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Is suffering the fire that purifies us?

The church fathers often used the analogy of fire purifying gold and destroying impurities - in like manner, suffering purifies us, prepares us for a greater joy. In other words, suffering was seen as a necessary evil.

But in Buddhism, suffering or dukkha is seen as something to be overcome. Without a painful surgery you may not recover your health, so avoiding 'pain' in such cases would be counterproductive in the long run.

The two views are opposed to each other - in one case, dukkha is seen as an evil to be overcome, whereas in the other it is seen as an unfortunate necessity.

What do you believe? How do you view the suffering in your own life - as something to be embraced, or as something to be avoided at all costs?

Comments

  • riverflowriverflow Veteran
    edited November 2013
    Is suffering necessary? Yes. But then, so is compassion. Both are necessary. The problem is we dislike one, and like the other. But you can't have one without the other. Without suffering, there can be no compassion. Without compassion, there can be no suffering.

    I think it is a mistake to overcome, eliminate or retreat from suffering (the desire to do so is yet another form of misunderstood suffering). It is also a mistake to simply "accept" suffering. Compassion AND suffering are necessary TOGETHER. Buddhist practice offers a way to meet suffering as it arises seamlessly with compassion.
    EvenThirdNiesjeDennis1cvalue
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    At various points in life, everyone suffers. But some obsess about it.
  • MaryAnneMaryAnne Veteran
    edited November 2013
    @vinlyn
    Well, sometimes they can't help being obsessed.... for whatever reason.
    And sometimes they just greatly enjoy the coddling and sympathy they get
    and the "Oh, No! You're better/smarter/thinner/better looking, etc. than that...!" kind of boosts.

    On the other hand, there are also people who are drawn to 'sufferers'; always eager to be the Savior and the voice of comfort and wisdom. (co-dependency at large, really)

    I used to be one of the Savior types (in real life) - especially when it came to family members and close friends, who were always ( I want to stress "always" here) in need of advice, or a 'crisis' intervention, and were general f*ck-ups -- yet who never EVER learned from past mistakes.

    But I got smart, finally, not too long ago, and now I have a set tolerance level.
    Hit that mark and I disengage... don't want to, and don't need to wallow in anyone else's drama.

    ::: shrugs ::: takes all types of people make the world go 'round, I guess.
    vinlyncvalueKundo
  • Is suffering the fire that purifies us?
    You are really 'pure' right?
    No? Oh.
    Bang goes that theory.

    Let us put it another way . . .

    Is love more fun for all concerned?
    riverflowChazFullCircle
  • zenffzenff Veteran
    edited November 2013
    The way I always understood the fire (suffering) in Christian faith is not purifying at all. The fire of hell is thought of as punishment for our sins. The soul can only be purified by remorse and forgiveness.

    In Buddhism the image of fire is used in the Fire sermon. There is nothing punishing or purifying about it. It is life and death, all the good and the bad things; samsara.
    The thing to overcome is not “suffering” but our habit of putting dualistic labels on things.

    The dispassion mentioned in the sutra could be understood as indifference, but – the way I see it – that would be a mistake. The idea – again in my understanding – is to not add words concepts and preferences on the bare experience. Fully taking life as it is, without adding the drama or the “level of story” to it.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_Sermon
    By "burning" (āditta) is meant:
    • the fire of passion (rāgagginā)
    • the fire of aversion (dosagginā)
    • the fire of delusion (mohagginā)
    • the manifestations of suffering: birth, aging and death, sorrows, lamentations, pains, distresses and despairs.[12]
    According to the Buddha, a well-instructed noble disciple (sutavā ariyasāvako) sees this burning and thus becomes disenchanted (nibbindati) with the sense bases and their mental sequelae. The text then uses a formula found in dozens of discourses[13] to describe the manner in which such disenchantment leads to liberation from suffering:
    "Disenchanted, he becomes dispassionate.
    Through dispassion, he is fully released.
    With full release, there is the knowledge, 'Fully released.'
    He discerns that 'Birth is ended,
    the holy life fulfilled,
    the task done.
    There is nothing further for this world.'"[14]

