Children deserve the right to choose for themselves. Let them decide who they are.
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Children deserve the right to choose for themselves. Let them decide who they are.
Submit reason theageofreason.org/submit
Question: I’m a Christian, and I would like to know, is there anything you would like us to understand that we tend not to understand?
Zen Master Seung Sahn: Christianity says God made everything — good and bad, heaven and earth, human beings and animals and so on. He worked for six days, then rested.
But in Buddhism, there is no original cause or creator; there is no coming, no going, no existence, no nonexistence; all of these are opposites thinking. Sun and moon, light and dark, day and night — all these are names; the world of names is opposites thinking. “God” is also a name; it’s also opposite thinking. True God has no name, no form. In no name/no form, there is no coming, no going — no opposite thinking. That which is beyond all names and forms is always bright. That is True God.
The purpose of Buddhism is to find primary point. What is the primary point of this universe? The Bible says, “God made everything.” But what is the primary point of God? Where does God come from?
These days, not many young people are becoming monks or nuns. I was in Paris — a big Catholic university had closed its doors. No more students! Any society that has a “good situation” doesn’t have young monks, only old monks. This is a different age, a different mind, Old-style religion was to just believe in God. Now people check — what kind of religion will help me, help society? Monk or not monk is not important. They like new idea, new style religion, perhaps some meditation.
This is a time of great change and religions need to adapt; a change in teaching style is necessary. A simple belief in God is no longer enough for many people. They want to understand: What is God? What is my true self? In the Bible, it says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” What is this “I”? Is this “I” God? Is this God separate from me? If this God is not separate from me, are God and I two or one? Through meditation practice these questions can be resolved on a deep level. Then one can truly understand religion, understand this world. In meditation all opposites become one point: mind, God, dharma, truth. You can call it many things, but this point is before all names and forms.
If you only talk about a belief in God, then there are many questions: Where is God? Inside the body or outside? Someone says God is in heaven; nowadays spaceships roam about in vast outer space, but don’t find any God because all is curved space. Here is God? Here is God? True God has no inside and outside, no name and form.
Nowadays many Christians like Thomas Merton’s books. He didn’t only analyze Biblical words. He understood and practiced Zen meditation, so he was able to connect with his true self, and wrote about this connection. That’s why his books are so popular.
Any kind of religion, any kind of style doesn’t matter. Why do this? Making this direction clear is very important; if this direction is clear, then your life is clear. If you only hold your religion, your idea, then you have a problem. If you are not holding “my religion,” not holding “my practice,” have a clear direction, and only try, try, try, then you attain something. Clear direction and try mind are most important.
Zen mind means put down any idea, any form. If your direction is clear and you completely put down everything, then you will attain something. When you attain something, you connect with everything else.
All religions are like different paths to the mountaintop. The top of the mountain is very clear; it’s the primary point. But there are many paths leading to this point; there is the eastern road, western road, southern road, and northern road. When people begin climbing the mountain, they are always fighting: “My way is correct, your way is not correct.” But from the bottom of the mountain, they cannot see the top, so they are very strongly attached to “my way.” Having clear direction and try mind means just going up, going up, one step after another. So you don’t spend energy in fighting other people or their ideas; you just practice. Then you can reach the mountaintop.
The different paths to the mountaintop are made by our mind. But what is mind? If you try to understand it intellectually, you will not find it. Our mind is very big, but it’s also small. A very sharp needle cannot touch this mind, because this mind is smaller than the tip of the needle. But our mind is also bigger than the whole universe. Sometimes our mind is very bright, sometimes very dark. If you make “my path,” you also make “my mind.” But if you let go of “my mind,” you become a Buddha. Then any path will lead you to the mountaintop.
If you control your mind, you control everything. But if you say, “I control my mind,” then what is this that controls the mind? Is it some other mind that controls the mind or is it no mind? Also, how do you control your mind? Where is your mind? Are you and your mind two things or one? Same or different? Big problem! That’s all thinking. POW! Put it all down, OK? Don’t think!
