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To Be or Not To Be

SilouanSilouan Veteran
edited June 2013 in Faith & Religion
Through my study and participation in Orthodox Christianity I have learned that the root of suffering derives from a belief or attachment to the notion of an intrinsically existing ego centric self which is actually transient. For the Orthodox Christian overcoming this attachment is movement toward well-being and fulfilling what it means to actually be a person. This is accomplished by way of self-emptying love in that the transient self is abandoned by no longer existing for itself. In contrast movement towards existing for the self is actually movement towards non-being.

Buddhism seems to be a movement toward negation of the notion of an intrinsically existing ego centric self by direct insight and wisdom gained through the realization of Emptiness. The existence of the self and phenomena are not negated but rather that they are ultimately seen as being empty of intrinsic existence, so it is not the self which is annihilated but rather just a mistaken view.

However, many Christian commentaries I read and Christians I speak with about the subject seem to interpret the doctrine of Emptiness as meaning a literal annihilation of the self and that enlightenment means just that where not only the self-negated but the person is also swallowed up and is absorbed in the absolute with a loss of its own uniqueness.

I recently read a story about a Chinese Buddhist who converted and became an Orthodox Christian monk on Mt Athos. He seems to support some of the Christian perceptions I hear about Buddhism in saying that "one is very much alone as your entire struggle is with yourself”, and “that one is totally alone on the path".

Additionally, the interviewer of the story posited an idea that “Even these Buddhists, who are from a non-theistic religion, created various deities. Even in dream language and worlds. But they have a need to refer to someone, to something, someone beyond and outside themselves, even if it’s dreamy.” He made this point in conveying an innate communal nature present in man and his need to express it.

Given the fact that there are many Buddhist traditions, some of which have no reference to deities, has me wondering if those traditions that do arose as perhaps a reaction to an over emphasis in a literal interpretation of annihilation of the self and phenomena, or if the Christian perspective presented is a correct analysis in that both the self and person are swallowed up or absorbed in the absolute, a state of non-being if you will.
lobsterpegembaraperson

Comments

  • If i am not mistaken Christianity makes the claim that a person has a soul/self that must be born again into the fold of Jesus the Christ to be saved.
    Buddhism never claims a personal soul/self.....it is only those weird reincarnation nuts that believe in that. :)
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    Even Buddhas have unique differences. Everyone has a mandala and they are as unique as snow flakes. However the nature of awareness is the same in all people as openness, clarity, and sensitivity.
    lobsterpersonSilouan
  • Looking for fish tracks in a dry riverbed
  • karmablueskarmablues Veteran
    edited June 2013
    In the Gnostic Gospel of St. Thomas by Tau Malachi (who is the Sophian Gnostic lineage-holder), emptiness is explained in this way:
    To draw near to the Lord is a deeply troubling thing, for I must become no-thing, empty of myself, that the Lord might enter and the Holy Spirit fill me. God is No-thing (Ain) and I must become no-thing to enter into union with the Holy One of Being. If you think you are something, if you think you are a substantial and independent self-existence, a solid or fixed entity, it is greatly troubling to discover that your secret center is no-thing, that you are empty of any substantial or independent self-existence.

    Discovering this, however, you then realize that this is the very nature of everything in existence. You discover that everything is impermanent, that everything changes. Reality is empty of any substantial and independent self-existence. There is only the Holy One of Being, the One-Without-End (Ain Sof).
    wondering said:

    If i am not mistaken Christianity makes the claim that a person has a soul/self that must be born again into the fold of Jesus the Christ to be saved.


    From the same book referred to above, the concept of karma and reincarnation in Gnostic Christianity is explained as follows:
    Truly, it is a dangerous thing to live as though there is no consequence for one's actions or as though there is no accounting for how one has lived. The masters of all Wisdom Traditions tell us that our future is born of our present actions, that the nature of our existence beyond the threshold of death is determined by how we are living now. Living without this awareness, one may, indeed, bring great harm and suffering upon oneself.

    Gnostic Christianity does not believe in eternal damnation but rather in reincarnation, which is to say a journey of consciousness through diverse states of existence that tend toward a progressive development and evolution of the soul or of consciousness itself. In the midst of this journey, there are heavens and hells and realms of admixture, as in the life of our present experience. Whether heaven or hell or something of admixture, each individual generates the causes and conditions of their own experience. One's own state of consciousness, one's own self-grasping, desire and fear, brings one's experience. The creative power of oneself generates one's experience and manifests it.
    lobsterswaydammisecmisc1
  • These are ancient texts. They are symbolic not realistic. How is it that modern humankind can not face up to the reality of "not knowing" what the hell the universe is about..... excuse the french. :) We have got to stop relying on these ancient texts that have been interpreted 10,000 times and and every version a bit different! Face the facts of our loneliness and ignorance and then begin to have compassion for for all living things and our fellow man.
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    Silouan said:

    Given the fact that there are many Buddhist traditions, some of which have no reference to deities, has me wondering if those traditions that do arose as perhaps a reaction to an over emphasis in a literal interpretation of annihilation of the self and phenomena, or if the Christian perspective presented is a correct analysis in that both the self and person are swallowed up or absorbed in the absolute, a state of non-being if you will.

