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The Preeminence Of Grace

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I would just like to open a thread on the reality of Grace.

 

Normally its reality would be associated purely with a Theistic context, as an attitude of mercy given by a Supreme Being to Humankind. "Saved by Grace".

 

Yet Grace figures deeply in Pure Land Buddhism and Buddhism is considered by many - rightly - to be non-theistic.

 

There is a wide spectrum of understanding within Pure Land Buddhism. From those who understand Amida as Him/Her up there (or out West) who bestows "salvation" upon all who call upon Him/Her, and the Pure Land as a place we go to after death; to those who see Amida as a personification/representation of Reality-as-is and the Pure land as THIS world, NOW, when seen and lived in by an enlightened being. And all points in between.

 

Mentioning the in between, I can bring in some ideas of Thomas Merton who speaks of the movement between an "I-Thou" relationship with the Divine to an experience of oneness,where the sense of "self" is lost, a movement from acting in conjuction with grace, to acting spontaneously from grace. Which in the "Eastern" way of speaking, is the way of wu wei, effortless working purely as the good.

 

Again in the eastern way, this time from Ch'an (Zen) the story of the choosing of the Sixth Patriach is relevant. A contest was held of all the wannabees. One wrote a verse that said in effect that the mind was a mirror, and one must continually wipe it clean. A second wrote a verse that spoke of there being in fact no mirror, so what was there to wipe? The second guy claimed the prize!

 

For he recognised that "enlightenment" was in fact not a product of any progress, of seeking to clean the mind, but of a realisation that Reality is a given, always ever present. That acts of "merit", any works (to use a Christian phrase) are more like switching the deck chairs around on the Titanic - yes, such can make the day more comfortable and scenic, yet ultimately of no purpose.

 

So it can be seen that even in a non-theistic context, what can be known as Grace is present. Present in as much as the enlightened state is to be realised/acknowledged/seen...........not achieved/attained/earned.

 

Such can explain such lovable verses in the Bible as "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" and that they "stink in God's nostrils". Yes, indeed they do, if Enlightenment is the bottom line!

 

Obviously it can be asked just how we go about "realising" this, and it is a good question. One can only say "walk on", recognising the paradox that we can only at first seek to achieve/attain/earn yet seeking at all times to open our hearts to the working of Reality-as-is, which is Infinite Compassion, seeking the good of all eternally.

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The OP was in fact a cut and paste from a thread I have opened on another forum. One response I got was "what on earth are you talking about?" !!!..... :D

 

So I sought to explain......

 

All I was seeking to speak of is how the overall concept of Grace can be applied across the board of certain religions - maybe all religions - as the essence of them. Again, as a by-product, perhaps to speak of the apparent contradiction between "faith" and "works" which some say is found in the NT, between the recorded views of James (Faith without works is dead) and St Paul (saved by Faith alone)

 

Again, for anyone interested in Buddhism then it must be accepted that Enlightenment is the bottom line. The whole idea is not to believe in the Buddha, but to share the Buddha's insight, have the self same experience of reality that leads - as the Buddha claimed - to the "end of suffering".

 

As I sought to explain, Grace normally is undertood in a Theistic sense, in Faiths where estrangement from God must be healed by Divine Mercy. The "bottom line" is salvation. The Divine bestows forgiveness/mercy - i.e. Grace - upon the devotee who "repents". With variations in Theologies and the faiths of the Book (i.e Judaism, Islam, Christianity)

 

I was seeking to say that if Reality itself - the reality in which we "live and move and have our being" - is in fact benign, is in fact meaningful, rather than meaningless and ultimately senseless, then even in a non-theistic view the idea of Grace remains relevant. relevant in as much as Reality is to be realised as a given, that we do not attain it by seeking to perfect ourselves, nor by treating our "self" as an object that must needs be polished and perfected and made suitable.

