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Tuesday, February 24, 2009

God concepts - part 5

God the play.

I don’t know if you are a computer game enthusiast or not, but imagine for a moment that you could have the ultimate virtual reality game.
Imagine that you could put on an electronic helmet and you could select any fantasy you would like to have and it would be delivered to you at the push of a button.
You could be Alexander the Great or Napoleon, you could conquer the world or fly to the moon, you could be a movie star and win an Oscar or a brilliant scientist and win the Noble Price. You could have any life you want at the push of a button, pretty much like the people in the “Matrix” movie with the exception that you would have total control of the game.

But you see, there is a little problem with this game. After playing it for thousand of times you realize that it is not that much fun knowing what is going to happened and knowing how it is going to end. So you discover that there is an option on the game called “Surprise life with surprise ending” pretty tempting, right?
So you push the surprise button and here you are - reading this crazy post.
And how would you know that this is not a very elaborate virtual reality game?

Pretty neat concept, right?
Some scenario a science fiction guy would dream up you might think.
If you are not familiar with ancient Eastern religions and mythology you might be surprised to find out that actually this concept is thousand of years old and it is actually found in the Hindu mythology.

The story goes that God – in this case lord Shiva – was kind of bored, so he decided to play a game where he would put on different masks – that would be me and you and everybody else in the world - and by folding time, like the way we superimpose celluloid frames, he would create this elaborate play with all the drama and emotions imaginable, so he would never get bored.

Now, this particular concept of God has some very interesting aspects to it.
This would explain pretty much why this world is so full of drama, why the world is not a quiet peaceful place, sort of a suburban neighborhood where nothing exciting ever happens.
It also answers the question about God’s morality. Remember the question about the holocaust and God’s unwillingness to intervene and do something about it?
Well, if God is every one of the 6 million people that died, if he is the victim and the executioner at the same time the whole paradigm of the genocide changes.
It would be impossible for a linear mind to process this multi dimensional consciousness experience. The only thing we can do is wonder.
So, next time you sit down to play a video game, or if you don’t play but you know somebody that spends way too much time on video games, don’t think of it as video game playing, think of it as God training!

21 comments:

Lydia said...

Wow! This is one of your best writings yet. I found the whole concept tantalizing, really fun to imagine it as you scripted it for this series. Then to read that it isn't a new script but an old Hindu story, so interesting. I have a cat named Shiva, but she's a girl. I do think she practices becoming god, at least in her dreams......

Psiplex said...

Powerful scenario Buddha! I applaud you for not shirking to ask the hard questions.

Guess I would say that the mind is a wonderful tool for figuring out the bills at the end of the month and planning for a vacation. For spiritual matters and direct knowledge f a living creator we have communion with , not so much. The mind can invent one for us, flesh it out and make it appear real-even give it live action emotions and screaming, powerful spiritual 'experiences', The mind can convince the mind of anything.

Who is aware that the mind is experiencing- this is the place to start with. Who is aware that there is a Shiva or a creator or a mind pondering Shiva or creator? Who notices a mind and another aware of the mind?

The 'I' that we take ourselves to be is what? The discovery awaits at the beginning of this self inquiry.

One Love

Aggie said...

I'm sorry you have had such a shitty start to the week and are not feeling too good. Take care of yourself ...
This scenario doesn't really work for me ... mainly because I know the difference between reality and perceived reality. You might be able to fool yourself some of the time, but not all of the time.

Talon said...

This is truly what makes people so interesting - the range of ideas,the concepts, the scenerios that can be shared giving one pause to think which is always a good thing.

Quantum_Flux said...

:)<-<|:/. (skater on ramp)

Tamara said...

Thank you for the illustration, I understand. To me it's a lot like playing the Sims, a game where you create as many people, families, and neighborhoods as you want. You can only play with one family at a time but you are constantly interacting with your other creations. Some people only enjoy it by reckoning havoc on their creations others, like me, are happy with the watching a normal life unfold.

What I love about spirituality is that it know no bounds. I still have a Christian concept of God but I still believe that the God with different mask makes a lot of sense and both concepts merge for me. The more I learn about the universe and it's possibilities the happier I am with life.

I don't believe in one way, I believe in truth.

Matthew Welsh said...

It's all a matter of perspective... If you look at the world as an opportunity to progress spiritually or grow personally, then the 'game' becomes more fun in the face of life's tests.

Mark said...

