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The Afterlife


spiritseeker
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Hi David,

To further comment on the Greeks, I am aware, although my knowledge of history is limited, of the impasse that the Greek schools of thought reached. I would argue that this stalemate is more representative of the result of any quest for objective truth, that is, any attempt to make an object of reality to be understood. It is very true that the Greeks never arrived at 'the' answer, but then again, nobody has, especially we in the West who have built so much of our civilization and expectations on the ideal of objective reality.

 

What I was disagreeing with is what I perceive to be an underlying rejection or dismissal of the achievements, thought, and aspirations of the Greeks, which I cannot agree with since they were an extraordinary civilization. And Greece has had, one might almost say, as much to do with the development of Christianity as did the Hebrews. Both the Church Fathers and Jewish philosophers of the time were so taken with Hellenism that many tried to integrate the two (Christianity/Judaism and Greek philosophy), seeing them as complementary and necessary for each other. And the Christianity that we have passed down to us, including many traditional beliefs, interpretations, etc., are the product of this union.

 

One need only look at the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation to see the blatant influence of Aristotle, or to the Trinity, which I see as tied to Greek mysticism. You yourself expressed a Pythagorean conviction by citing geometry (height, width, depth) as an indication of the Trinity. And again Aristotle is used by apologists citing the proofs offered by say, Aquinas, like the first cause arguments, aka unmoved mover, etc. So again I would say that you are not exempt from the limitations the Greeks discovered. I would also emphasize that the limitations they encountered were not peculiar to them but to human thought in general, which you, like it or not, rely on and partake of as much as anyone to defend your positive beliefs.

 

As for the Buddhists, theirs in my estimation is a metaphysics of negation, much like the Christian mystics' apophatic theology. I personally find their 'system' to be very profound and useful. Mainly because you can confirm what it has to say by experience, and it gives genuine tools for spiritual realization. And if you don't think personal experience is the key issue in religious conversion, I simply ask you what led you to Christianity. Was it proved to you by the methods of the Greeks which you seem to dismiss?

 

Personal experience is not ultimately meant to prove anything to anyone but the practitioner. That's also what really counts, the subject who is practicing. There is, however, an element of 'objectivity' when many people cite the same personal experiences rooted in similar practices, realizations, and express themselves in similar language. It is even more striking when these similar accounts are irrespective of culture. Some passages of Pseudo-Dionysius read like Huang Po. Not to discount the differences, which there are.

 

So Christianity need not be, and actually, is not without its appeal to personal religious experience at the heart of one's life and faith. As a belief-system, as I said, I find it full of holes, but ultimately any system is incomplete. There is no pressing reason why Christianity cannot be more open-ended in its exploration of God.

 

Head-beliefs alone are impotent. Head-beliefs, without personal confirmation, are only theories, speculation. Was it Spong who said the heart cannot rejoice in what the mind cannot accept? Concepts about Jesus and God are useless if their truth cannot be integrated in subjective experience. Ideas are great, but it has to be shown what they mean in personal experience in practice. Whatever does not touch this, and whatever cannot be shown to be real in life as it is lived, to me, is not relevant.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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David,

 

You stated........

 

The universalist argument is that everyone goes to Heaven regardless of their behavior

 

The universalist "argument" ends at the word Heaven. Thomas Talbots book "The Inescapable Love of God" is worth a read. He deals in depth with "behaviour" and its consequences within a Universalist perspective.

 

All the best.

Derek

 

 

David,

 

Maybe I should have said after the word heaven to have been correct, though the following two sentences, especially the second of them, should have made this reasonably obvious.

 

Anyway, we'll have to agree to differ on the subject of Universalism. In any case, the Pure Land (Buddhist) terms are different in essential ways from the Christian, not least in the greater emphasis on a realised escatology in this life

 

Best wishes

Derek

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I understand any "faith" system as being complete in itself, in the sense that all can potentially lead to transformation/enlightenment/salvation.......due from within my own "system" to the infinite compassion/grace/love of Reality-as-is that reveals itself in all things as apaya - skilful means - drawing all to itself/herself/hisself!

 

From my own reading and experience, there are "completists" within all faiths, each with their own particular texts and long history of arguments designed to "prove" it. From the Bible's/Christianitie's "I am the way, the truth and the life etc" to Islam's/Quran's "There is no joy in the life hereafter for those outside of Islam" to the Theravada Buddhists "only way" verse contained in its Canon of scripture. For me it is beside the point to argue that the "I" the Bible refers to is the eteranl Logos that lights every man who comes into the world (and woman no doubt!), or that the word "islam" means submission and therefore that joy can come to any who "submit" to God, of whatever faith. Beside the point because for me these books and systems are all man made responses to a "revelation" that is in fact continuous with all reality and not to be found as a part of it.

 

As a Buddhist I am more familiar with the various texts within the Buddhist tradition that explicate this viewpoint.......

 

The Lord speaks with but one voice, but all beings, each according to his kind, gain understanding, each thinking that the Lord speaks his own language. This is a special quality of the Buddha. The Lord speaks with but one voice,but all beings, each according to his own ability, act upon it, and each derives his appropriate bebefit. This is a special quality of the Buddha. (Vimalakirti Sutra)

 

 

Just as the nature of the earth is one

While beings each live separately,

And the earth has no thought of oneness or difference,

So is the truth of all Buddhas.

 

Just as the ocean is one

With millions of different waves,

Yet the water is no different:

So is the truth of all buddhas.

 

Just as the element earth, while one,

Can produce various sprouts,

yet it's not that the earth is diverse:

So is the truth of all Buddhas. (Hua-Yen Sutra)

 

I bring fullness and satisfaction to the world,

like rain that spreads its moisture everywhere.

