Saturday, December 5, 2009

Alternative Values?

The Anglican archbishop of Singapore, John Chew, has caused a bit of a stir with comments he made the other day about Singapore’s declining population. Yes I know. In most countries when an Anglican prelate says anything people are usually not listening or if they are they either yawn or laugh. Not in Singapore, where the Anglican Church is large, strongly evangelical and fundamentalist. According to Chew, “If Singaporeans do not produce enough babies, the danger is that the mainstream population, its socio-cultural norms and ethos, will dwindle and diminish down the generations… The breaking down of families, and the changing of classical family norms, makes all this more aggravated”. And who is behind the declining population and the breaking down of norms? The gays of course. Chew urged his 10,000 strong audience to unite against ‘alternative values’ and particularly homosexuality. All the sociological studies show that the decline in Singapore’s population is due to more people choosing to remain single and to have smaller families, but I suspect the archbishop gets all his information from just one book.
Well, I happened to dip into that book just the other day and these were some of the things it says about ‘family values’. Jesus said, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his mother and father, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters…he cannot be my disciple” (Luke.14:26). He also said, “For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother’…a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Matthew.10:34-6 ). He denied his own family (John.2:4; Mark.3:31-3), never got married himself, and promised his disciples a hundred-fold reward if they renounced their homes and families? (Matthew.19: 29). Wow! This must be where some Singaporeans are getting their ‘alternative values’ from!
These new ‘enthusiastic’ clergymen are not to my liking. I prefer the old-style ‘traditional’ ones with theirkindly, innocuous sermons, like this one. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UOsYN---eGk

37 comments:

aah-haa said...

The Bible verses on family values are scary. Now, I understand why non-Christian parents were so upset by the behaviour of their children who had become Christians.

Brendan said...

Why do you even bother with the Bible. Jesus had no understanding of Emptiness and Interdependent Origination. He was a monotheist, and the bible is a book a fiction.Unfortunatly most humans can only cognize the reality of a theist.

aah-haa said...

Dear Bhante
Tiger Woods is still very much in the wood. American media have a field day with spades while Tiger guards his privacy with iron clubs. I invite you to tee with Tiger about family values and your shots about his ‘confession’. I know this is at Tiger's expense but it would not burn a hole-in-one pocket as he has billion$ to spare. I supposed any comment anywhere about Tiger is par for the course, no less here.

Rahula said...

Bear Bhante,

I believe some of the Biblical passages you quote should be taken into context.

1. Jesus probably meant that sometimes family may be a hindrance to serve God.

2. Jesus was calling everybody who serve God as his brothers and sisters.

3. Jesus was giving encouragement to those who had renounce family to follow him. He is not asking everybody to leave the family.

Best wishes,
Rahula

yuri said...

The problem with the words of Jesus is the verb "hate". The Buddha was also accused of taking young and old from their families. Though we know the Buddha's positive and reasonable attitude to family in the life of laity and we do not know of similar sayings of Jesus. But the word "hate" is indeed taken out of the context by no other but St Luke. The original version of the saying is in the gospel by Thomas - 101) "Whoever does not hate his father and his mother as I do cannot become a disciple to Me. And whoever does [not] love his father and his mother as I do cannot become a [disciple] to Me. For My mother [gave me falsehood], but [My] true [Mother] gave me life." This is a kind of orator's ruse to counterpoise earthly parents to spiritual parents - the living Father and the Holy Spirit. He considered His True Mother - the Holy Spirit as we can find in some other sources. But for St Luke who inserted the Nativity story into his gospel and to keep the words "like me" was impossible as it refuted the invented Xmas fairy tale.
Brendan says that Jesus had no understanding of Emptiness. Christ of the New Testament had not, but Jesus of the Thomas' gospel did have! "The Kingdom of the [Father] is like a certain woman who was carrying a jar full of meal. While she was walking [on] a road, still some distance from home, the handle of the jar broke and the meal emptied out behind her on the road. She did not realize it; she had noticed no accident. When she reached her house, she set the jar down and found it empty."

Branko said...

