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Death as the starting point for religion

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran
edited December 2019 in Philosophy

I came across a saying the other day, that “without the realisation of coming death, there would not be religion.” It strikes me as something that is true, religions are very concerned with having the answer to death. All the religions I’ve looked at in detail have this trait, they all talk about what comes afterwards.

With Buddhism it reminds me of the story of the Buddha’s motivation for going forth, a man suffering illness, a man in old age, and a dead man. It is the coming death, the end of life, which causes him to take up sannyas, to go and discover the inner life. Then the focus shifts to suffering later.

It seems to be one of the core questions of life, what happens when you die. People are so anxious to have an answer for it that they will believe any credible person who says they know, even without proof. But nowadays there is a little lifting of the shroud, in the near-death experience, where we can say with some certainty that there is some experience after death. It is a form of crowdsourcing an answer.

“Death overcomes him when gathering flowers he seeks to have his fill...”
—The Dhammapadda

Bunks

Comments

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @Kerome said:
    I came across a saying the other day, that “without the realisation of coming death, there would not be religion.” It strikes me as something that is true, religions are very concerned with having the answer to death. All the religions I’ve looked at in detail have this trait, they all talk about what comes afterwards.

    With Buddhism it reminds me of the story of the Buddha’s motivation for going forth, a man suffering illness, a man in old age, and a dead man. It is the coming death, the end of life, which causes him to take up sannyas, to go and discover the inner life. Then the focus shifts to suffering later.

    It seems to be one of the core questions of life, what happens when you die. People are so anxious to have an answer for it that they will believe any credible person who says they know, even without proof. But nowadays there is a little lifting of the shroud, in the near-death experience, where we can say with some certainty that there is some experience after death. It is a form of crowdsourcing an answer.

    “Death overcomes him when gathering flowers he seeks to have his fill...”
    —The Dhammapadda

    I think in some sense this is true. The acknowledgement of bodily death is something that inspires many to ask questions about purpose and meaning and what happens after death. And it seems to me that a more mature, deeper realization takes place when one begins to explore death in greater detail, eventually leading to an examination of our self-hood and a deconstruction of that self-hood. Most religions have a contemplative component that addresses this in some way, whether it's the Buddhist notion of anatta, the Christian version of dying to self, or the Sufi's conception of fana, the cessation of the ego that opens one to an experience of the deathless, nibbana, God, or whatever you want to call the ultimate goal or realization.

    Keromelobsterperson
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Very much so @Jason, and like the Dhammapadda quote says, looking at purpose and meaning leads one to question the place of desire. Often fulfilling desires is mistaken for meaning. I think it is very necessary to spend time contemplating the workings of desire, avoidance and ignorance, the Tibetans call them the ‘three fires’, which does eventually lead you to an examination of the self. As is often the case, tugging on the string of one teaching brings you to connections with other teachings.

    I find it interesting how our self-hood seems to contain an immaterial component. One thinks of an animal, say an owl, it grows from an egg to a hatchling to a full-grown bird embodying complex behaviours, then when it dies it’s body is taken back up into the soil, nourishing the forest. But what happens to those complex behaviours embedded in the bird? It’s individuality, it’s memory, the things that set it apart from other members of its species.

  • SuraShineSuraShine South Australia Explorer

    From personal opinion (as a Catholic), I think it started with Jesus wanting to make Judaism more inclusive to everyone. He stated that he came for the Jews and refused to heal a non-Jewish woman's sick daughter at first (lots of this is in the Gospel of Matthew but a specific quote is Matt 15:24 and also Matt 15:31). I personally don't think Jesus intended to create a religion or to really die for everyone's sins. He called himself the son of man but never actually uttered the words I am the son of God himself.

    I've had the discussion about what really started Christianity with a few priests, lay people and even Jews (my bestie growing up was Jewish) because the debate centres around the Book of Isaiah and there are discrepencies there too.

    I've strayed off the OP's question/point (sorry 'bout that). I can certainly agree that most paths feature death and the meaning of life as a focal point. I think at the end of the day it's human nature. Given that Buddhism is a non-theistic path, I can see the logic in that too.

    Just my thoughts...

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @FeistyGibblets said:
    From personal opinion (as a Catholic), I think it started with Jesus wanting to make Judaism more inclusive to everyone. He stated that he came for the Jews and refused to heal a non-Jewish woman's sick daughter at first (lots of this is in the Gospel of Matthew but a specific quote is Matt 15:24 and also Matt 15:31). I personally don't think Jesus intended to create a religion or to really die for everyone's sins. He called himself the son of man but never actually uttered the words I am the son of God himself.

    I've had the discussion about what really started Christianity with a few priests, lay people and even Jews (my bestie growing up was Jewish) because the debate centres around the Book of Isaiah and there are discrepencies there too.

    I've strayed off the OP's question/point (sorry 'bout that). I can certainly agree that most paths feature death and the meaning of life as a focal point. I think at the end of the day it's human nature. Given that Buddhism is a non-theistic path, I can see the logic in that too.

    Just my thoughts...

    I'm not 100% sure what his intention was, but I suspect that it was to instill a deeper understanding of religion into a society that had become attached to rites and rituals. He seems to me to be a reformer as much as a contemplative and revolutionary. For example, he's something I wrote on Good Friday:

    Today is Good Friday, the day that traditionally commemorates the death of Jesus. What does Jesus' death mean to people today, over 2,000 years later? We're told it means salvation, new life, peace. To be honest, it's a bit hard for me to understand what that supposedly means on a deep, theological level. But Jesus' death on the cross can also act as a template for our own lives. Jesus had a mission, to seek and to save what was lost (Luke 19:10). And when Jesus went out, he went out to teach, to heal, to feed, and to share God's love by loving others, which in itself is radical thing. But his faith, his love, and his compassionate action were threatening to many, from those among the elite to even some among the common people. And they all eventually tried in their own way, whether out of fear, ignorance, misunderstanding, ill will, or attachment to tradition, to take away these treasures he possessed. But try as they may, he wouldn't give them up, even under the threat of death. He held tight to his faith, his love, and his compassion for all of humanity, all the way down to the least among us, and he willingly suffered death on the cross rather than lose them to fear, hatred, selfishness, and inaction. In essence, his life wasn't just about himself, it was ultimately about his relationship to others, to the whole world, and to God. His life was an example to us, a mandala, a living tapestry meant to inspire and hearten us. His life was like a lamp shining forth the bright light of hope into the future in order to guide us and help us not lose our way to the kingdom of heaven, that joyful world we wish to one day see, born out of love in action.

    SuraShine
  • Death as the starting point for religion

    Life is the point. Death of religion is a pointed life.
    However or Hoover Whover we are fana-il-fana/the deathless/awoken wooky etc how do we enliven?

    @Jason mentioned some of these ...

    Personally I feel we are moving away from the New Wagers [paid New Age collectives] to a new life affirming, planet saving integration ...

    Life XR (ExstreamRebellion]
    Are you a streme entrant or a religious zombie? (I am a wer-lobster, so no judgement) 🥰🤪

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