Buddhism and Christianity

Discussion in 'Comparative Studies' started by Azure24, Jan 26, 2008.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    10,549
    Likes Received:
    1,538
    Hi Marmalade —

    If I've offended, mea culpa.

     
  2. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2006
    Messages:
    5,259
    Likes Received:
    8
    Indeed, and welcome. :)

    I don't think it's an eternal paradise, more of a "staging post". There is/was a member here by the name of Tariki who I think is interested in Pure Land but I've not seen him around for a while. :(

    s.
     
  3. marmalade

    marmalade New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
    Messages:
    50
    Likes Received:
    0
    I first want to say that I'm not defending Price. I just find him interesting. It doesn't matter to me if he is right in the same way it doesn't matter to me if the belief in a historical Jesus is wrong. My beliefs are based on my experience and not on the tentative conclusions based on complicated debating about ancient texts. I study this type of thing simply out of curiosity, and so I think about any theory as being one possibility amongst an endless number of other possibilities.

    Also, I've only been studying Price over this past year. I'm no expert on his ideas.

    They were looking for evidence. The only type of objective evidence one can find in ancient texts is historical. Theology is important, but it can't be proven objectively. They were a group of biblical scholars and not a contemporary council of Nicea. Anyways, if Jesus can't be proven historically, it doesn't matter what theology is claimed about him. Christians have traditionally used their belief in history as their justification for their beliefs, and the Jesus Seminar was testing whether this justification was justified.

    Excluding divine visions, there is no other way to go about it. And even divine visions can tell us nothing about history.

    I had never heard that they started with the premise that Jesus never proclaimed himself to be God. And I never heard that they started with a mythicist lense. From looking into it previously, I got the idea that Funk was into historicism and not mythicism. Where did you get this information from?

    They were just using the standards of modern science. If you disagree with modern science, take it up with the scientists. Its not the place of Biblical scholars to critically debate the validity of scientific knowledge and theory. Until the miracles in the Bible are proven scientifically, then historical scholars are limited by this constraint. To not be limited by this constraint is to step outside of Biblical scholarship and to step into Biblical theology.

    Why should they accept supernatural claims simply because they were claimed? There is no more justification to accept the supernatural claims in the Bible than in any other ancient holy text. In normal life, when we speak of a person, we assume that they are human until proven otherwise. Why should we apply different standards to the Bible than we apply to our normal lives?

    We have evidence that historical persons have been mythologized, but we have no evidence that God or gods have incarnated as humans. It may have happened, but we have no evidence. You're free to believe in this, but its not a commonly accepted assumption amongst scientists and historians. The belief in Jesus is basically a cultural belief. The belief in history and science is(mostly) cross-cultural. And science and history are more open to testing their own assumptions than religion traditionally has been.

    I realize that somethings exist outside of science and history, and its important to distinguish these things. History isn't theology even if some theology is based on history interpreted according to theology. Belief in a historical hypothesis doesn't make it historically true. History is about evidence and belief requires no evidence or else it isn't belief.

    What is this evidence? I'd never heard of it. This doesn't sound like it relates to historical evidence.

    I was just reading Price claiming that Bultmann did believe in an historical Jesus, and he thought it crazy for someone to doubt it. Price also mentioned that several of Bultmann's students took up trying to demonstrate an historical Jesus. He was stating this because it was the main thing he disagreed with Bultmann about.

    I did a search about Bultmann. As far as I could tell, it seems he believed that historical events such as the crucifixion were proved beyond any reasonable doubt, but he separated a historical Jesus from a spiritual Christ. The reason he did this was because he felt that theology couldn't be based on such bare facts of history. He seems to have believed that knowing Jesus existed tells us nothing about the actual character of the man. Considering how widely Jesus' character has been interpreted, I'd say Bultmann was correct.

    You might be correct that he suggested somewhere that it was possible that Jesus didn't exist, but I couldn't find anything about it. My knowledge on Bultmann is limited. Do you remember where you saw Bultmann saying that Jesus might not have existed?

    The important part, anyways, is about the mythicism interpretations. That is what influenced Price.

    I agree with this. I've had experiences that I can't prove rationally. Even so, history is the act of seeking objective knowledge. Bultmann didn't argue against an historical Jesus, but only in using historical claims to justify theological beliefs. He wasn't relying just on his reputation. He was also relying on the reputation of modern science.

    True, its not always the case. I'd imagine that both Price and Bultmann would admit that. A single parallel isn't enough to claim borrowing, but the case becomes stronger as more parallels are determined.

    Price argues using Ockham's Razor. If there are extensive parallels, then its simpler to accept this as an explanation... unless there is significant historical evidence to cause you to question it. On the other hand, a supernatural hypothesis demands strong evidence which isn't available in historical texts. Science can test something supernatural that is happening in the present such as testing the efficacy of prayer on healing, but the supernatural claims of ancient texts are largely outside of the domain of the hard sciences. The best that one can say rationally(ie without recourse to belief) is that they can neither be proved nor disproved.

    Bultmann seemed to believe in both a historical Jesus and a mythical Christ, but separated the two. Maybe Bultmann felt that parallels proved it wasn't unique to Christianity and so wasn't useful for explaining a historical Jesus.

    The Pagan parallels and Gnosticism existed before the common era, and so there was plenty of time for them to develop into Christianity. The eye witness testimony of early Christianity is pretty scanty and so we really don't know how it started. The people who believed in it didn't believe it was just a fabricated myth. That shows your modern bias. A docetist Christ was very real to the person who experienced him. If you think myth means a lie or a delusion, then I'd recommend you read some Joseph Campbell or Jung. For a contemprorary example, Tom Harpur is a Christian who bases his faith on a mythical Christ and he takes it very seriously.

