"Redemption" and "Enlightenment"

Tariki

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For a long time now I have explored the relationship between Christian and Buddhist experience. One very good guide - for me - has been the Trappist monk Thomas Merton.

Thomas Merton had a deep respect for Buddhism - especially Zen - and always spoke highly of it, even to the point of using examples from Buddhist spirituality to highlight points that appeared unclear within Christianity - at least, as it is generally understood.

Nevertheless, at one or two points in his writings, he has said such things as "of course, Zen redeems nothing". Merton's thought was always on the move and perhaps it eventually evolved beyond such distinctions.................yet he did seem to recognise a distinction between "enlightenment" and "redemption".

How do others here see the distinction between "redemption" and "enlightenment" - if any? I would be pleased to hear and share the understanding of others.

Thank you
:)


"From the rocking of the cradle, to the rolling of the hearse,
The going up was worth the coming down"

From "The Pilgrim"
 

Snoopy

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Hi,

I'm just reading my first (small) Merton book which I picked up on a whim whilst queuing in a bookshop. It won't be my last. The truth of his analysis and perception is sometimes overwhelming and, possibly even depressing.

I know he wrote a great deal but I would be grateful if there are any particularly recommended ones.

s.

(sorry this doesn't address your question, I just felt moved to comment).
 

InLove

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Hi Tariki--

Interesting question. To me, redemption is a once-and-forever event, while enlightenment is more of a journey. And I think there can be enlightenment without redemption, but redemption in no way hampers enlightenment. In my experience, moments of enlightenment continue long after redemption, especially if one is willing to recognize them.

InPeace,
InLove
 

Tariki

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Hi,

I'm just reading my first (small) Merton book which I picked up on a whim whilst queuing in a bookshop. It won't be my last. The truth of his analysis and perception is sometimes overwhelming and, possibly even depressing.

I know he wrote a great deal but I would be grateful if there are any particularly recommended ones.

s.

(sorry this doesn't address your question, I just felt moved to comment).

Hi Snoopy!

The writings of Thomas Merton are a world in themselves! I suppose something can be found in any one of them............for "those with eyes to see" - and, hopefully, by Grace, even for those without! I would not try to push anyone down a prescribed path by declaring some of his writings are "better" than others.

Having said that, being interested in Christian/Buddhist dialogue - and also picking up on your words concerning analysis and perception - I have found guidance in his books "Mystics and Zen Masters" (particularly in the essay of the same name found within its pages) and also "Zen and the Birds of Appetite". The introductory essay in his "The Way of Chuang Tzu" is worth a long deep look, not to mention the text itself, which is a free rendering/translation of Chuang Tzu's own words.

My own personal favorite is the collection of letters, "The Hidden Ground of Love", which I picked up cheap in a little second-hand bookshop . This was my own introduction to Merton, and I bless the day - and the "Other Power" - that made me pick it up and fork out the £4 asking price!

Anyway, I hope you find something of worth for yourself.

Best wishes
Derek
:)

InLove,

Thanks for your interest and comments. I am still thinking about this question myself. It does seem a deep one, which involves many things. Hopefully others here can offer further insight and understanding.

Thanks again.
Derek
 

Dondi

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"In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." - John 1:4-5

To me, enlightenment is the understanding of things spiritual, redemption is what you do with that understanding.
 

JosephM

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Hi Derek,
It seems to me redemption rescues or pays an obligation and in the case of Christianity the rescue is from spiritual death by a re-birth of the spirit. In Christianity this is a path of faith.

Though Buddhism or Zen at least, sees no redeeming per se, enlightenment in my view is in a way the finding of that which was previously 'perceived' lost. Though the Bible does not seem to be clear on this issue I personally believe that the redemption spoken of is also from that which could be 'perceived' as lost in Adam and relates to all of us.

In my view, It all amount to a linguistics conflict. In reality it seems to me that that which is eternal can never be lost but only forgotten in the concept of mind and thought, whether one is a Christian or Buddhist. Threfore, I would define the perceived redemption as the process (faith or the eightfold path) and enlightenment as the outcome in terms of language even though a Buddhist might not want to view the path or process as redemption since in reality there is nothing to gain or to be found.

LOve in Christ,
JM
 
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Snoopy

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Hi Derek,

Many thanks for that; I've made a note.

Hi JM,

Beautifully expressed IMO.

s.
 

earl

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Hi Derek,
It seems to me redemption rescues or pays an obligation and in the case of Christianity the rescue is from spiritual death by a re-birth of the spirit. In Christianity this is a path of faith.

Though Buddhism or Zen at least, sees no redeeming per se, enlightenment in my view is in a way the finding of that which was previously 'perceived' lost. Though the Bible does not seem to be clear on this issue I personally believe that the redemption spoken of is also from that which could be 'perceived' as lost in Adam and relates to all of us.