You do provide thought provoking thoughts. How do we know when we are dreaming and when we are not, one is as real as the other in the realms of our mind. Love the way you think!

Rob R said...

As I understand it, you are saying (or that one sort of hindu is saying this, and you are just telling us of this perspective) that each one of us is, unbeknownst to most of us, god living life for the variety of experiences.

Similar to what you suggested, I agree that God identifies with the oppressed and suffereing as I am a Christian and this is the messege of the parable of the sheep and the goats from Matthew 25. But as I am understanding this picture (and maybe I don't understand it), god is also the oppressor, the rapist, the sadist and so on. Of course, you mentioned that god is both. I can't say that those who suffered through the holocaust would be as open to this idea.

This I think this suggestion is antithetical to those experiences because those who suffered through them and those who really and truely loved those who suffered would say that what happened to these people ultimately should not have happened. If anyone should be a realist about the experience, then the idea that god went through this and executed it for entertainement, then it is not true that it should have happened and it is an illusion. And of course, perhaps that is a distinctive eastern way to look at things, that all is somehow an illusion, but I think the suggestion is a profound insensitivity to victims of the darkest cruelties and perversions.

Brigit said...

Your god concepts series of posts are amazing reading. I have identified with the thought processes of each article.

As a child I was raised with great cynism when it came to god. Both my parents had been very hurt and didn't believe in any form of god. I wanted to believe. It was what we were taught at school. Sunday school was the time the kids in our community had a chance to get together over the weekends or holidays...all given to us by god. But I too, with the help of my parents, decided god was an asshole.

I remember my pet dog dying, then a bird I rescued dying. I'd prayed long and hard, and made promises. I so much wanted my dog to live and my parents to know god as I thought I did. As a kind giving god. He let me down. But I was five years old.

Over the years, nothing much changed. God still didn't answer the prayers I desparately needed answering. Even recently (about two years ago) I explored the christian god concept again, but was left untouched, by the exercise.

What has occured though, over the last year, as a result of the death of someone I loved dearly, and wanted to spend the rest of my life with, my daughter leaving home, and menopause was the awakening that we are all part of 'one'. We are all interconnected. We all make an impact from conception on. We make an impact by our breath, our voice, or action; our thoughts.

I believe (putting an identifying name to it), 'God' is the 'one' we are all part of.

As for the masks. There is a christian god and a christian devil. 'One' god wearing both masks? Why not? We all where these masks at different times.

C. Om said...

Indeed! It's called the "play of consciousness." Excellent way to explain it.

Buddha said...

@ Lidia – Actually cats were divine in the ancient Egypt. So you never know Shiva might have some royal blood after all :)

@ Psiplex – You have to ask tough questions because the old answers don’t work anymore.

@ Aggie – There are many more scenarios. You just have to pick one you like!

@ Talon – I like to get out of my mind sometime. It is fun!

@ Quantum – I have no idea what you mean :)

@ Tamara – I think people should stop fighting and join forces in finding out the truth.
It would be much more productive.

@ Matthew – We are in this mess together and only together we will get out of it.

@ Mark – I’m just warming up :)

@ Rob – So what would you tell to the 6 million of holocaust victims; that God did not care?

@ Brigit – I went through the same rocky road myself because I couldn’t get a straight answer.

@ COm – I love simplicity. It is clear and honest :)

Rob R said...

@ Rob – So what would you tell to the 6 million of holocaust victims; that God did not care?

I said the opposite. As I mentioned, there was one similarity here between the described picture of hinduism and Christianity. In both, God suffers what the oppressed and down trodden suffer. Furthermore, God incarnate suffered himself through the crucifixion.

I referred to Matthew 25 for this point.

the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

37"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

40"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

41"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

44"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

45"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

46"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."



But their are two important differences here. God does not identify with the oppressor of the weak and oppressed (though he brings judgement on the oppressor and the negligent). And of course, through his identification, it is not because he IS the oppressed, but because of his love for them.

I find this picture more in tune with a real concern and real sympathy and an intimate love for the oppressed than a picture which suggests that 1) God is also the ultimate source of the greatest perverse cruelties and 2) it is all a drama and play for the deity to stave off boredom anyway.

Thirdly, not only does God identify with the oppressed, he will bring back those who honored cared for the poor, the oppressed, and the oppressors to make things right.

