Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Buddhist Blasphemy?

As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church. (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)

This, in my opinion, and not to put too fine a point on it, is crap.

And so is:

A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. (1 Timothy 2:11-12)

I've had my share of dharma combat with Christians over using the Bible to support rather un-Christian positions, such as the death penalty ... for homosexuals.

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. (Leviticus 20:13)

In fact, a pastor once warned one of his flock, a friend of mine, to stay away from me lest I corrupt him with my arguments. Apparently, one must guard the faithful against people who criticize a god who says (or inspires the saying of) things like:

Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock. (Psalm 137:9)

I confess that I did fire a parting quote at the pastor:

So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly. (Ecclesiastes 7:25)

Although I've heard the rationalizations for not expunging offensive passages from the Bible, I've lost interest in trying to remember what they are. Without doubt, there are glorious passages overflowing with beauty, wisdom and kindness, but because they are intertwined with the other stuff, I can never think of it as more than just a book.

I suppose my use of the C word earlier qualifies as blasphemy, being an expression of irreverence towards religious things. Sure, we can twist words until they morph into reverence for all things, but I'm not going there. A spade is a spade.

Which brings me around to Buddhism. There are times when I wonder if I'm a "real" Buddhist at all, because, as I've posted before, I'm not really interested in reincarnation, the afterlife, Karma, or who's who in Buddhist cosmology. While this might be considered a tad heretical in some circles, it doesn't feel blasphemous because there is no disrespect.

Still, I was relieved to discover recently that Buddha said:

Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. (Kamala Sutra)

Good questions posed by two blogging friends brought some things into focus for me. Lynette Genju Monteiro over at 108 Zen Books asked, "Which do you follow: the teacher or the teachings?", and Thane Lawrie way over in Scotland at My Journey asked, "Does Buddhism Need a Voice?"

Lynette's question stumped me for a while until it dawned on me that I don't really follow teachers or teachings, I just listen to them and then follow my gut. Their words are sometimes a patient finger pointing at the moon, and sometimes a good jab in the ribs. To use one last biblical quote,

The words of the wise are like goads (Ecclesiastes 12:11)

Thane's question explored the Buddhist identity and got me pondering. I call myself a Zen Buddhist because that label seems to be the best description of what I seem to be. And then, because I'm a Zen Buddhist, I do Zen things, like put on a black robe and do zazen on a zafu on a zabuton in a zendo, chant the four Bodhisattva Vows and pay attention to the abbot.

And when I remember to be mindful of it, bow deeply in gratitude.
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