Buddhism, Secularism, and Socialism

 

Two weeks ago, I decided it was time to give away the meditation mats and cushions that I had originally purchased for the meditation group I led. (As many of you know, I practiced Buddhism for over 20 years, and broke with my teacher several years ago. I also re-discovered my love for Judaism, and that is where I find myself now.)

I remembered that there was a Zen center about an hour away from here, and wrote them an email, asking if they would like my cushions and mats. They were delighted. When the representative came to pick them up, he asked if I knew a fellow at their center. As it happens, this fellow, a very nice man, had practiced at the same center in San Diego where I had practiced. We’ve agreed to have a phone conversation.

In the meantime, that contact stirred up many painful memories about my former teacher and my relationship with her. The teacher/student relationship is an intimate one, and we had known each other for many years. Unfortunately, the deeper I explored my practice and pursued my path to becoming a teacher, the more toxic the relationship became. Ultimately her demands were more than I was willing to meet, and I ended it.

It occurred to me, as I was re-visiting my relationship with her, that Zen Buddhism has a built-in potential for violating boundaries. Students are encouraged to use good judgment when choosing teachers, and for a long time, I thought I had. A teacher is meant to assist a student in breaking through (not eliminating) the ego, so that the student may experience the oneness of the universe that is always present. The danger is that breaking through the ego does not mean destroying it. I was certain that my teacher was using her power to do just that. I left when I knew she had gone too far, intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.

* * *

The abuse of power by spiritual leaders and teachers is not unique to Buddhism. Every religion has stories of leaders manipulating their followers; the potential is built into the system. We try to train these leaders to behave appropriately. Sometimes, however, their desire for power and ego satisfaction override good judgment and compassion for the student. A noteworthy issue with Buddhism is that G-d is not included. As a Jew, I always believed in G-d, but He was not directly included with my Buddhist practice; a built-in issue was that if there is no superior power to guide and judge teachers, they become the ultimate power. These conditions make relationships ripe for violating interpersonal boundaries.

Before I found my way back to Judaism, I still identified with the Zen community. I began to realize, however, that the organization had publicly taken a far-Left political position on nearly every major issue. That clinched the deal: I broke with Zen completely. For the record, I believe that no religious community should take political positions

* * *

But religion is not the only practice where boundary violations can occur. The same problem exists in secularism. (Yes, Buddhism could be called a secular religion or philosophy.) Once again, when there are no overriding beliefs, rules, and commitment to a higher power, every secular human being has the potential to try to control others. Violating the boundaries of others becomes secondary to using power to accomplish what a secularist might believe is the “greater good.” Given these beliefs, secularists often see religion (and therefore G-d) as a threat. So secularists violating the boundaries of religious believers is not an issue for them; their use of power is of prime importance.

Finally, the term “socialism” is on the radar of America. No one can agree with what that term means, which is a problem in itself. The lack of an agreed-upon definition allows the promoters of socialism to call it whatever they wish. Generally, socialism requires (whether people admit it or not) government control of the means of production. That means that private ownership is in conflict with the goals of socialism. In addition, personal freedom, free speech, free thinking, congregating outside of government-mandated meetings is contrary to the goals of socialism. As a result, our personal boundaries will be threatening to socialism and will need to be eliminated.

* * *

I have brought up Zen Buddhism (as representative of my experience with a potential abuse of power and boundary violation), secularism (which denigrates any religious institution which elevates anyone or anything above the individual), and socialism (which paradoxically denigrates the rights of the individual and extols whatever serves the state), because they are all potential threats to our ability to manage our boundaries and therefore manage our lives. I have experienced the threat first-hand. I now know and believe there is only one way which I will allow my personal boundaries to be vulnerable.

And for me, He is always present.

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  1. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding
    @EKentGolding

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):
    A faithful people are easy to govern well.

    And this is a state of affairs that should be feared.

    Why? Governing well tends to be libertarian. The U.S. Constitution assumed a virtuous people who could easily be governed well.

    A faithful people are difficult to govern poorly — hence Catholic Poland’s revolt against communism.

    I don’t consider being “governed” to be a good thing. I am a free man.

    Anarchy is unstable and tends to result in tyranny.  