Eminent and lowly, superior and inferior,

observers of precepts, violators of precepts,

those fully endowed with proper demeanor,

those not fully endowed,

those of correct views, of erroneous views,

of keen capacity, of dull capacity -

I cause the Dharma rain to rain on all equally,

never lax or neglectful.

When all the various living beings

hear my Law,

they receive it according to their power,

dwelling in their different environments.....

..The Law of the Buddhas

is constantly of a single flavour,

causing the may worlds

to attainfull satisfaction everywhere;

by practicing gradually and stage by stage,

all beings can gain the fruits of the way. (The Lotus Sutra, Parable of the Dharma Rain)

 

Well, thats the gist of it, with apologies for some of the non PC language......as I've indicated, even the Buddhists were not infallible!

 

Obviously problems begin when one persons experience and the parameters set by their own understanding become the standard by which all is judged. And yes, I am speaking of David here, its unavoidable. For me I am guided by a particular text found in the Buddhist Theravada tradition, where the Buddha has been expounding the deepest heart of his teaching to his monks, that of anatta (no-self). After a long session of question and answer he becomes assured that they have fully grasped its meaning. Then he says....purified and bright as this view is, if you adhere to it, cherish it, treasure it, and treat it as a possession, would you then understand the Dharma that has been taught as similar to a raft, being for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of grasping?

 

To cross over, not to grasp.

 

As Mike often says, Peace to you all

Derek

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Mike,

 

When I make an affirmation, I do so with a 'supporting cast'.

I'm afraid you may have extrapolated more to what I said than I had intended. I did not throw the overall Greek philosophies nor all advancements made by their civilization into the waste bin. I should have added a single word to the statement, "... the Greek religious system fell well short...". I apologize. It seems to have sent you running after a false scent. Although it was a good post, I am surprised in the apparent offense taken when I say Christianity has the complete package.

 

I am critical of the Greek religion that involved the many gods they developed specifically to find the sufficient infinite and personal answers needed for man's legitimate questions regarding existance, morality, and epistemology. On that we seem to agree. We both seem to agree on some of the problems Roman Caholicism seems to hang on to. Where we seem to disagree is whether Christian religion had overcome the obstacles that the Greek religion couldn't.

The discussion of the Greek gods insufficiency and their accompanying theology could be an interesting topic for another thread.

 

About the eastern religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, et al, they find answers for our need to answer for unity, but as I said in my previous post, they have no answer for our need to answer for diversity, since everything winds up always being 'one'. Buddhists seek total annhilation of the self in their concept of an 'afterlife', which really isn't an afterlife at all.

 

I have repeatedly attributed personal experience as how man perceives and understands the world around him. To have you and others continue to repeat that I have no respect for individual experiences is patently false. I hope you will cease to continue making this false accusation.

 

If any element of objectivity exists and we can recognize it, it confirms that Objective truth exists, independent of human thought or feelings. Thank you for the confirmation.

 

I have found that Christianity does have the sufficent answers for the fundamental questions of any religion and philosophy (they both seek to answer the same questions) that both both have sought to answer since man began to think about them. Details would be better suited to another thread.

-

Well, I would say 'head-belief' is an essential part of a personal experience.

I think Spong must have been reading some of my posts.

---

 

Derek,

I guess I should have read Talbot's book before I commented, sorry.

 

I just use the age old definition of universalist: "one who believes in the theological doctrine that all men will eventually be saved or restored to holiness and happiness", as a base for my comments.

I suppose you still may somehow have a legitimate issue with that. But anything in its regard should be addressed to who first defined the term wrote, not me.

 

This may have sounded a bit sarcastic, but I mean none.

 

I may have misread, but are you saying in your second post that it is me who is judging others by a standard of my own making? If so, I ask you reconsider and look elsewhere.

 

I argue only for the standards Jesus taught, including those where He touches Heaven and Hell. Which by the way are only found in the Bible. If the Bible isn't true throughout, even Jesus' words must be suspect.

 

davidk

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I may have misread...................If so I ask you to reconsider and look elsewhere.

 

david, you obviously did not misread and I apologise if the words caused you any offence at all. And believe me, I continually look "elsewhere", I'm a very introspective guy. We must all continually look at ourselves, even within the orbit of Grace.

 

Yes, you are right in a way, I really should leave the subject of Universalism to an "inhouse" argument. Not really being in the house, I should steer clear. Perhaps I am only saying that if I was a Christian I would believe Universalism to be the Bibles final word when all is read "in the spirit". Karl Barth, one of the greatest recognised Protestant theologians of the last century, was reported to have said in a private conversation.....Perculiar Christendom, whose most pressing problem seems to consist in this, that God's grace in this direction should be too free, that hell, instead of being amply populated, might one day be found to be empty.

 

All the best

Derek

 

P.S. Just popped back as I would add that I used the word "all" when I said what was being judged. It was more whole faith systems than other people that I had in mind.

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I may have misread...................If so I ask you to reconsider and look elsewhere.

 

david, you obviously did not misread and I apologise if the words caused you any offence at all. And believe me, I continually look "elsewhere", I'm a very introspective guy. We must all continually look at ourselves, even within the orbit of Grace.

 

Yes, you are right in a way, I really should leave the subject of Universalism to an "inhouse" argument. Not really being in the house, I should steer clear. Perhaps I am only saying that if I was a Christian I would believe Universalism to be the Bibles final word when all is read "in the spirit". Karl Barth, one of the greatest recognised Protestant theologians of the last century, was reported to have said in a private conversation.....Perculiar Christendom, whose most pressing problem seems to consist in this, that God's grace in this direction should be too free, that hell, instead of being amply populated, might one day be found to be empty.

 

All the best

Derek

 

P.S. Just popped back as I would add that I used the word "all" when I said what was being judged. It was more whole faith systems than other people that I had in mind.

