Posted 01 February 2008 - 02:26 PM
Wow, I am blown away by how much understanding and wisdom you guys are showing. Really deep, smart interpretations of ideas that a lot of people find confusing.The belief in reincarnation is more or less a holdover from the Hindu milieu out of which Buddhism grew. You don't have to believe in it at all. I find it a charming idea, but I don't have faith in it happening literally.What you say about Buddhism being allowing and free-flowing is what I love about it, but at the same time a lot of Americans (dumber Americans than you) hear that and think "oh, anything goes, whatever feels good I can justify through Buddhism because it doesn't have any rules." It doesn't have hard and fast rules, but that's because it's totally happening within you. [And I think that's why it is the way it is, not necessarily because of religious hierarchy.] What I'm talking about is karma. Karma just means response -- the way Buddhists often put it is, "Suffering follows evil deeds as the wheel of a cart follows the ox. Happiness follows good deeds as the wheel of a cart follows the ox." Karma is that simple and that automatic. There's very little you can do to alter it except to change your deeds. The more good you do, the more happiness follows and the happier you and those around you will be. Do bad deeds, and you will suffer as a result (for those who do believe in reincarnation, you may suffer with a lower rebirth).The college I went to had a motto: "In the final analysis, every student is responsible for his/her own education." What that meant to me was that if I wanted to sign up only for classes that met after 2 PM and arrange my schedule so that I had Fridays off and no big papers, that was fine. I would graduate dumber than a rock, but the school really didn't care. I was going to pay the price for my choices. If I took five classes a semester and chose the hardest professors and had 300 pages of writing due in one term (yep, that was me), then I would graduate smart, with a virtually unlimited future, and I would reap the rewards of my choices.So Buddhism seems very allowing because it's not the rest of us or society that will reap the consequences of your deeds, good or bad. It's you. It's up to you what it is you want to reap, and arrange your behavior accordingly.I want to stay away from how we are like or unlike Christianity, but I do have to say that this is a big reason for me to be Buddhist. I was sexually abused as a child, and Christianity tells me that my abuser can just ask forgiveness and get it without having to do anything else (like apologizing or admitting his crime) and he can go to the same heaven as I would, if I were a believer. A rapist can go to heaven, right alongside his victim. Where's the divine justice in that? I've never molested a child, most raped women have never turned around and raped others. How do we deserve nothing more than the people who did such harm? How do they deserve nothing less than those whose lives and souls they forever damaged? I've asked ministers this, and their response was all about the importance of forgiveness. They didn't seem to get it when I said Christianity struck me as the perfect religion for perpetrators, but not so good a one for victims. God essentially forgets the rape and returns the rapist to a state of innocence before the rape occurred. That's nice, but can he return the woman there, too? Can he return her to a time before the rape, before she stayed in a locked house after dark or flinched when men looked at her? Not that I've ever heard.You're exactly right that ridding yourself of desire and grasping (even grasping to those we love) is not cold at all, but all about fully loving them and appreciating them in the moment. Every moment is precious if you treat it as the only one you have, and what hurts is when we hold on to "you were different when we were dating," or "I don't want my mom to grow old." Those thoughts create suffering for us, because we can't turn back the clock or stop it entirely. People do change. Love them now, for who they are now. And then tomorrow, love them for who they are then.In fact, this, too, is why Buddhism is so allowing and free-flowing. If you love someone for who they are each moment, instead of comparing that moment to previous ones you liked better, then you just sort of automatically judge them less and appreciate their little quirks more, and when you treat the whole world that way, the whole idea of judging and resisting the things you don't like and clinging to the things you do like just sort of starts to fall away. You find that you can love a whole lot more than you ever thought you could.To Longshottwelves's questions (do we cease to be human by ceasing to grasp, does anyone achieve perfection, and do we have to follow the path to a T), I'll throw my two cents in as well. As Tim and Checky both said, by not grasping we become more expansive, more loving, more relaxed, and better than human -- we become more buddha-like! The Zen take on achieving perfection is to liken humans and buddhahood to a buried jewel. We all have the perfection of buddhahood inside -- every last one of us. The difference is whether or not we'll make the effort to clear away the dirt covering that jewel. If we never make the effort, the jewel will never be seen. If we make some effort, some glimmers may appear, but only if we really carefully sweep away all the dirt (bad habits, grasping, selfish motivations, etc.) will the jewel fully shine for everyone to see and fully enrich our lives. Lastly, Buddhism is very much a path of "do your best right now." Your best right now may not be very good -- maybe it's just passing up that second rock of crack. But if that's your best, then you get 'credit' for that. Maybe your best is to sit in meditation until you achieve full enlightenment like the Buddha himself. Whatever your best is in this moment, just do that. And keep doing that. Lists and paths aside, that's the whole thing.