Tuesday, July 29, 2008

"Compare Jesus" Part I-Jesus Outshines Buddha

In 1873, the Reverend Thomas Webster published his book, Woman: Man’s Equal, a hot topic on the eve of America granting suffrage to women. The introduction opens with these words,

Christianity is the special friend of women. Christian civilization has exalted her almost infinitely above the position to which either paganism or Mohammedanism assigned her. This elevation is the natural outgrowth of the example and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.

It's an argument over 100 years old, but it's time to update it for today. I believe Jesus
outshines any religious founder in his treatment and love, dignity and value for women. In this series I want to compare him to several popular ones: Buddha, Mohammad (founder of Islam) Joseph Smith (founder of Mormonism) and C.T. Russell (founder of Jehovah Witnesses).
Let's compare Jesus' treatment of women with Siddhartha Guatama, the founder of Buddhism.


Siddhartha, later
known as the Buddha, was a prince born near India. From the little we can gather from his life it's apparent that his search for spiritual enlightenment lead him to do two extreme things.

One evening when Siddhartha was 29, he awoke among his harem. He noticed how the seductive bodies of the women around him did not allure him anymore. In fact, they disgusted him. Their bodies draped at awkward angles while they slept reminded him more of a heap of corpses than women he had dallied with the night before.*

In this moment Siddhartha wakes up, he is enlightened enough to want to change. He walks to his wife, Yashodhara, of 12 years, glances at her sleeping in her bedroom and bids her goodbye without waking her. Then he glances at his new-born son and abandons him as well. He deserts everyone (harem, wife and son) for his hunt for enlightenment.

In reading biographies of Siddhartha, I've found even the most tolerant ones note Siddhartha's feelings as a father. Karen Armstrong writes, “He had felt no pleasure when the child was born”, naming the baby boy “Rahula” or fetter.** Siddhartha feared that Rahula would chain him to the life and duties he despised. So he leaves his wife and son without a second glance.

Perhaps this doesn't seem so bad, but notice how spiritual enlightenment actually compete for Siddhartha's love. In the Biblical story, we never see God denying things that are key to our humanity. Jesus never commanded or endorsed a man leaving his wife or his child. Some might argue that Jesus says you must leave family in your devotion to him (Luke 9:59-62 or Mark 10:29-30), but if you closely read these passages you'll find Jesus never asks a person to leave his spouse or his children, only his parents, or home or lands. In other words, there is something God blesses and will not sever about marital relationships.

According to Jesus’ words a man and wife are “one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate,” regardless of spiritual quests, hunger for enlightenment or desire for experiences (Matt 19:6). I believe this is because Jesus knew that from the beginning (as he says in Mark 10:6) all humans are made to enjoy companionship, desire community, hunger to be loved and known (I Cor 13:12). God provides that in a spouse and he never asks us to desert our spouse in our pursuit of him. To leave a spouse is to cut apart what God originally created us to enjoy (Gen 2:24-25).

*Entering the Stream: An Introduction to The Buddha and His Teachings eds., Samuel Bercholz and Sherab Chodzin Kohn (Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1993), 7, 9-10.

**Karen Armstrong, Buddha, (New York, NY: Penguin Group, 2001), 1-2.

117 comments:

Steve said...

Thank you Jonalyn. "We never see God denying things that are key to our humanity" is such a critical truth. Christ came to give us life as people - flesh and blood, relational people. To deny that is to shackle us to an impossible and uninspiring neutered existence.

Stacy (LSHS '97) said...

Jonalyn,

Excellent discussion/post to start. There are so many things about Buddhist teachings which are incredibly, but the history does mark Buddha, before his enlightened stage, to be very distant and somewhat "harsh" (in my opinion).

When I view Jesus, I see many of the philosophies of Taoism represented. There was a balance and a love in Jesus, as a prophet, that can never be denied. It is nice to be reminded of this as the world shows us a very different image.

Stacy (LSHS '97) said...

Excuse the grammar...it's been a long morning. That first paragraph leaves much to be desired.

Dianne said...

Very interesting opening quotation. Why is it so difficult for people to accept, acknowledge and embrace the way Jesus treated people?

Jonalyn Grace Fincher said...

Stacy,
Love to hear from you, good grammar or not. :)
I'd love to push deeper into more ways you see Taoism in Jesus. What other similarities do you see?
If you don't want to reply here, don't hesitate to email me jonalyn@soulation.org

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hello Everyone!
You write that the Buddha "deserts" everyone harem, wife and son...The Venerable Gotama knew that his wife and son would be well taken care of.The tradition at the time as well for many today was to take the "going forth" when what was considered the forth and final period of ones life was reached.Even if ones children are fully grown,would you consider it a "deserting" of ones spouse should an individual engage in such a time honered spiritual tradition?If you actually study what it is that you're trying to write about you will discover that not only did he keep in contact with his wife and son but that his son Rahula became a disciple of his a few years later and I believe that the Buddha proved an excellent father figure.I would refer you to the Pali Canon Tipataka M.N.#61 and #62
as well as M.N.#147, for starters. The Venerable Gotama knew that his wife and child were not "key" to his humanity,if that were true there would be many today without wife and child that we would not consider in some way fully human.Upon further consideration I'm sure that most of us would understand that as simply absurd.Although the female monastic sanga(community)was formally subject to the oversight of the male monastic sangha,taken into context this was apparently to temper what was nothing short of absolute outrage at the fact that the Buddha was and is known today as the first spiritual master in recorded human history to have ordained women as his direct disciples!Did Jesus ever do so?The answer with all due respect to the ministry of Jesus I am sure you know, would be NO.
I would not be surprised if you don't "approve" this comment to be published.I however do hope that it might be in some way helpful to yourself as well as others.To study more of the Buddhist scripture instead of just reading someones book(however inaccurate or biased it may or may not be) about the Buddha,I would suggest accesstoinsight.org.

Either way I wish you all the very best of all things spiritual.

Bhikkhu aggacitto

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Bikkhu,

I'm grateful for your comment and insight into my post. However, I would ask you not to post words like "If you actually study what it is that you're trying to write" as this fosters more heat than light.

I have studied Buddha, thought obviously not as in depth and comprehensively as you have.

For your direction to the Pali Canon Tipitaka, I am indebted. However, upon reading these passages I find that all it indicates is that the Venerable Buddha instructed his son in his spirituality. It says nothing to the role he played as a father. It also neglects to indicate, as you have, that Buddha was an excellent father figure. What other sources can you point me to for that information?

Upon considering your words I have a few ideas I wanted to share

1- I want to be clear that I do not believe marriage and/or children are central or even essential to fulfilling our humanity. If I did, Jesus would hardly be superior to Buddhas as Jesus had neither spouse or biological children. However, I do believe that if a person decides to marry, then our humanity is more fulfilled by remaining loyal to the intimacy of this marriage. I would find any spiritual tradition that required a man or woman to desert spouse suspect from the beginning.

2- The point of children is well taken, if a child is grown there should be no hindrance to a parent from pursuing spiritual truth. I found it interesting, however, that Siddhartha's baby was barely a month old. At this age, if a child is abandoned by his father, he will have emotional and spiritual scarring. I have trouble imagining how this is healthy for any person's humanity, father or son.

3- Even if Siddhartha's wife and child were financially and even physically cared for, I find the way Siddhartha left them emotionally troubling. Siddhartha's wife was left without a partner, a sexual companion, a father for her son and a counselor to provide her with comfort. There's no doubt in my mind that a spouse or even child could (and often is) distracting to the pursuit of God and light and beauty and truth. This is advice found in the New Testament as well. Paul says it's best to not marry to remain in un-distracted devotion to God. However, once you have married or made a child, God, in the Christian tradition, asks that what God has joined together, no man should separate.
I think it is more human to foster these spousal and parental ties that a person has created and less human to leave them for another spiritual quest. I don't believe any time honored spiritual tradition can compete (as far as human growth and health) to the task of loving those nearest to you. These are often the ones we each find hardest to love.

4- As far as comparing the ordination of women between Buddha and Jesus there are a few problems with the comparison.
First, ordination is not a concept even spoken of in the Jewish Scriptures of the New Testament. The word never comes up and the concept was invented by the institutionalized church and added on as a religious (often hierarchical and controlling measure). So to expect Jesus to ordain women is as anachronistic as expecting George Washington to email.

Second, Jesus was not the founder of a religion, he was the fulfiller the Jewish hope and the God of the Jewish promise to fix this hurting world (as he explained in Mathew 5:17- law and prophets was his way of saying the Jewish Scriptures). So if we go back to the God of the Hebrews, that Jesus claimed to not just represent, but to incarnate, we find that God valued, appointed and delighted in women doing all the things most people use the word "ordination" to refer to. We find God appointing women as prophets, (Miriam who was Moses' sister), judges (Deborah), warriors (Jaal), leaders (Esther), matriarchs (Ruth) and even church leaders (Priscilla). I would be happy to supply the references for these women should you care to read more.

Thank you again for your concern to help us understand Buddha better!
Jonalyn

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi again!
Thank you so much for the constructive conversation!
The first thing that I must say is that it never stops amazing me how so many people will take cultural norms of today and try comparing them with what was understood and accepted three thousand years ago with their own air of arrogant superiority, based on some sort of therapeutic model that they have been taught, whether the Christian verbiage is being used or not. The spiritual life is I believe the most important life, therefore spiritual advice is a very important part of being a “father figure”. What else do you think he should have shown his son as a father figure that you believe he did not show? What a better role model or “father figure” as you say than a living Buddha! When the discourse is given at M.N.#61 young Rahula his son was only seven years old (canonical commentaries) and stayed with the monastic community his entire life , with no evidence of him being forced to do so. I can assure you that there are many women today who only wish that they had a living Buddha as a “father figure”!


1- As human beings we have infinite spiritual potential, and therefore I find it difficult to see how ones humanity is “more fulfilled” by remaining more loyal to the intimacy of the marriage as opposed to a far less distracted spiritual life.
2- Why do you assume that at barely one month old a biological father is the only one capable of providing for the emotional/spiritual needs of the child?
3- Why do you assume that she was left without a partner (whatever that means to you), a “father” for her son, and a sexual partner? The grand parents were still alive and a part of the royal family as well. You may as well wish to consider the fact that perhaps out of respect for the woman’s modesty it was perhaps felt that her sexual life if any, was none of your/our business. As well, I don’t see it as a matter of one’s spiritual tradition having to “compete” with loving those nearest you. This would depend on how one’s society and culture view the matter, as to whether it is viewed as a quantity of time spent equation, as if one were clocking into work before the whistle blows! With all due respect, you seem to be taking the “jealous wife” approach. I shall also make a note here of the fact that as a Theravada Buddhist monk, it is none of my business just what your Christian “God” should ask of you, just as long as you’re staying out of everyone else’s way.
4- When the Venerable Gotama would ordain a disciple he would simply say, “Go forth the way has been prepared for you”.You use the word ordination as a distraction to the fact that not a single one of the twelve or “direct” disciples of Jesus was a woman. Due to different cultural norms, this is not necessarily a bad thing; my point was that if we are going to talk about anyone “outshining” anyone else we should be reasonable enough to work with a level playing field so to speak. An example:

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

continued...

book of Leviticus Chapter 12 Vs.1; And the lord spake unto Moses saying, Vs.2 speak unto the children of Israel saying, If a woman have conceived seed and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.Vs.3: and in the eight day the flesh of the foreskin shall be circumcised. Vs.4: And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled. Leviticus Ch.15: And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days and whomso ever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. Vs.30: And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering; and the priest shall make atonement for her before the lord for the issue of her uncleanliness.

The point being here that the tradition that Jesus came from would consider a woman dirty or “unclean” simply because she was menstruating or because she had recently given birth to a child making her worthy of a sin offering and atonement! Should we expect that he would rush to make one of his direct disciples a woman?

I would like to end the discussion of this matter by making mention of the fact that according to the Visuddhimagga, which is canonical literature, the fifth of twenty three types of cloth to be made into a robe permitted to the monks who practice “ciivaradhuta”nga (the highest austerity of the robe) is “cloth discarded after wiping birthing waste”. In Buddhism “blood from the womb” is not considered as something ‘sinful’ or ‘unclean’, but simply another bodily fluid amongst many types of bodily fluids and in this case, something to be given great respect.

As I end this post I will remind you that your article title made mention of JESUS outshines… So could you please supply me with a reference where JESUS (not your Christian “God”), made a woman a prophet, a judge, a warrior, etcetera ,etcetera.
Please don’t give me the Jesus is God bit, because even though you and others are entitled to believe that and I respect your belief when you say “Jesus outshines …….”
You are talking about Jesus.
As a final thought, I must ask you about your “Creator God” concept. Would not this personified “Creator God” be considered the ultimate “father figure”? I believe Sigmund Freud called it the “infantile father figure” type need.
Would your loving, compassionate, “father figure” reprimand the rest of humanity for the “horrible” crime of not acknowledging himself or his presumed personal son as a deity to be recognized as such, by punishing and torturing the rest of humanity for all of eternity? Not a billion or so years mind you, but for all of eternity?
If this is your “father figure” you can have him.




May you all be blessed with the best of all things spiritual.



Bhikkhu aggacitto

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi again!

I do apologize if my comments seem a bit strong for some at times, but I call it the way that I see it. Anyway I know that I am no where near as aggressive as some of the Christian missionaries that I meet on the road as a wandering Buddhist monk. Anyway, I just thought I would toss something at you for your further consideration…
In the Pali Canon Tipataka Sutta Nipata (Vs 336) the Venerable Rahula had this to say about his father the Buddha: “I shall always revere the torch bearer of humanity” as well at the Theragatha 295 in a poem that he composed he had this to say: “ I am called Rahula the lucky because I am both the Buddha’s son, and because I have seen the truth”
You implied some sort of emotional and spiritual scarring… Says who? You?

You see, they can’t dig up much personal dirt on the Venerable Gotama for the sake of slander, the way you can on C.T. Russell (the founder of the Jehovah Witnesses) so they will make the best of such charges of “abandonment” or “desertion” for those who have never researched this matter, for if they did they would simply know better. What you end up with are people who don’t know any better (usually), convincing others who don’t know any better. Then when someone such as myself points out a few things for them they usually feel compelled to somehow justify their ill conceived perspective anyway!

Look, all I want to say at this point is this; if we are on the spiritual path for the sake of truthful spiritual knowledge, we should not be afraid to learn new things even if it goes against our preconceived and accepted notions. Otherwise we are just rooting for our team and nothing more. If that’s all that were in it for we can always hit the nearest sports bar if we want and get just the same. Hopefully our spiritual journey will consist of something more than that.



I sincerely wish you and all a spiritually great day with many more to follow!

If anyone would like to say hello!my e mail address is:
revaggacitto7@gmail.com



Bhikkhu aggacitto

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

I just thought that I would add that if you don’t agree with the word ‘slander’ as applied above for any reason, you can always replace it with the phrase “character assassinate”.
Of course, depending on the intention and motivation of the individuals involved, (all parties) I would even dare say that this isn’t necessarily an ill warranted approach if it can be shown that the accuser was truthful and had good intention, and the accused was not truthful and had an evil intention in mind. By the way, have you actually ever studied the dhamma ( dhamma means teaching ) of the Venerable Gotama? I don’t remember reading about any of that in your original post. Having said that, I once again wish all of you a spiritually prosperous day with many more to follow.



Bhikkhu aggacitto

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Hello Bikkhu,

I'm thankful to have your comments again on my post. Thank you for taking the time to re-visit!

I agree that we must be open to investigating spiritual things and pushing ourselves to know the truth. I appreciate your concern to help others seek goodness and truth. Thank you!

As you have raised many points, I wanted to clarify what I believe to be the main issue at hand: what is the most appropriately human model? And which religious figure, Jesus or Buddha, was most dignifying to women?

Are Jesus and Buddha both equally appropriate in their humanity? Does one outshine the other? and if so what does that look like?

Perhaps many would want the Buddha as their father figure, but this does not erase the fact that Siddhartha left his son and wife. You make light of this desertion because Rahula was only 1 month old. While many can provide emotionally, physically, spiritually for Rahula—and I’m sure many did—I am convinced by psychological research that a child is scarred when his father leaves him, no matter what the reason (see for instance Absent Fathers, Lost Sons: The Search for Masculine Identity by Guy Corneau). The fact that Siddhartha left his son is not, to my mind, slander or character assassination since this in fact happened. Slander is defined as “a malicious, false, and defamatory statement or report” so to slander is to purposeful smear a person’s integrity, not faithful reporting of the facts. I do not think we can disagree that Siddhartha left his son, though we can disagree as to the potential harm or benefit this had on Rahula.

You asked how I think Buddha failed as a father:

First, I believe Buddha failed as a father because Rahula was from his loins and I don’t think this biological connection is something to take lightly.

Second, I believe Buddha could not provide the steady feedback and presence as his son grew and no matter how many other amazing mentors Rahula could have had before he reunited with the Buddha, those early years were lost forever. The early years of bonding with his father never took place. So unless you throw out much of early psychological development theory, Siddhartha failed in his early years by simply not being present with his son. The Buddha could have been learning incredible wisdom and peaceful good ways, he could have instructed millions into his path, but as far as his human connection as a father, I believe he failed. Perhaps, some may reply that everything that Siddhartha does is pure and that no evidence could falsify that, even if his actions seem suspect. If that’s the case, then the discussion ends. But as far as the evidence goes, unfalsifiable claims are really no claims at all. A claim must be possible of being false (aka testable) if it has any hope of being true. For more see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability

I’m afraid I’m not convinced that Rahula found his father to be an amazing torchbearer of humanity and thought of himself as very lucky. He obviously admired his father and perhaps did not study other religious teachings either. Still, this does not undo the veritable fact that Buddha left him, whether Rahula admitted it publicly in Scripture or even to himself. I think it’s at least very likely that Rahula is not going to criticize his father in his culture where son’s reverence for fathers was of paramount value. I’ve known many a son who dotes and admires his father even when (and often usually in the face of) the father has failed to be present and love his son well.

Much like many celebrity pastors fail when they leave their children for the sake of ministering to large audiences with a message they believe God has given them, I'd say they (and the Buddha) failed to be appropriately human in their role as fathers.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Continued from above:

When you wrote, "As human beings we have infinite spiritual potential, and therefore I find it difficult to see how ones humanity is “more fulfilled” by remaining more loyal to the intimacy of the marriage as opposed to a far less distracted spiritual life. " I realized that we are talking about a major difference in philosophies. And we probably will not agree on this. That is fine, for the sake of my readers I want to explain the difference.

A key distinction between the philosophy of Buddha and Jesus is that Buddha teaches that the world beguiles us and that we must learn the illusion of the things (even family) that prevent us from detaching, clearing our mind and achieving serenity and peace. As the Buddhist Center's Director in our town quoted the Buddha's words, "It's folly of mind that creates the world" indicating how this world is illusory or at least limited in its ontological status next to the ability of our mind.

I believe your words "far less distracted spiritual life" point well to this distinction. You have assumed that spirituality means clarity from familial distractions. I, however, believe spirituality means attaching myself more deeply to family and friends in this life because through my love for them and they for me, I am becoming more like God. In Jesus terms’ love, not detachment, is the essence of spirituality. And love includes committed relationships between different individuals and learning to lay my life down for them (as Jesus did) knowing they are other and distinctly valuable even though separate from me.

Jesus' philosophy teaches us that true spirituality requires us to go into the world, to be fully incarnate in our bodies, to live within the human attachments God has given us. As Jesus promised our very bodies are so good that God will resurrect them and give us new ones (John 6:39-40).

According to Christianity, we will not go to some ethereal heaven forever, we are made to be enfleshed human creatures with souls. Jesus was building on the Jewish teaching that we as body/soul persons are made in God's image (Genesis 1:27-28).
This means that our human body and the human attachments are precisely where Jesus asks us to prove our faithfulness to him, to delve into the mess of human relationships, particularly those closest to us. This is why Jesus heals his disciple’s mother in law, and the widow's son and the Centurion's daughter. He is concerned with the family relationships God has placed us in and asks us to remain faithful to honoring those closest to us (Matthew 19:19).

Please see next comment for continuation.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Continued from above:

The Christian teaching encourages each human to maintain more loyalty and more faithfulness to their familial or marital relationships. This is one point of Yashodhara’s life I think you misunderstood from me. I’m not saying that Buddha should have needed to compete with other family members with time with his wife. I am saying that in order to be healthy and fully human, a marriage relationships REQUIRES time.

You cannot be truly loving your spouse and leave for seven years, that is, if marriage means commitment.