    • #31
  2. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    But the only reason why many people think that God spoke to Moses face to face is because somewhere along the line the story of Moses was told.  But what if the story isn’t factually accurate?  This means all those who have believed this story have been manipulated.

    It’s the same when someone says, “And then Jesus said . . . . . ”  But the only reason why people think Jesus said X is because someone said or wrote that Jesus said X.

    Maybe Jesus never said any such thing or maybe Jesus, like Moses, was just a human being, capable of being wrong like all other human beings.

    So, both Judaism and Christianity are based on a bluff.

    What is great about the increase in the non-religious in the United States is that some people are calling the religious leaders’ bluff and saying, “You don’t have access to the truth that you claim.”

    The Bible is just a book with words on sheets of paper, written by human beings.

    The Book of Mormon is just a book and lots of Mormons are becoming ex-Mormons, realizing that the Book of Mormon was written by a human being, not God.

    The con game is being uncovered and in the age of the internet it’s harder to con people than it was back in the day of Jesus and St. Paul.

    • #32
  3. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Religion is a lot like the Bernie Madoff scam.  Bernie Madoff printed up on pieces of paper “rates of return.” 

    The problem was that Madoff wasn’t actually investing the money he was accepting from others.  Madoff was using his investors’ money as his own personal slush fund.  But as long as few people wanted to withdraw their money, the ponzi scheme could continue.

    Once the stock market crashed, however, lots of people wanted their money and Madoff couldn’t give everyone their money back.  

    It’s sort of like that with religion.  As long as only a few people ask skeptical questions about Holy Books, the scheme can continue.  But once a large number of people refuse to drink the Kool-Aid, game over.  

    • #33
  4. HeavyWater Reagan
    HeavyWater
    @HeavyWater

    Here is Ex Jehovah’s Witness Lloyd Evans having a conversation with a 20 year old Ex Jehovah’s Witness about why they left the religion that they were indoctrinated into from birth.

    A conversation with Ben (20-year-old ex-JW)

    • #34
  5. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):
    A faithful people are easy to govern well.

    And this is a state of affairs that should be feared.

    Why? Governing well tends to be libertarian. The U.S. Constitution assumed a virtuous people who could easily be governed well.

    A faithful people are difficult to govern poorly — hence Catholic Poland’s revolt against communism.

    I don’t consider being “governed” to be a good thing. I am a free man.

    Anarchy is unstable and tends to result in tyranny.

    You confuse being a citizen with being governed.  To quote the movie based on James Fenimore Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans,”

    Maj. Heyward: You call yourself a patriot, and loyal subject to the Crown?
    Hawkeye: I do not call myself subject to much at all.

    That is not the same as being an anarchist.  

    • #35
  6. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

     

    The con game is being uncovered and in the age of the internet it’s harder to con people than it was back in the day of Jesus and St. Paul.

    If only this were true. I doubt it is, though.  People will believe what they want to believe despite any evidence.  The anti-vaccination trend grew during the internet age, not before.  The internet can help uncover the truth, but it’s also a way for lies and misinformation to spread as well.  Those who won’t vaccinate will never be convinced by facts or evidence, nor will the religious.  The best we can hope for is tolerance for different opinions.

     

    • #36
  7. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    I have been reading ideas of others and found these two interesting. They are on you tube and I have listened to their speeches for the last tow days.

    Jews for Judaism Staff – Michael Skobac

    https://jewsforjudaism.org/staff/rabbi-michael-skobac/Rabbi Skobac was the founding director of Kiruv, the campus outreach arm of the Rabbinical Council of America, and has worked as a campus professional with Hillel groups in Philadelphia, New York and Toronto 

    Manis Friedman – chabad.org

    https://www.chabad.org/search/keyword_cdo/kid/469/jewish/Manis-Friedman.htmRabbi Manis Friedman is a world-renowned author, lecturer and philosopher; and co-founder of Bais Chana Institute of Jewish Studies. 

    • #37
  8. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    Shalom Susan,

    This story may be of interest to you.

    Be well,

    YBE

    A fascinating story, Yehoshua. G-d does work in ways that we simply can’t fathom. Thank you.

    • #38
  9. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Religion is a lot like the Bernie Madoff scam. Bernie Madoff printed up on pieces of paper “rates of return.”