    As for martyrdom, Christians didn't invent it. Some of the Greek sects were known for being fearless about death. Embracing death courageously has nothing to do with whether your beliefs are based on historical savior figures.

    This is a modern bias once again. The ancient oral tradition was a communal process where myths were developed over many generations or even centuries. Various different religious sects influenced early Christianity, and I don't think that is disputed. There was no organized religion early on or not a single one anyways. Jesus may have been a composite character based on many different people combined with mythological borrowings. Of course, any single one of these early sects was probably only focused on one character... as you said. And it wouldn't have been until later on that they were combined. We need to separate the early sects from the later organized religion.

    My way of looking at is to try to see it objectively. It doesn't matter what I want to believe. If you start with an assumption, then you will interpret everything accordingly. I don't preclude anything, but neither do I assume anything. My only fundamental bias is that I trust my own experience which doesn't disallow questioning anything and everything including what beliefs by which I choose to interpret my experience. Idealistically, I try to study in order to question what I think I know instead of trying to prove what I want to know.

    Am I confused? You and Price seem to be in agreement about this line. He is saying that the author of the 1 John intended to communicate that Jesus was physical. Price's comment about the water merely sounds like an aside and not anything he is projecting onto the author.

    I couldn't tell you what Price is referring to with the '12-14'.

    He seems to be interpreting that if the author claims to know it from the Spirit, then therefore the author isn't making a claim based on his or someone else's personal witness. Maybe he had a spiritual vision like Paul. Anyways, it doesn't seem to be something that you can base an historical argument on. If you are wondering who Anna Katherina Emmerich, then here is something that I found.

    Joseph Smith in the Book of Mormon by Robert M. Price
    "We might compare the Prophet Smith’s literary labors, his inspired penmanship, with that of the Roman Catholic mystic Anna Katherina Emmerich, whose Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1862) is still avidly read by old-school Catholics curious to know the details of the gospel stories, as well as more stories, of Jesus. Edgar Cayce, too, supplied new gospel vignettes by mining the ostensible memories of previous lives from many for whom he gave psychic readings."

    My sense is that Price was saying that the original was anti-docetist. With time, more than one version developed. There are plenty of examples of texts being altered from their original meaning. Price argues that maybe someone then combined the various versions because they didn't know what was original and didn't want to leave out anything. Its just a theory, but Price felt that this best explains the seeming contradictions that he observed.

    Why did the church accept it? Quite possibly it was accepted because it was already too widely known, and the hints of docetism are easy enough to interpret away. The same question could be asked about much of the Pauline writings which were accepted because they were popular.
     
  4. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    10,549
    Likes Received:
    1,538
    Hi Marmalade —

    Let me say I'm not attacking Price, nor indeed you, but I am trying to highlight certain philosophical presuppostitions that often pass without comment in these matters. The one lesson i have learnt is to keep hunting back, to find out what formed the view or mind being presented.

    That's precisely my point. There isn't any, outside of the texts themselves, which they've already judged and passed their opinion. In the absence of evidence, and ignoring the only evidence they've got, what takes its place is 'well founded opinion'. The Jesus Seminar's method of deciding what were Jesus' authentic words, and what were later interpolations, via the pink or black ball vote, was founded solely on what the individual thought credible, or not. That's not historical, philosophical, or scientific. It's pure opinion and speculation.

    If you ever get ten minutes, read "Fern Seeds and Elephants" by C.S.Lewis. He points out that in every critical review of his own work by his contemporaries, with regard to meaning, inspiration, source, etc ... was wrong. Not some, but every time ... in the absence of hard data (in this case, asking the author) the critic falls back on his own education, his own conclusions and his own reasoning, and what results is 'scholarship', but none the less a complete shot in the dark ... a guess.

    I say the same of this whole 'quest for the Historical Jesus' — it's all guesswork, but it survives precisely because there is no hard evidence that points either way, so now an industry has grown up on finding every possible permutation ... and the subtext is, the more you can knock the church, the more you are likely to sell.

    And none of it is strong enough to disprove or displace the texts, or the tradition.

    Look at the founders of the movement. The scholars who founded the quest, Strauss and Reimarus, were absolutely founded in the belief that there is nothing one can call 'supernatural' — one was a deist, the other a pantheist — who worked from the principle that the Scriptures must be myths because what they describe cannot possibly be true.

    So virulent was there anti-traditional message that Albert Schweitzer, who followed them, eventually disowned them, and made an honest decision – either accept what the tradition says, or walk away, but there can be no other answer more reliable. He stopped looking, and went off to help the sick.

    That assumes that the Gospels, for example, are not historical. That's what I mean, the only available data is ruled out, for no good reason other than one chooses not to believe they can be true.

    Question: What if they are historically true?

    Note: The fact that they do not agree or coincide on every point only, in many ways, points to them being genuine. No two witness statements are every the same, and those that are, are regarded with suspicion.

    I knew an old 'Desert Rat' who told me stories of the actions he fought in. I then read the historians recounting his campaigns. You'd think they were of totally unrelated events ... the historians, were scholarly, and well-presented, with lots of 'facts' and 'detail' ... but all guesswork, all assumption ... and he laughed at some of the things they wrote.

    I dispute that. I think the JS was saying what it believed, based on its own faith, the lens in which it examined the texts.

    You have to trace the 'Jesus Quest' from its roots in the Enlightenment.

    I don't think so, because modern science rests on empirical data. As you say, there is none in this case, so the standard was what they regard as credible.

    But to say miracles cannot happen is to step outside the limits of science. Science can say it's highly unlikely, but science cannot say they definitely do not happen. The Quest was founded on that belief (Strauss, Reimarus, Bultmann ... ).

