Christianity

Pat Robertson on Buddhism as a “disease”

Christian Broadcasting Network host Pat Robertson suggested to viewers on Monday that Buddhism was like a “disease” and that a Christian could get “infected” if their coworkers practiced it.

“I work in an environment where all of my coworkers are Buddhists,” a viewer named Tina explained in an email. “They talk about Buddhism all day long and try to preach to me. It didn’t matter much to be before, but since I recommitted myself to Jesus a year ago, it has started to bother me a lot.”

Robertson replied by noting that “healthy” people might not contract a “mild contagion.”

“But if you put yourself in the middle of a hospital ward where everybody has the disease except you, sooner or later, you will be infected by it,” the TV preacher warned. “If you’re in the middle of hundreds and hundreds of people who believe that way, you’ve got an uphill fight.”

“And I think your best thing at that point is to withdraw with dignity,” Robertson said. “Get out of that environment because they’re going to get to you before you get to them.”

Tina notes in her email that she’s trying to convert her Buddhist colleagues, but that she gets “offended” by their responses, and that when she “argues” with them they get offended.

Robertson’s analogy is rather offensive, but his advice—that this woman is in the wrong work environment—may be sound, given that there’s so much “being offended” going on.

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“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” — St. Julian of Norwich

This was revealed to St. Julian by Jesus in a vision, and recorded by her in her Revelations of Divine Love: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” These words have been of great comfort to me in times of stress and anxiety.

Meditation practice can reduce, but doesn’t erase, anxiety. In fact meditating makes us more sensitive to what’s going on within us, both emotionally and physically. When we meditate we feel more. Meditating can also lead to us being more present with those feelings, so rather than than avoid or bury them we experience them full-on. In these ways, meditation can cause our anxiety to be stronger!

If this sounds like bad news, it should be balanced by the fact that meditation also gives us the ability to stand back from our anxiety and to befriend it, so that it becomes less threatening and is less likely to lead to worry.

(What’s the difference between anxiety and worry? I see anxiety as being an initial unpleasant feeling in the body, produced by parts of the brain that are not accessible to conscious awareness. Worry, on the other hand, is where the mind responds to this initial unpleasant feeling with a succession of “what if” thoughts, that again and again turn toward what we’re anxious about, and in doing so intensify our anxiety.)

Also see:

Sometimes I can be with my anxiety mindfully. I can accept it. I can recognize that I don’t have to turn it into worry. And to prevent my mind getting caught up in worrying thoughts, I can keep myself grounded in my experience of the body. I can especially be aware of sensations low down in the body, like the movements of the belly or sensations of contact with the ground, my seat, or whatever else is physically supporting me. I can relax the physical tension that accompanies anxiety and worry by really letting go on the out-breath. I can offer my anxiety (or the anxious part of my mind) reassurance and kindness. I can say to it, “May you be well; may you be happy; may you be at peace.” The point here is not to make the anxiety go away, but to be a compassionate presence for it while it’s in existence.

But there are times when I turn to those words of St. Julian (or of Jesus, depending on your perspective).

One thing they remind me of is that all things pass. I’ve had intense worries in the past. I remember one time being in utter despair because of financial problems (although really those fears were more to do with concern that I wouldn’t get support from others). I even had some suicidal thoughts, although I knew I had no intention of following through on them. But where are those particular financial problems now? The debt I was struggling with at that time has just gone. (I may have new debts, but they are new, and not a continuation of the same problem I had before.) Where is the isolation that I feared before? That’s gone too. Where is the anxiety I experienced in the past? It’s no more than a memory, and not even a very vivid one. I can recall feeling despair, but in recollecting it I feel compassion for my old self rather than falling into despondent once again. The past is gone. Memories are just thoughts. They’re like dreams or mirages.

So even though there are things going on in my life right now that prompt anxiety to arise — health concerns, housing concerns, financial concerns — I know that from the perspective of my future self they too are going to have a dream-like or mirage-like quality. And so I can remind myself, “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Julian had been concerned with the question of sin: why did God allow it, since if he hadn’t then all would have been well from the beginning. The reason is to do with sin, pain, and faith. Sin, she tells us, is another kind of mirage: “I saw not sin: for I believe it hath no manner of substance nor no part of being.” She did believe that the experience of pain was real, however, even if it was impermanent. “Nor could sin be known but by the pain it is cause of. And thus pain, it is something, as to my sight, for a time.”

