Retired,Live in the woods, .54 miles off the road, love to work outside and feed the deer and birds in the winter time. I volunteer with meditation groups in four prisons near my home with the Milwaukee Zen Ctr Program that goes to 12 prisons. Also very active in Poetry community, Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee, Naropa SWP in Boulder, CO and other readings. There are four Buddha surrounding my home, I also take care of their well being and all living beings....
World Religions: Not One, Not Many
Tuesday April 13, 2010
Stephen Prothero has a new book coming out next month called God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World -- And Why Their Differences Matter. In this book he argues against the popular idea that the world's religions are all just different paths up the same mountain, so to speak. "This is a lovely sentiment but it is dangerous, disrespectful, and untrue," he says.
Prothero is a professor of religion at Boston University who has written a number of books, including Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know--And Doesn't (2007), which documents that in spite of our industrial-strength religiosity, Americans don't know nothin' about religion. A shocking number of American Christians cannot name the four books of the Gospels when pressed to do so. And only 10 percent of American teenagers can name all five major world religions; 15 percent cannot name any.
I haven't yet read God Is Not One, but according to a press release the book makes that case that a basic understanding of the world's great religions is essential to understanding global issues. But understanding a religion means to understand it on its own terms, not to view the religion through an idealistic haze that blurs the distinctions.
This strikes a chord with me. During the recent Tiger Woods/Brit Hume flap, many Christians in media and in our own blog comment threads proudly told us that only Christianity offers redemption for our sins, so why wouldn't we want to convert to it? As I wrote at the time,
Christians carry around in their heads a conceptual framework of what religion is supposed to be that simply doesn't apply to Buddhism. (This is one of the reasons so many people argue that Buddhism is not a religion; I say it is, and the framework is flawed.) So to say that Christianity is superior to Buddhism because it offers redemption is a bit like saying birds are superior to horses because they have feathers. It's nonsensical.
I get emails all the time from young people whose teachers have given them lists of questions about Buddhism. But the questions often are unanswerable as asked, because they are actually questions about Christianity-- questions about sins, repentance, redemption and heaven. All I can do is send them a link to the "intro to Buddhism" article and hope they read it with an open mind.
As for the part about all religions are not one -- the "all religions are one" meme has become an orthodoxy in some circles, and to stand up and say "no, they are not" and insist that distinctions be recognized and respected is to risk being called a fundamentalist. But according to Prothero's publisher, the new book explains that each of the world's great religions looks at a different problem and comes up with different solution.
-Islam: the problem is pride / the solution is submission
-Christianity: the problem is sin / the solution is salvation
-Confucianism: the problem is chaos / the solution is social order
-Buddhism: the problem is suffering / the solution is awakening
-Judaism: the problem is exile / the solution is to return to God
This explains why the Christians who wandered over here during the Brit Hume flap could not fathom why we weren't worried about our sins. But it also illustrates, I think, why one really can't blend two or more of these religions together without some distortion.
Although Jesus and the Buddha agreed on many things, ultimately the sin/redemption model and the suffering/awakening model are incompatible, at least from a Buddhist perspective. There's no place in Buddhism for an "other" power that "redeems" us. (Who redeems? Who is redeemed? From what? For what?)
Have you tried dividing the years of your life into phases and categories? If you have, you'll be struck by a certain dominant theme that runs through these stages in life. Many a time you may have felt like being at the crossroads, looking for a guide that will tell you what to do next. And you might have wondered, what's the right thing to do at these stages in life, and what's the next step to take. Fortunately, Hinduism has a set of answers to these questions. While Shakespeare divided life into "seven ages", in Hinduism, human life is believed to comprise four stages or "ashramas":
* The First Ashrama - "Brahmacharya" or the Student Stage
* The Second Ashrama - "Grihastha" or the Householder Stage
* The Third Ashrama - "Vanaprastha" or the Hermit Stage
* The Fourth Ashrama - "Sannyasa" or the Wandering Ascetic Stage
This system of ashramas is believed to be prevalent since the 5th century BCE in Hindu society. However, clearly these stages of life have always been viewed more as 'ideals' than as common practice. Which of the four stages of life would you reject completely?
I have made a request to participate in this wonderful event. I will give away one copy of my book, "Chasing Wind Mills. Why Not." (LuLu.com, 2008) and one book by a Beat poet. I am on the road as Jack K wrote about and Willie sings about, so will have the actual nae of the second book after the 14th of April. Have a wonderful National Poetry Month, if your in East Central Wisconsin, USA, North America on Wednesdays after the 14th for three weeks from 2-4pm the poets in and around the Princeton Library are going ot meet and write poetry. A Reading will be the first Wed in May, 5:30pm pot luck (we eat a lot in Wisconsin) and reading by Bruce Dethlefsen a nationally known but very local poet and the rest of us, what fun! Peace ko shin, Bob Hanson firstname.lastname@example.org
trails of smoke
falling into my village
not the trails of angels but of violence
against my family, my neighbors even those I do not get along with
trails of smoke in the sky
run for cover
pray for peace, yes, peace
and maybe quiet…
Poem accepted with slight edit by Word Salad Magazine has been accepted there Feb 8, 2009, by ko shin