a lesson in humility


While reading reviews for an interesting but rather misguided book entitled Confession of a Buddhist Atheist a certain sense of alarm comes to mind for those on the Path tainted by social conditioning and vast misunderstanding.  Today, there are some secular Buddhists that want to do away with reincarnation and karma because it doesn’t fit with their personal world-view.  Having such a wrong view emerge in the minds of these particular Buddhists is tolerable on one hand but so terribly sad in the end. 

Likewise, without believing in karma and rebirth can anyone really practice hard enough to achieve the results of salvation?

Later on I came across this thought-provoking article that brings tears to my eyes when I consider it.  This story is quite beautiful since we all can relate to it.  This man’s realization of his own limitations and intellectual pride changed his whole outlook on life.  Surely this was a blessing from the feminine aspect we call the dakini.

As I have said before, whenever the dakini principle manifests in our lives it is quite a blessing.  Whenever someone of greater faith and compassion crosses our path we are brought to great shame.  Yet, once we recognize our own shallow heart and deep arrogance it allows for a positive change to occur.

Buddhist Warrior writes:

I’ll share an experience of mine – One nice, warm, summer evening, about ten years ago, I was strolling down one of the back-streets of Chinatown in NYC, away from the crowds and traffic, and I was passing by a storefront.  Behind the front glass window of the small shop, sat a statue of the Buddha.  An elderly Asian woman seemed to appear out of nowhere.  She was approx 60 years of age, pencil thin to the point of emaciation, and very haggard and impoverished looking.

old lady bowing

She quickly stood facing the window, clasped her hands together as if in prayer, and quickly bowed three times to the Buddha’s image, before quickly disappearing once again, into the urban jungle of NYC’s Chinatown.

This occurred during the time I fancied myself somewhat of an Atheist-Scientist-Rationalist-Buddhist and for about ten minutes I thought to myself: How far superior is my understanding to her understanding?  Did she study the sciences and have an engineering degree?  Did she have huge book collection of western philosophers, eastern philosophers, advanced physics, and did she understand where Buddhism intersects and stands within that great pantheon?  Did she understand particle theory?  Dark matter?  String theory?  Plato?  Descartes?  Sartre?  All the great thinkers and philosophers of the ages?  All the intricacies of interdependent origination?

How dare she degrade and insult Siddhartha Gautama’s teachings by merely bowing to his image as if he were a common God of some sort, to be prayed to, revered and worshiped.  How dare this vile, tired, haggard, and skinny, old Asian woman, corrupt MY Buddhism with her primitive folk beliefs and her irrational superstition?  At that very moment, I was Stephen Batchelor.  I became Stephen Batchelor, or even worse!

Epiphany:

After ten minutes of such thought, I became literally nauseated, sick to my stomach, and ill because of myself and my big, fat, ego and proud sense of self.  And I had somewhat of an epiphany, regarding my own shallowness, egotism, ignorance, and lack of compassion.

With all my stone-cold reason, hard science, rational facts, and intellectual B.S., who was it for me to question, cast doubt upon, consider more ignorant or less informed, any person’s beliefs or practice?

Maybe that old, skinny, woman, knows more about Buddhism than I do.  Perhaps her practice and application of it is superior or more pure than mine.  Perhaps she has developed more positive karma in her life than I have or ever will.  Perhaps she could teach me many things about life and Buddhism.  Perhaps she is a kinder person than I.  Perhaps she is more compassionate than I.  Perhaps she has helped others more than I.  Perhaps she is further down `the path’ than I am.

At this point, I decided that I am not one to judge others in their beliefs and practices.  I can only say what is right for me, and my path, and my beliefs.  I am not here to denigrate anyone else’s path or write books claiming “mine is superior” for such and such reason…

Many Blessings!
Neo

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