The value of pain, in Julian’s view, was that it could cause faith to arise. It causes us to reach out to God. Had we not had sin, and therefore not had pain, then we would, in some sense, have been god-like. And so God allowed sin.

Buddhism doesn’t use the word “sin,” but it does say that our pain is caused by spiritual ignorance. And one key manifestation of this ignorance is that we see things that “hath no manner of substance” as being real and substantial. And as in Julian’s view, it is pain (dukkha) that impels us to seek happiness and peace — that drives us toward awakening.

Julian’s view of “sin” was quite remarkable, and it would be misleading not to point out her belief that because God allowed sin to exist, he therefore shows no blame to any who shall be saved. We don’t, after all, choose to have spiritual ignorance, or to be born with sin.

To Julian, “all shall be well” because we’ll find God in heaven. To me, “all shall be well” not just because pain will pass, but because we’ll awaken to the nature of reality, and will see that pain itself (such as the pain of anxiety) “hath no manner of substance.”

Anxiety isn’t just dream-like or mirage-like when we look back on it from the future. It has those illusory qualities right now, whether we see that or not. Right now, when we look closely at our anxiety, we’ll see that it’s not really there. It’s just patterns of sensation in space. When we can see our experience in that way, then “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

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ACLU sues Bible Belt school for allegedly bullying Buddhist student

wildmind meditation news

Carol Kuruvilla, New York Daily News: Scott and Sharon Lane say a teacher at Negreet High School belittled their Buddhist son and told him his religion was ‘stupid.’ The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the Sabine Parish School Board on the Lanes’ behalf.

For one sixth-grader, it’s no fun being Buddhist in the Bible Belt.

A Louisiana couple is claiming faculty and students at Negreet High School bullied their Buddhist son so badly that he became physically sick every morning before going to class.

Sharon and Scott Lane are suing the Sabine Parish School board for religious harassment and

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Buddhism, Christianity share goals: Dalai Lama

globalpost: The Dalai Lama told Mexicans on Saturday that Christianity and Buddhism coincide in their pursuit of human happiness.

Both religions promote “love, compassion and self-discipline” that lead to happiness, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader told some 3,000 people.

More than 90 percent of Mexico’s 118 million people are Catholic.

With his usual smile and good humor, the Dalai Lama said that for decades, Christian leaders have been interested in some Buddhist teachings.

Christianity promotes the concept of a transcendent and unique God as creator, while Buddhism refutes the existence of a creator.

The Dalai Lama’s trip, which began Friday, marks his fourth to Mexico…

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Innate purity versus original sin (Day 69)

eveOne of my favorite lines in a movie is where a Freudian analyst (complete with thick Viennese accent) asks a man about his childhood.

“I had a normal childhood,” the man replies.

“Ah, so you vanted to kill your fazzer and sleep with your muzzer!” the analyst declares.

I sometimes wonder if Sigmund Freud was an incarnation of Mara, the Buddhist personification of doubt. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have had experiences of happiness undermined because they suspect that they must be repressing something, somehow believing that happiness must be delusional. And many people carry around the notion that there is something fearful and unknown (incest! death wish! penis envy!) lurking inside them, unseen because repressed. The fact that you can’t see these things just shows how deeply repressed they are.

And people often assume that this repressed nastiness is more real and authentically them, than anything else, including their compassion and wisdom; we’re inherently bad, and our goodness is superficial.

This may or may not be what Freud taught, but it’s the way his teachings seem to have been popularly understood.

And this reinforces the Christian idea, dating back to the second century, of original sin, where we inherit Adam’s sin of eating of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. We inherit sin, so that by nature we are sinful. St. Augustine believed that unbaptized infants go to hell as a consequence of this inherited original sin. Even a newborn child — often taken as a symbol of innocence, can be seen as inherently evil.

So there’s this tendency to see human beings as inherently selfish and bad. This view isn’t one that Buddhism shares, and the concept of original sin is one that hinders our practice.

100 Days of LovingkindnessSome Buddhist schools teach that we are actually inherently pure, and that the mind is merely contaminated by greed, hatred, and delusion. This doesn’t mean that at some time in the past our minds were pure and that they picked up these contaminants. Buddhism sees these “origins” questions as irrelevant and based on an unhelpful craving for certainty. What’s important is that this view of our inherent purity makes sense practically.

Let’s say you had a jar of water mixed with dirt, that had just been shaken vigorously. What you see is a turbid slurry of swirling mud. But leave the jar undisturbed, and what happens? First, the water stops moving. Then, gradually, the mud begins to settle out. And what are you left with? Clear water.

