Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Thought

Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.
-- Vietnamese Buddhist Precept--

This just jumped off the page at me today. I wonder why.

All sorts of headlines kept flashing before my eyes.

If this were the prevailing philosophy instead of being ignored by most, what would the world be like today?

I wonder if this ever could become generally accepted.


  1. Fred, I am not a very good student of either philosophy or theology, but--as a casual observer of what humans have always been seeking (i.e., the "truth" about human existence) --it seems to me that "systems of thought" (i.e., philosophies and religions) are very much concerned with seeking "absolute truth." Such a quest, it seems to me, is essential to living. And, to the extent that someone believes in a truth contained within his or her "system of thought," there is nothing inherently right or wrong (proper or improper) in that belief, even if the belief is "idolatrous" in its nature. The error comes when people seek to impose (by whatever means) their version of the truth upon others. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for a world in which people are free to share their version of the truth (which would mean that evangelists, missionaries, and similar species of enthusiasts should not be muzzled); however, I become wary when governments (or other agents of absolute power) decide the acceptability or unacceptability of different versions of the truth. Well, after having rambled on about the subject, I suppose I ought this as the bottom line: I believe that there probably is an absolute truth, and I wholeheartedly support anyone's quest for that absolute truth, but I wholeheartedly reject any mandate that would require me to accept a particular absolute truth. Does that make sense?

  2. R. T.,

    Is the precept warning against the search for "absolute truth" or is it warning against setting up "the guiding means" as idols, or false gods?

    I think it is warning against making various ways or guiding means--Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.-as the absolute truth and stopping one's search for the absolute that is behind them--mistaking a path for the destination, in other words.

    I agree about governments, but the various religious bodies do the same in deciding what is or what is not acceptable among the different versions of the truth. While governments enforce their dictates with temporal punishment, all religions enforce theirs with eternal pain, suffering, and torment if one doesn't believe the "right way."
    Which is worse-a temporal punishment or an eternal punishment?

  3. Hi,

    Here's a blog that serves for your spiritual needs.
    It has messages from the Holy Scriptures, that teach us how to have GOD in all the aspects of our lives and have GOD's rule over every matter:

    Have a blessed reading.

    God bless you.

  4. Dear Fred,

    I would point out that religions in and of themselves cannot "enforce" anything with eternal pain because that would be up to God. Certainly they can threaten that--although I don't recall much of a thread of that thought in Judaism.

    I think the precept is designed to guard against what can be observed in Christianity as Bible-olatry and other dogmatic stands. However, dogma does not necessarily preclude the search for truth. What we are not to be bound to is the idea rather than what lies behind the idea. I think the principle quite sound and strong. Nothing should come between the human person and divine love--especially not our odd notions of what Divine Love might or might not be. In real love, we must be willing to give up our prejudices about what real love is and be ready to experience it directly.

    I think that is what the Buddhist text gets at. Don't hold on to the idea because it will separate you from what is real and substantial.



  5. Fred,

    I didn't say it before, but the wisdom of this teaching is a wisdom shared in a great many traditions--indeed in nearly all the spiritual traditions of the world of which I am aware. Doctrine and Dogma are there to guide one to the presence, but they are not themselves to be made an idol of. One should not admire Chuang-tzu more profoundly that the truth toward which Chuang-tzu was pointing. St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila make similar sorts of points--God is not doctrine and dogma--ultimate reality--absolute truth does not reside in anything outside of itself. (In my tradition, we would say outside of Himself.)



  6. Steven,

    True--dogma in and of itself doesn't necessarily stop the search, but once a truth is defined as God's word, then the searching stops for most people anyway.

    When a religious group defines itself as God's interpreter or representative on Earth, then the distinction between what it's deity does and what it does gets very blurred.

    "Whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven."

  7. Steven,

    Yes, I agree. And once one removes the cultural or local elements, the core for most religions is quite similar--see Golden Rule as one example.

    Another is the injunction to let God worry about the sinners, we should pay more attention to what we ourselves do or don't do. It's too bad that believers almost completely ignore this one.