I agree with Rahula that Jesus' words (if those are really his words) should be considered iside their context. Otherwise, let's be fair, Buddha also has some scary words on family. For example in Dhammapada:

295. Having slain mother, father, two brahman kings, and a tiger as the fifth, ungrieving goes the holy man.

I know, there is an allegorical explanation of these verses, but I'm pretty sure there is also one for the Jesus too.

Metta

Brendan said...

@ Yuri, Hi Yuri. The Buddha said that "emptiness is matter matter is emptines and emptiness is empty". This means that all matter is empty. The example that you used claiming the Jesus knew about emptiness, dosnt seem to prove that Jesus knew about emptiness and Interdependent origination. Because the food left behind in you story is also empty as is the jar not to mention the story.

yuri said...

Hi, Brendan! As I understand the words of Jesus - the coveted Kingdom of Higher Reality (Living Father - by the way He is never referred to as God by Jesus in Thomas' gospel) is emptiness, and the way to it is by getting rid of all worldly things... And that it contains everything is suggested in another saying by Jesus in that gospel: "Raise the stone, and there you will find me; cleave the wood, and there I am." Jesus did see himself as something unique, he told his disciples that if they came to know themselves they would be like him, and he will be them! As to Interdepenedent origination, Jesus did not teach it. And how could he? Who were his audience? Could they understand it? They did not understand even his customised and adapted teaching and hence we have the New Testament - where new wine was poured into the old wineskin! :)

yuri said...

Hi, Branko! The Dhammapada was not written by the Buddha, I think. It is a poetised rendering of his ideas. As to that "scary" verse, I think, it has nothing to do with the institution of family. It looks like a poetic exaggeration of the Buddha's idea, that no previous sins, however horrible, can be an unsurmountable obstacle to a person who has chosen the Path. The same idea is, I feel, in the story of Angulimala.

Brendan said...

@Yuri, Jesus didnt teach Interdependent Origination and Emptiness because Jesus was a Theist. A Theists understanding of freedom is very different to that of Buddha. Because a Theist believes there ia a source (god) Buddhas understand that everything is interdependent without a source. Unfortunatly Theists just channel god realms and claim that as being freedom (enlightenment). Hence the reason why you think the kingdom of god is freedom.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Jesus’ words fit well into his belief that the world was soon to end in an apocalyptic cataclysm and were almost certainly meant to be taken literally. Some of the Buddha’s words about the family and having a family are equally ‘scary’ although of course don’t include the ‘hate’ thing. The difference is that contemporary Buddhists are not insisting that ‘family values’ should be upheld, nor do they blame the supposed decline of those values in innocent minorities.

yuri said...

Brendan, I still see a difference between Christ of the New Testament - yes, that largely invented figure was a theist, - and Jesus of the Gospel by Thomas, who I believe was a real spiritual teacher. Unfortunately he had to use terms understandable to the Jews of that time - Living Father, Father's Kingdom (corresponds to the Buddhist Nirvana if you carefully analyse the text). But his understanding of the Father is more like that "lokuttara" reality or Truth than a Creator and Regulator of the world. And he can be reached not through prayers or Faith but through knowing oneself, and there is even a reference to meditation (five trees in the Paradise which do not move their leaves, whatever weather and season - that is immobility of five organs of perception. The main idea of Jesus' teaching in the gospel is universal unity of everything and the overcoming of duality. I really recommend that you read the gospel. And you know that shin-buddhism - the American version of Pure Land has recommended reading the Gospel by Thomas to its members along with Buddhist sutras.

Brendan said...

@Yuri. Emptiness is empty. It is not a place or a thing or a kingdom. What your are describing is Theism. Like i said Theists view enlghtenment as reaching a source, which is exactly what you are doing. Theism and Buddhism are very different.

yuri said...