The mud was not an inherent part of the water. And so the water and the mud were separable. The inherent clarity of the water is revealed in stillness.

And it’s like this with the mind as well. Sit quietly, and the mind starts to settle. Sure, you keep having thoughts coming up that stir the waters of the mind once again, but keep on sitting, again and again, and you find that those thoughts come up less often. And you find that simply by letting go of thinking, and allowing the mind to settle, you become happier, kinder, more compassionate, and wiser. Joy, compassion, and wisdom are the natural qualities of the mind, and they are revealed by stillness.

So in this way, practically speaking, the mind is inherently pure. And for those of us brought up in a culture that emphasizes original sin, the idea of “original purity” is enormously liberating. It’s liberating on a personal level to be able to let go of this idea that we’re essentially bad. It’s hard to feel good about yourself when you have an assumption that you’re inherently evil. And it’s liberating to be able to think of others as being the same.

Of course the muddy water illustration is just a metaphor, and it breaks down at a certain level. Practice is not just about letting the unskillful fall away, it’s also about cultivating, strengthening, and maintaining the skillful. Joy, compassion, and wisdom are the natural qualities of the mind, but we need to give attention to those qualities and develop them. The water analogy is faulty because the water purifies itself naturally by sedimentation, and once that sedimentation has taken place you can’t make the water any more pure. But with the mind, the sedimentation approach can only take us so far. Sure, sit long enough just being mindful, and your mind will become more joyful, wiser, and kinder. But only to a point. We need to actively cultivate those qualities.

And this is why we have the metta (lovingkindness), karuna (compassion), and mudita (joyful appreciation) practices that we’ve been focusing on for the last two months.

These reflections on human nature are particularly apropos when we’re cultivating joyful appreciation, or mudita, which is a practice that’s about appreciating the good that’s in people. The concept of original sin suggests that goodness is superficial and may be entirely absent in a “bad” person. The concept of innate purity suggests that goodness is there, waiting to be revealed.

PS. You can see all our 100 Days of Lovingkindness Posts here.

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Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman calls for an end to the Norquist tax pledge

Robert Thurman

In this short talk, Professor Robert Thurman of Columbia University highlights the contradiction involved in congresspeople taking the oath of allegiance to the US Constitution and also pledging never, under any circumstances, to raise taxes. Further, he argues that the desire of Grover Norquist, who started this pledge, to shrink government to the size that it can be “drowned in a bathtub” is anarchistic and profoundly unconstitutional: in effect an act of sedition or treason.

The core of the sedition argument is that the oath of office says:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter.

Congress members, he argues, who take an oath to an outside organization — an oath moreover that could compromise the intent of the constitution, which includes “to provide for the common defence” and to “promote the general welfare” — cannot say they have taken their oath “without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”

Thurman hopes that this meme will spread and take root on The Daily Show and other popular outlets. The video’s been out for a while, though, and although it’s garnered some attention the YouTube video has only had about 18,000 views so far. The virality of the attempted meme is probably undercut by the length of the video (almost 12 minutes), and the fact that the professor takes his time making his point.

2023 update: the original video is now no longer on YouTube, but here’s a transcript.

Hi, I’m Bob Thurman. I’m making this short video because I want to start a meme about those people in our government who refuse to cooperate with the president and with the more practical and pragmatic senators and congress persons of the five hundred and thirty eight people serving us at the top levels of the congress and the executive branch.

There are some who are not fulfilling their vow of office, their oath of office. Their oath of office says that “I hereby swear solemnly swear to support the U.S. constitution and I do so freely, of my own free will, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”

“So help me god,” they throw in there. And the president takes a similar one.

And what that means is that once they’re elected to office that they have pledged to serve the government, which is what is created by the U.S. constitution. And the government’s job is to serve the people of the United States.

And so the kind of radical positions they might take when they are in election mode, you know, before they take their oath of office: they [say] you know, I will never do this, and I’ll never compromise that, and these kind of extreme statements that they make — once they take the oath of office they cannot cling radically and uncompromisingly to those positions or the government will not function and will not serve the need of the people.

And there are almost like ninety five percent of the congressmen and Republican senators have sworn a written oath to someone called Grover Norquist, and an organization called “Americans for Tax Reform,” that they will under no circumstances, and for no reason, raise taxes of any kind on anyone. And therefore they have taken an oath to an outside organization which was not supported by the U.S. constitution, which gives congress the right to levy taxes to do the work of the people through the government.

