Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Alpha and Omega

the uniqueness of each soul is a central belief of Christians.  we believe that we are each willed into being by the Creator.  the Buddhist concept of selflessness and emptiness is quite difficult for us who call ourselves Christians, and i am intrigued by these teachings that are somewhat foreign to my western mind.  there is great appeal in the idea that we continue in cyclic existence, learning from each cycle, increasing or decreasing our suffering according to the karma we generate through our actions and intentions, if i understand this aspect of the teaching correctly.  in a sense, in this system each being has multiple opportunities to move toward the perfection of enlightenment, and once reaching that enlightened state, one may choose to continue in the cycle for the benefit of others.

that is a kinder view of ultimate reality than the view of many Christians that we live this present life and are judged at the end based on our choices in this life, transitioning to an eternity of joy in the presence of God or to an eternity of unending suffering.  certainly, every Christian doesn't accept this teaching as the plan God has for humankind, but one hears it enough in Christian conversation and writing to suggest this teaching about the final judgment is central to many Christians.

these thoughts about the continuum for existence after death to the present life are digressions from what i intended in this post.  rather, my thoughts are about the unique "self."  what becomes of that self when its present life is over is germane to the question of whether "self" exists.  the answer to the question of the existence of the self as a unique soul, it seems to me, is one of the central distinctions between Christianity and Buddhism. the existence of self goes directly to the existence of a Prime Cause, a Creator-God, and the reason for creation.

if there is a Creator who wills all things into existence, a Great Mind that is the first cause of everything, then we exist because of that Creator.  it follows that because we have been created by that Divine Will, then we are each a unique "self," existing as a distinct soul.  i pray for God's leading in understanding the profound implications of faith in God's gift of creation, including the "i" that is my self, and for understanding of what the implications of "no-self" are in the teachings of the Buddha.

My prayer for each of us this day is that whatever truth we are led to will enable us to be the servants of one another, living as compassionate beings filled with loving-kindness.

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