I have found a particular thought amusing today as I think about religion in general. There is a lot of stress associated with religions around the world. Strife continues daily, even here in the U.S., as people befuddle themselves, often to the point of anger, over matters of what happens to themselves (and others) after death (or even lesser matters), and they become so entangled in their own views that they feel compelled to debate them with others.
Ok… I call it debate, intervention, or outright attempts at conversion, but whatever it is, a lot of hurtful things have been said and in some places in the world people have died on account of arguments over beliefs.
I’ve noticed that the Christian-conditioned part of me still lends itself toward the idea that true belief in something being right or wrong results in one being willing to do anything that ultimately supports/protects that belief. One thing I remember being taught by church in my high-school years was the idea that if I wasn’t upsetting people with my beliefs (meaning, if I wasn’t being persecuted), it was an indicator that I wasn’t sufficiently fervent — ultimately that I was lukewarm. Being lukewarm is clearly undesirable, as Revelation 3:16 reads:
So then because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.
I never was too keen on the idea of being spewed… I’m guessing the spewed souls don’t make it to heaven… but I digress…
I cannot fault those who truly hold belief in something, anything, because I still have beliefs and views, but I have encountered an ongoing theme in my readings of the Sutta Nipata of late about such mental constructs; one such verse (847) in my translation reads (somewhat amusingly):
For him who is free from marks there are no ties, to him who is delivered by understanding there are no follies; but those who grasped after marks and views, they wander about in the world annoying people.
How true. If one man believes there is a god and another man believes there is no god, what good is it to either of them to profess their views to each other? Is either one more foolish than the other, saying, “Listen, for there is a god,” or “Listen, for there is no god,” or are they simply going tit for tat, bothering each other without benefit?
So today my challenge is to think about speech and actions, especially the motivations for them, in this context. If you are sharing a view, whether it be religious, philosophical, or maybe even political, are you sharing it because you genuinely think the hearer is interested in your opinion, or are you simply annoying them? I often find that my words are empty because the listener isn’t interested.
Further, if someone speaks to you as if they are trying to lure you into dispute, how many of us might simply do as verse 832 suggests:
Those who, having embraced a certain view, dispute and maintain “this only is true,” to them say when a dispute has arisen, “Here is no opponent for you.”
Thank you for reading. Be well, friends, this New Moon Uposatha.