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Christian Context?


Nolose
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I was talking to someone who told me he was taking a class on Mindfulness. I responded “oh, that comes from Buddhism” he responded “ya, but I’m learning it from a Christian context.” I asked him what he meant by “Christian context” considering there are more than 30,000 Christian organizations (groups, branches or denominations) worldwide. I got a vague response.

What does it mean to learn something from a (or the) Christian context?

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Hi, not sure what they might have meant, but in Buddhism anyone can "seek" to "attain" enlightment. Practice on the meditation cushion is aimed at such attainment, to become what you are currently not. This idea is very much "western" orientated, the "I want it and I want it NOW".

Any investigation of Buddhism will more often find the idea of "original enlightenment". Realisation rather than attainment.

 

Meditation is an expression of our inherent enlightenment. In Pure Land Buddhism this would be associated with the realisation of "gift".

Anyway,I can only assume the Christian guy was seeing things from a dualistic context. Buddhism is non-dual, hence:-

"Will you tell us of Other Power?

Yes, but there is neither self power nor other power

What is, is the Graceful.Acceptance only"

(From the Journals of a Pure Land devotee)

Specifically answering your question, at least as I understand it, a Christian could seek to meditate and not wish to lose sight of salvation as gift, a gift given by an "Other". Mindfulness/awareness of grace. 

My understanding is that when various Christian mystics such as Eckhart and St John of the Cross are "heard" and when the Buddhist Dharma is understood, many "differences" waver just a little! We ourselves perhaps supply a "context" according to our understanding.

Edited by tariki
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Hello,

Given that I know the guy, my question was in some sense was rhetorical. Your explanation of what mindfulness is, is what I would want to hear …. i.e. how does the Buddhist understand it. When I hear some people say Christian context, I hear them say “my” Christian context, not the other 29,999 other Christian contexts. Some 20 years ago I was explaining to someone that I was reading some new age books (for example, The Seat of the Soul by Gary Zukav). I could hear the concern in their voice when they said “Oooooh …. blah, blah, blah …..” It was as if I was reading something from the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. I’ve always been interested in learning about other beliefs, cultures, philosophies etc. A person can get a deeper understanding of their own beliefs & perspectives by learning about others. Over the past number of years, I’ve read a fair number of books by different authors, theists, atheists, and agnostics alike. My favorite being John Dominic Crossan with his “matrix” approach to understanding historical context. Doing so has at times caused me concern as I began to doubt, modify & change some of my beliefs, but it has certainly been a good for me.

My attention to these issues has always been a solitary one, resulting in my wife having to put up with my ramblings on topics she’s not particularly interested in ….. though she says otherwise. 😊

Forums like this are very rare.

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1 hour ago, Nolose said:

 

😊Forums like this are very rare.

Hi, I think they are about to become rarer still!

😁

But while we are still here, I've had some experience on other Forums where, after posting of something drawn from the Christian mystics, even the early Church Fathers, the response has been along the lines of it being "new age stuff". In the end you just tend to give up. Others seem happy enough with what they have, belief wise, and I think most like to think it is "orthodox" and grounded in "tradition" irrespective of reality. 

Anyway, as I said, "We ourselves perhaps supply a "context" according to our understanding. "

 

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On 11/3/2021 at 9:53 PM, Nolose said:

When I hear some people say Christian context, I hear them say “my” Christian context, not the other 29,999 other Christian contexts.

And I'd go further to say that the earliest Christian context is likely nothing like what Christianity has morphed into in the early centuries following the death of Jesus.  I doubt the earliest of Christians actually believed that Jesus' death was a sacrificial atonement in which one needed to 'believe in' to make it to Heaven.  Being exposed to scholarship and understandings that threaten long-held beliefs and faith can be very uncomfortable for people who are so convinced with what they presently believe.

On 11/3/2021 at 9:53 PM, Nolose said:

Forums like this are very rare.

They very much are, Nolose.  That's why I am keen to keep it alive.  It can be very quiet here at times but according to our stats there are lots of eyes watching here and accessing a range of material in the various threads and forums.  I hope that helps people.  I think it's even better when people generate discussion and share their thoughts.  Thankyou for doing so.

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14 hours ago, PaulS said:

And I'd go further to say that the earliest Christian context is likely nothing like what Christianity has morphed into in the early centuries following the death of Jesus.

