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Post details: Bet on Tibet

Bet on Tibet

Doctrines that are not afraid to expose themselves to a bit of imperfection always seem more impressive than those that avoid any hints of potential fallibility and cling to whatever petrified dogma they profess. In words of wise and hoary sages: admitting a weakness is a sign of strength.

Today when I was reading TIME's article about Tibet, I came across the following snippet: "Always stressing that the Buddha's own words should be thrown out if they are shown by scientific inquiry to be flawed, the Dalai Lama is the rare religious figure who tells people not to get needlessly confused or distracted by religion".

There! What a refreshing attitude in the world where most ideological leaders still protect their immutable answer to everything, despite the fact that a static view has as much chance of reflecting the ever changing world as a car with a locked steering wheel has of negotiating a winding mountain road. Emboldened by their lack of understanding of physical world, they keep making pompous absolute claims only to be forced into embarrassing backpedaling by their own contradictions. And whether they come from a hard line communist, an Islamic fundamentalists or a senior worshiper in the Sect of Extreme Honey makes very little difference. Dalai Lama, on the other hand, dares to sow rare seeds into his spiritual field. The seeds of doubt.

Doubt is the artery that brings oxygenated blood to our mental tissues. Without it, we become intellectual zombies. Doubt is the backdoor through which emergency escapes can be made. Doubt is the inner skeptic kicking the tires of our principles before we really buy into them. And by that I do not mean the crippling doubt of pathological overanalyzers, but the healthy feedback loop which corrects the action, without stifling it. Sure we could all put on a make up of a happy face and drive off the dealer's lot with whatever car the salesman pushed on us, but it would be to our own detriment.

Sadly, many people choose to do just that anyway. They give up on personal responsibility and stop questioning the consequences of their actions. Replacing their own judgment with a giant reference to some divine abstract entity may be convenient, but the plastic veneer of unapologetic complacence they get in return will never quite substitute for a living conscience.

Another gem of the article came a few paragraphs later, in a passage where Dalai Lama admits directly that "even without a religion we can become a good human being", stressing that our deeds and demeanors themselves should determine our passage through the Pearly Gates. Once again, such tolerance is in sharp contrast to the world's major religions, whose tenets promise you sizzling hell if you even consider going to the church across the street or across the strait or - God forbid! - being spiritual on your own terms. In the jurisdiction of fiercely burning stakes, the individual actions are obviously relegated to playing the second fiddle. Choosing a specific embodiment of the divine authority is seen as key to your salvation and all the spiritual luminaries make sure you get the word - with sword if necessary.

In the past, some especially clever members of the clergy even made a little business of downplaying the virtues of proper behavior and started selling the so called "indulgences" as if to make a point: "you can really be a little bit bad, but hey - as long as you pay us some money your ticket to heaven is guaranteed". I wonder whether their descendants realize that guarding jealously the license to safeguard our moral well being doesn't really behoove an institution concerned with spreading the message of an omnipotent and loving superbeing. To an impartial observer, any such propaganda sounds more like a shtick of a desperate car salesman.

Despite all the fireworks, none of these churches really makes a convincing claim as to why you should choose them and not the one next door. Why are all of them so geographically localized and not universal? Doesn't it stand to reason that the All Powerful [fill in your favorite deity] would make His presence known to all people throughout the world which He himself created? Why should people who weren't exposed to the given religion be damned just because no missionaries visited their neck of the woods yet? I don't see what is on God's mind any more than a fly landing on my sleeve sees what is on mine, but I cannot believe that He would not care about how we manage the world he gave us to live in.

Imagine that you have two gardens and you consign them to two managers. One takes good care of the garden, waters the flower beds, prepares compost and mulch, prunes trees every year - he is so busy that you hardly ever hear from him. The other one barely fulfills his duties, but he keeps constantly pandering to you, calls you often to ask how you are doing, puts your name on a big billboard overlooking the garden and sends you a birthday card every year. Which of the two gardeners would you give better marks to?

I do not think that God is vane and I do not think he is all that hooked up on being worshiped, but I bet that he cares about how we tend to His garden. So my money in this regard rides on the wisdom of the ambassador from Tibet.

buddha

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