just a quick comment on this statement. It seems to me that although many other religions may not use the word God,most all are based on a relationship with "compassion", 'light', 'reality' , 'truth', and 'life'. These words are not far from the Abrahamic words describing God as truth, life, the light, the way and Love. The word "God" has been so misused and mis-defined over the centuries that using it doesn't really 'speak' or say much. There are also other words for God such as 'the Tao' as one example.

 

As far as recognizing any innate sense of guilt/shame i think the words are different and often looked at from a different perspective but the similarities and understandings exist in many other religions when they are personally studied and lived. For example, guilt and shame in Buddhism is a form of suffering that is recognized as negative thoughts of the egoic self. It is indeed innate to the self.

 

Joseph

 

Hi Joseph,

thank you for the post; I whole-heartedly agree with the notion that the word "God" has been misused. I dare say that Christianity has to a greater or lesser degree helped to keep mankind in darkness regarding spiritual things.. After all, it actually became a "state religion!"

 

As per the guilt issue, thank you again for the input regarding Buddhism. I'd love to hear other perspectives too.. I'll see if I find some info and share it here.

 

Blessings,

brian

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"The Spiritual Warrior

 

One insight into the difference between the Jacob and Israel personalities is offered by Balaam, the pagan prophet who was summoned to curse the Jewish people and ended up mouthing one of the most beautiful odes to Jewish life and destiny contained in the Torah.

 

In the second of Balaam's curses-turned-blessings, there is a verse in which he proclaims: "[G‑d] sees no guilt in Jacob, nor toil in Israel."1

 

This implies that Jacob does experience toil, though his struggles and difficulties do not result in his guilt in the eyes of G‑d. Israel, on the other hand, enjoys a tranquil existence, devoid not only of guilt but also of toil.

 

The Torah gives us two interpretations of the name Jacob. Jacob was born grasping the heel of his elder twin, Esau; thus he was named "Jacob" (Yaakov, in the Hebrew), which means "at the heel." Years later, when Jacob disguised himself as Esau to receive the blessings that Isaac intended to give the elder brother, Esau proclaimed: "No wonder he is called Jacob ("cunning")! Twice he has deceived me: he has taken my birthright, and now he has taken my blessings."

 

Jacob is the Jew still in the thick of the battle of life. A battle in which he is often "at the heel"--dealing with the lowliest aspects of his own personality and of his environment. A battle which he must wage with furtiveness and stealth, for he is in enemy territory and must disguise his true intentions in order to outmaneuver those who attempt to ensnare him. Threatened by a hostile world, plagued by his own shortcomings and negative inclinations, the Jacob Jew has yet to transcend the axiomatic condition of his humanity--the fact that "man is born to toil" and that human life is an obstacle course of challenges to one's integrity.

 

G‑d sees no guilt in Jacob, for despite all that Jacob must face, he has been granted the capacity to meet his every detractor. Even if he momentarily succumbs to some internal or external challenge, he never loses his intrinsic goodness and purity, which ultimately asserts itself, no matter how much it has been repressed by the travails of life. But while he might be free of sin, he is never free of toil, of the struggle to maintain his sinless state. For Jacob, the war of life rages ever on, regardless of how many of its battles he has won."

 

http://www.chabad.org/parshah/article_cdo/aid/246640/jewish/Double-Identity.htm

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Guest billmc

For example, guilt and shame in Buddhism is a form of suffering that is recognized as negative thoughts of the egoic self. It is indeed innate to the self.

 

How does Buddhism say these negative thoughts should be dealt with, Joseph? Are they to be ignored, or suppressed, or expunged, or accepted, or drawn on as a source of strength and wisdom?

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Hope I’m not interrupting - just a few responses.

 

Minsocal, interesting distinction between Jacob and Israel – though isn’t the real tension between the half brothers Isaac and Ishmael when considering the three Abrahamic faiths -?

 

The constant tendency to self criticism, negative thoughts and inner conflicts have been lifelong burdens for me too.

 

I can’t speak for religions other than PC, but to me a prime example of the way Jesus wanted people to deal with shame/guilt, is the parable of the prodigal son – though wretched with self loathing for the way he’d lived, he was embraced and celebrated when he finally came back to the father. The whole issue of guilt melts away. Same thing with the Samaritan woman at the well – Jesus filled her with joy and exuberance instead of judging her. And so many others he encountered and healed.