Hi, Brendan! It is a bit too metaphysical for me. But I am sure I am not a theist, but rather an atheist. :) If you absolutise emptiness it becomes nihilistic, and the Buddha was not a nihilist. And when we discuss it, emptiness also becomes a mental consruct. :) The stress on emptiness is, I feel, more like Mahayanistic. In Tipitaka the correspondent notion is anatta - the absense of Self. And the emptiness of khandhas, that is our ways of reacting to the world. What the world is really like is beyond words, and can be only experienced, but not explained in words, while emptiness is just another word :).

yuri said...

Dear Shravasti Dhammika,
I think when we say "Jesus believed" we should specify "Jesus of the New Testament" or "Christ believed". Taking into account the complexity of early Christian history, it is still a big question what exactly Jesus taught, as we have several documents presenting a different teaching of Christ from the one in the New Testament. In St Thomas' gospel Jesus is never referred to as Christ, and one of his sayings there refutes the idea that he was the predicted and expected messiah (Christ). In Thomas' gospel there is no mention of the close end of the world. And the words there ""This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away. The dead are not alive, and the living will not die" is a general statement - not about any coming catastrophe - but rather similar to the idea of anicca.

Soe am i said...

Hi all,

wow, from family values to emptiness. I just attended a talk that emphasized the importance of actually meditating and experiencing, finding out, checking if what we have heard about, read about (the nature of reality) is what it really is.
when you think about it, it is really just hearsay if we don't really find out ourselves, isn't it?

katannuta homi

redstar said...

I think the main point of the article is really to point out the biased viewpoints against homosexuals and the fact that religion is being used to encourage such discrimination.

The Lord Buddha preaches the Middle Way, and in this age and era, we already know how much suffering has been caused by religious extremism and intolerance.

yuri said...

Dear so_am_i, what you have written about is in Theravada termed «ehi passiko» - see for yourself. When first I started learning Buddhism, I relied too much on books. I reached easily what looked to me as true understanding of the Teaching, and I was very active in a buddhist forum in Russia, having heated disputes with other forum members — mostly Vajrayana followers. But soon I felt a strong dissatisfaction with my understanding being mostly intellectual. Then I left the forum and concentrated on meditation. During a retreat with Achaan Sumedho I entered a very deep level of concentration and then, I felt, I had a glimpse of the Truth. If you ask me to explain, I will fail to describe it, as words are inapt for that. But it changed me in so many ways, and made several difficult aspects of Buddhism obvious. Like anatta - the illusion of self. Just in an attempt to explain — Yuri is seen now as any other object or being of the world — walking, talking, eating, writing this comment etc. And changing all the time. Observed in a detached manner. And what's more — I do not feel I am the observer now — it is just pure observation. And this is still not saying what really happens. :)

Brendan said...

@Yuri, Emptiness is not nhilism. Empitiness is beyond the 4 extremes of being (eternilism), not not being (nhilism), niether, either. Also Jesus did not teach Interdependent Origination as Interdependent Origination does not have a source (god) or cause. Jesus was a theist and taught Theism (a source or cause). This is why Theists are unable to show freedom.

Buddha said...

well lot of comments!....
Remeber Buddha Tricked his cousin by giving the Bowl to him just before his mairrage and just walking away to his Monastrey while his cousin follwed him meekly..
May be he realised that his cousin had little dust in his eyes and could easily become an Arahant.

yuri said...

Dear Brendan, I don't think our discussion helps us to find liberation from suffering. :) But we are discussing Dhamma, aren't we? Or are we? :) You say paticca samuppada has no source... If it were perpetual and without source, no liberation from it would be possible. The source of it is our ignorance about our true nature and that is exactly what Jesus of the Thomas' gospel says in the very first few lines.

Yap Kim Hao said...

Dear Bhante

As a Methodist I am embarrassed that you a venerable Buddhist monk had to remind an Anglican Archbishop about the teaching of the Bible.

I was just reading about Jesus as a wandering teacher talking about leaving home and his family to give hope to the poor and oppressed in the Galilean villages to form alternative communities to have different values and of responding to the rule not of the Roman Emperor but of the divine Source of our being.
Thank you Bhante for your guidance.

Brendan said...

@Yuri, Interdependent Origination that the Buddha showed as reality does not have a source it is beginningless and endless.

yuri said...