    The problem was that Madoff wasn’t actually investing the money he was accepting from others. Madoff was using his investors’ money as his own personal slush fund. But as long as few people wanted to withdraw their money, the ponzi scheme could continue.

    Once the stock market crashed, however, lots of people wanted their money and Madoff couldn’t give everyone their money back.

    It’s sort of like that with religion. As long as only a few people ask skeptical questions about Holy Books, the scheme can continue. But once a large number of people refuse to drink the Kool-Aid, game over.

    @heavywater, you are welcome to be skeptical about religion. But I resent your insulting people who are religious. Isn’t it possible that believers and non-believers can live together without insulting each other?

    • #39
  10. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Skyler (View Comment):
    The best we can hope for is tolerance for different opinions.

     

    Thank you, @skyler. This is key in a country that allows us to decide our paths.

    • #40
  11. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Susan Quinn: It occurred to me, as I was re-visiting my relationship with her, that Zen Buddhism has a built-in potential for violating boundaries. Students are encouraged to use good judgment when choosing teachers, and for a long time, I thought I had. A teacher is meant to assist a student in breaking through (not eliminating) the ego, so that the student may experience the oneness of the universe that is always present. The danger is that breaking through the ego does not mean destroying it. I was certain that my teacher was using her power to do just that. I left when I knew she had gone too far, intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.

    It is always fascinating to find where different faiths have similar practices, but in the service of different ends.  They look at times outwardly the same, but are fundamentally different.  Christian Orthodoxy has a strong emphasis on teacher / student, or spiritual elder / disciple relationships.  It also has its own forms of meditation and prayer that in some ways resemble Buddhism, but with a very different focus.  These things are especially concentrated in monasticism.

    The Ladder of Divine Ascent, by St. John Climacus (“Climacus” meaning “of the ladder”), is a book of ascetical wisdom of 6th century Christianity.  The book was written by an abbot for other monastics, and some chapters are very directly applicable to monks, while others are applicable to Christians in general (I had a whole post up about this book back during Lent).

    Chapter 4 is on Obedience, which is a specific duty of monks.  As such, for non-monastics it is a difficult read, but even so it has some interesting things to say about the necessity of breaking our own wills as a means to taming our own passions.  In that sense it is antithetical to Zen.  These are some of the early paragraphs of that chapter:

    Obedience is the abandonment of our own life through the deeds of our body. Or stated another way, obedience is the putting to death of the members of our body while the mind stays alive. Obedience is not doubting, a willing death, an uncomplicated life, danger free of concern, a rapid defense by God, courage at death, a safe journey, a sleeper’s advancement. Obedience is the grave of the will and the resurrection of meekness. A dead body does not debate or vacillate between good and evil. For the one who has piously killed the soul of a novice will give answer for all things. Obedience is a renunciation of discrimination in a treasure of discernment.

    To start the mortification of the will of the soul and body requires much labor. The middle often involves toil, but at some points it is without pain. However the conclusion is an indifference toward labor and pain. Only at the point he observes himself doing his will does the living corpse feel pain and grief of heart. For he is concerned when faced with the responsibility of exercising his own judgment.

    You, the one who has made up his mind to strip himself for the arena of the spiritual confession; you, the one who desires to take the yoke of Christ on his neck; you, the one who is attempting to put your weight on someone else’s shoulders; you, the one who is hurrying to making an oath to give up your life to slavery, for which you desire to have freedom put to your account; you, the one who is upheld by the hands of others, swimming across this great ocean. It is best that you understand that you have made the decision to journey over the short but difficult path, from which only one path forks, which is called a singularity. However the one who has renounced all this, even in those things which seem to be spiritual and excellent and well-pleasing to God, has reached the finish line, even before starting his travels. For obedience is the disbelief of all things which pertain to oneself, however excellent they may seem, until the conclusion of one’s life.

    Climacus, John. The Ladder of Divine Ascent (p. 12). Kindle Edition.

    It’s certainly an interesting contrast.  

    One of the areas John explores is the question of when one has a mercurial or cruel, or perhaps even quite mad spiritual father.  As the breaking of one’s will (the term “ego” not being then in use) is a means towards the end of obedience to Gd’s command, obeying a spiritual father (even a bad one), will still teach you to obey Gd in the end (and one’s faithful obedience may even teach the teacher a thing or two about faith and duty).  This is why monasticism is considered a form of living martyrdom (white martyrdom, as opposed to red martyrdom, which is actually being killed for one’s faith), a death of the self for the glorification of the Almighty, and unquestioning service to Him.