 

Not sure if this is any help, but we don’t have to see the bible as being centered around sin and “substitutionary atonement.” The old and new testaments can be read as three basic stories – the narrative of bondage and liberation, of exile and return, and of the priestly-sacrifice system giving way to direct, intimate connection to God as “Abba.” There never was a need for God to be appeased, only for us to be reconciled to God.

Edited by rivanna

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How does Buddhism say these negative thoughts should be dealt with, Joseph? Are they to be ignored, or suppressed, or expunged, or accepted, or drawn on as a source of strength and wisdom?

 

 

Bill,

 

I am of course no expert on Buddhism but i have some limited experience. Just to be short since the focus in this thread is on Abrahamic religions, in general, one Buddhist technique is to consciously or mindfully note the negative thought and feeling each time it comes. Once you mindfully note that thought, after awhile it automatically subsides and fades away. If and when it returns again one mindfully notes it. And the cycle repeats again and again. Such is the nature of thoughts and human feelings. By constantly practicing this mindfulness of "noting" these thoughts will eventually lose any power it may hold over one. While there is no "quick fix" for negative thoughts, there is a very gradual overcoming of its effects by this mindfulness of watching thoughts.

 

In Christianity, Paul is recorded writing " For the weapons of our warfare [are] not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

 

In short it is neither "ignored, or suppressed, or expunged or accepted or drawn on as a source of strength and wisdom". In my experience, it is rather mindfully observed and noted knowing that these negative thoughts have no power over who you are at a deeper level. This knowing or realization comes to some out of this continued practice until even the practice is no longer required.

 

Joseph

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Guest billmc

In my experience, it is rather mindfully observed and noted knowing that these negative thoughts have no power over who you are at a deeper level.

 

That's interesting, Joseph. Like you said, Christianity does share some of that mindset. IMO, Augustine did great damage to Christianity when he proposed that humans are, at their deepest level, sinners. Much of contemporary Christian echoes this with sayings like, "I'm just a sinner saved by grace." On one hand, salvation is claimed. But on the other hand, the person claims that at their deepest level, they are still a sinner, an enemy of God, someone who is destined to live in guilt and shame. It sometimes seems like we live in Romans 7 and never move on into Romans 8. :D

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Joseph,

 

Buddhism does not classify mental states in the same manner as in typical (traditional) Western psychology. In particular, Buddhism does not assume a positive-negative dichotomy for emotion(s). In addition, Buddhism does not make a sharp distinction between emotion and other mental states. More importntly, any mental state may be afflictive or non-afflictive, depending on the context (Dalai Lama, 2005). Guilt and shame might be destructive under certain conditions, benefical under others.

 

minsocal

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Bill,

 

That was also what i was also taught by the church system i attended. We were sinners and imperfect and in need of saving. There was that carnal nature (the imperfect flesh) and the Christ nature and a war between the two. Other religions might postulate it as a lower self (ego based and even as an illusion) and a higher Self.

 

There are also many perspective ways at looking at the same thing. Personally, at the deepest level, i see nothing imperfect in God's creation. No enemies and nothing in real need of saving per se. I see only a creation evolving as it was designed. No mistakes . That may not be a view shared by many or even popular but nevertheless it is to me, undebatable, as i see it at this moment.

 

Joseph

 

PS Here is an interesting quote i like by the Dalai Lama "Don´t try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better whatever-you-already-are."

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Joseph,

 

Buddhism does not classify mental states in the same manner as in typical (traditional) Western psychology. In particular, Buddhism does not assume a positive-negative dichotomy for emotion(s). In addition, Buddhism does not make a sharp distinction between emotion and other mental states. More importntly, any mental state may be afflictive or non-afflictive, depending on the context (Dalai Lama, 2005). Guilt and shame might be destructive under certain conditions, benefical under others.

 

minsocal

 

Minsocal,

 

I am a bit lacking in understanding in what you have written if it is to say that " Buddhism does not assume a positive-negative dichotomy for emotion(s)". I certainly do not speak for Buddhism yet i will include a quote from the Dalai Lama for your consideration and leave it for you to decide as i certainly do not wish to debate the issue as relevant to this thread and perhaps i have misunderstood the meaning of your post.

 

"The fundamental philosophical principle of Buddhism is that all our suffering comes about as a result of an undisciplined mind, and this untamed mind itself comes about because of ignorance and negative emotions. For the Buddhist practitioner then, regardless of whether he or she follows the approach of the Fundamental Vehicle, Mahayana or Vajrayana, negative emotions are always the true enemy, a factor that has to be overcome and eliminated. And it is only by applying methods for training the mind that these negative emotions can be dispelled and eliminated. This is why in Buddhist writings and teachings we find such an extensive explanation of the mind and its different processes and functions. Since these negative emotions are states of mind, the method or technique for overcoming them must be developed from within. There is no alternative. They cannot be removed by some external technique, like a surgical operation." Dalai Lama quotes from here.

