Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Moral Relatavism


This notion has been fairly well broadcast recently. Perhaps it is being revisited due to the rising emergence of radical right wing popularity. For example Texas Governor, and aspiring Presidential candidate Rick Perry, recently hosted a national referendum in Houston’s Reliant stadium—a call for prayer, beseeching God to come to the aid of our beleaguered nation. Perry is well known for his stanch opposition to moral relativism but instead is a proud supporter of the absolute interpretation of God’s word—The Holy Bible, and he finds comfort in surrounding himself with those who share his discriminatory views. Among these are the good Reverend John Hagee who gained notoriety for declaring that Hurricane Katrina was God's vengeance on a sinful New Orleans and suggested that Jews had brought the Holocaust on themselves. Another in his camp is one of Hagee’s flock, Elva Spoor, who said she had come with the Cornerstone delegation so “God can bless us and give us rain and turn the nation back to God.” But what about gay people, she was asked? “God says he loves everyone but he hates the sin,” said Spoor. “God says it is an aberration (did she mean ‘abomination’) to him.”

It is exceedingly unfortunate that political despots, who use the gospel of Christ to achieve their malevolent aims, have manipulated ignorant people to engage in unspeakable horrors. Click here to read the sad history that emerged in Nazi Germany during an era quite similar to conditions prevailing today. Then read this and see how the apparently innocuous event in Houston bears striking similarities. My purpose here is not to denigrate the beliefs of others but rather to consider such positions through the lens of Zen teachings and the truth as conveyed by the Buddha, which by the way harmonizes quite well with the teachings of Christ, particularly when it comes to the unconditional nature and love of God for his creation.

There have always been those who have interpreted scripture in a literal way rather than understanding the true intent and spirit underscoring the message. Rinzai Zen Master Bassui Tokushō (1327–1387) is reported to have told his students that to properly grasp the spirit of sutras they must “first awaken the mind that reads” and then they would understand. In every religion there have been similar rifts. Early Buddhists (the Hinayana) understood matters differently from the Mahayana—the prior more concerned with individual liberation and the latter concerned with enlightening the breadth of humanity. In a similar fashion the gospel of Christ is divided into the Old and the New Testament. You could say that the Old was more concerned with the letter of the law whereas the New was concerned with the spirit.

Yet 2,000 years later there are those who proclaim themselves to be born again Christians and proceed to spread a gospel of hate emanating from the Old Testament. And sadly there are those who proclaim themselves to be Zennists but cling to Hinayana preoccupations.

Zen (as well as the true Christian gospel) essentially teaches both differences and oneness, at the same time. All of us are as different as snowflakes but fundamentally just snow. The soul of genuine spirituality is the lack of discrimination—a heart of compassion and unconditional love. Both Gautama and Jesus taught it. Few embrace it. Watch this.
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