Wednesday, January 20, 2010

There'll Always Be Someone Who Doesn't Like You

The 15th was Dr. Martin Luther King Day, which I usually try to remember but forgot this year, until just yesterday. Here is a brief but moving reminder of something very important he once said. It reminds me somewhat of the Buddha’s observation from Dhammapada 227-8; ‘They blame the one who sits in silence, they blame the one who speaks much, they even blame the one who speaks in moderation. There is no one in the world who is not blamed. There is not now and there will never be, someone who is wholly blamed or praised’. In a funny way this observation can be a consolation when one does face blame or dislike.

Sometimes you can hardly believe your ears! This morning I read the news item about the arms contractor who puts a coded message from the Bible (John 8,12) in all the weapons parts it makes for US forces fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It seems that the founder of this company, Mr. Glyn Bindon, was a devote evangelical Christian. Apart from playing into the hands of Muslim extremists who claim that the so-called war against terror is really a Christian crusade against Islam, one can only wonder how Mr. Bindon understood his religion. After reading this news item I took out my Bible, stood it on edge so that it fell open randomly. Then I perused the page it opened at and I found this passage. ‘God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the Day of Judgment, because in this world we are like Him…If someone says, “I love God” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, who he has seen, cannot love God, who he has not seen. And He has given us this command: Whoever loves God must love his brother’ (I John 4, 16-21). How Mr. Bindon was able to square this with making gun sights to efficiently kill his brothers is anyone’s guess.
In his Future of an Illusion Freud says that religion is a type of delusion and that religious people are, in a sense, insane. There is more than a scrap of truth in this claim. This is what my experience over the years tells me. There are six ways people are religious. (1) Most people have a shallow belief in their religion and other than practicing a few ritual requirements it has little effect on their behavior. (2) Some people have a relatively strong belief, carefully practice its ritual requirements and make some attempt to modify their behavior according to their religion’s teachings, at least where it does not go against their wishes. (3) Some people have an unshakable belief in their religion, strongly practice the parts that suit them and just as strongly ignore the parts that don’t. (4) Some people bring to their religion their pre-existing obsessions, prejudices, complexes, cravings and psychoses and interpret and practice their religion through them. (5) Some people were ‘normal’ before becoming religious and then their religion actually made them obsessive, prejudiced, psychotic, etc, to the degree than they are ‘abnormal’. (6) A small number of people genuinely and sincerely try to practice all the teachings of their religion in such a way that they end up becoming psychologically healthy, happy and well-balanced.
My experience is that most Buddhists would fall into 1, with a good sprinkling 2, 3 and 4 and a small number of 6. But I have very rarely come across the 5th type amongst Buddhists and I think this is due to the contents of the Dhamma. I know many Sri Lankan monks who enthusiastically supported the war in their country and who claimed that it was justified in order to ‘save Buddhism’. But there was nothing in the Buddha’s teachings, not a sentence, not a word, not a letter, that could be twisted or stretched, quoted out of context or paraphrased, to justify such an attitude. If your crazy you'll probably interpret the Dhamma in a crazy way. Hopefully, some of the Buddha’s wisdom will be able to penetrate your craziness and help you become sane, or at least a bit more sane. But if your ‘normal’ Dhamma won’t send you crazy. And if you have an innate common sense and/or a skillful teacher, there is a good chance that the Dhamma will transform you into a truly happy and psychologically healthy person.

At times like these, as the world watches a horrible tragedy such as the Haiti earthquake and its aftermath play out, one of the questions people inevitably ask is ‘Why does God allow things like this to happen?’ The BBC has thought it appropriate to ask a professional philosopher to give his thoughts on this question. Have a look at


Deidre Foo said...

i truly agree with you on the 6 different type of believers. We are in an age where as much words we use is being displayed as i know more than you. i have seen so many people who uses religion to belittle others to show they are more superior.

aah-haa said...

Ya, there is always someone who doesn't like me.

Walter said...

Read "The Road Less Travelled" by M Scott Peck about the psychological effect of religion, esp Christianity, on various people. Interestingly, further down the road, many years after he wrote the book, he became a "born again" Christian.