The Meaning of Sin and Evil
Last week our UU church as part of our Sunday service had an open discussion on the meaning of sin and evil. We kicked the words around for 40 minutes with many people joining into the discussion. Our minister took the approach that evil was the disruption to the web of life. It was a mostly liberal Christian discussion of good vs. evil. In general I liked the whole thing except I felt a bit frustrated at the end. No one gave the Buddhist perspective. I realized after service that I should have spoken up. Sin and Evil are just mental activities. The whole discussion was just a mental exercise. We can do better. We can have a spiritual experience. Rather than finding the best definition for Evil, a more satisfying quest can be found by seeking the inclusive experience just below the level of thinking. Beyond the barrier of personal ego to the inclusive experience that is universal bedrock truth.
The process of living is richer than the mental images left by its passage. We here in the west glorify the mind. We love to extrapolate and figure things out. Unfortunately the life that is left over is only suitable for robots. The spiritual life in contrast has more mystery and wonder. When we open to a possibility beyond our logic we find a bigger experience and a meaning that satisfies complete in itself. The Buddhist would call that a life "without desire". I claim that a more correct articulation is that we live our life without running a parallel mental simulation of life, or as articulated in the Zen approach "to live in the void."
Unfortunately, I think that Buddhism is not correctly translated into the English language. Much was missed when the Christian Scholars first started writing books on Buddhism and their mistakes continue to be articulated today by Buddhists. The English language developed by the western mind is poorly equipped to understand and comprehend the true Eastern Spiritual way.
Buddhism has a completely satisfying answer to evil and sin. The Buddhist approach would be to question your "desire" to be without sin or evil, to look at the question itself. Why would you limit your life? To trap you into an experience that western language finds difficult to say directly. To direct your search to the real truth. Here our normal "logical" English language just breaks down. What is this "illogical" experience that is not linear and deductive? The answer is "There is - in fact - a life that can be experienced outside of the level of thinking." I call that the essential teaching of Buddhism.
My opinion is that when one lets go of the pacifier that is mind, with its constant cross-reference, one is more available to directly experience life. Without mental simulations the experiences remaining are more satisfying. There is no personal controlling indirection. A layer of junk is peeled away and life is richer and more beautiful. That experience is called Enlightenment. In the state of Enlightenment one has direct experience and no need to "think."
For the past few years my personal definition of sin has been "confusing one person for another." When we speak to an older male it would be a "sin" to confuse them with our father. Each of us is unique and should not be confused with others. Unfortunately almost no one ever gets it. It makes more sense when one has discarded the mind and any "rules" that should be followed. I am caught speechless between what people can logically understand and my truth. So I sat listening without comments to the mental discussion of good and evil.
I will articulate these concepts better. My difficulty is the loss of reality that others experience. I can feel the disconnect they go through. It is somewhat painful to me. I can be more willing to let that occur. My active role in church leadership predisposes me to avoid disconnects in my church relationships. If I say nothing spiritual, they will listen better to what I say about the annual Pledge Canvass. We all tend to operate in a "them" vs. "us" mentality. I hope next year, when I am not on the UU Board of directors, I will open up and communicate with less doubt. Currently I place the church needs above my needs. Unfortunately now we are in danger of being only "thinkers." Long term the UU church can open more to serve a wider spectrum of community needs by including some Zen Buddhist concepts.
I e-mailed this page to a few of our church members and they sent the following back to Faithfully Your.. Bill Savoiee-mail me:
>I think your page gives the Buddhist view as, if sin is the source of suffering then sin = losing oneself in desires (including the desire to avoid sin). Please correct if this misrepresents.
Yes. "Desire" is a form of struggle against the way things are. It is a primitive form of "thinking" and it is above the level of inclusive experience that Enlightenment is. When one is Enlightened there is no "desire", why would you struggle against the way things are? That does not leave you without any power to act - you just do it from yourself rather than from your mental structures.
>First and foremost, I believe that sin = unacknowledged confusion. Confusion itself is inevitable, and acknowledged confusion leads to growth and overcoming or living in harmony with the confusion. This subsumes the dominant sin of buying short term gains (goals, achievements, desires) at the expense of long term ones. To this I add, purely as an article of faith, that long term goals should include love/respect for all beings, creatures, things, and the Universe itself.
As long as one continues to "figure out life" there is a barrier to the way it really is. The barrier consists of your struggle to hold on to something rather than to just let life unfold without separation. It is not logical and you can not get to the experience with logic alone. It takes some grace and a willingness to love unconditionally and to be in each moment as it unfolds. When you live in "the inclusive experience" you need no faith, you experience certainty. There is no need to think about it or figure it out.
I hope that helps.. Love.. Bill Savoie
The dialogue continued with:
>Buddhism teaches us that Joy is achieved by the abandonment of desire.
>A substantial body of research on "optimal experience" says that Joy is achieved through action and achievement, through a complete involvement enabled by just the right level of challenge and ease/difficulty to suit our abilities. Perhaps in optimal experience there is no "desire", even though the mind is active and goals are very much present. Perhaps the goals are just not oppressive because there always an immediate action (mental or physical) which satisfies them or is at least a clear step toward their satisfaction.
>I wonder; are these different paths, or just different aspects of the same path?
Before you can have a complete and exact language, one must first know who they are "Tell me who you are" as done at three day Enlightenment Intensives can result in a experience that is so real and satisfying that You remove all doubt for all time. You are completed and no longer mental. That means that the mental simulation - the little "me" - the ego dies - or is born everywhere - what ever language you care to use. It goes beyond language. Since "normal" people waste so much of their waking time running a simulation - you free up your "hidden" power - resulting in an increased attention - a state that is more alive.
In this heightened state - the "rules" of life - the "procedures" that others use become understandings that are experienced in each moment. One is no longer "sampling" life - they are fully alive and fully functioning.
Once one has a "Direct Experience" of who they are - they can work on the next question "Tell me what another is." This gets them out of the "Stink of Enlightenment" and wipes that silly smile off their faces. They experience others directly. Life is raised to a new level, one with more exposure and more attention with a bigger now.
Having these as experiences one can now work on a few others; "Tell me what Life is" and "Tell me what Love is" and "Tell me what understanding is"
All these questions reveal a bigger experience. They help to focus your energies to where they do the most good in your life. You live differently because of these experiences, you fear death less and you are more satisfied. You can't get there from "trying to be good" or from "trying not to sin." The answer is bigger than your "desire".
Got to get back to stuff I promised Joanne.. Love to all.. Bill Savoie
I received the following e-mail:
In the Aramaic Language and culture that Jesus taught in, the terms for "sin" and "evil" were archery terms. When the archer shot at the target and missed the scorekeeper yelled the Aramaic word for sin. It meant that you were off the mark, take another shot. The concept of sin was to be positive mental feedback. Sin is when you are operating from inaccurate information and thus a perceptual mis-take. When you become conscious and aware if the results of your inaccuracy you have the option to reconsider what you have learned and do as they do in Hollywood, "do another take." By the way, where the arrow fell when it missed the target was referred to as evil. I hope this information is useful.
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