So would I. My understanding is that the first morphing was moving from a Jewish sect to a non-Jewish organization. The Apostle Paul and the sacking of Jerusalem in 70 ce facilitated this transition. The next 2 centuries saw the Hellenization of the belief system with Greco-Roman philosophy; one by-product being the Trinity resulting in, what might be described by some as, a soft monotheism. The following century we see a merger of Christianity with the Roman Empire (325 ce) which eventually morphed into the Holy Roman Empire. The objective and result being one Rome, one emperor, one faith, one pope; hence, exclusivity towards other faiths ...... all of which does not fit into my notion of who Jesus was. 

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So, here's my take: your friend is trying to interpret "mindfulness" in a Christian context simply because he has found himself in a Christian society. That Christian context for him is simply what he currently sees as his society. The original context ... or even the antecedents to that context will be in large part irrelevant to him.

I do similar things ... I try to see the world through a scientific lens. If and when I look at concepts like "mindfulness", I tend to look at them through observation (a bit circular I know) not some 2000 thousand year old lens. We have have found better tools since then to view the world.

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"Who shall untangle this tangle" are the first words of the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purification) Obviously its author, Buddhaghosa, supplied his context, the teachings of the Buddha. Exactly what they are are then spelt out over about 1000 turgid pages. 

Dogen:-  "if there are fish that would swim or birds that would fly only after investigating the entire ocean or sky, they would find neither path nor place."  (From Genjokoan)

So what "context" should we put things into? "We are the beings who interpret, it is our very being" says a modern philosopher. 

Do we simply inherit a "context" given the time and place allotted to us, most would say randomly, and live, our lives virtually determined, genuine radical freedom a chimera? Or have we what the zens call an "original face", the face we had before we were born?

I think faith comes into it. Not belief as such, but faith that we  can find a true path and place irrespective of complete investigation of the "entire ocean and sky".

In Christian terms, following Merton, God is freedom, and is his own gift. Radical Incarnation. Reality is a constant advance into novelty. We can join in. 

End of waffle.

Edited by tariki
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9 hours ago, tariki said:

So what "context" should we put things into?

When I was using the word context in my initial question, I was thinking of the challenge of how we must consciously try to understand and interpret the words and actions of another person, who comes from a very different time, place, and culture, from their perspective, not ours. By way of example, I remember when we hosted a student from another country in our home. The organizers of the program told us that we should make sure that she understands that if she finds herself in a challenging situation, then she should go to the police. Where she came from you do not go to the police when you need help. I remember when she was crossing the street in our hometown; the moment the cross light turned red she ran to the other side! In her country, cars do not slow down for pedestrians …... This is how I was using the word context. The student was coming from a very different situation, or context, then we were.

I also remember a few conversations that I have had with others, over the years, where the person I am talking to suddenly laughs, or gets annoyed, and I am bewildered because I did not (in my mind) say anything funny or insulting. Obviously, from their perspective, I said something different from what I meant. I believe that some people tend to interpret the words of others as they would have meant them, i.e., they interpret your words from their context. More generally speaking, we tend to interpret others as we are, not as they are. It takes effort to do otherwise.

When it comes to beliefs systems, committing the error of interpreting others as we are becomes more vigorous and deliberate. For example, some people consciously and deliberately study other beliefs from within the context of their own beliefs. No wonder they think that other beliefs are silly. How would we respond now if we heard someone praying to Zeus. 🙂

 

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On 11/8/2021 at 10:30 AM, tariki said:

Thanks Nolose. Something to mull over.

 

🤔

Having mulled it over, for better or for worse....😄

There was an idea put forward by a Christian theologian, John Dunne I think, of "passing over" - passing over from our own belief system into that of another. Having done so, to return to ones own and seeing it with fresh eyes. As you suggest, far easier said than done. 

Putting yourself in someone elses shoes is often recommended before "judging" them but often our empathy is in short supply. Where is the deep existential experience that could ever truly put us in another's shoes? 

I'm thinking now of compassion, compassion as an exchange between equals, "not a meeting of wounded and healer" (Pema Chodron). If so then knowing ourselves, our own darkness, finding our own true, authentic context is as I see it the true imperative. 

Finding our own context is, as I understand it, to free ourselves of the reflex, knee jerk thoughts and actions built into us by the cultural times we were randomly born into, the conditioning of our upbringing by parents and peer groups. Is that even possible? "Be not conformed to this world."

I'm beginning to see the significance of the idea of "individuation" put forward by Carl Jung. Often I've seen it as counter to the "eastern" notions of "no-self", but having "passed over" (not passed out!) and investigated, I now see the connection. We must find our own true context, born of authentic experience. Some things we are born into could well be authentic, others simply wrong. A quagmire. "Who shall untangle this tangle?" asks the Buddha. 