This cannot be confused with the picture where God is off distant from the world in a perpetually happy repose utterly unaffected by our world of strife (as theologian John Calvin unfortunately proposed), but it is one of an intimately involved God actively involved in the world using people to redeem a broken and rebellious world.

On further reflection, it would seem that this Hindu suggestion (which I suspect does not reflect all of Hinduism) would also be at odds with social justice and progress. Why should the cruel and sadistic change if they are told that they are really Shiva giving cruelty a wirl on this round. And whatever benefit and entertainment the experience of personal change and redeption may bring, there will plenty of chances to live this through as there will be the experiences of that as well as the experiences of one dying clinging to his evil and shaking a fist at God as Stalin did (literally).

This also mimics another moral conundrum that other (more common) eastern beliefs entail, that of reincarnation and karma. While everyone gets their just deserts or rewards in the next reincarnated life, and while they may serve as a basis for compassion (as a way to work off karma or escape the wheel of death), they also serve as a basis for negligence because if you treat the suffering with compassion attempting to help them out of their situation, while you may be working off some karma, you are also taking away some of their chance at working off karma and extending their misrable state into the next life. In this light, neglect of the suffering is almost no better or worse than aiding the suffering.

Granted, Gautama offered something of a corrective to this situation insisting that all where on equal footing with potential for enlightenment regardless of caste, I have heard a stories from missionary that the basis of negligence via karma and reincarnation still persists even in predominantly Buddhist nations.

Quantum_Flux said...

8-j (scuba diver)

Alice said...

Goodness, you've got a an army of fans here! First time here, and have spent a good amount of time reading your "God Concepts" series. I appreciate your rawness and humor!

This post reminds me of a Tibetan Buddhist slogan: "Regard all dharmas (phenomenas) as dreams." Everything we experience arises from our mind, and is indeed like a dream, a video game, a movie, etc. Even in scientific experiments, it has been concluded that all outcomes are affected by the observer. As Nagarjuna taught, "All propositions fail in the face of emptiness because that which is sought to be proved must be assumed in the first place." So according to the Buddhist view, whatever we know to be real is due to our own assumption of its 'realness.'

@ Rob R: I'd like to address some of your comments:

I think, firstly, that Hinduism (or whatever other religion) and Christianity are two separate views, and therefore cannot be compared to each other from the vantage point of either religion, like comparing apples with oranges.

As someone who was born, raised and lived most of her adult life as a Christian, I understand where you're coming from regarding the seemingly conflicting view of God as being both loving/compassionate and an oppressor/rapist, etc. I don't know much about Hinduism, but from a Buddhist view, if God (btw, Buddhists are free to believe in a God, gods, or no god(s) at all) is omniscient, then by that logic alone, He/She/Tao, etc., must include everything, both good and evil. And because God is everything, there cannot be a dualism...He can't be only all-loving and not cruel and perverted either. In fact, my understanding is that God is neutral (not personal), doesn't have a specific plan, and is there as a silent conduit for unfolding - that would be like the Tao concept.

The duality we experience, the 'good' and 'evil,' are products of our own creation. If we examine such horrific atrocities as the holocaust, it doesn't take long for us to see that it is all man-created. Yes, it should not have happened, but it did, and there is no one to blame for it than man himself. We assumed it possible within us to be that despicably cruel, and then we proceeded to act it out. So when you say that this "distinctive eastern way to look at things, that all is somehow an illusion...is a profound insensitivity to victims of the darkest cruelties and perversions," it's unfair. It's not about insensitivity, or being 'pc' - it's about seeing things unflinchingly 'as they are.'

If anything, because of the view of karma - that there is a cause and consequence to all actions - there is no blaming and getting angry at some God that 'shouldn't' be letting this happen. And if there is a God to blame, then He certainly didn't do anything about it, and so what's the point in questioning that? Instead, the law of karma precisely puts the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of all that are involved - US. There's no whining to God about why this happened or why this didn't happen. We look at the situation and see that we ourselves are responsible, and could have done things differently (free will?).

And just because we ourselves weren't personally involved as the tormentors in the holocaust, the law of interdependence and interconnectedness does not allow anyone a get-out-of-jail-free card. We, as human society, are all complicit in the crime in one degree or another. The 'God' quality, from what I gather from my practice, is not so much some all-powerful being outside of me, but more like what is called Buddha-Nature, or Christ-Nature - the inherent potential, the seed, to be just and god-like. So if you view this in karmic terms, that Christ-Nature is what enables all of us to choose to create our realities that align with love and compassion and turn away from wrongdoing.

