Monday, June 4, 2012

beyond reward and punishment

this is a personal record of a conversation which stimulates any number of philosophical paths... i record it here for future digestion.
the names have been superficially veiled to protect the anonymous...
Dr. S.
"In a recent conversation with a student, I was reminded of this quote from Rabi'a, a woman mystic in the Islamic tradition: Lord, if I worship You from the fear of Hell, then let me burn in Hell. If I worship You for the hope of Paradise, then deny me admittance to it. But if I worship You out of reverence for You alone, then do not deny me the joy of Your Eternal Beauty. - Pretty well captures my Jewish-Christian-Muslim-Buddhist-Confucian-Daoist-Hindu-Shinto convictions ..."

Mr. M.E.
"also, something to put into everyday practice... don't act out of expectation of reward or rebuke... act with a genuine desire for the act, itself... ties in nicely with 'do unto others' philosophy."

Dr. H.
"But it isn't do unto others, it's worship another. I suppose the devil (so to speak) is in the details, but if the Eternal Beauty is precisely in its impermanence, in its ephemerality, and in the immediacy of the act, it strikes me that reverence and worship of First Causes or Final Outcomes (whether or not it is personal Hell or Heaven) takes away time and effort from fully appreciating the our fleeting relationships and experiences. It takes fairly selective reading of most of those traditions (although it's easier with some flavors of Buddhism & Daoism) to see 'worship' and 'reverence' as simply a well-lived life--and our choices as gods."

"not to fill up Dr. [S]'s post with discussion and debate, i am writing directly to you with a response for your consideration... i think, in some minor way, we agree on something... i didn't expand on my post, but i'd like to beg your indulgence and do so here.

you said 'to see worship and reverence as simply a well-lived life'... i agree... it is my belief that the Christian 'do unto others' either stems from or parallels that Buddhist philosophy... in the negative (as many Christians read it) 'do unto others' means NOT doing bad things... in the positive, it is an action; of DOING... it is my belief that living a well-lived life, in a Buddhist sense, is a philosophy of action; of doing things for the sake of the action, itself... this ties back to [S]'s quote from Rabi'a, of worship without consideration of reward or rebuke... if we take 'worship' in the Buddhist sense of a well-lived life, as you noted, then our everyday life is a series of acts which are done without regard to the self; only for the sake of the act... in the negation of the expectation of reward/rebuke, we begin the negation of self... and isn't that a beginning to the path to nirvana/enlightenment?"

Dr. H.
"Yes, I think that's what I was getting at. And yes, I think there is an easier path toward this in Buddhism (and perhaps Daoism and maybe--strangely--Shinto). But I think you really have to bend the Judeo-Christian religions pretty radically to have it fit that model. Thanks for taking the time to reply..."

i'm not sure you have to "bend" Judeo-Christian religions very radically, if at all, to fit that model... it just takes a broad reading of the text in context of the times and peoples involved...

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