Monday, June 25, 2012

Martyrdom and the First Noble Truth

Martyred means to witness, it does not mean to suffer, it means to witness suffering and to know that it is wrong and yet it is happening. In the face of suffering there are only two alternatives to being a martyr: (1) to be blind to your own feelings, to be numb - to avoid, gloss over, or madly distract yourself from the suffering (e.g., with drugs, alcohol, television, sex, etc.). Although you may succeed to some level, you make yourself dead inside. The other alternative is to (2) live your life based on the suffering, to believe in the suffering. This will make you feel hopeless and depressed. In the first case there is a failure to accept that suffering exists. In the second case there is a failure to accept that suffering is transient, that it has a cause and that it will pass when the conditions that cause it have passed. Also, that there are things we can do to cause those conditions to pass.

The first step is to witness the suffering and accept its existence. This is martyrdom. Most Christians believe that martyrdom means to die or to suffer for your beliefs. This is wrong. In the bible the martyrs were persecuted and killed for their beliefs but the actual act of martyrdom occurred in the way they accepted their situation and the consequence of their decision. Also, it is important to understand that martyrdom is not about passively accepting suffering. It is about accepting the current situation and choosing to act compassionately. The martyrs in the bible chose to die to support the early christian church, which taught compassion within a brutal empire, and brought great benefits to the poor. Of course the ultimate expression of this in Christianity is the martyrdom of Jesus (God) on the cross.

The battle that goes on inside yourself is called noetic warfare by Christian mystics. This battle exists because suffering exists. It is a condition of our existence. In Buddhism, this fact is known as the first noble truth. However, many Buddhists skip over the first noble truth - of course suffering exists, that's why I'm a Buddhist, I want to move on and get rid of suffering. But, like the other noble truths, the first truth is not just a fact, it is an ongoing action, and it is arguably the hardest of all the noble truths. The first noble truth is the last noble truth because all actions in Buddhism are ultimately focused on dealing with this truth, that there is suffering.

This, I think, is why Buddhism and Christianity should be studied together, because of all the world religions, they are two that are most directly focused around suffering.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Spoken word on Jesus

This video and the ones below are spoken word performances about Jesus. They are in reverse order because that's how blogs work. the one that started it all is below, the first one posted. I'm posting this one, which is a reaction to the one below, because I think it's pretty reasonable. However, it probably will make more sense if you start from the first one as this is a response to a response about that one

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus || Muslim Version

As noted elsewhere in this blog, worshipping Jesus as God cannot be treated as if it was rational. Muslims do not worship Jesus, but fundamentalist Muslims make the same mistake as fundamentalist Christians who worship the Bible, they worship the Koran as a source of knowable, rational truth. Like the Bible, the Koran is literature, it is a poem, which means that the essential truth it contains cannot be expressed through the rational use of words. It also needs to be understood in its historical and cultural context. For example, eating animals that do not live in the desert, such as pork and shellfish, without access to refrigeration, is a bad idea because they can spoil. But, as Jesus said, it is what comes out of your mouth that defiles you, not what goes in. The Koran and the Bible can be considered as God's poems, but not as God's manual (unless you are living several hundred years ago in the dessert).

Christianity is defined by a belief that makes no rational sense - that Jesus was God, but there is only ONE God. This belief is a finger pointing at the moon. The concept of God or Allah (same dude) is also a finger pointing. The verses of the Bible and of the Koran are also fingers pointing, as are the Sutras of Buddhism. They are all valuable pointers and they are all full of contradictions. In Buddhism the idea that religious concepts are fingers and not the moon is explicitly acknowledged (although you still get fundamentalist Buddhists). The impossibility of the Trinity is viewed (by monks and mystics) as a poetic acknowledgment of the need to go beyond words and rationally. In Islam, the Sufis believe that spiritual truth can be perceived through non rational, mystical means.  

Why I love religion and love jesus

This is a good Catholic response. Although the finger that points at the moon is not the moon it is important for knowing where to look for the moon. Religion is ok when it is understood as a finger pointing. But I do not believe that you cannot have Jesus without the (Catholic) Church. Religious groups often claim that they are the only finger that points accurately to the moon, but in reality it depends on where the observer is standing.

Why I hate religion but love Jesus

I noticed a bunch of spoken word stuff about Jesus on you tube so I've decided to post some with my comments. Here is the first, which I believe is actually the first one. I think that it's great that this guy understands that Jesus is not what his right wing american church has been telling him. In buddhism they say that religions are like a finger pointing at the moon. People miss the point when they mistake the finger for the moon