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Posts Tagged ‘Philosophy’

Everyone is a Philosopher

Everyone is a philosopher, albeit some are doing quite poor in the endeavor. If you find the first line a bit hard to swallow, then maybe you can at least agree with me that everyone has their own personal philosophy of life; some guiding rules, preconceived notions or expectations that govern their actions, and reactions to things in life.

So, I guess that my stating that “Everyone has a philosophy” would be easier to agree with, but I am still of the opinion that we play a much more active role in it than that. Maybe we just like to feel like victims when our lives and actions are so out of control? If you own personal philosophy is in a mess, then I’d assume that it would be much nicer to be able to point the finger to another source to blame for its authorship.

About two weeks ago I was in conversation with a young professor, who was pretty adamant in their profession of disdain for all studies of philosophy or religion… especially my own. Their main argument was that it was a waste of time, that forming and shaping a own personal philosophy or belief system held no benefit, and that it just got in the way of their own ideal of just accepting everything as it comes without further thought or consideration.

Which is funny, because that is her philosophy; however unshaped or unrefined, but philosophy none the less.

But, if no matter what, you are going to live by some kind of philosophy of life, would you not want it to be the one of your conscious choice? A good one, well thought out, decided upon, and even one that is slightly above you for which to strive for?

If not, then your philosophy is going to be based one other things, such as:

  • How you were raised at home
  • Society, culture, and media
  • Purely reactionary, especially to traumatic events in your life

In the case of the lady I was speaking to, who held that she had no philosophy, her philosophy was shaped strongly instead by her family, upbringing, and traumas.

She stated that she was spoiled and bad with money, never denying herself any material item or worldly pleasure because her wealthy parents always got her what she desired without question. Her philosophy on marriage was based solely on that of her parents, and of her failed marriage in the past. Her concept of self worth was based on media, and her goals were based on what her peers around her accepted or condemned.

My point is, that if you do not control and shape your philosophy, it will not stop you from forming one… it will just simply be a very poor one.

Would you rather not take the rightful responsibility for it, and yourself, and choose how you would like it to be? Make it an educated, hopefully positive one, which guides and governs your life on a foreword path?

Maybe that takes the security blanket away of being able to say that you are selfish…because X happened to you, you steal because, you lie because, you are lazy because, you cheat because, because, because, because. But isn’t there liberation in becoming the master of oneself? And if you are going to have a philosophy regardless, why not take the time and effort to make it a good one?

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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CHAPTER IV: FLOWERS

(44)

Only a skillful flower arranger knows how to select from all the beautiful flowers the very best for their arrangements. But who can rightfully discern the choice flower of the Dharma from all the other tantalizing flowers that the world has to offer?

(45)

The learner who has dedicated themselves to this training will rightfully discern, as the flower arranger. The learner on this path will spot the correct Dharma teachings, it stands out among the others as plain as day to them, but to the rest it remains obscured and hidden.

(46)

Having learned that this body is as temporary as the foam produced by the waters, that it offers no more substance than a mirage, the learner has moved beyond the reach of the temptations and traps which ensnare.

(47)

The pleasures of the world are like beautiful flowers in the forest, one could become so absorbed in collecting them that they forget to stay alert of the dangers that are present, being easily swept into their downfall as a flood sweeps away a sleeping village.

(48)

The person immersed in gathering pleasures drowns in their own insatiable thirst, never satisfied, always reaching for the next and greater sensation.

(49)

As a bee travels from one type of flower to another, bringing out the honey but leaving each flowers own unique fragrance and color intact, so should a sage bring out the good in each village or person they meet without altering their uniqueness.

(50)

While working to bring out the good pay no attention the faults of others, or what they have haven’t done; instead, pay attention to your own faults and your own inactions.

(51)

For even a beautiful flower, full of color, but without scent is worthless, as worthless as your eloquent words if only spoken but never lived out personally.

(52)

But a beautiful flower, full of color, and full of scent is a joy to others, like one whose good words matches their own good deeds.

(53)

One may look at a heap of flowers, cut down and consider them futile, knowing they will soon wither and die, but a skillful flower arranger knows they can use the time they have left to make beautiful garlands. Just so, your own life is mortal and fleeting but you can still do many skillful things.

(54)

The scent of a flower cannot travel against the wind, not even the strongest incense or perfume can. But the fragrance of a person of virtue will spread to the ends of the earth, regardless of how the wind blows.

(55)

The aroma of flowers, incense or perfumes can be excellent, but the aroma of virtue surpasses them all.

(56)

Compared to virtue, whose scent reaches up to the heavens, even the strongest incense becomes nothing.

(57)

Living life as a fragrance, the virtuous have no body or home to be found in by their enemies, like a vapor they cannot be grasped by their snares, for they dwell in mindfulness and are freed by right understanding.