Derek,

I appreciate your being candid with me. I am not offended. But I do believe you have misunderstood me because the Eastern faith is familiar and their standards are being claimed by you as the standards of Jesus Christ are being claimed by me. It is not that either of us should be considered perfect in our faith, but the familiar half truths of the eastern religions, I have left behind.

-

Barth is important, but perhaps not in the way that can be so easily misunderstood. In Karl Barth's theology, on the basis of a nonrational, nonreasonable leap, there's a nonreasonable faith which gives optimism. This is 'modern' man's total dichotomy.

 

He held higher critical theories that the Bible contains mistakes, but we are to believe it anyway! Somehow, through all the mistakes, a "religious word" comes through anyway. "Religious truth" is seperated from the historial truth of the Scriptures. Thus he leaves no place for reason and no point for verification. This is what constitutes the "Blind leap of Faith" in religious terms. This has led to the necessity of finally placing all hope in a nonrational "upstairs". He left man with the need to leap because, as the whole man, he cannot do anything in the area of the rational to search for God.

Man cannot do anything to save himself, but he can, with his reason, search the Scriptures which touch not only "religious truth," but also history and the cosmos. He not only is able to search the Scriptures as the whole man, including his reason, but he has the responsibility to do so.

The seperation of what the Bible teaches in religious and spiritual matters- as being authoritative in these areas, while saying the Bible contains mistakes where it would be verifiable- is a form of irrationalism.

Faith, in any terms, becomes a leap with no verification, because it is totally seperated from the logical and the reasonable. On this basis we can see how the new theologians can say that though the Bible, in nature and history, is full of mistakes, it doesn't matter.

 

Barth opposed setting similar verification standards of Philosophy to Theology.

-

All religions have a system of belief. Eastern or progressive religions are of no exception. That's distasteful to some, but it doesn't change the facts.

 

All the best to you, Derek,

 

david

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david,

 

Though you may now have left behind the familiar half truths of the eastern religions, I still find them life giving. The all sufficiency of the Grace of Reality-as-is (Amida) is one such truth that still sustains and guides me.

 

Obviously you are quite entitled to your opinions and beliefs but I am unable to share them. Apparently JoesphM has left behind your "half truths" in the same manner as you have "left behind" mine. And so it goes on. My apologies for being so blunt but to me this whole dialogue has been rather sad.

 

Personally I find the whole idea of a God who choses to communicate to humanity via an infallible book impossible to believe. This is not said to begin any further arguments.

 

Please have the last word if you wish, I will not add to my posts on this thread.

 

All the best

Derek

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Hi David,

 

 

I apologize for the tone that my words may have carried. I think perhaps this conversation has been drawing itself to a conclusion, reaching, as did the Greeks, our own impasse.

 

Although it was a good post, I am surprised in the apparent offense taken when I say Christianity has the complete package.

 

It’s not that I would have a problem with in and of itself saying that Christianity has the ‘complete package.' But when asserted in the context of the dismissal of all other religious paths, I cannot agree. Having found both comparative religion/philosophy and Buddhist practice to be very fruitful in my own life, I dispute your understanding and assessment of Buddhism and Eastern religion in general. Claiming Christianity to be complete whereas Buddhism in contrast is incomplete simply does not jive with what I see in either.

 

As I said, as a belief system, Christianity leaves too many questions unanswered for me to consider it ‘complete.’ Yet I do not have a problem with this because I do not consider any ‘system’ to be complete unto itself, in the sense that logic cannot penetrate that deeply into reality. It depends on what you’re expecting to get out of it all. To me Christianity presents a living reality that ultimately points beyond its own terminology. If there is any completeness (and in this sense I would say there is), it lies in the signification of its words, not in its own systematic consistency. If God is beyond thought, then Christianity as a belief-system is bound to be ‘full of holes’ because belief-systems are rooted in logic and concepts (yet it is true that some systems are more self-consistent than others). How can you systematize what is neither a system nor an object of thought? Even the Eastern thinkers must ultimately negate the object-ifying of nonduality, asserting the ‘nonduality of nonduality.’

 

I have repeatedly attributed personal experience as how man perceives and understands the world around him. To have you and others continue to repeat that I have no respect for individual experiences is patently false. I hope you will cease to continue making this false accusation.

 

I apologize if I’ve misrepresented your position on the matter. I ought to have taken more care to address your thoughts as they are. I have been emphasizing the matter of personal experience and subjectivity because, while you are not totally negating the value of personal experience, I would point out what I see as a negation of the efficacy of it, coupled with the overemphasis of objective-knowledge, or ‘knowledge about' - believing the correct list of doctrines. I wonder if you will admit that the vast majority of things the Christian Church tends to assert, if taken really to be objective 'knowledge about', has no possible verification in personal experience.

 

Like I said earlier, the world view you promote seems, to me, to make life out to be all about believing in the right list of things. You have placed absolute value on objectified knowledge, on head-beliefs, and consequently the substance of life turns out to be a correct objective understanding, believing the correct set of doctrines. Yet this seems to hold that one's beliefs about the world take precedence over one's actual direct experience of the world. And it seems to make the Gospel to be rather oppressive instead of being good news, since such knowledge is a matter of absolutes: eternal life or damnation.

 

Now, you’ve argued that if you have your head knowledge right, your experience will follow. This may be true some of the time. But in many cases this is the tail wagging the dog. You can’t make yourself believe something your own experience knows nothing of. And I would argue that experience is always the final test on one's take on life and how we live. Experience informs our beliefs ultimately at least as much as any head knowledge does. Ideally they can inform each other. But you can’t simply start with a list of the ‘correct beliefs’ and expect that to have any efficacy at all. Experience must verify, inform, and ultimately be at the root, in my view.