    Because the Bible, as any sacred text, is not an everyday event. Take a look at the French philosopher Paul Ricoeur on religious language, for example.

    Quantum physics runs on different standards than our everyday lives. QP runs on different principles than those held by physics ... but we do not disbelieve QP.

    Only because you a prior discount the evidence. Because text A is a myth, text B must be a myth, too ... but that actually does not represent a proof, just an opinion ... so by such statements you preclude any chance of truth, either way.

    Has he read the Gospels, I wonder ... they seem pretty consistent. Oh, he's already assumed that they are mythology ... therefore ...

    I'll see if I can trace it. he retracted, because his university thought that was taking things too far.

    Exactly ... but that's an assumption.

    That would say the Gospels are true.

    But only in the last 50 years have we found out that what was always assumed to be gnostic influence on the Gospel of John was not that at all. The Dead Sea Scrolls altered all that.

    Traditional biblical scholarship always argued a Hebrew foundation for John's theology, only the Historical Quest came up with this Hellenic mythologisation ... and now the evidence is there to make their assumptions very tenuous, and far from likely. Okkam's Razor suggests that John was Jewish, not Greek, in thought, education and language.


    That's all we've got, and we're busying explaining it away on less evidence than the texts themselves.

    Take the Q source material — a total modern myth without a single shred of evidence, yet somehow acceptable because it solves a lot of problems for scholars.

    When police 'bang someone up' because he must have done it ... there's an outcry, but in reality the preinciple is the same.

    What if none of it is myth?

    What if it is witness, and error ... that's my point. The whole 'myth' thing is a modern interpolation without evidence, yet it seems to carry a serious amount of influence ... more than the possibility that it is true ... I don't think that's objective at all.

    In short ... show me a 'proof' that any of it is a myth, that outweighs my 'proof' that the testimonies are authentic witness documents ... and I will capitulate.

    But I think 'the myth of Christianity' is a modern invention.

    Thomas
     
  5. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    Messages:
    2,571
    Likes Received:
    0
    This doesn't really address your question, but might be worth mentioning....

    There does seem to be a notion of enduring transcendental Self. Not sure how authentically "Buddhist" it is, though.

    To what extent is Tathagatagarbha ideology in dispute? What is the status of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and Srimala Sutra? Are these considered authoritative?
     
  6. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2005
    Messages:
    6,590
    Likes Received:
    62
    I don't know. Perhaps one of the Buddhists might be able to help out with that.

    One impression that I have {that might be in error} is that speculation regarding absolutes tends to disturb the mind and leads towards madness, acting as seeds of illusion. This might endanger the goal of purifying the mind.
     
  7. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2003
    Messages:
    3,786
    Likes Received:
    43
    Namaste Dah-veeth,

    thank you for the post.

    Yes, i'm quite aware of their teachings. the Pure Land is not unique to this particular group, all Buddhas produce Pure Lands as well as Bodhisattvas for that matter.

    as for it being Paradise, i suppose it depends on what that actually means. quite simply, the Pure Land like a large monestary where a being takes rebirth and will continue to practice the Dharma without any hinderances until they Awaken and are Liberated.

    i'd consider that to be pretty keen but i don't know if others would consider it to be Paradise.

    metta,

    ~v
     
  8. marmalade

    marmalade New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
    Messages:
    50
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thomas,

    You didn't say anything that I disagree with much. I interprert differently, but I also come from a perspective of my own faith. The main difference is my faith isn't dependent on any specific text(s). I've been coming closer to a docetist view of Christ which isn't much of a stretch for me considering the church I was raised in. I accept mythological parallels because in my mind(like Harpur) it points towards universal truth rather than undermines it. Specific metaphysical claims are secondary in my mind simply because theorizing is to step away from what I can prove in my direct experience.

    I agree that things exist that science can't prove, but I feel its wise to look for objecitve evidence first. However, I usually only consider other non-rational possibilities if I have a direct experience that contradicts collective knowledge. If I experience God or Jesus, then I'd accept it... with a questioning attitude(all spirits must be tested, all angels must be wrestled). But I'm not much into belief. Belief is only necessary if you don't have evidence and direct experience is about as good of evidence as anyone gets. Too many religious people accept things they haven't personally experienced. Or else interpret things they do experience based on prior assumptions. However, its true that many atheists deny subjective experience as valid. The reason I'm an agnostic is to avoid the unfounded extremes of theism and atheism.

    Psychology has shown how easy people's minds are manipulated especially by social expectations. And only psychology can help us to see objectively in those fuzzy gray areas outside of the hard sciences. This is where comparative mythology in the psychological tradition of Jung and Campbell comes in. Science doesn't accept something based on the evidence of a single study. It must be repeatable. In terms of religion, you can test repeatability by comparing religions or you can test repeatability by testing other people's claims in your own experience. This is why I value spiritual practices because they are testable. However, the claims within holy texts are mostly on testable by comparing them to ascertain a modicum of objectivity.

    The importance of comparative mythology isn't about history. It doesn't matter which religion borrowed from which relgion or if any religion borrowed at all. I suspect that most parallels simply arise because of the similarities of how humans think about and experience reality no matter how different their respective cultures. I even consider the possibility of archetypes as maybe being thoughts in the mind of 'God'. In order for me to live my life in a good way, its neither necessary for me to know any of this absolutely nor necessary for me to accept any particular belief absolutely. I'm more Buddhist in my attitude in this. My direct experience is what matters to me.

