Saturday, July 11, 2020

Is Buddhism science?


One of the greatest twists in the recent history of nonfiction came at the end of Sam Harris's The End of Faith (2004). The book gave physical form to the message-board atheism of the early internet and launched a publishing boom for religious skeptics, but its final chapter struck a different note. Harris, it turned out, is a self-described mystical seeker with a long history of pilgrimages and discipleships under various Eastern gurus. He concluded the book by evangelizing on behalf of a scientifically filtered Buddhism that can awaken us to "the intrinsic freedom of consciousness" and help us grapple with "almost every problem we have" as a species.

Despite his infidel reputation, Harris belongs to the religious current that David McMahan calls "Buddhist modernism." This is a global assortment of Buddhist movements formed under creative pressure from the dominant Western trends of the past few centuries, such as rationalism, Protestant anti-clericalism, and Romanticism. All of them sought to counter the judgment of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer that Buddhism is fundamentally pessimistic. At the same time, they accepted Schopenhauer's claim that Buddhism is "the finest of all religions," exceptional for its intellectual acuity and faithfulness to the human experience. In fact, a major strand of Buddhist modernism argues that Buddhism, properly understood, isn't even a religion but a uniquely empirical way of life based on meditation — "a first-person science," as Harris once phrased it.

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Sunday, April 26, 2020

Christianity’s Role in An Increasingly Diverse America

When PACE launched our Faith In/And Democracy pooled funding and learning initiative, we wanted to better understand the ways faith and faith communities can support democracy and civic life and potentially ease the divisions that plague our society and politics.

Unfortunately, religion is often seen as a polarizing topic — one that brings about sharp political divides, deeply held beliefs, and sometimes unwavering opinions. America's demographics and religious affiliations are shifting, and as Sharif Azami reflected to us back in October, "What diversity means for an increasingly pluralistic America is a critical question that needs serious exploration." At PACE, we are interested in exploring whether there is a constructive role for faith to play in creating more productive understanding between groups with different identities and beliefs.

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How Hebrews 1 Hammers Home the Deity of Christ

When it comes to biblical texts that teach Christ's deity, we probably think of passages like John 1 ("The Word was God," John 1:1), or 2 Peter 1 ("our God and Savior Jesus Christ," 2 Pet. 1:1). But there's another text that arguably teaches Christ's deity more relentlessly than either of these, and that's Hebrews 1.
Hebrews 1 is a majestic meditation on how Christ is better than angels. Now the question of how Jesus compares to angels isn't exactly on the front-burner of most modern evangelical minds (angel-oblivious people that we are). But for first-century Jews, there would've been few better ways to demonstrate Jesus's divine nature than to prove that he is greater than the angels.
But before we count the ways in which Hebrews 1 teaches the Godhood of Jesus, let me share with you a useful teaching tool that can help us appreciate this amazing chapter.

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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Lumbini On Trial: Cunnigham and his frauds


There are compelling reasons for believing that the site of Lumbini is an extraordinary hoax. The details of its discovery in 1896 reveal a tale of deception and intrigue, which is now told for the first time.
At present, controversy continues to surround the location of Kapilavastu, the Buddha's native town, with both India and Nepal promoting bids for this historically significant site. The Indian claim is based on the finds made at Piprahwa, in Basti District, Uttar Pradesh; the Nepalese, by that of Tilaurakot and its surrounding sites, in the Western Tarai of Nepal. It is my intention in this paper, however, to demonstrate that neither of these claims can be considered as acceptable, and to show that equal doubt attaches to the present site of Lumbini also. I further propose to nominate what I consider to be the correct locations for these and other major Buddhist sites, and to give detailed evidence in support of these proposals.

An old French saying declares that to know a river you should know its source, and any attempt to assess the reliability of the present identifications should begin by taking a close look at the circumstances surrounding their discovery. Chief among the participants in those events - and in my view central to them all - was the notorious figure of Dr Alois Anton Fuhrer, a German archaeologist employed by the (British) Government of the North-Western Provinces and Oudh between 1885-98, and co-discoverer of the present Lumbini site.