And to address your other comment about the faulty logic of karma as basis for compassionate action, I'd like to clarify that as well. First, there is something called intention. Second, compassion cannot be faked. So even if someone tried to help another's suffering thinking they'll burn off some negative karma, it will not happen. In fact, their wrong intention will create additional negative karma upon themselves.

The great thing about karma is that, because we create our own karma, this means we can also change the course of our karma. It's not a fatalistic concept, as if its inked into the book of the universe. There is a huge misunderstanding in the popular use of the term - "Oh, it's my karma, and I can't do anything about it." Wrong! You CAN do something about it...and what you choose to do next can and will change the course of the present karma that's unfolding. I suppose that's the Buddhist equivalent of the 'Good News!' :D

Your assumption based on your limited understanding of karma asserts that helping another that's suffering is not helpful because one is not letting him burn off his negative karma himself, and therefore ends up prolonging his suffering. Buddhist teachings specifically talk about how a person needs to have certain fundamental needs met in order to stabilize his mind enough to uncover some confidence in his/her own richness, and thereby gain some internal space that's needed to begin spiritual practice. This is broken down into three types of generosities:

1) Offering Material Wealth - which is obvious, like food, clothing, shelter, medicine and/or money to provide this help. 2) Offering Fearlessness - since the previous was about tending to physical needs, we can move to the psychological. 3) Offering the Dharma - helping them understand universal truths as tools to relieve their suffering. Here, 'dharma' not only refers to the teaching of the Buddha, but also to anything that upholds or supports the truth, or laws of the universe. Since the Buddha's teachings are viewed to be concordant with cosmic truth, both meanings of the word are often used interchangeably. I'm only pointing this out because 'dharma' can be Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu, etc. - whatever is true is the true dharma. Therefore, when one helps out a suffering person, it is actually helping them get to a place - physically, psychologically & situationally - that allows them to help turn their negative karma around. So this is positive for both the helper and the one being helped. Hope that clears things up for you.

@ Buddha of Hollywood: I apologize for hogging up your blog, but I thought it was important for me to take the time to help clarify misunderstanding as much as I am able - if I can at all. We need to help each other understand. Damn, this could have been a post at my blog! Shorter comments from me in the future. Great stuff here!

Palms Together,
Alice

Buddha said...

@ Rob – I read your comment again and you are absolutely right. I got confused some how reading all the comments – My fault, please accept my apology :)

@ Alice – Don’t worry! We are not looking for short or long comments, we are looking for intelligent people open to a meaningful dialog :)

Giovanna Garcia said...

Thank you for always inspiring us to think out side of the norm. Very interesting post, you have a special way of putting things together. I enjoy the way you write.
Thank you,
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Rob R said...

Thank you for your thoughtful and curteous response Alice. Here's my response.

I think, firstly, that Hinduism (or whatever other religion) and Christianity are two separate views, and therefore cannot be compared to each other from the vantage point of either religion, like comparing apples with oranges.

When we make comparisons, it's always of two or more seperate things that are distinct somehow with both similarities and differences. While they are as different as apples may be from oranges, they also deal with a great deal common issues for which they may be compared. (and to take a metaphor further than it was intended, apples and oranges may be compared in terms of color, shape, nutrional value and so on).

But note that some of my criticisms of Hinduism did not depend upon whether or not you are a Christian.

I don't know much about Hinduism, but from a Buddhist view, if God (btw, Buddhists are free to believe in a God, gods, or no god(s) at all) is omniscient, then by that logic alone, He/She/Tao, etc., must include everything, both good and evil.

I don't quite see the logic here of omniscience as equating with a pantheism of some sort. There are many ways to know something and so many of them do not result in a unity of the knower and the known. A propositional understanding of reality and knowledge (where every aspect of reality can be described with a proposition and hence can be known when the knower is aware of that proposition and is justified in believing it) does not result in this. Not in any way that I can tell.

The duality we experience, the 'good' and 'evil,' are products of our own creation. If we examine such horrific atrocities as the holocaust, it doesn't take long for us to see that it is all man-created. Yes, it should not have happened, but it did, and there is no one to blame for it than man himself.

That the holocaust is a man made product is fine with me but I don't see how that is coherent with what you say above. If God is everything and hence if God is man and the holocaust is a product of man and if the distinction of good and evil is a product of man, then it stands to reason that the holocaust and good and evil are a product of God.

