The metaphysics of hope and fear

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Tariki, Mar 19, 2007.

  1. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    The following quote is offered for discussion. Though drawn from the writings of a Buddhist, I believe they have relevance for those of any faith.

    Dharma (Buddhist) practice requires the courage to confront what it means to be human. All the pictures we entertain of heaven and hell or cycles of rebirth serve to replace the unknown with an image of what is already known. To cling to the idea of rebirth can deaden questioning.

    Failure to summon forth the courage to risk a nondogmatic and nonevasive stance on such crucial existential matters can also blur our ethical vision. If our actions in the world are to stem from an encounter with what is central in life, they must be unclouded by either dogma or prevarication. Agnosticism is no excuse for indecision. If anything, it is a catalyst for action; for in shifting concern away from a future life back to the present, it demands an ethics of empathy rather than a metaphysics of hope and fear.


    Thank you
    Derek
    :)

    P.S. The quote is drawn from the book "Buddhism Without Beliefs" by Stephen Batchelor.
     
  2. earl

    earl ?

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    Well Derek, besides words like hope & fear you had another word in there that Batchelor seemed to be getting at: dogma. Dogma seems to be a set of understandings/explanations handed to one which can be grasped to provide hope to quell fears in part. Until we live those explanations and thereby know them from the inside they remain dogma. One of the Buddha's famous injunctions, of course, was for folks not to simply take his teachings on faith, but to try them out for themselves. You could say he believed in epiricism. But I think perhaps what Batchelor was getting at and perhaps you are as well, Derek, is another word you have placed in this thread: "metaphysics." When I think of that word, I think of all the questions and dogmas spun out there about matters lying outside of our "skin-encapsulated ego," as Alan Watts put it, outside our present space-time moment. From what is going to happen to "me" when I die to what is going to happen to me in the next second? Dogma is meant to "explain it all." I can't know that no matter what dogma seems attractive. I can and do see what happens to my mind when I engage in some of the Buddha's meditative instructions. I can and do see what happens to my being when I engage in prayers of the heart. I only need to look at the present moment from within at those times to and find a faith that when each moment is met from within those frameworks of practice one probably can live without a lot of dogma. Begin to see it as unnecessary baggage on the trip. Faith in this sense very close to your Pure Land notions of trust which seems to be more an emotional release of the heart than an intellectual concurrence. So maybe faith and trust are not in need of any metaphysic and perhaps hope is irrelevant.:) earl
     
  3. Quahom1

    Quahom1 What was the question?

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    in short...there but for the grace of God go I...here I go.?
     
  4. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Will any belief system necessarily conflict with an "ethics of empathy"?
     
  5. earl

    earl ?

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    Not in my opinion. Would agnostics only be able to empathize with other agnostics and humanity in general? Can only the "lost" empahize with
    the lost? Or can those who believe they've found it or been found emaphize too? Some systems of thought promote compassion & empathy-but not the teachings themselves, only their implementation from the heart. :) have a good one, earl
     
  6. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Earl,

    Yes, I would not seek to be dogmatic about this..............as if!!:D

    Getting back to Thomas Merton and reflecting upon his life, I can see how the strong "beliefs" he first grasped gave him the strength to move forwards from his youthful waywardness. That the fortress of his faith became - by the guidance of grace - a rock on which he was able to stand with confidence. And that standing there, he was then able in empathy to relate to people of all faiths, and some of none. One has only to read of the many visitors to the monastery, and scan his thousands of letters, to acknowledge this.

    A time and a place for everything under heaven..............

    :)
     
  7. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Earl,

    Just reading through your post again, and picking up on what you say concerning "metaphysics" as dogma, contrasting this with what is seen for oneself - or can be, if one has the courage/grace to look. In his latest book "Living With the Devil", Batchelor speaks of the "anaesthetic of metaphysics" and contrasts this with the Buddha's own injunctions to observe the workings of the mind with an "unsentimental eye".

    (From my own Pure Land practice and perspective, I have to watch that the nembutsu is not applied as an anaesthetic (!) rather than that which -in part - exposes the depth of my own confusions and anxieties..........yet such always enfolded within infinite compassion and all-embracing love)

    Anyway, I would recommend "Living With the Devil" (just why it was not called "Living With Mara" I don't know - perhaps to catch the Western market!:D ) The very first chapter, Parallel Mythologies, contains the best expression of the meaning of "emptiness" from an experiential/existential perspective that I have ever read.

    All the best
    Derek
    :)
     
  8. earl

    earl ?

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    Well relative to beliefs, convictions, pre-suppositions and all manner of conclusions, Shunryu Suzuki did say that Soto Zen cold be boiled down to the phrase "not always so.":) If we truly managed to live our lives in that spirit, we'd certainly manage to be continually surprised, deformed, informed, reformed and generally blown where the spirit wills wouldn't we? take care, earl
     
  9. flowperson

    flowperson Oannes

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    Hi Earl...Thanks for that ! Now I know why something usually surprises me every day as boring as my routines can get. It seems as we get older we tend to rely more and more on empty ritual to structure our waking hours. This place gives one a break from that "dullsville" stuff, no ?

    flow....;)
     

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