Myself, I need, and have, faith. Trust in Reality-as-is as a place of healing. Trust in Infinite Compassion, Infinite Wisdom, Infinite Potential. Reality as healing will "give itself" to us, as we trust "so shall it be unto us."

Maybe others will not see the connection, but here is Dogen again:- "Therefore, if there are fish that would swim or birds that would fly only after investigating the entire ocean or sky, they would find neither path nor place. When we make this very place our own, our practice becomes the actualization of reality."

Those words call for Faith/Trust. 

Edited by tariki
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 11/7/2021 at 8:37 PM, Nolose said:

No wonder they think that other beliefs are silly. How would we respond now if we heard someone praying to Zeus. 🙂

...or any  of the millions of gods that are still prayed to around the world....

All religious beliefs seem a bit crazy to the outsider, when they get into the supernatural. But there are some that don't posit a god at all - Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism (in the strict, personal sense) - focusing more on right action and the processes of the mind rather than what it thinks it sees. 

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14 hours ago, John Hunt said:

All religious beliefs seem a bit crazy to the outsider

Correct, and too often religious beliefs look at other beliefs as crazy. Thats the problem, the attitude that "you're crazy, I'm not" is crazy.

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3 hours ago, Nolose said:

Correct, and too often religious beliefs look at other beliefs as crazy. Thats the problem, the attitude that "you're crazy, I'm not" is crazy.

I grew up in a fundamental Christian Church and thought nothing of it.  I thought all Christians were the same (more or less, Catholics didn't quite make the grade :) ) and I thought that non-believers understood Christianity but deliberately chose not to follow it.  Funnily enough, it wasn't until after I left Christianity that I came to learn that most non-Christians thought Christian's were crazy! 

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9 hours ago, PaulS said:

it wasn't until after I left Christianity that I came to learn that most non-Christians thought Christian's were crazy! 

Over the years we’ve hosted a number of exchange students, some were atheists from atheist countries. If the students were interested, we’d bring them to our church “for the experience”. Afterwards they were typically very candid, in fact we’d encourage them to be candid with us about what they thought of the church service. Their observations included polite synonyms of the word “crazy” like “that was different” or “very interesting.” 😊

No doubt, being raised in a mainstream protestant conservative Christian church, 40+ years ago I was guilty of such attitudes; for example, when considering eastern religions that had gods with animal heads, or other such unfamiliar things. However, over the past several decades my wife and I have, unintentionally, found that Mark Twain was correct when he said that "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."

Having said that, I still find some things "crazy" like the preaching style of Paula White and others.

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On 11/21/2021 at 11:52 PM, Nolose said:

Correct, and too often religious beliefs look at other beliefs as crazy. Thats the problem, the attitude that "you're crazy, I'm not" is crazy.

I look at them with puzzlement. How could the underlying causes be so strong that people take on beliefs that are ultimately indefensible. And then when they realize the beliefs are not defensible the faith card is played.

Just an aside I was listening to a lady (Huma Abedin) being interviewed on CBC radio. She talked quite frankly about being a Muslim in the White House, her relationship with Hillary, the ups and downs of 2016. And towards the end of the interview, she said through it all she still had her faith in God. 

I struggled to see the relevance, but part of me wonders about her and others of faith, how can we have people who patently have faith in the absurd be in the highest echelons of leadership. 

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9 hours ago, romansh said:

I look at them with puzzlement. How could the underlying causes be so strong that people take on beliefs that are ultimately indefensible. And then when they realize the beliefs are not defensible the faith card is played.

Just an aside I was listening to a lady (Huma Abedin) being interviewed on CBC radio. She talked quite frankly about being a Muslim in the White House, her relationship with Hillary, the ups and downs of 2016. And towards the end of the interview, she said through it all she still had her faith in God. 

I struggled to see the relevance, but part of me wonders about her and others of faith, how can we have people who patently have faith in the absurd be in the highest echelons of leadership. 

As I see it, this confuses faith and belief. For me they are complete opposites. Faith "lets go" while belief clings. 

Belief can be departmentalised. The most absurd beliefs can accompany the ability to function in any environment. Belief in God's love can even "live" alongside persecution of others. All part of a false self built up of accumulated beliefs, knowledge, self-justifications.

"Using the faith card" to justify a belief is part of not seeing the difference between faith and belief.

