Sunday, 4 August 2013

Wistfull thinking ...

There must be some link between golf and philosophy as I routinely finding myself pondering the big questions after a round of golf. Walking back to the house today I started thinking about my Buddhist way of being and compared it with my training as a Methodist Lay Preacher and why that training lead me to the conclusion there is not a God.

It comes down to this statement of what Jesus actually said in Mark. Mark is looked upon as one of the most accurate record of what Jesus actually said due to being the earliest recorded in Sanskrit and Greek of all the gospels. When challenged about his proclaimed 'New Covenant' which was to replace the 'Old Covenant', by Rabbinical Scholars Mark has Jesus defining the 'New Covenant' as to love your God with all your strength and all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself. There is scholarly argument as to whether the sentence in Sanskrit version means 'this is' or 'that is' the 'New Covenant'. There has been much blood spilled over the millennium or so since the Council of Antioch because of the difference between 'this is' which leaves much philosophical wiggle room and 'that is' which leaves no wiggle room at all. The other big problem for the Romanised, fit for Empire, Christianity that came out of the Council of Antioch completely ignored the concept of the 'New Covenant' being about the individual commitment and how the individual conducted themselves in terms of the requirement to love your neighbour as yourself. The last thing the Roman Empire wanted was a church that sanctioned the individual as the arbiter of right and wrong, based on their own moral concept of how they would wish to be treated and their acceptance of all their own faults as being their own responsibility, before judging others. The Roman Empire needed a religion which reflected the misogynistic laws of Empire and the need to 'render unto Ceasar'. The Council of Antioch ensured the Roman Empire got just exactly what it wanted and needed in terms of a new state religion along with their reward of increased power and control over the 'faithful' and direct influence on the state.

500 years before Mark recorded the words of 'Jesus' Siddatta Gotama wrote that to become Buddha or enlightened the first 'siskapada' or step was for you to lose all attachments and to have compassion, love and empathy for all living things, certainly a step or two further on from 'love your neighbour as yourself' but an intrinsically parallel philosophical thought and moral imperative. This is also where there are, to me, parallels with the 'New Covenant' with Mark's record saying it was about giving up on all the old past truths and rights, all whittled down to simply loving God, your neighbour and yourself, in other words lose all your past attachments and start a new. This all leaves me pondering whether the historical 'Jesus' was actually a Buddhist monk or philosopher.

If you look at any set of religious schisms they all come down to the inability of one group or another to be bale to let go their attachment to their particular safety blanket be it in the Old or New Testament, their interpretation of the Koran or whether Buddhists need to believe in a God or not to be Buddhists which God or Gods that should be and surely a belief in God must be a form of attachment and therefore let go of. A current expression of the lunacy of unthinking attachment to a translation of a version of events which has, over the millennia, been heavily redacted to fit the political needs of past times, is seen in the rise of the extreme, right wing Christianity in the USA seen at its worst in the activities of the 'Westboro' Baptist Church or the rampant 'Christian Right' misogyny seen in action in the Texas Capitol - love your neighbour as yourself; you have got to be joking.

Here is the problem with 'attachment' it gets in the way of love, compassion and empathy. It is the cause of most hatred and division in the world, it lets in anger and fear because most people are unable to let go of what they are attached to no matter how good or bad it makes their life. Anger and fear leave no space for compassion or empathy and certainly no space for love. In the west most folk see a strong attachment to a form of religious belief or national belief or political belief as empowering and important yet the reality is the opposite is true and these attachments get in the way of meaningful peaceful resolution - Northern Ireland remains a case in point.

In Scotland the anger and fear behind the 'Better Together' campaign is palpable it can only exist as part of a British state run by Westminster. The problem for 'Better Together' is they have no space for compassion or empathy with the wishes of the Scottish people for greater autonomy where as the 'Yes Campaign' has in spades. As a result the Yes Campaign has no need for anger or fear and finds it easier to change people's minds to their cause. Both campaigns have an attachment to Scotland but the Yes Campaign's is one that is open and not constricted by attachments to ancient shibboleths, 'aye beens' and inflexibility as highlighted by Tam Daziel's outburst in today's Sunday Times.

Just think, how many people have you made friends with because they were angry and fearful rather than open, loving and compassionate?

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