If anything, because of the view of karma - that there is a cause and consequence to all actions - there is no blaming and getting angry at some God that 'shouldn't' be letting this happen.

right, I understand that there is a justice that is worked out in the concept of karma and that there is a way in which it works. What I was criticizing was how that same justice has the potential to justify negligence of the suffering who may be justifiably suffering because of their karma.

And if there is a God to blame, then He certainly didn't do anything about it, and so what's the point in questioning that?

Well YHWH did do something about it. He suffered becuase of, for, and with the victims, he empowered the allies to defeat the Nazi's and he will bring everyone to judgment/restoration when the day of the Lord comes.

Instead, the law of karma precisely puts the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of all that are involved - US.

So here's my concern. Is karma making the victims responsible for their vicimization? Were the children and babies who were murdered and abused also responsible? Could you assert this to a Jewish mother who watched her own daughter suffer a brutal torture and murder before her own eyes? My understanding of Karma is that such events are themselves the result of karma. Would you say that this is not the understanding of Karma that you assert? I'm not going to insist that Karma has to be the way I describe it, but I'm giving you a chance to respond to these more specific concerns.

Your assumption based on your limited understanding of karma asserts that helping another that's suffering is not helpful because one is not letting him burn off his negative karma himself, and therefore ends up prolonging his suffering.

This is not my assumption. This is how thousands of years of Hinduism and and the caste system have employed karma. I know that Buddhism may have a more "fruitful" take on the concept though I posted (granted I don't remember the source) evidence that even in Buddhist cultures, the concept have opperated in a similar way. And granted, just because one has appropriated the concept in that way doesn't mean that justice is done to the concept. I know as a Christian that Christian concepts after all have been distorted themselves through bad doctrine to horrific results such as found in inquisitions and religious wars.

Of course BOH posted this piece on a Hindu concept and only as a tangent did I bring Karma up, but it was a criticism of Hinduism specifically.

I am not commited to these criticisms as aimed at Buddhism but I am commited to these criticisms as applied to Hinduism given the criticisms I made above. The caste system as I understand it was after all a source of one of Gautama's criticisms of Hinduism and the Hindu notion of karma and reincarnation is the essence of the caste system.

All that said, I don't want you to think that I have nothing but criticism. I do find potential fruitfulness in your description of the three generosities from the perspective of my own religious view.

Alice said...

@ Rob R:

Wow, thanks for the detailed reply! Didn't think you'd take the time to read all those words and then follow up so thoughtfully! :D

Here's the thing...I agree with you on a lot of points. I also have a feeling I may have misinterpreted some of what you meant in the comment - it happens in text-only contexts without reference point to tone. I especially appreciate your taking the time to clarify some of your points, and also for pointing out that most of your criticism was based specifically on Hinduism - which this post is about, really. So forgive me if I misunderstood you.

Now I don't have much to say since I don't know much about Hinduism, but you are right in that Buddhism rejects the caste system, and its notion of karma and reincarnation is different from Hinduism. For one, Buddhism completely splits with Hinduism in the concept of a "self" or "soul," and therefore the term "recincarnation" is not exactly correct when it comes to Buddhism - it's more technically called "rebirth" because there is no continuation of an enduring "self/soul" throughout lifetimes. Also, most suspect that Buddhism died out in India specifically because it rejected the predominant, fixed conventional systems of India's Brahmanic society, and specifically the caste system.

"If God is everything and hence if God is man and the holocaust is a product of man and if the distinction of good and evil is a product of man, then it stands to reason that the holocaust and good and evil are a product of God. " Yes, that's exactly what I was inferring. Agreed!

Regarding whether YHWH is the one that empowered the allies to defeat the Nazi's and will one day be the final judge of all is certainly your belief as a Christian, and I respect that, and no one can question it. And of course there are others that don't believe the same beliefs that you hold, and they're just as right too. "Belief" - it's a personal viewpoint, an opinion based on each one's own experience and reality. In that way, anyone's belief is kind of right (for the believer, anyway).