    riverflowJeffreycvalue
  • One should accept suffering in self but learn to rise above and end it. One should hope to help others end suffering. Suffering is inevitable and comes from grasping after self.
    Even when we cease self cherishing we see the suffering of others and share in their
    loss. In the Church what cannot be ended is glorified for a future perfection. It's true we are all refined in the fire of loss and failure. But Buddhists take a more active view of our preferred relationship to suffering. A Buddhist doesn't look to another life for a reward. There is no such teaching by the Buddha. The noble truths stem from our care for others and our ability to do something because we know the cause of their suffering. We look to improve the life that is all around us by improving ourselves and reaching out to others. This is the great vehicle, the Mahayana. Best, Dennis
    robotriverflow
  • Sorry, Dennis, but Buddhists definitely look toward the afterlife (aka nirvana) as a reward for all the suffering we endure in this world. Else, enlightenment or the path to enlightenment like meditation etc. would cease to have any significance.
  • I am sure you are correct. Many do. I wouldn't want to disillusion you so I will refrain from argumentation. Let me refer you to the Prajnaparamita sutra. I will give one quote
    from the Buddha: " When a person was looked for none was found." So what is it that looks forward to an after life? If there is no person to go beyond, what goes beyond?
    If it is the self cherishing grasping after the self that creates delusion and inhibits enlightenment how is it the self that grasps after a reward in a next life and is rewarded?
    What we don't see is continuity between lives. If there is something that is independently arisen can that be the self that takes a body and lives a new life after life?
    If the self is inherently empty does that make you as avalokitishvara, alike in emptiness?
    And if so then what is that emptiness which is reborn but not dependently arisen. How
    can something not born and undying be rewarded beyond it's nature? The essence is empty and the nature is clear.

    I guess I did present argumentation. Now I am sorry. I find great significance when I cherish the other and work for their needs. I don't look forward to any reward greater than my realization as an aspirant to Buddhahood. A Bodhi treads the way with no foundation and no thought for the morrow. The Buddha taught many paths and they all lead to enlightenment. I wouldn't want to dissuade you from yours. I hope you make steady progress and find enlightenment.
    Best, Dennis

    Here is a poem I wrote some time ago. It is a bit cryptic and round about but you may find virtue in it.

    Purusha


    All is one and one is many so none is any.
    None is any and yet all begins, to what ends?
    To be and yet become is one so none is many.
    Everything begins and nothing ends.

    The spirit moves a bit of mass
    And Man and Priest and Church conspire
    As though a living poetry could pass
    And be that None which moves the choir.

    Do we that mighty self aspire
    Who wields the self which is The One
    Or love and hope and care transpire
    To make the One who is that None?

    dlc 1995

    Best, dlc
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    betaboy said:

    Sorry, Dennis, but Buddhists definitely look toward the afterlife (aka nirvana) as a reward for all the suffering we endure in this world. Else, enlightenment or the path to enlightenment like meditation etc. would cease to have any significance.

    you said - afterlife (aka nirvana) .......

    Seriously? :eek2:
    riverflowhow
  • betaboy said:

    Sorry, Dennis, but Buddhists definitely look toward the afterlife (aka nirvana) as a reward for all the suffering we endure in this world. Else, enlightenment or the path to enlightenment like meditation etc. would cease to have any significance.

    Where are you getting this from? As far as I'm aware the point of enlightenment is to put an end to suffering and the endless cycle of samsara, ie rebirth after rebirth. It's nothing to do with "reward".
    riverflow
  • poptart said:

    betaboy said:

    Sorry, Dennis, but Buddhists definitely look toward the afterlife (aka nirvana) as a reward for all the suffering we endure in this world. Else, enlightenment or the path to enlightenment like meditation etc. would cease to have any significance.

    Where are you getting this from? As far as I'm aware the point of enlightenment is to put an end to suffering and the endless cycle of samsara, ie rebirth after rebirth. It's nothing to do with "reward".
    Nirvana is the reward. This cycle is full of misery, so we end it in the hopes of getting something better, call it nirvana or what you will.
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    poptart said:

    It's nothing to do with "reward".

    I definitely want a reward...
    :p
    Dennis1
  • betaboy said:

    poptart said:

    betaboy said:

    Sorry, Dennis, but Buddhists definitely look toward the afterlife (aka nirvana) as a reward for all the suffering we endure in this world. Else, enlightenment or the path to enlightenment like meditation etc. would cease to have any significance.

    Where are you getting this from? As far as I'm aware the point of enlightenment is to put an end to suffering and the endless cycle of samsara, ie rebirth after rebirth. It's nothing to do with "reward".
    Nirvana is the reward. This cycle is full of misery, so we end it in the hopes of getting something better, call it nirvana or what you will.
    At best, nirvana could be viewed as a result of eliminating defilements.
    Suffering by itself is no guarantee that nirvana will result.
    As Shantideva points out failing to a lower realm can result in greater distance from the dharma and greater darkness still.

  • Nirvana is the reward. This cycle is full of misery, so we end it in the hopes of getting something better, call it nirvana or what you will.
    No, Nirvana isn't a reward, it's a state of awakened consciousness in which suffering is transcended. When you said:
    Buddhists definitely look toward the afterlife (aka nirvana) as a reward for all the suffering we endure in this world
    you make it sound like suffering is no more than earning brownie points and nirvana is Tonight's Star Prize. Nirvana is not an "afterlife", it is available here and now. You seem to confusing it with the idea of heaven when they are not the same thing.

