Friday, January 17, 2014

A Nontheist Theist, Part II: Embracing Hope

"Three things will last forever--faith, hope, and love--and the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians, 13:13. 

Translations of words and concepts like "hope" cause misunderstandings across cultures and religions, 
but when we simplify, we see that we all share experiences of suffering and loss and also joy and triumph. So what does that mean?

Dukkha, Anatta, Impermanence, these are real, but cannot negate Faith, Hope and Love. All of these concepts have emotional components. Our positive and negative emotions are not hindrances to Enlightenment. 

Jesus wept before the tomb of Lazarus (or someone wrote that he did). He cried out in agony on the cross. We feel, the Divine feels, and our feelings can lead us to experience deeper connection when we trust in a reality greater than our small selves and let go enough to be guided by it, and know that we are part of it. Hope does not have to be an obstacle to immersion in the present moment.

You can feel a quickening of hope in your heart in the presence of a dying relative, or in the midst of personal loss. I have. I trust my feelings. I love the Hindu and Christian scriptures, and some Buddhist teachings, but there is also some dogma within popular Buddhist messages about what truth is, 
and what reality is, and what liberation is. Yet, Buddha apparently said, "work out your own salvation with diligence; do not depend on others."

In our culture we can use a correction away from superficial emotion and attraction and avoidance,
but we can also stand to hear that needing to hold onto to something is every bit as much a part of nature and truth as impermanence. 

"Dharma gives us nothing to hold onto," "total appreciation of impermanence," "the teachings must be experienced without hope;" these quotes all sound like Buddhist dogma to me. "The truth is inconvenient," from whose perspective? "You shall know the truth and the truth will make you free," is what I believe. Hope is not an obstacle. Maybe hoping for a new car or job or a cure for terminal cancer is an obstacle, but hope with a capital H is not an obstacle.

Buddhist teachers like to say they are sitting in meditation with no goal, no hope for change, not seeking, yet everything is coming... Embracing paradox is all fine and well until it turns into picking and choosing which paradoxes to embrace. Then if anyone has an objection, the answers are all fancy lawyering, but with no accountability. "The sky is chartreuse. Don't know what that means? Keep meditating on it." 

Bringing compassion to suffering, bringing love to embrace all experience, clearing away needless activity and chatter to reveal joy and bliss--these are the fruits of spiritual practice-- this gives people hope, and it gives people something to hold onto, and it does make life better. All things are coming, and they will, and we can't stop this from happening, so then there is hope. Hope is also inextricable with life. 

Also, there is nothing with which to disagree, nothing to counter, and all truth will come to us in time, when we wait on the Lord (meditate). 

"This experience of the innermost center brings a contentment. You don't bring it; it comes, it simply rains over you." -Osho 
I find hope in this teaching. 

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