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My Misguided "Christian" Ethic Intersection

I had a realization today in my therapy session: how my perfectionism is rooted in my Christian upbringing and indoctrination. I also looked at the concept of "sin" as lensed through the Four Noble Truths. By doing this, I'm not sure "sin" exists, per se.

By making the Christian proclamation that all people are "sinners" we become vested in the idea that as "sinners" we are, in essence, no good. By NATURE (in Christian doctrine) we are not good. Goodness, indeed, spiritual wholeness, according to the doctrine, only comes by way of the external source called "God" or "Jesus" or the "Holy Spirit."

From what I've learned thus far, Buddhism never says we are "sinners," but rather, by our very NATURE (again) we cause our own suffering. But, no where, did the Buddha state or imply that we are "no good." But that we CAN change our relationship to the inevitable suffering and bring about a spiritual transformation within ourselves.

Christianity espouses such a transformation but never details how to do it. Perhaps its the idea of "place your trust in God/Jesus." In a literal way? I can see putting my trust in the idea that it is POSSIBLE to to get to a spiritual transformation, but I have not found that path to transformation within Christianity like I have in Buddhism.

Granted, this experience is mine alone. I bring it to this group not to impose a binary "true" or "false," on these ideas but to deepen my thought process on it.

Namaste
personJeffreyLucy_BegoodEnriqueSpain

Comments

  • mithrilmithril Veteran
    A few thoughts on this (i'm not to clear on this either though).

    1. Sin might be "what happens after doing something that is not right action". It is a combination of the consequent situation and state of mind.

    I consider right action a deed done in a way that it is not based on wanting to harm others, untrue... and done because of understanding the situation, not as a way to avoid pain, or out of fear, or because someone else thinks this is the right way. It is something we do because we feel it is right.

    -

    2. Buddha doesn't say we are good either.

    -

    3. The translation of the Bible sucks. I'm not sure about the original writing, it may suck as well if someone knew to actually read it. The problem is, we come from a different culture. The works of any culture are based on many assumptions - and those will not be included in the work, since it is a kind of "common knowledge". Thus it is really hard to know what the author really meant by it (if you consider the God being the author, it was still a message transmitted to people of a different culture - so put in a way for them to understand would equally mean desperately confusing to us).

    I think it is like a person from a very different culture comes here, with the best intentions not to offend their host. Let me tell you what happens: it fails every time before it succeeds. :D

    In some cultures, it is honorable to kill your enemies. Now if you had someone at your house who would kill your neighbor because he spoke badly of you, what would you think of them? Not to fondly, eh?

    Thus, the Bible in any version is extremely confusing to us at best, and lost in translation at worst. I said it before in other threads, the Bible is a good book. But i think this is something to keep in mind, always. Trying to follow or obey a person that is unclear is impossible; and thus unnecessary to beat oneself over it.
    nenkohai said:


    Christianity espouses such a transformation but never details how to do it. Perhaps its the idea of "place your trust in God/Jesus." In a literal way? I can see putting my trust in the idea that it is POSSIBLE to to get to a spiritual transformation, but I have not found that path to transformation within Christianity like I have in Buddhism.

    Can you tell me, what is God? (If "no", see below :cool: )

    God, for many religious, or not so religious people, points to some kind of feeling. This feeling might be warm, fuzzy, "right", good (not in the bodily sense to much), whatever; some kind of combination of it. "God" is certainly not like the cat of the neighbor who threw up drunk on your door while shouting at you, that dug up the lawn and killed your dog, scratching it with its infected claws (for example :zombie: ; alright, i watch to many movies, now going on). If you follow that feeling that God points to, would you do things you would regret? They may be painful, hard, not something you would ordinarily do, or something you would fear the consequences of, but it would never be something you would regret (optimally, if you truly "knew God").

    -

    The 7 deadly sins of Christianity seem in some way similar to the 6 realms of Buddhism.

    Maybe that could shed some light on it.
    Kundo
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    Very good post, Mithril.

    To some extent, this is another example of people -- even some metta-for-all-Buddhists -- dwelling on differences, rather than seeking common ground.

