Friday 23 June 2017

Eastern versus Western religion: this mortal life as primarily evil or good

As a true simplification, but a simplification nonetheless; I would regard Christianity as unique in regarding this mortal life as 'a good thing' - in the sense of good for each of us ultimately and in a context of eternity...

Whereas all other major religions, and especially those of The East (Hinduism and Buddhism) regard this mortal life as essentially 'a bad thing': for instance an illusion or otherwise unreal, a punishment, a torment merely... something it would be better to do without (and which, if we must endure it, is a thing which we can only aspire to get-through as painlessly as possible, with the least adverse consequences.

The main objection to this summary is that many (far too many!) Christians also regard this mortal life negatively. However, I would have to regard this either an error or a distortion of the Christian 'message' - made all the more common by the intellectual influences which have impinged-upon Christianity from its early days - influences from already-established Greek or Roman Philosophy and religions; from Judaism and Islam; from interaction with Eastern religions etc.

But among the most devout and solid of simple Christians - rather than the theorists of Christianity - I think it can be seen that the general view is that this mortal life is ultimately for our benefit - that is (could we but know the details, which is of course not practically possible) for the benefit of each and every one of us considered as individuals and in a unique perspective - but, of course, in many ways flawed and twisted.

In sum - the Christian position is that it is basically good to be incarnated and born in a human body, and to live, and to die, and to be resurrected - in the same way as Jesus Christ was.

(Thiis is the core difference that Christ makes, hence what makes a Christian.) 

By contrast, many (or all) other religions regard one or all of these four things as bad: they regard spirit life as superior to incarnation; not-to-be-born as better than being born; mortal human life as essentially bad (even if alleviated by moments of happiness and goodness); death as an evil - better to be avoided; or resurrection into a discrete body as sub-optimal compared with being unbounded and universal.

In its essence Christianity is unique - and unique because of Christ as model and enabler. We really need to grasp this - with full but simple intuitive apprehension - if we are to be in a position to decide whether or not we regard it as truth. We need to know what it is we believe; or do not believe.


1 comment:

Chris said...

Hi Bruce,

Before I comment, I just wanted to say that your "Addicted to Distraction" is excellent! Incredibly insightful!

But, I'm not sure if I agree with your assessment of "Eastern religions", especially with the claim that life is essentially a "bad thing". To be fair, I don't think it is accurate to interpret the non-dual perspectives of Asia in a "Manichean" world-denying way because that leaves out a crucial aspect of the teaching. It's important to understand the term "non-dual" as a description of a kind of dialectic. Yes, it is true that this world is maya, or "illusion", and that "life is suffering". But, that's just the first step. There is a way out of suffering, not by rejecting or denying the world, but by "realizing" the radical difference and identity of the relative and Absolute. There is a kind of thesis-antithesis-synthesis going on. Ramana Maharshi put it this way,

"The world is illusory;
Brahman alone is real;
Brahman is the world."