The question of Grace

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Thomas, Oct 19, 2013.

  1. Tariki

    Tariki Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2003
    Messages:
    324
    Likes Received:
    3
    Hi again, relevant to all this are some words - quite a lot of words actually - once again from Thomas Merton in his book of essays, "Raids on the Unspeakable"......

    ......the deeper question is the nature of reality itself.

    Inexorable consistency. Is reality the same as consistency?

    The "reality" of the world of many is of consistency, but the reality of the real world is not consistent.

    The world of consistency is the world of justice, but justice is not the final word.

    There is, above the consistent and logical world of justice, an inconsistent illogical world where nothing "hangs together," where justice no longer damns each to their own darkness. This inconsistent world is the realm of mercy.

    The world can only be "consistent" without God.

    His freedom will always threaten it with inconsistency - with unexpected gifts.

    A god who is fitted into our world scheme in order to make it serious and consistent is not God.

    Such a world is not to be taken seriously, such a god is not to be taken seriously. If such a god is "absent" then doubtless the absence is a blessing.

    To take him seriously is to submit to obsession, to doubt, to magic, and then to escape these, or try to escape them, by willfulness, by the determination to stake all on an arbitrary selection of "things to be taken seriously" because they "save," because they are "his affairs."

    (Note that even atheism takes seriously this god of consistency)

    But mercy breaks into the world of magic and justice and overturns its apparent consistency. Mercy is inconsistent. It is therefore comic. It liberates us from the tragic seriousness of the obsessive world which we have "made up" for ourselves by yielding to our obsessions. Only mercy can liberate us from the madness of our determination to be consistent - from the awful pattern of lusts, greeds, angers and hatreds which mix us up altogether like a mass of dough and thrusts us all together into the oven.

    Mercy cannot be contained in the web of obsessions.

    Nor is it something one determines to think about - that one resolves to "take seriously," in the sense of becoming obsessed with it.

    You cannot become obsessed with mercy!

    This is the inner secret of mercy. It is totally incompatible with obsession, with compulsion. It liberates from all the rigid and deterministic structures which magic strives to impose on reality (or which science, the child of magic, tries to impose)

    Mercy is not to be purchased by a set way of acting, by a formal determination to be consistent.

    Law is consistent. Grace is "inconsistent."

    The Cross is the sign of contradiction - destroying the seriousness of the Law, of the Empire, of the armies, of blood sacrifice, and of obsession.

    But the magicians keep turning the Cross to their own purpose. Yes, it is for them too a sign of contradiction: the awful blasphemy of the religious magician who makes the Cross contradict mercy. This of course is the ultimate temptation of Christianity. To say that Christ has locked all doors, has given one answer, settled everything and departed, leaving all life enclosed in the frightful consistency of a system outside of which there is seriousness and damnation, inside of which there is the intolerable flippancy of the saved - while nowhere is there any place left for the mystery of the freedom of divine mercy which alone is truly serious, and worthy of being taken seriously.
     
  2. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    12,292
    Likes Received:
    2,581
    Tariki — thank you.

    I was going to add my usual stream of consciousness remarks triggered by your post, especially the last paragraph, but I think I do you greater justice if I let it stand on its own.

    Thanks again.
     
  3. Tariki

    Tariki Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2003
    Messages:
    324
    Likes Received:
    3
    Thomas, well thanks for your thanks, but really, thank Merton, the words are his.

    As for me, more often than not I barely have the intuition to recognise just what to take seriously and what not.

    But thanks all the same.
     
  4. stranger

    stranger the divine ignorance (and friends)

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2013
    Messages:
    1,037
    Likes Received:
    399
    I found the quote to be not only relevant but also very moving. Puts into words things I am experiencing but I lack the ability to articulate them in this way. Thanks.
     
  5. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2012
    Messages:
    1,891
    Likes Received:
    576
    Thomas, first let me request your (Christian :)) forgiveness. I went overboard in my last post. That does not make a good discussion. I went against my books which say:

    "saha navavatu, saha nau bhunaktu, saha viryam karavavahi;
    tejaswi navadhitamastu, ma vidvishavahi."


    (May he protect all of us, May he cause us to enjoy, May we acquire strength together;
    May our study be brilliant, May we not hate each other.)

    "And 'physical energy' takes no account of 'good' or 'bad', they are moral concepts. You insist karma is amoral." :
    That is what I said. At the absolute level, there is no karma itself. It is only at human level, a lower level of reality. Why it has been placed there by the society is because it helps its peaceful conduct, even if it is not truth.

    "Enlightenment is Grace — but I'm not limiting 'grace' to the Christian concept." :
    If by grace you mean chance and probability, then I agree with you. What kind of grace can it be if it is not from a God (Hindu, Christian, or any other)?

    "A clean sheet, yes. But according to your karma, another life is not a clean sheet or a fresh start is it? It is apriori burdened with a debt, and more over the life has no idea what the debt is, or how it came about ... as I said, very Kafkaesque!" :
    That is a Buddhist concept and this is one of the points on which I differ from Buddha. In theist Hinduism, one has remained in hell for his/her period of time according to his/her deeds in a particular cycle of life. What remains is 'Prarabhda karma' (old hidden debts). Gods keep it in reserve, and this is the spice of life. Part of that is to be enjoyed or suffered in one's life. They can give you a winning lottery ticket or involve your car in a bash-up. After the 'Prarabhda' as well as "Sanchita" (earned or the current), both have been squared, the person is free from the cycle. In Hinduism, the load of karma is always carried by the soul. If it were not for that, man would be one with his maker. But that is for theists and I am an atheist.