    Commandments 5-10 are so similar to the first 5 Precepts, that to discuss the differences is tantamount to being petty. But, there's this gripping compulsion to say, "It's different", "He's different", "She's different".
  • nenkohainenkohai Veteran
    Again, proceeding from my own experience: Buddhism explicitly teaches cognition control. Not so in (at least MY experience in) the Methodist Church. By no means am I trying to lay aside the teachings of Jesus. I embrace them. Its an unfortunate paradigm that has arisen around his teachings. And honestly, I think the same can be said about ANY religion.

    I apologize for my negativity to the Christian Church. My intent is only to understand what I need to engage in a spiritual transformation. For myself alone, I have not been able to find the tools within Christianity to do that. It's not because I haven't looked.

    I have struggled for years...

    personlobster
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    nenkohai said:

    Again, proceeding from my own experience: Buddhism explicitly teaches cognition control. Not so in (at least MY experience in) the Methodist Church. By no means am I trying to lay aside the teachings of Jesus. I embrace them. Its an unfortunate paradigm that has arisen around his teachings. And honestly, I think the same can be said about ANY religion.

    I apologize for my negativity to the Christian Church. My intent is only to understand what I need to engage in a spiritual transformation. For myself alone, I have not been able to find the tools within Christianity to do that. It's not because I haven't looked.

    I have struggled for years...

    First, no need to apologize. We're all just "thinking aloud" here and we all struggle.

    And I guess that's sometimes one of my points -- that it is a personal journey.

    I'm curious, when you say "about any religion", do you include Buddhism?



    nenkohaiSilouan
  • nenkohainenkohai Veteran
    @ vinlyn - yes, I would include Buddhism in that "paradigm accretion" (to coin a possibly inappropriate phrase).

    Indeed, yes, about the personal journey... for everyone.
    vinlynSilouan
  • Straight_ManStraight_Man Gentle Man Veteran
    Agreed about the personal journey part.
    nenkohai
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    @Silouan I always appreciate your comments and input re: Christianity. It helps me see things in a new light, which is really nice.

    I have a hard time trusting the Bible because of how much was left out of it by the men of the Church in an attempt to better control the church goers. Regardless of what their reasons were, perhaps they thought they were doing the right thing back then, I think the Bible loses things when parts of it are missing because someone else decided not to include them. Because of that, I have a hard time putting everything together within it. There is plenty good to get out of the Bible, but for me at least, it required a LOT more reading between the lines than Buddhism does, and when I'm left too much to my own devices in figuring out a scripture, it usually doesn't work out very well.
    nenkohaipersonSilouan
  • ChrysalidChrysalid Veteran
    edited May 2013
    vinlyn said:


    To some extent, this is another example of people -- even some metta-for-all-Buddhists -- dwelling on differences, rather than seeking common ground.

    Commandments 5-10 are so similar to the first 5 Precepts, that to discuss the differences is tantamount to being petty. But, there's this gripping compulsion to say, "It's different", "He's different", "She's different".

    I agree with vinlyn.

    If it helps, St Paul outlined exactly what you should cultivate (or as he saw it, should be cultivated in you by the Holy Spirit) to be a Christian
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fruit_of_the_Holy_Spirit

    It's a list of nine virtues, much like the ten perfections, that should be expected of someone genuinely trying to live a Christian life.

    This stuff is the important stuff. The rest of the dogma; whether you regularly go to Church; which version of the Bible you use; which denomination you belong to; whether you're a Calvinist or a Catholic - that's almost incidental compared to how you live. Christianity, like Buddhism, is a religion/philosophy of living well.
  • nenkohainenkohai Veteran
    Personally, I was hoping to avoid such specifics such as Paul's influence, which in my view, overshadows the Gospels if for nothing else than the epistles' sheer bulk.

    You'll have to believe me when I tell you, yea, I get it (everything said here about Christianity). In the interests of full disclosure, I've taught the Gospels in the church setting and even from the pulpit as a layperson. I've inspected and researched all of my pressing questions about Christian theology and the answers I found are very wanting. And it ultimately arrives at vinlyn's excellent point of it being a personal journey.

    My goal in all this - to engage the process of life well and skillfully. Or, my best attempt at that.
    mithrillobster
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    Thank you for the kind words @karasti. I'm glad that I’m able to help at times.

    I understand where you are coming from regarding scripture, as I held the exact suspicion for many years and thought I had overcome it, but the essence of it reared its head recently sending me into a spiritual crisis of sorts that I'm only now beginning to come out of.