 

If you again feel that I have misrepresented your thought on the matter I can only offer further apologies. These are my honest impressions.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

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I'm open to hearing what you may consider to be the universalist position on being "saved". If everyone ultimately gets saved, then how do you explain our need for individuality, diversity, seperate paths, or individual decisions? They'd all lose their meaning and need to exist.

How would they lose all their meaning of existence? All paths may lead to Rome but that doesn't mean that all the paths were pointless unless there's only one route you can take to get to Rome. Again, I think the opposite is true that if Christianity is the one true way, individuality becomes meaningless because our existence then becomes dependent on what one person says is the truth. We can no longer think for ourselves and we have to be forced to agree with what the group leader says is truth or else we are no longer considered part of the group and the group leader takes over all our thoughts and this is how cults get started. I'm not saying that all Christians who believe in hell are in a cult or can't think for themselves but I think it's a potentially dangerous belief and it's this absolutism that leads to religious in-fighting, violence and persecution of anyone who thinks individually.

 

We cannot save ourselves.
If you believe we cannot save ourselves, why do you believe you can save yourself if you believe the right set of beliefs and say the correct things about Jesus but if someone says something different about God, then they are not saved? Is not insisting that to be saved we must believe in your interpretation of scripture not preaching that we can save ourselves? If you believe we are saved by grace and not by works, are you not turning faith into a work?

 

 

 

When we look at Christianity, we can see it is the only belief system that has the complete package.

But where in the bible does it say Christianity is the complete package? In 1 Cor 13, St Paul says that none of us have seen the truth yet but one day we might know the truth. Also notice that he says that out of faith, hope, and love, love and not faith are the most important of those three for us to have.
12For now we see in a mirror, dimly,* but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. 13And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
Why would Paul say love is more important than faith if it was important to have a correct set of beliefs to be saved?

 

The seperation of what the Bible teaches in religious and spiritual matters- as being authoritative in these areas, while saying the Bible contains mistakes where it would be verifiable- is a form of irrationalism.
But you're trying to impose a modern day method of reading history onto a religious text written in a time period where such a method did not exist. In the Greek version of the NT, the original word for faith literally means trust. In the ancient world, faith was an action and your commitment to the church as an institution. It was simply presumed by just about everyone that the gods existed and could do miracles. Belief in the literal facts of myths wasn't the point because it was simply assumed the gods did miracles. Even in Jesus' time, there were messiahs all over the place who people believed could do miracles and so it was the message of the story that was considered more important than the facts. But even in ancient Judaism and Christianity, there was never a single universally accepted interpretation of scriptures and the authors were always constantly updating their texts to address their current concerns. Faith only became to mean belief in facts in modern times in reaction to the Enlightenment movement and the doctrine of sola scriptua was invented by Martin Luther. How could the early Christians believe sola scriptua was a requirement when it hadn't been invented yet?
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Derek,

 

Your demeanor is admirable, even in the most caustic of moments.

 

May it not be said I have left you behind; but perhaps a philosophy. One that is not without merit when answering for our need of unity, but still bereft of answers for our need for diversity, where the personal self is but a delusion, hope is in a final oblivion, and there is no God.

 

If you have yet to understand there is not only a philosophic but a personal and universal need which only an infinite and personal God can answer. A God who can verbally communicate His propositional truths to man, which man can communicate to other men, then your journey for the answers to our very existence is yet to have begun.

 

 

May the infinite and personal God of creation guide you.

 

David

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Derek,

 

 

 

If you have yet to understand there is not only a philosophic but a personal and universal need which only an infinite and personal God can answer. A God who can verbally communicate His propositional truths to man, which man can communicate to other men, then your journey for the answers to our very existence is yet to have begun.

 

 

And yet the nation of Sweden seems to be doing just fine without the god of fundamentalist Christianity: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/28/us/28beliefs.html?_r=1
Phil Zuckerman spent 14 months in Scandinavia, talking to hundreds of Danes and Swedes about religion. It wasn’t easy.

 

Anyone who has paid attention knows that Denmark and Sweden are among the least religious nations in the world. Polls asking about belief in God, the importance of religion in people’s lives, belief in life after death or church attendance consistently bear this out.

 

It is also well known that in various rankings of nations by life expectancy, child welfare, literacy, schooling, economic equality, standard of living and competitiveness, Denmark and Sweden stand in the first tier.

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Mike says: I dispute your understanding and assessment of Buddhism and Eastern religion in general. Claiming Christianity to be complete whereas Buddhism in contrast is incomplete simply does not jive with what I see in either.
Mike,

I understand and there's really no need to apologize for speaking your mind. If I can’t understand another’s passion, how do I expect to be understood with mine?

-

It could be a fairly lengthy answer for a message board. Bear with me; I’ll try to be brief.

 

The foundation of any faith/philosophy is its answer for the understanding that the universe is actually there, that it has form, an order, and that man conforms to that order so he can live in it.

 

The Eastern philosophy/religion answers assume the rational and logically considered one which can be communicated to: 1. oneself, internally, and 2. to others, externally. They have thrown the “everything from nothing” theory out, simply because any ‘evidence’ has proven unsustainable.

 

The Eastern answer has settled on the terms of an impersonal universe/beginning/existence. In our case, Buddhism has no need for a personal creator or God of any sort, stating all that is, just is, in an endless cycle of impersonal forces (mass, energy, motion, plus time, plus chance, etc., all equally impersonal). Any discussion of origins or God is discouraged if not roundly dismissed.

 

Really, the great problem of their starting with the impersonal is in finding any meaning for the particulars, any individual factor, any individual thing- the separate parts of the whole. How could anything have any significance, for instance- man? With the impersonal plus time plus chance, it has not ever been demonstrated how an impersonal can produce the needed complexity of the universe, not to mention the personality of man. So they are left to face some sort of reductionism.

 

Note: Beginning with the impersonal is often called- pantheism. But, “Theism” is really only a connotation word; there’s no god involved. It’s merely a semantic solution that’s being offered.

