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Suffering As Illusion, Etc.


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Can anyone help me with the ideas that suffering and the world are illusions? There are no such things as Good and Evil? I want to understand. I have been reading "The Third Jesus" by Deepak Chopra, and I feel like he is speaking a foreign language. I was discussing my difficulties with my family, and my 12 year old said, "Well, if one of my friends gets a little cut, he makes a really big deal of it, but I just go on with my life, so maybe suffering is an illusion." Does he have the right idea? Is it really that we can choose what to make of our suffering (with God's help).

 

Jesus said to be in the world, but not of it. Is that what is meant by the world being an illusion - that it doesn't offer things of eternal value in many cases?

 

If there is no such thing as Good and Evil, where does murder fit, for example?

 

So much misunderstanding is language-related. God is too big to describe perfectly with words!

 

Thanks for any help! I really am seeking to understand...

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Guest wayfarer2k
Can anyone help me with the ideas that suffering and the world are illusions? There are no such things as Good and Evil? I want to understand. I have been reading "The Third Jesus" by Deepak Chopra, and I feel like he is speaking a foreign language. I was discussing my difficulties with my family, and my 12 year old said, "Well, if one of my friends gets a little cut, he makes a really big deal of it, but I just go on with my life, so maybe suffering is an illusion." Does he have the right idea? Is it really that we can choose what to make of our suffering (with God's help).

 

Jesus said to be in the world, but not of it. Is that what is meant by the world being an illusion - that it doesn't offer things of eternal value in many cases?

 

If there is no such thing as Good and Evil, where does murder fit, for example?

 

So much misunderstanding is language-related. God is too big to describe perfectly with words!

 

Thanks for any help! I really am seeking to understand...

 

I haven't read anything by Deepak Chopra, AITNOP, so my opinion is mainly one of ignorance. :rolleyes: But I do believe in a real reality, real suffering, real evil, and real good. Is it possible that our existence is just some high-level mind-game in the psyche of some deity somewhere? Possible...but, IMO, unlikely. I don't think we exist in a "matrix" world where all that we see is illusion imposed upon us by some outside mind or system. I believe our world is quite real.

 

BTW, the "world" that Jesus mentioned not to be part of is not a reference to this planet, the Earth. It is a reference to "the system" by which culture operates. The "world" of Jesus' day was one of domination and exploitation. Rome had conquered Israel and was milking it for it's resources. Jesus was saying that his followers were not to be part of that domination system, where the poor and the weak were taken advantage of for the sake of the benefit of the rich and the strong.

 

Domination systems (subjugation, slavery, exclusion) always lead to injustice -- to human suffering. When we don't love one another as we should, the result is always suffering in some form, whether it be to ourselves, those around us, or to our environment.

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Can anyone help me with the ideas that suffering and the world are illusions? There are no such things as Good and Evil? I want to understand. I have been reading "The Third Jesus" by Deepak Chopra, and I feel like he is speaking a foreign language. I was discussing my difficulties with my family, and my 12 year old said, "Well, if one of my friends gets a little cut, he makes a really big deal of it, but I just go on with my life, so maybe suffering is an illusion." Does he have the right idea? Is it really that we can choose what to make of our suffering (with God's help).

Jesus said to be in the world, but not of it. Is that what is meant by the world being an illusion - that it doesn't offer things of eternal value in many cases?

If there is no such thing as Good and Evil, where does murder fit, for example?

So much misunderstanding is language-related. God is too big to describe perfectly with words!

Thanks for any help! I really am seeking to understand...


Hi AITNOP,

Did you have that meeting with your friend yet?

I am not aware of the author or the book you mention but It seems to me I have an understanding of where someone who says that would be coming from. They have no doubt examined the workings of the mind and found that the terms 'Good' and ''Evil' are highly subjective terms that have changed with times, cultures, and the whims of society and leaders and for the most part depends on the perspective you are looking from. In fact they are meaningless terms without some sort of societal definitions because they are merely arbitrary points along a continuum.

Our mind makes opposites of them just like 'hot and 'cold' yet there is no such thing as 'cold' except as subjectively used for a language convenience. There are only degrees of 'heat' because heat exists and cold does not. Cold is merely a relative term used to denote a low level of heat.

Perhaps this short writing I did under a pen name will explain it better...

https://sites.google.com/site/josephmattiolipc/writings/Understanding%20Good%20and%20Evil.htm?attredirects=0&d=1

Joseph

Edited by JosephM
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Greetings, Salutations to the divinity within you. Here is my attempt to answer a great question.