    I'm not bitter about going through it, because I now see it as a necessary thing in my spiritual development. Like you I'm not seeking to go or get into any place, but only have a desire to enlarge my heart as much as possible with the time I'm given. What happens after that is beyond my means anyway, so I will continue with learning to let go of clinging to a self that is transient.

    I have gained an insight that in our culture we can’t avoid the influence of the Reformation and the harboring of a general mistrust of the Church and authority that has sprung from it. I also see that it even very much effects how Buddhism is approached in the West.

    Scripture is a part of the tradition of Christianity but not the whole of it. It came from the Church and not the other way around, and it is very difficult to understand it through private interpretation as scripture says.

    Christianity is very much a communal religion, and we are taught and learn in humility from others, and participate in the sacraments in our journey in acquiring the mind of the Church. That is why the works of the holy fathers and holy mothers are so vital for us to become familiar with, as they show us that mind through their life and understanding.

    Anyway, a funny thing is that I stumbled across this video link yesterday that actually addresses your very concern and helped me. If you have the time I think it would be well worth the listen. I also think a similar approach can be used when looking at Buddhist scriptures with regards to a historical and authoritative perspective.

    youtube.com/watch?v=Gy-gCEWh5-4&feature=youtube_gdata_player
    karastinenkohairiverflowmithril
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    nenkohai said:

    I had a realization today in my therapy session: how my perfectionism is rooted in my Christian upbringing and indoctrination. I also looked at the concept of "sin" as lensed through the Four Noble Truths. By doing this, I'm not sure "sin" exists, per se.
    Namaste

    "Peter said to him, since you have explained everything to us, tell us this also: What is the sin of the world? The Saviour said there is no sin, but it is you who make sin when you do the things that are like the nature of adultery, which is called sin. That is why the Good came into your midst, to the essence of every nature, in order to restore it to its root."

    The Gospel According to Mary Magdelene
    Chapter 4 25-7

    I'm pretty sure that somewhere else in the gnostic gospels Jesus is reported as saying, 'Sin, as such, does not exist', but I can't find the quote. It seems you agree with him.
    nenkohai
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    @nenkohai - Maybe you could try reading the Philokalia. This offers some advice on achieving the transformation to which you refer, where the Bible is not a great deal of help.
    riverflowSilouannenkohai
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    edited May 2013
    The Philokalia is a profound collection of works in four volumes by various spiritual masters about the practice of the contemplative life in the hesychast tradition of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

    The collection was gifted to me a few years ago, but I have set it aside for now on becoming aware that novice monks arriving on the holy mountain of Mt Athos are first to become familiar with, not just read, St Macarius's "Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter" before beginning with the Philokalia. Since I'm not a monk I'm certain I won't even begin for several years based on that guidance mentioned and that's fine, as there is plenty of spiritual treasure to be mined from St Marcarius’s works.

    Also, there is a small collection of "Selected Writings of St. John Cassian the Roman" that I highly recommend. Though not a Roman Catholic saint he trained in the East and his works are integral to the foundation of Western Monasticism. It costs about $10 U.S. and about 7" high and 5" wide and not thick at all, but is packed with practical insight on various spiritual topics. I always have my copy with me.

    When I was working in our church bookstore during our open house to celebrate the opening of our new temple a Buddhist visitor asked what book I would recommend for her given her background and I recommended the Selected Writings which she did purchase.
    riverflownenkohai
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    Thanks @Silouan. Hadn't heard of Cassian the Roman.
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    You're welcome @Florian. Some of his writings are contained in the Philokalia too.
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    . . . if wishing Christian depth, I would study the Jesus prayer and philokalia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Way_of_a_Pilgrim

    However I am involved in another dharma drama . . .
    Time to 'sit still and know I am Buddha' ;)
  • zenffzenff Veteran
    nenkohai said:

    Friends, thank you for all your input and time you took to write. Its time for me to sit and consider. To consider, to start, exactly why I'm bitter and where its coming from. To apply compassion. To seek commonality rather than division.

    Well I think there is a good reason to be critical towards the concept of sin. I think of it as a very harmful concept.

    Sin is not simply missing the mark and being humanly imperfect. It is an insult of God and we are supposed to deserve to burn in hell for eternity because of it.