    "Nope. Sometimes the judge dismisses the case. The measure of a civilised society, someone said, is how compassionate it is ... ":
    I have never heard of a murder or a rape case dismissed, and why should that be? It will create a disturbance in the society. For minor cases, there could be a correctional punishment. For example, among Sikhs, it may be sweeping in a gurudwara or cleaning the shoes of the people who visit it. But still there is a punishment.

    "Justice is a set of moral values according to a system of ethics, it's not a physical property of the cosmos. And I thought you said karma was just cause and effect, not a God? And a God without any notion of morality or ethics? A God without compassion? And we have man, who has invented morality, ethics, empathy ... so all in all I'd say your God would make a very poor man ... And by your logic, for every good act, karma would require a bad one to establish that even keel? :
    I have no Gods or Goddesses, so for me, karma is cause and effect in this life, because there was none prior to it, nor there would any be after it. My case is different. I am talking of the theist Hindus where it is according to the rules of the society. Gods cannot and should not overrule the laws of society. It will be arbitrary. For example, a sinner accepting Jesus as the God and Son of God. What has that to do with the crime? Do you think the conquistadors and pioneers who killed native Americans/Africans but accepted Jesus have incurred no sin? Morality and ethics in the Middle-East were invented by Hammurabi. Jews took it from there. In India (actually everywhere), it is even older (there was never a human society without its ethics and morals, even if you go as far back as Homo habilis). An even keel is with good deeds. Evil deeds unbalance the ship, they are like holes in the keel, and sometimes cause the Titanic to sink.
     
  6. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2012
    Messages:
    1,891
    Likes Received:
    576
    Bhakti is what a devotee does (devotion unadulterated with demands), grace is what Gods do. I have problems with Gods who would let off a sinner. I do not think that is fair to the victim. Indian Gods and Goddesses sometimes do that, but how does Yama account for it? Writes it off as bad debt? We have enough of political corruption and nepotism in our political life. :)
     
  7. Tariki

    Tariki Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2003
    Messages:
    324
    Likes Received:
    3
    Maybe that relates to the experience coming first rather than working from conclusions.

    Anyway, yes, I often find myself reading Merton's words and find something new each time.
     
  8. Tariki

    Tariki Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 5, 2003
    Messages:
    324
    Likes Received:
    3
    I think that being accepted just as you are CAN be the catalyst of genuine transformation. Possibly, then, one can be part of the reconciliation of ALL things?
     
  9. carrots

    carrots Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2013
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    0
    nepotism?
    to love someone regardless of fault and show them mercy is unconditional love.

    did you mean without demands?:confused:
     
  10. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

    Joined:
    Jul 28, 2011
    Messages:
    3,212
    Likes Received:
    4
    :) I appreciate and understand your answer. I think that Yama and his dogs are widely enough known that your answer covers most Eastern Spiritual approaches (I remember him as Japanese and Thai manifestations as well as Hindu-Zoroastrian). Yeah, some differences, but not enough to loose the character.
     
  11. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Search, be your own guru.

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2012
    Messages:
    1,891
    Likes Received:
    576
    We term it as 'nishkama bhakti". "Nih+kama" (No+desire) devotion, the strongest of the kind. Now some Gods make demands (Commandments).
     
  12. Scouter

    Scouter New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2013
    Messages:
    1
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hi Thomas

    A really interesting thread.
    My path is Zen Buddhism and I agree entirely with so much of what you have said and the parallels you have drawn.
    In Soto Zen as far as I can conclude, there absolutely is God (The Unborn, The Lord of The House, That Which Is, The Eternal)
    So many other names instead of using God because as soon as you do, you start introducing concepts of 'that which is beyond all concepts'. So 'That Which Is' can only be described negatively; by describing what it is not, instead, or the qualities it posesses (not unlike Allah with his many names, I suppose?) Rev. Master Jiyu Kenett described 'emptiness' as the 'fullest emptiness you'll ever experience' lest people got any nihilistic ideas!
    Indeed, Zen Master Dogen in his 'Shushogi' (Well worth a read as pretty much concisely summing up Soto Zen in several pages) talks about facing ones past karma, the importance of repentance and contrition making it 'easier to bear'.
    In my own experience, the/my ideas of what God is, have been a problem for me (I grew up as a Methodist and was thoroughly put off religion for a long time). Since studying Buddhism, my ideas of 'God' and just about everything have been gently and surely eroded, leaving room for 'God/The Eternal' to enter! I can't say I'm not a little surprised that I now find myself closer to God and more comfortable with religion than I have ever been.
    To quote the title of a Zen author's book 'There is no God and he is always with you'!
    Blessings
    Phil
     
  13. carrots

    carrots Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2013
    Messages:
    27
    Likes Received:
    0
    the question of grace. If we are gracious and merciful and compassionate in our own life then we can perceive the lords grace but while ever we dine on the flesh of the slaughtered we will not receive the lords grace. Animals are persons too and deserve the right to live as we do.
     
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    12,292
    Likes Received:
    2,581
    Hi Phil —

    Thank you.

    Thanks again for realising I wasn't trying to 'spring' something on Buddhism!

    Welcome, by the way.
     

Share This Page