    Here is an article about the Four Noble Truths which I suggest you read, particularly the part about the Third Noble Truth and Nirvana.
    howriverflowDennis1cvalue
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    edited November 2013
    @betaboy

    For the Christian, God is life and life is the gift of God. It is not in our possession or power. “In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). With regard to Original Sin, we have inherited a world dominated by corruption and death, but did not inherit legal penalty or guilt. God does not take back His gift, but we break our communion with Him and remove ourselves from it through sin. A sin is a thought, word, or deed that moves us away from God and life. It is not a legal act.

    The wages of sin is death. The process of death working in us, the movement away from life towards death and destruction, is corruption. “God did not create death, nor does he delight in the death of the living” (Wisdom 1:13).

    The holy fathers do not see suffering as a necessary evil or a good thing for that matter. Evil does not have an existence of its own, but is a parasitic result of choices. It would be better to say that suffering is unavoidable, but not that the Christian wishes to increase it or to avoid helping others relieve their suffering. Life in Christ is the way through it, but not escape from it.

    "Do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall also be raised together in the likeness of His resurrection. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that we should no longer be the slaves of sin." (Romans 6:3-6)

    "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20)

    "If you are risen with Christ, seek those things that are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then you shall also appear with Him in glory." (Colossians 3:1-4)

    "Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it." (Luke 17:33)

    We must die to the life of this world we are attached to in order to live, including the fragmented ideas we have about ourselves as a person, and this does not just happen upon physical death. The Kingdom of Heaven or life within us can be tasted here and now like an Arahant who reaches Nibbana in this life, but still experiences some amount of suffering, though not beyond measure or unbearable, until the final release of Parinibbana.

    It is not all doom and gloom.
    riverflowbetaboythegoldeneternitystavros388
  • @Silouan

    Sin - missing the mark - it is not about intentionally doing bad things. It is about falling short of God's glory even while continuing to do good things, trying to follow morality, etc. So we're sinners in this respect - we are broken, sick. A world dominated by sin is essentially a world dominated by sorrow. Sin and sorrow go together - there is no getting around that.

    So the real question is, why would God allow sin and death to enter the world. I know the free will argument, still God would use even our free will for a greater purpose. In the end all things work for the good etc., as believed by Paul himself. So my view is that sin was 'allowed' by God to serve a greater purpose - perhaps to make us see the greatness of virtue. Thanks to the unspeakable tortures of earthly life, we shall see the indescribable joys of our heavenly abode. Now the world is filled with thorns and thistles ... so that later the bed of roses may smell sweeter still.

    So this evil, which is merely a privation of the good, may yet serve a higher purpose. Or God, being the almighty, would not have allowed it. This is my faith, that nothing is futile, that our sorrows are but a dimmer reflection of a joy yet to come. We don't see that ... for now we see through the glass, darkly. But later on with perfect clarity ...
  • I see a definite schism between those who are steeped in the Buddha's wisdom and those who have recently joined from other studies. It is fine to have new comers.
    the first Paramita enjoins Liberality. included in that is giving the good to others.
    Also included in that is restraining false teachings or perversions of the Buddha's teaching. I wouldn't want to discourage anyone but Liberality induces me to say more.

    About Karma: It's easy to think Karma is like the hand of God passing out favors and punishment. Well the teachings don't support that idea. Karma means action.
    When we do things natural consequences follow. If we create evils in our lives we have to live with those evils e.g. if we cheat in business fair dealers will avoid us and we will eventually be left with only those who also cheat. Of course we may constantly search for new victims but this is not a successful plan. As we deal with those who want what we have-unfairly-we suffer losses and do poorly. Since we do poorly we suffer and since we know we are a cheater we think we deserve it and God is punishing us.

    Actually we are punishing ourselves with our bad Karma. Good deeds work the other way. Gautama said "Buddhism is the science of causes and conditions." We create the causes and we also create the conditions. This karma extends from desire motivated by self cherishing. Hoping for a better afterlife for self is just a different kind of grasping after self.

    Interestingly good deeds done for self and bad deeds are both karma forming. Only the action free of attachment is free from karmic consequences. Religion has long preached an afterlife in order to give a self cherishing member something to grasp after other than his neighbors wife or mule. I suppose it works-they keep doing it. However,
    the teaching of karma is not like that. Neither is the teaching of Buddha.

    I hope this clears matters. You are obviously enthusiastic and well intended and valuable. As for the ending of suffering and the cycle of birth and rebirth. It is my view
    that what is ended is the next self grasping motivated, discursive thought. Suffering arises from desire (and the thought that rises from it) and that desire is attached to self cherishing. Ending that cycle gives peace. It also allows the dawning of your own light and blissful willingness to live and help others in living a better, happier life.

