Paralelled in the origin of Christianity?
The degradation of the Noble idea is paralleled in Christianity, in which
the teaching of Paul has been caricatured in the conception of an eternal soul
which distinguishes each man from his neighbour, and which will be either saved
or damned at death according to whether the preponderance of his deeds in one
short life has been good or bad. The most far-reaching universal event in Jerusalem's
history took place around the year 33 A.D when a twenty-nine-year-old Jewish
rabbi out of Nazareth was tried and crucified as a heretic. As the father of
a religion Jesus did not found, his road to and from Calvary has been traveled
by more than any road in history. The details of the event scarcely need another
recounting here but comment needs to be made concerning the incongruities that
have laid false blame on Jesus' own people.
For two thousand years Christians have heard it proclaimed from their pulpits: Be not deceived: God is not mocked for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. Jesus of Nazareth, whose Hebrew name was Jisho Ha` Notzri, is reported to have said upon the Mount: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" (Mattew 7, 2-3) Jesus of Nazareth came from one of the most aristocratic families in the world of Torah. Most people believe Jesus of Nazareth a genius, a great prophet and a teacher, and one of the worlds foremost humanitarians. Treating him as "a son of man" rather than a deity, we often get contrasting views, for the historical Jesus and the religious Jesus are often wholly different matters. During the Greek rule of the Hasmonean era, directly preceding Ro- man rule, a small sect of ultra-pious Pharisees quit Jerusalem and the world to shrink into a monastic orders known as the Essens. They had the look and style of pre-Christians. The main group of Essens lived in a cave area along the Dead Sea. They left Jerusalem in disgust over priestly corruption and perversions of the religion. With their rigid structure, seclusion from the outside world, the practice of celibacy, study, prayer, a self- contained communal life, secret rituals, they were remarkably similar to the early Christian monastic sects. The Essens left a great deal of written literature, some of which was miraculously discovered by a young Bedouin shepherd, searching for a stray goat in the Desert. He entered a long-untouched cave and found jars filled with ancient scrolls, known to us as the Dead Sea scrolls. It proved them to have been devout Jews but somewhat ethereal and a bit "off the wall" in mysticism. They where heavily into apoctryptic literature which envisioned the end of the mortal world and the coming kingdom of God. They also practiced baptism, expanding on the ancient Hebrew ritual of the mikva bath, symbolic act of purification by water. John the Baptist was an Essene or was greatly influenced by them. However there is no certain exact link between Jesus and the Essens, but it is most likely to believe that Jesus spent time in the wilderness. One senses the strong philosophical continuity and can even speculate on the possibility that Jesus of Nazareth had been an Essen. In Hebrew teaching there are four species: The Etrog, the Lulav, the Hadas (myrtle) and the Arava (willow). Their initials spell out "A'ale" (I shall go up). The Hadas is called a branch of interwoven foliage. What is special about the Hadas? Three leaves in a row emerge from the stalk at the same spot. The three leaves are three hearts. These are the three loves about which have been commanded. First of all "Ve'ahavta et Hashem Elokecha " ("You shall love the Lord your God") - this is one leaf of the Hadas. Secondly, "Ve'ahavte le Reacha" ("Love your neighbor as yourself") - this is the second leaf. And the third is "Uverachta et Hashem Elokecha al ha'aretz hatova sher natan lach" ("Bless the Lord your God in the good Land which he has given you"). The law by which the part
progresses towards Enlightenment or reunion with the Whole in Karma, literally
action, in the sense of cause-effect and their intimate relationship. From the
Buddhist viewpoint, Karma, stresses the converse of the Christian presentation
of this law. It is clearly present in the teaching by Jesus of Nazareth, consider
- for example - the story of the man born blind, and the rumors that Jesus was
Jeremiah or Elias come again. Even Herod seems to think that he was John the
Baptist "risen from the dead." The truth of the doc- trine cannot
of course be "proved," but it is at least immensely reasonable.
