Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Glory of the Gospel, Part III: Buddhism?

To fully understand this post, you'll need to read...

Part I &


The second major religion we'll examine was founded in the year 563 BC by a young prince in northern India (modern day Nepal). One day this young prince left the life of luxury he knew in his palace... only to encounter incredible suffering out in the world.

In the terms of our metaphor (read Part I), he beheld the pit. He beheld the viper.

And it troubled him so greatly that he left his wife and his children behind while he went out into the world to seek a solution.

And near the end of a six-year period of family abandonment -- during which time he was making extreme demands upon himself (severe fasting, etc.) -- he found himself sitting underneath a Bodhi tree, sometimes also known as a Bo tree. He was sitting there, eating very little food, and waiting for enlightenment.

Hence, his nickname -- which means "Enlightened One" or "Awakened One." The Buddha.

This is the term from which "Buddhism" gets its name. Here's his conclusion: The pit and the viper are real (contra Hinduism -- see Part II), but our problem is that we want to get out of the pit! It is our desire to get out of the pit. But if can just rid ourselves of our desire to be out of the pit and to be free of the viper, then we can be at peace!

So, the representative from Buddhism comes over to the pit and looks down upon us. What's he going to say? What good news of rescue will he offer us?

He says, "My friend! Your problem is that you want to get out of the pit. You want to get away from the snake. This is wrong. Repeat after me in intense meditation: 'I love you, pit. I love you, snake. I don't need to be out.'"

And then he would counsel you to use the Four Noble Truths, which -- when fully understood -- would lead on you the Eightfold Path.

Essentially, they are these:

1. All life knows suffering. Nobody gets what they want out of life.
2. The cause of suffering is ignorance and clinging. Wanting it (wanting what you want out of life) is the problem.
3. There is a way to end suffering. By learning not to want what you want.
4. This is the way to end suffering: The Eightfold Path.
  1. Right Understanding Learning the nature of reality and the truth about life.
  2. Right Aspiration Making the commitment to living in such a way that our suffering can end.
  3. Right Effort Just Do It. No Excuses.
  4. Right Speech Speaking the truth in a helpful and compassionate way.
  5. Right Conduct Living a life consistent with our values.
  6. Right Livelihood Earning a living in a way that doesn’t hurt others.
  7. Right Mindfulness Recognizing the value of the moment; living where we are.
  8. Right Concentration Expanding our consciousness through meditation.
Have you seen the pictures of Buddhist monks who would douse themselves with gasoline and then set themselves on fire, all the while just sitting there in the lotus position? This was done as a strong act of protest against the wrongful persecution of Buddhists. But it at least demonstrates that this Buddhist in particular had obviously found some success in removing the desire to avoid pain.

So... so far two religions have come to the edge of the pit and offered us their version of salvation. One spoke to us of illusion. The other has spoken to us of our desire.

... to be continued ...



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