 

Joseph

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Guest billmc

That was also what i was also taught by the church system i attended. We were sinners and imperfect and in need of saving. There was that carnal nature (the imperfect flesh) and the Christ nature and a war between the two.

 

Though this is indeed the language that the apostle Paul used, I tend to think of us as, perhaps, immature and selfish, growing more towards maturity and compassion. Being immature does not make us evil, just young. And though being selfish could be considered to be evil, I tend to think it is a survival mechanism that we use until we perceive and strive towards unity, which we should.

 

There are also many perspective ways at looking at the same thing. Personally, at the deepest level, i see nothing imperfect in God's creation. No enemies and nothing in real need of saving per se. I see only a creation evolving as it was designed. No mistakes . That may not be a view shared by many or even popular but nevertheless it is to me, undebatable, as i see it at this moment.

 

I believe I understand what you are saying. Yes, I find the language of "perfect" and "imperfect" to be too judgmental and divisive. Again, for me it goes back to things being in need of maturity, which you may or may not agree with. But the creation, as it is, is filled with life and death - of stars, of civilizations, of people, of plants, of animals, even of god-concepts and religions. Things die in order to make way for new things. I don't at all see this as some kind of punishment from God for what Adam and Eve did or for our own shortcomings. It is just the way things are and no fighting against it will change it. We can certainly, as you say, "evolve" to make our lives better and longer (and hopefully that of others also). But we are all ultimately bound to the life-death cycle of creation that marches on.

 

For me, this is not just a philosophical issue or a theological construct. My life is, at best, two-thirds over. You know my testimony. I see no reason to spend the rest of my life being reminded of what a sinful, worthless creature I am in God's eyes when the truth of it is, not to toot my own horn, but there is only one of me in the universe (is that an "amen" I just heard?) and my time here is so infinitely small on a cosmic scale. So I might as well enjoy it while I can (in a good way), cherish it as a gift from God that it is, and encourage others to do the same.

 

Thanks for the feedback.

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Minsocal,

 

I am a bit lacking in understanding in what you have written if it is to say that " Buddhism does not assume a positive-negative dichotomy for emotion(s)". I certainly do not speak for Buddhism yet i will include a quote from the Dalai Lama for your consideration and leave it for you to decide as i certainly do not wish to debate the issue as relevant to this thread and perhaps i have misunderstood the meaning of your post.

 

"The fundamental philosophical principle of Buddhism is that all our suffering comes about as a result of an undisciplined mind, and this untamed mind itself comes about because of ignorance and negative emotions. For the Buddhist practitioner then, regardless of whether he or she follows the approach of the Fundamental Vehicle, Mahayana or Vajrayana, negative emotions are always the true enemy, a factor that has to be overcome and eliminated. And it is only by applying methods for training the mind that these negative emotions can be dispelled and eliminated. This is why in Buddhist writings and teachings we find such an extensive explanation of the mind and its different processes and functions. Since these negative emotions are states of mind, the method or technique for overcoming them must be developed from within. There is no alternative. They cannot be removed by some external technique, like a surgical operation." Dalai Lama quotes from here.

 

Joseph

 

I was quoting from "The Universe In a Single Atom", pages 165-182 "The Spectrum of Consciousness" written by the Dalai Lama (2005). This section of the book distinguishes the differences between Buddhism and Western cognitive science. The point being that conditioned negative responses are generally learned unconsciously. Thus there is a necessary distinction between innate (unconscious) needs and conscious desires.

Edited by minsocal

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As per a request on another thread, I wanted to hear from you all regarding a thought:

 

It seems that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have some similar traits. I'm thinking in particular of the notion of sinfulness/forgiveness. The message in these religions seems to be similar: man has an innate need for mercy and forgiveness, and this forgiveness can be obtained only through a type of relationship with God.

This is a very "interactive" and "relational" type of belief.

 

Many other religions are not based on a "relationship" with God, and they do not recognize any innate sense of guilt/shame within man's soul.

 

Any thoughts?