 

All there is, is God, otherwise there is no God. If there is anything that exists which is not God, then there is no God; therefore, God is the source of all things that means evil as well as good. All things and circumstances are generated out of God, the power of the universe (God the Father). The individual minds in God create what we call evil. The root of this evil is not seeing the unifying force, withholding love and condemning others. The opposite is love, a magnet that attracts and unites the best of everything in a greater and greater good. We do not create this expanding wholeness because it is a divine idea, but we can become aware of this divine Reality that has existed since before the beginning of time by opening up and accepting it, when it creates a wonderful new good in our lives.

 

As we perceive God's pure consciousness pervading all things, we understand more clearly that God has absolute control over all creation, and that each individual is already one with God, inseparable from Him. People are not aware of this because they are immersed in creation and the idea of materiality. We are deceived into thinking that disease (not being at ease, dis-ease) is real, and that the devil and sin are everywhere. Until a higher view is cultivated through prayer and purification of thought, it will certainly appear that the devil can control our lives, but this is a false and temporary view because under God there can’t be a broken harmony in creation.

 

When our souls are enlightened with God's pure consciousness, we don’t attempt to control others by condemning them or manipulating them with the devil because we understand that it is through love that God governs everybody and all of creation. The personal desire to control others comes by mistakenly believing that man is evil and indicates a distrust of God’s ability to govern His own creation. If we worship God by basing our thoughts and our actions on Him who is the strongest force, then the devil has no power. When we see God as one, it will have a beneficial influence upon our minds, our bodies and all of creation because we will be moved to great clarity and good actions. We will become a clear-seeing soul, when we refuse to tolerate evil.

 

I feel Jesus is trying to teach us this and we learn this by experiencing God within and then fluctuating back out to materialism. The contrast teaches us and guides us to heaven. Heaven on earth is possible. It is like those 3d stereograms where one can see the 3d picture within a picture sometimes if crossed eyed, but most of the time the mind is caught in the physical image and not the spiritual. Thanks for the question.

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This is one of those spiritual/philosophical conundrums that has been debated since the more evolved mystical traditions came into being.

I believe that there is a great fallacy in going on and on about the Absolute, just based on spiritual teachings and without a mature integration of the experience into everyday relative experience.

For one thing, massive amounts of issues and psycho/energetic energies must be integrated before one can see what is called "Holy Perfection." By a particular 4th way school.

There's an interpretation of a Zen Koan by the late Daido Roshi, where a king asks a Buddhist teacher something along the lines of "the last military seige I waged caused the deaths of thousands. Is there any Karmic repercussions?" The Buddhist replied something like: "I'm still watching." This has been interpreted through the ages that he could not make judgements on the situation, being that all is emptiness and Good and evil don't exist and all that. Well, Daido Roshi says that this ancient teacher is basically a moron. He could not understand that Good and Evil are contained in emptiness(absolute nature of reality) and missed an opportunity to teach the wrongs done in killing.

Legend has it that when the Buddha told his inner circle that the true nature of reality was pure perfection, some in the audience fainted. So, emphasize, difficult to understand. But I have no direct experience right now, so I don't know what I'm talking about.

 

This problem occurs when people get too abstract and spiritual and forget what's right in front of them that needs to be taken care of, and end up in abstract LaLa land.

 

Never been a fan of Chopra. His stuff doesn't sit right with me.

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Sometimes I think I think too much!

Janet

 

Janet,

 

I KNOW I think too much! Yet I am gradually learning to "rest in the mystery", learning the wisdom of not knowing. The Christian mystic St. John of the Cross said......If we wish to be sure of the road we tread on we must close our eyes and walk in the dark Faith comes into it somewhere! If "God" is all, and God is light and love, then somehow, someway, "evil" and "suffering" are or will be "non-existent". I think the great Christian thinker St Augustine argued that "evil" had no positive existence in and of itself, but was merely the absence of good. I suppose thats one line of argument, but not much cop when suffering ourselves or watching the suffering of others (In which case we need to respond and reach out, not muse and reflect)

 

 

Eastern thought can prove a quicksand for the unwary, and I've been pretty unwary at times! But I have learnt that "non-duality" is not the opposite of duality, but embraces it. There is indeed a sense in which the various opposites "exist" within an ultimate unity. One master once said that no sooner do some people hear that "good" and "evil" are relative or are "illusionary" than they think that good is evil and evil is good, which is a tragic mistake.