    I'm glad to hear that you say that the search for a historical Jesus is guesswork. That is why when considering religion that we need to look to info that traditionally Biblical scholars haven't considered. If the evidence available isn't strong, then search for different evidence. The Jesus Seminar served its purpose, but its purpose was a simple one. They weren't trying to prove or disprove religion. Their only priority was history, and to that end they did their job well. If all that they did was to demonstrate how much of it is guesswork, then I'm thankful they did. Hopefully, groups such as these will help religious scholarship to be able to turn towards more fruitful avenues.

    Its not the failing of the Jesus Seminar that so many Christians are obsessed with something that is nothing more than guesswork. History doesn't prove nor disprove the theology. That is the whole point. Too many Christians believe that their theology is based on history.

    I don't know how Lewis fits into all of this. His critics may have not asked him the author. But in the case of the Bible, we don't have the authors to question. Similarly, do the critics of the Jesus Seminar ask the members about their views. The Christians that I've met usually dismiss the Seminar based on the opinions of others.

    Albert Schweitzer's response was reasonable. If one avenue of questioning is unsatisfying, you can stop questioning. Or you can look to another avenue of questioning. The world needs both people who question and people who help the sick. Then again, its completely possible that someone could question and help the sick.

    None of this is inherently about Christianity as a tradition. Some atheists are attacking Christianity, but many scholars(Harpur, Price, etc) aren't. Some atheists are anti-traditional and some theists are anti-rational. Personally, I place trust in my own personal experience before either tradition or rationality, but I realize that traditionally trusting one's own experience was actually considered heretical by Christianity.

    I don't dismiss the Biblical texts out of hand because I can't believe them. I dismiss certain claims in Biblical texts for three reasons: 1) they contradict scientific knowledge, 2) they contradict my own experience, and 3) I've never met someone I trust who has had such experiences either. I would guess the same is for you, but you choose to believe in the miracle claims of Jesus despite never having witnessed them or anything closely similar. How do you determine what is reasonable thing to believe in? Do you believe simply because tradition says its true, because religious authorities tell you to, because you feel Christians always have?

    That the gospel accounts don't coincide, doesn't prove nor disprove anything. You make the argument that it is evidence of their truth. But I've also heard the exact opposite argument. I accept the latter, but its not important... to me.

    All of that said, I'm open to the possibility that Jesus may have been historical and that in some sense he may have been identical to the spiritual Christ.
     
  9. Thomas

    Thomas Super Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2003
    Messages:
    10,549
    Likes Received:
    1,538
    Hi Marmalade —

    OK. But you can see, then, that certain presuppositions inform what you can and cannot accept? To me Docetism is ruled out by Scripture, but then that's my viewpoint. Jesus was a Jew, and whilst, at a stretch, one could argue a correlation between docetism and prophecy ... Jesus made his point plain that He was not a prophet.

    To me Docetism also renders the Passion largely a piece of theatre and little else. It strips the physical world of value and meaning.

    In our tradition Scripture is objective evidence. Biblical scholars declared it not to be, but their own 'evidence' supporting that argument is far from conclusive, so it's back to a question of faith.

    Ah, the Thomasine Position ... "Unless I see and touch ... "

    I would argue one 'believes' in the experience. Without belief, the experience is qualititively meaningless.

    It's like 'smoking kills' — everyone knows it, but only those who believe it give up smoking. A simplistic argument, but I hope it makes my point. What man knows, and he knows much, is largely useless because he does not conform his life to what he knows. Only when he believes will he change his ways. If I want to know someone, I want to know what they live by, not what they know about ...

    The same could be said in many spheres. Too many people assume science has all the answers.

    Like science has all the answers?

    But your own position is an extreme ...

    Oooh, that's debatable. Have you heard Jung rip into Freud? If there was one psychology, then there might be grounds, but as there are multiple systems, often in conflict ... it's a matter of faith, again...

    Only if you accept their presuppositions. I happen to think they're wrong in many assumptions they make.

    science can only speak for those things which it possesses the technological means to measure ... that's all science is, the sum total, to date, of things that can be measured ... outside materiality, science is truly in the dark ...

    More measurement. I don't think that's religion, I think that's sociology.

    I would put money on every spiritual practitioner refuting that statement. It implies that A+B=enlightenment ... if it's testable it's repeatable, and if it was repeatable, they'd have bottled Buddhahood by now.

    You can't make a mystic in a laboratory.

    You can't make love potions in labs, either. A date-rape drug is about as best as they can aspire to.

    I disagree ... do we measure poetry by comparing it to prose?

    Science is not the arbiter of all truth. You're assuming science can speak for religious experience. I, along with many philosophers, scientists, and scholars, think, and believe they can demonstrate, it cannot.

    Love is not something you can test under lab conditions.

    You're still assuming that there is myth, bit there is not Revelation.

    One cannot disprove Revelation, and I am saying that Scripture is Revelation, not a mythology.

    OK. But that's not what Christianity is, and the error is assuming that it must be that way, because that's the way that suits me.

    I did not mean that absolutely ... I think the historical Jesus is there if people can 'think outside the box'. And do I assume that you assume 'trad Biblical scholars' have not considered your 'info' — because they reject it?

    Anf if the different evidence is considerably weaker ... in fact almost entirely subjective ... is not the obligation to say "this is the strongest argument, and here are some very weak alternatives... "

    I dispute even that. I don't think they were true to the historical process.

    All they demonstrated was skepticism. They tore down everything, and put nothing in its place.

    I will obviously disagree. I think they hold scholarship back by poor methodology and narrow-mindedness.

    And too many critics believe it isn't/

    Theology, as Anselm stated, is 'faith seeking understanding'

    Christianity has two-fold heritage —
    Jewish Salvation History
    The reflection on the above in the Greek Philosophic Tradition.

    So we guess and assume.

    But the Christian has Scripture and Tradition. The Bible Critic has nothing at all but his own opinion.

