20 October, 2017

Our Eviternal Conversation

By Jagath Asoka

Dr. Jagath Asoka

Dr. Jagath Asoka

Only a very few people would contemplate on the eviternal source whence all pairs of opposite proceed: male and female, peace and strife, and creation and annihilation.  Only a very few would think of God as a collective being, combining the characteristics of both sexes, transcending youth and age, birth and death, practically immortal, and exalted above all temporal change. If such a being existed, the present and the moment of creation that occurred some 15 billion years ago or the period before that would mean neither more nor less. If such a being existed, that being would be the dreamer of all dreams; we would have an eviternal conversation about that being, yet we would not be able to fully depict or describe that being; that being would be omniscient, omnipotent, and ubiquitous, not a troglodyte.

I feel like a troglodyte, who, now and then, would come out of his cave to be among fellow human beings. I am surrounded by the images of gods and goddesses from all over the world. My meditative state of mind is supported by these images in front of me, and my mind’s eye is focused eviternally on a human image that lines the margin of my soul. The Buddha and Jesus are among these images.

Can you imagine having a long evening around the fire with the Buddha, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed? I would love to sit in on that. If such a conversation occurred, I am certain that the Buddha that I have read about would not talk only about Buddhism, and Jesus would not talk only about Christianity. Each participant of these somewhat omniscient beings would talk about comparative religion. To listen to such a marvelous conversation would be truly blissful.

Why do we have to study comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization? The best answer that I have seen was given by the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark: “One’s education is not complete without a study of comparative religion or the history of religion and its relationship to the advancement of civilization.”

Whether you live in New York City, New York, or in a hamlet called Athgalmulla in Sri Lanka, you need to know something about religion because without this knowledge—whether you are a theist, atheist, apathyist, or an agnostic—you cannot make sense of this world; you are not an educated person unless you know something about the world’s religions and something about the Bible, Koran, Tripitaka, and the Vedas and their role in life, death, spirituality, and politics. When you are illiterate in matters of religion, most unctuous politicians treat you like a rube and exploit your religious illiteracy to justify their views on birth, marriage, death, abortion, war, stem cell research, immigration, etc.

We can easily eliminate religious illiteracy by teaching comparative religion in schools.  According to the Constitution of the United States, the government shall neither establish a religion nor interfere with the practice of any religion; even though here in the U.S. it is not allowed to pray, preach, or talk about any religion devotionally in public schools, a public school teacher can read from the Bible, Koran, or any other religious text as an example of literature or teach a course that compares the world’s religions.

Most people do not know about their own religion, let alone the religions of others.  For example, most Christians do not know that the night of December 25, the night to which the Nativity of Christ was assigned, was the birthday of the Persian savior Mithra: an incarnation of eternal light; according to the old calendar, December 25 was the night of winter solstice—at midnight, the moment of the turn of the year from increasing darkness to light. Most Catholics do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion is not just a symbol but actually become the body and blood of Christ. Most Christians and Jews do not know that “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not one of the Ten Commandments.

A few years ago, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life asked Americans some basic questions about Christianity, the Bible, and World Religions: most people flunked. Here is an interesting fact: Atheists and agnostics had the highest scores in this test! Doesn’t it seem paradoxical, since atheists and agnostics have very low levels of religious commitment, yet they scored very well?

We all know that America is among the most religious of the world’s developed nations. Nearly 60% U.S. adults say that religion is “very important” in their lives, and roughly 25% say they attend worship services at least once a week. Most Sri Lankans that I know have a very high level of religious commitment. Whether this display of commitment is just sanctimonious piety or a profound, life vivifying experience is a different matter. Does this commitment translate into living ethical lives, not filled with jealousy, hatred, malice, intolerance, bigotry, stupidity, stinginess, hypocrisy, and brutality? Does this deep religious commitment translate into having better scores on the comparative religion knowledge questions? Most Buddhists that I know have the audacity to say that they are apathyist: someone who considers the question of the existence of gods as neither meaningful nor relevant to his or her life; nor to human affairs, and they do not care about the existence of God. Do you really believe these hypocrites?