In my view, It all amount to a linguistics conflict. In reality it seems to me that that which is eternal can never be lost but only forgotten in the concept of mind and thought, whether one is a Christian or Buddhist. Threfore, I would define the perceived redemption as the process (faith or the eightfold path) and enlightenment as the outcome in terms of language even though a Buddhist might not want to view the path or process as redemption since in reality there is nothing to gain or to be found.

LOve in Christ,
JM
I've never been able to relate to the "redemption" notion of traditional Christianity. For me (perhaps being "neo-gnostic"), can relate more to a "lost and found" orientation which, sure, entails some "own power" work because if you do not try to see, you never will-but then there's undeniably grace, an Other power at work in the Mystery of it all. Anybody for a chorus of "Amazing Grace?" ;) :)
 

Paladin

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I think this is where conventional and absolute truths come into play. On the Buddhist forum I asked about the concept of "surrender" and it seemed the general consensus that Buddhist doctrine did not cover that particular experience. So the difference between redemption and enlightenment, while perhaps not having an absolute difference might have a cultural/psychological difference. In the book Chop Wood Carry Water it speaks of having to have a healthy sense of self before you can seek the non self. Western seekers can become a bit unglued or at best try to bypass the psychological wounds they still carry by claiming that there is no-self so why trouble about it? This is the realm of the mystic, not the beginning seeker.
Perhaps then redemption for some becomes a necessary step on the road to enlightenment.

Peace
Mark
 

Tariki

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Thanks to all for the contributions! Like JosephM, I think there are "linguistic conflicts" involved. Individual experience is necessarily funnelled into the "old bottles" of a particular Faith and seen in its light. Even when at the level of pure experience/transformation the self-same reality is perhaps known, expressions of it may be coloured in the light - even demands - of doctrine.

I do agree that at a very fundamental level there is a gulf between those who understand "salvation" as a "self" gaining a state of being previously unattained, and those who understand it as the realization of that which already IS. These different understandings seem at work in both Buddhism and Christianity, as each gains expression in the words of its adherents. Vaguely, in my own mind, I perceive how each would colour our own grasp of the realities of "redemption" and "enlightenment".

And further, in Thomas Merton's own explorations, he wrote at times that in the dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity, it is in the understanding of the "Person" that is a fundamental issue.

"As to the study of this whole question of 'ego-self' and 'person', it must be carried on in the realm of metaphysics, and the ego as working hypothesis in psychology must not be confused with the metaphysical person which alone is capable of transcendent union with the Ground of Being. The person is in fact rooted in that absolute Ground and not in the phenomenal contingency of ego-hood" (Excerpt from an essay contained in "Zen and the Birds of Appetite")

I may seem to be drifting from my question, yet I do sense that what has just been said does relate. Just who is being "redeemed" or "enlightened"? And how does our grasp of this effect our own understanding of what the two words may - or may not - mean?

Merton again......

"...........if the person were to attempt to go 'outside' this metaphysical ground in order to experience himself* as being and acting, or observe himself* as an object functioning among other objects, the unitive wisdom experience would become impossible, because now the person is split in two - hence the paradox that as soon as there is 'someone there' to have a transcendent experience, 'the experience' is falsified and indeed becomes impossible."

*or herself! Even Merton has his limitations:) !
 

seattlegal

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Tariki said:
How do others here see the distinction between "redemption" and "enlightenment" - if any?
I see the same sort of relationship as between "judgement" and "perception."
Merton again......

"...........if the person were to attempt to go 'outside' this metaphysical ground in order to experience himself* as being and acting, or observe himself* as an object functioning among other objects, the unitive wisdom experience would become impossible, because now the person is split in two - hence the paradox that as soon as there is 'someone there' to have a transcendent experience, 'the experience' is falsified and indeed becomes impossible."
There's always the mirror.
 

Tariki

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There's always the mirror.

seattlegal,

"gal"? Glad I got the her in now! Anyway, speaking of the limitations of Thomas Merton, I have just investigated further and found the following.........in a letter written to Mark Van Doren on May 12 1943. It could explain everything, or then again, nothing - which perhaps comes to the same thing!

"I am waiting to get shaved. (We don't shave ourselves. No mirrors thank God)"

Then again, to be fair to the man, from a letter to John C H Wu dated January 31, 1965 (by which time Merton may well have been able gain access to a mirror irrespective of any intent of God)......

".........there is one more convolution in this strange dialectic; there remains to suppress the apparent division between empirical self and real or inner self. There is no such division. There is only the Void which is I, covered over by an apparent I. And when the apparent I is seen as void it no longer needs to be rejected, for it is I. How wonderful it is to be alive in such a world of craziness and simplicity."