Whatsovever a man reaps, say the Buddhist, that he also sown. Believing in the operation of natural justice. Buddhism would say in reply to Biblical inquiry: "Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?," that is was this man who had "sinned," that is, had so behaved in a previous life as to cause in the life in question the effect of blindness. In Karma is to be found, in conjunction with its commonsense corollary, Rebirth, a natural and therefore reasonable answer to the apparent injustice of the daily round. Why should this man be born a beggar, this a prince? Why this a cripple, this a genius, that a fool? Why this a high-born Danish woman, that a low-born Indian man? These are effects. Does the cause lie in the hands of an irresponsible and finite God or,
as the Buddhists say, within the lap of law? As it is man who suffers the
effects, so it is man who generates the cause, and having done so he cannot
flee the consequences. "By oneself evil is done; by oneself one suffers.
By oneself evil is left undone; by oneself one is purified." And, again
"Not in the sky, not in the midst of the sea, nor anywhere else on earth
is there a spot where a man may be freed from (the consequences of) an evil
Rebirth All action has its due result. A stone thrown into a pond causes wavelets to circle outwards to a distance proportionate to the initial disturbance; after which the initial state of equilibrium is restored. And since each disturbance must start from some particular point, it is clear that harmony can be restored only by the re- converging to that point of the forces set in motion. Thus the consequences of an act re-act, via all the universe, upon the doer with a force commensurate with his own. Karma involves the element of time; and it is unreason- able to hold that all the causes generated in an average life will produce their full effect before the last day of that period. The oldest sage would admit that at the close of a life on study his wisdom was a raindrop to the sea.
Nor is the idea of rebirth new. Almost every country of the East accepts the doctrine as too obvious to need proof, and Western writers have traced its presence in the legends and indigenous ideas of nearly every country in the world. It is to be found in most of the greatest minds of Europe and America, from Plato to Orgin, from Blake to Schopenhauer, from Boeme, Kant, Goethe and Swedenborg to Browning, Emerson, Walt Whitman, and leading minds of Western world today.
A life on earth is, to the Buddhist, as a wayside inn upon a road. At any moment there are many travelers therein, and even as we speak more enter through the doors of Birth, and others leave by one whose name is Death. Within the common meeting-rooms are men and woman of every type whose relation to one another form that reaction to environment we call experience. Such belief affects all blood relationships. The child may be an older pilgrim than its parents, and is at least entitled to its point of view. In the West we say that a child of a father is musical - if it be so - because of heredity. In Buddhist lands it would be explained that the child was born into a musical family, because the child had developed musical propensities in previous lives, and was attracted to an environment suitable for the expression of those "gifts," a reversal of the Western view.
"A Buddhist is as a Buddhist does." Buddhism admits no caste, no sex or race superiority. Its inmost shrines are open to all. Buddhism is utterly tolerant, and seeks no converts. The Buddhist proclaims the Dharma to mankind. Anyone who wishes may accept and apply it - those who do not wish to do so pass with a blessing upon their way. It is all the same to the speaker, because a Buddhist is as a Buddist does. There is no salvation by formula. The Buddhist Goal is conceivable and worthy - the Road lies clear ahead: Why, then, tarry in the house of suffering? It is the mind which moulds man's destiny, action being but precipitated thought. Far better than sovereignty over the earth, better than the heaven state; better than dominion over all the world is the first step to the Path of Holiness. Civilization is inseparable from competiton, which produces and implies antagon- ism. Man against man, business firm agains business firm, nation against nation and race against race, such is the ceaseless cry. Competition has its uses, but when its usefulness is past it becomes a fetter in the path of progress, and must give way in time to co-operation based on mutual understanding and respect. One of the greatest pronouncements ever made in the field of morality is: "Hatred ceaseth not by hatred, hatred ceaseth but by love. This is the eternal law. " All forms of life, being manifestation of one life, are interrelated in a complex web beyond our full conceiving. Love is the fulfilling of the Law, and like the light and darkness, male and female, life and form are ultimately and, if the truth were known, immediately One. In the Law of Laws - eternal Harmony, all who love are healers of those in need of it. "The light is within thee," said the Egyptian Hierophants; "let the Light shine." I am, therefore "I am."