(58-59)

Every once in a while a beautiful flower sprouts forth out the piles of trash heaped on the sides of the road, and when it does it dazzles us all. Just so, you, the disciple of the Buddha have risen out of the heap, distinguishing yourself as a light to those still blind and bound to the limitations of this world.

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PGRDSeveral months ago a friend of mine who is a devout Buddhist got into a good discussion with me about why I felt such a need to study Buddhist scriptures so throughly, literally, and why I searched so much for a very pure practice. You see, I would be practicing Soto and would start reading Dogen and wonder why our current practice was so far off from his teachings. Or I would study the Pali Canon and wonder why so much of it is ignored. I also was looking for a practice that was “pure” from the standpoint of it being very established, traditional, and with a long lineage and history behind it.

He, on the other hand, was very eclectic and had little concern otherwise. He was into really anything that appealed to him at that moment, gathering things from here and there along his path, and forming his own kind of practice that suited him best. There was certainly a kind of freedom there that he was enjoying that I was not, but I questioned if this was right way, or at least if this was the way for me.

I was more of the mindset of researching and finding a tradition/Master that I felt in my heart to be true and sticking to it… even the parts that I didn’t like or that “cramped my style”. Also, as a scholar, I was and still am into the notion that scripture and history must be revered and considered seriously. Now I am not saying that it ALWAYS has to be followed — just that it always has to be considered seriously and if not followed for good and defensible reason.

He proposed two arguments to me which I had no real answer for that I would like to finally answer today. They were as follows:

1. If whatever it is they are doing/believing, is helping them they who really cares if it’s false or true?
2. Even the oldest of scriptures still is most likely impure, so who cares if we adjust them even more?

The first of the two arguments lead into a long discussion on Upaya, and it did open my mind up to a lot of things. There is some truth to this argument, and I must concur that there is time and place for expedient means. However, we must also agree that the purpose of Upaya is to get someone to move from one state to another, so that they may receive a new truth and be freed from the old one. Once this is accomplished the individual now should be able to walk in this new truth and no longer feel the need to cling to the past delusion or the delusion that was presented to them through Upaya to motivate them in the first place. If this is not done, then was progress really made?

Also, what is the definition of something helping? What is the definition of something not harming? Does something help someone if it does not really lead them to liberation? Doesn’t it harm someone if they pick up some teaching or mindset along the way that hinders their long-term progress even though it provides some kind of temporary solution to a problem? This technique of expedient means must be used by a Master out of loving-kindness and tempered with wisdom, for the good of their student to move them along the path. It is not license for us to simply do as we wish and see fit without skill and purpose.

For the second argument, I was already familiar with this topic from my days in Bible Seminary. Not only do we have to take into account when reading ancient text that it may have been, and was most likely altered by people with alteriar motives or agendas, but we also have to take into account the fact that even the most pure, divine revelation is still going to have to be filtered through the eyes and mind of a mortal and even their most direct and accurate account will still be tainted in some way, shape or form. As the Apostle Paul wrote himself, “we see in a mirrordimly“.

Yet, does this give taint us license to further filter scripture as we see fit to adjust it to our own social, political, personal or other preferences?

I think it is a lot like peeing in a pool.

If you were in a large pool of water with a group of people and word got out that someone may have peed in it, does that mean that we all then will just figure it’s ok for the rest of us to take a dump in it?

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3rdjesusBook Review on Deepak Chopra’s The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore

I have seen many reviews of this book online, so I guess the question is: “Why one more?” However, if you look at them carefully you will probably notice that they are either by institutions trying to sell you the book, fans of Deepak Chopra; or, in the opposite vein, person’s of a fundamentalist Christian background who automatically already knew they would disagree with this writing. So in all fairness, none of these commentaries would be fair.

However; I actually read the book (most reviewers only skim). I neither like nor dislike the author or his views. I am a Bible Scholar, Buddhist scholar, and practice daily meditation. Finally, I am currently working on my Masters on the very subject of comparative religion (Eastern and Western).

Let’s start off with what the book is and isn’t. Deepak presents us with his thesis that the Christ of the bible, and of Christian lore, could have possibly been instead another enlightened or awaken being, akin with Gautama Buddha and various other noteworthy religious figures. So what it “is” is a thesis, then followed up with some practical, although sadly not unique, instruction as to how one could meditate and have a very “Eastern” faith experience while still holding onto their familiar Jesus figure, prayers, and bible passages.

What the book “isn’t” is apologetics. The author offers little historical, biblical, or intellectual argument to support his thesis. He simply puts it out there, and moves along swiftly into application. His arguments for why he believes his thesis to be true is that it makes sense to him, he likes it, Jesus had similar teachings and experiences to the Buddha, and his main argument is that not only would Jesus’ teachings be impossible for a person to live out without awakening, but they make little sense unless reinterpreted that way. He does a very good job going through various teachings or sayings of Jesus and then showing how it could very well be him referring to an awakening experience that was later misinterpreted; or more likely, deliberately.