And that searing question of karma and its justification of victims and their suffering: Karma is very complex, and I personally don't have the vast knowledge to answer such questions to your satisfaction. I wonder if there is someone else here who can help us out? All I know is that karma affects more than just the individual, and is not a linear process. There's all kinds of interrelated, countless things that cause karma to ripen in such a way. If you're interested in some research, I can point to the right direction: please look up the "Twelve Nidanas" (Chain of Casuality, or Dependent Origination) - that's the explanation of karma, and how things come to be. Then there are the "Five Skandhas" which explain individual experience. Perhaps I don't have enough of a sophisticated mind, or just that I need to study them more, but I find them to twist my mind into a pretzel. :)

That reminds me, although I know it's not the view of all Christians, but some Christian sects believe that when children and infants die before they get a chance to accept Jesus Christ as their saviour, they are condemned to hell. This also applies to anyone who never had a chance to hear the gospel and accept Jesus. How is that justified? How can an all-loving God let that happen? Since they have one soul, and lost their one chance to find eternal salvation, is that their responsibility? I'm not asking for an answer, unless you want to answer it - your question just reminded me of this issue. I thought it was kind of in the same vein.

And please - I definitely don't think you have nothing but criticism. I thank you for your generosity in taking the time to respond to my comment. Also, I'm in the camp of questioning everything, so I'm glad there are folks like you who use their sharp minds to constantly question what it means to be here - whatever this is!

Big Bow,
Alice

Rob R said...

@ Alice

I disagree with the notion that beliefs are just personal and valid through individual consent for that person. In other words, I believe that people can be wrong in what they hold to be true. I believe not just that this is true for me but it is true period, that people in what they hold to are mistaken, deceived and just plain wrong.

I believe that we do have an interconnectedness as Buddhists suggest (though I don't know that I would commit to it that it is worked out in the way Buddhist suggest) and for that reason alone we should consider that people do have beliefs that are unhelpful and ultimately wrong and that through interconnectedness, I would say that it is true for me that for what is true for someone else is a deception or a mistake.

I would think that this was the way it was for Gautama and the accepted caste system of India. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that he believed the caste system was a mistake that was a barrier for many to enlightenment (insofar as they accepted and lived by the caste system and particularly if they were in the lower castes).

The notion that all our contrary beliefs are right for our own individual selves regardless of how those beliefs contradict the beliefs of other selves could stand in the way of social progress. The belief that whole groups of people are mistaken about something is a basis for introducing that which is more humane and better.



Regarding infant baptism, I believe that it was almost universally held in the church that unbaptized infants would go to hell if they died, but that is most likely a minority position even amongst conservative Christians today. I reject it as part and parcel with one of the greatest theological mistakes of western theology, and that is reprobation. Reprobation is the notion that before someone is born, or before they live a morally responsible life (infants are not morally responsible), their damnation is gauranteed. I almost lost my faith over this idea when I could not figure out how to understand certain biblical passages without coming to the conclusion of reprobation. It took a long time for me to study these scriptures and the concepts behind them, the intentions of the authors, the sociological and historical contexts of the texts before I saw that the interpretations of reprobation in the scriptures yielded to a superficiality and an absurdity of interpretation or an interpretation that was highly unlikely, or at the least, interpretations that were not necessary. I also came across an argument by an author who demonstrated that belief in reprobation is not compatible with hope and faith that fully follows the two greatest commandments as Jesus described them, to love God with all of one's being and to love one's neighbor as one's self.

With baptism, while it is scriptural that part of becoming a Christian involves baptism, it is to my knowledge never stated that those who are not baptized are damned (damnation by the way may mean eternal punishment, but it's also possible that the scriptures, as metaphorical as anything else, are actually just speaking of destruction and cessation of existence... Christian Apologist who has posted here is very adamant on this idea). Furthermore, there are exceptions to baptism for God's people which include the theif on the cross who wanted to be remembered by Christ and of coarse all of the Old Testament Saints.

While reprobation is usually the implication of the doctrine predestination (which is not necessarily the case as a very good case can be made that predestination is of the church and not of which individuals may and may not join the church) it is also the implication of the view that only those who hear the historical gospel and accept it or reject it can escape damnation since the historical gospel has not been universally available. But this too is a notion which biblically and theologically can be seriously challenged when considering such passages as the chapter of Acts 10 with attention to vs. 34 and Acts 17:16-34.

Now there is so much more on those topics but it was quite a bit of a tangent. To return to your question, Scripture does not directly address the eternal fate of children and infants, but a reasonable and general understanding is that the concern for our immortal souls is directed at the morally responsible which barely qualifies children (even ones who are at the age to be disciplined and rewarded are in sort of a moral incubation period preparing us for moral responsibility. Of course Jesus used children as the model for how we should initially approach God and he had very harsh words for anyone who would lead them astray.