    Food for thought anyway.

    • #41
  12. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    And I don’t think that churches should preach politics from the pulpit.

    This is an interesting point to flesh out.  What do we mean by “politics”?  @titustechera often likes to point out that we’re rather muddled even understanding what politics is, what it does, and what our place should be in regards to politics.  I would add to that the fact that we muddle the heck out of what is or is not political, deem anything controversial or embroiled in matters of law as political, and thus toss quarantine it from our faith.  This is dangerous.  I’ll attempt to illustrate just why.

    If we understand politics to be the necessary art (and by art I mean inexact practice) of negotiating over power and competing interests in the governance of society, then I would say your declaration has merit.  Churches and synagogues should be wary of backing any particular faction, both for practical reasons, and because a faith is applicable to all who would believe – one should not have to join a particular faction to also believe in the Almighty.

    BUT: this is not to say that a religion should bite its tongue when it comes to certain issues, or sit idly by when an entire faction openly displays its hostility to the faith.  Abortion is moral question, for instance, even if its legality is fought over in courts of law.  A church should be completely free to teach on abortion, and should not be made mute simply because it is also fought over in the political arena.

    There is a massive fight over our immigration crisis that is both political and religious – many Christians I know are absolutely horrified by the immigration policies being fought over, and this is actually reflected in the politics of the matter.

    Likewise, many Christians are actively opposed to any possibility of a war with Iran.

    Now should any given church explicitly endorse or oppose immigration laws, or war with Iran?  Perhaps not, especially if it is a matter of political factionalism.  But they should feel free to weigh in on the moral stakes under consideration, and should not be muted simply because the ultimate decisions will be made in the political arena.

    • #42
  13. Titus Techera Contributor
    Titus Techera
    @TitusTechera

    It would be prudent for Christians to continuously look to spread their message on life in a non-partisan way, as the common belief &, indeed, inheritance of all Americans.

    It would be even more prudent for them to continuously multiply associations aimed to help poor women who are pregnant. This would take far more effort & money than is now available.

    But I have heard it said in America that Christ counts for something & that belief in God is not the same as comfort.

    • #43
  14. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn: It occurred to me, as I was re-visiting my relationship with her, that Zen Buddhism has a built-in potential for violating boundaries. Students are encouraged to use good judgment when choosing teachers, and for a long time, I thought I had. A teacher is meant to assist a student in breaking through (not eliminating) the ego, so that the student may experience the oneness of the universe that is always present. The danger is that breaking through the ego does not mean destroying it. I was certain that my teacher was using her power to do just that. I left when I knew she had gone too far, intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.

    It is always fascinating to find where different faiths have similar practices, but in the service of different ends. They look at times outwardly the same, but are fundamentally different. Christian Orthodoxy has a strong emphasis on teacher / student, or spiritual elder / disciple relationships. It also has its own forms of meditation and prayer that in some ways resemble Buddhism, but with a very different focus. These things are especially concentrated in monasticism.

    The Ladder of Divine Ascent, by St. John Climacus (“Climacus” meaning “of the ladder”), is a book of ascetical wisdom of 6th century Christianity. The book was written by an abbot for other monastics, and some chapters are very directly applicable to monks, while others are applicable to Christians in general (I had a whole post up about this book back during Lent).

    Chapter 4 is on Obedience, which is a specific duty of monks. As such, for non-monastics it is a difficult read, but even so it has some interesting things to say about the necessity of breaking our own wills as a means to taming our own passions. In that sense it is antithetical to Zen. These are some of the early paragraphs of that chapter:

    Obedience is the abandonment of our own life through the deeds of our body. Or stated another way, obedience is the putting to death of the members of our body while the mind stays alive. Obedience is not doubting, a willing death, an uncomplicated life, danger free of concern, a rapid defense by God, courage at death, a safe journey, a sleeper’s advancement. Obedience is the grave of the will and the resurrection of meekness. A dead body does not debate or vacillate between good and evil. For the one who has piously killed the soul of a novice will give answer for all things. Obedience is a renunciation of discrimination in a treasure of discernment.