The Diamond Sutra says “All things are impermanent. A pure view is to see all appearances as non-appearances. When all appearances and non-appearances disappear, that’s complete stillness. Then you can see Buddha nature.” But if everything is impermanent, I am also impermanent; Buddha is also impermanent. Then how can I see Buddha? How can impermanence see impermanence?
If you check the words in the Bible or in the Diamond Sutra, then it’s all checking, all opposites thinking. But truth means there are no opposites. No opposites means the absolute. If you are checking, then everything is not correct. If you are not checking, everything is correct. That is Zen. The Diamond Sutra teaches that silence is better than holiness. And the Bible says “Be still and know that I am God.” This silent mind is very important. How do we transmit this silent mind from me to you? Buddha picked up a flower, and only Mahakashyapa smiled. Then Buddha said, “My true dharma, I transmit to you.” But that was a big mistake on Buddha’s part. If I was Mahakashyapa at that time, I would have said, “No, thank you, Buddha, I already have dharma.” Then Buddha would have a problem!!
So, already everybody has dharma, already everybody has truth, already everybody has the correct way and correct life. Already everybody has, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” So why does anyone need transmission from someone else? Open your mouth and it’s already a mistake. But our job is to help all beings. So, we only use this mouth to teach the dharma and help all beings. That, we say, is “tongue formula.”
If you only keep a try mind, a don’t-know mind, then your center becomes stronger, stronger, stronger. Then everything you hear, smell, see, taste, touch is better than the Buddha’s speech, better than the Bible’s speech. That’s enlightenment. Then you can save all beings from suffering.
Is it alright to have prayer in schools? What if it was used as a tool to teach children about other religions?
The basic problem according to Buddhism, is that emotions like anger and hatred are based on projections and exaggeration, not on objectivity or wisdom, and thus basically incorrect. There is little need to explain what anger and hatred do to ourselves by means of the laws of karma; the misery we cause others will come back at ourselves. Nobody wants suffering, so next is a summary of methods which can not only reduce but even eliminate anger and hatred from our minds. It must be emphasise that to completely eliminate these negative emotions from our mind is a lengthy psychological process, requiring study, mindfulness, reflection and honest observation of one’s own mind. To begin with, meditation is an ideal method to review a situation in which one became angry (see the page on meditation). This has the advantage that one is not exposed to the actual situation, but one can review it much more objectively. When regular meditation gives some insight into what anger is and what happens to oneself when feeling angry, then one can gradually try to apply it in real-life situations, preferably of course before one is already under complete control of anger. It is a slow process, but the change in your life and the ones around you can profoundly change for the better.
As His Holiness the Dalai Lama mentioned: “When reason ends, then anger begins. Therefore, anger is a sign of weakness.”
Is anger or hatred ever justified? A direct answer from Allan Wallace in ‘Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground up’: “‘Righteous hatred’ is in the same category as ‘righteous cancer’or ‘righteous tuberculosis’. All of them are absurd concepts.” This does not mean that one should never take action against aggression or injustice! Instead, one should try to develop an inner calmness and insight to deal with these situations in an appropriate way. We all know that anger and aggression give rise to anger and aggression. One could say that there are three ways to get rid of anger: kill the opponent, kill yourself or kill the anger - which one makes most sense to you?”
And as Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche mentioned: “Some people feel patience is showing weakness or pessimism. But, actually, patience shows the strength and clarity of mind, which are based on wisdom and compassion. Without proper wisdom and compassion, one cannot practice patience.”
But of course not only Buddhism recognises the shortcomings of anger, in the Bible for example in Psalm 37, 14-16 it reads: “The angry ones draw their swords, the angry ones aim their bows To put down the poor and the weakened and to kill those who walk on the path of righteousness. But their sword hits their own heart, their bows will be broken. With his poverty, the righteous one is richer than all the angry ones in their abundance.”