Modern Indologists, while aware of Fuhrer's unsavoury reputation, have neglected to conduct any really close scrutiny of his activities, fondly believing that these have long since been satisfactorily catalogued and assessed, and that Fuhrer may be safely consigned to oblivion in consequence. Unfortunately, this is far from being the case. Fuhrer, in fact, drove a coach and horses through critical areas of Indological research, and his deceptions continue to have far-reaching consequences for world history to this day. He was a prolific plagiarist and forger (who worked, alarmingly, on the first two volumes of the Epigraphia Indica) and I have good reason to believe that his deceptions were sometimes condoned, even exploited, by the Government of the day, for imperial reasons of their own. Following Fuhrer's resignation in 1898, the Secretary to the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces remarked, in a letter to central Government, that 'His Honor fears it must be admitted that no statement made by Dr Fuhrer on archaeological subjects, at all events, can be accepted until independently verified'. Unfortunately, this verification was by no means as rigorous as one might perhaps have wished, as we shall shortly see.

Sunday, December 08, 2019

How Could Jesus Be Both Divine and Human?

How can a person have a divine nature and a human nature at the same time in the way that we believe Jesus Christ did?

One of the great crises in evangelical Christianity today is a lack of understanding about the person of Christ. Almost every time I watch Christian television I hear one of the classical creeds of the Christian faith being denied blatantly, unknowingly, unwittingly. And of course, part of the reason is that it is so difficult for us to understand how one person can have two natures. You are asking me the question, 'How?' I don't know how; I know that Jesus is one person with two natures. How can that be? Long before there was a human nature there was a second person of the Trinity. Here the second person of the Trinity, very God of very God, God himself, was able to take upon himself a human nature. No human being could reverse the process and take upon himself a divine nature. I cannot add deity to my humanity. It's not as if Christ changed from deity into humanity. That's what I hear all the time. I hear that there was this great eternal God who suddenly stopped being God and became a man. That's not what the Bible teaches. The divine person took upon himself a human nature. We really can't understand the mystery of how this happened. But it is conceivable, certainly, that God, with his power, can add to himself a human nature and do it in such a way as to unite two natures in one person.







Sunday, September 01, 2019

Importance of Buddhist psychotherapy

Celebrated Psychologists like Carl Jung, William James and many others have understood the value of Buddhist philosophy and its positive impact on mental health. Their research programs have highlighted the importance of Buddhist psychotherapy in the treatment of depression, anxiety, factitious and addiction disorders, medically unexplained symptoms and various other psychological ailments. It is now increasingly used in psychotherapeutic practice in the western world.

Modern society has imposed many strains on human beings, and those in the psychological realm are perhaps among the most serious. As declared by the Buddha and emphasized by William James, the realities of the mind are more important than the realities of the body. Hence the significance of mental health and mental therapy as advocated in Buddhism has been recognised today by professionals.

Mindfulness

Historically, the Buddha was the first religious leader in the world to draw a distinction between physical and mental illness. According to the Buddha, it is hard to find a perfectly healthy person physically; it is harder still to find a person completely sound and healthy mentally.

Buddhist psychotherapy stresses the value of mindfulness and meditation. Instead of talking long hours about a mental problem with a psychotherapist until it virtually takes over one's consciousness, the Buddhist therapy tries to help the individual to awaken to his or her true nature, even if it means living outside of social convention. This is where Western and Buddhist psychotherapy differ.

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Sunday, June 02, 2019

Meekness Is Not Weakness

Of all the Beatitudes, I'd guess that "blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth" is the most misunderstood, mistrusted, and neglected. I think the reason why is because we don't understand the virtue of meekness and tend to think it indicates weakness.

Certainly, meekness didn't fit in with the values of the Greco-Roman world of the first century, where humility wasn't generally lauded as a virtue. Nietzsche, a great admirer of the Greeks, thought meekness was exactly the sort of false virtue that the weak would applaud because, well, it's about the only virtue they could actually pull off. Since the weak can't win by the standard rules, they change the rules.

I think most of us are far more Nietzschean than we'd like to admit. At least I am. When I hear the word meek, it seems too insipid, too accommodating, too spineless to be a virtue.

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

If You Want to Evangelize, Try Talking About the Weather

When I was at seminary two decades ago, "spiritual direction" was a new trend. Many of us thought that it was the greatest idea we'd ever hit upon, particularly for those who had grown up around very

Spiritual direction, we learned, was like midwifery: A midwife cannot create life or control it. She can only encourage it to fruition and be present to the miracle that is already happening in someone else. In the same way, spiritual directors facilitate growth but aren't responsible for it. Both the director and director are in a listening posture, waiting on the Spirit for discernment and attending to the life that God is growing within.

This midwife-to-mother relationship was located, we thought, in the upper atmosphere of spiritual maturity and sought after by believers who were really striving to attain deep faith. We were all talking about it, reading books about it, and wondering where on earth to find a highly trained spiritual director.

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