Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A Question...or two

Is there a special hell reserved for suicide bombers?

I'm going to have to look up Dante...see which circle of hell holds those who kill in the name of God.

And what does God really think of those who presume to know what God is thinking?

And really...what was he thinking? Or she? Or it?

Or was he thinking at all? In the middle of my God complex, when I thought I was omnipotent and untouchable somehow, my mother said to me, "Larry! What were you thinking?" And my only response was, "I guess I wasn't thinking..."

Would God be that sheepish?

PS. My acronym for God: SHI: She/He/It

And if you're a Taoist, you know God really is SHI. God seeks out the low, the quiet...there you find the Tao...


Anonymous said...

Well, the Goddess doesn't think. Thinking is a male construct. She dreams...

From my Taoist dualistic look at the world, the Goddess dreams in the eternal or absolute, and doesn't even know she is dreaming. I think of it as the sleeping buddha-ess floating in a quiet pool among the lotuses in a lovely garden - breathe in existence, breathe it out, eons pass, beginnings and endings repeated onto infinity.

Mmm... floating in a pond... sounds like Timothy Leary's (sp) deprivation chamber.... no thinking allowed.... a different kind of knowing - everything is held in one embrace -all of it at once -intuitively, perhaps.

Ah, but then there is the other aspect of God - he/she participates - seeks to know the many sides of herself/himself. Is delighted and abhorred by it... the chaos, the messiness, the pain and happiness, the variations, the reflection within reflections, the slippery-ness of it all - so hard to grasp. From this perspective, God wants to grasp it all - to KNOW existence personally - but what can the Absolute know of the particular - enter of course, Jesus Christ.

Now THERE was some strange thinking - God sacrificing his only begotten son in such a violent way, but that is another posting, another rant... All I will say here, is what WAS the Father thinking????

Anonymous said...

Mmm, I didn't answer your question, Larry, in my first posting. Is there a hell reserved for suicide bombers? As a Buddhist, then you would think that the suicide bomber would create his own "hell" in the next life... whatever shape or form karma might take in the playing out of cause and effect.

Me, I don't know what to think. I was never much one for hell. Part of me wants to view it all compassionately but it is hard... it is easy to feel compassion for the victims, but the perpetrator?

I don't know the details of the suicide bomber's life. I suspect in many cases the reality is different from what I might expect.

Is it some kid who can't see another way out? Or one who believes the patriotic mumbo-jumbo (this is God's country) told to him? The lad is rewarded by so many virgins in the afterlife all doting on him... Or is it a way to protect/provide for one's own family, the financial reward in this life like a life insurance policy paid out? Or is the suicide bomber simply a murderous thug? I don't know.... and I suspect each version of the suicide bomber is different...

I also suspect my viewpoint would be totally different if the bomb exploded in my face, or in the face of someone I know intimately and love. I doubt there would be much room in that scenario for rational thought... let alone compassion.

Larry Keiler said...

There is a practice in Buddhism known as Tong Len, which translates as giving and taking. In this practice, you imagine a suffering sentient being, or all sentient beings, in front of you. You meditate on their particular brand of suffering. (For example, you could choose to do this practice for someone suffering from cancer.) Then you breathe in this suffering, imagining it in the form of black smoke, thick and acrid. You take in the suffering of the other.The black smoke meets the diamond-hard nugget of self-cherishing in the centre of your heart and shatters it on contact. Tong Len is a process of softening the heart. On the out breath, you send happiness, bliss, whatever it is they need for healing. The instructions say to start with someone you know and love, move to someone you are neutral about, then to someone you dislike, gradually expanding your range until you can include all beings in this wish to take on their suffering and extend happiness.

I think of Christ's crucifixion as the ultimate practice of Tong Len. What did he do? He took on the sins of the world and redeemed them through his own suffering on the cross.