NORTH LOUISIANA has been described as “the buckle on the Bible Belt” – and not without good reason, as high school student Damon Fowler at Bastrop High School has discovered to his cost.
On the eve of his graduation, the atheist student contacted the school superintendent to let him know that he opposed the inclusion of a prayer at the graduation ceremony. He pointed out that government-sponsored prayer in the public schools was unconstitutional and legally forbidden – and that he would be contacting the ACLU if it went ahead. The school agreed to substitute it with a moment of silent reflection, which was subsequently scuppered by a Christian student.
Then Fowler’s name, and his role in this incident, was leaked. As a direct result:
1) Fowler has been hounded, pilloried, and ostracized by his community.
2) One of Fowler’s teachers has publicly demeaned him.
3) Fowler has been physically threatened. Students have threatened to “jump him” at graduation practice, and he has received multiple threats of bodily harm, and even death threats.
4) Fowler’s parents cut off his financial support, kicked him out of the house, and threw his belongings onto the front porch.
Oh, and the school went ahead and had the graduation prayer anyway.
According to this report, Fowler has become the center of what he terms a “shitstorm”: he has been harassed, vilified, targeted with insults and name-calling and hateful remarks. He’s been told t he’s the devil. He’s been told, “Go cry to your mommy… oh, wait. You can’t”. (A reference to him being disowned by his parents.) He’s been told that he’s only doing this to get attention. A student’s public prayer at a pre-graduation “Class Night” event was turned into an opportunity for the school and community to gang up on Fowler and publicly close ranks against him – teachers as well as students. (Here’svideo). And people seen defending him have been targeted as well.
Here are a few comments on the Bastrop Enterprise news story about the controversy:
I personally see him as a coward.
I hope they [Christians] put enough pressure on this kid to convert him and save his soul from the fire of hell.
If he don’t want prayer at graduation he can stay at home and not come to graduation.
I hope that the little athiest (sic) is offended.
What he is really doing is trying to shove his views down people’s throats.
Satan continues to prowl and is deceiving many in this world.
A piece published yesterday by PoliticusUSA points out that Christian fundamentalists have persecuted atheists and agnostics for the past 30 years with accusations that non-believers are aggressive and are “throwing atheism in our faces,” when the opposite is true.
There is a dangerous trend of Christian fundamentalists taking over the government to change the nature of America. It may be in part because in America, like the rest of the world, Christianity is on the decline and the number of Americans claiming to be Atheists, Agnostic, or non-religious has increased by 15 percent leading to an alarming trend of fundamentalists making a last-ditch effort to force Christianity on the country.
The young man who protested prayers at school events is not an isolated case, and around the country young people are standing up to school officials and fundamentalists who “force their religion down the throats” of non-believers regardless of age or station in life. The Constitution does not forbid religious fundamentalists from praying whenever and wherever they please, but it does maintain the separation of the government and religion and it means no public school prayer.
The article concluded:
Evangelical Christian leaders recently conceded in an interview that there were Christians around the country who were prepared for armed conflict to enforce Christianity if necessary, and they claimed the military and Congress had been infiltrated by fundamentalists; it is a foreboding that should frighten every person in America. If any American thinks they are safe from fundamentalist Christians whose intent is replacing the Constitution with the Ten Commandments and its Stone Age punishment (stoning), they are deluded and do not comprehend the level of violence extremists are capable of inflicting in god’s name.
If in America in 2011, one student faces public threats without a theocratic government or the Ten Commandments as the law of the land, imagine the violent Crusade and Inquisition a group of well-armed, angry fundamentalists will unleash if given authority and power.
Last month, an interviewer asked four evangelical church leaders if their intent of using violence to force Christianity on Americans was tantamount to the Taliban in Afghanistan. They replied that, ‘yes, they were the same as the Taliban except they were better armed, better organized, and had the full support of conservatives in positions of power’.
Still think fundamentalist Christians are harmless? You should be mortified.