So while the Buddha may have been a wonderful teacher and sage, he failed as a husband. While many, including yourself, may have chosen the life of celibacy, Buddha’s wife did not have the choice, rather it was thrust upon her. This seems to be an unfair decision that Buddha required of her. And for Yashodhara to be angry or peaceful with his desertion (I don’t know how she felt, is that recorded anywhere?) is beside the point. My point is that Siddhartha left his wife and Jesus did not.
I agree that Jesus did not choose any of the 12 disciples to be women, however, you cannot deny that Jesus included women disciples in his followers from the beginning (compare Luke 8:1-4 with verse 22 to see that Jesus’ students were not limited to 12). Buddha did not. He had to be convinced by his female family member (was it his mother-in-law?) and only after he denied women entrance as his disciples and his female relative, after she had fasted and endured an arduous pilgrimage and shaved her head and (with other female devotees) proved herself was she admitted as a disciple.

No woman had to prove herself to Jesus. He chose Mary Magdalene (John 20) as the first preacher of his resurrection (the key event in Christianity which also speaks to the value of the human body) to tell all his 12 male disciples. He chose a woman to teach the men, he accepted food from women and this also is unheard of in Buddha’s teaching. The Buddha forbade monks from receiving food from a woman’s hands, a practice I believe is still held to today.

See next comment for more

Jonalyn Fincher said...

You brought up Leviticus 12:1-4 and 15 to show that Jesus was not predisposed to value women, however you fail to note that Leviticus’ message was something Jesus actually spoke into. Jesus touched women who were bleeding proving that his power and love could overcome even the stigma of blood (please see Mark 5:25-34 and the way Jesus lets himself be stopped in the middle of a “high-power” miracle for a woman who has been bleeding for 12 years, clearly UNCLEAN according to Lev 12:1-4 and what Jesus does in response. See also Matthew 9:18-26, Luke 8:43 ff ). Women’s blood from menstruation, birth or even sinfulness never kept Jesus from approaching and touching them. In Luke 13:10-17, Jesus breaks the Sabbath laws the modern Jews had set up to heal a woman, showing his delight in restoring women more than impressing the laws of the men in power around him. Jesus was so interconnected with women that the majority of those followers (you might say disciples) who witnessed his death were women. Jesus relied on these women to provide and fund his ministry work (see Mark 15:41).

To think Jesus would have been against a woman as his disciple makes me think you’ve misunderstood the type of man Jesus was. Jesus had the power to end the stigma of uncleanness, the holy and the less than holy. His death and his OWN blood ended all this “you are clean and pure and I am not stuff”. He never called someone unclean, he came to show the whole world that his love extended to the most broken, wounded, smallest man or child or woman.

You asked for a specific example from Jesus’ life. He invites Mary of Bethany to learn at his feet as his disciple (Luke 10:39), he notes the women who are poorest and most sidelined (per application of passages like Lev 12-15) and uses them as examples (for an example of this in one gospel: Luke 7, Luke 18, Luke 21). Jesus came, after all, into the world through the blood of a young virgin woman, Mary. He was clearly not squeamish about entering all the dimensions of human, body life.

Your question about God as a father figure is an interesting one. You cited Freud’s psychological term “infantile father figure” and then went on to ask,

Would your loving, compassionate, “father figure” reprimand the rest of humanity for the “horrible” crime of not acknowledging himself or his presumed personal son as a deity to be recognized as such, by punishing and torturing the rest of humanity for all of eternity? Not a billion or so years mind you, but for all of eternity? If this is your “father figure” you can have him.

I’d love to answer this question in much more depth, but as this response has already gotten very long, I’ll begin with these few points and perhaps we can continue this discussion via email? jonalyn@soulation.org
If not, here are a few thoughts to ponder

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Continued from above:
1- I do not believe God tortures people, nor that the Bible teaches this. I believe our own brokenness tortures and destroys us by its very nature. The Christian theologian St. Augustine said it well when he wrote, “Sin is a privation of the good.” Sin, which is anything less than clean, wholesome, full and good twists good things. God wants us to be with him because we are created to run on God. We do not have to choose him however, we have a viable option to live without him. Sin is a real option, twisting the good and living in disharmony is a real option for us.

2- I believe that some people do not want God, I’m sure in your experience some people do not want the Buddha either. Every religion has a place for people like this… either it’s cycles of reincarnation where their karma is their only heritage, or it is a place some people call hell. My personal belief and that of many Christians, is that hell is locked on the inside. Those who do not want to be near God do not have to be, this is what hell is, a place devoid of God’s peace, health, joy and wholesome life.

3- I do not think anyone will be in hell because they didn’t say a prayer right about Jesus nor do I think the Bible teaches this.

4- I do not think hell is full of people who feel God is unjust or that they wish they were with God.

5- I do not think anyone will be surprised to be in hell

6- There are many Christians who believe there is no hell or that people who choose hell will cease to exist (called annhilationism). So you don’t have to believe in a forever type of hell to be a follower of Jesus. Most Christians agree this is not an essential point to the Christian faith… the point is that Jesus brings life and enlightenment (a Jewish concept) if we want his life.

I’d highly recommend the short book The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis for anyone wanting to pursue this doctrine further. Lewis gives a vibrant imaginative story illustrating the reasons for hell and heaven. I think you’d find it helpful in understanding the heart of Christian doctrine on these things.

One final thought: I'm somewhat confused as to why you seek to justify Siddhartha's decision to leave his wife and son since he had not, yet, found enlightenment. Isn't it true that Siddhartha's life is not a life you seek to emulate, but rather the enlightened Buddha's life, after these decisions were made? Please correct me if I am mistaken. If true, this is another important distinction, since Jesus seems to be enlightened from birth and Buddha only after his spiritual enlightenment after marriage and fatherhood.

Thank you for your work to continue dialog. I appreciate knowing the differences and how to better understand the way you view Christianity.

I have studied the dhamma in pieces through online sites, and through others who’ve mediated it to me and other books about Buddha’s teaching. Would you be able to recommend a source that would explain it in a way that I could study it further? What translation has been most helpful to you?

I’m curious, have you read the life of Jesus? If not, I’d recommend you take an afternoon to sit down with the gospel of John. I’d be interested in your comments afterward!

Rachel said...

Bhikkhu:
About the purity laws of Leviticus: The idea of "uncleaness" in blood, semen, death, skin diseases is not about badness or disgust or censure. The whole idea of ritual purity in the Torah is not about regular cleanness, or what's good or bad, it has to do with making a clear separation between the holy and the profane. And the particular nature of holiness figures in to these laws. Non-ritual blood is unclean because blood itself has a certain kind of holiness to it. It is the "life of the flesh" that is given on the altar for remission of sins. (Lev 17:11)

Because Israel was a nation inhabited (indwelled) by the presence of the Holy God in the tabernacle and later in the Temple, there are many rules and laws governing their behavior so as not to defile the holiness of God, and to protect the people from God's wrath. Israel was unique among nations because the nation carried the Presence of God. Imagine the responsibility! These rules become more and more strict the nearer one gets to the Most Holy Place, but all of Israel is affected by the presence of God in their midst. It was dangerous. These laws were needful.

Jesus crossed the line of these laws, not because he had more compassion, or more respect for women, but because rather than being defiled by impurity, as were the human priests, he had the divine power to transform impurity to cleanness. He reversed the normal process. It relates to Romans 8 where paul says the "law of the spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death." I always thought of this of the new physics we will experience. Jesus overcomes the 2nd law of thermodynamics!

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi again!
I thought that by now you might understand that the Pali Canon Tipataka is a collection primarily of the Buddhas teachings, and not a chronological diary of his wife or the rearing of his son Rahula. Never the less, I believe that I have done an adequate job of showing you that there was no genuine need to be concerned about the emotional or spiritual circumstances of his wife or son. For some once they see that with a little research, the charge of “abandonment” or “desertion”will not travel very far they then question the validity of such scriptures and in your case Rahula's honesty. Of course the only people who question this are those who need to find some sort of demonstration of a lack of good character regarding the Venerable Gotama whether this was pre- enlightenment or not. There is no record of his wife ever having a problem with it,whether you consider this a “biased” account in that regard or not. If there was something nasty to be said, I'm sure you would consider it a most objective rendering. On the other hand, Rahula certainly did not seem to feel emotionally or spiritually 'scarred', as I have already pointed out to you. Now do you remember the before mentioned “rooting for your own team and nothing much more” sports bar analogy? It is for this reason that you are left with nothing more in this regard that to question Rahula's scriptural honesty, to himself perhaps as some form of “self denial” and therefore to anyone else as well. So we have the scriptural fact of the matter versus your psychological theory more than 2,500 plus years after the fact.
Now let us review a few things shall we?

1.Concerning your statement regarding the establishment of the Bhikkhuni sangha, “No woman had to prove herself to Jesus”as well as the statement “ His death and his own blood ended all this”you are clean and pure and I am not stuff ”:
Let us take a look at Matt. 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30 (N.I.V.):

Matt.15:21-28
21Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession."
23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."
24He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
25The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said.
26He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
27"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."
28Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.Matthew 15:21-28
21Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession."
23Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us."
24He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel."
Continued.....

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

25The woman came and knelt before him. "Lord, help me!" she said.
26He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
27"Yes, Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table."
28Then Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted." And her daughter was healed from that very hour.
Mark7:24-30:
24Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. 25In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. 26The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.
27"First let the children eat all they want," he told her, "for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."
28"Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs."
29Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter."
30She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
Okay, so here we have an instance where this woman whom Jesus didn't consider one of the “lost sheep of Israel” had to prove (demonstrate) herself worthy as a non Israelite, of having her daughter healed by acknowledging herself as a “dog” willing to eat the crumbs that fall from the masters'/childrens' table! I'm sure that although undoubtedly grateful for having her daughter healed, she was feeling anything BUT “dignified”.

2.I never said that the biological connection was something to take “lightly”. I do however believe that the spiritual takes a priority, especially when were talking about best fulfilling our human potential.
3.You seem to think that Jesus never would have condoned the leaving of children for his sake.
You discuss Luke9:59-62 in your original post, “Some might argue that Jesus says you must leave family in your devotion to him (Luke 9:59-62 or Mark 10:29-30), but if you closely read these passages you'll find Jesus never asks a person to leave his spouse or his children, only his parents, or home or lands.”
Lets look at Luke 9:59-62 (N.I.V.) shall we?
 59He said to another man, "Follow me."
 But the man replied, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father."
 60Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God."
 61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."
 62Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
In just what world does the term “family” NOT apply to spouse and children?

You reference Mark:10:29-30 in your original post as well... Lets see what that has for us shall we?



Continued........

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Mark10:29-30(N.I.V.)
29"I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.
Only his parents home or lands? Perhaps we all might notice the word CHILDREN in there somewhere. So actually he promises for those who amongst leaving other things as well as their children, ETERNAL LIFE!
Is this not Jesus in Matt.19:28 condoning the “abandonment”and “desertion” of ones children as you put it for the sake of eternal life?(As well Mark 29:31)
Yes, he doesn't mention “wife” but with everything else that he mentions including one “abandoning” their CHILDREN and FAMILY does he really have to?
4.“I do not believe that God tortures people.” Look, either you believe that the “unbelievers” will go to hell or you don't. You apparently don't believe in “annhilationism”.Either way it's eternal punishment. Do you believe that those who reject “Jesus” as their savior will be judged as dieing “in their sins” and destined for eternal hell or not? And for the “great crime” of what? Not accepting/realizing Jesus as their Lord and savior. Most Christians that I know, do not believe in “annhilationism”.
5.When I asked you to supply references pertaining to Jesus I believe you know that I was referring to your statement:
“We find God appointing women as prophets, (Miriam who was Moses' sister), judges (Deborah), warriors (Jaal), leaders (Esther), matriarchs (Ruth) and even church leaders (Priscilla). I would be happy to supply the references for these women should you care to read more.”
My reply was then:

As I end this post I will remind you that your article title made mention of JESUS outshines… So could you please supply me with a reference where JESUS (not your Christian “God”), made a woman a prophet, a judge, a warrior, etcetera ,etcetera.
Please don’t give me the Jesus is God bit, because even though you and others are entitled to believe that and I respect your belief when you say “Jesus outshines …….”
You are talking about Jesus.
You have yet to supply these references.

6.On your “One final thought”...I don't believe that what I choose to emulate today has anything to do with you looking to make something look negative unjustifiably as a cheap form of character assassination.
7.Concerning the statement “ The Buddha left his wife, Jesus did not” I do believe that that could be explained by the fact that...Oh yes! That's right! Jesus didn't have a wife to leave,(from what we know).
I must also wonder...If the life of Jesus is to be used as such an exemplary inspiration for us all then why then are there the “lost years” of Jesus? Why would your Christian “God” or others involved not want us to know about them? How can we know for sure that he didn't leave a wife somewhere that we don't know about?
Continued.......

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

8.Do you not recognize the difference between Jesus showing compassion and healing a woman who would be considered “unclean” and Jesus not allowing one of his direct disciples to be a woman?
9.Regarding the establishment of the Bhikkhuni sangha with Mahapajapati Gotama who was his aunt and foster mother and the large number of Sakyan women with her, it was the Venerable Ananda that convinced him, not his mother in law.
10.“He chose a woman to teach the men”is quite a bit of a wishful extrapolation simply because he asked her to tell the others about his presumed resurrection, don't you think?
11.“He accepted food from women and this is also unheard of in Buddhas teaching.” “The Buddha forbade monks from receiving food from a woman's hands, a practice I believe is still held to today.”
This is another area where you are just simply wrong.
You see, THIS is a PERFECT example as to why I earlier advised you to study the Pali Canon Tipataka which is the oldest known extant writing of the oral tradition, and which Buddhists of all schools and sects acknowledge as the scriptural foundation of what we today call “Buddhism”.
Why? Because this is just simply not true. Who told you this silly lie that you chose to believe? There is no Buddhist scripture of the Theravada or the Mahayana that would say anything close to such nonsense. A good on line source (as already mentioned) for the Pali canon Tipataka would be:
accesstoinsight.org
The thing for us to notice here is that you can't even reference your own scripture correctly, let alone pretend that you are in any way capable of presenting the teaching or scripture of the Venerable Gotama accurately. This is of course giving you the benefit of the doubt that this is all sheer ignorance on your part instead of something more intentional.
Continued.....

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

12.Now lets compare the “father figure” you call “God” with the Buddha shall we? In a sutta that has been previously mentioned, M.N.#61 the Venerable Gotama gives his son a fatherly talk and lesson on the virtue of truth telling, after Rahula had been caught telling a lie. This is how the Buddha dealt with young Rahula as a father and a Buddha with a situation of lie telling.

Now lets look at how your Christian “God” has been shown to respond to the lie telling of two of his children:
The New Testament
Acts 5:1-11 (N.I.V.)

1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property.
2 With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet.
3 Then Peter said, Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?
4 Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.
5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.
6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
7 About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened.
8 Peter asked her, Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land? Yes, she said, that is the price.
9 Peter said to her, How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.
10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband.
11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.
Now I was taught that as a spiritually humble person, I should be grateful for what I get, instead of questioning whether some one could have given more than they did to my practice as a missionary.
The apostle Peter seems to have felt different about the matter.
So after Ananias and Sapphira chose not to “cough it ALL up” to the apostle Peter, they lie about it!
So your Christian “God” murdered these two for the fact that they told a lie!
Continued.....

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Can you imagine a wife asking her husband; “Why dear do you know what has happened to our children?” The father answers: Why I've killed them! “You did what?!!!” She replies! “You heard me” he responds! “I've murdered them!” “Why on earth have you done such a thing?” She understandably asks. He answers: “Well... they told a lie!, that's why!”The loving, caring, yet firm and righteous father that I am shall not tolerate a lie! He continues......“Not on my watch!, that will teach them!” At this point, the wife goes into the back of the house and with much haste calls the police on the man that she now knows is an insane murdering lunatic! When the police come and arrest this man, she might ask...”Why didn't I see him for what he really was? And the police might well answer: “Obviously you wanted to be convinced otherwise!”
I'm sure you know that this is certainly not the only such example, of your Christian “God” murdering individuals and masses of people at a whim to satisfy his “righteous” thirst.
In case you might wish to claim that the illustrative analogy or any else of the above mentioned takes biblical scripture “out of context” I would disagree. That's a convenient knee jerk response when some are being shown something that they simply don't like acknowledging.
People enjoy giving the excuse that because of the “authority” issue its okay! They give the analogy: “It's okay for the state to send people off to war and kill, because they have the authority to do so, but not okay for you or me to kill someone because we don't have that authority” Oh really? And who gives them that “authority”? Answer: The military might of the state and collective acceptance of it!
As the American reformer Henry Clarke Wright insisted ; “What is sin in an individual is sin in a nation”. Unfortunately it would seem that he perhaps did not see the further theological repercussions of that stance.
Now when your Christian”God” has to depend on an explanation of “might makes right” then there can be no moral justification. With no moral justification the truly spiritual person needs to have the courage to look elsewhere.
After all, what if the woman's husband was a big shot political guy in small town rural America say... circa 1950 or so? The police come and refuse to arrest him, and tell her to keep her mouth shut or she will be next! The authority of might makes right? People that endeavor to live a truly spiritually just life know better than that. Should any of such “might makes right” type justifications make that what any reasonable human being would consider an acceptable “father figure?
Some would advise the Christian “God” as the spiritually ultimate father figure. What a sad, deluded and sadistic suggestion.

By the way, it's Bhikkhu not bikkhu... Spell it any way you wish if you insist, I'm sure I've had my name spelled and called worse. As I say... call me what you want...Just don't call me late for lunch!
Thank you so much for the continued dialog!
Again, I sincerely wish all of you the very best of all things spiritual.

Bhikkhu aggacitto

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi again!
I just thought that I would add that back in the day so to speak,people could name their children something and not worry about what the P.C. community or much of anyone else might make of it. I know of a young Chinese woman who following in that tradition today,was named "strange" because her mother felt that it was a strangly difficult child birthing! She chooses to interpret it as meaning "special". I don't blame her. Does that mean that her mother doesn't love her dearly? I don't think so.
Karen Armstrong writes as if she is taking an assumption for fact. Perhaps the way you did when you assumed that what you heard or perhaps read somewhere that the Buddha forbade monks from receiving food from a womans hands,was true. You seem to wish to assume alot for others, if only to keep selling yourself on something despite evidence to the contrary.

Once again, thank you for the continued dialog!
Have a blessed day!

Bhikkhu aggacitto

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi Rachel!

"Non-ritual blood is unclean because blood itself has a certain kind of holiness to it."
Let me guess, You don't see this as a contradiction do you? Let me ask you, Why was a male child not considered "unclean" during and after the ritual of circumcision? Was he being "purified" by the temple ritual? If so then why not a purifying ritual for a bleeding woman while or immediatly after the menstruation period or birth of the child? Why not then perhaps even purify the menstruation period while in progress by way of a temple ritual?
"The whole idea of ritual purity in the Torah is not about regular cleanness, or what's good or bad, it has to do with making a clear separation between the holy and the profane."
I don't think it has anything to do with "regular cleanliness" but let me ask you,do you think that perhaps words like good and bad in this context, are synonymous with holy and profane? If so,let me guess, you don't see this as a contradiction either now do you?


Thank you for your contribution.

Have a spiritually profound day!

Bhikkhu aggacitto

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi again Rachel!
I just thought that I would add...
You stated that:
"Jesus crossed the line of these laws, not because he had more compassion, or more respect for women, but because rather than being defiled by impurity, as were the human priests, he had the divine power to transform impurity to cleanness." To perhaps clarify for you my previous post...
What was considered so "impure or "profane" about a womans menstruation period that the temple
inhabited by your most holy "God" could not easily overcome and "purify"? Why, I would think that anything impure in the presence of the "most holy" would be instantly zapped and purified!Speaking in context, this of course would not injure them or kill them, unless "God" wanted to do so to teach them a lesson!) Instead people speak as if the temple was being contaminated! One would otherwise think that this was Supermans' temple and Lex Luthor was sneaking in Kryptonite!

I wish you a day blessed with spiritually pure kammic fruit!

Bhikkhu aggacitto

Ben Dyer said...

This is an interesting exchange! I do think something important has got left out, and I'm thinking that a little aside to clarify the terms of the debate might be helpful. Of course, either Jonalyn or Bhikkhu are free to disregard or amend the way I frame matters.

First, I'm unclear about this: is the relevant matter at issue the character of the teachers or the comparative values of their teachings? My guess is the latter, and though Bhikkhu has pointed out correctly that the title of the post refers to Jesus and Buddha, much of the character of the discussion has been about what kind of behavior Buddhism and Christianity in endorse. I propose to leave aside character assessment questions for the moment because how we get at assessments of character is in some sense exactly what the discussion is about.