This is a good, though perhaps difficult exercise for working through the feelings about suicide bombers or terrorists too. You have to see the suffering they have experienced (or will experience as a result of their negative actions), be willing to take it on and wish them happiness. I think the Buddhist interpretation might be that the murders they committed were the result of delusion, a wrong-headed attempt to achieve some sort of happiness or relieve some sort of suffering.

Your last scenario...having the bomb go off in your face and seeking to forgive and have compassion for the perpetrator...that's the supreme test of commitment...that's the Christ-like, the Buddha-like action...they scourged him, they spat on him, they nailed him to a cross and he forgave them! They know not what they do...they are deluded...this is the goal we aspire to. Both the Buddha and Christ ask us to stretch ourselves, to go beyond what we think we can. Of course, of course, we can't all do it. And we can't do it all the time. No shame in failure...we are only human, after all.

Sometimes I think I make it too simplistic. But it is that simple, really, and that hard.

Larry Keiler said...

That there goddess breathing in, breathing out, dreaming eons...makes me think of Brahman...more Hindu than Tao...and Brahman is neither masculine nor feminine...as how could God be either. Which is why I choose SHI, because we silly English speakers seem to have no neuter pronoun.

And the Tao says no masculine without feminine, right? No dreaming without thinking. And a little bit of one in the other. And the Buddhists say yab-yum...unity of method and wisdom. Method is male, wisdom female, as it should be.

Anonymous said...

Simple is good.

Yes, the sleeping Goddess is a Hindu vision. One nice thing about being a non-committed Westerner (in terms of not belonging to a single religious tradition and following its precepts and practices "religiously") is that I get to pick and choose and create my understanding - as I think God would understand - being of a curious mind himself/herself. After all, God created all the possibilities.

My approach may sound like a spiritual buffet, but as a person who has developed (through whatever reason) Taoist tendencies, I am happy with it. It fits me - or I fit it.

Yes, I would say the Absolute and the particular exist at the same time, if "exist" can be used to describe the Absolute - that the floating Goddess contains it all.... including the madness/flurry/richness/fecundity of creation - two aspects of the same thing.

I have a friend (a woman) who is in the process of converting to Islam. And you, my dear friend, are committed to the Buddhist path. That is how it should be for the two of you - but I am not one for the rules and structure that following any one particular way involves - going to Church, for example, becomes a social act in the best sense of the word - belonging to a community - but I don't want that kind of community - nor do I want the structure of viewpoint, since in the end the playing out of religion has so many short-fallings... it is a human construct.... and by nature excludes because it is saying THIS is true, THIS is how you should live your life, not THAT way. I think of issues of abortion, gay marriage, etc. Even the concept of freewill/predestination. Sam is dating a Lutheran, who goes to church fairly regularly, but hadn't known about the predestination beliefs of that church in terms of salvation. Does it matter? On one level, perhaps not - on another one, yes, very much.

Larry Keiler said...

7:30 am is very early for such deep thought.

I don't envy your soon-to-be Muslim friend. A hard road in these troubled times. But there is no accounting for where your true heart takes you. You either follow it and blossom or shrink in fear and wither.

Religion a human construct? And here I thought religion was created by god himself to use as squares on the Monopoly board.

Seriously, I can't think that any of the founders of the great religions of the world actually set out to create a "religion". They simply saw what they saw and tried to point it out to others...some of them reluctantly, aware that words could only mislead. Religion is only the result of lesser lights trying to codify the inconceivable.

I've always made a distinction between religion and spiritual path. Ultimately, I chose the Buddhist path not so much for the externals and the structure (although the rituals can take me back to the more comfortable memories of my Catholic past), but for the clarity of the path. Even so, there is something to be said for community as well, the sense of welcome you feel among like-minded people of good will. The Buddhist path is funny that way, though, at least in the west. The Sangha exists and comes together at times, but the path itself is solitary. (Maybe not so funny...it's probably that way for all spiritual seekers...)

Help! I've written and I can't get up!