World-renowned psychologist, Erich Fromm, is the author of the book, The Art of Loving. I read it when I was in high school. In the book, Fromm discusses five different kinds of love: brotherly love, motherly love, erotic love, self-love and love of God. While he is quite certain about the benevolent nature of the other four of the loves, he is skeptical about erotic love. He says:
Brotherly love is love among equals; motherly love is love for the helpless. Different as they are from each other, they have in common that they are by their very nature not restricted to one person. If I love my brother, I love all my brothers; if I love my child, I love all my children; no, beyond that, I love all children, all that are in need of my help. In contrast to both types of love is erotic love; it is the craving for complete fusion, for union with one other person. …
A Buddhist friend posted yesterday a very interesting question. He asked, “If we are going to expend our time and effort into a (spiritual) practice, surely we must intend to receive something in return?”
I would refer to this as an investment mindset. It is no different from investing in stocks or in real estate. You put money, effort, and capital into a project. For most people, it is natural and reasonable that they should demand a return. In fact, those who don’t demand a return are often considered as “stupid” or “irrational.”
This question reminds me of an anecdote in the history of Ch’an Buddhism. When Bodhidharma, the first patriarch of Ch’an, first arrived in China, the emperor summoned him to his court. The emperor asked, “Throughout my life, I have always supported the cause of Buddhism. I have built temples and monasteries. I have made numerous charitable contributions to the Sangha. I have sponsored Buddhist events. Given all that I have done, what kind of merit should I receive?” Bodhidharma’s reply to him was rather blunt. He said, “None.” I would hate to imagine the emperor’s facial expression when he heard that answer. …
How should we study Buddhism? What kind of mindset should we adopt if we are not religious followers, but want to learn about the timeless wisdom embodied in the Buddha’s teachings?
These are the questions I asked myself when I started a Facebook group, titled What the Buddha Taught. The title is based on a book originally published in 1959 by a prominent Buddhist scholar, Wapola Rahula. It has been used as a standard textbook for a college-level introductory course in Buddhism. While the bulk of the contents is based on the Theravada tradition and the Pali Canon, the book serves to give a succinct overview of what original Buddhism might look like. In particular, I like the book’s philosophical and non-religious approach. It is appropriate for both the religious students and the secularists. I particularly like its first chapter, which introduces the “Buddhist attitude of mind.” In my opinion, this is the best chapter in the book. …
The famous novelist, Kurt Vonnegut, once said:
“For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. ‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”
In the mid-90s, I published a book titled The Zen Teachings of Jesus. In the book, I remarked that there are usually wide discrepancies between Jesus’s teachings and church teachings. My earlier book was about the many elements of Jesus’s teachings which are either ignored or not emphasized in popular Christianity— elements such as joy, humor, playfulness, presence, and ordinariness. Particularly joy and playfulness. After the publication of my book, I did more research. This time, I focus more on Jesus’s social teachings. I am sorely aware of how many evangelical Christian churches have hijacked Jesus and turned a set of allegedly Christian doctrines into a religion of hate. It is high time that we expose the reality of many evangelical Christian beliefs and reveal that the emperor has no clothes. …
How much of Buddha’s teaching is a local phenomenon, tied to India’s culture and beliefs during Buddha’s time, and how much of it is universal and transcultural, applicable to all of us?
Buddha taught that nothing has an independent existence. The central tenet of Buddhism is Dependent Origination (Pratītyasamutpāda), which means everything arises (or disappears) together with other things. Note that this is very different from our common-sense notion of origination. We often think of causation as single-factored. But the Buddhist notion of causation is multi-factored and mutual causality. Instead of thinking in the simplistic term of single-factor and single-effect, what we have is an intricate web of causation. …
Environmental activist, Rachel Carson, sounded for us the alarm bell for the potential danger of pesticides. Modern science and technology are often used as weapons to conquer nature. Thus, pesticides are developed and used against what we perceive as our enemies. The problem is that man and insects share the same planet and what poisons the bugs may also poison man. The war against nature could turn suicidal. Thus, Carson said, “But man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.”
Our war against sex is very similar to our war against nature. In fact, it is part of the war against nature. In this case, instead of trying to conquer some external object, we attempt to conquer ourselves. But the consequences of this conquest mindset is equally damning. Humans are sexual beings. We are also members of the animal kingdom. We cannot condemn our deep-seated sexual nature and needs without also condemning what it means to be human. …
Many people prefer to be called “spiritual” and not “religious.” Most of us are familiar with the toxic nature of bad religions. But there are also many toxic spiritual beliefs, which are fallacies. I am compiling a list. Here are a few for starters:
1. The mind is ego: This is totally baseless. Critical thinking requires the mind. Philosophy requires the mind. Science requires the mind. To bash the mind is the most idiotic thing I have seen among “spiritual” people.
2. You see people as evil because you are projecting your own shadow. Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung are two of the prominent psychologists who have talked about projections and the shadow. Yes, SOME of the evil we see in others have to do with our projections. But not all. …
Today is the birthday of Martin Luther, the founder of Protestantism.
Martin Luther was not just a theologian, he was also an author, a monk, a priest, and a composer. One of the most famous hymns he composed is titled “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” It opens with the following lyrics:
A mighty fortress is our God,
A bulwark never failing:
Our helper He, amid the flood
Of mortal ills prevailing.
For still our ancient foe
Doth seek to work his woe;
His craft and power are great,
And armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
This vision of God as a fortress marks the big difference between Eastern spirituality and Western spirituality. The West’s notion of God is something hard, rigid, and immovable. Because the Western man sees God as a fortress, He is also a shelter. Another famous Christian hymn is titled “Rock of Ages.” It begins with these words, “Rock of ages cleft for me, let me hide myself in Thee.” There is no question that the Abrahamic religions tend to use a masculine language to portray God. …
A Buddhist just posted this in a Buddhist group:
The first of the Eightfold Path is Right View (knowing the truth). Sufferings are self-inflicted. The world happens as it is. Nobody has control over it. You only have control over how you react to it. When people do something that hurts you, it’s not intentional, it’s out of habit. When you react and hate them for who they are, it’s not out of understanding but also out of habits.
For a long time, I have wondered why Chinese Buddhism has not one shred of progressivism. Actually, it is worse. Historically, it has been a regressive religion. Many Chinese Buddhists use religion as a way to escape the world. It is a tradition that has no example of fighting for social justice whatsoever. …