Jonalyn defends the view that Jesus treated women better than the Buddha did, but her argument is that the Buddhist's view of the relation between spirituality and humanity is dissonant in some way. Bhikkhu seems to be interested mainly in defending the Buddha's character, but doing so means taking on Buddhist assumptions about the relative value of spiritual pursuits relative to other pursuits. I'm wondering if you both are basically talking past one another. Jonalyn's Christian tradition prioritizes knowing Jesus, and entering into and participating in the Kingdom of God (Christian spiritual pursuits) ahead of worldly pursuits--Jesus is explicit about this. On the other hand, Bhikkhu's not denied that Buddhist pursuit of spirituality carries certain costs with it, and that at the time in his life when he left his family, Siddhartha didn't have the benefit of the later Buddhist assumptions that Bhikkhu cites in his defense--his defense is that Siddhartha's spiritual pursuit is permissible because there are mitigating factors to the harm felt by Siddhartha's family; it's not that there is nothing to defend.

I wonder if there's another way to put Jonalyn's main point. Buddhism and Christianity take fundamentally different perspectives on the value of desire, and the extent to which that informs us about God or, in the Buddhist's case, the Enlightened state. For the Buddhist, desire is the source of suffering, and Enlightenment consists (in some way) of renouncing desires and the attachments to the world that they produce. By contast, the Christian tradition holds that while our desires have been corrupted (in some way), ultimately our desires will find ultimate satisfaction in the life God intends for us, and for which he created us. Thus, Christianity requires not that we renounce the attachments of this deep element of our common humanity, but that we understand their true sources in God, and direct ourselves appropriately to their satisfaction by adopting Christ's character as a template for an ideal life. Ultimately, the Christian conception is that there is a moral and spiritual unity to all parts of the human experience, and I take it that Jonalyn's point is that this is an attractive element of the view relative to the costs imposed by the Buddhist requirement that we renounce our desires and attachments. Jesus may have told his followers to leave their families and follow him, but he also said in his most famous sermon, "Seek first the Kingdom of God, and [in context, speaking of our human needs] all these things will be added to you." Might that not speak in favor of Jesus's teachings by comparison?

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Hello Bhikkhu aggacitto,
Please forgive me for spelling your name incorrectly. As I’ve recently found your blog online, and looked up the meaning of “bhikkhu” I realize how significant leaving that ‘h’ out is. Thank you for correcting me.
A few comments I hope will be helpful.
1- You are correct, the Pali Canon Tipataka is not a chronology of the Buddha’s life, I hope I am not expecting it to be something it is not. I want to take it for what it offers, without minimizing any claims it does happen to make about Buddha’s wife or son. I hope you would not assume that a nasty account of the Buddha would be something I would immediately assume is objective. I care about tolerance and respect, as well. I’m attempting to put myself into Yashodhara’s shoes and imagine my own feelings if my husband were to leave me.
2- I did notice you did not respond to my charge of falsifiability. Doesn’t this concern you?
3- I believe you and I are both guilty of rooting for our own team, I’d appreciate it if you don’t charge me with something we are both doing. We both believe we have found spiritual insight and truth. I have found it doesn’t create much openness or peace to accuse without applying the same standard to ourselves.

more to come . . .

Jonalyn Fincher said...

continued from above

4- Matthew 15:21-28 is one of my favorite passages of Jesus and women. I’m glad you brought it up. First, Jesus did not resist her because she was a woman but because she was a Gentile. So we don’t want to push a point the text doesn’t make. Second, let me offer you another perspective of Jesus’ engagement with this Syro-phoenecian woman. I see her actually baiting and sparring with Jesus. An engagement Jesus is “up for” as he baits her right back, claiming she has no claims to him… “Only to lost sheep of house of Israel” and even more goading “it’s not good to give good food to dogs.” A statement that you, understandably, have interpreted as undignified and even insulting. Perhaps without Jesus’ tone of voice it could sound like an insult. But by THE WAY SHE RESPONDS, we know he isn’t being insulting. A few background insights will help. First, the Jews called the Gentile “dogs”, so Jesus is using vernacular to talk about the plight of the Gentiles as being “outside”—not because Jesus agrees with the Gentiles as dogs (he proves this by talking with, healing and loving Gentile women regularly before this, for instance see his interaction with the “half-breed” Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:1-42 at the beginning of his public ministry, definitely before he calls this Gentile a dog). So now comes the climax, see how the woman responds in verse 27. “Even the little dogs (Greek word that includes lap puppies—or CHOSEN, loved dogs of the master) eat the crumbs.” In other words, she challenges and you could even say jokes back, “I bet you can find a way to bend the traditional Jewish rules and include me and CHOOSE me for a miracle.” In this way she humbles herself to say, “Hey, I’m lost and needy, too. I’m as lost as those Jewish sheep.” To which Jesus, totally getting her coded entreaty, commends, compliments and bends his powers to serve her. I’d recommend this online talk I’ve given, you can listen here: http://www.soulation.org/media/Mark15-Mix.mp3 to a more engaging presentation of what I mean. Mark 7:29 is even clearer. Jesus LOVES her reply. It is her engaging, provocative turning of the typical “dog” insult that captivates Jesus. I can see how without knowing the back story of little dogs and the Greek, and without a close reading of her response you would assume Jesus is insulting her and that she does not feel dignified. But the way Jesus responds to her persistence and excitement to show how she DOES belong and is included in Jesus’ work seems to indicate that Jesus didn’t just “set up the law” against women. He encouraged dialog and even challenged women around him to tell him what they really wanted (he does this with the Samaritan woman in John 4 as well). Perhaps you would make the parallel between this and Buddha’s engagement with the Venerable Ananda? (thank you for helping me understand this story more accurately). I would love to know your thoughts.

5- Would you be willing to give me the reference for this story of Buddha with Ananda, as I’d like to read it in its original source?
6- In saying the spiritual has priority over the biological connections, I think it would be best to say we must agree to disagree. I think the biological connections on earth are just as significant as our spiritual connections. Which leads to….

Jonalyn Fincher said...

7- The three accounts of Jesus advocating leaving home, family, and even children. These are definitely worth spilling some more ink.
a. Luke 9: 59-62 – I think it’s fair to say it is at least probable that Jesus means we are not obligated to family members, which probably means parents, though as you rightly point out COULD mean wife or children. But in this passage Jesus is not clearly telling this man to leave his wife, the “family” word remains ambiguous at best and the verse is not a command nor an example of leaving the family. There is another meaning that I do want to point out here. How could following Jesus entail LEAVING family? I think it’s possible that this man is creating an unnecessary division between love of family and love of Jesus. Especially in light of Jesus saying the TWO GREATEST commandments are to love your God and your neighbor (clearly including family!) as yourself, perhaps Jesus is showing the man in verse 61, that he is using his family as an excuse for not following? the ONLY place we see Jesus advocate leaving children is in
b. Mark 10:29-30- again Jesus shows the cost of following him. I’ve found much comfort in this verse as often God has asked me to be courageous and do things that my family does not understand. However, I don’t think we should assume WIFE should be added to the list when Jesus has not included her. And, as I have pointed out previously, the age of the child does change the significance of a parent leaving a child. I do not think a person who leaves his 20 year old child is doing the same kind of damage as leaving his 1 month old child. Since Jesus doesn’t codify what age is appropriate or inappropriate to leave a child, the argument that Jesus is here prescribing leaving children is left to silence. But here is another unmentioned point, Jesus doesn’t just say “LEAVE”, but IF you “leave these (insert list) for the sake of me and the gospel.” And I would want to follow-up to you with this question. According to the good news that Jesus has come to bring the Kingdom of God on earth (as he states in his first words in the first recorded gospel, Mark 1:15) a Kingdom where peace or better shalom reigns, where families can love, where spouses can find harmony, where the lion lays down with the lamb, why would a father need to leave his children? The only idea that comes to my mind is IF the son or daughter is preventing the father or mother from following Jesus (the passage about the sword comes to mind, see: Matt 10:34-35). And how would this be possible UNLESS the child were adult age, capable of exerting control or pressure upon the parent to NOT leave. And of course at adult age, desertion no longer an issue of provision for basic needs.
To be continued

Jonalyn Fincher said...

c. In the spirit of not being defensive and offering openness in our discussion, I’d like to point out a verse that makes your case better and one you did not mention. In Luke 18:29, Jesus does talk about leaving your wife. I’d like to remark that this verse puzzles and concerns me. I’m still working through what precisely Jesus. One thought is that Jesus is not commanding anyone to leave his wife, homes, etc, but he is saying that to leave a wife for the sake of the kingdom could be cause for reward. So here is the big question: What would drive a man to leave his wife for the “sake of the kingdom”? This requires a lot of back study on what Jesus meant by “sake of the kingdom.” At the moment, I believe that some spouses could pose a true barrier to pursuing the life Jesus offers, for instance, a mate who wants their spouse to lie to get ahead in life, or a spouse who requires deviant sexual behavior, or a spouse who remains frigid and cold and essentially has ended the marriage in everything but name only. All of these could pose a barrier to a person following Jesus. However, I still don’t see how Yashodhara was presenting a barrier for Buddha to experience spiritual truth. But I want to be honest in saying I’m still working through these questions in regards to Jesus’s words in Luke 18:29.
d. In the same spirit of self-criticism, I’d appreciate some more openness from you about why you think there is a, as you write in your blog, “ a formal subordination of the Bhikkhuni Sangha to the Bhikkhu ” Could you cite the passages from the Pali Canon Tipataka that create this formal subordination? I’d like to examine them for myself, as well.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

8- I better understand your request to supply verses where Jesus created women in leadership. You’ve discounted the passage about Mary Magdalene, but this indicates your bias against preaching as a sign of discipleship. For Jesus to commission Mary to tell his male disciples about his resurrection is not a mere, “go on and tell the menfolk” sort of command. His words really do have an enormous significance. She wasn’t just a messenger girl. Keep in mind the Jewish laws that forbade a woman testifying in court because “everyone knows” women are gullible and will receive bribes and then say ANYTHING (for more on this see Talmud, Sotah 19a). So when Jesus sent her to deliver the resurrection message he was raising her words, her testimony, her preaching (which is to proclaim the truth) to the same status as a man. Now this is precisely what a prophet did in the Old Testament: communicated God’s words to human. And Mary played this role of communicating Jesus’ words (who as you know Christians believe is God) to men in John 20.
9- A few more points about what we can expect Jesus to do.
a. First, Jesus never sets up ANY sort of hierarchy among his followers. There are no disciples who he claims are more pure than other followers. There are none that get ordained as monks or nuns, this is a much later development of the Catholic church. There are no clergy/laity distinctions (as in most other religions). It is very important that you do not expect or require Jesus to perform the same kinds of validation codes as another religious founder for women, when Jesus failed to do this for even the men who followed him.
b. In all the ways Jesus equipped, instructed and empowered men, he did the VERY SAME to women. So here is my challenge to you: name something Jesus did for men and I will supply the reference for how he did the same for women. You’ve asked me to show how he made women judges, warriors, leaders, but he did not do this for men. Let me know what you find.
c. You make a very big deal about Jesus having all male “direct disciples”, but please let me know how these male disciples enjoyed privileges above other followers. The Catholic Church has made much of these male disciples being privileged, but perhaps we’ve allowed their perspective to color the actual text. The disciples enjoyed proximity to Jesus’ teachings, his company and his direction. But so did ANYONE who followed him during those three years, women included (see Mark 15:41 and Luke 8:1-3 for women listed with the Twelve).

Jonalyn Fincher said...

10- The “lost years” of Jesus do not concern me unless you provide me with historical examples of Jesus marrying and/or leaving his wife. I’d love to hear examples should you have some.
11- Thank you for setting me straight about male monks being permitted to receive food from women. I would ask you to offer the grace of understanding however, since there are codes that prohibit a Bhikkhu from touching a woman and in some places of receiving food from women. It is easy for someone looking in to be confused by the various practices.
And this is where I’d like to park for a bit, as you wrote in your post: “On [the charge of sexism in Buddhism], there is a difference between our Vinaya (monastic code) and what has developed as custom. The actual portion of our monastic code which would apply would be the Patimokkha precept: #2 of the precepts of the Sanghadisesa section. In brief it instructs us not to touch a woman with passion or desire on our mind. Over a period of time the custom (more so in Thailand) is to try to avoid physical contact when at all possible. This avoids the possible accusation that the monk may have had such passion on his mind when doing so. (see original post here: http://74.125.113.132/search?q=cache:sBRtWpzAS08J:dhammaprotector.blogspot.com/+Pali+Canon+Tipataka+monks+women+food&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us)

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Let me seek greater clarity. You, Bhikkhu aggacitto, are currently permitted to touch women?
You could come to my home and shake my hand if your mind was clear of passion or desire? I’m concerned and interested because (as you noted is the practice in Thailand) I’ve read about Buddhist monks avoiding women touch entirely. This concerned/s me greatly. I cannot help but see this prohibition as deeply dehumanizing.
Why is a woman such a snare to a man? Isn’t touching between two humans (a hug, a warm handshake, a clap on the back) a way to affirm our bodies, our humanity, or otherness as man and woman and our deep respect? To simply forbid (a law that you admit has developed into customs that keep men and women separate) is to me a dehumanizing rule for both men and women. But perhaps this is not what the Pali Tipitaka teaches? I do not want to falsely assume.
I’ve tried to find this passage through your direction of the Patimokkha precept: #2 of the precepts of the Sanghadisesa section and had trouble finding it. Could you possibly help me out and share the accesssinsight direct link?
Jesus’ teaching is that men and women need one another, not just in marriage, but in all of life. I still find his teaching, as it does affirm our desires, as more deeply humanizing.
As I mentioned before, you write in yor blog that “Although there was a formal subordination of the Bhikkhuni Sangha to the Bhikkhu Sangha taken into context this was clearly a way of tempering what must have been nothing short of sheer outrage at the Venerable Gotama for having the courage to actually ordain women! The Venerable Gotama to this day remains known as the first spiritual master in recorded human history to ever have done so. Did Jesus of Nazareth? We know that there were women whom he showed compassion to, but were any of his direct disciples actually women?

Again I would entreat you to not make more of discipleship than Jesus does, to not mark out the “direct disciples” more than Jesus does. I know he specifically calls and names these 12 men, but he also directly calls and names women. What distinctions do you see Jesus giving to men that he does not give to women?

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Final thoughts:
While I would love to say I can actively pursue reading the entire Pali Canon Tipataka, I know I cannot read the entire text at the moment. I do appreciate you citing the original sources, this is a big concern for me in quoting the Bible as well. I noticed you didn’t mention anything about reading the gospels. Have you read any of them?

I would love to pursue the wrathful God murdering people and sending them to hell accusation further, but I don’t feel it is sufficiently on topic for this post. Perhaps we can dialog more about this in a formal post devoted to this topic.

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi Ben;
"Seek first the Kingdom of God, and [in context, speaking of our human needs] all these things will be added to you." Might that not speak in favor of Jesus's teachings by comparison?
Ok Ben;
Why would one leave wife family and children and then want them as
“all of these things will be added to you” ? If you wanted but never had it in the first place I believe is being discussed,
but then again that would be a matter of personal preference.

Thanks for the comment.

Bhikkhu aggacitto

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi Jonalyn!
Thanks for Luke 18:29 although I don't think it was nessassary in light of what has already been discussed.Perhaps you might have thought that I would eventually look it up anyway!Whatever the case,thank you for the continued dialog.I am traveling now,and most likely will not get to posting my response for another day or two as it will require more time than I now have at my disposal for such.I must ask,I responded to rachels post but SOMEHOW its not been posted! Should I REPOST?

Have a great spiritual day!

Bhikkhu aggacitto

Jonalyn Fincher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jonalyn Fincher said...

Hi Bhikkhu,

No problem about taking your time getting back to my comments. Curious about your travels, do you ever come to Colorado?

To all commentators:

In an effort to continue reader's interest, I'm going to ask you to limit yourself to single comment responses.

As a rule, I'm only going to post single responses from now on. Short responses being comments that are limited to the bloggers comment limit, around 4096 characters. I will attempt to follow the same guidelines for brevity. I hope this will continue to keep us focused.

Thanks!
Jonalyn

p.s. your response to Rachel's comments should be appearing momentarily. In monitoring this blog I'm concerned to be sensitive to my readers to not bombard them with too much information at once.

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi Jonalyn!

Your charge of falsifiability-I didn't know that there was a “charge” of anything. I do not believe that I qualify for the perimeter of what you were discussing.
I mentioned rooting for your own team AND NOTHING MORE.
“So here is my challenge to you: name something Jesus did for men and I will supply the reference for how he did the same for women. You’ve asked me to show how he made women judges, warriors, leaders, but he did not do this for men. Let me know what you find.”
Fair enough. The point though is this: If Jesus never did this for men or women...Why make mention of that in the first place when your article was entitled :JESUS out shines...
“Perhaps without Jesus' tone of voice it would sound like an insult” As if you have the “inside track”on what his tone of voice was!A conversation with a Samaritan woman gives me no reason to convince me otherwise. That was where he tells the Samaritan woman that salvation is from the Jews doesn't he?
Baiting and sparring? You mean BEGGING AND PLEADING DON'T YOU? “BY THE WAY SHE RESPONDS WE KNOW HE ISN'T BEING INSULTING”
Are you joking? She was clearly humbling herself to gain the healing of her daughter. “He was just using the vernacular to refer to her as being outside” “Not because he agreed that the gentiles were dogs” He could find no better vernacular? He didn't think of her as a dog, why NO! He just called her one!“Even the little dogs (Greek word that includes lap puppies—or CHOSEN, loved dogs of the master)” Well! Its good that she knew her place and was able to acknowledge that before having her daughter healed! Wasn't it?
It is amazing how some will try to put a positive spin on this. The fictional script of what you would like to THINK they were ACTUALLY saying would have been more amusing if not for her actual situation.
Her “coded entreaty” I hear about this sort of excuse for wishful thinking when I discuss the discrepancy regarding the book of Luke and the book of Matthew as they discuss the genealogy of Jesus. The only problem with this is that it would render the Bible useless as a book of spiritual revelation unless you ALREADY had the conjectural point of view needed or some would say the “holy spirit” to figure it out!
Mary Magdalene wasn't in court giving testimony was she? Even if he did treat women better then some men or the society of the day this wasn't the point. The point was that he was showing preferential treatment to the men. If what you say is true please explain to me just WHY he had 12 disciples?Just for the “heck” of it?
You seem compelled to construct theoretical reasons why family or wife or children would be understandable words for Jesus to use. Lets look at Luke9:59-62 specifically Vs.61-62:
61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."
62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
Jesus is talking about one giving their full and undivided attention. The same full and undivided attention that the bodhisattva Gotama gave to the spiritual path when he left his family.

As far as the Patimokkha sanghadisesa#2 is concerned, by the book I am allowed to touch women with MINDFULNESS. Believe it or not, There have been times though that women seem to take that as some sort of “challenge” for their “sexy” selves and I have had to literally push women off of me. This is a form of sexual assault,and if their ignorance isn't being considered can be just as “demeaning”.

My dear, just WHERE do you see the word “IF” in Mark10:29-30?
Once again (to be polite about this) you're getting “creative” with your own scripture.


For the sake of the brevity that you requested the references will have to wait for a further conversation. Yes, sometimes when I'm visiting America to teach Samadhi I might be in the whereabouts of Colorado.
Once again,have a spiritually prosperous day!

Bhikkhu aggacitto

Dale Fincher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dale Fincher said...

Bhikkhu aggacitto,

First, your tone sounds mocking.
To accuse someone of re-writing the Biblical scriptures when they are using historical context shows you are uncharitable in the discussion and do not understand the scriptures you criticize.

Second, the point of the original post was to show that Jesus outshines Buddha in that Buddha abandons dependents to go on his spiritual quest.

That's the whole point. And you have affirmed that Buddha did indeed abandon his dependents in your first response.

You've tried to rationalize it as being unharmful or as not a real abandonment. But you have not denied that he left and for a long period of time. That alone is enough for the thoughtful reader to determine for himself.

You have raised some interesting points worth considering, though making some straw-men of the Judeo-Christian view. But you have not convinced me that Jonalyn misrepresented Buddha in her original post.

After all, no matter what worldview you're waging words against, you can poke at it, throw red-herrings, build straw men, but those are all distractions against your view. You'll be up against the same criticism whether or not you try to shoot holes in another.

My suggestion to you is to sort out your own view with honesty and self-criticism, practice humility in your tone and approach, and come to the table as a fellow-learner (which Jonalyn has aptly demonstrated). This will not only give a better impression of Buddhism to non-Buddhists but it will help seek common ground as humans and not as mere repeaters of a particularly religious party line.

Sophearath said...

Dear Venerable Bhikkhu aggacitto,

Thanks very much for your comment. I agree with you. and thanks to everyone for sharing your ideas. It is interesting.

May you all happy and peace.

PM said...

First of all can you prove to me that there is a Jesus in the bible. Read through the new testament where it says: as it is written or as it is prophecies and look for the reference in the old testament if it refers to Jesus or not.