 

Another Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, said......they can truly enjoy the feast who would just as willingly fast. In the face of what can happen to us in this world, this is a true way to live within reality. Such choiceless awareness, not seeking comfort as opposed to suffering, not hoping for good rather than evil, is the way of faith and trust in God, Reality-as-is. Beyond me at the moment.

 

For me the important thing is not to get ahead of ourselves yet to walk on

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If speaking in the context of Buddhism (is Chopra a Buddhist? Or a Hindu), it would be an error to think Buddhism teaches that suffering is illusory. Suffering, you might say, is the basis of Buddhism and is dealt with seriously and extensively in that tradition. In my understanding, the crux of the matter is that it is how we relate to suffering and to the world generally that is 'illusion', arising out of a mistaken view of 'self' - what it means to be a self. So, a Buddhist might say that there is suffering, but no one to suffer.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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I think Chopra is attempting to find commonality between eastern and western ways of thought. He was born in India, but I think would fall more under the category of New Age?

 

You've done a good job explaining. Often quotes such as "all suffering is illusion" are taken out of context and point to truths. Many people I know look at something they originally saw as suffering and now see it as God's beauty.

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Janet,

 

I think you’re right that Chopra was trying to reconcile the two perspectives – he says “it is only provincialism that divides spirituality East and West.” Not sure if his particular mix of Hinduism and Catholic schools makes him New Age or what. I was surprised to read in an article on the Tao, that Hinduism is considered Western (unlike Buddhism). To me, Chopra’s view seems close to Gnosticism – denying the existence of anything except spirit; focused on redeeming oneself-- the path of contemplation rather than that of service. Individuals and the world at large need both, it seems.

 

I had mixed feelings about The Third Jesus. A lot of it was persuasive, helpful, but for me it doesn’t contain the whole truth about Jesus’ life and teaching. The book seemed to interpret new testament passages on social justice, as messages about changing consciousness alone. I don’t think the bible was written with that intention. I did like the fact that Chopra’s last chapter, “What would Jesus Do?” dealt with social issues from a PC position.

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Hinduism is Western, as far as I know, in the sense that we in the West share a common linguistic heritage with Hindu culture. I have often heard of 'Indo-European languages' as opposed to far East languages, like Chinese. But Buddhism, while extending all over East Asia, is historically and originally an Indian religion as well, so I'm not sure why Hinduism and not Buddhism might be considered Western, aside from the fact that, as mentioned, it now belongs not only to India but to the far East. In any case, whenever you hear of 'Western' philosophy and religion, India seems to be excluded, yet 'Indian' philosophy and religion are also regularly distinguished from Chinese/Japanese/Vietnamese/Korean/etc. So Hinduism is Eastern but, more Western than some.

 

I've never paid Chopra much attention because, to be totally honest, he rubs me the wrong way. Maybe because I'm not into the 'New Age' scene.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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  • 3 weeks later...

Greetings, Salutations to the divinity within you. Here is my attempt to answer a great question.

 

All there is, is God, otherwise there is no God. If there is anything that exists which is not God, then there is no God; therefore, God is the source of all things that means evil as well as good. All things and circumstances are generated out of God, the power of the universe (God the Father). The individual minds in God create what we call evil.

 

This may be based on a Buddhist perspective, but it is not a Christian one. I am not saying you are wrong, because you are describing what you see. I am just trying to explain the difference of interpretation.

 

First, where we agree. God created everything; if there is anything that exists, then it is there because it is part of creation, and therefore was created by God.

 

However, very soon we diverge. The Christian God is not part of his own creation, but outside it. His presence is everywhere within creation, but he has the power to withdraw that presence if he wants to. When he chooses to withdraw his presence, that is an act of love, because everything he does is done in love.

 

God is pure love, pure goodness, pure holiness. When he withdraws his presence, he leaves a space without love, goodness and holiness. This space is what we call 'evil'. Evil is not an actual something; it is a lack of something else. In the same way darkness is not an actual something; it is a lack of light.

 

When God created the world he did not create it as perfect, or to be perfect. The Bible says that when he saw his creation he called it 'good'. Therefore, the highest that any part of creation can aspire to be is good, not perfect.

 

In terms of humanity, we have choices to make. We can choose to live our lives in communion with God, and trying to find his will for our lives, or we can choose to live our lives without him. When our choices lead us into behaviour which is less than good, then God will very often withdraw his presence from us. This is an act of mercy and compassion on his part; he cannot look on what we have learned to call sin without destroying it by his holiness.