 

Like other pantheistic philosophies, Buddhism can provide an answer for our need for unity (form), but gives none for the needed meaning or significance of diversity. By beginning with the impersonal, Buddhism really has no meaning or significance for the individual, since, in the end, all is impersonal, and everything is finally equal. Even though it has an answer for form, these eastern philosophies can give no answer for freedom.

 

This is usually where cycles are introduced, like waves tossing up out of the oceans.

 

Morals, under any form of “pantheism’, have no meaning as morals. Because, again, everything is finally equal. The term ‘morals’ is used, but it is only a word used for a semantic solution.

 

Lastly, by beginning with the impersonal, the Easterns have no real true answers in regard to “being”, (that is: the universe with its complexity), much less the personality of man.

 

'Modern' man does not know why he has any meaning, he is lost. Avoiding the subject altogether can not relieve Buddhism from not being able to answer why man and his aspirations are not significant.

 

This is the point where only the Christian has the answer; we have the reality of the fact that personality does have meaning, that which is personal began everything else. Man and his aspirations are not meaningless because they are in line with was originally there and what has always intrinsically been.

--

Because objective truth exists, we can have genuine hope our subjective experience can uncover some of it. If it didn’t, we couldn’t.

 

All philosophy, faith, religion, or belief has a list. The question you should ask is: does ‘my’ list conform to what is there?

 

It seems on this we agree: that if we make a list of what we believe and it doesn’t conform to what is there, we need to update our list.

 

davidk

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Neon,

 

They'd all lose their meaning and need to exist. In the context of my post; "They" means our individuality, seperate paths, and individual decisions would all lose their meaning and need to exist if everyone ultimately is saved.

 

You are right, by virtue of your experience it has become clear to you that if all roads lead to Rome, you would have no choice in your destination and could not consider any particular path as more meaningful than any other. And, if there were only one path leading to Rome then it would make your choice of road truly meaningful.

Just how in the world do think Christianity is the opposite of these real life experiences, when it is Christianity that explains and defends man's freedom?

 

We cannot save ourselves. Faith is a gift. It is Jesus who said believe in Him and you will be saved. If you don't, you won't. If you have an argument, it is not my interpretation you should worry about. Works follow faith.

 

I think Paul was rather adamant about a faith in Jesus Christ our Lord being the complete package. It is this that only Christianity believes.

 

What, in your opinion, are the correct things to believe? Do you think you could make list of them?

 

The language of the Bible, whether Jewish or Greek, does have a grammatical structure that deals rather specifically with the subject matter in order to have it considered historical or not. You know, things like- past tense.

Faith is assurance. Assurance is certainty. Certainty is the state of being on the basis of evidence. Evidence is proof of the truth.

 

davidk

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Hi David,

 

I have a feeling your take on Eastern religion and Buddhism may reflect you and your beliefs rather than what these faiths actually have to say. Your assessments also ring to me of a former Western interpretation of the East that defined it somewhere between nihilism and atheism - which you expressed in your statement to Derek, that such paths (including his own) are "bereft of answers for our need for diversity, where the personal self is but a delusion, hope is in a final oblivion, and there is no God." Upon reading this one might wonder which Eastern religions you refer to, because it is certainly nothing I've ever read about.

 

You seem to be oversimplifying and overlooking the subtleties of Eastern religious thought. Not accounting for these greatly simplifies the matter of asserting the 'obvious' supremacy of Christianity because one is then attacking a non-existent hypothetical religion.

 

For one, it is incorrect to say that atheism is the 'Eastern answer,' as many Eastern religions are rooted in very theistic mythologies. Reading the Hindu scriptures one finds a culture veritably intoxicated by the notion of God. Now, Buddhism is a path that deals with suffering, its causes and its cure. This is why it, as a philosophy, deals almost exclusively with those questions pertaining to liberation, freedom from suffering.

 

Buddhism uses the well known analogy of a man, who being shot with an arrow, refuses treatment until he knows who shot him, from where, and why. The man may well die before ever having received those answers; he needs immediate treatment. Fortunately, treatment involves a particular way which has nothing to do with answering the aforementioned questions, but which is much more relevant: how to remove the arrow and go on to healing. The point is that some things simply matter more than others. This is not, by the way, to say that Buddhism is not interested in such questions - it is a vast and huge religious tradition that deals with all kind of metaphysical problems, but in such a way that always ties back into the fundamental problems of human existence (suffering in its manifold meanings).

 

What I see then, is that most of what you assert is what you think matters most, or is what matters most to you, both in the sense of which questions you ask, and how you answer them. But this is not the case for all people. You are imposing your own criteria, your own sense of what's important, on a foreign system, and when that system does not address them in the prescribed manner, you hail it insufficient and incomplete.

 

I simply do not know where you get the notion, as well, that Eastern religion and Buddhism in particular have no meaningful way of addressing the particulars of existence, when the notions of sunyata, Buddha-nature, dependent origination, etc, etc, are all dealing with this very topic and many, including myself, find it profound and nourishing. No, the Buddhist philosophers didn't have a Bible in their hands by which they derived their metaphysics, but that is not a shortcoming.

 

And speaking of reductionism, since you mentioned it, in contrast to the Far Eastern faiths, including Taoism and Chan Buddhism and all the other forms of East Asian Buddhism (I say this because some Indian school were atomist), the West is reductionist. We are the ones who tried to turn the universe into a machine, and we are the ones who faced the discontents when arriving at the prospect that perhaps we are not the center of the universe. The discontents we 'modern men' face are our own, they are not necessarily universal.