Meng

Gary said...

Jonalyn,

I personally think it is not fair for you to make such comparison of Jesus and Buddha.

Firstly, Jesus was not married, and the question of he abandoned his wife does not arise. Maybe, if Jesus was a married man, he may did the same thing of "abandoning" his family in search of spiritual pursuit.

Secondly, let say if Siddhartha did not leave his family, do you think Buddhism would have existed in this world.

To be continued ....

Gary said...

Thirdly, it is not being fair of you to put yourself in the position of Siddhartha's wife as no one really knows how she felt when Siddhartha left her for the search of universal truth.

Last but not least, I am shocked to learn that God punished a liar to death. Shouldn't he be merciful and compassionate? If I am not wrong, I never read Buddha punishes any of his disciples for wrong doing.

Thanks in advance if you allowed my comments to be published.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

This from Shravasti Dhammika posted on another blog. I've asked her to post it here, but for my readers to see her points I've re-posted it here for her.

Dear Jonalyn,
Just a quick comment on your comparison between the Buddha and Jesus, which I have just stumbled on. For the Buddha’s comments on marriage and conjugal love (as opposed to the legends about his renunciation) see ‘Marriage’ at www.buddhismatoz.com. As for Jesus’ teaching on such subjects I was able to find these ones which you must have somehow overlooked. Jesus denied his own family (Jn.2:4; Mk.3:31-3) never married himself, and promised his disciples a hundred-fold reward if they renounced their homes and families (Matt.19: 29). He said one should hate one’s own family. “If anyone comes to me and does not you hate his mother and father, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters…” etc (Lk.14:26). “For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother’…etc” (Matt.10:5). Paul added to these teachings by saying that it’s best not to marry but if you can’t control your sexual desire you should do so (I Tim.5,11-14). Hardly a ringing endorsement of marriage. And the result of becoming ‘one flesh’? The agony of childbirth as retribution on women for bringing sin into the world (Gen.3,16).

October 29, 2009 4:51 PM

Dale Fincher said...

Meng, you need to elaborate. Many, many Jews thought Jesus the Messiah was the one prophesied from their own Scriptures.

Dale Fincher said...

Gary,

First point: on Jesus being married, you've made an argument from silence and speculation. We cannot know what Jesus WOULD have done, we only know what he did do. It would be like saying IF you liked cookies, you would start stealing cookies. The two just don't go together.

But I take it from your first point that you concede that Buddha did leave his family.

Second point: I don't see the point. If Buddhism were true, many would discover it, including many unmarried people on spiritual quests. Buddha is just the first recorded one, after he broke from Hinduism.

Third point: The issue is not how people felt, but what responsibilities to family were forsaken. It wasn't just a wife but a child too. The previous discussion seems pretty clear the psychological implications (and moral ones) for fatherly abandonment.

Fourth point: what liar do you refer to that got punished to death?

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Something rather curious has happened. I've been deluged with defenders of Buddha arguing both on this post and unrelated posts in other places on my blog for Buddha's reputation. This leaves me rather puzzled at the instant popularity among Buddhist writers. I'm inclined to believe that a certain Buddhist who will remain nameless has encouraged a bombardment of my blog. If this happened on the street, we'd call it a gang, beating up someone else. I don't find this inundation a loving way to engage with others.

Why the ganging-up?

In reading their arguments and noting the tone in which they come across I've noted a few things:

1- Some argument are interesting and worth discussing (Is the Bible really for or against marriage? Is Scripture really anti or pro-woman? For those honest spiritual seekers asking the question (e.g. Shravasti Dhammika) I highly recommend The IVP Women's Bible Commentary as it will give you exhaustive commentary on every verse that seems suspect to you as to woman's place in God's eyes. If you are not interested in hearing how God values women, then nothing I recommend or say here will disabuse you of that idea. My view of Gen 3:16 is to be certain to read it with Genesis 3:17-19. Note that God never singles out just one sex for judgment. He is even-handed in the way he judges those who run from him. Men are judged as well.

2- I believe it's charitable and kind to assume that each person who advocates a certain religion should be considered seriously if they voice insight into their holy text. So, for instance, in the passed 40 comments, I've regularly ceded points to Bhikkhu aggaccito when he's corrected me about the Pali Canon Tipitaka (PCT). But this courtesy has not been returned. Not by Bhikkhu, nor by any other Buddhist advocate on this post. This seriously hinders respectful conversation and reveals something to me (see below).

3- Some arguments have already been addressed and repeating them is both redundant and unhelpful to both sides.

4- Some arguments while somewhat related are mostly off-topic (for instance Meng's comment). Please offer this blog and the hard work of all commentators the respect of reading the comments before posting yours.

5- There's a distinct lack of respect and charity demonstrated in many Buddhist advocates comments. For instance, you may note that one loquacious and knowledgeable Bhikkhu aggaccito has ceased publishing. This is partially due to my rejecting two of his comments where his attacks on persons' characters rather than clearly making points about the argument at hand detracted both from him and his case. For his sake and for the sake of continuing in the spirit of mutual respect, I refused to publish them and wrote him an email explaining my reasons. I have heard no word of apology from him, I have, however, been inundated by other Buddhist advocates.

The timing remains curiously coincidental to my mind.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

I have been partially delighted and partially discouraged to interact with many of the Buddhist advocates on this post. Delighted because I value interacting with people who hold different beliefs, but discouraged by the marked intolerance and disrespect demonstrated by people who claim Buddha as their guide.

If lack of charity and, most concerning, a lack of humility, characterizes those who follow Buddha, then I'm doubly saddened. Why would I want to read the holy scriptures of a man whose followers fail to recognize that Jesus might have valued among his followers?

Why would I long to know about the Buddha when his followers choose not to read other spiritual teachers' words in context?

Why would I seek to listen to Buddha when his advocates cannot cede a point in humility?

While Christians may be prideful and intolerant in other places (a reality that deeply concerns me and makes me doubt their love and relationship to Jesus) on this blog, disrespect and pride will not be tolerated from any person.

Please keep in mind that unless your comments are
1- on topic
2- respectful in tone
3- willing to engage in honest spiritual inquiry

I will not be publishing them.

Gary said...

Dear Dale Fincher,

Thank you for your comments.

That's the point I wish to put through. Why the comparison if there is no basis for comparison.

I wish not to comment on a person's character or whether what he did was right or wrong as no one really know what happened at that point of time. So, to comment in this is in the tune of slander. There is no such thing as absolute right or wrong here. Can we agree on this?

My comment on punishment is based on the above comment "So your Christian “God” murdered these two for the fact that they told a lie!"

Again, I thank you for your response.

Dale Fincher said...

A comment I left on another blog linked back to this one.

http://dhammaprotector.blogspot.com/2009/10/namo-tassa-bhagavato-arahato.html

If you take the time to read the above post, notice how the writer discounts appeals to be charitable, as well as how he refuses to take normal Christian interpretations of the Biblical text.

This example serves why many people find apologetics unhelpful. If a side refuses to listen with humility and a posture of a learner, there are no amount of words that can convince them (by the way, I thought Jonalyn was a good example of humility and even conceding unclear points in the discussion above).

This humility not only applies in religious conversations but in all cultural and political conversations in the public square. Our job is to have open ears, learn from others, try our best to cast others in the positive light, giving them the benefit of the doubt, and see how it then pans out.

For example, if someone says the sky is yellow, you can give them the benefit of the doubt and freely look at the sky again from their perspective. Maybe they have on sunglasses. Maybe they are colorblind. Or maybe they are just wanting it to be yellow and refuse to see the evidence. Whatever the case, it's best to see from another's perspective to see why they see things the way they do before discounting them with your own point of view as the absolute objective one.

Here's the post I put on the other blog. I list it here in case it gets deleted over there.

"One thing I think the modern world has done sadly to ancient literature is avoid literary context as well as historical context. So many of the Bible verses you list just aren't accurately interpreted. And it's not like there's a private intepretation... anyone who takes Christian theology seriously knows you twist scripture to serve your own end. Many, many scholars with full disclosure can point this out. All you have to do is read them.

"As a philosopher of religion, I've noticed many of your responses are guilty of unfalsifiability. If someone says you're not playing fair, you criticize them for saying you're not playing fair. No university nor debate class would count this is good dialog and it reveals that you concur that the Christian's interpretation of his own Scriptures doesn't suit you.

"Then you say Karen Armstrong doesn't understand your own scriptures. So it guess it goes both ways.

"I found many of your comments on Jonalyn's blog unkind. And then uncharitable in how you translate them over to your own blog. Futher, you discount anyone who asks you to be charitable and humble in your learning.

"There is no way to move forward without an ear to listening. When Scott Peck was a Buddhist, he wrote a brilliant book on love called The Road Less Traveled. The principles in that book would serve the reader well here. Is love present in the discussion? Is a true listening present? Is it full of rhetorical barbs and self-defense? Then consider the source."

Justin Choo said...

Hi Jonalyn,

I shall only comment once.

You are quiet right that a "group" has "ganged-up" to comment on this topic. This was not pre-arranged. I was not going to make any comment, but now would like to voice my personal opinion.

There is no end in this "dialogue". I would personally not declare one religious leader as better than the others, even if I feel strongly that my teacher is greater than others. Likewise I would also not tell the others that my parents are better then the others, although I may have good reasons. The others would not be interested in what my parents are like. But they would be hurt as human beings to hear of others belittling their parents.

Rest assured that you would not be hearing from me again.

Take care, and have peace.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

I believe I've found the blogs that cite my blog and decry my comments about Buddha compared to Jesus.

To view them:
http://dhammaprotector.blogspot.com/

http://www.scribd.com/doc/21796384/Jesus-Outshines-Buddha

One comment that continues to come up is how Jesus advocates (see Luke 9:59-62, Mark 10:29-30, Matt 10:34-35, Matt 19:29, John 2:4, Luke 14:26, Luke 18:29) leaving family in pursuit of the spiritual life. I've attempted to explain each of these passages above (see posts on Oct 19 by Jonalyn Fincher), but I'd like to restate them for the sake of clarity.

1- Jesus never commands a person to leave his spouse or children. If you closely read Luke 18:29 and Mark 10:29-30, you will find that Jesus is speaking to those who have left family for him, he is not commanding or instructing his followers to leave family. To put it in another context it would be like Jesus saying to a woman whose just said, "I've just sold all my gold jewelry to take the money and give to the poor."
"If you sell all you have and give to the poor, you will receive much more gold."

But you cannot assume that Jesus is advocating every person go out and sell all their gold jewelry. In fact, you would realize that Jesus could NOT be against family relationships since he is repaying the sacrificial act with more of the same gift. If Jesus wanted people to leave their families for him, then why is he bringing them more family relationships (more mothers, sisters, brothers) as a REWARD? Surely this speaks to the fundamental difference between Buddha and Jesus. Jesus wants us to dive headlong into the love relationships around us, refusing to duck out of family responsibilities and intimacy. Jesus encouraged desire for family by blessing those who sacrificed family with MORE FAMILY (the Old Testament story of Job is a great example of this tendency of the God of Israel throughout time) Buddha by his life example chose to leave his family responsibilities for the sake of the spiritual life. His followers, to this day, continue to view their own desires as part of the problem with humanity. I've found Buddha's desire to rid himself of suffering part of the reason he left his wife and child. Jesus' desire to rid the world of suffering dictated that he run into deeper friendship with humans, heartier more robust desire for his family and more intimate love for his followers. This difference remains the capstone reason for my love and following of Jesus.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Continued from above

2- Jesus talks about the possibility of leaving family members for the sake of loving him better, but he never makes it a requirement of becoming his disciple. Let me state that again, Jesus does not require you leave your family to follow him.

3- John 2:4 is not speaking to Jesus denying his mother. There is a difference between declining your mother's request and denying your relationship with your mother. Shravasti is taking this passage out of context. Jesus is actually telling his mother that her plans for him to do some miracles are the the same as God's plans for his miracles. In other words, "Do not dictate the tie and place and manner of the miracles God has for me to do." He is not speaking to family relationship or abandonment. This is clearly seen by the way Jesus provides for his mother's welfare while he is dying, asking John, the disciple, to watch over her as a son would (see John 19:26-27).

4- Mark 3:31-33 is also brought to clarity if you read the passage in context. Jesus is not abandoning his family, he is forbidding their insistence that they see him be given precedence over the people who want to listen to his teachings. In other words, a family claim is valuable, but Jesus will not let a family tie keep him from talking about God's love for humanity. If you read the entire New Testament, you will find that one of these very brothers who was attempting to pull him away from the thirsty crowds, became a follower of Jesus and wrote a powerful book on the Bible, the book of James.

5- Luke 14:26- Jesus is not telling everyone to hate all the members of his family. Again this is a misread and a myopic view of the text. For if Jesus meant this, then he was in direct violation of his own teaching when he asks the disciple John to care for his mother (John 19:26-27). In context, you will find that Jesus is concerned that we realize that God knows what tasks we have been created to accomplish. He knows that our family member will not always understand our desire to serve and follow God, therefore, don't be duped into thinking you can please God and your family all the time. He is not advocating abandoning wife and children.

Dale Fincher said...

Gary, thanks for your reply. There is plenty to compare with.

To say Jesus would have acted the same as Buddha in Buddha's situation was simply speculation. Jesus never told anyone to abandon dependents, nor did he do it either. That Jesus did not abandon dependents is actually in favor of Jesus to the unbiased reader. That's the long and short of it.

So I don't think it's slander when comparing people, their lives, decisions, etc. The information is open to everyone with internet or a library. In college, whole classes are taught on "comparative religions"... what is similar and what is different about religions and their founders.

The question Jonalyn raised with her series was, "How different did religious founders treated women?" Plenty of history books and holy books share this information. This post on Buddhism rose to the surface as an interesting thing that Buddha did to go in search of enlightenment. Interestingly enough, Jonalyn really didn't say anything new. She's just shining a light on something that is public information.

My take on Jonalyn's post is that you can have one of two counter-positions. 1) That abandoning dependents isn't a problem. Someone can make that case (and hopefully have evidence to back it up).

2) That Buddha wasn't a Buddhist yet. We all learn from our mistakes. Nothing wrong with Buddha doing the same. What I find puzzling is why no one simply says that Buddha left his family before he was enlightened. Once he was enlightened, maybe he didn't advocate leaving your dependents behind in search of your spiritual quest. I don't know anyone who says Buddha was enlightened before he became enlightened, do they? If so, why leave in search of enlightenment?

I now understand your comment about the "lie." Thanks for pointing that out.

I think that goes off-topic with the post (which Bikkhu did freqently). Not only was that not "Jesus" in the illustration, but it seems only to point out that Bikkhu ignored the context of that story in Acts, the cruelty of the people judged, the lies, the hypocrisy they carried into this community, using God's name for their own end.

God RARELY judges people immediately who lie (as well as people who commit all sorts of other evil acts). Yet sometimes he does when the circumstances permit it. Most countries have hard penalties for perjury, treason, etc, and weigh each accordingly. I don't see why God, who would know how to judge perfectly, cannot also carry out the fit sentence.

After all, I've yet to meet anyone who says lying is perfectly fine... it always has consequences: legal, natural, and supernatural.

Gary said...

Dear Dale Fincher,

So, you do admit that Christian God did punish liars, don't you, by saying

"God RARELY judges people immediately who lie (as well as people who commit all sorts of other evil acts). Yet sometimes he does when the circumstances permit it."

In here, you should just admitted that your Christian God did punish liars to death. Why justifying the punish act as "RARELY"? By putting someone to death, to me, is not merciful and compassionate.

Again here, Buddha never did such act. By this virtue, can I say Buddha outshines Jesus? Fair?

You also mentioned the following,

"Most countries have hard penalties for perjury, treason, etc, and weigh each accordingly. I don't see why God, who would know how to judge perfectly, cannot also carry out the fit sentence."

Yes, you are right here, most countries have such laws. In fact, these are man-made laws, which many condemn their cruelty especially comes to "death sentence".

But, I could not concur your argument that "I don't see why God...." Why compare again here? You mean your Christian God can do this because man also do this?

To be honest with you, I am neither a scholar for Buddhism nor Christianity. My comments are purely based on points brought up by all, compare them, and make my comment.

To me, if one claims to be "merciful and compassionate", one needs to reciprocate it with actions, and not doing something not merciful and compassionate, then justify for such acts. Don't you think so?

To me, all religions in this world are great at their own rights, if not, why are their so many followers of respective religions?

We do see there are conversions here and there from one religion to another. That, I can accept and I must congratulate them for founding the truths in his or her "born again" religion. We may not be happy to see our fellow believers convert out of our religion, but happy to see others convert into our own religion. That I can accept as it is only natural as "selfishness" is part and parcel of our human nature.

The truth is this, there are many "truths" out there to discover, and if we purely based on holy books and scriptures available, we may not find "truths" in them, as we may end up being "confused".

I must say here that I am more inclined to Buddha's teachings as Buddha teaches us to use our wisdom to learn his teachings. He does not impose on us to follow whatever he found during his spiritual pursuit. Maybe he realized at that point in time, recording of what he taught may be transcripted wrongly, or may not be the truth per se.

Whatever, just use our WISDOM. Wisdom is the key to find truth, the ultimate TRUTH.

I thank you Jonalyn if you allow my comments here. Cheers.

Dale Fincher said...

Gary,

Your post is off-topic, but I'll give you some things to consider and leave it at that.

1) I think Buddhism does offer some good wisdom. I never said contrary. And I find a lot of the same wisdom is contained in Christianity. I think Buddhism has other philosophical problems besides the topic of women as posted on Jonalyn's blog which is why I could not be a Buddhist (and I scrutinize every religion and view, including my own).

2) I'm all for seeking out wisdom. I should remind you the Christian tradition does not depend on its holy book alone, though most of that holy book is a recording of historical events of a God who comes near and reveals himself, not just to one people, but to a nation of people. Christianity uses every available source of knowledge to examine and navigate the world, including nature, wisdom, and reason. Seeking wisdom is a high priority (see Proverbs 8 in the Christian Scriptures www.biblegateway.com).

I do think the Buddha DID believe we should follow his teachings to find enlightenment. He seemed very exclusive on this and the consequences of not following wisdom (karmic debt, etc). And it is also evident by how many Buddhists want to defend their view as the way to enlightenment and how some will mock you if you disagree and will try to persuade you with less than compassionate means.

3) I made the appeal to look at the nations of the world to show that most find that wisdom and reason points in the direction of justice. Anyone can say any other view is "man-made." The important is where reason and wisdom points us, both historically and philosophically.

4) I want you to look again at the example in question about God punishing to death someone who was lying and manipulating his name. It's in Acts 5. (again, see www.biblegateway.com)

Acts is a history book. It's not a book of sayings nor laws. Acts only records what historically happened.

Notice that no human person killed those liars, not Jesus, not Peter. Nobody gave a command that they ought to be killed.

What happened (and you can read this for yourself) was that these people dropped dead where they were standing. Nobody laid a hand on them.

Whatever supernatural power exists is in this universe, this power punished these liars.

So we have to ask who or what punished these liars?

If Buddhism were true, would we expect these people to drop dead? In how you've described Buddhism, it cannot be. Yet they still dropped dead.

So logically we're left with the conclusion that Buddhism must not adequately explain the spiritual power of the universe. There must be a supernatural something or someone that has God-made laws that has the right to legally execute justice in this universe as he finds fair.

If Buddhism is the supernatural power in the universe, than Buddhism killed these people for lying. If another God is the supernatural power in the universe, then that is the God who killed these people for lying.

I hope you see that the example Bhikkhu brought up and you elaborated on is the very example that works against your argument. The example appeals to supernatural explanations which Buddhism cannot account for.

5) I challenge the extreme compassion view that you pose. Even Tibetan monks fight the Chinese, because they think the Chinese are unjust.

Okay, I'll say no more off-topic here.

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi Dale!

You stated...

"I hope you see that the example Bhikkhu brought up and you elaborated on is the very example that works against your argument. The example appeals to supernatural explanations which Buddhism cannot account for."

I must ask you...Where is it that you believe that you have learned about 'Buddhism'? Have you studied our scripture?

Also I would like to know, just when will Jonalyn get around to responding to my last published post?
The reason why I wrote the article that I did was because it seemed to me that she was no longer available for the conversation.
Although the two of you DO make a good team, she has said some things that she seems unwilling to answer to. Her appearance on her own blog is very selective, no one has heard from her since the end of last month.

At dhammaprotector.blogspot.com you recently told me:

“Jonalyn never threw in the towel nor let me "handle" anything. You misinterpreted and have mocked while you did it. I posted on my own when she pointed out the discussion and I saw that she was more than charitable to you, including allowing your posts to veer way off-topic, which in blog etiquette isn't a requirement.
As for being amazed at approving comments, you're very first post on Jonalyn's blog expected censorship per your own words. So have no fear unless you become inapprpriate. All ideas are welcome. Not all attitudes are welcome and mocking tones. After I saw your inappropriate remarks deleted from Jonalyn's blog, I thought maybe you were showing your true colors and didn't want to hear other points of view.”

