Hell is Not Real.

17 Apr

In Jewish tradition, hell is sheol, or the grave. Ask a Jew if a physical hell exists, and the rabbis won’t find it discussed in the Torah. Why, then, does hell play such a large role in Christianity and even Buddhism.

My answer is a simple one: Zoroastrianism and Greco-Roman mythology.

At one point in history, the Persian empire spread across Asia and influenced future empires, such as the Greco-Roman world in Europe and Asian countries such as India and Nepal, the area where the Buddha attained enlightenment.

Zoroastrianism contains a dualistic perspective and pre-dates Christianity. The cosmological realms of Zoroastrianism contain the loving spirit of wisdom, Ahura Mazda, and spirit’s evil counterpart, Angra Mainyu, who may be represented as the Christian Satan who tempts human beings and fights harshly against loving kindness as represented by Ahura Mazda.

This dualism exists in all religions obviously, but Zoroastrianism and Greco-Roman mythology have created these characteristics that ultimately have defined the cosmological systems of Christianity, even though most Jews do not believe in hell, including the Christian Jew Jesus Christ.

There are many websites arguing that the Book of Revelation represents a clear understanding of heaven and hell, the great Satan, and the war between goodness (God) and evil (Satan), but most credible scholars and theologians know this apocalyptic book is written after the destruction of the Jewish temple and directly engages the Roman empire. The great Satan is Rome itself, or more specifically, the emperor Nero.

Of course, Christians have taken this apocalyptic story, directed specifically to a particular historical event, and have interpolated it as the future apocalypse. It makes for a great story.
Jesus (or the other messiahs in Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism) returns to overcome the evil created on this earth and restores justice and peace for eternity.

However, we have a problem. A major problem. Human beings are the great Satan. According to Jewish tradition, the soul is pure and untainted by evil. What, then, is evil? Our selfish nature. Our free will allows our selfish nature to perform atrocities. In Buddhism, hell is a mental state for many Buddhist adherents. If it is a physical place, imagine how one feels during suffering. Do we not feel our body’s reaction to suffering. Therefore, we can certainly argue that a mental state impacts our physical body.

How can a loving God or Jesus incarnate punish human beings at all? This question drives many believers away from religion, but the larger question is one I think any God or Devil cannot cause. How can a loving human being cause so much suffering for herself and for others? That question needs a resolution, and the answer lies within that perfect, untainted soul the Jewish theologians define as the perfected state or, as some Buddhist call it, our Buddha nature!


Apartment Dharma 3: Adjustment is the Meditation

13 Apr

Since moving, my blog and meditation practices have waned. I do not feel guilty. In fact, I have been watching the progression of time as I prepare my new home. In other words, I am still meditating.

What have I noticed over the past month?

1. I am aware of habitual behavior when I change locations. Even the streets I walk and drive are now different ones. The abruption of habitual behavior means I notice the process of social conditioning and how it takes shape in a few hours.

2. The daily observation of life places me directly into primal awareness. Though the wind may be different at the apartment than the home, the new location allows me to touch the wind again. Taking the wind for granted, for example, keeps me away from its soothing shape. For example, it is like living near a train track. At first, the train is noticed as the windows shake. Years later, the train passes without the ears hearing the same noises. Thus, my surroundings interact deeply within my pores. I dare not look away.

3. People care. Though I have furniture, clothes, and so forth, my friends and family have offered me anything from their homes…for free! People love me. People love you as well and are there to support us no matter the condition. Langston Hughes writes, “My soul runs deep like a river.” I see my friends’ soul open and awake. We are interconnected to each other without barrier!

4. I have focused more on parenting my son, connecting with my brother, and enjoying the simple aspects of life. Though I have cable television, which I mainly purchased for my son’s addiction to SpongeBob Squarepants, I listen to basketball games on the radio. I send morning texts to my brother because we both wake up early. And, my son and I sit on the floor together; while I grade, he works on his homework. Other times, we eat at a local restaurant and finish homework together. In the past, he completed his homework in the kitchen, while I worked at the office or Starbucks. The new schedule allows for more connection between us.