The major claim that may ruffle some people’s feathers is that he believes that the Christ did exist, but that through many years of religion, and the passing along of information, and in the hopes to establish a dominant religion, this original Christ has been altered, added to and deleted about so that his real message has become muddled; although still hidden in the text if we look at it through a new perspective. There is more than enough viable, undeniable, and confirmed information out there by noteworthy scholars to back up a claim that certain text in the bible has been purposefully changed by the church, especially during its formative years and it’s rise to power as the State lead religion of the Roman Empire; however, the author takes little-to-no time to delve into the facts, and even if he did it would still not back up his theory that Jesus was a “Buddha”; its reference only serves to cast a shadow of doubt.

This then breaks down then into their three different Christs. The first being the actual, historical person who walked the earth; but, whom we can not say with any clarity that we actually know since all we know of him is from religious, non-historical, text. The second Christ is the Jesus of myth and religion. The one who comes to our minds when we hear the word Jesus; based off the influence of the bible, our society, televisions and homes–the one that was “invented” to fit into a certain religion, culture, and philosophy. Then, Chopra presents us with the third option: Chopra’s own made up, non-historical and mythical Christ — one that fits well into his own philosophy and suites his own philosophy. The hard part to swallow about this train of thought though is that after the author establishes his pretense that nobody can actually say that they really know who the historical Christ was, and that the Christ of the Bible is myth, then how in the world can one offer up a third option with any certainty or conviction? It is not based of the historical, for it was stated that nothing is known of the historical, and it is not based off the mythical; so what source is really left over for this deduction?

From a bible scholar’s perspective the defense of his thesis does not stand up well, and if you are looking for an intellectual argument you will not find one here. From a Buddhist perspective, if you are looking for a book to teach you about Buddhism, meditation or any such thing… then I suggest that there are much better books out there to instruct or inspire you. This books closes out with average instruction to begin a quest for awakening, that is really sub-par, although it may seem appealing to those from a Christian background since he revamped it to use Christian prayers and bible verses.

Was the book worth the read? Yes. Yes it was. But I see it more as a primer education piece for someone who wants to hold onto their title of Christian but is slowly finding themselves to be swayed into and enticed by New Age or Buddhist philosophies. So, if that is you and you want to read something that tells you something that you already know you want to hear… great. If you are looking for something “deep” about the practice of Buddhism… then not so great. Finally, if you are looking for a real thesis that digs into factual information to confront your current perception of Christ… this is not going to cut it. You would be better off reading Pagan Christ or The Jesus Mysteries. I personally was just fascinated to see what Chopra’s own personal “take” on Jesus would be, and I was not disappointed by it.

In closing, it was a good read and I am going to keep the book on my shelf instead of trading it in at the used book store, but it was nothing too surprising, new, and it was full of information that I had already heard before but that was presented to be better the first time.

Personal Note:

In the East many are against how the States had taken meditation and stripped it down into some kind of relaxation or self-help guided therapy. In India most yogis are dismayed at how we are teaching yoga as some fitness package for middle-age ladies and did away with all spiritual aspects and benefits of the practice. So I find it of little surprise that Westerners would prefer that their Jesus be left alone. I don’t want to go to a Christian church to meditate, no more than I want to show up to a Buddhist temple to hear about Christ. Some may call that closed-minded, but as someone who studies and loves religion I disagree. It is because I love it that I think it’s integrity should remain untouched.

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Just a quick — odd thought. Sure, since we are not standing right next to the guys, we do not know for sure what exactly Buddha or Christ literally said or did not say. I get that.

However, the notion these days is that we assume that anything that we are told that they said that we do not like we then say that we bet that they did not really say. That which we do like, that which agrees with us, we say that we bet they said. Therefore believing that Buddha or Christ were very brilliant men — since they think just as we do, and agree with us on so many things.

We bet that Buddha (the REAL Buddha) would never have really believed in gods, karma, reincarnation, atman.. whatever. We bet this because WE do not think this, and obviously is Buddha was so freaking smart he would agree with me.

If he disagreed with me; with my great intellect, my math, my science, my deep-ass ponderings — then he would just be another superstitious fool. Or so we like to believe.

Is this really it? Do we think so highly of ourselves that we now assume that if there was a Buddha, or a Christ, or any kind of a god that they would obviously agree with us on everything?

Hell we even have monks/priests out there now who have meditated and meditated and meditated — never hitting any real kind of enlightenment; so what do they do? They then say that there is no real nirvana.

Why though? Is that not the same thing as them saying “Well it did not happen to me so I guess it is not real?”