On world religions other than Christianity, 36% Americans correctly associated striving for nirvana with Buddhism. If you are a non-Christian, and if you can answer a few questions such as what is the first book of the Bible, which figure is associated with willingness to sacrifice his son for God, which figure is associated with leading the exodus from Egypt, what are the names of four Gospels, and where was Jesus born, your knowledge in comparative religion is good. It would be excellent if you could also answer questions such as what is the significance of bread and wine in Communion, which group traditionally teaches that salvation is through faith alone, whose writings and actions inspired the Reformation, and who was a preacher during the First Great Awakening? I think only a very few people would know about Maimonides. I doubt that most Buddhists who live here in the U.S. would know that Sabbath begins on Saturday. I do not expect people to know anything about Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, or that the Mormon religion was founded after 1800 and the Book of Mormon tells of Jesus appearing to people in the Americas.

On the one hand, most Sri Lankans, unlike Americans, would know that Ramadan is the Islamic holy month; Dalai Lama is a Buddhist, Vishnu and Shiva are central figures in Hinduism, most people in India are Hindus, and people in Pakistan are Muslims. On the other hand, most Sri Lankans would not know that Zeus is the king of gods in Greek mythology. I do not think that Sri Lankan Buddhists would ever say that separation of State and Religion is good for Sri Lanka, and a school teacher should not promote Buddhism.

Even though the data from the survey indicate that how much schooling an individual has completed is the single best predictor of religious knowledge, I know a lot of PhDs who do not know anything about other peoples’ religions at all, because they are not interested or totally blinded by their own religion or faith. But even a blind person knows that religion plays an enormous role and is fully intertwined in everything that happens in all countries, from birth to death. Those who are highly educated in science and technology, yet have just a rudimentary knowledge in other peoples’ religion or religion as a subject have a tendency to be bigoted buffoons; often, they bloviate about uniqueness of their own religion: There is only one path to Salvation; Nirvana is the ultimate goal; we must all surrender to God.

The biggest challenge is to keep mum when listening to the mumbo jumbo of some religious doctors of your own congregation. If one’s identity is defined by the company that one keeps, then I am a bigoted buffoon, like the company that I keep.

A merry yuletide to all of you!

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Latest comments

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    The opiate of the masses! Used by connivers to gain positions of power and who are very often completely oblivious to the teachings of the ‘founders’ of their respective religions.

    Just take a look around!!

    On the other hand, ‘religion’ has had many positive effects – too numerous to get into here (check http://javajones.wordpress.com/2007/02/04/religion-–-the-more-positive-aspects/ )

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      Asoka says,

      “…..We all know that America is among the most religious of the world’s developed nations…..”

      Perhaps yes, but why don’t you read FBI crime record 2010 available on internet & find your country USA is the most criminalized country on earth ???, & no any country ever come close ????

      So what is the ultimate result of damn religions & damn faith on any Gods ???…

      Asoka , Just go back to school.

  • 3
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    Congrats! an interesting article :)

    Anyway, in the current context looking at the manner BBS (Bodubalasena)led by violent pseudo monk -Ghanasara, I have to disgree with you this as you described above:

    “I do not think that Sri Lankan Buddhists would ever say that separation of State and Religion is good for Sri Lanka, and a school teacher should not promote Buddhism”

    Every second among us srilankens feel to this day if BBS had not behaved violent, we the buddhists would have enjoyed image of lanken buddhism.

    BBS keeps defending that their wakeup is to protect the buddhists from every evil in the country.

    But right these days where the heaviest ever import load of HEROIN is found to have smuggled to lanka, most likely by the direct approval of lanken white colour criminals. – BBS stays dead silent in this regard… why ?

    • 3
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      “|”BBS stays dead silent in this regard… why ?”|”

      Almost all terror groups have to fund their way via drugs for their guns etc.

      Almost all fascist need religion to hold the stupid masses together.

      • 1
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        BBS cannot read and understand this article, that is why they are silent!

      • 1
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        This further clarifies that BBS is the religious forces of the ruling bunch.

  • 0
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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2/

  • 1
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    As we wrote in each others Autograph Books when we were very young and uncorrupted by Religious leaders:- “So many Paths, So many Creeds, So Many Paths that Wind and Wind, While just the Art of being Kind is all that this Sad World Needs!”

  • 2
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    The myth of God in Religions in Christianity and Islam is no different to the belief of Nirvana among Buddhists, as none can perceive such state or prove it’s existence, but only a belief.

