Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism’

My theory and many others on why religion was created is because the fear of death and the unknown. Ever since man developed complex emotions, and were then confronted with the realization of death and the knowledge of what a hardship is; they needed to construct something that would ease their fears and give them peace of mind in a chaotic world. These forefathers of religion created sun gods and moon gods. They worshipped these things because they had no concept of what they were; all they knew is somehow these two things had massive affects on their daily lives. I would also like to quickly point out that many civilizations did rituals and prayed for rain. They had no concept of how rain worked so they tacked it on to their religious beliefs. Not only did the earliest man need explanations for things they didn’t understand; they also needed to find something to ease their fears of what happens to you when you die. This fear of the ultimate unknown is the sole reason we have religion today.

It takes a strong individual to live their lives knowing they will somehow cease to exist. I know all to well this is a heavy burden to bear. We all want something more to believe in. We all want to somehow feel special. We all want to know somehow we will live on. These are the key driving points for the construction of faith. To illustrate this point I would like to quote a comment from my post “Religion and Anxiety-Reduction Theories.”

“If God and religion are all man-made constructs and there is nothing after this life, then why bother?”

I think this comment illustrates my point perfectly. I have grown to admire this reader’s thoughts and opinions and in no way am I saying she is weak. She was most likely raised to believe this. I do however think this shows a small chip in the armor of her faith. I have heard this comment before, and usually follow with “Is this your driving force to believe?” I tend to stump people on this point because it forces them to re-evaluate their beliefs. If they believe simply because this is the only way to give life meaning, or the only way to quell their fears of death then their faith is flawed. In essence their belief acts as a band-aid to cover up the deeper fears they have inside. We bother because it is our moral and ethical duty to improve the lives of our fellow man. We are here to cultivate a positive way of life for other generations to come. We do not need religion to dictate us to achieve these things; we only need to look into our hearts.

Religion has evolved over time, but every religion is built upon one another. With each new version declaring they are the only version. The concept of a virgin birth was described well before Christianity was created. For example the birth of Buddha was described as a virgin birth in the “Nidanakatha”

“The Brahmans said, ‘Be not anxious, O king! Your queen has conceived: and the fruit of her womb will be a man-child; it will not be a woman-child. You will have a son. And he, if he adopts a householder’s life, will become a king, a Universal Monarch; but if, leaving his home, he adopt the religious life, he will become a Buddha, who will remove from the world the veils of ignorance and sin.'”

This is but one example;virgin births were also described in Assyrian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Mithra, Mithras, and the Greco-Roman Mythology. This is by no means the complete list I am sure it goes on and on. In addition to this Muslim, Hinduism, and Taoism also have stories of a miraculous births. The one I find most interesting is one that precedes Christianity and Judaism the ancient religion of Persia “Zoroastrianism.” In this religion it not only describes a virgin birth, but it also has the messiah, death and resurrection, a final battle between good and evil, and the resurrection of the dead to stand judgment. This and others are perfect examples to describe the evolution of religion.

Creation stories, miraculous births, the death and resurrection of a messiah, and end times are all parts of every religion past and present. Each and every religion is just built upon one another. With each new edition religion evolves into something different than what it was before. Religion is like a fable passed on from generation to generation. In a sense it is like playing telephone, with each new generation the original concept gets changed and turned into what we have today. I feel there have been no new changes to religion because we live in a society that does not allow a change to happen. Everything is set as is, and everyone knows what is on the table. Trying to change a religious concept via word of mouth is simply just not possible. Those who try ultimately end up being defined as cults. In the end the purposes to believe in religion are all the same. We ask the exact same questions are ancestors asked, and we share their same fears. We cling onto religion because it just makes sense. We tend to look at other religions and judge them compared to our beliefs. We turn our nose to them claiming we are right, and their beliefs are silly. I am just as guilty of this as they are.

I came up with the quote “conceived in the weak” not because I am calling the religious weak. I am illustrating how our beliefs at their core are because of our fears. I think I am the perfect example of this. Right now I consider myself as being weak, because I have lost the strength to accept the reality of nothingness. Once this fear crept into my conscience I immediately sought out religion to ease my fears. I am searching for answers to questions which cannot be answered. If I were to latch on to Christianity to make myself feel better I really wouldn’t be a Christian because the only reason I am a Christian is because I fear the great unknown. I would be a fake; a liar, and a coward. I desperately need to find faith, but I am hindered by my reasoning and logic. Perhaps all my new religious readers who have offered me guidance are the sign from God I have always asked for, but perhaps it is all just a coincidence. These are the questions I ask myself. I ask them because of the intense fear inside of me. Perhaps God is placing this fear inside of me, and delivered me my readers to bring me to God, but perhaps the fear is there because death is really f’ing scary.

If we did not fear death, if we did not fear the unknown, if we didn’t need to see the light within chaos there would be no need for religion.