    To start the mortification of the will of the soul and body requires much labor. The middle often involves toil, but at some points it is without pain. However the conclusion is an indifference toward labor and pain. Only at the point he observes himself doing his will does the living corpse feel pain and grief of heart. For he is concerned when faced with the responsibility of exercising his own judgment.

    You, the one who has made up his mind to strip himself for the arena of the spiritual confession; you, the one who desires to take the yoke of Christ on his neck; you, the one who is attempting to put your weight on someone else’s shoulders; you, the one who is hurrying to making an oath to give up your life to slavery, for which you desire to have freedom put to your account; you, the one who is upheld by the hands of others, swimming across this great ocean. It is best that you understand that you have made the decision to journey over the short but difficult path, from which only one path forks, which is called a singularity. However the one who has renounced all this, even in those things which seem to be spiritual and excellent and well-pleasing to God, has reached the finish line, even before starting his travels. For obedience is the disbelief of all things which pertain to oneself, however excellent they may seem, until the conclusion of one’s life.

    Climacus, John. The Ladder of Divine Ascent (p. 12). Kindle Edition.

    It’s certainly an interesting contrast.

    One of the areas John explores is the question of when one has a mercurial or cruel, or perhaps even quite mad spiritual father. As the breaking of one’s will (the term “ego” not being then in use) is a means towards the end of obedience to Gd’s command, obeying a spiritual father (even a bad one), will still teach you to obey Gd in the end (and one’s faithful obedience may even teach the teacher a thing or two about faith and duty). This is why monasticism is considered a form of living martyrdom (white martyrdom, as opposed to red martyrdom, which is actually being killed for one’s faith), a death of the self for the glorification of the Almighty, and unquestioning service to Him.

    Food for thought anyway.

    Fascinating, @skipsul! Still, it’s difficult for me to accept that this is calling for absolute obedience–is that what it’s saying—no matter what. I’m I understanding that correctly? Is there no danger in going too far?

    • #44
  15. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Now should any given church explicitly endorse or oppose immigration laws, or war with Iran? Perhaps not, especially if it is a matter of political factionalism. But they should feel free to weigh in on the moral stakes under consideration, and should not be muted simply because the ultimate decisions will be made in the political arena.

    I agree–someone else brought this up. The moral questions that come out of the political disputes can and should be talked about. But the parishioners should be free to make their own political decisions. I had a friend with whom I discussed public policy. We could often agree on the morality of taking action; we parted ways when we talked about the means to practice that morality.

    • #45
  16. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Religion is a lot like the Bernie Madoff scam. Bernie Madoff printed up on pieces of paper “rates of return.”

    The problem was that Madoff wasn’t actually investing the money he was accepting from others. Madoff was using his investors’ money as his own personal slush fund. But as long as few people wanted to withdraw their money, the ponzi scheme could continue.

    Once the stock market crashed, however, lots of people wanted their money and Madoff couldn’t give everyone their money back.

    It’s sort of like that with religion. As long as only a few people ask skeptical questions about Holy Books, the scheme can continue. But once a large number of people refuse to drink the Kool-Aid, game over.

    @heavywater, you are welcome to be skeptical about religion. But I resent your insulting people who are religious. Isn’t it possible that believers and non-believers can live together without insulting each other?

    Not when atheists consider anyone with faith stupid or conned. I can tell you, heavy water has the typical disdain for anyone of faith that you see from “brights”.  

    • #46
  17. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    it’s difficult for me to accept that this is calling for absolute obedience–is that what it’s saying—no matter what. I’m I understanding that correctly? Is there no danger in going too far?

    There are two very consistent themes in monasticism in particular, and in eastern Christianity in general that put this in context:

    1. Do not ever completely trust yourself or your own judgement.  Our reasoning is always clouded, and it can be incredibly self-serving in ways we may not notice at the time.
    2. We cannot fully obey Gd’s commandments if we are governed by our own desires and passions.  You cannot serve two masters, so by learning absolute obedience and humility you can in time learn to subdue your own self and thus be attuned to Gd’s voice and will.  Put another way, by learning obedience even to another flawed human being, one will be better able to also obey Gd. 

      The lives of the saints recount many instances where a person was wronged, sometimes deeply so, and righted the matter by then apologizing in humility to the wrongdoer.