But this is a non-governmental organization! It is not elected by anybody. It is supported by big money people who are making money by not having to pay taxes. And these people have signed a sworn oath that contradicts their oath of office.

And therefore in fact they do have mental reservation.

And they do have purpose of evasion.

And they are not sincerely taking their oath of office.

And if they persist in that, and if they are held to that pledge by this outside person, who is not a member of the government, then they are in fact breaking their oath of office, and they are not serving what they swore to serve – the American people.

And people, even the sort of the people on the left so-called, critical, liberal people, so-called, who’re criticizing what they call right-wing people — it’s not a matter of right wing or left wing actually, it’s a matter of whether they take seriously the role of being a loyal opposition if they didn’t happen to win the last election — their party, but between elections they have to be loyal opposition which means serve the government.

So i want this – the seriousness of this blackmailing of the government that they are doing, to be out there in people’s minds. That’s the meme I want to start.

I want people to really see that, because everybody wants to be polite. And you know I’m a liberal. I want to be polite. And I’m trying to be polite. But this is a really serious thing that is going on, which is paralyzing our government and causing tremendous loss to us at a time when many people are unemployed, many people are below the poverty line. And the government is there to help those people. That’s what the U.S. constitution asks.

When the supreme court oath is taken, by the way, they make specific in that oath: it says without regard to rich or poor, because I will not favor the rich against the poor in my decisions as a judge. And that leaves some thought about the way they’re executing their duty.

But I’m only talking now about the congress people particularly, and the senators: senators and congress persons.

Furthermore, Americans for Tax Reform openly states that their job is not simply a matter of trimming taxes and leaving the government functioning. The head of that organization, Mister Grover Norquist, has publicly stated – proudly stated — that he wants to “starve the beast”: referring to the government as “the beast.” And so when it’s weakened by starvation, he can then drown it in a bathtub, he says.

So that means that … the people taking the oath … the oath that he is administering is an oath taken with a purpose of destroying the U.S government. It’s a kind of anarchist proposition. It’s a pretense that the government is completely useless and should be destroyed. Therefore, it is actually a kind of seditious oath, treasonous oath. People who take that oath cannot actually serve in the government with a good conscience, because their real role is to act as a mole and to destroy the government. They are “starving the beast.”

And the expression “the beast,” I must say, this appeals to people who are religious people, who take the Book of Revelations seriously in the Christian Bible. And by taking that seriously, “the beast” refers to Satan, to the beast, the 666, the demon. So it’s a very negative way of depicting the U.S. government, which is enacting the provisions of the U.S. constitution.

So this is a very serious conflict of interest that these people have, so, when President Obama and house minority leader Nancy Pelosi, and any moderate Republicans, and hopefully speaker John Boehner who wants to see the government work, who realizes it’s in his own, not in his own interests not to see it work (and I’m of course not sure whether he signed that pledge or not, but I’m afraid he might have) when he is told by the the caucus of the extreme members in the House that they can’t compromise and they can’t make a grand bargain because they have sworn an oath never to raise any taxes on anybody, then the people of the United States, you people listening to this, and me, should rise up through the internet or through our – we will not be electing … through impeachment, urging for impeachment, because this means that they are favoring their oath to the Americans for Tax Reform, a signed formal solemn oath, over their formal solemn oath sworn to the U.S. constitution, on the Bible they believe is is the holy book, the one Hindu congress person on the Bhagavadgita, which I think its a wonderful thing about our country — our pluralism.

And so therefore that is grounds for their impeachment, actually, and I want them to know that this is in our minds, that they are deserving impeachment. If they block the grand bargain that we need, for example the debt ceiling, they cost us billions of dollars, by blackmailing the president and the more moderate members of congress that they would never raise the debt ceiling unless whatever they want is enacted, which when you don’t raise it you lose your credit rating and then we pay more interest on debt we have, and therefore we lose billions of dollars. With their supposed deficit-reduction attitude they’re costing us billions of dollars. So that shows they are not sincere about deficit reduction, but actually trying to destroy our government — enacting an anarchic, an anarchists program rather than upholding the U.S constitution which is not an anarchist document.

So this is the meme I want to convey, and i hope it will spread.

And I will say it again and again. I’ll make more videos. I’ll try to get on Jon Stewart, and Bill Maher, and … Hell! I don’t need to get on! They can repeat it! I just want this meme to go out there so that people begin to take it more seriously, what is happening to our government — that people whose underlying reasoning is to destroy our government are actually with mental reservation and purpose of evasion that they swear they don’t have, they are taking their offices. And therefore they are unfit for their offices, if they persist.