    Not all Buddhists feel this way. The Hinayana Buddhists withdraw from the vail of sorrow. That is why it is called the lesser vehicle. In the greater vehicle we engage and aspire for the sake of others. That is the Mahayana. Both paths lead to enlightenment.
    Peace be to you and may the good be yours. Best, Dennis
  • @betaboy
    Good has no necessity of evil. Death isn't created but permitted, because with it comes the end of sin lest evil should endureth. The dignity of man's freedom is God's response to evil and not a purpose. The love for God is not coerced or forced. He does not violate man's liberty or freedom which is an aspect of the image of Himself formed in man. His absolute response was the Cross of Jesus. God became man, so man could become Gods, but not by nature but by Divine Grace.

    I heard that according to St Anthony:

    “God is good and is not controlled by passions. He does not change. Now someone who thinks it reasonable and true to affirm that God does not change, may well ask how, in that case, it is possible to speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good and showing mercy to those who honor Him, and as turning away from the wicked and being angry with sinners. To this it must be answered that God neither rejoices nor grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions; nor is He won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is swayed by pleasure. It is not right that the Divinity feel pleasure or displeasure from human conditions. He is good, and He only bestows blessings and never does harm, remaining always the same. We men, on the other hand, if we remain good through resembling God, are united to Him, but if we become evil through not resembling God, we are separated from Him. By living in holiness we cleave to God; but by becoming wicked we make Him our enemy. It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our own sins that prevent God from shining within us and expose us to demons who torture us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him to change, but that through our actions and our turning to the Divinity, we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God’s goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind.”

    @Dennis1
    In general, many unfamiliar with the patristic theology wrongly assume all Christians to believe:

    *The soul to be eternal by nature.
    *The soul and body to be separate entities.
    *The soul and body to define what man is rather than reveal what he is.
    *Eternity to be limitless time.
    *Immortal means some form of survival after death.
    *That self-cherishing pride is not the source of suffering.
    *The hand of God passes out favors and punishment.

    Also, rather than assume that there is an intrusion of sorts of Christian ideas I suggest that perhaps what is actually being conveyed are shared truths though dressed in different garb.

    As far as liberality goes, this seems to be the normative of many northern Buddhist traditions rather than southern.
    thegoldeneternity
  • matthewmartinmatthewmartin Amateur Bodhisattva Suburbs of Mt Meru Veteran
    Purity is a extra-Buddhist religious theme, something that Hindus and Greeks and so on cared a lot about. I'm not sure where it fits into Buddhism, except syncreticly.

    So, back to the original question. I would never, never recommend using a blow torch or open flame to clean up. Simple warm soap and water will work fine. (Or in the case of certain Shingon rituals, one just needs to wash out ones mouth with clean water, skip the soap) (Ref: http://www.shikokuhenrotrail.com/shikoku/walkingWhatToDo.html )




  • The Heart Sutra
    Thus have I heard. Once the Blessed One was dwelling in Rajagriha at Vulture Peak mountain, together with a great gathering of the sangha of monks and a great gathering of the sangha of bodhisattvas. At that time the Blessed One entered the samadhi that expresses the dharma called "profound illumination," and at the same time noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, while practicing the profound prajnaparamita, saw in this way: he saw the five skandhas to be empty of nature.

    Then, through the power of the Buddha, venerable Shariputra said to noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, "How should a son or daughter of noble family train, who wishes to practice the profound prajnaparamita?"

    Addressed in this way, noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, said to venerable Shariputra, "O Shariputra, a son or daughter of noble family who wishes to practice the profound prajnaparamita should see in this way: seeing the five skandhas to be empty of nature. Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form. Emptiness is no other than form; form is no other than emptiness. In the same way, feeling, perception, formation, and consciousness are emptiness. Thus, Shariputra, all dharmas are emptiness. There are no characteristics. There is no birth and no cessation. There is no impurity and no purity. There is no decrease and no increase. Therefore, Shariputra, in emptiness, there is no form, no feeling, no perception, no formation, no consciousness; no eye, no ear, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; no appearance, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no dharmas, no eye dhatu up to no mind dhatu, no dhatu of dharmas, no mind consciousness dhatu; no ignorance, no end of ignorance up to no old age and death, no end of old age and death; no suffering, no origin of suffering, no cessation of suffering, no path, no wisdom, no attainment, and no non-attainment. Therefore, Shariputra, since the bodhisattvas have no attainment, they abide by means of prajnaparamita.

