Update on the Buddhist Update: Hard work…

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Now the last thing I expected when I ‘finally got serious about Buddhism’ a few years ago was that there were people still decidedly attached to the three-in-one concept of rebirth-past lives-retributive karma, to the extent that without it Buddhism was simply not functional, and would never survive. Others of us, on the other hand, think that WITH it it’s simply not functional and will never survive…

But Buddhism is just like any other religion derived from the remote past, bedraggled with the baggage of preceding generations, and left to fend for itself against the challenges of the future. So many self-described atheists would simply prefer to call the whole thing off, while at the same time affirming their own belief systems—whether secular humanism, democracy, socialism, but mostly materialism—without seeing the slightest bit of irony, even if they prefer to ignore the logical inconsistencies…

For better or worse, there is no guidebook on how to modernize religion. Our species is just too young, and our civilization even much much younger, so we are of necessity just making this up as we go along, with few rules or regulations other than the avoidance of pain and the attraction to pleasure…

So when someone says or implies that ‘you can’t just pick and choose’ what you want from a religion, I typically respond: “Why not?” Unless you literally believe that religious beliefs are divinely transmitted, from beyond this dimension to the current here-and-now, then not only CAN we do that, we MUST do that…

In a belief system, sometimes the system is more important than the beliefs…

And that’s the way it’s always been done. It’s just that most of that was so long ago, in human terms, that we’ve forgotten the details (and many conspiracy theorists make livelihoods by denying much of those past details). So from Judaism came Christianity and later Islam, same opening chapters in all of them, but vastly different endings (and only slight differences in names). Yet there are still similarities to them all, as well, specifically: the creator God, Jehovah, Yahweh, Allah, whatever…

So yes, the devil is in the details, and so is the God. And the fact that any or all gods may be self-created is not to accept an atheistic position, not at all, not necessarily. If not accepting a creator god, up there, and out there, dyaus pita, sky father, makes me an atheist, in someone’s view, then so be it, but I don’t think so, and I won’t cop to it…

Such father-like God-heads obviously derive from a previous worship of the sun, and there’s nothing illogical, or wrong, about that, even if I personally prefer the earth mother, prithvi mata, alone together with a pot of herb tea, and a good chick flick, my own chubby Venus figurine, symbol of fertility and abundance, in a world that is definitely lacking…

It’s just an honest acceptance of the fact that there is no knowledge ‘from above’, and not always even from ‘out there’, but very often from ‘in here’ on a personal level or ‘in there’ from the level of mass subconscious. To acknowledge that doesn’t necessarily make it any less real, but only to acknowledge the subjective nature of reality, whether or not that is equivalent to ‘indeterminacy’ or ‘uncertainty’…

Christianity 1, Buddhism 1

Of course the Christians are way ahead on this modernizing business, what with the current pope taking a decidedly modern stance toward Heaven and Hell, so the walls are starting to crumble. But still Christianity is an alcohol-based religion of passion and aggression, so unacceptable for many of us, myself included…

But for better or worse, we Buddhists have no pope, so the Dalai Lama is usually considered the next best thing, which is unfortunate, since his brand of Tibetan-Vajrayana Buddhism is farthest from the original Buddhism of the Buddha, removed some 1000 years in time if not space, and at least half-Hindu by any measure. That means suffering caused not by craving, but by ‘non-virtuous karma’. That means samskara not defined as ‘mental formations’ but ‘karmic formations’. I prefer Christian forgiveness frankly…

But most importantly: that means a double-blind predestination in which the rape of a young girl is seen as the result of bad actions in a previous life—ouch (true story)! Now HHDL is a fine person, but he does not represent me as a Buddhist. Thich Nhat Hanh might be a better choice, but it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that a stripped-down one-life one-world version of Buddhism is not only acceptable, but recommended. Maybe then the various ‘schools’ can come together through their highest common denominators…

But I’m not too concerned about converting a few hard-core traditional Buddhists to my brand of no-rebirth this-life this-world Buddhism from their Triple Gem of rebirth and past lives and karmic retribution, guaranteed to make you miserable for the rest of those lives. I’m trying to convert Christians, and atheists. But at least Christians let you sinners start all over again, any time you want, and that’s preferable to some generation-jumping karma, like a monkey on your back, following you around and keeping score…

But most of all I love science, and there should be no conflict with religion. So there’s no place for rebirth and past lives there, and maybe just a this-life karma ‘lite’ similar to the Golden Rule. So for all you old-school Buddhists obsessed with ‘cyclic existence’, I’ve got good news: you’re free to go now, i.e. you’re liberated. There is no wheel, or no proof of one, anyway. And that’s the bottom line. We just don’t know about the fundamental and final disposition of our pathetic little lives on this wild and wacky planet. Let it go…