Dear Brendan, I do not pretend to be an expert in Buddhist theory, in fact I don't even call myself a Buddhist. Used to but stopped after my meditational «breakthrough». I am just a traveller on the Path suggested by the Buddha. I understand paticca samuppada is the way how our human consciousness works, how it is karmically conditioned and how it leads to new and new births. But this chain can be broken and we can be one with Universal pure consciousness. Maybe I am wrong, but this is supported by my meditative experience. And even if you quote the Buddha to prove that PS is beginningless and endless, I will not accept it, as it contradicts what I have learnt in meditation. I glimpsed that there is that Universal pure consciousness which gives the world the quality of existence, whether we are there or not, and our limited and transient consciousnesses are rooted in it. It is our true nature whatever you call it — Emptiness or Fullness, Buddha Nature or Holy Spirit... These are just words!

Brendan said...

@Yuri, What you are desribing is Theism not Buddhism. If there is a source then there needs to be a reciever but there cant be a reciever as there is no room for a reciever (you and me) as the source (god) has always been (eternal). The Buddha was also on this path but found out the correct way which he called the middle way, between eternilism (Theism) and nhilism (materalism). The middle way being that all things are Interdependent with out a start or end.

yuri said...

Dear Brendan, a very simple question, please! Is Nirvana — a state within the framework of paticca samuppada? And just one quotation: «There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned”. Do I quote a theist? :)))

Brendan said...

Nirvarna isnt a place.

yuri said...

Dear Brendan! I feel we are misusing S.Dhammika blog for that discussion, though it is about dhamma! We could use email contact, but at the moment, I don't think it is worthwhile. We are at an impasse. Your reasoning does not work for me and my reasoning does not work for you. I don't mind being labeled a theist and not a buddhist, but I don't believe there is much good in labelling. And generally such metaphysical disscussions are not my cup'o'tea. I am grateful to the Buddha for offering such a practical and effective method of solving problems of life (and death too) as the Noble 8-fold Path and meditation. And they have given me concrete solutions to so many of my problems. So, at 71, I am a much happier man now than I used to be in my younger years:))) Isn't it great?!
And one correction — I did not say nibbana was a place — I said it is a state! With metta!

Brendan said...

Nibbanna isnt a state. Good luck.

yuri said...

:))) I am yet to learn what nibbana is but I trust people who more advanced in Buddhism.
"You ask me what Nirvana is. My answer is it is a particular state or quality of the mind" Dalai Lama.

Brendan said...

When the Buddha was asked this question "what is Niibbana", he remained quiet. Kundan was answering the question that you stated in the context of the question being asked.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

I really do appreciate all comments from all my readers. However, I would ask everyone to keep their comments succinct, polite and in particular, related to the subject matter of the post you are commenting on. Also, one or perhaps two comments from each person for each post is quite sufficient. Debates can be conducted on other forums. Please take note Aah-Aah and Yuri.

yuri said...

Dear Shravasti Dhammika, I do understand your desire to keep your blog trim. You are not just an ordinary blogger, but you use your blog for popularising Buddhism, and it is very well done. And yet you have not just a journalistic talent, but you are a buddhist monk and a teacher of Buddism and a real expert in Dhamma. And your active participation in the follow-up — that is comments and discussions, especially when difficult aspects of Dhamma are discussed could be also helpful and instructive.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Yuri,
Thanks for the complements and the encouragement. But as requested, keep you please keep your comments trim (a good term) and to the point.

yuri said...

Dear Shravasti Dhammika, I promise to try to be less garrulous though this is the problem of my age. But I hope that the point made in my previous point is not dismissed as being not to the point.

Brendan said...

@Yuri, The Buddha refuted a universal consiousness.This is the view of eternalism, which the Buddha said should be avoided. Also you say a return to this universal consiousness, how can there be a return? when were you there? Beginingless Samsara means beginningless.

yuri said...

The blog's host does not want any discussion here. So I have to shut up, which is so difficult for an old chatterbox like me :) Yet, we should respect his request, I feel.