    Since there is no obscuration of mind, there is no fear. They transcend falsity and attain complete nirvana. All the buddhas of the three times, by means of prajnaparamita, fully awaken to unsurpassable, true, complete enlightenment. Therefore, the great mantra of prajnaparamita, the mantra of great insight, the unsurpassed mantra, the unequaled mantra, the mantra that calms all suffering, should be known as truth, since there is no deception. The prajnaparamita mantra is said in this way:

    OM GATE GATE PARAGATE PARASAMGATE BODHI SVAHA

    Thus, Shariputra, the bodhisattva mahasattva should train in the profound prajnaparamita.

    Then the Blessed One arose from that samadhi and praised noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, saying, "Good, good, O son of noble family; thus it is, O son of noble family, thus it is. One should practice the profound prajnaparamita just as you have taught and all the tathagatas will rejoice."

    When the Blessed One had said this, venerable Shariputra and noble Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva mahasattva, that whole assembly and the world with its gods, humans, asuras, and gandharvas rejoiced and praised the words of the Blessed One
  • Hamsaka said:

    At first, I wanted to ask Betaboy if he was confusing his metaphors. Then, I wondered why everyone was even responding at all, isn't this a Buddhist forum, albeit a "new" one? And then, I realized this thread is just a bunch of shit, you know, like everything phenomenal and conditional is? I decided to reread "Howl" by Allen Ginsberg, read it through carefully until I felt a most nondual THIS IS and my heart turned into a wind tunnel.

    I mean this thread is a bunch of shit in a most respectful and abiding way :D Honest! Battle on, ye lovers of mental masturbation. Shit arises and ceases, fertilizing the heart :)

    Gassho :)

    I thought Buddhists believed in 'no shit' ... :D Then what reincarnates?
    Dennis1
  • misecmisc1misecmisc1 I am a Hindu India Veteran
    edited November 2013
    @betaboy: you need to further clarify your understanding regarding nirvana. if you say nirvana is a reward, then if your point of view is - it is the end result toward which we strive, then it is ok - but if your point of view is that it is something we can hold on to and use it, like anyother knowledge which we get from studying something, then it is not ok.

    my theoretical understanding says: nirvana is the cessation of conditions. now there are many different paths in buddhism, which have different views on what nirvana is - but the common thing is that nirvana is cessation of all conditions. now if there is something like ultimate truth, then it should be true everywhere and at every moment, which implies nirvana is available in here and now. what happens at nirvana - this i do not know, but my guess is there may be a major shift in the mind happening during it - but what i have theoretically understood is that, as zen teachings goes - this does not mean the moment you attain satori or enlightenment, after that you can just relax, it is not like this thing - the practice needs to be continued till life exists. then at death, parinirvana would happen, with the complete cessation of everything including the body. in short, from zen perspective, as Dogen said, practice is enlightenment and enlightenment is practice, there is no way leading to enlightenment. samsara and nirvana both are available in here and now. this is just duality and from non-dual perspective, there is just this, which is in here and now.
  • betaboy said:

    The church fathers often used the analogy of fire purifying gold and destroying impurities - in like manner, suffering purifies us, prepares us for a greater joy. In other words, suffering was seen as a necessary evil.

    But in Buddhism, suffering or dukkha is seen as something to be overcome. Without a painful surgery you may not recover your health, so avoiding 'pain' in such cases would be counterproductive in the long run.

    The two views are opposed to each other - in one case, dukkha is seen as an evil to be overcome, whereas in the other it is seen as an unfortunate necessity.

    What do you believe? How do you view the suffering in your own life - as something to be embraced, or as something to be avoided at all costs?

    Whatever it is you believe, suffering is but a fact of life. Just be comfortable with your beliefs. It may be wrong but it won't change a fact.
  • Hi,
    suffering is the result of the Lightbeings, gathering matter. Sariputto said:"The objektive changes of matter are being felt subjectively as suffering."
    We suffer because we exist in this certain way. the only purification ist to do the
    8fold path, it´s a kind of soft ascetism that millions of people already mastered.

    sakko
  • I think that not everyone understands what suffering is entirely, myself included. If we did, we would not lead ourselves back into samsara. If samsara is suffering, then so is impermanence, not-self, and cravings. So if one sees suffering then they should also see all those other things as well. And anatta is very difficult to see for many people. So who can see suffering?
  • Hamsaka: We respond because we are engaged and have something to say.
    shit is emptiness and emptiness is shit-you are so right. Well, we all have fertile minds.
    Things grow when fertilized.
    Hamsaka
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    betaboy said:


    I thought Buddhists believed in 'no shit' ... :D Then what reincarnates?

    Yes, "same shit, different day" wouldn't work. :D
    riverflowHamsaka
  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited December 2013
    betaboy said:

    @Silouan

    Sin - missing the mark - it is not about intentionally doing bad things. It is about falling short of God's glory even while continuing to do good things, trying to follow morality, etc. So we're sinners in this respect - we are broken, sick. A world dominated by sin is essentially a world dominated by sorrow. Sin and sorrow go together - there is no getting around that.