    Here we identify, align, express without the requirement, permission or necessity of deity. We can develop alternative idols: teachers, non-self, nun self, personifications of wisdom or compassion etc.
    Your path of Idolatry, creating a distance between Absolute and person will be hard for some to swallow. In a sense, the non-being of the absolute just inflates into space.

    Cod be with you. :wave:
  • "To be, or not to be" is the famous opening phrase of a soliloquy in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. In the soliloquy, Hamlet questions the meaning of life, and whether or not it is worthwhile to stay alive when life contains so many hardships. He comes to the conclusion that the main reason people stay alive is due to a fear of death and uncertainty at what lies beyond life.

    To be, or not to be, that is the question:
    Whether 'tis Nobler in the mind to suffer
    The Slings and Arrows of outrageous Fortune,
    Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles,
    And by opposing end them: to die, to sleep
    No more; and by a sleep, to say we end

    Don't be anything! Don't be anything at all! Being a Buddha is a burden. Being a Pacceka is a burden. Just don't desire to be. ''I am the monk Sumedho,'' ''I am the monk Ānando''... That way is suffering, believing that you really exist thus. ''Sumedho'' is merely a convention. Do you understand?

    If you believe you really exist, that brings suffering. If there is Sumedho, then when someone criticizes you, Sumedho gets angry. Ānando gets angry. That's what happens if you hold these things as real. Ānando and Sumedho get involved and are ready to fight. If there is no Ānando or no Sumedho, then there's no one there - no one to answer the telephone. Ring ring - nobody picks it up. You don't become anything. No one is being anything, and there is no suffering.

    http://what-buddha-taught.net/Books/Aja ... Enough.htm
    Look at this world:
    Beings, afflicted with thick ignorance,
    are unreleased
    from delight in what has come to be.
    All levels of becoming,
    anywhere,
    in any way,
    are inconstant, stressful, subject to change.


    Seeing this—as it has come to be—
    with right discernment,
    one abandons craving for becoming,
    without delighting in non‐becoming.

    From the total ending of craving
    comes dispassion & cessation without remainder:

    Unbinding.

    For the monk unbound,
    through lack of clinging/sustenance,
    there is no renewed becoming.
    He has conquered Mara,
    won the battle,
    gone beyond all becomings—

    Such. — Ud 3:10
    misecmisc1Silouan
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    wondering said:

    These are ancient texts. They are symbolic not realistic. How is it that modern humankind can not face up to the reality of "not knowing" what the hell the universe is about..... excuse the french. :) We have got to stop relying on these ancient texts that have been interpreted 10,000 times and and every version a bit different! Face the facts of our loneliness and ignorance and then begin to have compassion for for all living things and our fellow man.

    Hello @wondering. It seems to me you are not wondering at all, but guessing. Do you imagine that the truth changes over time?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    Florian said:

    wondering said:

    These are ancient texts. They are symbolic not realistic. How is it that modern humankind can not face up to the reality of "not knowing" what the hell the universe is about..... excuse the french. :) We have got to stop relying on these ancient texts that have been interpreted 10,000 times and and every version a bit different! Face the facts of our loneliness and ignorance and then begin to have compassion for for all living things and our fellow man.

    Hello @wondering. It seems to me you are not wondering at all, but guessing. Do you imagine that the truth changes over time?

    Of course it does.
    Truth is relative, according to its moment.
    It was once true that the sun revolved around the Earth.
    Other 'truths' superseded that one.
    it was once, that the Sun was a God.
    Now we know it it be a star.

    Truth is not dependent on the fact.
    Truth is dependent on the proof of the search.
    One person's Truth need not necessarily be another's.

  • Florian said:

    wondering said:

    These are ancient texts. They are symbolic not realistic. How is it that modern humankind can not face up to the reality of "not knowing" what the hell the universe is about..... excuse the french. :) We have got to stop relying on these ancient texts that have been interpreted 10,000 times and and every version a bit different! Face the facts of our loneliness and ignorance and then begin to have compassion for for all living things and our fellow man.