Faith for me is Trust. It permeates all. The ground from which all diversification issues, "empty" in itself. 

I do not seek to justify it. 

 

 

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For me faith and trust are not the same thing. 

I trust my bank, because there is plenty evidence that it is secure. That does is not  a guarantee in any sense of the word. The odds are pretty remote that my bank will go broke or abscond with my monies tomorrow. And the bank hedges it bets should I abscond with their monies. There is no faith involved here.

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On 11/24/2021 at 5:29 PM, Nolose said:

You do realise, i hope, that none of us can escape science

Yes ... but some do see impervious to its repercussions.

On 11/24/2021 at 5:29 PM, Nolose said:

in the same way that none of us can escape faith.

I can think of some major metaphysical assumptions that I have to make in my existence, I was wondering what you might think my faith might be?

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8 hours ago, romansh said:

For me faith and trust are not the same thing. 

I trust my bank, because there is plenty evidence that it is secure. That does is not  a guarantee in any sense of the word. The odds are pretty remote that my bank will go broke or abscond with my monies tomorrow. And the bank hedges it bets should I abscond with their monies. There is no faith involved here.

I usually refrain from using the word "faith" as it comes for most (it seems) with baggage i.e. they equate it with "belief" (in whatever)

I use trust. And as I have said, strangely it comes with no guarantees. 

Yet my own experience tells me that my Trust in Reality makes a difference. A big difference. Maybe that is simply because I am not very logical..........🙂

So much for logic (of course, there are different kinds of logic)

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Regarding guarantees, or lack of them, maybe the confusion rests in the prevalence of what is called the Cartesian self-awareness, an "awareness" that assumes without thought that the empirical ego is the starting point of any advance into the perception/experience of "truth/reality".

Fortunately, there will never be guarantees for any such.

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On 11/26/2021 at 4:00 PM, romansh said:
On 11/24/2021 at 6:29 PM, Nolose said:

in the same way that none of us can escape faith.

I can think of some major metaphysical assumptions that I have to make in my existence, I was wondering what you might think my faith might be?

Over the past several days I’ve been pondering how I might answer this question. First of all, I don’t know you well enough to answer this question about you. Sometimes, I’m not sure if I know myself well enough to answer this question about myself.

This morning I started thinking that in the public, political, and social realms both science and religion can sometimes appear to be belief systems. I searched the internet to see what I could find on this topic. Below you will find 1) a definition of a belief system, and 2) an explanation of how science is an ‘open’ belief system versus religion being a ‘closed’ belief system.

I fully understand and except the statement that religion is typically a ‘closed’ belief system. However, when I think of science, I am not so sure it is necessarily an ‘open’ belief system. Consider any social issue where we should look to science for guidance, now consider that this issue is somehow highly contentious, causing significant social unrest and disagreement, where each side is calling the other names. Now add to this mix a number of scientists that disagree (perhaps 49% to 51%, or perhaps 90% to 10%). Finally, add in the economic issues, cost/benefit analyses and profit motives. Is it realistic to assume that science will be an ‘open’ system within this highly politicised-social-economic issue? It would require an individual to have a very strong faith in science to think so.

In summary, I would say that Science is an ‘open’ belief system in the “Ideal World.”

Definition of Belief System: A belief system is an ideology or set of principles that helps us to interpret our everyday reality. This could be in the form of religion, political affiliation, philosophy, or spirituality, among many other things. These beliefs are shaped and influenced by a number of different factors. Our knowledge on a certain topic, the way we were raised, and even peer pressure from others can help to create and even change our belief systems. The convictions that come from these systems are a way for us to make sense of the world around us and to define our role within it.

The difference between science and religion: This article posed the question “Science is empirical, open, evolving and objective, but is religion the opposite?”  The attached PDF does a good job of identifying the difference between the scientific belief system and the religious belief system; the former is open; the latter is closed.

Compare_Science_Religion.pdf

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On 10/31/2021 at 6:41 PM, Nolose said:

I was talking to someone who told me he was taking a class on Mindfulness. I responded “oh, that comes from Buddhism” he responded “ya, but I’m learning it from a Christian context.” I asked him what he meant by “Christian context” considering there are more than 30,000 Christian organizations (groups, branches or denominations) worldwide. I got a vague response.

What does it mean to learn something from a (or the) Christian context?

If you take a look at the words, it is obvious that a person who actually BELIEVES Christ Jesus (not Church Dogma), and follows it IS  a Christian!

The vast majority aren't seen by Jesus words "Few find the road to life!"

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