 

Blessings,

Brian

 

Not really sure just what is "innate", but I do think our "needs" can be manufactured in certain ways. One of the famous lines from "Amazing Grace" seems to suggest this....."Twas Grace that taught my heart to fear and Grace my fears relieved". It just seems to me that so much "evangelism" revolves around creating the fear, thus creating the question/situation that only the evangelists "answers" can then address. And it also seems to me that often the whole spectrum - of both manufactured question and answer - can become much like the grin of the Cheshire Cat...........suspended in mid-air with no visible means of support!

 

Whatever is innate, we are all individuals and each unique, we each have our own particular path that needs to be walked.

 

I think Joseph has mentioned various points that also seem relevant to me, particularly as they relate to the "I-Thou" relationship versus "higher self" (or "empty self"!!)/"false self". I would need to do a lot more pondering to really give any worthwhile opinion - if then! - but my experience is that emotions involving "Guilt", "Mercy" , "Forgiveness" have their role in both types. Yet for me it is in the trust - and surrender to - a Grace that embraces all dualities, as existentially experienced - that peace can be found.

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Brian,

 

Maybe you could explain more what youd like to focus on comparing the three Abrahamic religions to Eastern paths that arent based on a personal/communal relationship to a monotheistic God?

 

Or are you trying to get past the emphasis on substitutionary atonement in fundamentalist Christianity? That is what I was responding to, re-interpreting the bible in progressive (or restored) terms.

 

Marcus Borg points out that Jesus message was meant to undo the whole sacrifice-for-sin mentality. It does bear similarity to an Eastern perspective, if you alter the language to something like giving up the impossible quest for perfection.

 

The biblical meaning of repentance is quite different from an apology. In the Jewish Old Testament, repentance means to return to return from exile to life in the presence of God, to life centered in God. In the Christian New Testament, repentance carries this meaning, and one more. The roots of the Greek word for repentance mean to go beyond the mind that you have. So apology and repentance, are quite different. Apology and forgiveness do not in themselves imply change. Repentance does.

Edited by rivanna

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Maybe you could explain more what you’d like to focus on – comparing the three Abrahamic religions to Eastern paths that aren’t based on a personal/communal relationship to a monotheistic God?

 

 

rivanna,

 

Thanks for clarifying for my own waste dump of a mind, you've shown why I had such a hard job putting anything into words before. For though I did begin my Buddhist "pilgrimage" via Theravada, then the wider Mahayana path - which are not "I-Thou" relational in any way comparable to the Christians relationship with Christ - I am now within the Pure Land tradition which begins with the "I-Thou" relationship between the devotee and Amida, yet - in theory!!! - evolves within lay life (as lived and experienced each day) into a non-dual experience of reality.......where there is neither self-power nor other-power, there is only Other Power.

 

Thus the life lived with a sense of gratitude......where I find myself now........becomes the cry of the Pure Land "saint" Saichi...."Gratitude is all a lie, for there is nothing the matter, and beyond this there is no peace of mind....."

 

Perhaps the best of both worlds? :D

 

Though sometimes it does seem the worst of each............... :o

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Can we have a "right" relationship with G_d and a "wrong" relationship with each other? Perhaps a concrete example:

 

After Teen Suicides, Christian Gay Opponents Look Inward

 

 

(RNS) When Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi killed himself after his roommate allegedly broadcast his sexual encounter with another man, the Rev. R. Albert Mohler wondered if anything could have prevented the 18-year-old's suicide.

 

"Tyler could just have well been one of our own children," said Mohler, a father of two and president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, who criticized the Christian treatment of gays on his blog.

 

"Christians have got to stop talking about people struggling with sexual issues as a tribe apart."

 

In the wake of a spate of gay youths who were bullied -- and some who took their own lives -- Mohler and some other vocal opponents of homosexuality are taking new steps of introspection.

 

Note the phrase "new steps of introspection".

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Brian,

 

Maybe you could explain more what you’d like to focus on – comparing the three Abrahamic religions to Eastern paths that aren’t based on a personal/communal relationship to a monotheistic God?

 

Or are you trying to get past the emphasis on substitutionary atonement in fundamentalist Christianity? That is what I was responding to, re-interpreting the bible in progressive (or restored) terms.

 

Marcus Borg points out that Jesus’ message was meant to undo the whole sacrifice-for-sin mentality. It does bear similarity to an Eastern perspective, if you alter the language to something like giving up the impossible quest for perfection.