 

Perhaps in this way it is not the Biblical claim, but the Eastern's, that is more in line with reality? Perhaps man is not the center, and perhaps that's what many have the most trouble with. The Buddhists find their salvation in realizing that there is more to oneself than the ego, there is more to life than man. And many would rather, in spite of all we see around us, believe that the ego is the center, and that man is the center of the divine purpose. It is obvious to me that the latter is speculation, while the former may be very accessible to personal realization. And that is why the Buddhists would generally find the metaphysical questions you find so central and supreme to be beside the point. Some questions you cannot answer, and some questions have no answer because the question is flawed or loaded from the get-go. For you cannot reach the Ultimate using mere ideas, and you cannot have as the goal of your knowledge the entire purport of reality. In this view even God, as he is objectified by many theists, cannot be exempt from the question of meaning.

 

And yet, while not the center, man is in another way the center. The Easterns might well emphasize that there is no center, as that would make an object of reality. A Zen abbot might tell his monks that the universe is in their belly. When they eat, when they sleep, the full import of life can be realized in that eating and sleeping, by not distancing oneself from the fundamental fact.

 

In the end, to put it honestly and bluntly, you seem to be simply setting up your own 'universal' categories and criteria so that they just happen to fit the Christian tradition (although no real explanation was provided for why every other theistic faith, including Eastern ones, do not qualify), and then arbitrarily dismissing out of hand every other tradition because it does not address what you think is important or in the way you think it ought to be done.

 

Your assertions about morality, about the necessity of Christianity's answer over the rest, constitute what seems to be a lack of appreciation for the subtlety of other answers, and other questions. And again your dismissal of universalism and insistence that without consequences in terms of absolute, eternal rewards and punishments there is no freedom and life is meaningless, are rooted in more assertions, despite being addressed and refuted in its current form by others as a non sequitur.

 

Lastly, I'd like to say that having to argue against the Christian tradition as I have been in order to defend other faiths does leave a bad taste in my mouth. Christianity has things to offer, and there is enough depth in its tradition for me to find meaning in it. And it is not that your questions and answers, David, are simply without merit. The things you are fundamentally concerned with are worthy of consideration and Christian theology can provide important perspective on them. But they simply lack the epistemological stature to be viewed in such an absolute and black-and-white terms and in the context of supremacy claims and the dismissal of all other paths that have proved to others, including myself, to be the very thing you repeatedly insist they are not. Like I said, experience takes precedence, especially in this case.

 

And with that I think I shall retire this debate, and let you have the last word, unless, that is, you bring up something you'd really like me to respond to, as it would not be fair for me to simply write this and run off.

 

Peace to you,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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All philosophy, faith, religion, or belief has a list. The question you should ask is: does ‘my’ list conform to what is there?

 

 

But where in the bible does it say what the purpose of humanity is? What would you define as the Christian purpose of humanity?

 

We cannot save ourselves. Faith is a gift. It is Jesus who said believe in Him and you will be saved. If you don't, you won't. If you have an argument, it is not my interpretation you should worry about. Works follow faith.
If faith is a gift, what makes you think you can decide who Jesus can give salvation to? If it turned out the Christian afterlife does exist and Jesus decided to give salvation to an atheist, would you then question his decision because you believe only true Christians should be saved?

 

What, in your opinion, are the correct things to believe? Do you think you could make list of them?
No, I don't think I could make a list because I don't think there is such a thing as correct set of things to believe as I think focusing on a correct set of things to believe is missing the point of Jesus' message. I think Jesus' message was primarily about this life and how our actions effect this life rather than about believing the right things to score brownie points with God is turning faith into a work and misses what Jesus was about. I highly recommend reading the book The Case For God by Karen Armstrong but if you want to know what I think the key aspect of Jesus' message was, I think Mark 12:28-34 sums it up as the most important part
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ 29Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” 31The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ 32Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; 33and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ 34When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.
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  • 2 weeks later...

Dear Mike,

 

I see what you are saying and I appreciate your defending your faith. Whether yours, or anyone elses, I don't think I'm attacking anyones faith in the sense you seem to allude. I believe the individual is free to believe in whatever one wishes, but if answers for what exists finally resort to the inexplicable, I would think we could agree that a soul-search of the faith would be in order.

 

Philosophy and religion both look to answer the same questions. Man needs some basic answers for the observed unity and diversity of what we know exists. The eastern religions have seen that answers must be considered rationally and understood with such laws as cause and effect. So by not beginning with a personal beginning they have come to the only conclusion available, everything finally being equal.

 

They have observed the whole and see the relationships of everything to everything else, the unity of all of creation, and have been very profound in their observations. But without a personal creator God they have no final answer for the observed diversity in all of creation. Which is why they come to the reasonable conclusion that we must all eventually lose any sense of individuality.

 

In Buddhism, the whole thrust is in right thinking and the ultimate annhilation of the individual self into a single cosmic consciousness. The personal and infinite God as creator is anethema to a Buddhist. For this very reason, beginning with the impersonal, the Buddhist has left himself unable to finally find a meaning for man.

 

Sunyata. As I understand it, it is that nothing has its own identity.

Buddha-nature. Again, this is for the individual to arrive at a state of perfect enlightenment, where one is not to be mistaken for self.

dependent origination. It seems to recognize the existence of the individual, but it cannot answer for why any individual has any reason to exist when arguing critically against the existence of a permanent self, explaining that it is the not-self that opens the door to enlightenment.

 

Another eastern religion, Hinduism, does appear to be theistically oriented, but again it only agues for a universal self identical with All, by identifying the transcendent human self with the immanent divine self, not in any way- real. There is no meaning or significance to diversity.

 

As the question of morality is concerned, I have not intended anything I've said to be as accusing these religions of lacking morality. My complaint is that by beginning with the impersonal, they can point to no standard in the universe which gives meaning to such words as right and wrong. Here there is no ultimate difference between good and evil, where the final wrong or tension is the failure to accept your impersonality. If everything is finally equal, morals simply have no meaning as morals.

