I just read a beautifully written post about Buddhism here: http://thistimethisspace.com/2012/05/08/finding-my-path/
I wrote the following response:
First of all let me say that British Columbia is without a doubt the most beautiful place on earth, and I’ve seen much of the earth. I suspect that there are a few places I haven’t been (some of the mountains of New Zealand for example) that could match it, but I haven’t seen those places.
I want to share a thought about one thing you said and then listen to your response.
You said: “Unenlightened life is suffering. Suffering is a result of attachment to wrong thinking that results in greed, hatred, and ignorance, which return as suffering (karma), while compassion toward others who suffer reduces the effects of karma. Cessation of this suffering through meditation and mind training is the primary goal of Buddhism– to reach Nirvana (a state of wherein the craving desire within is extinguished), to end cycles of rebirth through enlightenment.”
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I teach in India sometimes on the topic of “worldview.” I teach the topic from a Christian point of view. I like to wrestle through the benefits and consequences of different worldviews with my students.
My observation is that peoples who have embraced similar philosophies to the one you have mentioned have created basically miserable societies. (I know that “miserable” is a strong word, and I do not use it with intent to offend, but that is what I have seen.) On the other hand, peoples that have embraced “love your neighbor as yourself” and “follow God’s Law” (meaning Christian Biblical Law) have tended to create societies that are imperfect but that mitigate human suffering far more effectively.
My theory is that this is because in actual practice participants in Eastern Religious Worldviews seem to be focused on personally escaping the cycle of reincarnation as opposed to loving one’s neighbor by making the world a better place.
I am not saying that “all people” in one culture are bad and “all people”” in another are good. I am suggesting that there are general (and significant) tendencies within those cultures that produce very different results.
In other words “ideas have consequences.”
Ironically, as Christians in the “West” have deserted an “all of life” view of Christianity and have moved towards a “my personal salvation from hell” emphasis the effect has been a decline of the good kinds of Christian influence on society. “It’s all going to burn anyways, so why try and do anything about it?” In other words, many contemporary Christians seem to have embraced an “escapist” view of spirituality like their Eastern human brothers.
But real and historical Christianity pushes a Loving Intervention into the lives of one’s fellow human beings based on the belief that God wants to change the world through His People, both now and in eternity. Charity towards one’s fellow man is not a means of escape for the Christian, but is rather a Core Purpose for Living.
So what do you think about this idea that Eastern “the universe (God) is One and I need to escape the illusion around me” has created one type of society while “love your neighbor and Intervene in and Disrupt the cycle of evil” has created another type of society?
Come on over and join the discussion (but be nice!). I am “ThirstyJon” in the comments. — UPDATE 5/14/2012 — Perhaps it would be better to NOT go over and join the discussion. The author doesn’t seem to like my comment or the fact that I posted it here. Bummer.