    Then how do you know you are not mad?

    Thomas
     
  10. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2005
    Messages:
    2,906
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'll jump into the fray just a bit. ;) Hope no one minds...

    My faith also is not depedent on text, but I'm not docetist. I think that Jesus had a real human body and suffered is profoundly important for the meaning of the Gospels. If it was an illusion, then Jesus does not show us an actual bridge between humanity and divinity. He does not show us the extent of God's love for us. He does not show us that God forgives in the face of great pain and suffering, that God sacrifices Himself for us. And by extension, forgiveness in the face of cruxifiction becomes meaningless in its lesson that we too should forgive in the face of suffering, no matter if people recognize what they do to us or not.

    In short, without a real Christ experiencing real human things, much of the Gospel message is lost. The lessons are still there, but they haven't the same power. They are just, at best, guidelines on how to live. They are good guidelines, but the hope of the Gospels is that God loves us in a sublimely self-sacrificing way, and calls us to love each other in the same way. God calls us to do this, having been willing to suffer Himself. For me, it is a great comfort that my God and my Savior know what it is like to suffer. It gives me courage to follow the Christ, because I know what He asks is not any more than He Himself would do.

    If it is all an illusion, then God is still far, far away. God is telling us what is right, but without a willingness to actually do it Himself, which is confusing. I suppose if a non-physical Jesus works for you and still allows you to become more like Christ over time, that's fine. But what works for some people does not work for all people. A historical Christ is important for many Christians, not just because of "what they've been taught," but for deeply spiritual reasons. In my case, I wasn't raised in a church and I was taught to think for myself. I still find a historical, real, flesh-and-blood Christ important.

    Now, I agree that mythological parallels can point to common underlying truths, but I think the distinctiveness of each myth warrants careful study and understanding as well. As an anthropologist, I would say that the particularlities are just as important as the commonalities. It's a mistake in scholarship to overlook differences and why they are there, and what they mean, in favor of just looking for what crops up in common. The biggest danger is that from one's own cultural perspective, some things may seem the same while they are actually quite different. Without delving into each tradition and fully understanding the myth/sacred text and what it means within its own tradition, it is just guesswork on one's own part what is common and what is not. Many things on the surface look the same, but underneath are quite divergent. And it is this uniqueness that can be just as lovely and informative to the spiritual journey as the commonalities.

    As a scientist, I must say I disagree. Some things are clearly out of the boundaries of areas of inquiry that science can touch. Objectivism only works for stuff that can be objectively experienced, and even then, practically all scientists I know agree that in reality, we bring in our subjective experience. Even physicists find this difficult, as they realize that some parts of the universe change when you look at them. But how to study what they are like when you're not looking?

    Scientific inquiry is a great method for studying many things. But any scientist learns that it is never wholly objective. Individuals- you and me- shape what we are looking at, our categories, our hypotheses and assumptions underlying those hypotheses. Science is as culturally influenced as anything else. Every person brings their bias in, and it colors their work. No one is objective. All we need to do is look at the studies of anatomy, animal behavior, physics, and so forth from 100 years ago to see that cultural and historical frameworks influence science and how it is conducted. Even science is not entirely rational, and the more it is applied to what cannot be objectively measured (i.e., what is in people's heads, like culture, religion, and symbol) the more it is likely to be colored by the practitioner's background. While it shouldn't discourage inquiry, there is a good balance to be had in acknowledging the criticism of postmodernism.

    Having experienced God and Jesus, I am incapable of questioning it. It was life-transformative for me. Maybe that's just my personality. But truly, my own experiences were such that I don't see how a person could be skeptical- it changed fundamentally who I am.

    That said, I don't priviledge experience or belief as higher in general. For myself, having had experience, I put that first. But for reasons only known to God, some people never get experience, and I think belief can still fill the same function in their lives and give them meaning and purpose. Having had experience, my faith is no greater than those who have faith from rational choice or belief or tradition. Faith is faith, and its evidence is in how it changes and transforms the individual (the gifts of the Spirit). The evidence of faith being real is in transformation. You cannot transform until you choose to open yourself up to it.

    In Christianity, God asks for all of ourselves to be offered up to Him. Then we receive transformation. Not the other way 'round. I experienced God and Jesus, and that influenced my belief. But I experienced Them after I offered up myself. I happened to offer myself from a very young age, so it feels like God has always been with me. But I believe that it was my openness to Them that allowed this ongoing experience to occur.

    There's a saying that for those who need proof, no proof is sufficient. For the rest, no proof is needed. Faith depends on trusting God and opening up to Him. One can be skeptical about doctrine yet completely open to God.
     
  11. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2005
    Messages:
    2,906
    Likes Received:
    0
    Most people (of any sort) accept things they haven't personally experienced. It isn't only religion that falls into this category, but also science, medicine, news... Our whole lives in the Western world depend on relying on information we didn't verify ourselves and trusting in what other people tell us, right down to gossip about celebrities and what clothes are in fashion for the coming season.

    And all humans everywhere interpret experience based on prior assumptions. It is part of being human and a cultural universal.

    So... religious people are just like everyone else. They've just applied this to God rather than other stuff. We're all irrational beings. Your own reason for being agnostic is a great example- it posits your own assumptions about where theism and atheism fall, on a spectrum of extremism. But that is only the case in your own mind, based on your own categories. It is just as true that theism, atheism, and agnosticism are all equally irrational (and equally rational). None is more extreme than the other, but they operate based on very different assumptions.