 

The Jewish God could not be seen by man; anyone who looked upon him would die. Even Moses could only see God's glory as he passed. In Christ, God is able to look man in the face, and we are able to look back, without being destroyed by his holiness. But it is worth noticing that in Scripture satan is NOT able to look Christ in the face; Christ always says to him, get behind me. The reason for this is that Christ does not want to destroy satan; he shows him the same mercy that God shows to Moses.

 

The Jews were taught to separate themselves from sin, to preserve their holiness. Christ teaches us the opposite; when holiness and profanity meet, the profane is sanctified. Or, in other words, that which is holy cannot be defiled.

 

All of which is some way from suffering. In Christianity suffering is not an illusion. It is not something to escape from, or to rise above. It is part of life, and it is to be embraced as a gift from God, just as much as anything else. Easy to say, very hard to do. In our faith, the path to God lies through the refiner's fire, and the refiner's fire is painful, difficult and lonely. (NB, this is not the same thing as hellfire.)

 

It is the path which the Lord trod before us, and it is the path which we must all tread after him. To a Christian, this is not an illusion, nor can it be avoided.

Edited by Anglocatholic
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Anglocatholic,

 

Many thanks for your explanation regarding "suffering".I'm not really in any position to judge just how "orthodox" it may be but for me, like you, it is essential to emphasise the existential reality of suffering. As a Pure Land Buddhist I must say that I find the idea of God "withdrawing" His presence a little problematic, though I acknowledge you claim it is an "act of love" n God's part. As I understood it, the only "moment" when God's presence was withdrawn was the moment on the cross when Jesus cried out "why has thou forsaken me?" This was for all - to my way of thinking - and not potentially, but actually. But then I could just be transferring my Pure Land Buddhist Faith onto a Christian canvas.

 

Whatever may or may not have been said concerning Buddhism, I would emphasise that it is a very broad Faith with many streams, not one monolithic teaching given to all comers! For me suffering is an existential reality, and this is what I understand Buddhism to address. There is a text in the Theravada Canon that goes something like.....

 

Monk: Is suffering caused by ourselves?

Buddha: Do not put it like that.

Monk: Then is suffering caused by another?

Buddha: Do not put it like that.

Monk: Then is suffering caused by both oneself and another?

Buddha: Do not put it like that.

Monk: Then there is no suffering?

Buddha: Do not put it like that, that there is suffering, this I know.

 

Anyway, a few words from Thoams Merton to finish, which seem relevant here, and in some ways covers the same ground you covered in your own post.....

 

 

The mere ability to choose between good and evil is the lowest limit of freedom, and the only thing that is free about it is the fact that we can still choose good.

 

To the extent that you are free to choose evil, you are not free. An evil choice destroys freedom.

 

We can never choose evil as evil: only as an apparent good. But when we decide to do something that seems to us to be good when it is not really so, we are doing something that we do not really want to do, and therefore we are not really free.

 

Perfect spiritual freedom is a total inability to make any evil choice. When everything you desire is truly good and every choice not only aspires to that good but attains it, then you are free because you do everything that you want, every act of your will ends in perfect fulfillment.

 

Freedom therefore does not consist in an equal balance between good and evil choices but in the perfect love and acceptance of what is really good and the perfect hatred and rejection of what is evil, so that everything you do is good and makes you happy, and you refuse and deny and ignore every possibility that might lead to unhappiness and self-deception and grief. Only the man who has rejected all evil so completely that he is unable to desire it at all, is truly free. God, in whom there is absolutely no shadow or possibility of evil or of sin, is infinitely free. In fact, he is Freedom.

 

All the best

Derek

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Hello Anglocatholic,

 

I’m not sure that there is one ‘Christian answer' to the problem of suffering and evil. My knowledge of the theological history of the Church is very limited mind you, but as I understand your interpretation of evil was articulated by Augustine, and is not necessarily the official answer to the problem.

 

Now I would say that Christianity definitely has God transcending creation, but not necessarily removed from creation either. This is something like you already pointed out, but I am not sure what it could mean for God to remove his presence from anywhere, since even the New Testament claims that in him all things subsist, and again, in him we live, move, and have our being. Perhaps if we are removed from God it is because our hearts are far from him, not because he is far from us.

 

But all this seems to conceptualize God into an object or a thing over-against creation. To my understanding, and at the risk of oversimplifying, there is precedent in Christian tradition for denying this, in say, the apophatic theology of the mystics which removed God from being ultimately identified by any concept or anything in the realm of being or non-being. And if God is not a being, a thing, a principle, a concept, from this premise it would be difficult to argue that he is either inside or outside his creation, we are left only with Mystery and Divine hiddeness that is both immanent and transcendent.