    So the real question is, why would God allow sin and death to enter the world. I know the free will argument, still God would use even our free will for a greater purpose. In the end all things work for the good etc., as believed by Paul himself. So my view is that sin was 'allowed' by God to serve a greater purpose - perhaps to make us see the greatness of virtue. Thanks to the unspeakable tortures of earthly life, we shall see the indescribable joys of our heavenly abode. Now the world is filled with thorns and thistles ... so that later the bed of roses may smell sweeter still.

    So this evil, which is merely a privation of the good, may yet serve a higher purpose. Or God, being the almighty, would not have allowed it. This is my faith, that nothing is futile, that our sorrows are but a dimmer reflection of a joy yet to come. We don't see that ... for now we see through the glass, darkly. But later on with perfect clarity ...

    Yes, suffering has always been a problem for the Christian religion and there are several differing philosophies that cover it. The one thing Christian theologians agree on is that suffering is unavoidable in this world. Even the saved who have accepted Jesus as their Savior will suffer. Jesus didn't teach the way to eliminate suffering and God didn't send Christ to die in order to eliminate it. What Christ did was provide us with a way to escape suffering in Hell for eternity when this life is over. That is the core difference between the two religions.

    But that doesn't answer the question of why God created a world full of suffering to begin with. Saying it was the fault of Adam and Even, the "original sin" theory, doesn't satisfy our need to know why God allows suffering now, to people who don't deserve it. Why does a sick baby suffer? What sin has the baby committed against God? I've heard Preachers struggle with the topic in sermons and at funerals. The "suffering is like a fire that purifies us" sermon is sometimes trotted out. Tell that to a mother who has just lost a child. So suffering is the nature of the world and to be endured until Heaven is reached.

    But even Buddhism has its own problems with suffering. Saying a sick baby is suffering because of some past life karma doesn't provide a bit of comfort, considering that innocent baby is still suffering for something he didn't do. What selfish desire did the baby have beyond the need for milk and comfort?

    In one of my stories, I have this bit of dialog between a young girl and God, who she actually gets to meet, asking why suffering exists, and here is the answer:

    "For life to exist, there must be death. For joy to exist, there must be grief. For laughter to exist, there must be tears. You know this in your heart, but this simple truth will never be good enough. That's what makes you human."



  • SilouanSilouan Veteran
    edited December 2013
    @Cinorjer Your questions and assertions are understandable, but perhaps what is needed is more patristic familiarity with the economy of salvation that is certainly beyond the scope of this topic.
    Yes, suffering has always been a problem for the Christian religion and there are several differing philosophies that cover it.
    Suffering and death is a human concern and not a problem for Christianity. The differing philosophies and the problems you perceive stem from aberrations that oppose the common faith once delivered.
    The one thing Christian theologians agree on is that suffering is unavoidable in this world.
    More appropriate would be that suffering in this age is unavoidable.
    Even the saved who have accepted Jesus as their Savior will suffer.

    Because one is baptized and/or professes faith or accepts Christ does not mean one is automatically saved. Human nature in this age is still in corruption. St Paul reminds us that we must work out our salvation to the end.
    Jesus didn't teach the way to eliminate suffering and God didn't send Christ to die in order to eliminate it. What Christ did was provide us with a way to escape suffering in Hell for eternity when this life is over. That is the core difference between the two religions.
    Christ trampled down death by death and through his resurrection restored human nature from that of corruption to incorruption which will be fulfilled in the age to come where not only man but the entire cosmos through him will be defied. The whole teaching of Christ is part of this economy of salvation.
    But that doesn't answer the question of why God created a world full of suffering to begin with. Saying it was the fault of Adam and Even, the "original sin" theory, doesn't satisfy our need to know why God allows suffering now, to people who don't deserve it.
    God did not create a world full of suffering. Man is the mediator of the cosmos, because he is both a physical and spiritual being made in the image and of the likeness of God. He not only has freedom but sovereignty as well, and God does not violate it, so the things man does affect his own nature and the entire cosmos.

    Creation has a beginning and an end, and it is moving toward the end found in its logos or reasoning present in the uncreated energies or thought will of God which is deification.

    The world in the present age is not like as it was when it was created. The nature of primordial man was that of incorruption and he was in a more deified state in movement toward an ever fuller union with God. His body was a spiritual body. He introduced corruption into his own nature at the fall through sin and attachment to sensual pleasure. His body became coarser with garments of skin, and the rest of the cosmos fell into corruption as a result of his fall.