    • #47
  18. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    The Rebbe from Kotzk saw in this verse an answer to non-believers. It is the ego (“I”) which stands between you and G-d.

    It is fair to wonder how the only person who spoke to G-d face to face could also be the most humble person on earth. Humility, the Chasidim explain, is self-nullification before G-d. An analogy to Moses (found in Netivot Shalom, a Chasidic work) would be a barrel of water. As long as that barrel of water stands on its own, it has value. However, when the water in the barrel is poured into the ocean, the value of the water in the barrel is completely nullified. Even if a million barrels of water were poured into the ocean, the value of the water in those barrels would now be nil compared to the water in the sea. This is what Moses understood. G-d is the sea and when we allow ourselves to be poured into that sea, we are completely united with Him, as close to Him as it is possible to be, completely merged with Him, yet nothing compared to Him.

    This is exactly the aim of monastic obedience.

    • #48
  19. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    HeavyWater (View Comment):

    Religion is a lot like the Bernie Madoff scam. Bernie Madoff printed up on pieces of paper “rates of return.”

    The problem was that Madoff wasn’t actually investing the money he was accepting from others. Madoff was using his investors’ money as his own personal slush fund. But as long as few people wanted to withdraw their money, the ponzi scheme could continue.

    Once the stock market crashed, however, lots of people wanted their money and Madoff couldn’t give everyone their money back.

    It’s sort of like that with religion. As long as only a few people ask skeptical questions about Holy Books, the scheme can continue. But once a large number of people refuse to drink the Kool-Aid, game over.

    @heavywater, you are welcome to be skeptical about religion. But I resent your insulting people who are religious. Isn’t it possible that believers and non-believers can live together without insulting each other?

    Not when atheists consider anyone with faith stupid or conned. I can tell you, heavy water has the typical disdain for anyone of faith that you see from “brights”.

    To be clear, people can think whatever they wish to think about religion, from my view. I just care about what they do and say.

    • #49
  20. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    it’s difficult for me to accept that this is calling for absolute obedience–is that what it’s saying—no matter what. I’m I understanding that correctly? Is there no danger in going too far?

    There are two very consistent themes in monasticism in particular, and in eastern Christianity in general that put this in context:

    1. Do not ever completely trust yourself or your own judgement. Our reasoning is always clouded, and it can be incredibly self-serving in ways we may not notice at the time.
    2. We cannot fully obey Gd’s commandments if we are governed by our own desires and passions. You cannot serve two masters, so by learning absolute obedience and humility you can in time learn to subdue your own self and thus be attuned to Gd’s voice and will. Put another way, by learning obedience even to another flawed human being, one will be better able to also obey Gd.

      The lives of the saints recount many instances where a person was wronged, sometimes deeply so, and righted the matter by then apologizing in humility to the wrongdoer.

    I concur with #1, skip, but I have serious doubts about #2, especially the use of absolute obedience to another human being. I’ve seen enough wounds, not just my own, but of others, to last a lifetime. For example, what would you say to the person who is told that she should have sex with her teacher? (This is not what happened to me.)

    • #50
  21. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    I concur with #1, skip, but I have serious doubts about #2, especially the use of absolute obedience to another human being. I’ve seen enough wounds, not just my own, but of others, to last a lifetime. For example, what would you say to the person who is told that she should have sex with her teacher? (This is not what happened to me.)

    There are numbers of writings on how to discern whether one has found a good spiritual elder in the first place, or how to tell when one’s elder has gone off the rails in a bad way – in the case of ones who are requiring one to commit moral violations, the student is exempt and should seek out a new teacher immediately, or seek out a higher authority.  There are limits, many merely implied, but others spelled out.  

    • #51
  22. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):
    it’s difficult for me to accept that this is calling for absolute obedience–is that what it’s saying—no matter what.

    Rabbi Manis Friedman has a different perspective. We were created because G-d needed us. Absolute obedience is not necessary.

    <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55_ZxC9D8NQ&gt;

    • #52
  23. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding
    @EKentGolding

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):
    A faithful people are easy to govern well.

    And this is a state of affairs that should be feared.

    Why? Governing well tends to be libertarian. The U.S. Constitution assumed a virtuous people who could easily be governed well.