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Verse 24

If you stand on tiptoe, you cannot stand firmly.

If you take long steps, you cannot walk far.

Showing off does not reveal enlightenment.

Boasting will not produce accomplishment.

He who is self-righteous is not respected

He who brags will not endure.

All these ways of acting are loathsome, distasteful.

They are unnecessary excesses.

They are like a pain in the stomach,

a tumor in the body

when walking the path of the Tao,

this is the very stuff that must be

uprooted, thrown out, and left behind.

Lao-tzu

The 24th verse is about living without excess, Lao-tzu advises us to pull and discard our excess weeds. These weeds are ego-driven desires of self-importance. Our desire to feel important and our desires to brag and be boastful of our accomplishments are allowing our ego to drive us instead of the all giving Tao. It is this desire which keeps us away from walking the path of the Tao. The Tao teaches us that inner approval is healthy, but it is these mind frames of thinking you are better than anyone else which is destructive. These desires for self-importance are like a cancer on our souls. Our ego is our greatest enemy on our journey to discover the Way.

The verse starts with an analogy of standing on our tip toes. I believe this represents us trying to be greater than we are. If we try to fill ourselves with self-importance we will not be able to stand firmly. Lao-tzu’s advice is to stop trying to be what we are not, and instead live as we are. We should be humble in our daily affairs, and be content with who we are at all times. Everyday we should show gratitude for everything we have, and everything we are. Showing daily gratitude centers us and keeps us on the path of the Way. Practice focusing on what you have, and not what you want, then show gratitude for everything the Tao has given you. In the part about taking long steps; I think this advises us to live in the moment and not try so hard to get were going. Instead of focusing on our end goal we should be humble and enjoy the process.

The next part of this verse is advising us to not brag or be boastful. Showing off does not show enlightenment. Bragging about our accomplishments only make us look like fools. In the second verse of the Tao Te Ching it says “when the work is done, it is forgotten. That is why it lasts forever,” or in the ninth verse it says “retire when the work is done; this is the way to heaven.” These are all examples of working without bragging or taking credit for your hard work. It is nice to be acknowledged, but this should not be our primary goal. I see my faults in this part of the verse. I have written posts on my frustration with my writing career progress. I want to have five thousand visitors a day, and in my mind this would be an accomplishment worthy of bragging. In my mind I need to be successful immediately, or I am disappointed. I am standing on my tip toes and taking long steps. I need to just sit back and allow my writing career to happen.

I am most interested in the line “He who is self-righteous is not respected.” The definition of self-righteous is “a feeling of smug moral superiority derived from a sense that one’s beliefs, actions, or affiliations are of greater virtue than those of the average person.” This is an interesting line in that the Tao condemns being holier than thou in our religious affairs. Unlike Christianity, Buddhism and Taoism do not send its followers out on missionary trips to spread the word. They do not pretend to be superior to others who believe differently. This is why you have never seen an inquisition in these faiths. The Tao does not judge you based on if you believe in the Way or not. It will still provide you with everything you need. I think this lesson is far different from some other religions out there, which is why I have found a spiritual home in this religion.

Instead of letting our ego drive us with the desire to boast, or only work for the accolades of a good job, we should instead be grateful for everything the Tao has given us. The Tao does not seek acknowledgement for all it does for us. The Tao does not come to us saying “look what I have done for you, now what will you do for me.” This is a lesson the Tao tries to teach us by example. We should not see ourselves as important or special for the gifts the Tao has given us. We should appreciate her, and her unselfish giving. The Tao teaches us to be a giver rather than a taker, we should be providing for others and ask nothing in return. The Tao always exists in a state of unlimited giving, and teaches us to do the same. If we are able to mimic this sense of gratitude and giving we will be closer to walking the path of the Way.

“By returning to radical humility and seeing the greatness within everyone you’ve than cleared your life of excessive self-importance…and this is the way of the Tao.”

Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Verse 21

The greatest virtue is to follow the Tao and the Tao alone.

The Tao is elusive and intangible.

Although formless and intangible,

it gives rise to form.

Although vague and elusive,

it gives rise to shapes.

Although dark and obscure,

it is the spirit, the essence,

the life breath of all things.

Throughout the ages, its name has been preserved

in order to recall the beginning of all things.

How do I know the ways of all things at the beginning?

I look inside myself and see what is within me.

Lao-tzu

Here is where I get lost and almost turned off by the Tao Te Ching. I am not going to try and guess what Lao-tzu may or may not be saying in this verse; instead I am going to give my theory on what the Tao is. I do not like the first line where it says to “follow the Tao and the Tao alone.” I think this is greatly out of place for any conceptions of what the Tao is supposed to stand for. The Tao does not pass judgments based on whether we believe or not. The Tao will always provide for us whenever or whatever we need. I suppose I was hoping the Tao Te Ching would not take me down the path of an “exclusive” faith. With that being said I am still in the infancy stages of learning about the great Tao, just like the Bible I cannot expect to fully understand by just reading and meditating on the first twenty-one verses. I hope by the time I reach the 81st verse I will have a great understanding of the Tao’s teachings, and with guidance from such readers as “The Rambling Taoist” I may obtain better understanding. I am sure this will be a long process there are times I still find myself going back to the first verse.

