Saturday, October 19, 2013

Getting saved??

Where to throw the life line?
Let me to state the obvious: being saved requires one who saves. An extension of this thought concerns the apparent need to be saved. Only someone who believes they are lost need concern him or herself with finding their way. A fool is someone who is not lost but isn’t, yet remains convinced they are. Consequently if someone is persuaded they need being saved, only then does a savior make any sense. And this brings us to that central of all issues: duality and separation.

Where does the idea come from that “people of the book” (e.g. Jews, Christians and Muslims) need saving? Those three religions share a common understanding based on a shared segment of the Old Testament. The first five books—Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, book of Numbers and Deuteronomy—comprise the Torah, the story of Israel from the Genesis creation narrative to the death of Moses. Genesis is common to all three religions: Jews, Christians and Muslims and all three tell the story of creation involving Adam and Eve, who allegedly disobeyed God by eating an apple and were cast out of paradise and thus in need of being saved. But (and this is a big “but”) since Adam and Eve were stained with sin (as well as their progeny) they were incapable of saving themselves and thus were in need of a savior. And here is where the story begins to divide amongst the Jews, Christians and Muslims. All three accepted the inherent nature of mankind as being condemned by God due to original sin but the means by which they were reconciled varied greatly.

The Christian answer to this dilemma is that God took pity on mankind because he loved them so much that he “sent his only begotten son” to take the sins of the world upon himself and offer himself as a sacrifice to appease God (who demanded justice as recompense) by being crucified on a cross, died, was buried overcame death by rising from the dead and bringing the Holy Spirit to abide in the hearts of those who confessed their sinful nature and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. Only if that confession took place would God grant reconciliation, forgiveness and give believers a new heart filled with the Holy Spirit to replace an old heart that was filled with sin. In essence that was, and is, the story that continues to inspire those who consider themselves as “born again.” Everyone else who chose to not accept this story were considered as heretics and damned to Hell.

So the essence of this proposition boils down to believing in the original sin of Adam and Eve. If that part of the story breaks down then the entire story of needing a savior likewise falls apart. I have written a commentary on this story found at, which speaks to some serious flaws in the story. It will convince no one who considers this creation story as historical fact and has closed his or her mind to alternate interpretations. Nevertheless it is a reasonable commentary of a metaphor with deeper meaning that comes very close to the Buddhist understanding. The major difference between the two is the notion of duality, separation and where to find the kingdom of Heaven. Here is what Jesus is recorded as having said about Heaven and finding your true self: “If your leaders say, ‘Look, the Kingdom is in the Heavens,’ then the birds will be before you. If they say, ‘It is in the ocean,’ then the fish will be before you. But the Kingdom is inside of you and the Kingdom is outside of you. When you know yourself, then you will know that you are of the flesh of the living Father. But if you know yourself not, then you live in poverty and that poverty is you.”—Gospel of Thomas 3.

There are others who have suggested that we are not lost but instead consider ourselves to be. To a person of Zen, words are a mixed blessing. They can lead you astray or open your mind to the music of the muses. One of the greatest mystical poets of all time was Rabindranath Tagore.  Sadly, while he lived, he was little known outside of the Calcutta area, and not known at all outside of India. The Nobel Prize in Literature 1913 was awarded to Tagore, “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West.”

One of Tagor’s resonate themes is opening doors. Here is one facet from his poetic jewel Journey Home. “The traveler has to knock at every alien door to come to his own, and one has to wander through all the outer worlds to reach the innermost shrine at the end.” In similar fashion one of the great Zen Masters (Hakuin Zenji) wrote a famous poem called The Song of Zazen, which opens thusly, “From the beginning all beings are Buddha. Like water and ice, without water no ice, outside us no Buddhas. How near the truth, yet how far we seek. Like one in water crying, ‘I thirst!’ Like the son of a rich man wand’ring poor on this earth we endlessly circle the six worlds. The cause of our sorrow is ego delusion.” Jesus likewise wrote the parable of the Prodigal Son, which in essence expresses the same truth of a man who has blessing from the beginning but wanders far and wide before realizing that all along he must return home to find what he had lost.

The principle treasure of Buddhist understanding is that we are not lost or in need of savings. We have never been separated from our source (our inherent and eternally indwelling, indiscriminate true self), which remains obscured due to ego delusion. We are all in essence Buddha’s awaiting awakening and once that true nature is revealed your entire self understanding and universal view is transformed for all time. You then know in the depth of your core that we are all united, one and the same—none better and none lesser and fundamentally indiscriminate. There is a profound liberty that comes with the realization that we can never be anywhere that God is not, and in God’s eyes we are all equal and loved without conditions.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” The Apostle Paul—Romans12:2

“First awaken the mind that reads and then you’ll understand.”—Zen Master Bassui Tokushō
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