    To blame and harbor resentment towards Adam and Eve would be arrogant on our part in thinking somehow we would have fared better with the same temptation.
    Why does a sick baby suffer? What sin has the baby committed against God?
    In the present age the world is fallen into corruption and death. Human nature is self-inflicted with corruption. A baby has not sinned and is blameless, but it inherits a nature of corruption.
    When anyone is suffering we comfort and take care of them the best we compassionately can. We should never ponder that they are suffering due to their own sins or that they somehow deserve it. If I suffer than I can condemn myself and acknowledge I justly deserve it, but I should not do the same for someone else.

    There is a saying that no sin goes unhidden. What we do not only affects our own individual lives but those of others. Something to think about when we see an innocent baby suffering and think that the sin that we thought was no big deal hasn't somehow contributed to the baby's and the world's suffering.
    I've heard Preachers struggle with the topic in sermons and at funerals. The "suffering is like a fire that purifies us" sermon is sometimes trotted out. Tell that to a mother who has just lost a child. So suffering is the nature of the world and to be endured until Heaven is reached.
    If the mother is an Orthodox Christian or Roman Catholic perhaps she might take comfort in the Mother of God, as she most certainly knows the anguish of a mother who has lost a child.

    Suffering and corruption is the nature of the world in the present age. The reaching of heaven is not the end, but rather the coming age of fullness and glory is.
    But even Buddhism has its own problems with suffering. Saying a sick baby is suffering because of some past life karma doesn't provide a bit of comfort, considering that innocent baby is still suffering for something he didn't do. What selfish desire did the baby have beyond the need for milk and comfort?
    This is where the understanding of the Buddhist doctrine of the moral law of kamma, rebirth, and even the Agganna Sutta might prove helpful. The latter has striking similarities with patristic Christian understanding of the cosmos and man's integration and effect upon it through his actions.

    To ponder the specific kammic reasons why a person is suffering I would think to be unskillful and unnecessary, but rather compassion and understanding of the shared human condition is what is needed.

    By the way I have heard that samsara means endurance.
    betaboyriverflow
  • @Silouan

    Thanks for an enlightening post. How do the church fathers explain that Christ defeated death by his death etc. - because that seems to be the main problem many have with Christian theology? Some sort of penal substitution?
    Silouan
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    Silouan said:


    God did not create a world full of suffering. Man is the mediator of the cosmos, because he is both a physical and spiritual being made in the image and of the likeness of God.

    So man is in the likeness of God? But man has a capacity for cruelty, so is the same true of God?
    Why would a loving God create a being with a capacity for cruelty? :-/
  • @betaboy

    You're welcome and I'm glad it was helpful.

    That juridical idea is a product of the legalism and intellectualism found in western Christianity, so it is also the primary theological interpretation taught in our colleges and universities.

    Here is a link to a brief commentary by St Hilarion Troitsky of Russia that addresses the topic of corruption and incorruption set against this juridical influence taking shape in his country during the early 20th century.

    He was eventually sent to prison by the state for his beliefs and would die in captivity. The Church in Russia was decimated during this time by the state capitalist regime. The same thing is happening in Tibet.

    ishmaelite.blogspot.com/2009/04/pascha-of-incorruption.html?m=1

    Just so you know the word Pascha in the commentary means Passover, which is the feast of the Resurrection of the Lord.

    @SpinyNorman I'm short on time, but hopefully I will be able to offer you a response by tomorrow if not today.
    betaboyriverflow
  • @Silouan
    Thanks again for the enlightening post/link. I think the orthodox understanding of Christ's incarnation and resurrection is radically different from the Protestant one. There it is too legalistic - God is the judge and his son, the sacrifice. Here in EO church it is love - God heals a humanity that is sick (with sin). The whole purpose of the incarnation is explained in terms of God partaking of our nature so that we could partake of his nature - God became man so that man could become God. This is what the EO understanding means to me.

    Please correct me if I am wrong.
    Silouanriverflow
  • @SpinyNorman Here are my responses to your previous questions.
    So man is in the likeness of God?

    Yes, In Orthodoxy the terms image and likeness have many descriptions which are by no means exhaustive. Image is also seen as the potential inherent in man for sanctification, theosis or deification and likeness refers to its perfection which has not yet been accomplished.

    Man is like a reflection of the moon on water but is not the same as its archetype by nature. He is created, has an origin, and a beginning. A beginning presupposes a change; therefore everything that is created is changeable. He was made for union with God, but not originally created in a state of perfection, as there is no spiritual limit in his movement towards union with God, as there is no limit in God.
    But man has a capacity for cruelty, so is the same true of God?
    No, God is uncreated and without origin. He is the source of being beyond all being. We come to know and unite with Him through participation in His uncreated energies or grace, but not of His essence for it is ineffable, unknowable, and inaccessible.

    He is unmoved by passions.

