Friday, April 21, 2006

Christian Koans

"...before Abraham was, I AM."
John 8:58

"Blessed is he who was, before he came into being."
Thomas 19:1

I knew the first saying from Jesus was a Zen-like statement (Tolle, The Power of Now, pp.104-5). Tolle explains it beautifully. The Thomas 19:1 quotation is like the Zen koan, "What was the face you had before you were born?" I didn't make the connection until I replied to a message in the Wisdom Reading Group. Haven't been in such a group since grad school back in 1989, and that was only a Bible reading group of grad students.
some believe that the missing years of Jesus Life in The Bible was spent in India. It sounds likely to me that he did study eastern thought. A lot of Jesus sayings sound similar to that of Eastern thought/Buddhism.
Yes that was a great one from Power of Now, I read that years before any of the teachings about enlightenment and such and it struck a deep chord.

It's funny that we talk about this in terms of Eastern thought, I was thinking about that the other day and just noticing how that's not quite appropriate. It doesn't exactly belong to the East, and it's not really a thought! Wherever these sage types are from, they are just expressing what they've realized - it's not surprising that some of it sounds similar.
Maybe it doesn't exactly "Belong" to the East...but it did originate from there.

so what is the appropriate why of saying it?
Truth comes in many forms and from many places.

Sometimes I think the overarching belief in "God" just gets in the way. Sure does for me sometimes. Some of the more enlightened people I know don't even know it... and are atheists.
Actually I don't think it's that important to find the perfect way to say it, it's like being spiritually PC or something. I was thinking about commenting on something that could be called Eastern thought to my brother, and seeing that we're Asian and he's kind of identified with that I was trying to think of some way of expressing this category of ideas without labeling it as Eastern.

The reason I don't think it's really important is because it comes down to whether you can communicate that state of consciousness, and the label for it is just a label. At times when I chat with people online I have been VERY loose in the words I use, and I'm sure most spiritual people would be either confused or take issue with how I worded things if they were following the conversation. But interestingly it worked, these are occasions where I get feedback where the other person basically gets it, and incidentally they are usually younger people so that might have something to do with it.

So I much rather convey a sense of it rather than be technically accurate, but as spiritual people can get very intellectual and be set in their ways (even with teachings that says not to be set in your ways) it kind of amounts to deconstructing that, it's kind of like you have to get pass the dry stuff before you get to what really matters. ;-)
We don't know. The Middle East had trade with India and trade was back and forth, so we don't know if Buddhism which was what, 500 years old or less, had made it that far to Judea. Chances are that it hadn't since Jewish, Roman and Greek philosophers don't mention any of Buddha's teachings. The important thing is to see that Jesus was basically our Buddha, the Buddha of Western Civilization, and that he was put to death for his teachings, whereas Buddha was venerated as a teacher and later deified (which he didn't want) as was Jesus. Both were the same master, same Consciousness, in different bodies at different points in time. You are that Consciousness. So am I, but we have to still our minds to realize who we are.
Yes John there is certainly the possibility of basically a simultaneous flowering in the collective consciousness, I seem to recall a lot happend with the Greeks around the same time.

As for stilling our minds to realize who we are, the interesting thing is once you realize that you are quicker with your mind - not compulsive neurotic thoughts, but just more functional and more efficient. While it is a practical measure to sit and whatnot, I like the direct route of inquiry - when conditions are appropriate.
The direct route of inquiry has shown to be very useful in seeing through the illusion, but less used it seems and unexplored in the western culture.
Buddhism is around 2,500 years old.
Anonymous, more so these days with more satsang teachers and such - but perhaps it is not really used skillfully all the time.

Speaking of inquiry, I gotta ask: Who are you? I couldn't resist seeing as how you are posting as anonymous. :-P
Buddhism originated in India in the sixth century BC.

..i just looked it up. It's been around for quite awhile.
Mark..thats why its called anonymous :P
Is there a full moon out tonight? or is it just me?
must be, i hear some dogs baying at the moon tonight. or could it be wolves?
No comment.
However, let me tell you what I really think. This statement of Jesus could be the very foundation of modern Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, Fundamental, and Biblical Christianity.
How would I actually interpret it? Based on past knowledge, "I AM" here means GOD, YHWH, from "I AM THAT I AM" of the Old Testament. Therefore: Before Abraham was, GOD. Naturally. If you believe in the Hebrew or Jewish God. God came before Abraham.
What did Jesus mean by this statement? Again, from my early indoctrination it means: Before Abraham was, I existed and am existing. In short: I am God!
This seems to be the ordinary interpretation of most modern Christians. But I could be wrong; I know some sects that don't agree.
But what does this have to do with Buddhism and enlightenment?
Nothing. Many Buddhist, enlightened or unenlightened would consider this as outright illusory or delusional. Why? My view is: Anybody who claims himself to be the Son of God, therefore equal to God is not at all enlightened. Because in the first place a Hebrew God, Jewish God, Christian God or any Personal God, for that matter, does not exist, and anyone who says something like this is completely egoic, delusional, presumptuous, and probably psychologically unstable, to put it lightly.
This is just one of my many interpretations. This is the most careful one.
Nevertheless, it is subject to revision after some discussion. I would not want to be accused of blasphemy. Or of Antichristian tendencies.
Imemine, you infidel. (dispassionately) Yes that is clearly how most Christians view the statement, that Jesus personally is God, or the personality of Jesus is. But I think this is where you cannot necessarily tell the sense of what is being conveyed through the writings alone, or if you can then something else is going on besides what is said.

Tolle's explanation is basically that the second part of I AM is a statement about being, because he does not say "before Abraham was, I have been." Of course he doesn't like to use the word God either, but by using the word 'am' which is present tense as opposed to the past tense of the word 'before,' the idea is he is conveying the sense of is-ness.
I mean Tolle doesn't like to use the word God, but the latter part about the word am as present tense is obviously about what Jesus said.
Let me tell you what I sometimes think about this:
It's not my business to criticize Jesus, or whoever. I am not better than anybody. I am also not more ancient or wiser than Jesus or Abraham. But it seems as if this is a very good way to provoke the Jews. But again I don't know why Jesus should do that.
One of the problems one encounters in relationships, any relationship for that matter is the idea that people get that somehow some people think they are more ancient or wiser than others. This is a big stumbling block. People don't like hearing this.
Well not even that, how about just the idea of being better in some sense?

Of course some people do become better people in some sense, because they work at it. If nothing else I do respect their hard work and discipline.

I guess it tends to become an issue and cause disharmony when there is any degree of "my way or the highway" attitude, either that or lowway, because - well there are all kinds of things considered less than spiritual and undesireable aren't there. Silly me, I just go with principles like compassion rather than all these measures and detailed things, guess I am too simple.
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