So where is Jonalyn’s response to my last published post?
Certainly, she can say anything that YOU can say...no?
You say that you posted on your own…So where is her response?
If it was good enough to publish it should be good enough for her to respond to.



Bhikkhu aggacitto

Jonalyn Fincher said...

I’ve noticed a few outstanding items that I’d like to jump in and comment on.
1- There are a few requests that at distinctly on topic that have been left dangling. I've requested specific citations from the Pali Canon Tipitaka to assist me and my readers to more fully understand Buddha's treatment of women. Bhikkhu, you have been willing to accuse and complain that your posts have not been published (the reasoning is laid out below) but you have not had the time or words to give me the Buddhist text to help me further understand Buddhism. Please assist me in this as your main charge seems to be my lack of knowledge.
#1- You wrote earlier: The actual portion of our monastic code which would apply would be the Patimokkha precept: #2 of the precepts of the Sanghadisesa section. In brief it instructs us not to touch a woman with passion or desire on our mind. Over a period of time the custom (more so in Thailand) is to try to avoid physical contact when at all possible. This avoids the possible accusation that the monk may have had such passion on his mind when doing so.” which was helpful to me. But, as I requested earlier, can you send me a specific accessinsight direct link of the Pali Canon where I can read the Patimokkha on this, I’ve done several searches and cannot find it.
#2- As I requested earlier (comment above dated Oct 19, 4:08PM) In the same spirit of self-criticism, I’d appreciate some more openness from you (in reference to Bhikkhu) about why you think there is a, as you write in your blog, “a formal subordination of the Bhikkhuni Sangha to the Bhikkhu ” Could you cite the passages from the Pali Canon Tipataka that create this formal subordination? I’d like to examine them for myself, as well.
I look forward to you guiding me to the proper places to read more so I might understand Buddhism better.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

2- The topic of Ananias and Sapphira’s death was mostly off-topic, but I wanted to allow a few posts on it, so I’ve allowed several back and forths, mostly between Dale and Gary. Thank you to both of you for your respectful tone toward one another. As this topic does not relate to Buddha or Jesus’ treatment of women I’ve decided to leave the conversation as it lies (sorry your last comment will not appear here, Gary, but I’d be happy to email it back to you—send me your email in a comment—if the topic comes up again in the next post—see below).

3- In an effort to understand the more positive aspects of both Jesus and Buddha’s teaching, I’m going to be opening up a new blog in a week asking my readers (of all spiritualities) to comment on what they find to be the positive contributions and life changes either Jesus or Buddha (or both has offered in their personal lives. I look forward to this new post being a good, productive time of mutual learning. I’ll be laying out some clear guidelines as to what will and will not be published. As Bhikkhu has noticed many of his posts have been consistently rejected on my blog since October 23, he seems confused as to why so I’m going to explain:

4- A note to my readers: I carefully read each blog comment. No matter how insightful your comment may be if there are any ad hominems i.e. attacking a person with words like “cry-baby”, repetitive arguments that have already been presented in previous comments, slander of other members of the post, refusing to engage the topic at hand then I will not publish your comment. If you’re concerned why any blog post is not published, I welcome you to include your correct email address with your comment and I will email you back with your comment with the offending material highlighted. This will enable you, should you care to continue in honest, respectful debate, to re-post with offending material deleted. A good example of sentences from a reader who will remain nameless that I chose to not publish earlier and will continue to consistently reject are: “It does not surprise me though that you do not seem to feel as if I’ve not been bend over and lick it up humble enough as a Buddhist/ Buddhist monk .Why gosh…That’s just too bad isn’t it? After the typical Christian cheap trick character assassination of the Venerable Gotama …don’t be a big “cry baby” about it.” And another, “If I have offended anyone perhaps you can find it in your Christian hearts or otherwise to forgive me!” These sarcastic comments do not further truth, serenity or light.

Please stick to the argument at hand and continue to learn from one another in humility.

5- If there are some unanswered questions on my side of the argument, I welcome hearing them, however, do not include attacks on people or accusations in your comment or your comment will not appear on my blog.

6- Hope to hear more of you in the next week as I steer our conversation into another arena.

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Jonalyn;

If it becomes apparent that I have misunderstood something regarding what you have had to say, in the interest of what would therefore be the morally correct thing to do, I will be more than glad to amend my article. I however, at the moment do not see that as being the case at hand.

Here is your reference for the Patimokkha Sanghadisesa #2 to help make it easier for you.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc1/bmc1.ch05.html
This will bring you to Sanghadisesa #1 then scroll down to #2.

You seem compelled to construct theoretical reasons why family or wife or children would be understandable words for Jesus to use in regard to one leaving their family for the sake of the spiritual path.
Lets look at Luke9:59-62 specifically Vs.61-62:
61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."
62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
Jesus is talking about one giving their full and undivided attention to the spiritual path.
THE SAME FULL AND UNDIVIDED ATTENTION THAT THE BODISATTVA GOTAMA GAVE TO THE SPIRITUAL PATH WHEN HE LFT HIS FAMILY.
I therfore believe that what he did was quite understandable regardless of whether or not any other more personal considerations were involved or not.

Your theoretical explanations seem designed to willfully ignore this.
Never the less …regarding your own theoretical explainations you have acknowledged:

“This requires a lot of back study on what Jesus meant by “sake of the kingdom.” At the moment, I believe that some spouses could pose a true barrier to pursuing the life Jesus offers, for instance, a mate who wants their spouse to lie to get ahead in life, or a spouse who requires deviant sexual behavior, or a spouse who remains frigid and cold and essentially has ended the marriage in everything but name only. All of these could pose a barrier to a person following Jesus. However, I still don’t see how Yashodhara was presenting a barrier for Buddha to experience spiritual truth. But I want to be honest in saying I’m still working through these questions in regards to Jesus’s words in Luke 18:29.”

Jonalyn Oct.19th. 2009
I WILL ADD HERE THAT THERE COULD ALSO BE CIRCUMSTANCES INVOLVED HERE THAT WE ARE BOTH EVEN THEORETICALLY UNAWARE OF.
PERHAPS BECAUSE THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN NONE OF OUR BUSINESS TO JUDGE AS THEIR PERSONAL MATTER IN THE FIRST PLACE!


You also have said…

“You are correct, the Pali Canon Tipataka is not a chronology of the Buddha’s life, I hope I am not expecting it to be something it is not.” Jonalyn Oct.19th. 2009


My question for you is this: If you acknowledge that according to your own scripture there could be justifiable reasons for the Venerable Gotama to have left his family in search of his spiritual quest and as well you acknowledge that you don’t have all the facts at hand....why would you choose to judge the matter in a negative light? Or would you deny that this is what you have chosen to do?

I DO hope this post greets you feeling healthy and well.

Bhikkhu aggacitto

Rahula said...

Hi,

Bhikkhu Aggacito wrote (in this blog):

"The first thing that I must say is that it never stops amazing me how so many people will take cultural norms of today and try comparing them with what was understood and accepted three thousand years ago with their own air of arrogant superiority, based on some sort of therapeutic model that they have been taught, whether the Christian verbiage is being used or not........."

Dale Fincher wrote (in buddhabook blog):

"One thing I think the modern world has done sadly to ancient literature is avoid literary context as well as historical context. So many of the Bible verses you list just aren't accurately interpreted............"

It seems quite strange that this point is not noted by people from both sides of the arguments.

Another point that I did not encounter in these discussion-blogs (or perhaps I miss it) is that when Siddhattha Gotama left his family, he was not yet a Buddha.

I wonder if a comparison between what Gotama did before his enlightenment and Jesus would be appropriate.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Bhikkhu,

Thank you for this reference, the cite is helpful and I'll be spending some time reading more closely soon.

I noted you still have not answered my second question: “a formal subordination of the Bhikkhuni Sangha to the Bhikkhu ” Could you cite the passages from the Pali Canon Tipataka that create this formal subordination? I’d like to examine them for myself, as well.

I have not heard any reasons for the Buddha leaving his wife, do have some? I'd love to hear them if you do. My point remains that unless there is a good reason, one that we can know, Buddha's behavior toward her (as Rahula rightly pointed out) may be incorrect--it is after all pre-enlightenment.

My point still stands that Buddha left his son, and this is a dependent son. I still don't see how leaving a young son to seek enlightenment is something Jesus advocates nor how you can interpret aforesaid leaving in a complimentary light to the Buddha.

But enough ink has been spilled between us about how we disagree with how to interpret the fact that Buddha left wife and son. We will probably need to disagree on this one.

Furthermore, I believe the concept of "spiritual path" is a Buddhist idea that you are importing into the Christian Scriptures. Jesus never talks about a spiritual path and definitely not in the way Buddha would have. For Jesus there is no spiritual path, there is only the God of Israel. You don't merely follow a path, in Christianity you follow a person. You are actually seeking after God, not to become like God, but to get to know God. Christianity is always relational, while spiritual paths can be completely self-serving with no relationships entailed, another reason I point to Buddha's example as different from Jesus'. I'm not saying Buddhists are necessarily self-serving, only that I've known many 'spiritual' people to follow a religious leaders path for their own inner peace without ever wanting to know the personal divine force who set this universe in motion.

This is why I'm curious as to your background with the Christian scriptures. You never answered my question about reading it. Have you read the Gospel of John? or any parts of the Old Testament?

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Rahula,

The point of Buddha being pre-enlightenment when he left his dependents is something that has been brought up on this post (see my comment above dated Oct 12, 1:03, 3rd paragraph from the end). But I appreciate you noting it again.

Glad to have your voice on here!

Jonalyn

Rahula said...

Hi Jonalyn,

Yep, found your comment. Do you think it is appropriate to compare Siddhattha and Jesus, then? I think it would be more appropriate to compare Buddha and Jesus. Don't you think so?

Rahula said...

Hi,

"...Jesus seems to be enlightened from birth..."

I thought Jesus is the Son of God.
Perhaps, enlightenment had to be defined first.

I would to stress again that it it not appropriate to compare Siddhattha to Jesus. Take, for example, Angulimala. He was a murderer, but later became an Arahant (a Buddha, technically).

And again, I need to stress that context had to be taken into account (as already mentioned in my previous post)

Rahula said...

Regarding the issue of Siddhattha dessertation of his son,emotional and spiritual scarring etc....I wonder if Suddhodana (Siddhatttha's father, ie. Rahula's grandfather) could have taken the father's role.

While a father is important in the upbringing of a child, I wonder if a father MUST exist for the successful upbringing of a child? What about the many fatherless children? Are they doomed to failure (it whatever sense)? In any way, Suddhodana was around.

Rahula said...

Hi,

"So he leaves his wife and son without a second glance...."

This is contradicted in a few sentences back before this sentence occur:

"He walks to his wife, Yasodhara, of 12 years, glances at her sleeping in her bedroom and bids her goodbye without waking her. Then he glances at his new-born son and abandons him as well...".

There is a second glance, it seems.

We are told that at that time, Siddhattha thought:

"If I remove the queen's hand and take my son into my arms she will wake up, and that will prevent my journey. I will come back after gaining enlightenment and then see him".(Jayawickrama, NA(1990) The Story of Gotama Buddha (Jataka-nidana) p.83)


When the Buddha came back to Kapilavatthu, Yasodhara saw him through the windows and sang praises of him. Later, when all women of the royal household came and paid homage to the Blessed One, Yasodhara did not go. The Buddha went to see her instead.
-----------

"While many, including yourself, may have chosen the life of celibacy, Buddha’s wife did not have the choice, rather it was thrust upon her...."

When the Buddha came back to Kapilavatthu and went to see Yasodhara, we are told that:

"The king spoke of her virtues, such as the esteem and regard the princes bore for the Blessed One:, "Lord, when my daughter[-in-law] heard that you were wearing yellow robes, from that day she herself began to wear yellow garments. When she heard that you were taking only one meal a day she too began to take only one meal a day..............When her relatives sent a message saying, 'We will look after you', she did not look to any one of them....."

The Buddha, then said:

"This is not a wonder, your majesty, that the princess should take care of herself when her wisdom is mature, having you also as her guardian....." (Jayawickrama, NA(1990) The Story of Gotama Buddha (Jataka-nidana) p.122)

The Buddha, then said it was not the first time (in previous births too)that she had shown her undying affection.

Yasodhara did have a choice, afterall.

Rahula said...

"Karen Armstrong writes, “He had felt no pleasure when the child was born”, naming the baby boy “Rahula” or fetter."

Unfortunately, Rahula does not mean fetter or bond. There are two possibilitities, nevertheless.

1. It is a dimunitive of Rahu, the monster who swallows the sun or moon during an eclipse, and it would be a natural name for a person born at such a time. Personal names derived from stars or constellations are very common..........the Moon was eclipsed at Rahula's birth.(Thomas, EJ (1975) The Life of Buddha as Legend and History. p 53, n.1)

2. Rahula may have a Prakit origin and may mean a descendant of the Raghu family, since the Sakyans themselves were supposed to be the Raghavas, the offspring of Raghu.

Siddhattha may have thought that with the birth of a son, he had discharged the obligation of maintaining the continuity of the family, and for that reason, he might have felt happy over the news brought to him, and consequently felt free to pursue his aim. (Wijayasundara, S. (1998) Gotama the Buddha, p.11-13)

One may search for the term "Rahu" and "Raghu" in search engines to see what I am talking about.

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi Jonalyn!

“My point still stands that Buddha left his son, and this is a dependent son. I still don't see how leaving a young son to seek enlightenment is something Jesus advocates nor how you can interpret aforesaid leaving in a complimentary light to the Buddha.” Jonalyn Nov.5th 2009

It does not have to be put into a negative OR a positive (complimentary) light is my point.

“Luke 9: 59-62 – I think it’s fair to say it is at least probable that Jesus means we are not obligated to family members, which probably means parents, though as you rightly point out COULD mean wife or children.”
Jonalyn Oct.19th. 2009

You seem compelled to construct theoretical reasons why family or wife or children would be understandable words for Jesus to use in respect to leaving the family, whether it is termed for the “sake of the Kingdom” or otherwise.
JUST as long as those theoretical reasons can’t be demonstrated proof positive as applying to the Venerable Gotama. You do the same for all of the other Biblical scripture discussed pertaining to this topic.
Lets look at Luke9:59-62 specifically Vs.61-62: AGAIN:
61 Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family."
62 Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God."
Jesus is talking about one giving their full and undivided attention to the spiritual path, whether you call it that or you call it seeking the kingdom or for the sake of the kingdom, .....“ fit for SERVICE in the kingdom of God"
comparatively it is the same. THE SAME FULL AND UNDIVIDED ATTENTION THAT THE BODHISATTVA GOTAMA GAVE TO THE SPIRITUAL PATH WHEN HE LEFT HIS FAMILY.

My question for you AGAIN is this: If you acknowledge that according to your own scripture there could be justifiable reasons for the Venerable Gotama to have left his family in search of his spiritual quest (or what ever your tradition prefers to call it) and as well you acknowledge that you don’t have all the facts at hand....why would you choose to judge the matter in a negative light?

“I have not heard any reasons for the Buddha leaving his wife, do have some? I'd love to hear them if you do. MY POINT REMAINS that unless there is a good reason, one that we can know, Buddha's behavior toward her (as Rahula rightly pointed out) MAY be incorrect--it is after all pre-enlightenment.”

THANK YOU JONALYN! THIS IS EXACTLY MY POINT! You have now acknowledged the fact that despite my own perspective on the matter as stated, you don’t know whether all things considered, it was incorrect behavior or not.
I therefore believe that it is wrong for us to judge the situation in a negative light without all of the facts at hand.

My premise for judging it in a justifiable perspective has already been I believe well noted. Justifiable does not mean IDEALLY positive OR negative. Only justifiable to the extent that the RESULT has been of a great benefit to humanity which I do not think any of us can deny.Does the result justify the means? To the extent that we don't know enough to judge it in an ideally positive or negative light it does.


Your reference:
Vinaya Pitaka Cullavagga Ch10.1
Here’s a link: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc2/bmc2.ch23.html/

ALSO:

Yes, I believe the spiritual path is something recognized by the Bible both literally and figuratively:

Numbers 22:32/2nd Book of Samuel Vs.37/Job 18:10

As far as your last question is concerned, the answer would be yes to both questions.

Have a blessed day.

Bhikkhu aggacitto

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Rahula;
Thank you for your contribution.
So where do they get the often written and heard meaning of the name Rahula?
Also,Previously in this conversation,Jonalyn was given scriptural reference's regarding Rahula and she dismissed it in her own way as some sort of self delusional self denial.
Therefore instead of resorting to "Well if you don't believe MY scripture why should I believe yours"... that would only bring us back to square one and her perspective regardless of any of her scriptural considerations.Therefore I have come to the conclusion that a different route is required other than Buddhist scripture or such narratives, even though she seems to rely on the narrative herself.
Thank you again for your knowledgeable contribution.

Bhikkhu aggacitto

Rahula said...

"So where do they get the often written and heard meaning of the name Rahula?"

Well, I can only make a wild guess.

I noticed that many modern biography, though based on historical sources, are written with addition of the author's own imagination & assumption.

I don't think it is wrong per se, but if accuracy (in the academic sense), then it should not be used as a reference.

I can point one or two examples, but this will be too off-topic here.

Rahula said...

"...but if accuracy (in the academic sense),...."

I should have wrote:

"..but if accuracy is required(in the academic sense),..."

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Rahula,

Thank you for your helpful insight and direct quotes broadening my understanding of Buddha and Yashodhara's relationship. I feel grateful for your contribution. I also appreciate your sensitivity to stay on-topic.

Some concerns that popped up for me in light of this new information

1- I believe you are right, "enlightenment" needs to be defined. How are you currently understanding the term? This clarity will help me explain why I've chosen to compare Jesus and Siddhartha/Buddha's lives rather than just Jesus with Buddha.

2- I appreciate the insight into Rahula's name, I'd also recommend my readers see more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C4%81hula. Thank you for this correction. I do think Rahula could (and does seem to be) be in part provided for with Suddhodana's surrogate fatherhood. However, it does not completely mitigate the scars of a father leaving. Any fatherless child will be able to communicate something of this loss. I'd recommend you speak with any child who has experienced adoption or the loss of a father at a young age, particularly the 1-7 years that Rahula experienced this loss. I do not want to go on record to say that Rahula was doomed or that all fatherless children are doomed, but I do not think we can erase how Siddhartha's disappearance (even for a good cause) affected Rahula in a significantly negative way.

3- As far as I can tell the way Jesus understood marriage and the way Buddha understood marriage is different. From the link Shravasti Dhammika recommended (http://buddhismatoz.com/m/Marriage.html) I've learned that marriage is considered a secular institution and forbidden to monks and nuns. If so, then Jesus' view of marriage, it's sacredness, it's indissolubility is different.

Jesus taught that God ordains and seals marriage, and that marriage is something God provided for the good of humans to not be lonely (see Matt 19:4-6) Buddha did not. Thought Buddha did offer some excellent teachings about faithfulness and honor for one's wife.

But please help me understand if I'm mistaken. Did Buddha take Yashodhara back as his wife and life-long partner once he found enlightenment?

3- If he didn't, I'm further concerned. One of the major roadblocks to any religion is the tendency to see women as temptresses, distractions, barriers, even deceptive devils who keep the menfolk from realizing ultimate spirituality. There are Christians who've believed this (e.g. the Church Father Tertullian) and plenty of other leaders of other religions. My concern is over the reason Buddha did not take his wife with him on his spiritual quest. I had hoped there would be a good reason (as I've mentioned with my dialog with Bhikkhu), but if Yashodhara was so "on board" and respectful, delighted and even supportive of all Buddha did, WHY DID SIDDHARTHA LEAVE HER?

Jesus never left a woman to begin his public teaching, unless this woman was an enemy of God. He never requested women to leave his instruction. He welcomed women along every step, inviting them to listen as a disciple at his feet, touching them when men thought they were polluted, healing them when they were alone, inviting them to support his work with food or money or just their companionship. I've included references for all these above.

My question to you and others is: Why would Siddhartha leave such a supportive, spiritual sensitive, eager wife for his spiritual quest? In the book you quote, Siddhartha seems to think his wife will keep him from his journey (The Story of Guatama Buddha, p 83). He plans to come back and see his son, but what about his WIFE. Why would he think she would not be willing to support his journey and WANT to come along?

Jonalyn Fincher said...

continued from above:
Given her willingness to don the yellow robes and fast upon hearing that he is the Buddha, I would think she would have made an excellent partner on the journey toward enlightenment. Why was she left home to tend the hearth, the family and be left out of his quest? To me, this is insulting and chauvinistic.