 

Personally I have found such an outlook life giving, and found also that the "works" that flow from it are experienced in such a way that they do not separate me in any judgmental way from those who seem not to perform any. For me personally, it allows me to know people of all Faiths as fellow travelers, and people of none. This is why I find the "one way" people my only "enemies" as such. As i see it, the "one way" is the selfessness that gives credit where it is due, to Reality itself!

 

The ground of all things is an infinite reality that is for our very best. Yes, you can call it faith.

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There are some words of Marco Pallis on the presence of grace in Buddhism. Pallis says that the function of grace is to condition our homecoming to the very center from start to finish. It is the very attraction of the center itself.......which provides the incentive to start on the Way and the energy to face and overcome its many and various obstacles. Likewise grace is the welcoming hand into the center when we find ourselves at long last on the brink of the great divide where all familiar landmarks have disappeared.

 

Pallis speaks of the Buddhist Icon of "touching the earth". The Buddha is seated on a lotus on the waters, where the waters symbolise existence with all its teeming possibilities. The Buddha shows the true nature of existence. His right hand points downward to touch the earth, his other supports a begging bowl which symbolises the acceptance of the gift - grace.

 

In the two gestures of the Buddha the whole programme of our spiritual exigencies is summed up......an active attitude towards the world and a passive attitude towards heaven. The ignorant person does the exact opposite - passively accepting the world and resisting grace, gift and heaven. (Pallis, from "Is there room for grace in Buddhism?" )

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It seems to me that Grace is the strength or power that appears at times when we realize our own inability or weakness to alter reality.

 

Joseph

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Walking is an action. Asking questions after the action is making meaning, an activity far distant from walking.

Edited by glintofpewter

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I would just like to open a thread on the reality of Grace.

 

Normally its reality would be associated purely with a Theistic context, as an attitude of mercy given by a Supreme Being to Humankind. "Saved by Grace".

 

Yet Grace figures deeply in Pure Land Buddhism and Buddhism is considered by many - rightly - to be non-theistic.

 

There is a wide spectrum of understanding within Pure Land Buddhism. From those who understand Amida as Him/Her up there (or out West) who bestows "salvation" upon all who call upon Him/Her, and the Pure Land as a place we go to after death; to those who see Amida as a personification/representation of Reality-as-is and the Pure land as THIS world, NOW, when seen and lived in by an enlightened being. And all points in between.

 

Mentioning the in between, I can bring in some ideas of Thomas Merton who speaks of the movement between an "I-Thou" relationship with the Divine to an experience of oneness,where the sense of "self" is lost, a movement from acting in conjuction with grace, to acting spontaneously from grace. Which in the "Eastern" way of speaking, is the way of wu wei, effortless working purely as the good.

 

Again in the eastern way, this time from Ch'an (Zen) the story of the choosing of the Sixth Patriach is relevant. A contest was held of all the wannabees. One wrote a verse that said in effect that the mind was a mirror, and one must continually wipe it clean. A second wrote a verse that spoke of there being in fact no mirror, so what was there to wipe? The second guy claimed the prize!

 

For he recognised that "enlightenment" was in fact not a product of any progress, of seeking to clean the mind, but of a realisation that Reality is a given, always ever present. That acts of "merit", any works (to use a Christian phrase) are more like switching the deck chairs around on the Titanic - yes, such can make the day more comfortable and scenic, yet ultimately of no purpose.

 

So it can be seen that even in a non-theistic context, what can be known as Grace is present. Present in as much as the enlightened state is to be realised/acknowledged/seen...........not achieved/attained/earned.

 

Such can explain such lovable verses in the Bible as "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" and that they "stink in God's nostrils". Yes, indeed they do, if Enlightenment is the bottom line!

 

Obviously it can be asked just how we go about "realising" this, and it is a good question. One can only say "walk on", recognising the paradox that we can only at first seek to achieve/attain/earn yet seeking at all times to open our hearts to the working of Reality-as-is, which is Infinite Compassion, seeking the good of all eternally.

