Anyone can get to Heaven

[Summary: Article on the entrenchment of the “we are right” view, and the mystic or meditational side to religion]

Anyone can get to heaven

Goes the Buddhist saying

Just be good

Dogmatic religions always feel themselves right and others wrong – it is just the way that views and opinions work. The Buddha warned against it too, but views and opinions, or rather the attachment to them, will infiltrate into every group of people, and take hold. Amusingly, in the Milinda Panha, a key Buddhist text where the historical Hellenic King Menander converses with an arahant several hundred years after the Buddha, we are told that there will never be two Buddha’s arising in the world at the same time because:

  • The world will crack apart under the weight of their goodness
  • Their disciples will argue with each other over who is right

You can observe even in the same religion, sometimes even in the same school of the same religion, there are arguments over the ‘correct’ understanding. And of course the implication is, if you don’t understand (or believe) correctly, you won’t be saved or reach enlightenment.

Buddhism seems to be free from the tar of this brush. It seems to be open and accepting of other religions, and respectful towards them.

All religions teach people they should be good

is a common understanding. The opening quote of this blog expands on this indicating the Buddhist dictum that a higher rebirth depends on your actions, and not on your beliefs.

Buddhism is a non-competitive religion, that does not fear other belief systems. But in fact, if you scratch beneath the surface you find the same old entrenched views and opinions. According to Buddhism, other religions might teach you to be a good person, but they can’t get you to enlightenment. The same old feeling that ‘we’ are right, we have the proper understanding. One particular school of Buddhist meditation (which we won’t name), looks upon other schools with disdain, sniffing

Their system of meditation might work eventually, but it is very slow. Ours is fast.

It’s almost impossible to keep yourself beyond the allure of views and opinions.

Beyond ‘Schools’

But there is another way to look at religion, instead of the ‘schools’ split. Rather than Christian/Buddhist/Islam, rather than Hinayana/Mahayana or Catholic/Protestant we can look at religion as a common belief system / mystic division.

All religions have their mystic side – the area of the teaching that the serious seeker uncovers. The area where one is able and willing to go beyond beliefs and beyond the thinking mind towards the

Peace that lies beyond the understanding

Sufi mystics, Hindu gurus, Buddhist monks, hermits, and others have all taken the giant step out side of the thinking mind, towards a deeper reality that starts to uncover as the self disappears. “Silence” said C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia tales, “is the purest form of prayer

Where does that leave the common people?

On Saturday 22nd March 2008 we will look at the fascinating documentary ‘Marjoe’ – the fly-on-the-wall film documenting the money-making fake evangelical Marjoe Gortner. While he might not believe in himself, and he does not believe in God, Marjoe never loses respect for the common people – people who would attend his meetings in throngs, entering trances, speaking in tongues and sometimes being healed through faith. Strong belief, strong faith, and a reverential heart are qualities that all the great mystic traditions have praised. They are qualities worth developing. The Common Religion / Mystic Religion split is not one of better/worse, but a case of angle of approach, so that those whose devotion might be somewhat jaded, will have their own way of advance nonetheless.

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About Cittasamvaro

Auto blogography of an urban monk
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4 Responses to Anyone can get to Heaven

  1. Will says:

    You’ve obviously not been washed in the blood of the lamb!

    But how about the “I am more of a mystic than thou” attitude on the part of some who claim a greater knowledge than the common folk?

    Jesus (some say) turned the hierarchies upside down by saying that in order to be a saint you had to be a servant.

    I’ve heard that some Sufi masters can be found sitting on a heap of dung.

  2. Marcus says:

    Hi!

    “Where does that leave the common people?”

    Good question. In Japan, Zen was seen as the route for the elite, those with all the spare time to sit zazen – and the common people simply had to support their practice.

    Same as in Thailand?

    Which is why Pure Land then bacame the most popular form of Buddhism there, because it offered just one simple practice (the nembutsu – “Namu Amida Butsu”) that anyone can do anytime no matter their level or education. And it’s all based on……faith.

    I like that!

    Namu Amida Butsu!

    Metta,

    Marcus

  3. Cittasamvaro says:

    I did mention that “The Common Religion / Mystic Religion split is not one of better/worse, but a case of angle of approach” becuase it can be tempting for the ‘mystics’ to feel they ‘know more’. In some ways it is similar to the Bhakti/Gnosis difference of approach.

    In western eyes often the ‘meditators’ are the real Buddhists (translate terms for other religions) and the common people just believers. However one wonders if the person who comes to meditate on his stress is really more of a ‘real’ Buddhist than one who goes to Tam Boon. Ajahn Sumedho often commented on this – who gets more out of his temple, the meditators or the contributers/workers?

    I know I remember more fondly the retreats I have done where I was a helper/worker, than the ones where I was the yogi.

  4. Marcus says:

    Yes, I agree exactly!

    To answer my own wondering about Thailand…..although Zen meditation was only for the elite in Japan and most people were quite separated from it, in Thailand Buddhism really does belong to the people in a very real sense.

    I often hear western Buddhists being snooty about some of the common practices in Thai Buddhism – what they miss is that these practices are just how ordinary people connect to their religion and are every bit as valid as sitting watching your breath.

    Thank you Cittasamvaro,

    Marcus

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