    The way I was raised (Protestant/Evangelical) part of the Christian mindset is that every night before you go to sleep you evaluate your immense guilt and sinfulness and beg for forgiveness.
    You receive that forgiveness, okay, but the whole idea is absurd and harmful anyway because of the basic premise of unworthiness.

    One of the most painful moments in my entire life was when (as a young man) I discussed faith with my father and I explained to him that I didn’t have it any longer. After we discussed it for a long time, we all went to bed. In the middle of the night though, I heard the man cry with all his might and I knew why. He knew that I would burn in hell for all eternity, and he loved me. That was the brutal side to the faith that his entire life depended on.

    nenkohaiJeffrey
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner'

    is the equivalent of:

    Lord Buddha, Enlightened Dharma Sun, I take refuge in you, from my unskilfulness

    Sin is unmindfulness (of God)

    The Hell Realms are being shut down in preparation for the Maitriya. Sadly even laxed Christians will be turned away :)

    The point is most Christianity and perhaps Dharma too, is not engaged in at a deep enough level . . .

    :wave:
    FlorianSilouannenkohairiverflow
  • zenffzenff Veteran
    Any interpretation of Christianity that is founded on the basic idea that most of humanity is destined for hell and only the elite of the faithful will make it to heaven is dangerous. The same thing can be said about Islam.

    Not just because it pictures an ugly and hateful image of God, but also because it dehumanizes the largest part of humanity.

    Why would it be wrong to slaughter non-believers who are bound for hell anyway?
    The way I see it, the idea of sinfulness/unworthiness is part of the justification of religious violence.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    Okay, so just to be fair, let's invite some Christians to slam Buddhism.
    lobsterJeffreymithril
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    At an interdenominational religious conference in Hawaii, a Japanese delegate approached a fundamentalist Baptist minister and said, "My humble superstition is Buddhism. What is yours?"
    http://www.impropaganda.net/1997/zenarchy8.html

    Looking forward to the humble Christian mauling of Dharma . . . ;)
    vinlynmithril
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    lobster said:

    'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner'

    is the equivalent of:

    Lord Buddha, Enlightened Dharma Sun, I take refuge in you, from my unskilfulness

    Sin is unmindfulness (of God)

    The point is most Christianity and perhaps Dharma too, is not engaged in at a deep enough level . . .

    :wave:

    Nice one @lobster
    SilouannenkohaiJohn_Spencer
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    @zenff I think the most important point you made is that of interpretation. That is all we have really, and this is the fundamental fact for any religious tradition.

    What you have described is contrary to the interpretation of the ancient Christian tradition I struggle to follow, and it might interest you to know that despite its unbroken history dating back to Christ and the Apostles this tradition and its followers are also condemned to hell by other Christian groups too.

    Anyway, this does not mean there are those in my tradition who don't hold contrary ideas and don't express them outwardly, because many definitely do. Someone once told my daughter that her Creator should be ashamed of her, and this was because she expressed a point of view that in actuality was more to tradition than the attitude she was courageously speaking out against. Granted my daughter, being young, was very harsh in choice of words, but she said what was needed. She was actually speaking out against an exclusive attitude that is actually foreign to our tradition in defending other cultures and other religions, the Buddha and Buddhism in particular.

    In my tradition The Church is seen as the body of Christ and She is called to be transfigured into His likeness. However, She has many members all of whom are moving toward that likeness but are in various states, and so that likeness as a corporate body has not been fully accomplished or perfected.

    Not everyone is Christ like just because they claim to follow a tradition, and I think this is an important point to understand, because that understanding can easily be adapted to other religious traditions other than Christianity.
    nenkohai
  • Words suck.
    JeffreymithrilSilouan
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    Sin is not simply missing the mark and being humanly imperfect. It is an insult of God and we are supposed to deserve to burn in hell for eternity because of it.

    Not everyone views it that way though, even amongst Christians. That is the most common way of seeing it, and that's unfortunate, that the Christian teachers are so focused on those things and missing so much of the wisdom in their tradition.