Without knowing why Buddha left her, I'm left to wonder if Buddha, as many other religious founders, believed women were too frail for spiritual things, too vulnerable to handle the rigors of the Buddhist order both charges could have some basis in Buddha's initial interaction with Ananda. But I do not know where to read that story, yet, as Bhikkhu has not provided the reference. I hope he or you will!

Please keep in mind that I do not want to malign either Buddha or Siddhartha's characters, especially as the former has offered us many insightful, useful guidelines for living (and I look forward to understanding more of Buddha's contribution next week when I'll dedicate a new post to this topic).

However, my main thesis remains the same. When I compare Jesus and Buddha (including as you point out Siddhartha), I note that their lives, their example and their teaching WHEN IT COMES TO WOMEN is not the same.

I still find Jesus' life and teaching to honor women more than Buddha's life and teaching. In this way I believe Jesus outshines Buddha.

More to come on my reflections on Buddhist codes for monks regarding touching women and a few thoughts for Bhikkhu

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Bhikkhu,

As far as I see it you have two options. Either you can accept that each of us has studied and knows our own scripture enough to be trusted to give commentary and insight or that neither of us should be trusted to provide this service.

In re-reading over our dialog, you have consistently been unwilling to accept my insight and commentary on Jesus' words about leaving family. You've charged me with constructing "theoretical reasons" for Jesus' instruction, but every reader of holy books does this very thing when they approach the text. You have constructed theoretical reasons for Buddha's permission to leave his dependants. We both construct theories to understand our sacred Scriptures so please do not level the charges as if you had all the open-mindedness to truth and I had none of it. This is hardly open-mindedness.

And you'll notice that I have accepted your theories about many sections of the Pali Canon, I've ceded to your view several times (just re-read our dialog). Notice how many times you offer the same courtesy, even when it comes to Scriptures that you have never admitted to knowing or reading.

If you want to continue to spread light and not merely heat, you must learn to trust other's study of their own Scripture and not set yourself up as the only expert.

For example: you've recently written that when Jesus says a person should leave his family "for service in the Kingdom of God" that you know precisely what that phrase means. you've been gone so far to say that comparatively it is the same as the undivided attention Gotama gave to his spiritual path.

This is where you are mistaken. You assume that family was a distraction (now family CAN be a distraction IF THEY ARE AGAINST GOD) in Siddhartha's life, but YOU HAVE NOT SHOWN WHY. And after reading Rahula's quotes from the Life of Buddha, I have even more cause to see Yashodhara as the ideal partner in Buddha's spiritual journey. Had Buddha acted as Jesus did, he would have packed up Rahula, woken Yashodhara and taken off the three of them for spiritual enlightenment.

Jesus would be dismayed to know that his words about undistracted love for God's reign on earth, over families, marriages, was being twisted to mean a person had permission to abandon dependents.

I have been willing to accept your commentary and explanation about every single passage in the Pali Canon Tipitaka, when you cite your sources. I've even inquired into your explanation of these passages and accepted your expertise and been willing to alter my previous understanding.

Why are you untrustworthy of my own reading of my Scripture? Given that I've devoted my life to understanding it, the authors and their original context (a point so necessary as Rahula points out), why the suspicion toward me?

You have not returned my offer of trust with trust. You have refused to consider the many angles of each of Jesus commands about leaving/hating family. You have not ceded that there could be a Christian and Jewish informed idea of the kingdom of God, despite the scores of theological books that are written devoted to understanding the historical depth of the meaning of God's geo-political, theological, eschatological kingdom.

You refuse to respect the differences between Christianity and Buddhism and have set yourself up as the ultimate arbiter of both religions, rather than a fellow learner, who has, in fact, devoted himself to only one of these faiths.

You have refused to allow my distinctions to stand that the spiritual quest of Buddha is not the same as the relational engagement with Jesus. You have been unable to offer charity in debate, which is the willingness to accept that some points are made by sides other than your own. I entreat you to consider that your very method of argumentation is hurting your integrity in this debate.

If you continue to post as THE final theological expert on Christianity, I will not devote my time to responding to your ideas.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Bhikkhu pointed out that these Biblical passages prove that the Bible believes a spiritual path is both literal and figurative

Num 22:32, (which chapter for the 2 Sam 37?) and Job 18:10 give us no helpful information (I invite my readers to look these passages up to see for themselves.)

To perform a word search in the Bible for "path" does not prove that Jesus wanted people to follow a series of rules and not follow his person and love the God of Israel. Your verses are also, lifted out of context from the original meaning.

None of these verses speak to my original point that Jesus never asks someone to follow a spiritual path, but to follow HIM, a person. Buddha did not teach the same thing.

The fact that paths are mentioned in the Bible is uninteresting to my point. Your passages merely show that Balaam's donkey took him on a path, that Job's friends bring up paths and I'm not sure about the 2 Samuel ref.

They do not speak to my theological point that Jesus is not excited about getting people to follow a list of rules, he's all about following his person, his example, about loving those near you, including God.

Because Christianity is at it's heart, relational, you cannot import your interpretation onto Jesus' words about leaving family and assume this is the same thing that Siddhartha did. To do so is ahistorical, disrespectful of Jesus' entire message, anachronistic in terms of the God Jesus claimed to represent who had revealed himself in distinctly relational ways. This error would be avoided if you could trust that others may have more of a handle of Christian theology than you do.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

A few of the guidelines regarding monks touching women concerned me.

But as I'm transitioning out of my area of expertise and into yours, I welcome your correction and will attempt to learn from your insight on these. Taken from:http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc1/bmc1.ch05.html
1- "Even a momentary desire to enjoy the sensation of physical contact — overwhelming enough that one acts on it — is enough to fulfill this factor." from this I gathered (again correct me if I'm wrong) that a Bhikkhu such as yourself is forbidden from enjoying physical pleasure from a woman's touch. Does this include a hug, a handshake? If you enjoyed it, would it be wrong? Or does this command only speak to forbid hugs if you are imagining having sex with the woman?

2-I understand much better why the rules have grown up that Bhikkhus are not permitted to touch women. It seems unclear even on this site. I will quote it for my readers:
From http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc1/bmc1.ch05.html
74. The Vibhaṅga does not discuss the issue of bhikkhus who intentionally make active contact with women for purposes other than lust or affection — e.g., helping a woman who has fallen into a raging river — but the Commentary does. It introduces the concept of anāmāsa, things carrying a dukkaṭa penalty when touched; women and women's clothing top the list. (See BMC2, Appendix V for the entire list.) It then goes into great detail to tell how one should behave when one's mother falls into a raging river. Under no circumstances, it says, should one grab hold of her, although one may extend a rope, a board, etc., in her direction. If she happens to grab hold of her son the bhikkhu, he should not shake her off but should simply let her hold on as he swims back to shore.

Where the Commentary gets the concept of anāmāsa is hard to say. Perhaps it came from the practices of the brahman caste, who are very careful not to touch certain things and people of certain lower castes. At any rate, there is no direct basis for it in the Canon. Although the concept has received wide acceptance in Theravādin Communities, many highly respected Vinaya experts have made an exception right here, saying that there is nothing wrong in touching a woman when one's action is based not on lust but on a desire to save her from danger. Even if there is an offense in doing so, there are other places where Buddhaghosa recommends that one be willing to incur a minor penalty for the sake of compassion (e.g., digging a person out of a hole into which he has fallen), and the same principle surely holds here.

There is no offense in touching a being other than a woman if one's intentions are not lustful, although tickling is an offense under Pc 52.


Perhaps, given that the commentaries have given instruction about not touching a woman to save her, even your mother when she is drowning, though I grant it says here that there is no basis of this in the Canon, I think it's permissible that some are very confused.

Then there's the further question about the normal interactions with men and women, those not involving sex or life-threatening situations. Can you touch a woman in these situations?

Tell me, if the Canon is the sacred scripture, what level of authority does the Commentary have compared with "highly respected Vinaya experts"?

Sounds to me like some theoretical reasons attempting to explain a difficult passage in your Commentaries and a widely practiced tradition among your monks' order of not touching women. Sounds like you may want me to accept your theories to explain your Scripture?

I do not have a problem accepting you as the expert on your religion.

I wonder if you, Bhikkhu, can extend the same charity and accept my theories to explain my own Scripture?

Jonalyn Fincher said...

On the formal subordination of Bhikkhunis (female Buddhist "nuns") under Bhikkhus (male Buddhist "monks")

After reading how Buddha initially forbids women from entering into the Going-Forth and practicing Tathāgata, I feel I can say with more confidence that there is nothing to compare to this denial in Jesus' teaching.

Jesus never forbids women from reaching out to or following the God of Israel. He never requires them to prove their worth. He never kept a section of discipleship away from them. Even his 12 disciples (who some elevate as especially spiritual) were accompanied from the beginning by women. Men and women learned from Jesus, women could be called his "sisters" if they wanted to be with him (Matt 12:50). Women and men witnessed the miracles Jesus performed, witnessed his death and his resurrection and were specifically called upon to preach the good news that Jesus had conquered death and evil. Jesus never shut women out of his life.

But in the passage when Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī requests (3 times) that women be permitted to follow Buddha, Buddha forbids them and even tells Gotami to stop asking. (see http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc2/bmc2.ch23.html/)

It is to Buddha's credit that he eventually changes his mind, but not until another man, not the woman Gotami, makes the case for women.

Buddha relents, but only upon setting up 8 rules that, to my mind, put the male bhikkhus above the female Bhikkhunis. I don't think bowing to all male Bhikkhus is a small matter. I don't see it as merely formal subordination.

If I'm required to bow to a male even if he's a new initiate and I have been a Bhikkhuni for 40 years, but he is not ever required to bow to me, then the parternship between men and women is permanently off-balance.

To read these rules see: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc2/bmc2.ch23.html/

Perhaps some might say this is no big deal as the Catholic church has seemed to place monks over nuns. But I would answer that Jesus never set up this institution, not the hierarchy, and not ANY order of men over women.

Again, I find Jesus outshining Buddha in his treatment of women.

Rahula said...

“In this way I believe Jesus outshines Buddha.”

Again, do you think the comparison between Jesus and Siddhattha (before he became a Buddha) appropriate? I made a note that Angulimala, who was a murderer, too became an Arahant (a Buddha, technically).

“In the book you quote, Siddhartha seems to think his wife will keep him from his journey...”

Well, I wouldn’t really know. But I would imagine that Siddhattha himself, may have change his mind had Yasodhara woke up, as I am sure Siddhattha too had feelings and emotions.

“Why would he think she would not be willing to support his journey and WANT to come along?”

Again, the point I made earlier (the point brought forward by Dale & Aggacitto) came to mind, specifically regarding cultural norm.[see November 4, 2009 11:36 PM]

Siddhattha left the palace to be an ascetic, wandering in the forest. I would imagine that it would not be safe for a woman. Secondly, at that time, it would be an unprecedented act for a woman to do so. Thirdly, if he bring his wife and (or child) together, it would defeat the purpose (i.e. akin to merely moving out from the palace).Fourthly, if he brought his wife together, though not impossible, a life of celibacy may not be feasible. Fifthly, its a cultural norm at that time for someone to renounce the world to seek spiritual truth.

I wonder if you are familiar with the story about the four omens/sights that Siddhattha saw that prompted him to embark on a spiritual journey,ie. old age man, a sick man, a dead body and a mendicant.

Because of a prophecy when Siddhattha was a baby, Suddhodana ordered that Siddhattha does not encounter these sights.

But, one day when Siddhattha happened to saw them, he asked his charioteer (Channa, I believe) what each of these sights were.

In his spiritual quest, Siddhattha learn from various ascetics and attempted various spiritual practices, some sounds silly by today’s standard. And as I said all this happen before he became a Buddha.

“Did Buddha take Yashodhara back as his wife and life-long partner once he found enlightenment?”

No, the Buddha was already a monk. Yasodhara, later, too became a nun. Rahula, too became a monk, when his mother asked to him to seek his inheritance from his father.

“...learned that marriage is considered a secular institution....”

Yes, this is true. Partly, because Buddhism is atheistic. (also according to a recent Pew Survey in US, Buddhists (83%) were the most likely of all religious followers to accept evolution as the most convincing explanation for the origins of life.)

Having said this, the Buddha never ignore this secular institution. He listed five ways that a husband should treat his wife and vice versa. (remember that at that time, women do not go to work) [Sigalavoda Sutta]

To the husband, the wife should:

i) well-organised / perform duties well

ii) hospitable to relations and servants

iii)be faithful

iv)protect/looking after the household goods

v)skilful & diligent in all duties

And to the wife, a husband should:

i) honor /courteous to her

ii)respect her

iii)faithful to her

iv) handing over authority to her

v)give gifts

Rahula said...

Jonalyn,

I would leave it to Bhikkhu Aggacitto to reply to your postings.

Nevertheless, I wish to make some observations:

1. Perhaps, the Buddha would like to see women showing patience and perseverance before allowing them to ordain. Also, the Buddha may have some worries about the nun’s safety. In the beginning, there were no monastery, and monks live in the forest. A possibility is that the Buddha is waiting for an appropriate time. Perhaps, he may be worried that the concept of a community of monks and nuns may run counter against the principle of a life of celibacy. Perhaps, the Buddha never expect the request to come from his step-mother, maybe he was expecting the request from someone else. Coming from his stepmother, he must have thought about the position that she would hold. Instead of making spiritual progress, he may have been worried she will be overcome with pride, authority & power.

Soon after his enlightenment, Mara (so-called the Buddhist devil) asked the Buddha to passed away. The Buddha replied:

“I shall not come to my final passing away, Evil One, until my bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, have come to be true disciples — wise, well disciplined, apt and learned, preservers of the Dhamma, living according to the Dhamma, abiding by appropriate conduct and, having learned the Master's word, are able to expound it, preach it, proclaim it, establish it, reveal it, explain it in detail, and make it clear; until, when adverse opinions arise, they shall be able to refute them thoroughly and well, and to preach this convincing and liberating Dhamma.” (Mahaparinibbana Sutta)

This shows that the Buddha was planning the establishment of nuns (bhikkhunis) right from the beginning.

2. The Vinaya (monastic rules) was formulated as time when by when the necessity arises. In the beginning, there were no Vinaya rules. In fact, the Buddha turn down a request to formulate any rules for monastic community saying that there is no necessity yet.
See: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc1/bmc1.intro.html#intro1

Breaking the Vinaya rules does not mean a monk is not holy. We read stories of Arahant (technically a Buddha) breaking some minor rules. Some rules are merely etiquette.And not all rules are formulated by the Buddha. Some are requested by nuns, layperson, Kings etc.

Also, it may interesting to note that before the Buddha passed away, he said:

"If it is desired, Ananda, the Sangha may, when I am gone, abolish the lesser and minor rules.” (Mahaparinibbana Sutta)

3. Commentaries, being commentaries, should be regarded as commentaries. Simply put, if I wrote a commentary on the Buddha’s teaching, it would also be a commentary.

The author of the commentary regarding not touching the mother, was probably influence by his knowledge of cases mother-son (monk) sexual affair in his days. Again, as I said, the context is required. Sometimes, the commentary may come to us in the form of discussion, advice etc. Unfortunately, most of the commentaries had not been translated into English, so I can’t say for sure.

This is what the Buddha got to say:

“Without approval and without scorn, but carefully studying the sentences word by word, one should trace them in the Discourses and verify them by the Discipline. If they are neither traceable in the Discourses nor verifiable by the Discipline, one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is not the Blessed One's utterance; this has been misunderstood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' In that way, bhikkhus, you should reject it. But if the sentences concerned are traceable in the Discourses and verifiable by the Discipline, then one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is the Blessed One's utterance; this has been well understood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.”(Mahaparinibbana Sutta)

Rahula said...

4. A Buddhist definition of enlightenment is the extinction of lust, hated and delusion. (Samyutta Nikaya, 38:1-2). This is the definition given for nibbana and arahant.

In Siddhatta’s case, he is said to attain enlightenment when he had:

i)knowledge of recollection of his past lives;

ii)knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of beings; and finally,

iii)knowledge of the destruction of the taints/defilements (Maha Saccaka Sutta)

5.In Buddhism, it is perhaps the only religion, where the followers / disciples may attained or achieve the same thing as its “founder”.

The nibbana that the Buddha attained (he is called the Buddha mainly for this reason) is no different from the nibbana attained by his disciple, men and women alike. The difference between a Buddha and Arahant is illustrated below.

In the Nagara Sutta, the Buddha said:

"In the same way I saw an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times.”

Explaining the difference, in the Buddha Sutta, the Buddha said:

“The Blessed One said, "The Tathagata — the worthy one, the rightly self-awakened one — is the one who gives rise to the path (previously) unarisen, who engenders the path (previously) unengendered, who points out the path (previously) not pointed out. He knows the path, is expert in the path, is adept at the path. And his disciples now keep following the path and afterwards become endowed with the path.”

To the view the women being unable to attain nibbana,Mara had this to say:

“That which is to be attained by seers — the place so very hard to reach — women can't — with their two-inch discernment — attain.”

The nun, Soma, replied:

“What difference does being a woman make when the mind's well-centered, when knowledge is progressing, seeing clearly, rightly, into the Dhamma. Anyone who thinks 'I'm a woman' or 'a man' or 'Am I anything at all?' — that's who Mara's fit to address.“

Then Mara the Evil One — sad & dejected at realizing, "Soma the nun knows me" — vanished right there.(Soma Sutta)

Rahula said...

"Should any bhikkhu, overcome by lust, with altered mind, engage in bodily contact with a woman, or in holding her hand, holding a lock of her hair, or caressing any of her limbs, it entails initial and subsequent meetings of the Community."(Sanghadisesa 2)

I think what is stated here is quite clear.

Reading too much into it could be a case of too many cooks, spoil the soup.

Secondly, as you quoted:

"Even if there is an offense in doing so, there are other places where Buddhaghosa recommends that one be willing to incur a minor penalty for the sake of compassion"

This reminded me of a Zen story. Two monks reached a river and a met a woman who is afraid to cross. So, the elder monk carry her across.

Later, the younger monk asked why do you touch a woman. The elder monk replied that he already put her down at the other side of the river, but the junior monk was still carrying her.

Thirdly, it does not entail expulsion from the monastic community. And as I have already noted in my previous posting, even Arahant break the Vinaya rules.

For example, once, Sariputta's robe was not worn properly. (now, Sariputta's position is akin to the General in the military)

A seven-year old novice reprimanded him. He acknowledge it, and then step aside to arrange it properly, and then present himself to the novice.

This shows not only the courage that the young boy have, and the modesty of Sariputta, but the degree of freedom in the religion.

Rahula said...

"Buddha relents, but only upon setting up 8 rules that, to my mind, put the male bhikkhus above the female Bhikkhunis. I don't think bowing to all male Bhikkhus is a small matter. I don't see it as merely formal subordination."

First, the Buddha stated that this rule was laid down in accord with the customs of the time.[Vinaya 2.258 (Culavagga 10.3)]

Secondly, it is probably meant to a a form of social etiquette, a respect for an older institution, as the monk monastic community was founded before the nuns.

It can be compared to the analogy of the father / husband being the head of family. Also, generally speaking a child takes on the father's surname. It is so in my culture, but I believe its the same in western culture. Neither is seen as female subordination.

"For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body." (Ephesians 5:23)


It should be noted that a person who is a monk for more years than another is considered senior even if the junior monk is arahant, but the senior one is not. This does not mean the senior monk should not learn from the junior monk, or that the junior monk should not teach the senior monk. Likewise, a nun may teach a monk.

Also, when he attained enlightenment, the Buddha hesitated to even teach at all, because the Dhamma is "abstruse, subtle, deep, hard to see,
going against the flow."

It was only after Brahma's (you may check the term using the search engine, in Hinduism, the god of creation) persuasian & invitation that the Buddha decided to teach.(Ayacana Sutta)

This explained why he probably wanted to see some commitment before ordaining nuns, whether those women really wanted it and if they are really ready.One have to note that most of these women are members of the royalty.
And as shown in my previos posting, the Buddha already had in mind the establishment of buddhist nuns from the beginning.

Rahula said...

1 Timothy 2:11-15
"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety."

1 Corinthians 14:34-35

"As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."

Of course, I am aware of some of the explanation used. Among those that I have encountered are:

1. They are of later addition
2. Examples in the Bible contrary to the above
3. Need to understand the context, eg. Jewish Law, etc.

I am wondering if you know of other explanation.

My point is this, seemingly misogynistic statement can be found in many ancient literature/scripture.

Also, I would like to note that none of the New Testament's books were written by women, whereas in the BUddhist Scripture, there is a text called Therigatha (Poems of the Buddhist Nuns)

Rahula said...

In the list of three explanation, I should have added another one:

4. translation issue.