 

“The biblical meaning of repentance is quite different from an apology. In the Jewish Old Testament, repentance means to return –to return from exile to life in the presence of God, to life centered in God. In the Christian New Testament, repentance carries this meaning, and one more. The roots of the Greek word for repentance mean to go beyond the mind that you have. So apology and repentance, are quite different. Apology and forgiveness do not in themselves imply change. Repentance does.”

 

Hi rivanna,

Well, for simplicity's sake, let's keep it to what you mentioned first: a form of relationship (which includes elements of relationship just like a relationship between people: love, anger, trust, understanding, respect..) as opposed to "attainment" of some type of spiritual growth/understanding.

 

I agree with you, that repentance is about a change of mind/direction, and has little to do with asking forgiveness. In fact, you won't find the word "apologize" in the NT, nor were the disciples telling people that they had to ask forgiveness for their sins. (Perhaps because they believed that their sins had ALREADY been forgiven??) For them, it seems that their message was, "change your way of thinking." So already we see that what Christendom is peddling for Christianity today is not in line with what the early church believed. (Another example? NO mention of "hell!!")

So there are indeed things that the "church" teaches as "biblical" when in fact they are pre-fabricated myths.

 

Blessings!

brian

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Can we have a "right" relationship with G_d and a "wrong" relationship with each other?

 

Imo, no. And I think that many times, it's our doctrines that are to blame.

 

Blessings!

Brian

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Well, for simplicity's sake, let's keep it to what you mentioned first: a form of relationship (which includes elements of relationship just like a relationship between people: love, anger, trust, understanding, respect..) as opposed to "attainment" of some type of spiritual growth/understanding.

 

Maybe things are as simple as we make them! Anyway, as I see it there is no opposition between the two, it just seems that one will grow into the other. And for me, this is nothing to do with any sort of "western"/"eastern" split.

 

Right from the beginnings of Christianity there has been the spiritual direction of "Not I, but Christ lives in me", implying a dying to "self"; then the idea of kenosis (Philippians 2 v7), and those who sought to follow in Christ's footsteps have given us the mystical tradition of Christianity, exemplified by those like Eckhart and St John of the Cross. Both of these christians spoke in virtually non-dual terms, to the point where St John of the Cross has been seen as a "Dharma Brother" by some Zen Buddhists, while Eckhart has been the subject of a whole book by the "zen man" D T Suzuki, where he compares Buddhist and Christian thought.

 

Thomas Merton has explored the subject, most notably in his book "Zen and the Birds of Appetite", which is a series of essays that switch from Christian to Buddhist expressions.

 

The "Holy Object" must be destroyed in so far as it is an idol embodying the secret desires, aspirations and will to power of the ego self........(yet) there is a definite place for disciplines based on an I-Thou relationship between the believer and God. It is precisely in familiarity with.......moral discipline that the beginner finds his identity.....and learns that the spiritual life has a goal that is definitely possible of attainment. But the progressive must learn to relax his grasp on his conception of what that goal is and "who it is" that will attain it. To cling too tenaciously to the "self" and its own fulfillment would guarantee that there would be no fulfillment at all.

 

(Merton, from the essay "Transcendent Experience", from the book mentioned.)

 

Anyway, perhaps enough.

 

:)

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Maybe things are as simple as we make them! Anyway, as I see it there is no opposition between the two, it just seems that one will grow into the other. And for me, this is nothing to do with any sort of "western"/"eastern" split.

 

Right from the beginnings of Christianity there has been the spiritual direction of "Not I, but Christ lives in me", implying a dying to "self"; then the idea of kenosis (Philippians 2 v7), and those who sought to follow in Christ's footsteps have given us the mystical tradition of Christianity, exemplified by those like Eckhart and St John of the Cross. Both of these christians spoke in virtually non-dual terms, to the point where St John of the Cross has been seen as a "Dharma Brother" by some Zen Buddhists, while Eckhart has been the subject of a whole book by the "zen man" D T Suzuki, where he compares Buddhist and Christian thought.

 

Thomas Merton has explored the subject, most notably in his book "Zen and the Birds of Appetite", which is a series of essays that switch from Christian to Buddhist expressions.

 

The "Holy Object" must be destroyed in so far as it is an idol embodying the secret desires, aspirations and will to power of the ego self........(yet) there is a definite place for disciplines based on an I-Thou relationship between the believer and God. It is precisely in familiarity with.......moral discipline that the beginner finds his identity.....and learns that the spiritual life has a goal that is definitely possible of attainment. But the progressive must learn to relax his grasp on his conception of what that goal is and "who it is" that will attain it. To cling too tenaciously to the "self" and its own fulfillment would guarantee that there would be no fulfillment at all.