So what I recommend to them is that in a single body they all renounce, publicly, their oath to the Americans for Tax Reform, they reassure poor Grover Norquist that they intend to moderate taxes and to remove waste in government and to do a good job making the government lean and efficient. But they cannot take that oath. They must renounce that oath in order to retake their oath of office, sincerely, without mental reservation, and without purpose of evasion, which is what they must do to be reinstated in our good graces as the people of the United States, of whom they are the employees.

Remember, even dear old Clint Eastwood while talking to the chair said that the people of the United States own the government, and the people who are paid salaries by the government serve the government and serve the constitution. They do not serve some sort of NGO thing, Americans for Tax Reform, that wants to destroy the government. They serve us the people. And we need a government to do some things that we need. We don’t just need them to be broken by these infiltrators.

Okay, so this is the meme. And it’s loving. I’m not against a single one of those persons individually. I really like the idea of the Tea Party. We have to remember the tea party was against the British Empire, and against the British East India Corporation. It wasn’t against the local government of the United States, which is helping people with their services, their roads and their sewage and their whatever it is. It wasn’t against them. It was against the British East India Company and the British Empire, to liberate the American government that was then created by the people who who did the tea party.

So let’s try to remember that the real tea party is against monied interests and against ruthless corporations and imperialist behavior on the part of the 0.01 percent. It is not against the U.S. government … not, not being a proper tea party; it has no right to the name Tea Party if it is against the U.S. government.

Thank you very much. And i hope you can repeat this to your friends. Make your own videos if you think I didn’t do it right.

Let’s see this spread in a viral way, democratically. Thank you very much.

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Christian Meditation sidesteps ego for cosmos

Matt Gardner, Prince Albert Daily Herald: The idea of Christian Meditation might seem firmly rooted in traditional, even archaic, notions of spirituality and healing. But looks can be deceiving.

Facilitating an introductory session on the topic Tuesday evening at the John M. Cuelenaere Public Library, retired teacher/librarian Sheila Soulier used the technological advances of modern science to illustrate the benefits of meditation.

“They’ve put (people) in MRIs and discovered they can watch what’s happening in your brain while you’re meditating,” Soulier said. “So while you’re meditating, the part of your brain that … controls this whole ego thing relaxes and the part of …

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Archbishop of Canterbury: meditation is the key to living in this insane world

John Bingham, The Telegraph: Dr Rowan Williams said people in the modern world were struggling with “chaotic” emotions as a result of living in an “insane” consumerist society driven by advertising and the banking system.

He called for a revival of centuries-old monastic traditions to help people become “properly human”.

His call came during an important address to the Pope and the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church from around the world at the Vatican last night.

Benedict XVI invited Dr Williams, as leader of the Anglican Communion, as well as the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, to address the Synod of Bishops …

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British priest bans ‘spiritual’ yoga from church hall

USA Today: A British priest has banned yoga from the parish hall because it is “a Hindu spiritual exercise” and therefore “not compatible” with Catholicism, according to news reports from the kingdom.

Cori Withell told The Mirror that with just 10 days remaining in the two-month instruction, St. Edmund’s Church in Southampton canceled her yoga and Pilates classes. She said a parish secretary explained that the hall must be used only for Catholic activities.

The decision to ban yoga or other non-Catholic activities rests with individual priests and is not official Catholic Church policy, the diocese said.

St. Edmund’s priest, Father John Chandler, and …

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Jesus meditating

Somewhere on the web I came across this interesting rendition of Jesus sitting in meditation posture.

I’m normally turned off by modern pictures of Christ, either because of the crucifixion aspect, or the general sappy vibe that a lot of them have, but I rather like this.

***

Update: Thanks to Steven (see below) I now know that this image comes from the Old Temple of the Vedanta Society of Northern California.

According to Vedanta Press:

The story goes that Sw. Trigunatita had a dream or vision of Jesus Christ and asked one of his disciples to paint it according to the scene he remembered. The result is a classic painting of value not only to those who see a synthesis of spirit with Christ and the East, but to the Christian community as a whole.

It’s very typical of Hinduism to try to co-opt figures from other religious traditions. They’ve done this with the Buddha, who they claim was an avatar of Vishnu, although of course the Buddha did not see himself as being the avatar of any deity.

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