 

Christianity has no problem of epistemology. It is not that Christianity happens to have an answer, but rather that there is no problem in the Christian structure.

 

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Dear Mike,

If everything is finally equal, morals simply have no meaning as morals.

 

I'm not a PC but from my understanding of researching the PC faith and interacting with other PCs here, I think you're misunderstanding PC faith by claiming PCs believe all morals are equal. One analogy I think that would help better understand this position is the parable of the blind men and the elephant:
The people who lived in a small village were always arguing and fighting among each

other about God and different religions. They could never agree to a common answer. So

they came to the Buddha to find out what exactly God looks like.

The Buddha asked his disciples to get a large magnificent elephant

and six blind men. He then brought the blind to the elephant and

asked them to describe what an elephant looks like.

The first blind man touched the elephant leg and reported that it

"looked" like a tree trunk.

 

The second blind man touched

the elephant’s stomach and

said that the elephant was a

wall.

The third blind man

touched the elephant ear

and said that it was a fan.

The fourth blind man

touched the elephant’s tail

and described the elephant as a piece

of rope.

The fifth blind man felt the

elephant's tusks and described it as a

spear.

 

And the sixth blind man rubbed the elephant’s snout and got

very scared because he thought it was a snake.

All of them got into a big argument about the "appearance"

of an elephant.

The Buddha asked the citizens: "Each blind man had

touched the elephant but each of them gives a different

description of the animal. Which answer is right?"

"All of them are right," was the reply.

 

"Why? Because everyone can only see one part of the elephant. They are not able to see

the whole animal. The same applies to God and to religions. No one will see Him

completely."

By this parable, Buddha taught that we should respect all other religions and their beliefs.

Edited by Neon Genesis
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davidk,

 

While I appreciate that you were addressing Mike - and I'm sure he will have his own answers! - your words have prompted me to crawl out of hybernation. I was taking a break but pop back now and again to see how things are going.

 

My understanding is that "Buddhism" does not begin with the impersonal, but with the existential reality of suffering. The Buddha said at one time...I teach this and this alone, suffering and the ending of suffering. My understanding - again - is that this leaves aside any "view" of the "person". The Buddha was constantly warning against becoming embroiled in a tangle of "views" that would interfere with the main thrust of his teaching. And just what "we" are - or are not! - after the ending of "suffering" (dukkha) we are advised not to speculate upon.

 

It does seem to me that "reality" can be lived, but not "thought", and as per the Madhyamika- the Central Philosophy of Buddhism - there is a total and interminable conflict in reason which is why the Buddha sought to go beyond speculative answers, to be free of all theories.

 

It is the subject of the Person, and just what we mean by Personhood, and just what we mean by "God" being "personal" that is a fertile area of concern for anyone interested in Interfaith dialogue. To my mind, it is not sufficient to give our own meaning and understanding, or to resort to Western Dictionaries. True "dialogue" is open, with no pre-conditions...............there must be "vulnerability" on both sides.

 

Just as a taster, my own "Pure Land" faith has the symbolism of gold for the undifferentiated nature of "enlightenment", while the LOtus flower represents the "suchness" and uniqueness of each individual. The Pure Land abounds with infinite golden lotus flowers.

 

Well, thanks for the wake up call.

 

All the best

Derek

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Well, I've been looking over my shoulders waiting - and hoping - for the 10th Cavalry to arrive (i.e. Mike) but no show at the moment, so I'll plow on. My intent in posting the little Zen saying was just to mirror a few of the early verses of "The Imitation of Christ" by Thomas a' Kempis, about it being better to feel compunction than to be able to define it, and of what use is knowing the Bible in detail, and the works of all the Philosophers, if we lack love and the grace of God. And believe me this is aimed at no one here, its just to make a general point concerning all "reality".

 

I'm not seeking to put myself down too much, or to suggest that I'm totally thick, but really when it comes to just what - or Who - might or might not - guarantee "individuality", or the sacredness of the "person", or sustain "diversity", I really havent a clue, and I'm totally at a loss to truly follow the arguments offered here. All I would say is that the "arguments" seem far more like "assertions", at least to me. I do know Buddhism well, and have read many many books that assert that it is "sunyata"/"emptiness" that truly guarantees diversity and allows it to be, just as Davidk asserts it is a Personal God Who creates and therefore sustains it. Quite frankly, I havent got a clue, I just can't follow the logic......if there is any! This is not to argue that one side can't be right, just to say I would have to take it on faith rather than following the line of thought on offer.

 

I do have concerns in this area. On Buddhist forums I have begun threads based upon Thomas Merton's letter to Aldous Huxley when Huxley was argueing for the idea of intiating "mystical experience" by the use of drugs. Merton suggested to him that true mystical experience must always involve the "contact of two liberties", an I-Thou relationship (judging by a few of Merton's later essays, he moved on a little bit from this position). The threads never really sorted anything out, which is the nature of Buddhist Forums I suppose. All I do know is that those boards were inundated with those who would argue, with fine and profound reasons, that "enlightenment" is not possible for "those with the eternalist view", i.e. Christians of most varieties. I've actually argued against this, which I suppose deserves some sort of medal...... :rolleyes:

 

For me, the point is that we ARE persons, however we define the term, and whatever we think may or may not "sustain" and "underlay" it. And it seems to me that part of being a "person" is to have a deep respect and empathy for other "persons". That this is part of being "wise" and allowing diversity to BE............and I recognise such wisdom throughout recorded history, in the lives of many of all faiths, and even of none. Whether or not such people dipped into the writings of Thomas Aquinas, Nagarjuna or some modern day conservative Christian, who knows. Such is diversity, whatever "sustains" it and allows it to be.

 

Well, I'd better stop.

