Masochistic Perceptions, Trials and Truths

These are my cyberfied cerebral synapses ricocheting off reality as I perceive it: thoughts, opinions, passions, rants, art and poetry...

Monday, June 23, 2008


I enjoy discussing philosophy and spirituality with people who have different points of view from my own. My beliefs are always evolving, and, if provided with a feasible argument, I am willing to concede on a point and possibly change the way I think. Likewise, I accept that people’s points of view are based on personal experiences. It troubles me, however, when I meet fundamentalists who believe that their way is the only way, and their beliefs are based in arguments that are so flawed that you could run a herd of elephants through them.

Case in point: this past weekend my wife and I were invited over to the home of one of her church members for a barbeque. We let them know ahead of time that we are vegetarians, and they were very accommodating. When I was there, the fellow – a very nice gent – asked me why I was a vegetarian. I explained that I was a Buddhist and that I do not eat meat because I am free to choose foods that are an alternative to the slaughter of animals. This lead to a conversation of a few hours where he asked me about Buddhist beliefs, and shared some of his story as to why he became a Christian.

Though taking a very amicable tone throughout our discussion and never straying from being congenial, he made it very clear that his belief, according to the words of Jesus, was that it is “My [Jesus’] way or the highway” and that those who did not seek refuge in Christ would be condemned to hell. He also chastised me somewhat when I said that I believe in the teachings of Jesus and that I considered his message to be the same as those perpetuated by other great historical figures such as Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, etc. He retorted that if I believed in Jesus’ teachings then I had to believe that Jesus was the son of God as he said that he was.

Enter the herd of elephants.

I know that faith is a powerful thing and I can not condemn anyone for having this. What frightens me are people who believe so strongly that they have the truth and that the failure of others to see this requires acting against them to bring them around. I felt sad when I explained that my belief is that all religions basically have the same message, and each one is a combination of cultural relevance and personal fit. I explained that a truly spiritual person needs to examine many religions before deciding what path to follow, and even when that choice is made, people need to be willing to share that path with others of different views. Though the core of my personal spiritual beliefs is based in Buddhist teachings (the result of examining many religions and philosophies beforehand), my personal outlook is very much influenced by Hinduism and Taoism as well. Many of my views are also concordant with Christianity and Islam as well, though the primary separation from these bodies in my view is based in dogma and ceremony.

The central message of all religion is that "There is no way to peace; peace is the way." (A.J. Muste) Conviction toward one’s faith and putting on blinders are very different as one entails following one’s own spiritual path, while the other involves dragging people with you and attacking that which poses questions. That is the basis of war and hate. As David Borenstein stated: "One cannot subdue a man by holding back his hands. Lasting peace comes not from force."

In closing, I will share one of my favourite (Christian) quotations from St. Francis of Assisi:

"O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace! Where there is hatred, let me sow love.Where there is injury, pardon.Where there is discord, harmony.Where there is doubt, faith.Where there is despair, hope.Where there is darkness, light.Where there is sorrow, joy.Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; for it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life."

…Om shanti


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