So what then? Since you are so freaking great and it did not happen to you it must not be real? Since it did not happen to you and you are really, really, really great at all this stuff… it must have never happened to Buddha or anyone else?

It is just something I was thinking about today, and it made me laugh. All these religions preach annihilation of self, but then we make the religion fit into out own personal experiences, preferences, and expectations.

Don’t worry, I am not saying that I am excluded from all of this; although if there was a god I bet he’d agree with me:) That was a joke.

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1_fallen_angel_5723If you had to choose between God and doing something to help others what choice would you make?

Funny, the other day I was praying… well it was more like a mixture of prayer, meditation, chanting, and singing mantras…. I switch back and forth between all kinds of things since I study them all. Anyway, it turned into a direct prayer. I was praying to God for the ability and the power to do something to really help people and my environment. I don’t know who God is, but I still pray to it anyway.

During this prayer I felt as though I was asked (or asked myself) the question of if I was praying to God to get to know God or if I was praying to get direction and empowerment to help people. Immediately I thought to myself the “correct” or churchy answer of “this is for God”. Then the question came back in a different form. Would you rather know God and help nobody, or never know God and heal others? I thought about it and decided that wrong or not my motivation is to help others–God or no god.

There was a sense of guilt there, knowing that was not the politically correct church answer, and a feeling of release and joy from stating it.

After a brief moment of not knowing if God was going to strike me with lightning or not, some ideas rushed to my mind that made me feel a ton better. I will go over a few of them quickly with you.

I do not think that it is even possible for me to really know God until I am actively participating in love and in showing compassion to humanity and the environment. I think that when we do these things is when we are truly able to experience God; not the other way around. Furthermore, God does not give us “power” to do things unless we are already in the place where we are doing things that are in need power. He does not simply speak to and engage people who are not engaging others in life.

Plainly speaking, God isn’t going to come and zap me with something while I am here alone in my room sitting on my butt doing nothing. Although even if he never shows, if I have to choose between one and the other–I would rather help some people.

I think God would make the same choice. This scripture then came to my mind (Phil 2:5-8),

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!

So Jesus made the same choice. Be with God or help people? Give me the people.

Why isn’t God’s presence and power present any longer in all of our safe, little Christian bubbles? Because God isn’t in the bubble; He is out in the world, and wants us to go out into it as well.

This reminds me of a Buddhist story I heard weeks ago in a Zen class:

There was monk who was very frustrated. He had done everything that he was supposed to do, but had not yet found any enlightenment. He was disciplined, well studied, meditated daily, even gave up all of his worldly possessions and moved into a secluded monastery. One day he heard that a Master was visiting the commoners in a village nearby; so he left to get his advice. He said “Master, I have done all these things. What must I do to reach enlightenment?” The Master replied “Leave the monastery, and go out into the world and feed the hungry.”

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Dionysus

I walked out of church today. I did not know that it was going to be a Palm Sunday service, and I was not quite mentally prepared for that one. I am not particularly proud of standing up and leaving; in fact, the whole thing was pretty disturbing for me.

I just could not sit there listening to the preacher going on-and-on about Christ’s riding on the donkey, the palms, and the triumphal entry as some kind of literal, historical fact. He even had the congregation stop and think about the fact that “on this exact day” so many thousands of years ago all of this was unfolding.

Either this person is a fool, or he is taking me for one. There is no in-between option that I can come to on my own.

Let me explain myself…

If this preacher is a scholar then he must be aware that the holiday was a pre-existing one; that the god-man riding the donkey, and being celebrated with the waving of the palms were already part of that pagan holiday and was later integrated into the story of Christ.

If a preacher being educated on these facts, knowingly preaches this event to me as a unique and literal fact of the life of Jesus, then he is taking me for a fool. He is knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately misleading, manipulating, and insulting my intelligence.

If a preacher is not aware of these facts, then he is uneducated, unlearned, and is no scholar. A man such as this is not fit to hold the pulpit.

If a preacher being educated on historical facts knowingly rejects them as a statement of faith, this man is a fool of the highest sort. True faith is not simply rejecting or choosing to not believe historical or scientific facts that do not line up with a personal belief system; such a thing we call stupidity.

If it were against my religion to believe in the country of France, or that the world is round, should I be applauded for my great faith in choosing to believe such nonsense despite the reality of the situation? No, never! Such a thing would be considered to be mere self-delusion and idiocy.

Wouldn’t it be better to educate the people about the religious history of that region and what the image of the god-man on top of a donkey represented in that culture? What the palms symbolized? How we can apply this to our spiritual lives today?

I do miss my old child-like faith; I am not bragging about the loss of it–I mourn it. However, I am not about to go down that road of trading knowledge for faith–I know where that leads. There has to be another way. I wonder if anyone has any words of encouragement for me in this time? I feel very down today about all of this for some reason.

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