Zensible

Because Zen makes sense

Archive for the category “religion”

A Note About Religion and Ideas

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What initiated this little note, was a comment from smilecalm on my last post about how ideas often become constrained into religion, and how that creates a basis for both power and financial benefits. Let me cite: “Jesus, Buddha and other enlightened ones had such beautiful teachings. if only there was a way for our minds to understand, freely thinking without being caught in the dogma of religions, economics and right and wrongs.” Wise words, and my post suggested something of the same. But if it was not for the religion, not for those who used those teachings for their own benefit in one way or another, would those teachings survived for us to read?

Back in 2011 I wrote on another blog, in Norwegian, about how teachings sort of became religions. Moses was in power, and that probably is the reason why we today know the ten commandments. Without those commandments being put into a strong religious frame, would we in 2013 still have knowledge about them? Would we still know about the teachings of Jesus if he was not born into a political setting that facilitated his ideas, ideas that led to the formation of Christianity as a religion? Probably we would not have any profound knowledge of the ideas behind Islam if Mohammed had not ended up in a political and economic position where he could transform his teachings into religion. And after the death of Buddha, what would we have known about his teachings unless some monks not had gathered and taken care of his teaching, transforming them into a platform for Buddhism?

We are often critical to dogmas, to religious teachings, to the way religions limits both the freedom of thoughts and the lives of people. But on the other side, we shall appreciate religions as carriers of teachings that possibly otherwise would have been lost. I just thought I’d like to mention this to be fair in my criticism.

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Capitalizing on Ideas

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This has been an unusual Christmas here in Norway, with rain and storms instead of snow and cold. But while I am sitting here, listening to the wind outside, I get the opportunity to reflect upon the way people so often try to capitalize upon ideas and the free thoughts. I have nothing against that as such, but when they become dogmatic in the way that the monopolize what should have been free for everyone, I get annoyed.

First I went to a seminar regarding Open Space Technology, a way of stimulating creative processes in organisations. Harrison Owens, the creator of the method, is an open-minded man, suggesting that we just put his ideas into action, which I have done for some time. I do it my way.

On the seminar the lecturers presented their own way of doing Open Space, and they had trademarked their concept. That’s OK, because they also mentioned the possibility of doing this different, according to the original ideas from Harrison Owens. Of course they strongly¬† promoted their own views, as expected when they believed this was the best. But they were basically also open-minded.

What happened though, was that those participants who was unknown to this method before joining the seminar, almost got a religious experience. And when I asked them if it was possible to to this in another way, using the mist important elements, but not all, they signaled that this was almost blasphemy. Someone had capitalized on a free thought, and they immediately got their own congregation. Not to provoke, I then named our way of doing this different from Open Space, but I got the feeling that even this made me an apostate. And I could observe how a religion developed on the basis of free ideas, and I could feel how the freedom at once became restricted.

That was the first episode. The second happened during Christmas, when a woman asked me about my meditation, and if I combined that with mindfulness. When I confirmed that combination, she told me that this was not acceptable. She used to meditate herself, doing ACEM meditation. And one if the founders of the ACEM method, who himself has really capitalized this, had told her that being mindful would destroy her meditation. So she had decided to avoid mindfulness to benefit from her ACEM meditation. Are Holen had told her so. He had also told her that to meditate on her own was of less use than meditating in an organized ACEM setting, which, if course, again make this even more profitable for the founders. And she strongly believed him.

I am not sure whether this was indeed what he ment, but I know for sure that ACEM is “big business”, and by monopolizing meditation, creating a congregation, this would at least not harm their business. They had got their believers, and they are willing to pay for it, both with money, and with their freedom of thought. The best way to capitalize a free idea, is to create a religion.

The Funeral

This Friday I went to a funeral. The lady who had passed away, was a Lady in all aspects, kind, humorous, compassionate, observant, helpful, empathic, and lovable. She was old, so death was no surprise. But she was that kind of woman who had energy like she could live forever.