 

I think a Christian might well say the exact opposite. There is suffering, and it belongs to each and every one of us.

 

As Derek (tariki) has already indicated, it is probably best if the Buddhist statement about ‘suffering without a sufferer’ be seen as a negation and not necessarily a positive assertion. Neither affirming nor denying the ‘self,’ in Buddhism, actually gets to the truth of the self, as both belong to dualistic thinking.

 

Both Christianity and Buddhism invite us to see something deeper in our suffering. For instance, in Christianity, even if our suffering belongs to each of us, we are actually identifying and participating with Christ. Buddhism would deny that an estranged ego-self is really the truth of what's going on. They both seem to point to a deeper identity.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Greetings All,

 

If I may be so bold to share.... that in spite of what any words or literature that would say or seem to say for... or otherwise... it is my subjective experience that God's presence cannot be separated from creation except as a false thought in the mind. Since it is a subjective experience i offer no proof or authority as it is merely my shared personal testimony and to me is self evident requiring none.

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

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Thanks all.

 

Here is dear Isaac, who is somewhat more articulate than myself.

 

http://en.hilarion.orthodoxia.org/6_6_3

 

It is correct to say that our human experience of the withdrawal of God's presence is not necessarily the same thing as God withdrawing his actual presence. However, it is also the case that in Christian thinking, that which we call evil is a lack of the presence of God's love, whatever that might mean.

 

Clearly, God sees this differently from how we might see it. I am limited, however, to speaking from a human perspective.

 

Although it is not possible for any one of us to contain within our theology all that it is to be Christian, it is nonetheless possible to make statements about the Christian approach to any particular issue. Christians - by which I probably mean mainstream apostolics rather than the more modern evangelicals - do not deny suffering, they do not say it is an illusion and they do not think that we have to rise above it and become impervious to its impact on our lives.

 

As I said before, this does not mean that the Buddhist approach is wrong; it is just different. I think the language of right and wrong is inappropriate in the context of faith and belief.

 

Monk: Is suffering caused by ourselves?

Buddha: Do not put it like that.

Monk: Then is suffering caused by another?

Buddha: Do not put it like that.

Monk: Then is suffering caused by both oneself and another?

Buddha: Do not put it like that.

Monk: Then there is no suffering?

Buddha: Do not put it like that, that there is suffering, this I know.

 

The Buddha liked being cryptic, clearly. I am not sure I would have appreciated this, had I been that monk, but each to his own.

 

Thanks for that. :)

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As I understood it, the only "moment" when God's presence was withdrawn was the moment on the cross when Jesus cried out "why has thou forsaken me?" This was for all - to my way of thinking - and not potentially, but actually. But then I could just be transferring my Pure Land Buddhist Faith onto a Christian canvas.

 

This was the only time when God withdrew his presence from Christ, but is not the only time in history that he has behaved like this. He does it all the time.

 

Every episode of evil that ever occurs is evidence of God turning his face away at that time, and in that moment. We can explain this as God being angry, or we can explain it as God being merciful. I choose the latter; as in the case of Moses God hides his face in order not to destroy that which is so different from himself that he will destroy it by looking upon it.

 

From our point of view this seems inexplicable. If evil is happening, then why not look upon it and destroy it, and in the process save the innocent from unspeakable horrors? I do not know what the answer is to this, but it has to involve love. I think this is one of many issues which are beyond our comprehension. We cannot know the answer; all we can say is that it had better be good when we finally learn it.

Edited by Anglocatholic
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The Buddha liked being cryptic, clearly. I am not sure I would have appreciated this, had I been that monk, but each to his own.

 

Thanks for that. :)

 

Anglocatholic,

 

Well, he could be equally precise at times, hence the extreme length of the Theravada Canon of Scripture - which claims to represent the words of the historical Buddha. And from my own reading of the gospels, I seem to remember one or two passages where Jesus was a little less than totally clear..........But hey, its communion we want!

 

Perhaps my next "image" of Buddhism on the "Buddhist Images" thread might be appropriate...........(or is it Buddist! :D )

 

And Joseph, I found your testimony deeply moving.......making my own use of the word "problematic" merely "lukewarm".

 

Thank you

Derek

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I would also add the possibility that the Buddha was not being cryptic at all but negating what he honestly saw as false views that, if he had answered yes to any of them, would have distorted the truth he was trying to direct them to. I would also further point out that, as far as anything I've ever read, Buddhists do not deny suffering or think it is an illusion, and it would not be quite on the mark either to say that they think we have to 'rise above it' and become 'impervious to it'.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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