    Hello @wondering. It seems to me you are not wondering at all, but guessing. Do you imagine that the truth changes over time?

    Oh come now. I am not guessing, and no truth does not change over time. It is the people who make up these fantasy realms they wish existed, and they find ancient texts that support their wishes. As long as everything is going well for a person, they continue to make up illusions about life. Life IS suffering. No way to get around it.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited June 2013
    Silouan said:

    Through my study and participation in Orthodox Christianity I have learned that the root of suffering derives from a belief or attachment to the notion of an intrinsically existing ego centric self which is actually transient. For the Orthodox Christian overcoming this attachment is movement toward well-being and fulfilling what it means to actually be a person. This is accomplished by way of self-emptying love in that the transient self is abandoned by no longer existing for itself. In contrast movement towards existing for the self is actually movement towards non-being.

    Buddhism seems to be a movement toward negation of the notion of an intrinsically existing ego centric self by direct insight and wisdom gained through the realization of Emptiness. The existence of the self and phenomena are not negated but rather that they are ultimately seen as being empty of intrinsic existence, so it is not the self which is annihilated but rather just a mistaken view.

    However, many Christian commentaries I read and Christians I speak with about the subject seem to interpret the doctrine of Emptiness as meaning a literal annihilation of the self and that enlightenment means just that where not only the self-negated but the person is also swallowed up and is absorbed in the absolute with a loss of its own uniqueness.

    I recently read a story about a Chinese Buddhist who converted and became an Orthodox Christian monk on Mt Athos. He seems to support some of the Christian perceptions I hear about Buddhism in saying that "one is very much alone as your entire struggle is with yourself”, and “that one is totally alone on the path".

    I'm not sure about the rest re: deities and an innate communal nature, but when it comes to the teachings on not-self specifically, I think there's some definite overlap between certain Buddhist and Christian approaches. I've been reading a book called In the Spirit of Happiness by the monks of New Skete, and in discussing the real meaning of asceticism and some of the more 'negative' sounding passages in the New Testament like Mark 8:34-35 and John 12:24-25, they mention that:
    "Dying to self" is spiritual shorthand for rooting out all manner of exaggerated self-interest, characteristics of ourselves that constrict us in narcissism and blind self-centeredness. This is the self within us that, while all too real, is what nonetheless must due, the "false self," which must gives way to the new life we are called to attain. The false self embodies the very characteristics we loathe in our better moments. Were we to look at ourselves honestly, we would see how petty, thoughtless, and loveless we can be at any given moment. We might have an occasional, fleeting insight that we will never attain any real happiness unless we come to terms with what really counts in life. One doesn't have to search far to find pathetic examples of individuals who struck it rich by the standards of "the world," yet whose personal lives were utterly miserable. (86)
    Personally, I think it's an apt description of the proper use of the teachings on not-self, albeit in Christian terminology, which is quite similar to the way Thanissaro Bhikkhu approaches the teachings on not-self in his short book Selves & Not-selves.

    I'd say that what 'dies' during awakening and is a self built on, or influenced by, ignorance and the defilements; and what's left is a mind that's liberated, unbound, freed from grasping and self-centeredness, and expressive of love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. Nibbana, then, isn't a kind of annihilation or state of nothingness as I think many mistakenly believe it to be based upon the numerous 'negative' references as to what it's not; it's the experience of the fullness of life free from the suffering that arise from clinging.
    lobsterpegembaraSilouan
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    wondering said:

    Florian said:

    wondering said:

    These are ancient texts. They are symbolic not realistic. How is it that modern humankind can not face up to the reality of "not knowing" what the hell the universe is about..... excuse the french. :) We have got to stop relying on these ancient texts that have been interpreted 10,000 times and and every version a bit different! Face the facts of our loneliness and ignorance and then begin to have compassion for for all living things and our fellow man.

    Hello @wondering. It seems to me you are not wondering at all, but guessing. Do you imagine that the truth changes over time?

    Oh come now. I am not guessing, and no truth does not change over time. It is the people who make up these fantasy realms they wish existed, and they find ancient texts that support their wishes. As long as everything is going well for a person, they continue to make up illusions about life. Life IS suffering. No way to get around it.

    Maybe I'm misunderstanding you @wondering. I expect so. You seem to say that nobody knows the truth, that truth is not to be found in ancient manuscripts, that truth does not change over time, and that the truth is that life is suffering, and that we cannot face the truth of not knowing what the universe is about. It's quite a potpourri of views.

    What makes you say we must face up to the reality of not knowing what the universe is about? I'm just trying to understand where you're coming from...

    vinlynriverflow
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