    Anytime we start categorizing, organizing, prioritizing... we are already filtering what is Real through our cultural lens, thereby thoroughly distorting it. Part of becoming a good scientist is to admit one's own inevitable bias. You can't get rid of it. But you can study yourself enough to know your own assumptions and the irrationality of your own categories. In this way, you save yourself from mistakenly thinking science and theoretical analysis can ever grasp reality. What it can do, and what its value is, is to promote tolerance and mutual understanding, and to provide practical benefits. That is, if science leads to heart surgery for those who need it, it does not matter if it rests on faulty assumptions. It works. But we must always be mindful of separating what has practical benefit from the idea that we have truly grasped, without any cultural or personal bias, underlying truths about the universe. Things can work and still be grounded on faulty assumptions.

    I strongly disagree. Many disciplines help us to see in those fuzzy gray areas. Having studied religion from different disciplines- comparative religious studies, anthropology, sociology, and psychology- all of them have valuable insights and none of them have all the answers. In fact, they all internally bicker with each other and they can't agree across disciplines either. That's the value of them- the various perspectives. But there is no "right" answer. After all, we're studying stuff that resides in people's minds, that cannot be objectively measured and is deeply colored by our own biases.

    And I wouldn't discount the hard sciences, either, in these "gray areas." I studied enough biology to know that biology is a very "gray area." There are tons of debates about what is and is not a species (both theoretically and in specific instances), about the processes of evolution, and so forth. Physics has undergone an amazing and wrenching shift in the last 50 years.

    All reality is "gray fuzzy" area. And all science deals with bias on the part of researchers.

    Actually, it is only partially true that science relies on repeatability. This only works in the laboratory sciences, and no where else. Studies of evolution, astronomy, modern physics (much of it), and all the social sciences do not rely on repeatability because you can't. An astronomer, for example, may study something his whole life that he only is able to witness once- or even not at all. Physicists have many theories that depend on mathematical proof, not anything objective.

    In religion, you definitely cannot test things this way. Comparing religions must be done with a great level of attention to detail and meaning in individual traditions, and I have yet to see two traditions with entirely the same concepts. Bits and pieces seem to overlap until you really dig into the traditions and what these pieces mean. Then you find that, like other social stuff, they are sort of held in common and sort of not. It's like the nuclear family- common all over the world, but every society's norms about them are slightly different.

    As for testing it against one's own experience, that simply isn't a good method to test validity. Now, it could be a good test if you want to remain in your own belief system- to test if this fits or not with your beliefs. But it is not a good method to test overall validity because it priviledges your own experience over everyone else in the world. This is the atheist view when you dig down into it- because they have not experienced the Divine, they feel that the other vast majority in the rest of the world is wrong. That seems deeply arrogant to me.

    Well, yes and no. A good study of comparative religion or mythology will be about history. And cultural borrowing and independent "invention." Some similarities may be to borrowing, or similarities in other parts of culture (economic-political structure actually ties into religious structure a great deal). Some parallels arise because of how the human brain works.

    But the great unknown, which cannot be tested but cannot be refuted, is that some parallels may arise because of similar revelation from God. That is, people responding to the same experience, but interpreting it in different ways depending on their unique cultural background.

    What we must be very careful about is what we presume are parallels- because what we individually see as parallels will be colored by our own assumptions and what we desire to find.

    On that, I agree.

    Me too. But we have to remember that our own assumptions and biases generally influence what our direct experience will be.

    I haven't studied this extensively, but considering many very good historians accept Jesus as a historical figure based on the same tenets that they accept many other ancient historical figures, I don't know that the Jesus Seminar did a good job or not. Assessing the reality of ancient historical figures, events, and places is a tricky business and it isn't like recent history where you can just point to enough texts and be done with it. People did not attempt to record history in the same way back then- it had a different purpose. And a figure like Jesus, who lived only a short life and was not a political leader or part of mainstream Roman society would be unlikely to have a great deal written about Him by people outside His own community.

    And I put forth- you never know when mythology, however seemingly crazy, could be true. For many years people discounted the myths that people on the Flores Island had of little hobbit-like creatures. Clearly, dwarf-like hairy humans were a myth. Until an archaeologist uncovered a tiny little adult skeleton with stone arrow points... and then found more. It's been a matter of debate and theory ever since. But it does show that sometimes mythology is not entirely based on flights of fancy, and it can take a long time to uncover any evidence. It's possible to never uncover evidence, and still be dealing with a real historical fact.

    This is a little judgmental to me. I state above my own view of why the historicity is important. Now, I have experienced Christ so no matter what they found, I would not lose faith. Yet, I think that many Christians have, as I do, a valid reason why the history is central and important. It isn't just about "proof." It's about meaning.

    I do too. But I would posit that it works because I have given myself to the Spirit. There is much I have experienced that is not from God. There is a whole spiritual world out there- nature spirits and energies- and some are good and some are bad. Without some sort of grounding in tradition, it would be difficult to distinguish one from the other. Maybe it works for others, but I would be wary of priviledging experience without carefully inquiring (both from a stance of Biblical/scriptural tradition and from rational study of other religions) as to what one is experiencing.

    We are all going to process experience somehow. It is the human way. But we can choose to consciously determine what elements will go into that processing (what traditions, scriptures, etc. will we use to interpret our experience) or we can choose to leave this up to whatever we already have (from our culture, upbringing, etc.).

    I dismiss nothing. Just because something is outside the realm of science and I (or those I know) have not experienced it, does not make it invalid. And actually, that is a very scientific attitude to take.

    As an aside, I have witnessed things closely similar to the miracles of Jesus. But I think the message is more that we should be creating miracles for each other, not waiting to validate the miracles of Jesus' life.

    I determine what is right for me (not reasonable, two different things) based on how I am directed by the Spirit, which is aligned with the message of the Gospels and evidenced in the fruit of the Spirit. Beliefs that transform me into becoming more like Christ, that bring peace, hope, joy, and love-- these things are right for me. Other stuff isn't right for me.