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      Yes Gamini@,
      But buddhists would not even raise the question of the creation of HUMAN BEING. They dont even ask how the very first man on the earth is formed, while muslims for example always believe that unforeseen Allah has personally created the existence of the human beings. Buddhists in general dont go after GODs (Buddhism is just a philosophy). And the meaning of “Religion” btw is – the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. So, Buddhism cant be a religion.

      ·(in Buddhism) a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism.

      ·(in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.

      ·(in certain other religions) a superhuman being or spirit worshipped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity.

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        Dear Punchi,
        In commonly accepted Buddhism, who make sure that effects of Karma and cycles of death & rebirth are fair and based on facts? I don’t think that we can say any Laws of Nature or Principles of Nature doing this. So to me, this fear of Karma and Rebirth is very similar to actions of Gods in other religion…
        Is Buddhism a philosophy? What is real Buddhism, is it what is written in books OR what general devotees understood and practice?
        Some says, in Buddha’s teaching, there is nothing to learn, Buddha taught nothing, what you have to do is unlearn all the garbage, perceptions stuck in your memories, then you will be free……It is like physician advice…
        As I heard, meaning of Religion of Oxford dictionary was changed around 1920s to accommodate Buddhism into the same category…
        Anura

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          If you can unlearn strong perceptions like “I am Sinhalese, I am Buddhist and I am Man”, one can be free and his awareness increases.

          • 0
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            “|”Is Buddhism a philosophy? “|”

            Emptiness

            One does not justify the irrational, one just takes it on faith.

            Few victims realise is that reason and altruism are incompatible.

            (@_@)

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          AVB, you have misunderstood Karma. It is not a result ordained by a higher being, It is a natural occurrence. e.g. If you tell untruths, you will at some time be found out, and the results of lost friendships, broken relationships and suffering, will follow. You don’t have to wait for the next Life for actions to bear fruit. As the Buddha said in the first verse of the Dhammapada:-“Our Life is shaped by our Mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought, as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draws it”. As for Rebirth, If there is a ‘Next Life’, what you will carry will be only your ‘Mind Energy’, and what you have made of it in ‘This Life’

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        But buddhists would not even raise the question of the creation of HUMAN BEING.

        That is becuase the question of a creator always ends up in a chicken-and-egg situation. Its an interesting question. Although it does not help in ones salvation does it really? Its good I suppose if you forever want to remain cofused.

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    We contemplates the universe. It is as far as an eye can see, a ear can hear or a mind can conceptualise. We can discuss about creation or evolution or being in a constant state. We can believe, not believe or refuse to believe. We can model, theorise, research the infinite within boundaries by our limitations.

    In all cases we have to admit the temporal nature of life and the mortality of the human existance. From dust and water are we born by accident or by divine purpose, imbibed with the spirit or life force.

    Yesterday is gone, today we live and about the tomorrow we are uncertain. What distinguishes humankind is its intellect, creativity and morality, if not animals we are, subject to the desires and needs of the flesh.

  • 2
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    What a load of tosh!

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      Have not you ask it yourself who created the human being ? I know our old generations did not. But new generations, most of all living out of the Island, comes to a point in time – they have to raise it – who made it.. who is the creator of human beings ?

      I thought everyone DOES it earlier or later. At very beginning, I got this stuff directly from fanatic islamists (north africans), I had no idea about the creation of HUMAN beings. They did not like me having buddha statues in my dormitory room. But being unable to explain them through buddhism, I happened to read God related religions. And some black americans passed me the view talking to me several hundred thousand times – whether I wish god want to my heart…. they were blind as we the buddhists in general would not do. Keeping their eyes close, standing before me, all along made attempts to convince me about their views on Christianity.

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      Koha, your brain is too tiny for you to understand the contents; first, learn to mimic like a parrot, after many births you will become a cow if you do good karma then regurgitate like a cow. after one million years you will be born retarded and would not be still able to understand because your head is still filled with full of you know what.

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    You say “If one’s identity is defined by the company that one keeps, then I am a bigoted buffoon, like the company that I keep.” If so then why keep their company? Yes it’s quite important that we teach not only our children but everyone about all religions and not one particular that makes us religious fanatics and bigots but the vested interests of priests and politicians thrive on these memes to feed the needs of survival and thrival necessitated by our genes and epigentics that make some of us of all the major and minor organised religions part time epileptics if you get the drift. Did you visit the URL and/or is this write-up an outpouring of vesting that URL?