    The quote from St Anthony I provided in an earlier comment might help:
    “God is good and is not controlled by passions. He does not change. Now someone who thinks it reasonable and true to affirm that God does not change, may well ask how, in that case, it is possible to speak of God as rejoicing over those who are good and showing mercy to those who honor Him, and as turning away from the wicked and being angry with sinners. To this it must be answered that God neither rejoices nor grows angry, for to rejoice and to be offended are passions; nor is He won over by the gifts of those who honor Him, for that would mean He is swayed by pleasure. It is not right that the Divinity feel pleasure or displeasure from human conditions. He is good, and He only bestows blessings and never does harm, remaining always the same. We men, on the other hand, if we remain good through resembling God, are united to Him, but if we become evil through not resembling God, we are separated from Him. By living in holiness we cleave to God; but by becoming wicked we make Him our enemy. It is not that He grows angry with us in an arbitrary way, but it is our own sins that prevent God from shining within us and expose us to demons who torture us. And if through prayer and acts of compassion we gain release from our sins, this does not mean that we have won God over and made Him to change, but that through our actions and our turning to the Divinity, we have cured our wickedness and so once more have enjoyment of God’s goodness. Thus to say that God turns away from the wicked is like saying that the sun hides itself from the blind.”
    Why would a loving God create a being with a capacity for cruelty?
    Man was given spiritual freedom in order that he might choose by his own will to embrace the love God freely gives, because love must always be freely chosen and not forced or contained within certain limits otherwise it would not be true love but something else entirely. However, this means that he can also freely reject it.

    An act of cruelty is a rejection of God's love by choice freely made.

    @betaboy
    You are most welcome, and you are spot on. ;)
    riverflowbetaboystavros388
  • betaboy said:

    The two views are opposed to each other - in one case, dukkha is seen as an evil to be overcome, whereas in the other it is seen as an unfortunate necessity.

    What do you believe? How do you view the suffering in your own life - as something to be embraced, or as something to be avoided at all costs?

    Dukkha isn't human enough to be evil but being inanimate, it can be an unfortunate element in our life, just like when we are in class learning English, we come across a terrible grammar teacher. As it is, it is not something that is not to be embraced and yet not to be avoided,
  • betaboy said:


    I thought Buddhists believed in 'no shit' ... :D Then what reincarnates?

    Yes, "same shit, different day" wouldn't work. :D
    Well now that is a complex question and I have two answers. 1. Since the gross minds cease with this life and the next life has it's own mind nothing reincarnates. Reincarnation means the compulsive grasping after self with the gross mind which causes constant death and rebirth of thoughts and self (both of which are empty and cease when your body dies), would re enter a new body and start the old cycle all over again. I don't believe the Buddha taught that.
    2. There is an illusory body but you must impute your I onto that body in order to maintain any continuity. This requires great skillful means and emptiness and the ability to remain in Meaning clear light while realizing the emptiness of the now dead body. Go for it but it's a hard road and you must maintain the purest motivation.
    That I would be free of the I of the small self. So in this case you would say awareness would carry over but that is neither born nor dies. So what is there to reincarnate?
    There is just a continuation. Everything which rises falls. That which is not born does not die. Life's characteristics perish with the body.
  • Things can be unmanifest in the universe. So some parts of you or your habits can be unmanifest for awhile. Just like you start a new positive (or negative) behaviour and that can be the unmanifest becoming manifest. This manifest/unmanifest is one of the characteristics of phenomena to go along with impermanence/flux.
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    Suffering(dukkha) is just our mindstate.

    Phenomenon arise and cease, dukkha is just our relationship with the phenomenon. We dont need it, and the practice is learning to get rid of it, thats the wholw point of the four noble truths.

    We didn't ask for dukkha, we were just sort of stuck with it, but we have the choice to put the burden of dukkha down.
    anataman
  • Hi, there has never been one word mentioned about purification in the teachings of Gotamo Buddhol. What is the goal, is to change the mind by doing the 8fold-Meditation. I dont´t know who raised the aspect of purification,

    anando
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran
    I'm not sure if I really understood what the OP was about, but what content has arisen has been highly stimulating and insightful.

    Thank you
  • Why are people consistently resurrecting my (zombified) threads? :eek2:
  • 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
    Well you started it... and now you continued it.....!
    If you want a thread closed, ask.

    Mot of them fade after a while anyway. As with all threads.

    if you feel a thread is done with, alert moderators.
  • betaboy said:

    Why are people consistently resurrecting my (zombified) threads? :eek2:

    They are purifying you from a fire you started . . . ;)

    how
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran
    suffer what you have created!

    http://www.ropetalk.com/sounds/bad-laff.au


  • atiyanaatiyana Explorer

    @betaboy said:

    There is nothing that needs purified.

    Whether you go through hellfire and travel aeons through so many obstacles to find the gem, or simply turn over in your comfy bed and find it under your pillow, it is the same gem.

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