 

(Merton, from the essay "Transcendent Experience", from the book mentioned.)

 

Anyway, perhaps enough.

 

:)

 

Hi tariki!

I'd love to pursue this discussion further; can you explain yourself a little more?

 

Blessings,

Brian

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Hi tariki!

I'd love to pursue this discussion further; can you explain yourself a little more?

 

Blessings,

Brian

 

Oh, I wish I could! For me, it revolves around the "false" self, "real" self dichotomy. Possibly the Christian idea of the "old man" and the new man/creation is a parallel? New wine needing new wineskins?

 

Merton's works are full of this idea of the "false self" that seeks to wrap itself in glory, falsely taking our mask/persona that we show to the outside world as some sort of reality worth preservation. In some Buddhist circles this is referred to as "spiritual materialism", implying that for many the spiritual life is merely replacing secular and materialistic ideals/aims for "spiritual" ones.

 

As far as explaining myself more, or at least saying how we are to see through such a false self, and "realise" that which is real, I really have no answer. To put it simply and briefly, my own "way" is basically a negative way, just seeing the false, the conceits, the presumptions, the whole game the ego plays, yet to see this in the light of a compassion that is infinite, and untiring.

 

And this also - obviously - involves the question.....What is/who is a Person? The "Word" is a Person, not a book. Yet the Person (as Christ) cannot be reduced merely to the concrete human being who walked the earth 2000 years ago. What is the relationship between the "Christ" and "Jesus", between "false" self and "real self". Again, what IS a "person"?

 

So, plenty of questions, which I am happy to pose as I'm off to hospital for a little eye op tomorrow, and methinks I'll be unable to post for a few days.

 

(Really, if you are interested, I would heartily recommend Merton's book "Zen and the Birds of Appetite")

 

All the best

Derek

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Oh, I wish I could! For me, it revolves around the "false" self, "real" self dichotomy. Possibly the Christian idea of the "old man" and the new man/creation is a parallel? New wine needing new wineskins?

 

Merton's works are full of this idea of the "false self" that seeks to wrap itself in glory, falsely taking our mask/persona that we show to the outside world as some sort of reality worth preservation. In some Buddhist circles this is referred to as "spiritual materialism", implying that for many the spiritual life is merely replacing secular and materialistic ideals/aims for "spiritual" ones.

 

As far as explaining myself more, or at least saying how we are to see through such a false self, and "realise" that which is real, I really have no answer. To put it simply and briefly, my own "way" is basically a negative way, just seeing the false, the conceits, the presumptions, the whole game the ego plays, yet to see this in the light of a compassion that is infinite, and untiring.

 

And this also - obviously - involves the question.....What is/who is a Person? The "Word" is a Person, not a book. Yet the Person (as Christ) cannot be reduced merely to the concrete human being who walked the earth 2000 years ago. What is the relationship between the "Christ" and "Jesus", between "false" self and "real self". Again, what IS a "person"?

 

So, plenty of questions, which I am happy to pose as I'm off to hospital for a little eye op tomorrow, and methinks I'll be unable to post for a few days.

 

(Really, if you are interested, I would heartily recommend Merton's book "Zen and the Birds of Appetite")

 

All the best

Derek

 

I like the notion of "false self" and "real self." I would call them "devil" and "Christ." But I think we're perhaps talking about the same thing..

 

I hope all goes well with your eyes!

Rest up, then let us know if all is ok!

 

Blessings!

Brian

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Brian,

 

Returning to the issue as you defined it before -- a form of relationship (which includes love, anger, trust, understanding, respect) as opposed to attainment of some type of spiritual growth/understanding --

 

To me Buddhism seems more abstract, less personal than Christianity, but there are also other Eastern spiritual paths.

 

Ive been reading a wonderful novel very popular now in the US - Abraham Verghese's Cutting for Stone, set mostly in Ethiopia, about a family originally from India. Much of it revolves around Catholic hospitals and nuns, also there are Coptic Christians who practice a blend of folk religion and belief in Jesus. One of the main characters, Hema who is a Hindu, calls upon Shiva and many other gods at various times. As one reviewer said, the portrayal of God here is complex and mysterious. At times, God's absence seems incontrovertible; then He answers a prayer, in a specific, undeniable manner. Cutting for Stone makes an argument for God's inscrutability and providence, even as it makes no pronouncement about the truth of any particular religious system.

Edited by rivanna

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