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Featured Some free talk about the flow of religious wisdom

Discussion in 'General Religious Debates' started by LuisDantas, Apr 2, 2019.

  1. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    This thread is a spin-off from Diverging views of Baha’is about their religion

    I think that it addresses some of the core issues discussed in other threads as well, most notably the very recent The Qur'an: Intentions vs. Effects

    The core of that thread was discussion of how Bahais hold views of their own religion that not too rarely clash with each other and, at least some of the time, with the orientations and expectations of the Universal House of Justice. An interesting subject matter in and of itself, for certain. But I felt that a significant part of its substance is not at all exclusive to the Bahai Faith and deserves some wider discussion.

    @Jim seems to agree, so I hereby invite him and anyone else interested in considering and commenting on some of my understandings. Most of those connect to my understanding of Dharma in some way or another.

    First of all, I think that we can consider that there is an inherent tension inside pretty much any living tradition - not even necessarily religious traditions.

    To the extent that they see fit to organize themselves and establish some form of ideology or doctrine, a need for some form of official stance, an authority, will unavoidably arise. That is advantageous in many ways, but brings very real downsides with it.

    One of those downsides is that there will be pressure towards conformity. Personal beliefs are varied, but a group's official stance will not always easily allow for or align itself with that variety. Some form of negotiation between those clashing trends will have to happen, and there are many possible strategies.

    Perhaps frustratingly, among those strategies there is a very solid tendency to emphasize ease of understanding and implementation at the expense of validity, or vice versa. Also, there is a considerable amount of denial, delusion and obfuscation in that space, much of it fairly unconscious.

    I posit that to a large extent that conflict is self-inflicted and actually desirable, mainly because it enables much necessary renewal and rediscovery within the doctrine. More than that, one of the most desirable qualities for any religious institution is the ability to deal with conflict in a respectful, thoughtful way that does not exclude learning from it.

    That may be a real challenge, because there is no clear boundary between the cultural and the religious, nor is it a small task to continuously balance tradition and authenticity of expression.
     
    #1 LuisDantas, Apr 2, 2019
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  2. PureX

    PureX Veteran Member

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    The thing that attracts me to philosophical taoism, and the thing that I find so freeing about it, is that it does not propose any great truth, backed by sacred dictum; with it's goals, rules, and ordered paths. In fact, it does just the opposite. It simply points out that we humans don't get to know 'the truth'. All we get, is to be our own small part of it, and to know this (if we choose to). And that we cannot avoid this, as our avoidance is still us embodying 'our part' whether we realized it or not.

    I like the idea of Baha'i drawing from the world's religions to find a more universal form or understanding of spirituality. But it still ends up proposing a 'truth', along with the requisite dictum: goals, rules, paths, and such, ... and that's where I have to go my own way.

    Philosophical Taoism teaches me how to be, and philosophical Christianity teaches me who to be.

    I'm not looking for any big truths, and I don't tolerate dictum well, at all. So I'm good, here.
     
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  3. Skwim

    Skwim Veteran Member

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    Isn't "religious wisdom" an oxymoron? ;)

    .
     
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  4. Revoltingest

    Revoltingest Hihg Intellajence Kwoshunt.
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    No, but it's limited to atheism & Bokononism.

    That one's gonna get me in trouble!
     
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  5. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    That depends entirely on how you define religion, Skwim.

    Which is a far more arbitrary choice than most people realize.

    Myself, I favor definitions that actually have a practical use. I will readily grant that many of us atheists use a sharply different definition, but that one seems lacking in actual value to me.
     
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  6. Jim

    Jim Nets of Wonder

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    Standing applause!
    Along with variations in beliefs, more significant and consequential in my view, there are variations in how people practice (or don’t practice) and promote (or don’t promote) their religion. Also they disagree about written and unwritten internal rules of conduct, which are sometimes enforced by lynch mobs more than by administrators, but possibly sometimes implicitly with their approval.
    This.
    How do you mean that? Obviously it’s self-inflicted in the sense that it’s the community doing it to itself. Are you saying more than that?
    Standing applause! That’s a very helpful thought for me.
    I need some help with all that. Can you draw me a picture, or a diagram, or some orthogonal projections, or something?