 

All the best

Derek

:) <---- "Better to see the face than to hear the name"

Edited by tariki
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Hi Derek,

 

Thanks for your input. Mike and I had bowed out to allow davidk the last word as we both seem to have reached an impass in communications with David. Therefore it seemed fruitless to continue dialoguing in what i also considered pure assertions and then statements even concerning Buddhism and other faiths that i have also studied and practiced to a degree and experienced that they were not as the assertions that were made.

 

Anyway, Derek, I thought it good here to quote Eckhart Tolle even though i rarely quote anybody but myself laugh.gif and i thought you might appreciate this...

 

"How easy is it for people to become trapped in their conceptual prisons.

The human mind, in its desire to know, understand, and control, mistakes its opinions and viewpoints for the truth."

 

"But reality is one unified whole, in which all things are interwoven, where nothing exists in and by itself. Thinking fragments reality -- it cuts it up into conceptual bits and pieces"

 

I know the thinking mind is a useful tool. But is it not also a very limiting one when it takes over ones life completely as if it is who we are?

 

Love in Christ,

Joseph

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Joseph,

 

Seems like I would have been waiting quite a while for the cavalry to arrive! Just remembered that I actually bowed out as well, which just goes to show............... :D (Some might wish I had kept to my word!)

 

Anyway, thanks for your quotes and comments.

 

All the best

Derek

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Neon,

"PC's believe all morals are equal." Had I said it, you would be right. However, I didn’t.

That‘s your invention.

I had written that by not beginning with a personal beginning you can come to no conclusion other than everything finally being equal.

---

 

Derek,

"...what use is knowing the Bible in detail, and the works of all the Philosophers, if we lack love and the grace of God."- Derek

I can't speak for the others, but you're right.

--

Yes, we are persons. We know that diversity. All of creation can be observed having its diversity as well as its unity.

 

I'll risk this one more time. Without a personal beginning, all that exists would be impersonal. This impersonality may be mass, energy, or motion, but all equally impersonal. It makes no difference which you start with. As soon as you accept this impersonal beginning everything is reduced to these impersonal factors. If all is impersonal, how do the particulars have any meaning? Nobody has given us an answer to that. Buddhism answers by just ignoring any discussion of a beginning at all. This makes it by default- impersonal.

 

Only by having a personal beginning can there be a reason for empathy and respect.

 

I’ll leave it at that.

--

 

Joseph,

I appreciate all of your study and experience. With your assertion that my statements were less than true, perhaps you could enlighten us of where I was wrong.

The quote you provided may leave you with a little disadvantage.

 

 

God's Grace to you,

David

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---

 

Derek,

"...what use is knowing the Bible in detail, and the works of all the Philosophers, if we lack love and the grace of God."- Derek

I can't speak for the others, but you're right.

--

Yes, we are persons. We know that diversity. All of creation can be observed having its diversity as well as its unity.

 

I'll risk this one more time. Without a personal beginning, all that exists would be impersonal. This impersonality may be mass, energy, or motion, but all equally impersonal. It makes no difference which you start with. As soon as you accept this impersonal beginning everything is reduced to these impersonal factors. If all is impersonal, how do the particulars have any meaning? Nobody has given us an answer to that. Buddhism answers by just ignoring any discussion of a beginning at all. This makes it by default- impersonal.

 

Only by having a personal beginning can there be a reason for empathy and respect.

 

I’ll leave it at that.

--

 

 

 

 

David,

 

I got a reminder a couple of days ago that I had already ducked out of this thread once, leaving you to have the last word. My trouble seems to be that I duck and dive a bit between forums and threads and lose track a bit, so anyway, I'm back again but please speak again yourself if the mood takes you.....

 

Well, from what I know of the "others" here they are well aware of the need for love and God's grace, I just think its a question of "others" believing that such grace can be mediated to human beings in ways other than those set by your own conceptual framework.

 

And you have received answers to your constant claim that only the personal God can ultimately sustain "diversity". Once again, I am no logician, but I do know that "eastern" logic is of an order that differs from "western", and therefore applying western categories towards it are totally beside the point. In addition, all the words of The Buddha are soteriological in intent, they do not "ignore" the discussion, merely observe that until the mind is clarified by the erasing of "dukkha" (which has far deeper meanings than the mere word "suffering") then our questions and the answers we would accept to them would be irrelevant.

 

Questions of the meaning of "personhood" and just what we mean by "personal" etc etc etc are extremely relevant to any interfaith dialogue, but they are not settled by insisting that your own conceptual framework is taken as the only base/starting point.

 

Once again I wish you well,

All the best

Derek

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Derek, I wonder why we keep doing this to each other? :unsure:

I have no doubt we're both trying to pound out the truth.

 

It has been my position that truth actually exists so it can be understood by man, because, he has been made to reason by a personal and infinite God who created all else.

 

Even that statement, as simple as it is, has been difficult for some to grasp. The concept of the way we come to knowledge and truth is critical.

 

Logical solutions are arrived at by the same techniques, regardless of race. The difference in the solutions is in man's presuppositions.

 

In the most incindiary of the current discussion involving Buddhism, we have seen that in Buddhism they have set a high standard of logical considerations. At the risk of boring you again, this is why they have such reticence talking of origins.

 

Without going onto the differences in presuppositions, we see Eastern man reasons the same as any man. Logic has no ethnic boundaries. The Buddhist philosophy has been rationally developed if beginning the logical argument not having to answer for a beginning. The Buddhist philosophers are well aware a rational discussion of a beginning that can explain what is there puts the rest of their philosophy at risk.

 

As far as conceptual framework is concerned, I'm sharing what I know actually provides answers. If you, or anyone has a conceptual framework that answers for what is there, and not just saying you disagree or that I'm just egotistical, it would be refreshing.

 

Without having a beginning, how can any talk of the afterlife be relevant?

 

If you want to answer or just keep it to yourself, I understand either choice.

 

God bless you,

David

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