    I do hope so many people who are angry about/with Christianity and the people who practice it will work through their feelings so they don't have to be upset and angry anymore. It's possible. I was angry and frustrated with it, too but I've been working through it and I feel much better overall. There are Buddhists who have cried for their torturers and such because they knew how much they suffered and knew the Karma they were incurring. How is that any different from a Christian who cries out of worry for their child or loved one? If you look closely at it, it's really all the same stuff. But you have to remove your preconceived notions of it before you can see it more clearly.
    Silouan
  • zenffzenff Veteran
    vinlyn said:

    Okay, so just to be fair, let's invite some Christians to slam Buddhism.

    No need for that.
    We do it all the time; just not in this thread
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    We have a bunch of Christians who slam Buddhists in other threads? I guess I haven't been reading closely enough.
    nenkohai
  • zenffzenff Veteran
    edited June 2013
    No we make critical notes on Buddhist dogmatic ideas or superstition. No Christians needed for that.
    mithril
  • zenffzenff Veteran
    The interpretation of Christian faith being about sin, redemption, forgiveness and salvation is pretty common.
    I know there are other angles. I love my little book from Eckhart for instance. And thank God not all Christians are gloomy judgment-day freaks.
    But this thread is about a basic Christian tendency to damage peoples’ self esteem with notions of fundamental sinfulness and unworthiness.
    I thought people were not acknowledging this tendency in their posts and wanted to bring some balance.
    No big anger here. I feel sorry for people who live in fear of hell. I’m not angry with them.


  • Would an infinitely benevolent God use negative reinforcement?
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator
    I didn't mean you, in my post. Just generally speaking. In my Sangha there is a man who is a "recovering Catholic." He has been studying and practicing Buddhism for many years, but is still very angry with Catholicism in particular, he feels cheated and lied to and when he speaks of it he gets so angry he cries and shakes. I wish he could let go of it. Others, too. As much as there is a tendency with notions of unworthiness and sin, there is a tendency for the rest of us to lump all Christians together.
    mithril
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    edited June 2013
    karasti said:

    I didn't mean you, in my post. Just generally speaking. In my Sangha there is a man who is a "recovering Catholic." He has been studying and practicing Buddhism for many years, but is still very angry with Catholicism in particular, he feels cheated and lied to and when he speaks of it he gets so angry he cries and shakes. I wish he could let go of it. Others, too. As much as there is a tendency with notions of unworthiness and sin, there is a tendency for the rest of us to lump all Christians together.

    Its interesting isn't it ?
    Buddhism has been around long enough now to begin to have its own generation of rebels.
    The twenty- something daughter of friends, who had a Buddhist blessing and has a Buddhist middle name, has rejected all things Buddhist and leaves the room if the subject comes up muttering 'brainwashed ' etc....

    I was reminded of a cartoon I saw. Long haired parents both wearing dungarees and sandals are looking startled as their toddler, who is sitting in his highchair, is throwing his bowl of food to the floor and shouting " I reject you and all your values, starting with brown rice and tahini ! "
    SilouanKundo
  • nenkohai said:

    Would an infinitely benevolent God use negative reinforcement?

    He obviously does - that's karma for you.

    Florian
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    zenff said:

    vinlyn said:

    Okay, so just to be fair, let's invite some Christians to slam Buddhism.

    No need for that.
    We do it all the time; just not in this thread
    Yes, like: "God exists but he does not show himself. I hate people who play hide and seek. Bottom line, it does not matter. God is as useful as a mirage is for thirsty mouths."

    What exactly is the purpose of a comment like that other than to denigrate another person's beliefs?

  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    I feel about the same. God may not exist in an absolute sense, but then nor does anything else according to Buddhism, and we find many of these non-existent things useful. Besides, It is very unlikely that we all mean the same thing by 'God'.

    riverflowSilouanKundomithril
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    There is the folk religion of your local protestant church and then there is the religion of the church Fathers like Aquinas. And they are as far apart as is making merit at the Wat from Nagarjuna.
    And what the Fathers say is that neither existence nor non existence apply to God.
    riverflow
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    Yes. Pity the Fathers are so often ignored. Keith Ward is very good on this in his God - A Guide for the Perplexed. A very sane book.
    Kundo
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    Thanks for the book tip @Florian. It looks like it would be an excellent purchase.
  • FlorianFlorian Veteran
    I completely recommend it. It's straightforward and eminently sensible imho. I suppose many theists will find uncomfortable, but it's not intentionally inflammatory and it is well-informed.
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