    I’m waiting, like a baby bird waiting for worms, for the part about Dharma. That’s what I was so happy and excited about, when you invited me to this.
     
    #6 Jim, Apr 2, 2019
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  7. siti

    siti Well-Known Member

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    There is. Do you think it is a reflection of a more general inherent tension in the evolution of 'cultures' (by which I mean how groups of living organisms relate to one another)? There is, it seems to me, always a tension between the individual survival imperative and the 'good of the group'. As Spock put it "the needs of the many" versus "the needs of the few" - and Kirk added "or the one". Hence the tension between the collective need for some level of conformity and the individual need for some level of freedom of expression and conscience.

    That's all true whether we are talking about a workplace, a family, a traditional village community or a religious organization I think. In secular settings, the tension is eased to some extent by the fact that there is a tangible authority - the government, the people themselves, the boss, the King...whatever...but in a religious setting, the ultimate authority rests with an unseen entity that is as often as not accessible only to certain privileged individuals under very specific circumstances - usually when nobody else is around to witness the handing down of divine edicts.

    We have learned - over the millennia - that despite earlier reports to the contrary, the King is prone to error after all and the Emperor can be fooled by flattery into walking around starkers - and we can even change our rulers if we really feel the need...but we know we can't change God because "God changeth not" (at least insofar as the western religious traditions are concerned).

    In such a religious culture, the tension remains unresolved, but evolve it must - 'tis the unwritten law of all things - 'evolve or perish' - and rather like the unpredictable tectonic motions of the earth's crust, when the irresistibly dynamic force of human cultural evolution meets the immovable object of religious authority, something has to give and the process proceeds (as processes do) by lurching and staggering from one religious 'paradigm' to the next. It is, I suppose, a kind of "rhizomatic" evolutionary process in which periodic but predictably unpredictable 'upheavals' are the 'atomic elements' and the product is not so much a rich tapestry of religious diversity as a mess of tangled roots and outgrowths that at once reflects the non-conformity of the few bold individualists who have genuinely taken religious thinking in new and sometimes surprising directions and the overwhelming ovine compliance of the majority.
     
    #7 siti, Apr 2, 2019
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  8. Jim

    Jim Nets of Wonder

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    Well said! I like that imagery, and I see a lot to agree with in all that.
     
  9. loverofhumanity

    loverofhumanity Well-Known Member
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    We Baha’is follow and obey the Universal House of Justice out of love, loyalty and complete willingness.

    In His wisdom, Baha’u’llah created this Institution. It is an absolute thrill and pleasure to have their unerring guidance and serve them. They have kept us united and at peace with one another since their inception and for that we are so grateful.

    Conformity is not even a word in our vocabulary as we obey them out of love.

    “Obey My commandments for the love of My Beauty’ - Baha’u’llah
     
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  10. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    That is probably a discussion for the other thread, but I will nonetheless point out that while there is a place for obedience, there is also a place for loving rebellion.

    There may be no greater gratitude and loyalty than that of one who dares to go beyond what he was taught.
     
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  11. loverofhumanity

    loverofhumanity Well-Known Member
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    Loving consultation is the way we work together peacefully and it works.
     
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  12. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    That is a part of it. However, I want to point out that the relationship between the practicioner and the practice community rules is somewhat more complex than it may appear at first glance. Daring rebellion is not something to take lightly, but it can be very necessary and virtuous. All the more so because it can be so spontaneous.


    I was thinking of a common phenomenon that happens within many families, including Brazilian Catholics. On the one hand, people born and raised in traditionally Catholic families are implicitly expected to be believers or at least to claim to be such when asked. That is not necessarily manipulative or malicious, for there is a very real practical need for some form of common language within families to express and discuss moral values. Having a legacy of such a language is necessary, or at least highly advisable.

    The flip side is that such a legacy is not really compatible with all people at all times, yet people won't very often know how to deal with that reality. Situations will arise that demand transcending the traditional behavior and language. A significant litmus test for healthy religion will be how it teaches its adherents to deal with that demand when it appears. Will they be wise and daring enough to, literally, learn better than they were taught? Will they accept the weight of responsibility that comes with letting go of some measure of tradition? Do they know what they are doing? Are they willing to learn, and will the community understand and support them? Is it necessary to transcend the tradition itself? Even to the point of changing it beyond recognition, if it comes to that?

