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Posted by Richard Ruquist on December 18, 2003 14:19:46 UTC

Dear Glenn,

I just had to reappear on this forum to compliment your presentation of Buddhist thinking, and I might remark, an expanded form of Buddhist thinking that incorporates Hinduism and Christianity. If you will permit my take on what you say, which is a judgement, so in turn you can judge me- what you say is an expansion on the evolution of modern Buddhism. Just for reference allow me to copy over some indication of the evolution of Buddhist thinking [http://mcel.pacificu.edu/as/students/vb/Mahayan.HTM]

"The Mahayana school was a later development in Buddhist philosophy. It is called the Greater Vehicle in reference to the Mahayana notion of salvation. According to this system of belief, it is possible for all people to reach enlightenment under the guidance of a dedicated teacher or Bodhisattva. The Greater Vehicle is then a reference to the notion of group salvation, as opposed to individual accomplishment. This idea is in sharp contrast with the original Theravada notion of enlightenment reserved for a select few scholars and monks.

The difference between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism can be seen as one of interpretation. Mahayana scholars interpret the sacred texts in a more liberal manner, where as the Theravada monks use the texts literally. The Mahayana school generalizes that it is possible for all people to reach an enlightened state and work towards that goal.

The Bodhisattva, or teacher, is the central figure in Mahayana style Buddhism. The Bodhisattva is a soul who has already reached enlightenment, but chooses to postpone their ascension into Nirvana in order to teach others. The Bodhisattva is unique to Mahayana Buddhism and plays a central role in theology. The Bodhisattva works under the ultimate directive of compassion. Meaning that it is an incredible act of compassion for a person to deny themselves the pleasure of enlightenment in order to share their wisdom with others. Many argue that the Buddha himself was anarchetypal Bodhisattva, choosing to spread the word to others instead of merely attaining enlightenment for himself."

I am pleased that you did not promote the Japanese form of Buddhism, or Zen Buddhism. That form of Buddhism historically has promoted the martial arts and a kind of violence that you also see in the Old Testament. I consider the Mahayana school to be much more mature philosophically, but less conducive to individual physical achievement than Zen Buddhism. Mahayana is a step towards an all incompassing religion. It has the collective group aspects found in Judaism as well as immediate aspects of salvation found in Christianity and Hinduism.

And your thinking has also incorporated the rational aspects of modern science that conditions most of us. My view of the various religions is that each of them, at least in their original forms, leave out essential aspects that can be found in other religions. However, we should not judge these religions in their original forms. With some exceptions that are manifested in fundamentalism, all religions have evolved and matured over the centuries. So today most religions accept the basis of reality that science has developed. It is true that Buddhism came closest to that acceptance in its original Theravada form. But even it had some holes, like a concept of the soul, and the equality of the sexes, and the importance of collective behavior.

So let's take the last step and incorporate science and scientific thinking into religion. I was dismayed to read your dismissal of scientific studies of creation rather than relieve suffering. Certainly, science has promoted the safety and survival of humankind. The effort in science on medicine and healing in the US is far greater than the effort on high energy physics today. But we have enough resources to do both, particularly if we get over our dominant military concerns.

As a result of science, not religion, I live in heaven on earth compared to life over the past centuries. So in my view science has given us a kind of Nirvana. Of course, it has also given us the means to collective suicide. And that is where religion comes in- to prevent us from using the evil possibilities of science.

To some extent most religions have already incorporated rational scientific thinking, like evolution and the various forms of the big bang. Some even admit that all religions are a mixture of truth and distortion. But we still see bias and selection in the presentation or should I say marketing of religion, borrowing the words of Wandaqueen. Even in your post above, we can see elements of selection used to market one particular brand of religion. You on the basis of rationality reject various miracles in the scriptures of other religions, while neglecting to mention the miracles in the scripture of your religion. For instance, the instantaneous change from woman to man to attain enlightenment. So I would suggest that there is no need for such selection. But I do admit that other religions tend to be even more selective in marketing their brand, as so well expressed by Wanda below.

I would also caution you about being overly rational in your view on miracles. My view is that many miracles, like walking thru walls, will eventually be understood scientifically. I refer you to the book by Yogananda, "Autobiography of a Yoga" for a list of miracles, like seeing thru walls, that will eventually be understood by science.

What I call overly rational thinking has been used against native religions to label their spiritual practices as superstitution and subsequently suppress their native culture. This has happened in Africa, in America and even in India. We should be open to empirical data of the unknown even if we cannot yet understand it scientifically. In my albeit limited experience the most broad minded people in this regard are physicists, as opposed to the narrow mandedness of medical doctors, lawyers and those faithful to the origins of their religion.

So I recommend a presentation that emphasizes the common characteristics of all religions including native practices, taking them at face value as real, and trying to understand the unknown real on a scientific basis. Realize that 95% of the mass in the universe and 99% of its energy is not detectable directly. It is real but unknown- not understood. That is why physicists are so broadminded. They realize how little we know about the universe. The more intelligent ones now say, 'anything could be true'. Dark matter could be full of intelligence. So let's not reject any religious data. Even superstitions can be true. They can have a basis in reality, just one we do not know about yet.

So we no longer need to use religion to relieve suffering. That is now the job of science. But we do need an enlightened religion to counter the evils of science. The metaphor of the Tree of Knowledge has now come true, all of mankind can die, collectively. But we still have a choice, to live in heaven on earth, or to eliminate life on earth. We need enlightened religions and the force of all religions to make that choice.

Thank you Glenn,

Richard

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