Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Transformed Minds

In the letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul instructed his readers on how to discern God’s will, which we would have to consider, as he puts it, “pleasing and perfect.” The means by which this discernment was to be implemented was through mind transformation. Read it for yourself (Romans 12:2). For sure there may have been differences in how this prescription was offered from standard Buddhist teachings. However, Paul’s prescription is the same as what the Buddha taught—that unambiguous discernment is only possible through a renewal of mind: to purify and free the mind from self-centered discrimination.

It might be disturbing to both Christians and Buddhists to take the tack of mixing this instruction together under a common roof. Truth is the truth, however, and the genuine truth is not tied to anything. The truth that is linked is not truth. That would be relative opinion or alternative facts. How can it be said on the one hand that everything is relative and the next that everything is absolute? Actually, these positions are harmonious—The Middle Way: Not this, Not that. Not not this, not not that. To explain...

From the perspective of original mind there are transcendent truths and from the perspective of the phenomenal world, everything is relative. A “Dharma” means to comprehend or grasp transcendent truth—truth that lies beyond conditions of Christian, Buddhist or any other limitation. So on the one hand relativity is true and on the other hand, it is false—The Middle Way.

Yes, of course, this can become confusing but let’s return to mind transformation and renewal. What is there in our mind that needs transforming? And what is the result of such transformation or renewing? Let’s take this in reverse—renewing: to make new again. And how exactly is this renewing supposed to work? That question was posed to Jesus and his answer is recorded in the 18th chapter of Matthew (verse 3). In essence, he said, unless we change and become like little children the goal will not be reached. In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus told his disciples that removing the impediment of discrimination was a necessary condition for entering the kingdom of heaven—becoming like little children. And what is the state of mind of little children? Well, we’d have to look at really little children since it doesn’t take very long before their egos begin to coalesce. Before that unfortunate emergence children still have their untainted original minds and they are like sponges soaking up, without judgment, whatever comes their way. It is a time of utter fascination where everything is new and wonderful! For little children seeing things as they are without bias is natural. They haven’t lived long enough to discriminate. Things just are what they are.

There are many ways to understand but a transformed mind is a mind made new again. It is a cleaned-up mind, made clear of impediments to clarity so that true vision is possible. So long as we cling to egocentric, my-way-or-the-highway positions we are not able to discern essential truths which come from God. So long as we remain stuck in one position or point of discrimination in opposition to others we are operating from a self-centered framework. We may take the perspective that some people are God’s people and others are not but Jesus never taught that, and neither did Gautama. Jesus taught that God causes the sun to shine and sends the rain equally to all regardless of discrimination (Matthew 5:44). And Gautama taught that within the realm of pure mind, all are equally buddha—without discrimination. And in a similar fashion, Jesus taught Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” Do you want to know what God looks like? To know, first get rid of what defiles your heart and mind. With nothing clouding your sight, then youll see clearly the kingdom of heaven. Recently the Pope said“You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes. You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25.”

Transforming our mind has never been more needed than now. The mind which needs transforming (and thus renewed) is the ego-mind where discrimination and right vs. wrong rule the day. That mind is relative—completely dependent upon the center of self. A transformed mind is free of that limitation and able to discern God’s pleasing and perfect will.
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