    Reasonableness has nothing to do with it. For me to make decisions about what is reasonable, I put myself above others, claiming that somehow I am better than they are about determining what is true. This is not only not scientific (since spirituality falls outside the realm of scientific inquiry), I just find it arrogant and rude. And it would clog up my ability to be a good anthropologist if I already thought my own ideas were right and these other people I study have it wrong. So there is what is right for me, and what is right for others. I trust that God will work in others' lives and guide me in the work I am to do myself, and that is sufficient for me.

    This is fascinating (though not about Buddhism!). :D:eek:

    Peace,
    Kim/Path
     
  12. marmalade

    marmalade New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2008
    Messages:
    50
    Likes Received:
    0
    This thread is the exact type of discussions I've been into many times, and it never goes anywhere. I don't know to what extent I understand you two, but I definitely get the sense that neither of you understands me. The kinds of things I've studied you probably haven't studied much, and probably vice versa. We're using different assumptions and largely talking past eachother.

    I could try to explain my perspective, but it wouldn't probably make much sense to you and you're probably not interested in looking into it to the extent that it would make sense to you. Certain of my views may crossover with yours. I have had experiences of what could be called 'God' if I so desired to give interprative labels to such experiences, and my faith is very strong. But I'd imagine my experiences are different in various ways. No matter what my experiences, I never feel incapable of questioning and wondering about it. Different personalities, different backgrounds... I guess.

    Also, I'd imagine that I've studied comparative mythology and astrotheology more than either of you, or at least I doubt you've read the same authors as I have: Jung, Campbell, Acharya S, Doherty, Price, etc. An even more central framework for me, though, is integral theory. In order to continue this discussion, I'd have to start referring to theories like spiral dynamics and aqal. You two probably aren't overly interested, but more importantly I'm not overly inspired to try. I'm sure anything that I could say you would mostly disagree with one way or another. We could go on and on, and none of us would be any closer to understanding the other. At this point in my life, I'm simply frustrated with discussions like this. Its not about blame. Just an honest assessment. So, as is often said, we'll have to agree to disagree... or not, but either way I'm finished with this debate.

    To be fair, you two probably have read more books about traditional theology and apologetics. And, Path, if you're a scientist, then you've probably read more books about whatever your field is. Besides maybe the science, I admit I'm not overly interested in studying those things more than the cursory perusal I've given to them so far.

    Everything I'm talking about does relate to the parallel mythologies of Buddhism and Christianity. But if it doesn't make sense to you, there is no purpose in my trying to explain it. You can find all of the ideas I refer to on the web and in books if you want.

    If you'd like to understand my perspective better, go to an integral discussion board and bring up your ideas about everything being based on belief and all beliefs being relative. There is some truth to this, but integral theoriests includes these insights in a larger perspective. Or, maybe more down your lane, go to beliefnet and there you'll find a group that you can join which is about Harpur's Pagan Christ. That group might give you a better understanding of how comparative mythology and docetism can be meaningfully applied to Christianity.

    All the best,
    Marm
     
  13. bananabrain

    bananabrain awkward squadnik

    Joined:
    Sep 4, 2003
    Messages:
    2,749
    Likes Received:
    2
    actually, thomas, that's not quite right (i dare say bob will back me up here) - until comparatively recently the "heart" was actually metonymic substitution for the *intellect*, rather than the emotions. the emotional association is not jewish and far later.

    nor is mine, at least not intentionally, although my own conviction that such concepts are fairly nonsensical is only because i believe that the Absolute is by definition beyond our comprehension, as is "Truth" and "Reality".

    remember, because of the "privacy of experience" mind-body problem from philosophy, we may experience certainty that we know what is "Real", but that does not mean that it actually *is* - in this sense, you and i may be seeing entirely different colours and calling them both "green", as well as both being entirely self-deluding about the nature of the "essential nature of consciousness" - we just don't *know*; all we know is what we *believe* to be true. nonetheless, as karen armstrong puts it, "mystics tend to agree".

    actually, judaism would tend to put it in a similar way, albeit more in terms of "G!D Isn't about to sort stuff out for you unless you actually make some effort yourself".

    in jewish mystical thought, the Divine sparks (nitzotzot) end the cycle of rebirth (gilgul) by reuniting with the Infinite Divine. that is 'Ayin Sof (Infinite Nothingness) - which is another of the Divine Names...

    and, in a way, judaism paradoxically maintains both positions at the same time, although most people think it's just about the former.

    in judaism, it's known as PaRDeS.

    b'shalom

    bananabrain
     
  14. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2006
    Messages:
    5,259
    Likes Received:
    8
    No sh1t. You got rebirth too. :)

    s.
     
  15. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2006
    Messages:
    5,259
    Likes Received:
    8
    Hi Netti Netti and welcome to CR. :)

    "It is also evident in the (Mahaparinirvana) Nirvana Sutra that the Buddha speaks here (as in other Tathagatagarbha scriptures) of two kinds of "self": one is the worldly, transitory, composite ego, which he terms a "lie" (as it is an ever-changing bundle of impermanence, with no enduring essence of its own) and which is to be recognised as the mutating fiction that it is; the other is the True Self, which is the Buddha - Eternal, Changeless, Blissful, and Pure. Some Buddhists find this a stumbling block and are baffled by how the Buddha can on the one hand deny the self and upold the reality of the Self. The answer is that the referent of the word "self" is not the same in all instances. On some occasions the illusory ego is being referred to, while on others it is the Buddha as Dharmakaya that is meant. The one is small and illusory, while the other is real and great ("the Great Self", as the Buddha labels it).

