Wednesday, June 2, 2010

He's A Big Hitter, The Lama

He's also written an op-ed for the New York Times. I'm sure the Dalai Lama is a very nice man. I just can't make any sense out of the stuff that he says. Meanwhile, folks world-wide drop trou every time he makes a statement on anything.

Just look at the first sentence of his piece:

When I was a boy in Tibet, I felt that my own Buddhist religion must be the best — and that other faiths were somehow inferior.

Ok. First question, why are you a Buddhist at all? Surely, you must think that other faiths are somehow inferior in some way, right? This is a huge chunk of cognitive dissonance that affects many people. If he truly thinks all religions are equal, then he should naturally eschew any practices overtly connected to any one of them. By taking up the practices of one, he admits there is something there of an enhanced value, even if it is just purely and personally subjective.

Granted, every religion has a sense of exclusivity as part of its core identity.

Including Buddhism? Does this mean he's admitting some level of "betterness"? After all, if you're going to exclude something, surely it will be the bad stuff. And at some point, someone excludes/includes enough to catch your attention and make you think it's more correct than everyone else? Right? Bueller?

Even so, I believe there is genuine potential for mutual understanding. While preserving faith toward one’s own tradition, one can respect, admire and appreciate other traditions.

And we can buy the world a Coke while we're at it. Is this supposed to be profound in some way?

An early eye-opener for me was my meeting with the Trappist monk Thomas Merton in India shortly before his untimely death in 1968. Merton told me he could be perfectly faithful to Christianity, yet learn in depth from other religions like Buddhism. The same is true for me as an ardent Buddhist learning from the world’s other great religions.

Just had to throw this in given our recent shpiel on Merton. Back to the main issue. We have to ask ourselves just what the Lama is getting at in trying to place all religions at the same level.

A main point in my discussion with Merton was how central compassion was to the message of both Christianity and Buddhism. In my readings of the New Testament, I find myself inspired by Jesus’ acts of compassion. His miracle of the loaves and fishes, his healing and his teaching are all motivated by the desire to relieve suffering.

The focus on compassion that Merton and I observed in our two religions strikes me as a strong unifying thread among all the major faiths.

Take Judaism, for instance... I remember vividly the rabbi in the Netherlands who told me about the Holocaust with such intensity that we were both in tears...

In my many encounters with Hindu scholars in India, I’ve come to see the centrality of selfless compassion in Hinduism too...

Compassion is equally important in Islam — and recognizing that has become crucial in the years since Sept. 11, especially in answering those who paint Islam as a militant faith...

What I'm getting from all this is that compassion is the unifying element of mankind. It apparently forms a sort of natural super-structure in which all the world's religions are housed. Is there something missing here?

How about God? Where is He in this mix? Considering that He (or They for Hindus) is allegedly the reason why we have religions (unless you're Buddhist, which doesn't seem to require a deity). How about Truth? Eternity? Dare I even consider mentioning salvation?

On a side note, I wonder what the Lama thinks of evangelization. For some reason, I doubt he associates it with compassion of any kind.

Finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever. As a species, we must embrace the oneness of humanity as we face global issues like pandemics, economic crises and ecological disaster. At that scale, our response must be as one.

Unified action is crucial. The Lama will have to excuse me, though, if I place the eternal destiny of myself and all of mankind ahead of the economic crisis. Losing my house, car, or job isn't really on the same level as Gehenna. Working together to prevent these kinds of natural problems is all good and well. Nobody is saying otherwise.

That we have to begin from the Lama's template of indifferentism is offensive and degrading to the very concept of religion. It makes all our beliefs in the supernatural and transcendent look trivial. They aren't, and it's insulting to say otherwise. Moreover, it's completely contrary to this idea that we have to "understand" each other's religion. If they are all really the same, why even bother?

Also, take a look at the title for the piece. It's captioned as "Many Faiths, One Truth." What "truth" is that? Compassion? How does that equate to Truth? Unfortunately, the Lama is in for a rude awakening if he thinks that compassion is some kind of panacea. I know folks who think that murdering Down's Syndrome children in the womb or killing people like Terri Schiavo is compassion. With whatever respect I can muster, the Lama's idea of some kind of natural human compassion as the ruling aspect of humanity isn't going to work if it's divorced from Truth. Read Caritas in Veritate for the current Pope's take on all this.

Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world.

Here's what is necessary for harmony and peace in our world:

Men must look for the peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ; and that We promised to do as far as lay in Our power. In the Kingdom of Christ, that is, it seemed to Us that peace could not be more effectually restored nor fixed upon a firmer basis than through the restoration of the Empire of Our Lord... When once men recognize, both in private and in public life, that Christ is King, society will at last receive the great blessings of real liberty, well-ordered discipline, peace and harmony.

Pope Pius XI, Quas Primas

No comments: