Friday, April 17, 2015

Judging

Judging is a complex issue as we have to make thousands of judgements a day, but judging another person, not their actions but the person themselves, is a special case. Judging entire groups (e.g., homosexuals, infidels, gentiles, atheists, women, etc.) also falls in this category. In my opinion this is where "judge not lest ye be judged" clearly applies. So how to deal with people who judge, should we judge them? Well, yes. Judging someone for judging is not the same as judging the person themselves. When someone condemns another human being based on religious beliefs they are sinning (or acting in ignorance from a Buddhist perspective) so opposing them is an act of compassion. We should show them the right way and stand up for the people they are victimizing.  If it's their religious or cultural beliefs informing the judgement, then those beliefs are wrong and should be actively opposed. That's the great thing about religion, it's not relative, there is right and wrong. But there is a split amongst religious people, there are those who  use rules to judge others, and those who follow compassion to judge others. Both cannot be right. There can be no compromise, no quarter given. Jesus was clear on this, the Buddha was clear on this. Compassion trumps rules, always. 

Ultra Orthodox attitudes towards Women

I am just listening to a story on the radio about a woman who was seated next to an ultra orthodox Jewish man on an airplane, he refused to sit next to her and she refused to move. As noted on the radio, these rules about contact with women are relatively new (i.e., not rooted in ancient practices) but more generally this gets into the confusion between religion and culture. For many people, religion means following a set of rules, but this misses the point. Ultra orthodox groups of all faiths fall prey to worshiping the rules. Rules should always be flexible based on compassion. Treating women, or other groups, as second class citizens is not compassionate and is wrong.  These rules are false idols and cause nothing but misery. No one should tolerate or accommodate such rules. A refusal to extend compassion to another human being because of a rule is a deeply selfish and judgemental act. Cultures that support such rules should not be allowed to label it as a religious right. This is an uncomfortable topic for many people who want to respect other peoples cultural values but also find it unacceptable to accept prejudice against different groups. You cannot have it both ways. If you want to move forward in compassion you must stand up against bad cultural beliefs. Think of Jesus causing a riot and driving the merchants out of the temple. Historians agree that the merchants would have been armed, so this took guts. Compassion trumps culture.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Lord of the Rings

Many people do not know that Tolkien's lord of the rings was written as an allegory for Christianity. In my opinion the ring, the precious as golem calls it, represents the shadowy force that underlies all desire. It can be read that the ring represents addiction, but to understand it in terms of Christianity I think the ring needs to be understood as representing what underlies addiction or any type of desire. In this sense addiction is just a word that we use when someone has a single overwhelming desire rather than the usual scattering of many smaller desires. Many small desires is equally a problem but it allows people to function in less extreme ways. Instead of being pulled in one direction they are pulled in different, at times contradictory directions. We label this as normal but it is equally poisonous. 

Renunciation

People renounce different things and different systems of spirituality require different types of renunciation. Renunciation is a really important practice in both Christianity and Buddhism but the most important thing to understand is that it doesn't matter what you renounce. The real goal of renunciation is not to renounce different types of behaviours or thoughts. The real purpose is to renounce what underlies all of them. However, this underlying factor is very subtle and it is difficult to get direct experience of in its pure form, uncoupled from specific desires. It is  far far stronger than any specific desire in its pure form and it cannot be overcome by any act of will. Using will to renounce specific things is useful to gain insight but also dangerous because the use of will must ultimately be abandoned. If it is not then the desire to use will will replace whatever desire has been renounced and the situation will be much worse. Historically, this appears to have been a dangerous trap for well meaning monks.