 

In a more modern theology, grace is understood as the self-giving of Reality-as-Is to humanity. Such grace/giving is always incarnational and is revelation (understood as the self-revealing or the self-giving of Reality). This too is a non-theistic understanding of grace. And, as in Merton, the soul is found and lost (but found) in the movement, from acting in conjuction with grace, being in grace, to acting spontaneously from grace. Yes, I agree!

 

"Reality is a given, always ever present" and one cannot earn grace (no one merits it), it can only be realized, accepted and (as with any gift) used. In this case, grace in made flesh in man if man truly accepts the ever present Reality that 'summons' him. Again, one can't merit grace, grace is not a reward (just like love should never be a reward but a gift); grace, like love is gift. Like all gifts, it must be used. For example, if one gifts or graces you with a lollipop, the only way to use it is to suck it :+} So too, if Reality gift/graces humanity with itSelf, man, if accepting, must use it: become Reality.

 

"Grace is present......as the enlightened state is to be realised/acknowledged/seen...........not achieved/attained/earned." Yes, with caveats: it is never just a state but a (the only) way to be and although not earned, acknowledged and actualized in/by man.

 

I think we 'realize' by doing. Just like when you realize the curly haired girl (or straight hair, or long, or short) loves you, the realization 'pushes' you to do and, actually to be. And, it is in the non-ending doing that the realization is enhanced and the self is lost and found.

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Thormas, one little sentence written by Unno,in his book on Shin Buddhism, had had much influence on me.....

 

"It is a necessary step on the path to recognise that what we first understood to be self power was in fact the working of Other Power."

 

The interplay of jiriki ( self power ) and tariki ( other power ) is intrinsic to Shin ( Pure Land ) Buddhism.

 

Once again, the words of a myokonin ( a Pure Land "saint" ), the cobbler Saichi...

 

"O! Saichi, will you tell us of Other Power?

Yes, but there is neither self power nor other power.

What is, is the Graceful Acceptance only!"

 

Buddhism is both non-theistic AND non-dual.

 

( Not that "all is One" but that all is not two )

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Just to add, my own experience is, in observing both self and others, is that any residue of thinking "I have contributed by accepting" is pernicious. I would put it that strongly.

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In the Christian tradition the ever-presence of grace is most closely associated with John Wesley, who delighted in identifying different manifestations of grace.

 

Air can be clear, cloud, wind, fog, polluted, &c. Grace can be observed in many different forms as well. A smile, a kiss, a good laugh. Not different, but not exactly the same either.

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Thormas, one little sentence written by Unno,in his book on Shin Buddhism, had had much influence on me.....

 

"It is a necessary step on the path to recognise that what we first understood to be self power was in fact the working of Other Power."

 

The interplay of jiriki ( self power ) and tariki ( other power ) is intrinsic to Shin ( Pure Land ) Buddhism.

 

Once again, the words of a myokonin ( a Pure Land "saint" ), the cobbler Saichi...

 

"O! Saichi, will you tell us of Other Power?

Yes, but there is neither self power nor other power.

What is, is the Graceful Acceptance only!"

 

Buddhism is both non-theistic AND non-dual.

 

( Not that "all is One" but that all is not two )

 

Although I recognize this, for me there is only Power which is a grace that em-powers humanity. Yet I am still, with Jesus, compelled to say, "Abba" (in a non theistic way) to that Power.

 

Not sure I totally follow but (if I do) I don't see thinking as pernicious. Rather it is the attempt to respond and articulate that response to Reality-as-Is, so that we might better respond. It is what we do. It is self-consciousness.

 

Also, well said Burl.

Edited by thormas

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Funnily enough it is Calvin I see as closest to the Shin perspective. Pure election. The problem - as I see it - is that he felt the need to square his understanding of grace with what believed as being the undisputable teaching of the Bible i.e. that some are NOT elected.

 

Pure Land Buddhism obviously has no such need. Therefore Grace in the Pure Land tradition is free to become TRULY amazing!

 

Obviously, there is a growing Universalism within the Christian Tradition. (The book "Patristic Universalism" is a good presentation of this from a Biblical perspective)

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