  • 2
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    Jughead,

    Religion is a subject on which I have ever been most scrupulously reserved. I have considered it as a matter between every man and his Maker in which no other, and far less the public, had a right to intermeddle.

    No government can be maintained without the principle of fear as well as of duty. Good men will obey the last, but bad ones the former only.
    Thomas Jefferson
    ________________

    Patriotism is to politics what faith is to religion/philosophy: The unquestioned acceptance of information that is either unverified or that may actually be in conflict with factual evidence. Patriotism is the incubator of wars.

    Only in Lanka, Mahawamse is poppycock go check the lion having sex with a monkey and saying lion.

  • 1
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    However much Buddhists say they do not believe in a GOD, when trouble comes they will call upon GOD/GODS to help them! Why do they go to the Bodhi Tree or Pirith Nool or Kataragama? Because there is a human need for someone/something greater than themselves to ask for favours!

    • 1
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      Hela hela,when they get VoooDoo.

      They all go to the Kattadiya like Shiranthi.

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      But there those who pour waters or milk (that the poor of the poor would be grateful to have) the bo trees and buddha statues for selfish agendas are real opportunists. They would do so, only if they are fallen into deep pits. These would not even ask about the existence of gods, but do pray for gods. That is the difference between adherents of god religions and those of buddhism. Some go on burning (Dummala – mix) to a manner everyone around could deliberately catch some allergies, to show their gratitudes to the gods (I mean all these are lanken buddhists that dont believe god existence).
      I have some nadayo – relatives go to a Katharagama almost every year to pol gahanna, and pray for gods. But none of them have an idea of superhuman god, according to Muslims and Christs to have worked on the human creation on this earth. If one would question them about the existence of the god – they are fallen in to situation comparably to MR’s reactions to many of the questions raised in terms of burning issues. Here in Europe they just compare it with explaining things to grannies (elderly ones).

  • 1
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    Often a pedophile takes on the cloth to have fun with an alterboy.

    BBS Gnasasena took on the gargment with a far more insidious motive. He screws the alterboy in the hope it brings down the church.

    Once BJP Modi arrives I suspect this BBS will swith to attacking Hindu temples. BBS has nothing to do with Buddhism.

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      “|”Once BJP Modi arrives I suspect this BBS will swith to attacking Hindu temples. BBS has nothing to do with Buddhism.”|”

      Ha ha Sooo what??

      Baharat has seen the whole of the northern architecture Jain,Hindu,Buddhist turned to dust by the Mongls/Mughal invaders from 1502 and with the same stone the mosque constructed.- Hardened Experience.

      BBS is just the tip of the axis of Sinhala Buddhist Evil.

      Why do Japanese give the maximum aid to Lanka yet confirm that you smell of fish??

      Bounty hunter you never understand NaMo and the Maratha Empire.

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        You are a nutcase aren’t you really hmm?

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          `You are a nutcase`

          ooooH, la la ooh my roxanne!

  • 1
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    Can you imagine having a long evening around the fire with the Buddha, Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed? – Sir, you created a beautiful picture!

    We Buddhists know that the little time we have in this world we have to do much good karma and less bad karma.

    As for believing in gods-
    We humans are not perfect! We know that gods cannot help us but still we worship them more as a practice….

  • 1
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    Here I am bit confused.

    You say “We Buddhists know that the little time we have in this world we have to do much good karma and less bad karma”.

    But all is not as it seems. Govt’s and BBS’s (Govt^s OR BBS’s, both the same actually) hit and hide mechanism almost destroy buddhist culture we practised in the country, say until these violent groups got mobilised. Today, who would care buddhist monks that were then accepted as highly respected in our society.

    If you make a survey, surely the outcome will be > 90% born lanken buddhists are just buddhists on their papers. THEY ARE MORE OR LESS LIKE CHINESE OF MODERN DAY. IF ONE WOULD QUESTION CHINESE AVERAGE, THEIR RESPONSE IS “THEY DONT HAVE A RELEGION”.

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      `LIKE CHINESE OF MODERN DAY.`

      this is what the objective say…Life is a paradox baboo!

    • 0
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      Punchi,
      Buddhism is a discipline which is practiced within you…. Only a very few understands what it really is …. But when you find your own way of disciplining yourself its total bliss…….

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