Thank you for the recomendation of looking into the 12 Nidanas and 5 Skandhas. I took a peek at the wikipedia entry on the first and it's a bit over my head, but I have my life to look over these sorts of things and will continue to do so. Right now though, my interests are focussed elsewhere, and currently, that is in some of the historical approaches of understanding Jesus.

Alice said...

Hi Rob R,

"'Belief' - it's a personal viewpoint, an opinion based on each one's own experience and reality. In that way, anyone's belief is kind of right (for the believer, anyway)." Notice that I never said that it was objectively right or wrong - and what does that mean anyway? I merely meant that whatever one believes is his reality, and that is his 'truth' whether others deem it mistaken or wrong. Also notice that people's beliefs can change over time, based on how they process new experiences. Beliefs cannot be said to be solid and permanent and unchanging, but susceptible to change with the changes in one's experience.

As you may already know, in the Buddhist view, there is no distinct 'right' vs 'wrong.' It's more in the flavor of 'skillful' vs 'unskillful,' or 'what causes harm/suffering' vs 'what doesn't cause harm/suffering.' As you said yourself, that is because of our very interconnectedness. So when Gautama rejected the caste system, he rejected it because it was an unskillful system that caused harm/suffering - inequality, degradation, elitism, etc. Another example would be a Jihadist suicide bomber who completely accepts his beliefs and actions to be right and true - Buddhism would denounce that as wrong view because of the harm/suffering it inflicts on 1) the suicide bomber himself 2) all the others he will harm along with him 3) the friends, family and relatives, etc. of the bomber and victims 4) the present and future - the children who would grow up without a father who was a victim, etc. So the moral compass is not so much it being good or bad, right or wrong, in an absolute sense, but on whether something is helpful or unhelpful in each given situation. For instance, it is considered acceptable in Buddhism to kill or lie if it means the act is a small price to pay for keeping many from harms way. An example would be killing that Jihadist bomber so that dozens, hundreds would not be harmed. Something like that.

You say "I 'believe' that people can be wrong in what they hold to be true." Yes, as I just mentioned, that may be true, but again, one needs to be careful to see clearly whether one's belief that others' views are right or wrong doesn't itself come from one's own (possibly erroneous) belief.

I didn't mention baptism, but thanks for the info. My question was: if someone, whether babies or adults, who didn't have a chance to know and accept Jesus as their personal saviour - if they would go to hell. The thief on the cross did accept Jesus and that's why he was "saved." And what about people like me, who was baptized and had lived as a Christian for over 30 years, and then changed my mind? As a Buddhist, I have never felt more at peace and joyful, and as a result, I have been able to treat others (and beings & non-beings too) with far more respect and openness that I had ever been as a Christian. I can also say that I have definitely created less harm in general than I had in my Christian days - but perhaps I was just a "bad" Christian. So does that count for anything? Or am I doomed? Is it better to be a "bad" Christian who did horrible deeds with no merit other than accepting Jesus, than be a non-Christian who lives a life of only virtue and goodness (I'm definetly not referring to me here :))? Will the former still make it to heaven and the latter, to eternal damnation? That's what I have been told all my life.

This is the reason why I said in my first comment to you about Christianity and Buddhism (or any other religion) - that which comes from two very disparate views cannot be compared with one another from it's own vantage point. I did not say that it can't be compared at all - just not from the "viewpoint" of each religion. Christianity is based on eternalism, an individual 'self' or 'soul', and a need to gain salvation for our original sin. Buddhism is based on neither eternalism or nihilism, an absence of an individual, permanent 'self' or 'soul', and a view that we are inherently stainless (possess Buddha-Nature, Christ-Nature, etc) - that we can uncover our own stainlessness on our own without an external saviour. Just from these three foundations, the conversation will never stop, because they cannot be reconciled from each respective end.

I thoroughly enjoyed our back and forth, but I have a feeling that our conversation can go on for a long time, and possibly in circles. All I would like to say is, I find Buddhism to be true enough for me, and very helpful on how I live my life. I have no problem with anyone else who have found the same from a different philosopy/religion. I'm very comfortable with others believing what they do, and I am very comfortable that you believe what you do. I have nothing to defend and I have no basis for criticizing others. As long as your belief brings you peace and harmony with yourself and the world, that is good enough. Thanks for all your useful information, and I enjoyed exchanging our thoughts. But I need to move on...got work to do!

Peace to you.