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And that was what all believed, and expressed today. She died, but only to live forever in Heaven. So death was not extinction, it was only a transformation to an eternal life together with God. The speeches, the songs, the readings from the Bible, all underlined this strong belief in a personal God, welcoming the good lady. For good she was, indeed.

I once use to believe in the same God, in Jahve. I once considered myself being a Christian. And I once found comfort in the thought of a personal God taking care of me in my life. And it was all good, because I really needed God in my life to face my living. And during this funeral I had no problems with identifying the need for a personal God, for Heaven, for salvation, and for religion. And when death meets us, the need is felt stronger than ever.

But I sat there, thinking about what they were saying, what the really believed in. And I asked myself if it is possible to have such a faith. Yes, I know it is possible, because I once myself believed. But I don’t anymore believe in a personal and protecting God. I can’t for sure He is not there, so I am no atheist. Rather I am an agnostic, because I find rejecting God is as much a fault as believe in Him. The question of God is beyond what we actually can know for sure.

While the others believed, I felt myself sort of standing outside, looking into a world in which I did not belong. I felt like a stranger, although I was accepted and incorporated like anyone else. And I got a good feeling watching how the others found comfort from their sorrow when they turned to God in prayer. It would have been most inappropriate for me to demonstrate my doubts. So I just watched, and felt the atmosphere, in a mindful way, wishing them all the best.

I know that Darwin never could accept his loss of faith in God. He was bothered by this all his life, and perhaps that was one of the reasons for his assumed depressive episodes. I know how he felt, because I sometimes miss my religion as well. But I am unable to have faith in something I actually do not believe in. So I have to concentrate on my life here and now, and let the questions which I can never answer for sure just continue be without an answer. Perhaps I shall know one day, but for now I don’t know. That is a fact I have to contemplate and ultimately accept.

Men come forth and live, they enter (again) and die. (Tao Te Ching, Chapter 50. Translation Legge)

All those reflections

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When I went for a walk with an old camera today, in a Norway with diminishing hours of daylight, I became aware of these reflections in a window. I stood in the shadows watching the houses upon the sunny hills, as they were mirrored and framed in this window.

The finger that points to the moon is not the moon. 

(Buddhist quote)

I could turn around, and actually watch the hills, the houses, the sunshine. That was all real. In the window it seemed real, but was nothing more than reflections. If I did not know better, I could have substituted the reality with the reflections. That sounds ridiculous.

Still, that is what I think we often do. We confuse reality with its mirrored image, and act like that what we then experience is both the truth and the only possible reality. Awareness is the opposite. Awareness is to not be fooled by what we see in the mirror, but instead to grasp the reality behind the reflections. While awareness is the endpoint, mindfulness is the way.

For now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, as I am fully known.

(1. Corinthians 13.12)

Because behind the reality, there is another reality. And behind that one, yet another….

By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.
Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery.

Yet mystery and reality
emerge from the same source.
This source is called darkness

Darkness born from darkness.
The beginning of all understanding.

(Tao Te Ching, translation: McDonald)

Taoist-Buddhist-Confucian

grenerSince Taoism, Buddhism and Confucionism is so interrelated, and still quite different, it is sometimes hard to sort of draw the borders between them. And it is for some even more difficult to define themselves in this mingle of thoughts, philosophies and religions.

I came across a very thoughtful article about the topic. The main point is that the Easternes, opposite to our western concept of religion, not are restricted to follow only one. And the second important point in the article is that humans are multidimensional, and that our lives are lived in different domains. So when Buddhism offers peace of mind, Taoism offers a more bodily approach in a natural framework, and Confucianism offers a framework for the organisation of our social and occupational lives.

So why choose, if all of the thought-systems can be of benefit? Then the guidance of our lives would be more like it is expressed in the Wayism.

The article is anyway well worth reading.

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