    And if they can not, what good is that tradition for?


    Sorry. I can be sort of sparse at times.

    Dharma as a word is highly contextual.

    It can mean scripture and therefore be described by Bodhidharma as an unwelcome distraction from the pursuit of true religious wisdom.

    Or it can mean, roughly, "personal realization and vocation", therefore being highly personal. There are people who find the need to develop their own Dharma and to pursue people with their own compatible (but not identical) Dharmas.

    Dharma can also mean virtue in a more abstract sense, as evidenced by the permanent goal of Hindus to avoid Adharma (the denial of Dharma, which is to say, situations adverse to wisdom and moral value).

    The bottom line is that we both have to respect tradition and to challenge it, and we both have to respect our own personal inclinations and to dare to transcend them. Some understandings must evolve as the passage of time and the environmental circunstances change. Some must be course corrected now and then. We can transcend what we are taught, and that is neither right nor wrong in and of itself.

    Dharma is the true meaning of religion as I understand it. It is the art, the ability, the dire need for balancing respect with religious courage, and letting the chips fall where they may. It is the realization that, if there is a God, he ought to have seen fit to allow people to have their own ideas... and that if there is no such God, then those ideas are all that we have. It is learing to ask questions, then to answer those questions, then to know better than to use the answers as our own crutches and restraining walls.

    Dharma as I understand it is the activity of receiving the teachings as they are - a vital, often wild flow of legacies from other people, which we ought to receive with love, respect and wisdom so that we can change them and pass them forward and eventually back to ourselves. It may be described as the art of facing the joys and horrors that are ours and yet not truly ours, only to realize that their existence is far more relevant than their origins. It is learning where we fit and where to find our loving joys and how to bond and heal.

    There is no one true way with which to convince others. Or maybe there is and it was lost and has to be found anew. Or maybe what truly matters is that we don't always understand and accept each other, but we can always rebel against that state of things and engage in constructive behavior to dispell that sorrow and confusion. Existence is full of challenges, but we have no duty and ultimately no need to despair.
     
  13. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    If it does, then I am happy for you.

    All the same, I dearly wish that you allow for situations where it can not be enough.
     
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  14. Jim

    Jim Nets of Wonder

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    @LuisDantas I hope you'll keep in mind the diversity in Baha'i views, and that no member of the Baha'i Faith has been authorized by any Baha'i institution to speak for all its members.
     
  15. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    Don't worry. I am not very inclined to perceive people as speaking on behalf of others in the first place.
     
  16. Jim

    Jim Nets of Wonder

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    @LuisDantas I'm writing this with tears in my eyes. I'm not ready to put a lot of time into learning more about Dharma, outside of this forum. I've been studying the life and sayings of Confucius, and I want to learn more about Daoist ways, for my life in China. I think that might help me better understand the folk religion here, which seems to permeate most of the society. That gives me more than enough religion to learn about for now. Even so, I'm still hoping to learn something about Dharma from whatever conversations we might have here. I've been hoping for that ever since I saw people here talking about it. I was thrilled, jumping for joy, when you invited me into this. Anything you can do, any ideas you have for me, to get the most out of my conversations here with you or with anyone else who might help me with this, I would welcome with all my heart.
     
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  17. Jim

    Jim Nets of Wonder

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    ROTFL! Not on the Internet! My sides are splitting! I can't imagine anyone saying that with a straight face on the Internet! "Loving consultation is the way we work together peacefully." Loving! Peacefully! Oh! Oh! Catch me I'm falling!
     
  18. Jim

    Jim Nets of Wonder

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    @loverofhumanity I agree with you though, that we do work together very well, offline, in all our diversity, and that consultation does work very well for that purpose, when it's practiced in accordance with Baha'u'llah's purposes and prescriptions.
     
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  19. LuisDantas

    LuisDantas Aura of atheification
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    I did not know that you were studying Daoism, @Jim

    That is an excellent pursuit, and ought to converge nicely with this subject matter.
     
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  20. Jim

    Jim Nets of Wonder

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    @LuisDantas Can you think of any words for your orientation or relation to, or your relationship or connection with, the Dharma, that you want to cultivate? Awareness? Devotion? Attraction? Attunement?
     
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