There is an interesting article by Douglas Winnail in "Tomorrow'S World":

The Feminist Mistake
http://www.tomorrowsworld.org/cgi-bin/tw/tw-mag.cgi?category=Magazine14&item=1104085563

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

O.K. Jonalyn in case you are having problems publishing my last post or two for whatever reason… Here is a revised version:

Hi Jonalyn!
Do you remember this?

To all commentators:

“In an effort to continue reader's interest, I'm going to ask you to limit yourself to single comment responses”As a rule, I'm only going to post single responses from now on. Short responses being comments that are limited to the bloggers comment limit, around 4096 characters. I will attempt to follow the same guidelines for brevity. I hope this will continue to keep us focused.
Jonalyn Oct.20.th 2009

As you have not kept to this, It would seem as if you wish to reconsider. Would that be a correct presumption on my part?

ALL THINGS CONSIDERED the 8 precepts of respect are nothing outrageously degrading or devastating. Never the less, these are not even taken seriously today due to an understanding of the context at the time.The relationship between men and women out or balance? There is also Pacittiyas 6and 44 in the Bhikkhuni Patimokkha to prevent the Bhikkhuni from being placed in a position of servitude to either the Bhikkhu or the laity as a way of tempering and balancing this (the 8 precepts of respect) when it was felt necessary to be adhered to for concerns of the safety of the Bhikkhuni sangha. This may be hard for some to imagine but let us remember that during this time the rule of law was quite often the rule of force. Much like it is today but without any state or government sanction necessary. This may have been one reason why Jesus never took a woman as one of his direct disciples.
I have heard some brag that Jesus in comparison, did not trifle with such concerns and boldly threw such caution to the wind. I will remind such that compared to Jesus, the Venerable Gotama lived much longer and was able to establish a stable spiritual sangha (community) himself with the additional time spent for his ministry,because he took the political climate into consideration. Even though the Christian doctrine requires Jesus to have been crucified, considering the world has only been waiting close to two thousand years for his grand return, certainly the world could have benefited from his continued ministry for an extra forty or fifty years!
While were at it, lets not forget N.P.#4 and 17 of the Bhikkhu Patimokkha which were created to prevent the Bhikkhu from taking advantage of this in any way which could interfere with the Bhikkhuni practice of the dhamma, which of course I would think would be the most important consideration . I believe this substantiates the case for a “FORMAL subordination”.

“Jesus is talking about one giving their full and undivided attention to the spiritual path.” Bhikkhu aggacitto Nov.4th.2009

Spiritual path as in spiritual method or spiritual route. Of course there are differences in how this is interpreted, that’s why Christianity is not Buddhism!
There are those who might say that my position on certain interpretations of Biblical scripture is unfair because there are different interpretations of the Tipataka also.
This is certainly worth exploring. The difference here is that with a discrepancy of the Tipataka, is is only because the word or category etc. is something ambiguous to begin with, as an example does the word in Pali for cultered milk mean ghee or perhaps cheese? Not because we wish to deny or change the entire meaning of what is being said regarding critical scripture.It is true that a word can do that but I know of no example in the Tipataka where this is even attempted.

Continued.....

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

“I have not heard any reasons for the Buddha leaving his wife, do have some? I'd love to hear them if you do. MY POINT REMAINS that unless there is a good reason, one that we can know, Buddha's behavior toward her (as Rahula rightly pointed out) MAY be incorrect--it is after all pre-enlightenment.”
Jonalyn Nov.5th.2009
You have now acknowledged the fact that despite my own perspective on the matter as stated, you don’t know whether all things considered, it was incorrect behavior or not. I therefore believe that it is wrong for us to judge the situation in a negative light without all of the facts at hand. My premise for judging it in a justifiable perspective has already been I believe well noted. Justifiable does not mean IDEALLY positive OR negative. Only justifiable to the extent that the RESULT has been of a great benefit to humanity which I do not think any of us can deny. Does the result justify the means? To the extent that we don't know enough to judge it in an ideally positive or negative light it does.
“You refuse to respect the differences between Christianity and Buddhism and have set yourself up as the ultimate arbiter of both religions, rather than a fellow learner, who has, in fact, devoted himself to only one of these faiths.”

Quite to the contrary, It is because you have refused to see and respect the differences between Christianity and Buddhism that your article, “Jesus Outshines Buddha” was written in the first place.

“I do not have a problem accepting you as the expert on your religion.”

First I do not CLAIM to be an “expert” on my religion.
However considering the point here, of your willing to respect my scriptural perspective, If I did as mentioned with the Tipataka what you have done with the Bible as before mentioned, I would not blame you for correcting me!
Remember when I chose to discuss with you certain scripture regarding Rahula from the Tipataka? You chose to dismiss it as Rahula not being honest, because it conflicted with your preconceived notion regarding “emotional scarring” done to Rahula.
When we both agree that there was at least apparently no emotional scarring done to Rahula, then I will be able to take the spirit of such a statement seriously.

Concerning your theories regarding Biblical scripture. Either you do you or do you not see a difference between theorizing what might or might not be in retrospect justifiable behavior on someone’s part and on the other hand theorizing why Biblical scripture means something that was NEVER actually said.

The reason why you started theorizing about certain scripture was because I pointed out to you that your scripture said a thing or two that you did not seem initially willing to recognize. Remember?

Other Issues seem to be addressed.
Bhikkhu aggacitto

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi Everyone!

This is just a quick note to inform all of you that my last blog post posted on Nov.10 2009 S.E. Asia time,(if published) will have to be my last. I will have to start traveling again soon and I don’t have access to the internet other than finding an internet café (and hopefully one with a good anti virus program installed). I believe that I have addressed what was needed to be addressed.

I sincerely wish all of you a spiritually prosperous life.


Bhikkhu aggacitto

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Hello all,

I apologize for being rather MIA these last few days, we've had our house finally sell and that's been wonderful but busy with packing. Then yesterday my husband had surgery.

All went well, though. Glad to be back to the discussion.

Rahula-

I appreciate your help in trying to understand why Buddha prevented women from joining at first. Thank you.

I am familiar with the 4 omens. Why did you want to bring them up in this discussion?

I found it particularly interesting and sad that the highest form or spiritual enlightenment in Buddhism requires celibacy. While Paul advocates singleness for some (1 Cor 7), I do not read about any hierarchy with celibacy at the top in Jesus' teaching, nor in the Bible as a whole. In the bible, marriage is considered as viable and spiritual an enterprise as celibacy. For example compare 1 Corinthians 11 with 7, interesting as both written by Paul at the same time to the same church in Corinth. Or see the rather sexually explicit Song of Solomon or Proverbs 5. Or notice the purpose of God creating men and women for each other in Genesis 2.

As Buddhism does not seem to have the same interest in marriage, this also seems to be a problem for those who find Jesus validating their human desires for intimacy.

Thank you for this definition of enlightenment, too. It is quite helpful. And with this definition I'd say, No, Jesus was not enlightened. But I would say his entire life was consistently more respectful toward women than Siddhartha/Buddha's life, given that Siddhartha left his wife and Buddha never re-united with her as a husband. Though they did re-unite as celibate followers (thanks for pointing this out) of the Buddhist way.

The nun, Soma's, comments are indicative of what I've been sadly concerned about in many religions for some time now. The fact of being a man or being a woman is not, sad to say, considered a big deal. As a student of gender studies and a scholar of feminist ideas, this bothers me. I see our male/female differences as highly important.

As Soma says, "What difference does being a woman make when the mind's well-centered, when knowledge is progressing, seeing clearly, rightly, into the Dhamma. Anyone who thinks 'I'm a woman' or 'a man' or 'Am I anything at all?' — that's who Mara's fit to address.“

Since Mara is the evil one I gather than she's saying our gender should not make a difference. But in my mind our gender does and should make a difference. This is where the beauty of male and female ought to be taken into count, our humanity, our actual physical bodies with their sexuality are part of our spirituality in Christianity. This is why the Genesis 1-3 account of Creation with humans being purposely created by God to be embodied is so unique and to me compelling. The Judeo-Christian account says our manhood and womanhood was made on purpose by God and this distinction should never be overlooked or effaced.

Are there any prayers or passages that talk about the importance of the difference between men and women in the Pali Canon?

There are many places women actually write Scripture in the Bible, they just do not have their names on the books. A few examples are Miriam's song (Exodus 15), Mary's Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), Solomon's mother's instruction (Proverbs 31).

In the passage between Mara and the Buddha, soon after his enlightenment where the Buddha assumes there will be female followers was interesting to me, I have a few textual criticism questions. How do Buddhists date the Buddhist scriptures? How do you verify the chronology? Are there multiple sources? Where do the Scriptures come from? Was the Mahaparinibbana Sutta written by Buddha?

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Rahula,
I'm really glad you brought up these oft-quoted verses about women in the New Testament. One way to answer the verses you've quoted is to share that Jesus never said them, so he's
"off the hook" in that he never talked about husbands being the "head" or women not speaking in church. These are from Paul's letters much later.

However, as they are in Christian Scripture, and as I've spent many hours poring over them (these verses make up the basis of my book Ruby Slippers: How the Soul of a Woman Brings Her Home) so they are very important to me. Short version of how I would explain them relies on a few easily made points:

1- Eph 5:23- Husband is the head is a metaphor, a word picture, similar to saying rosy-fingered Dawn. So what does Paul mean? Head as a metaphor means both authority (and many Christians take it to mean just that) as in "head of state", and source as in "headwaters of a river." In the Bible both metaphors are used. My view is the latter- for more see Dale Fincher's blog on Ephesians 5: http://dalefincher.blogspot.com/2008/08/mystery-of-submisson-ephesians-5-part-1.html

2- 1 Cor 14:34-35. This one is so famous, but easily explained by context of the whole letter. Paul's own instruction that women should be talking, praying, prophesying (1 Cor 11:5) in this same letter tells me he wasn't talking about a rule for all time, not even for this church as they did have women speaking in the "church service."

3- 1 Tim 2- this is the big one for many Christians. In answer to your question, I've found it very helpful to note the presence of the Artemis cult in the area (see how Ephesians- the audience for this letter- LOVED the female goddess in Acts 19). I've written extensively on Artemis vs. Jesus and what this means for 1 Tim 2 with my husband in an article, Unmuted: The Welcome Colors of a Woman's Voice found here: http://www.soulation.org/articles/unmuted.html I hope you enjoy reading it.

4- In reading The Feminist Mistake article, I'd have to say there are some good points, but over all I disagree with his general theology of gender. I take the position that men and women are interdependent upon each other (1 Cor 11:11) but neither one above the other (which means I'm egalitarian not a patriarchalist as Winnail is) and created to work together as complementary partners. More on this in my article "Unmuted"

3- I did also think of a few other passages in the New Testament that are written by women. Any account of a woman with Jesus is actually taken from a woman's testimony being that women were counted as eyewitnesses in writing the 4 gospels (see Luke 1:1-4, so for example, the Christmas Story was most probably taken from Mary's own testimony as Luke interviewed her). Another interesting idea is that while scholars have often debated over who wrote Hebrews, and it's currently still up for debate, many believe Hebrews was written by Priscilla (a woman who instructs a man in Acts 18) and is a faithful disciple of Jesus.

By the way, what country do you call home at this time? What is your background and journey to Buddhism? I'd love to know.

p.s. I accept evolution as the best theory for variation of species, humans, age of earth, etc though not for the origin of life at its most basic level. Thought you'd like to know not all Jesus-followers are young earth Creationists.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Aggacitto- thank you for tempering your tone and re-posting. I appreciate your desire to continue growing to be respectful during this dialog.

Thank you for sharing your insight with us. I hope your travels go really well. And yes, if you are ever in Colorado, please drop me an email. I'd be very interested in meeting you in person! jonalyn@soulation.org

Grace for your journey,
Jonalyn

Rahula said...

Hi,

I brought up the four omens (or sights) because I believe Siddhattha was influenced by the fourth sight (the mendicant) to become an ascetic to seek spiritual truth, having been briefed by the charioteer.


What I believe Soma was trying to say is that gender is not an issue as far as enlightenment (nibbana) is concern. When she said there is no difference (second sentence),I believe, enligtenment, here, mean, beyond sexuality. ".... anything at all", I believe, what she meant is "self-identification views", because the Buddha taught to have a selfless view [anatta](but this would lead to an off-topic discussion).

Textual criticism: Similar passages have been found in the scripture of other schools of Buddhism (some already extinct). The Buddha never wrote anything. Usually, the suttas tells us when and where a teaching is being given. Well, textual criticism is not my expertise, as I am still learning.

Buddhist do not consider the scripture as some kind of "fix laws", but as a guide to spiritual enlightenment (nibbana).If you go into Buddhist history, you find that many arahants are not well-versed in the Buddhist text!

While Jesus was not involved, the Bible, I believe was God-inspired, so he was involved (perhaps indirectly).

To put it simply, the Buddhist perspective is that sex (male/female) is due to (or should I say, part of) evolution. Evolution, is, in turn driven by desire. The Buddha made it clear from the beginning that his teaching goes against the flow(world) [Ayacana Sutta].

I live in Malaysia, born here too. In a state called Penang, to be specific. If you happen to come here (Penang), maybe we could meet up. My email:rahula_80@yahoo.com

By the way, don't you think your explanations (regarding those passages) are covered under my listing of four explanations? Anyway, you explained it in your own unique way (which I appreciate).

Many books of the Buddhist scriptues also contain teachings by women. But what I am interested is a whole book "written" by women. I am aware that many gnostic gospels are written by women. The Therigatha are verses (poems) by enlightened Buddhist regarding their struggle/journey/ towards enlightenment.

Rahula said...

"Are there any prayers or passages that talk about the importance of the difference between men and women in the Pali Canon?"

I am not aware of any. Perhaps I am not very sure what exactly you mean. Perhaps, you can show me one or two examples from the Bible, then we will see if there's anything similar in the Pali Canon.

I would like to point out the Buddhism and Christianity have different soteriology and worldview(Weltanschauung), and this make comparative study difficult, perhaps inappropriate (not that I am saying that it cannot be done). What I am trying to imply is that to compare two things, we need to control the variables.

Rahula said...

Jonalyn,

"Then yesterday my husband had surgery.All went well, though."

While I do not know his medical condition, I wish him a speedy recovery. And I am glad it went well.

"I appreciate your help in trying to understand why Buddha prevented women from joining at first.Thank you"

You are welcome. Basically, its for their protection. Not only for their safety living in the forest (and away from home), but also from the public (he must have worried about the public perceptions (and acceptance) on these women (eg. they may be thrown eggs, etc. [stuff like this, you know])

Riglin said...

"Not only must a man marry, but he must marry YOUNG.
Eighteen was a age for marriage, and to remain unmarried after
twenty was a sin."
http://www.keithhunt.com/Mariage1.html

So, during Jesus' time people married at young age. Mary was pregnant when she was about 14. Have you thought about why Jesus did not marry?

It's quite obvious that marriage is not on his mind. Did he feel that having a wife is an obstacle to his career?

Did any of his disciples, other than Peter, got married? The saying "Seek God's kingdom first and all things will added onto you" but were wives and material comforts added to their lives?

Also, why Jesus did not choose Mary Magdalene as one of his disciple?

Just wanted to learn more of your view on this. Thanks.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Rahula,

You are correct, if someone believes (as I do) that the Bible is God-inspired then Jesus was involved in all those passages. This is why I've written the Unmuted article and wrestled with them so much personally.

You are correct, the explanation I gave on 1 Tim 2 is not outside the reasons you gave before. Good point. Do these 4 types of explanations not satisfy your questions?

A whole book written by a woman? I know there are some very unflattering passages in the Gnostic gospels toward women and there is the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, but I dont' think that stands up well to textual criticism in terms of consistency with other texts. I think the New Testament Hebrews, and Old Testament Ruth or Esther might very likely be authored by women in the Christian Scriptures. Would you like some more sources on why this might be the case for Hebrews?

An example of male/female differences being honored in the Bible would be something like the creation narrative (Gen 2:20-25 where Adam sings an ode to Eve) or the comparision of male and female bodies in Song of Solomon 4-6. Anything similar in the Pali Canon?

So interesting to me that sex (male/female) is linked to Evolution and then to desire and thereby something the Buddha would want to move us beyond? Am I understanding this correctly?

I agree that we need to control the variables if we are to compare Buddha with Jesus especially since our soteriology, purpose, even worldview are so different. Much of my difficulty with this is I'm still learning about Buddhism so I'm learning how to best couch my questions.

I would like to hear more about anatta and to that end, as promised, I've posted a brand new topic on my blog about Buddha and Jesus. I hope to learn more there. Access it here: www.jonalynfincher.com

I'd love to hear you comment more about what you've found attractive about Buddhism on that post!

Thank you for your kind words toward my husband, he is doing much better. And if we are every in Penang, I would very much like to meet you, too!

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Riglin,

Some great questions.

I believe Jesus chose not to marry because he knew that his life would be
dedicated to his Father's business in a unique way that no one else would be.

For instance, no one else is asked to take on the cycles of wrongdoing and repay humans with goodness instead of their just deserts of suffering.

No one else is asked to die for all human kind like Jesus was. Jesus clearly understood this as his unique mission (John 10:11-17). Therefore, Jesus prepared himself for his unique life task (the Jews called it being Messiah) and chose to protect any woman from that sort of early grief and marital loss, choosing not to marry.

Secondly, it would be helpful to note that Jesus was bound by the Jewish Scriptures, not by Jewish tradition. These are different, one morally binding as scripture and one merely commentary. The article you shared assumed that Jewish rabbinical commentary (Kiddushin 29 is not Jewish Scripture and this is where the quote about not marrying is a sin comes from) was morally binding upon Jesus. This is incorrect.

I've studied all the Jewish scriptures and I can speak with confidence that there is no law forbidding singleness. It was not sin for Jesus to be single, not according to the Jewish Scriptures, only according to this commentary. Buddhist have a similar way to sift commentary on their Scriptures. And as Rahula has pointed out, not all commentaries are equally valid. Jesus obviously thought Kiddushin was not.

Instead of seeing a wife as a hindrance, given that Jesus surrounded himself with women along the journey. I believe he chose not to marry so that no women would have to endure what Yashadora experienced: sexual union, a child and then desertion for several years.

I believe sometimes love means we say no to protect others the heartache of our intimacy and then absence. This is the case when a young man tells a young woman no to marriage, for instance, when he's about to go to war and may be killed.

Many other disciples were married. For instance, Priscilla and Aquilla (Acts 18:1-4 and 24-26). Paul was also probably married as was Peter (his mother in law is healed by Jesus). It seems likely that other disciples were married to. The argument, however, is from silence as we are not told one way or another.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Riglin,

One more point about discipleship and Mary Magdalene.

I'd challenge you to show me that Jesus did not choose Mary Magdalene as his disciple. As I've explained earlier, THE TWELVE DISCIPLES LINE as distinguished from other people (including women) is something we often add to the Scripture. I do not see any qualifications for these men or privileges given to them that Mary and other women did not recieve as well. Do you know of any?

One possibility I've heard is that the 12 were given special privileges (see Luke 22:24-30). However, Jesus promises ALL his followers to be able to eat and drink at his table, see Luke 13:29 and see that ALL are invited to eat with Jesus. And we are all given the kingdom of God, read Revelation 3:20 and notice that Jesus offers the kingdom rewards to anyone who wants to know him.

Again, as I pointed out to Aggacitto the importance of understanding the Jewish mind when it comes to "the kingdom of God" is paramount. We cannot import what we think this phrase means unless we take time to read Jesus in context.

As far as my learning has taken me, the kingdom of God is the effective range of God and Jesus' will. God invites us into his kingdom when we make our kingdoms (the effective range of our wills) part of his. And this is open to all disciples, male or female. If you don't believe this, then why did Jesus offer the kingdom to everyone? See Mark 1:15, Revelation 1:5-6, John 3:3-5, Luke 9:2, Luke 18:16).

Thank you for asking some great questions on here. I hope you will comment further on the reasons Buddha has been appealing to you on my most recent post: www.jonalynfincher.com.

It's called "What Does Buddha Offer and What Does Jesus Offer?"

Grace to you,
Jonalyn

Jonalyn Fincher said...

To all my readers:

While this post has been helpful to focus on the way Buddha and Jesus interacted with women, I have just posted a new entry entitled "What does Buddha Offer and What Does Jesus Offer?" to give you a chance to share how Buddha and Jesus have helped change your life for the better.

I hope all who took time to comment here will take the time to share more on this new post.

View it and comment here:
http://jonalynfincher.blogspot.com/2009/11/what-does-buddha-offer-and-what-does.html

Thank you!
Jonalyn

Rahula said...

Jonalyn,

Actually, this posting is meant for your reply to me in the previous "blog topic".