Or as the Buddhist master said, upon being asked to speak of the miracles of his own religion..........."My miracles are these - when hungry I eat, when tired I sleep. When happy I laugh, when sad I cry."

:)

Sorry, perhaps I have too much time on my hands.................
 

seattlegal

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More about redemption, enlightenment, the veil, and the mirror can be found in 2 Corinthians 3, and the "double minded" aspect is also addressed (also with reference to the mirror) in James 1. 1 Corinthians 13 speaks about the manner in which these "confusing paradoxes" are resolved, which gives the complimentary aspect of your last quote from the Buddhist master. ;)
 

earl

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Thanks to all for the contributions! Like JosephM, I think there are "linguistic conflicts" involved. Individual experience is necessarily funnelled into the "old bottles" of a particular Faith and seen in its light. Even when at the level of pure experience/transformation the self-same reality is perhaps known, expressions of it may be coloured in the light - even demands - of doctrine.

I do agree that at a very fundamental level there is a gulf between those who understand "salvation" as a "self" gaining a state of being previously unattained, and those who understand it as the realization of that which already IS. These different understandings seem at work in both Buddhism and Christianity, as each gains expression in the words of its adherents. Vaguely, in my own mind, I perceive how each would colour our own grasp of the realities of "redemption" and "enlightenment".

And further, in Thomas Merton's own explorations, he wrote at times that in the dialogue between Buddhism and Christianity, it is in the understanding of the "Person" that is a fundamental issue.

"As to the study of this whole question of 'ego-self' and 'person', it must be carried on in the realm of metaphysics, and the ego as working hypothesis in psychology must not be confused with the metaphysical person which alone is capable of transcendent union with the Ground of Being. The person is in fact rooted in that absolute Ground and not in the phenomenal contingency of ego-hood" (Excerpt from an essay contained in "Zen and the Birds of Appetite")

I may seem to be drifting from my question, yet I do sense that what has just been said does relate. Just who is being "redeemed" or "enlightened"? And how does our grasp of this effect our own understanding of what the two words may - or may not - mean?

Merton again......

"...........if the person were to attempt to go 'outside' this metaphysical ground in order to experience himself* as being and acting, or observe himself* as an object functioning among other objects, the unitive wisdom experience would become impossible, because now the person is split in two - hence the paradox that as soon as there is 'someone there' to have a transcendent experience, 'the experience' is falsified and indeed becomes impossible."

*or herself! Even Merton has his limitations:) !
Hey Derek-as to the apparent dichotomy between attaining to a previously unattained state of grace vs. recognition of what has and will always be from a Christian mystical perspective-I'd posted a quote in another thread from Eckhart that appears to embrace these as 2 sides of the same coin:

"God had given birth to the Son as you, as me, as each one of us. As many beings-as many gods in God. In my soul God not only gives birth to me as his son, he gives birth to me as himself and himself as me. I find in this divine birth that God and I are the same. I am what I was and what I shall always remain now and forever. I am transported above the highest angels. I neither decrease nor increase for in this birth I have become the motionless cause of all that moves. I have won back what has always been mine. Here in my own soul the greatest of all miracles has taken place-God has returned to God."

have a good one, earl
 

wil

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There is always the possibility of spiritual immaturity. (Hebrews 5:12-14)
So come on, let's leave the preschool fingerpainting exercises on Christ and get on with the grand work of art. Grow up in Christ. The basic foundational truths are in place: turning your back on "salvation by self-help" and turning in trust toward God; baptismal instructions; laying on of hands; resurrection of the dead; eternal judgment. God helping us, we'll stay true to all that. But there's so much more. Let's get on with it!
 

Tariki

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earl,

nice to "see" you again! Thanks for the quote from Eckhart.

From the journals of the Pure Land "saint" Saichi.......

"Wind and air are two,
But it is one wind, one air.
Amida and I are two,
But the compassion of Namu-amida-butsu is one"

Dipping once more into the letters of Thomas Merton. Re-reading "The Road to Joy"...(The second volume, Letters to New and Old Friends) It seems to me that is in the letters that the heart of the man is revealed. Writing to a friend he tells them that they are a true Christian............."..for this is what it is to be a Christian: simply to be Christ and not to realize it".

Anyway, "the road to joy"....."which is mysteriously revealed to us without our exactly realizing". It does seem that too much introspection, too much thought about "where we are" or whatever................seems counter-productive.

And seatllegal.........."His veil was removed when he turned to the Lord. Now 'the Lord' in this passage is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. All of us, then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces.........." Nice to be directed to some NT passage such as this. Thanks.

"If only everybody could realize this! But it cannot be explained. There is no way of telling people they are all walking around shining like the sun" (From "Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander", Merton)

:)
 
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