I believe the Tao is the beginning of life itself. I think the big bang was the Tao giving birth to everything in the universe. The Tao continue to create and take away life. It is never-ending. In some verses of the Tao Te Ching the Tao is referred to as the “Mother of 10,000 things.” In my translation I have changed this to the Mother of the universe.” I think this fits better. In the fourth verse of the Tao Te Ching it states that the Tao is the father of God Himself. I believe this is the very God of the Bible, Quran, Torah, and insert any religious belief here_______. I find it interesting that the Tao says “Father.” This insinuates to me that God’s are created by the masculine which is destructive compared to the life giving essence of the feminine.

I was having a conversation with an old friend months ago, and he was telling me about his religious beliefs. I was amazed by his insight, and while I was listening to him a light bulb went off inside of me and it made so much of the Tao’s origin made sense to me. I am not going to get into great detail on his beliefs, but he describes the center of the universe is where all life goes and returns to. It sounded like this giant sphere of light and energy. He said this is heaven, the place where all life comes and returns to. I believe this to be the center of the Tao; the center of all creation. I believe Nebulas are the Tao’s womb, the birthplace of stars, and with stars comes solar systems, within solar systems are planets, and within planets are life or death. We as humans would not have evolved if things were just slightly different. We may have ended up like Venus or Mars, but we didn’t and through billions of years we are what we have become. A blessing mixed with happenstance.

I believe when you die your shen returns to the center only to return to another place when it is ready. I believe in reincarnation, but not in the sense the Buddhist believe. I do not think you need to reincarnate in stages until you reach Nirvana, I believe Nirvana is the center and you travel to it every time you pass. This is the place where everything becomes one. I believe your shen is aware and possess conscience. This is where you reunite with loved ones.

In the end I have no idea if this is true. I want so badly to believe this to curb my sense of fear over death. I want to know my loved ones are in a better place. When I first started re-reading the Tao Te Ching I tried to look at Taoism as a philosophical guiding stick on the proper way to live. It was a year ago I really tried to understand Taoism on a spiritual level, since then it has had a bigger impact on my development as a person. This desire to believe and have faith in the Tao on a spiritual level only came after my best friend passed and I was once again confronted with my own mortality. Like the first verse says no one can describe or define the Tao, when we try it is not the eternal name. I think this is something we all must try to describe to further us down our spiritual path.

Religion can be a blessing for some, and at times a scourge on the people. It is for this reason theology is one of my favorite subjects under the broad umbrella of philosophy. My initial attraction to theology was to ensure my soul did not burn for eternity in a lake of fire, over time it grew into a fascination for many different reasons. I have been able to objectively look at various schools of thought, and then there the times my personal opinions have clouded my otherwise logical judgments.

I have spent hours studying religions; ranging from the religions of today to the pagan religions of the past. (I would like to note, what I consider “pagan” is any religion prior to the Christianization of Europe.) I enjoy reading their creation stories, tales of a messiah, definition of “heaven”, how to get there, and the philosophical views of what is considered right and wrong. I am intrigued the impact religion has on people personally, and the impact it can have on society.

Religion has been a core concept in the human psyche since the beginning of time. In its infancy religion was a tool used to cope with the minds fear of death, and the unknown. In the early stages of religion the people worshipped the sun, moon, and stars, with time religion became more complex. If you were to follow a time line of religion, it seems that belief systems appear to build upon one another. The concept of a virgin birth, messiah, and resurrection from the dead were there prior to Christianity. Regardless of what you believe, we all seek to fill this “hole,” the concept people seem to lose touch with is this… Religion is subjective; whether a person believes in God, or worships the sun. In their eyes this is the path to “salvation”, because they believe, and so it is. The nice thing about theology is no one is right, and no one is wrong.

I have no claim to any one religion, although I have found I relate more to the Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Taoism. I find these two religions to contain a better understanding of the concept of peace, unlike some of the other religions. I have yet to find stories of forced conversion, or war perpetrated by Buddhist or Taoist followers. In fact many of these same followers have protested against such barbaric behavior. They teach tolerance and understanding, judging others based off their religious beliefs is simply not in their nature.

From time to time I am going to write on this subject. Most people feel threatened or uncomfortable with discussing religion. I have heated debates with my father who is a tad extreme with his beliefs on Christianity. I am the only one who will debate with him, so it works out. The difference between us is I am able to step out with an open mind and try and see it through his eyes. He is unable to see past the blinders of his faith. I hope using my blog will be a nice outlet to discuss what I have learned, and my own personal journey to find “salvation.”