> Do these 4 types of explanations not satisfy your questions?<

It does, actually. What I was trying to point is actually this, as I said before, SEEMINGLY misogynistic passages are found in Christian and Buddhist scriptures.

Hebrew? Yes, I would love to read more about the authorship of the text. I am under the impression that it was a Pauline text, probably by Paul himself, or Apollos. I have also read of it being attributed to Barnabas, Luke, Clement, Philip, Priscilla & Aquilla, Silas and Peter.

Esther, Mordecai? Ruth, was attributed to Samuel, but probably written by a woman. Anyway, I believe to determine the authorship of all the books with certainty is a bit difficult.

> So interesting to me that sex (male/female) is linked to Evolution and then to desire and thereby something the Buddha would want to move us beyond? Am I understanding this correctly?<

Yes.

Rahula said...

Jonaly,

> I believe he chose not to marry so that no women would have to endure what Yashadora experienced: sexual union, a child and then desertion for several years. <

In the Christian worldview, Jesus is God, from the beginning. So, you have got a valid resoning there. However, Siddhattha was not born a Buddha. Also, it was a cultural norm, at that time, for a person to become a renunciate, for those who are religiously or spiritualy inclined.

> An example of male/female differences being honored in the Bible would be something like the creation narrative (Gen 2:20-25 where Adam sings an ode to Eve) or the comparision of male and female bodies in Song of Solomon 4-6. Anything similar in the
Pali Canon? <

In the Mahayana & Vajrayana tradition, you have Avalokiteshvara, Tara etc who are females.

I still can't remember anything similar in the Pali Canon, but I wonder if this is close:

"Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life even so let one cultivate a boundless love towards all beings." (Karaniya Metta Sutta)

Anyway, those quotations given are not from Jesus. I tend to see the scriptures before the Buddha's time (eg. Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and a few early Upanisads) similar as the Old Testament to the Christian. In those texts, there are indeed similar passages. The Buddha, it seems, uses those old terminology from those scriptures, and reinterpret them.

By the way, in the Sigalovada Sutta, a husband is supposed to hand over authority to his wife. I have yet to decide what that is supposed to mean. Perhaps, you could help me out:)

Another think I wish to point out is that the relationship between monks and nuns is akin to elder brother and younger sister. Women, at the time, were not used to make independent decision, but look to men for protection & guidance. Monks, are sometimes described as Buddha's sons, while nuns, as daughters.

> I'd love to hear you comment more about what you've found attractive about Buddhism on that post! <

I believe I had not reply to your earlier question:

>What is your background and journey to Buddhism? I'd love to know.<

I would prefer to keep it private. Anyway, I am looking for an essay I wrote many years ago, answering those questions. If I manage to find it, I will certainly sent it to you via email. Having been written many years ago, I may, or may not hold the same views now.

Rahula said...

Hi Jonalyn,

I would like to apologise for spelling your name wrong in my previous posting. I am sorry.

Also, there is a typo.

"Another think I wish to point out....."

Should be: "Another thing....."

Best wishes,
Rahula

Rahula said...

Hi Jonalyn,

You quoted Matthew 19:6 in your blog, “Jesus Outshines Buddha”.

“So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate."

Your elaboration, “regardless of spiritual quests, hunger for enlightenment or desire for experiences” seems to be misplaced. Jesus, it seems, was asked about divorce.

“Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?" (Matthew 19:3)

Jesus, then, said:

I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery."(Matthew 19:9)


The Buddha, too, taught that the husband should be faithful to his wife (Sigalovada Sutta); and to cherish one’s wife and children is one of the greatest blessing (Mangala Sutta)

Best wishes,
Rahula

Rahula said...

Hi Jonalyn,

I am not sure if I should post it here, in the new blog or as a private email. This, I leave to your discretion.

There area few passages in the Bible that I would like to seek your understanding. Christian monastics have interpret them as a caall for renunciation.

1. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

2. Matthew 19:10-12:

Jesus’ disciples then said to him, “If this is the case, it is better not to marry!”

“Not everyone can accept this statement,” Jesus said. “Only those whom God helps. Some are born as eunuchs, some have been made eunuchs by others, and some choose not to marry for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.”

3. Matthew 19:20-21:

“I’ve obeyed all these commandments,” the young man replied. “What else must I do?”

Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

4. And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)

5. 1 John 2:15-17
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.


6. 1 Corinthians 7:

"....It is good for a man not to marry......I say this as a concession......An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs—how he can please the Lord. 33But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife— and his interests are divided........"

Thanks,
Rahula

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Hello Rahula!

Please forgive my absence in this dialog.

Most scholars do believe Hebrews is authored by Paul. However, for an alternative view see: http://www.godswordtowomen.org/hoppin.htm for more of Priscilla as another author.

Given that you affirmed I am understanding Buddhism correctly in that sex (male/female) is linked to evolution and then to desire and thereby something the Buddha would want to move us beyond, here are my follow-up questions:

1- if Buddhism is concerned with facing reality as we find it, why would Buddha efface one part of reality (namely sex, gender) for the sake of avoiding suffering? Seems like you give us so much to gain so little. Is the goal of avoiding suffering worth giving up part of my humanity? I can't affirm that right now, how do you?

2- How would you answer the charge that the life goal of "avoiding suffering" is actually less meaningful than a worldview like Christianity that affirms our humanity? In other words, if Buddhism asks us to get beyond our desires and sexual differences (male/female) how does this not empty our human lives of meaning, since it asks all meaningful distinctions between the sexes (which produce meaningful events like love, sexual pleasure, children, family, sibling relating as male/female) to be "done away with"?

3- I do understand that it was a cultural norm for a spiritually inclined person to take a vow of celibacy in Buddha's time, however, if Buddha's path was supposed to awaken us to the reality he had found, he would not be limited by cultural norms. For instance, even though it was the cultural norm for Jewish men to be married, Jesus was not, even though he advocated marriage as a pleasant, happy, life-giving enterprise, blessed and loved by God. I would expect Buddha to also renounce any cultural prohibitions that were in the way of his teaching. However, as you've pointed out previously, the life of marriage and family is not integrated with the most spiritual devout in Buddhism.

This is another deep difference, the most spiritually devout Jesus follower can be married and have children. God is just as delighted in marriage as he is in celibacy (I'll be responding to your questions about biblical passages on renunciation below, too). You could even argue God made humans to be married more than to wanted them to be single.

I'd love to read the passage in the Sigalovada Sutta where a husband is supposed to hand over authority to his wife. :)

A note on Matthew 19:6 and how it doesn't really talk about someone like Siddhartha leaving Yashodhara since Jesus is talking about divorce. How is Siddhartha's departure different from divorce? I think him leaving and then never re-claiming the "rights" of a husband, e.g. they never made love again, they never had more children, they never lived together as husband and wife, is tantamount to a divorce. There are many divorced couples who have chosen to amicably part. I see this as what Siddhartha did. What is your perspective?

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Hi Rahula,

So what is the "christian" teaching on renunciation or celibacy?

Well, suffice it to say that the Bible teaches both the freedom to choose marriage or celibacy. However, there is no teaching that places celibacy as "more spiritual" or "more God-honoring" than marriage.

Let me respond to a few of the verses you mentioned that celibate Christians refer to.

1- Matt 5:48- be perfect as heavenly father is perfect. Since the Christian God is both perfect and Triune, meaning he is one WHAT (namely God) and three WHO'S (namely Father, Son, Holy Spirit) all who exist in communion, interdependence, inter-awareness and mutual love, the command to be "like God" and "be perfect" could be interpreted to be in communion rather than to be solitary. Since the Christian God is a God in community, not a monad, not an individual. The marriage relationship mirrors the love relationship in the nature of God, which is why Genesis 1:27-28 says male and female are BOTH made in God's image. My view and that of many Christians is that in our comm-unity as male and female we reflect God's nature (social, community, relating) on earth.

2-Matt 19:10-12- Jesus is saying it's hard and not necessarily appropriate for every person to be single, "not everyone can accept this." Then he goes on to list reasons for someone being celibate. I find that throughout the Bible the only times celibacy is a good goal is due to the suffering in this world. HOwever, the Christian story, unlike the Buddhist's, teaches that the world was not always dipped in suffering and pain. Each Christian must decide if they want to pursue the original ideal of marriage community (see Garden of Eden Gen 1-2) or to pursue a vocation (celibacy) that may help them further God's program to fix the suffering of this world (often called "the kingdom of God"). I would, however, claim that humans have been created for intimacy and relationship, and the most natural (and I'd add God-created) means of expressing intimacy between a man and woman is not celibacy bu marriage.

3- Matt 19:20-21- there's not a clear reason to think this means the man had to leave his wife, or that his wife could not come along with Jesus and serve the kingdom of God. I've spoken to the verse where Jesus says if you leave your wife, you'll get another wife above in detail. See comment Oct 19, 4:08pm and Oct 31, 11:23 am.

4- 1 John 2:15-17- Here's where I get discouraged. Often words like "world" and "lusts of flesh" get inappropriately equated with sexual love between a husband and wife. However, there is no Biblical warrant for that, especially given that God told the first man and woman to have sex (Gen 1:28). We also have lots of Biblical passages praising a man for finding sexual pleasure in a woman's body and vice verse. I've listed these above like Proverbs 5. The "world" in Christianity, has a lot more to do with spiritual forces of evil than with our physical bodies or desires for sexual fulfillment. For a good definition of "world" see Ephesians 6:12 "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." This is not to say lust is never a problem. But I'd want to draw a strong distinction between lust (a predatory desire to possess a person's body for your own pleasure, unmoored by love for this person's whole self i.e. the soul) and love (a desire to will the good of another, to be amazed and delighted by their "otherness", their body, their mind, their emotions, their will, their spirit.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Continued from above

1 Cor 7 is the BIG one that seems to affirm celibacy or renunciation over marriage.

Here's how I understand it

1- Paul is not making a general command, but advocating his own single lifestyle for "getting more done" in this suffering, evil world.

2- Given that the Jewish Jesus followers were being persecuted, it made more sense to be careful about seeking marriage and family especially as you'd have less to worry about protecting in case of a mass annihilation (which did happen to the Jews and Christians). NOtice that Paul says to not get married if you're already single, but NEVER to leave your spouse to pursue God. He even tells spouses to have sex again and stop this depriving of each other except for a short, agreed on time (1 Cor 7:3-5) This passage also indicated that the "Christian" thing to do, even for Paul the one who advocates no marriage, is to care and tend to your family EVEN WITH THE CALL OF JESUS on your life. Therefore, you could argue (anachronistically) that this verse would have required Siddhartha to stay with Yashodhara, not leave her for spiritual awakening.

3- You will also notice that in this context Paul does not say that "interests being divided" and "concerned about the things of this world" are necessarily evil or bad things. We often easily import this "dividedness" as bad and think that world is bad since it's often associated with the God of this world (Satan) and therefore not the Christian's goal. But the Bible teaches that world is actually God's domain that Satan is trying to control for a time. Jesus was concerned about the things of this world, he healed people in this world, he gave food from this world, he calmed storms of this world. The word "world" is not always dealing with evil things in Scripture, since God made this world and all that is in it. Psalm 24:1 "The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it." Echoed by Paul himself in 1 Cor 10:26.

Again, context is paramount.

Rahula said...

Hi Jonalyn,

First of all, thank you for your interpretation, or should I say, understanding of those Biblical passages. Just a short question, aren't those passages also used by Christian monastic to affirm their monasticism?

Regarding Sigalovada Sutta, the passage is question was already quoted in full in a previous post of mine (see November 7, 2009, 11.51am). A literal translation says "handing over authority". But some have translate it interpretively as "sharing authority".

Alternatively, you can use a search engine to search for that sutta (its very long).

Now, I must say that the Buddha describe his teaching as a gradual path, gradual training. (Uposatha Sutta, Udana 51; Kutthi Sutta, Udana 48; Kitagiri Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 70)

To quote Uposatha Sutta:

"Just as the ocean has a gradual shelf, a gradual slope, a gradual inclination, with a sudden drop-off only after a long stretch, in the same way this Doctrine and Discipline (dhamma-vinaya) has a gradual training, a gradual performance, a gradual progression, with a penetration to gnosis only after a long stretch."

It seems that links are not able to be provided in blogs. If you are interested to read more on this (the suttas quoted above), I will send you the link to your email.

Being a gradual path, it become self-explanatory for most of your questions. Buddhism is quite realistic, in the sense that, it avoids the "everybody does it" fallacy (eg. what if everyone became a surgeon).

To put it another way, Buddha doesn't say, "everybody must be a celibate or a monk".

The Buddha, not only, taught about the path to Nibbana, but he also taught about morality, about heaven, about laylife (for example, about the relationship between husband and wife).

There is a Zen saying, "Before enlightenment (or training), mountain is mountain, water is water. During enlightenment (training), mountain is water, water is mountain. After enlightenment (training), mountain is mountain, and water is water again."

It is the same mountain and water, but the perspective changed.

What the Buddha was talking about is the mind in meditation. Its not a male mind or female mind. Its just mind. It doesn't mean that the Buddha is advocating that women should acts like men (eg, wearing only trousers, and exposing the upper body [again, this depends on the cultural values too; here I mere give an example])

It is the quality of the mind. For example, gender only has meaning while in the world, not after death.

Another example would be while the Buddha taught about anatta-selflessness, he still speaks of "I", "You" etc. It is mere expression (Samyutta Nikaya I.25] . It only has meaning in the world.

In the Theregatha, those enlightened nuns still refer to themselves as women.

Rahula said...

Hi Jonalyn,

Allow me to say or add a few things.

From the Buddhist perspective, form (body) and mind are interdependent. They could not exist independently. (You could say, when body arises, mind arises; when mind arises, body arises).

But the mind, by itself is genderless. One of the purpose of meditation is to develop a selfless mind. A mind that does not cling or attached to the body. (I am not talking about a mind going separate way; not in this sense)

The Buddha differentiates two types of nibbana, one when the Arahant is still alive in this world, and another one, after death.

So, what this bring us (bearing in mind the Zen saying) is that, a women Arahant living in the world, will still identify herself as a female, and vice versa.

Its like saying, before training, man is man, women is women. During training, man and women is the same, And after training, man is man, and woman is woman again. But the perspective changes. And after death, there is no more man and women.

Hmm...I wonder if I mange to make myself clear. Hehe....

You wrote:

"I do understand that it was a cultural norm for a spiritually inclined person to take a vow of celibacy in Buddha's time, however, if Buddha's path was supposed to awaken us to the reality he had found, he would not be limited by cultural norms"

That is true, if you are referring to Siddhatha becoming a renunciant, leaving his wife. But these happened before he was "awakened to the reality he found".

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In the custom of his days, and I believe it is still the custom of Indians today, when a man become a renunciate, no divorcing is involved.

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If the Buddha came back, and take Yasodhara as his "sexual patner", it will defeat the purpose of his quest, and contradict his realization.

I do not think an arahant could have any sexual urge. The arahant have boundless love towards all beings though.

I was told that the joy and pleasure of jhana (meditative states) are superior to sexual pleasure.

"You could even argue God made humans to be married more than to wanted them to be single."

I would say that procreation is the goal of evolution (or should I say, part of it).

"I would expect Buddha to also renounce any cultural prohibitions that were in the way of his teaching."

I suppose he could. But I believe he must have thought that his teaching is best delivered in the cultural context. In fact, a unique characteristic of Buddhism is how it adapts to the different cultures. Buddhism, practice in a certain culture, may look or appear,different altogether in another culture. But once the cultural adaptations is removed, it is the same.

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The purpose of life, in Buddhism, is not to avoid suffering (it cannot be avoided), but to be happy. Nibbana is described as the highest hapinness.

Buddhism, being a gradual path, allow us to decide our meaning of life as we progress in the gradual path. I see that life is meaningless. And because its meaningless, we are able to give meaning to life. Different individual at different stages in life would have different meaning for themselves.

Rahula said...

Hi Jonalyn,

"...if Buddhism asks us to get beyond our desires and sexual differences (male/female) how does this not empty our human lives of meaning, since it asks all meaningful distinctions......"

The meaning of life would vary along the path.

Again, relinquishing desire is a gradual training. For example, desire for Nibbana is also a desire. But it is reliquish only at the very end of the path.

An arahant, having obtained the highest happiness (nibbana), what else would he desire? An arahant motivation is then, purely compassion and love.

That does not mean an arahant could not relate to his family members, such as parents or children. The Buddha, gave his inheritance (the realization of Nibbana) to Rahula, when asked for it.

The Buddha's father, Suddhodana died as an arahant, but he remain a ruler/ king (or chieftain) until his death.
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P.S. I may have not provided scriptural quotation for some of my discussion. If one wish to have them, my email is rahula_80@yahoo.com

Rahula said...

Hi,

"If Buddhism is concerned with facing reality as we find it....."

I think reality here refer to the three characteristic of existence: impermanence/inconstant (anicca), suffering/stress (dukkha) and anatta (not-self) [Dhamma-niyama Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya 3.134]

Bhikkhu aggacitto said...

Hi Jonalyn!
I know that I've already signed off
with my last comment but.......
P.S.
I just wanted to make a note of the fact that when I was discussing
the book of Leviticus Ch.12 I was not trying to say or imply anything demeaning or negative about the ministry of Jesus,I was only looking for us all to better understand why of the 12 disciples
that Jesus picked himself to be his 12 disciples not one was a woman. I was seeking to do that by looking at his cultural situation at the time.

I have touched down for a few days and will be headed off for India some time soon to help give the message of the Buddha dhamma.

I do apologise to you as well as
your husband Dale if I have offended either of you. I can speak strongly sometimes when I call it the way that I see it,and perhaps it would be better if I
develop more of a soft touch when it might be best adviseable.

Thank you so much for the constructive conversation!


Bhikkhu aggacitto

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Rahula,

In answer to your questions above
1- yes often these are the verses used by Christians who choose to be celibate be they monks, nuns or just unmarried by choice.

2-Thank you for the Sutta reference. This blog makes link sharing more difficult. I am switching over to wordpress in the next month, but for now you can just copy paste the link and I can do the same to find it. I would be interested in the link for the Buddha's gradual path

3- I would say that I'm beginning to better understand how gender melts away after death according to the Buddhist. I would counter that the Christian teaching is that gender does not melt away after death (Matt 22:30 notwithstanding) since after death experiences of people, such as Moses, Elijah and Samuel were gendered. Even Jesus, with his new body, was distinctly male after his resurrection.

4- I guess the Theregatha reference to nuns still referring to themselves as women even once enlightened confuses me. Is gender (like "I") just a device for this world? Does gender only have meaning for this world? One thing that has attracted me to Christianity is that our flesh/bodies, our groundedness to this earth (we are made from dust in Gen 2) means that our attachment to this physical earth and our physical bodies is a good thing. This is why our God became human flesh, not to make us into spiritual beings but to redeem/remake/reforge our physical/spiritual existence on this earth.

Jonalyn Fincher said...

Continuing to respond to Rahula's comments
1- I see the difference more clearly now. Buddhism says the mind and body cannot exist independently. Christianity says they can. Paul talks about not wanting to be naked from his body, but he knows he will still exist and see God without his body (2 Cor 5:2).

A timeline with explanation might be helpful. According to most Christians, every person gets one chance to live and die (Hebrews 9:27). After death we live as a spirit until God returns to this earth and remakes our bodies (2 Cor 5:1). This is called our resurrected body and is like Jesus' body (1 John 3:2-3).

That said, if one of the purposes of Buddhism is to develop a selfless mind and to learn that gender is not part of the Buddhist's experience during training and not after death....then I'd say a distinct difference between Buddhism and Christianity is that one of the purposes of Christianity it to develop a mind fully aware of it's creatureliness (Isaiah 64:8 "You are the potter, we are the clay."), aware of our gender (Job 19:26, "And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God"), aware of it's dependence on God and out of this to develop a relationship that is I-thou, with God (John 17:3). So flesh/body distinctions still matter to God in Christianity, whereas Buddhism removes gender and the self (anatta) after death.

Would you say that this is a fair way to state a significant difference, Rahula?

2- An Arahant could not experience sexual desire or pleasure. This is interesting. In most of the Bible sexual love is used as an analogy of God's love for us, bride/bridegroom, husband/wife, not as a contrast to the pure love of the spiritual realm. Again I see that the Jewish/Christian faith is essentially grounded in the physical world. One Jewish author put it like this.


“The human creature is not only spiritual but material. If God had chosen to engage the human creature only in the spiritual aspect of its being, then the greater portion of what constitutes humanity would have been left out of the relation with God. By electing Israel, God chose to embrace a people in the fullness of its humanity. In this way, God confirms the human creature as it was created to live in the material cosmos.”
--from "The God of Israel and Christian Theology" by R. Kendall Soulen p 6

Thank you for clarifying how the purpose of Buddhism is not to avoid suffering but to be happy. That is helpful for understanding it better!