    A faithful people are difficult to govern poorly — hence Catholic Poland’s revolt against communism.

    I don’t consider being “governed” to be a good thing. I am a free man.

    Anarchy is unstable and tends to result in tyranny.

    You confuse being a citizen with being governed. To quote the movie based on James Fenimore Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans,”

    Maj. Heyward: You call yourself a patriot, and loyal subject to the Crown?
    Hawkeye: I do not call myself subject to much at all.

    That is not the same as being an anarchist.

    You confuse your opinion of my beliefs with my beliefs.  Feel free to set up any false dichotomies of your choosing.   Enjoy your games.

    • #53
  24. Skyler Coolidge
    Skyler
    @Skyler

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):
    A faithful people are easy to govern well.

    And this is a state of affairs that should be feared.

    Why? Governing well tends to be libertarian. The U.S. Constitution assumed a virtuous people who could easily be governed well.

    A faithful people are difficult to govern poorly — hence Catholic Poland’s revolt against communism.

    I don’t consider being “governed” to be a good thing. I am a free man.

    Anarchy is unstable and tends to result in tyranny.

    You confuse being a citizen with being governed. To quote the movie based on James Fenimore Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans,”

    Maj. Heyward: You call yourself a patriot, and loyal subject to the Crown?
    Hawkeye: I do not call myself subject to much at all.

    That is not the same as being an anarchist.

    You confuse your opinion of my beliefs with my beliefs. Feel free to set up any false dichotomies of your choosing. Enjoy your games.

    Says the man making accusations of anarchism. 

    • #54
  25. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):
    A faithful people are easy to govern well.

    And this is a state of affairs that should be feared.

    Why? Governing well tends to be libertarian. The U.S. Constitution assumed a virtuous people who could easily be governed well.

    A faithful people are difficult to govern poorly — hence Catholic Poland’s revolt against communism.

    I don’t consider being “governed” to be a good thing. I am a free man.

    Anarchy is unstable and tends to result in tyranny.

    You confuse being a citizen with being governed. To quote the movie based on James Fenimore Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans,”

    Maj. Heyward: You call yourself a patriot, and loyal subject to the Crown?
    Hawkeye: I do not call myself subject to much at all.

    That is not the same as being an anarchist.

    You confuse your opinion of my beliefs with my beliefs. Feel free to set up any false dichotomies of your choosing. Enjoy your games.

    Says the man making accusations of anarchism.

    @ekentgolding and @skyler, I think maybe we can stop the spitballs for a while. What say you?

    • #55
  26. E. Kent Golding Member
    E. Kent Golding
    @EKentGolding

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):
    A faithful people are easy to govern well.

    And this is a state of affairs that should be feared.

    Why? Governing well tends to be libertarian. The U.S. Constitution assumed a virtuous people who could easily be governed well.

    A faithful people are difficult to govern poorly — hence Catholic Poland’s revolt against communism.

    I don’t consider being “governed” to be a good thing. I am a free man.

    Anarchy is unstable and tends to result in tyranny.

    You confuse being a citizen with being governed. To quote the movie based on James Fenimore Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans,”

    Maj. Heyward: You call yourself a patriot, and loyal subject to the Crown?
    Hawkeye: I do not call myself subject to much at all.

    That is not the same as being an anarchist.

    You confuse your opinion of my beliefs with my beliefs. Feel free to set up any false dichotomies of your choosing. Enjoy your games.

    Says the man making accusations of anarchism.

    @ekentgolding and @skyler, I think maybe we can stop the spitballs for a while. What say you?

    I haven’t sent any spitballs.   I will drop out of this conversation.

    • #56
  27. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Susan Quinn (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):

    Skyler (View Comment):

    E. Kent Golding (View Comment):
    A faithful people are easy to govern well.

    And this is a state of affairs that should be feared.

    Why? Governing well tends to be libertarian. The U.S. Constitution assumed a virtuous people who could easily be governed well.

    A faithful people are difficult to govern poorly — hence Catholic Poland’s revolt against communism.

    I don’t consider being “governed” to be a good thing. I am a free man.

    Anarchy is unstable and tends to result in tyranny.

    You confuse being a citizen with being governed. To quote the movie based on James Fenimore Cooper’s “Last of the Mohicans,”

    Maj. Heyward: You call yourself a patriot, and loyal subject to the Crown?
    Hawkeye: I do not call myself subject to much at all.