    The teachings of the Nirvana Sutra represent the final elucidatory verbal step within the sutras towards Nirvana and full Awakening: they (in alliance with the doctrines of the Lotus Sutra and the astonishingly cosmically dimensioned Avatamsaka Sutra) are definitive and full revelations by the Buddha of his ultimate Dharma."


    Thus I have also heard…the Lotus Sutra is known as the King of Sutras. The Heart Sutra contains the essence of the Buddha’s teaching. The Diamond Sutra represents the core of the Buddha’s teaching. The Pali Canon represents the Word of the Buddha.

    I think that what one may have is upaya piled upon upaya and stirred in with a good dollop of sectarian propaganda to promote or denigrate other schools.

    If I may, for a moment, ignore the advice of Dongshan Lianghe and quote a couple of lines from a verse he recited:

    "Students as numerous as sands in the Ganges but none are awakened.
    They err by searching for the path in another person’s mouth."

    Similarly, Touzi Datong:

    "All of you come here searching for some new words and phrases, collecting brilliant things which you intend to stick in your mouth and repeat…If you ask me then I will answer you directly. But there is no mystery that can be compared to you, yourself….It is the understandings that arise from your own life that you must carry forward into the future, reaping what you sow."

    s.
     
  16. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2005
    Messages:
    2,906
    Likes Received:
    0
    My flavor of Christianity is along the same lines. Another interesting parallel I find between what I've come to believe and Judaism. :) I do think I am saved by grace, but it's up to me to grab hold of the gift and commit myself to transformation. Since I ain't perfect, God saves me out of mercy and not out of my own doing. But it's up to me to make efforts to try...

    I'm fascinated. I had heard that in some of Jewish thought there was reincarnation but I know little about it. I'd love to hear more, if you're willing/able.
     
  17. path_of_one

    path_of_one Embracing the Mystery

    Joined:
    Apr 1, 2005
    Messages:
    2,906
    Likes Received:
    0
    I thought it was going somewhere in the sense that I was learning more about what you thought and also reflecting on my own beliefs, but I don't mind if you wish to discontinue. I'm sorry you feel misunderstood. I am trying, but it can be difficult via internet conversations.

    Probably- we're all different of course. I certainly wonder about my experiences about God and I question what they mean. I think maybe I misunderstood you earlier. What I meant is that having had certain experiences of God and Christ, I am incapable of taking an agnostic position and questioning my own experience. But I certainly question what it means.

    Comparative mythology I've read quite a bit, though not as much as comparative religion (mostly from a historical view) and just reading a lot of sacred texts and myths themselves, along with studies of culture. Astrotheology- haven't a clue what this is. I'm nearly always curious about everything, though, so any references that you feel are good are welcome. I've read Jung and Campbell, but not the others. Anything refs you have that are particularly good from integral theory would be interesting, too. Are these coming from a psychological view of religion?

    Well, I'm interested. But if you don't want to, that's OK. I can say I don't have enough time to devote hours to more reading, given my other readings and writing, plus job and... you know, just life. But if there are a few things I could scan to introduce myself to the concepts and where the theories "come from" in terms of their disciplinary and academic origins, that'd be really interesting and useful.

    I've read practically nothing in traditional theology or apologetics, but Thomas I would wager has. All of what I said came from my own experience and interpretation of the Gospels (I'm largely Quaker now- and Druid, though I go to an Episcopal church when I go, and didn't grow up in any particular theology). The rest came from largely from my opinions on theory based on my academic background. I'm a cultural anthropologist, but minored in religious studies (secular, comparative- not theological) and am familiar with sociological theory fairly well and psychological theory passably. I've had a fair bit of biology and genetics, along with evolutionary theory, since I was trained in a classical four-field approach (biological anthro, cultural anthro, linguistics, and archaeology). I later specialized in cultural anthro, particularly in issues of cognition and environment/natural resources.

    I think it can be meaningfully applied, but I do find a lot of meaning in a historical Christ. Perhaps it is just a matter of what works for one's spiritual growth? And I would say, I don't disagree with Jung and Campbell necessarily. But I also don't think it explains it all, or even most of it. I seek balance between looking at universals or commonalities and what they may mean, and looking at particularities and their meaning. Given my anthro background, I just can't sweep particularities under the rug and I don't think they are without spiritual (and practical) importance.

    Peace,
    Kim/Path
     
  18. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    Messages:
    2,571
    Likes Received:
    0

    Thanks, good to meet you.:)


    I was under the impression that Mahayana Buddhism - of which "Pure Land" is a subset - should be considered false and corrupt.

    It seems that the key practice of Pure Land Buddhism is to recite Amitabha's Buddha's name. Presumably this is a way to offset karmic debt and get you into Paradise. Maybe I don't understand the mechanism. How does one offset the effects of sin and integrate virtue with a vocalizing nenbutsu ?
     
  19. seattlegal

    seattlegal Why do cows say mu?

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2005
    Messages:
    6,590
    Likes Received:
    62
    From my Christian vocabulary, it would be through grace. From what I understand, followers of Pure Land are searching for the compassionate grace of Amitabha.
     
  20. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2008
    Messages:
    2,571
    Likes Received:
    0

    Yes, it seems the idea is to appeal to Amitabha for mercy. The reciting Amitabha's Buddha's name is the main practice for PL followers. This does not seem like much of a substitute for the business of working out "your liberation with diligence," as Siddhartha Guatama emphasized.

    To my way of thinking, accepting grace involves and depends upon repentance. How important is repentance in Pure Land doctrine? It would be an issue here since this thread is about Buddhism and Christianity. Isn't the Christian view that there is no hope of salvation without repentance? Jesus said you will perish unless you repent. (Luke 13:3)





     

Share This Page