October 26, 2006


Is the bardo weird? Someone made a comment to me yesterday about chapter 2 of Gehlek Rinpoche’s book in which he discusses the processes of death and the bardo state between life and death. “Isn’t that weird?”

Is it? I had never particularly thought so. I guess I’m so divorced from my own cultural heritage of religious traditions (Christian, United Methodist) that I don’t have anything “normal” for comparison. After all, when you think about it, isn’t the idea of Saint Peter meeting you at the pearly gates a little weird? I understand this is a misrepresentation of actual Christian dogma, but I think the metaphor works. I just consider them as differing mythological systems associated with different religions. I realize I’ve fallen into the habit of separating the mythology of a religion from the message. But if I do that, does the message still apply?

In my Intro to Philosophy class we studied the various philosophical basis for morality. A traditional view (Thomas Aquinas) is that morality stems from God. Morality is whatever God says it is. The rebuttal of this is what I call the “God as a bully” argument. I’m not going to go into the entire debate here, but it is similar to the debate of an objective morality which I’ve talked about in prior posts. Does God (like us) discover morality or create it? If he (or she) simply discovers morality, that means morality independently preexists God.

So is there a contradiction if I accept the message of Buddhism as practiced by Tibetans but not the mythology? I don’t reject the mythology outright, mind you. I’m just giving it the benefit of the doubt and withholding judgment at this point.

I met a man at the mountain center summer before last who seemed to think so, Mark. I had expressed my reservations at the concept of reincarnation, but said that I felt the system of Buddhism worked regardless of the existence of any higher power or spiritual existence. Mark felt very adamantly that they entire authority and legitimacy of Tibetan Buddhism was drawn from it’s dogma. The entire system of teachings would break down if that dogma proved untrue. As the time I wondered why someone would follow a tradition they felt would fall apart if one aspect, reincarnation, was disproved.

But how can love and kindness cease to be relevant just because we can somehow prove the Dalai Lama really is just a normal everyday Joe and not in fact the 14th manifestation of the aspect of Avolokitesvara, the Bohdisatva of Compassion?

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