    That is not the same as being an anarchist.

    You confuse your opinion of my beliefs with my beliefs. Feel free to set up any false dichotomies of your choosing. Enjoy your games.

    Says the man making accusations of anarchism.

    @ekentgolding and @skyler, I think maybe we can stop the spitballs for a while. What say you?

    I haven’t sent any spitballs. I will drop out of this conversation.

    I’m sorry if I offended you, Kent. It’s just a figure of speech, saying that the back and forth wasn’t productive.

    • #57
  28. Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu Inactive
    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu
    @YehoshuaBenEliyahu

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    The Rebbe from Kotzk saw in this verse an answer to non-believers. It is the ego (“I”) which stands between you and G-d.

    It is fair to wonder how the only person who spoke to G-d face to face could also be the most humble person on earth. Humility, the Chasidim explain, is self-nullification before G-d. An analogy to Moses (found in Netivot Shalom, a Chasidic work) would be a barrel of water. As long as that barrel of water stands on its own, it has value. However, when the water in the barrel is poured into the ocean, the value of the water in the barrel is completely nullified. Even if a million barrels of water were poured into the ocean, the value of the water in those barrels would now be nil compared to the water in the sea. This is what Moses understood. G-d is the sea and when we allow ourselves to be poured into that sea, we are completely united with Him, as close to Him as it is possible to be, completely merged with Him, yet nothing compared to Him.

    This is exactly the aim of monastic obedience.

    Judaism prioritizes the first commandment in the Bible:  be fruitful and multiply.  Thus, our potential for cleaving to G-d does not  nullify physicality (e.g. marriage) as the monastics would have it, but rather seeks to embrace the physical world in a holy manner.  This is an enormous challenge but, as we learn from a Midrash, G-d created the world because “he passionately desired to make an abode for Himself in the lower world.”  Nothing gives G-d greater pleasure than when He sees us eating, drinking, making love, and making money (so we can give more charity) in a holy way.  That’s when He truly feels at home in our/His world.

    • #58
  29. SkipSul Inactive
    SkipSul
    @skipsul

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Yehoshua Ben-Eliyahu (View Comment):

    The Rebbe from Kotzk saw in this verse an answer to non-believers. It is the ego (“I”) which stands between you and G-d.

    It is fair to wonder how the only person who spoke to G-d face to face could also be the most humble person on earth. Humility, the Chasidim explain, is self-nullification before G-d. An analogy to Moses (found in Netivot Shalom, a Chasidic work) would be a barrel of water. As long as that barrel of water stands on its own, it has value. However, when the water in the barrel is poured into the ocean, the value of the water in the barrel is completely nullified. Even if a million barrels of water were poured into the ocean, the value of the water in those barrels would now be nil compared to the water in the sea. This is what Moses understood. G-d is the sea and when we allow ourselves to be poured into that sea, we are completely united with Him, as close to Him as it is possible to be, completely merged with Him, yet nothing compared to Him.

    This is exactly the aim of monastic obedience.

    Judaism prioritizes the first commandment in the Bible: be fruitful and multiply. Thus, our potential for cleaving to G-d does not nullify physicality (e.g. marriage) as the monastics would have it, but rather seeks to embrace the physical world in a holy manner. This is an enormous challenge but, as we learn from a Midrash, G-d created the world because “he passionately desired to make an abode for Himself in the lower world.” Nothing gives G-d greater pleasure than when He sees us eating, drinking, making love, and making money (so we can give more charity) in a holy way. That’s when He truly feels at home in our/His world.

    The Christian monastic is deliberately sacrificing that opportunity to be fruitful in order to better serve Gd and serve others through prayers and labor.  In that sense it is also a recognition of the sanctity of marriage and family, else the sacrifice of such would be of little value.  It is not a negation of marriage or work, but a recognition that such are of such high value that one can sacrifice little else besides one’s own life to the service of Gd.  Monasticism is never elevated above marriage, it is only considered an alternative path, and one to which only a few are called.

    • #59
  30. Cal Lawton Member
    Cal Lawton
    @CalLawton

    For the record, I believe that no religious community should take political positions.

    Tell that to the Black Regiment.

    • #60
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