5. Every other evening, I sit on the apartment ground (near the front door) and sweep the day’s debris of wood chips, dried grass, and other blowing trash. It is my zen time! I simply sweep with a small brush and empty the debris into a trash bag. It is my meditation time as well. Each stroke of the brush is a movement of direct awareness into the nature of things. There are no problems to solve. There is just movement.

I am sure there are other messages I have learned over the month, but these ideas seem to be the pattern of my life. I still am doing my “Tibetan” or Vajrayana practices but with more emphasis and intention instead of length. If I move again, I await my future lessons with optimism.


Apartment Dharma Revisited

30 Mar

A new beginning means seeing the world’s empty consumerism and its drive to place us there.

My son laughs at my lack of trash cans in the apartment. In the bathroom rests a trash bag left over from groceries, while another bag sits in the extra part of the sink I rarely use. Who needs to purchase trash cans?

During the weekend, my son and I sat on the floor to eat and play video games. Yes, I have a television and Internet for the purposes of work, but I lived a full week here without either. I sat on the floor or relaxed on the bed with the full knowledge that richness lies within our spirit.

Today, I strolled down a busy street without a sidewalk and listened to the traffic enter into the winds. I don’t know the sound of cars speeding into the thick air. The two collisions remind me of a kind of displacement or competition between nature and human invention. We’ve come so far, yet the method of nurturing one another still seems desperately isolated in this postmodern earth realm.

I now type on my phone and know I’ll be using ideas tomorrow to communicate with my students. We are working on solving the social problems in our lives, yet all I wish to discuss is the concept of simplification.

Think about nothing in particular.

“Let the wind blow through your spirit,” as the band The Choir sings.

Allow our friends to know their significance.

Speak softly. Whisper. Don’t carry a big stick at all.

Become smaller and more compact like a beautiful rock.

Let the tea kettle whistle.


The Birds

22 Mar


Great blog entry on stress!

Originally posted on undeaddad:

hitchcock-birds There’s this image that plagues me most nights as I’m trying to drift off to sleep. I see birds swarming my body, concentrating around my head. It’s like a personal Hitchcokian-horror show. The perimeters of my being start to blur, as the birds begin swarming in and out of my cranium, like parakeets fighting for a roost.

At that point, some semi-conscious part of myself imagines putting a shotgun to my head and blasting the little demons right out of there. This imagined action is paired with a pining for release, freedom, and quiet.

I have this semi-dream most often when I’m overwhelmed, and have given it lots of thought.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the birds are my thoughts, my worries, constantly circling around my brain. None of them find a roost or discover a quiet place to land. Instead, they’re all fluttering around, restless. These embodied thoughts…

View original 376 more words


21 Mar

Originally posted on One None Gets Some:

I’ve read that Zen Buddhism is as much about unlearning as it is learning. It offers a process of removing “the veil.” We can begin to see the world with fresh eyes, without all the interpretation and beliefs we’re accustomed to glopping on top of everything. I think all religion, at its best, strives to offer a path to a new perspective. There’s a saying about this. Before studying Zen, mountains and rivers are mountains and rivers. While studying, they are no longer these things. Further down the path of enlightenment, they are again mountains and rivers.

Yet, I’m not ready to abandon my thinking—the jurisdiction of my “little I”—altogether. Like my Zen master pointed out, I need it and her. What would I write about if not for the realm of ideas? How would I get it written? But I can see the importance of coming back to the present…

View original 246 more words

Shift your Paradigm!

20 Mar

In graduate school, I read parts of Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. At the time, I found the book fascinating. To a certain degree, Kuhn argues that science contains a relative perspective when, in reality, we wish to perceive science as the new god—the omniscient interpreter of the universe.

Kuhn is not interested in arguing against scientific laws; he provides instead a logical progression of science. Sometimes better forms of science arrive to explain the universe, whereas the former laws are displaced or are no longer as useful. He calls this idea a paradigm shift.

I like the book because if we remain in one paradigm of knowledge, then how do we explore new ideas?

When discovering the various terms in Buddhism, I find that skepticism is first and foremost a foundational experience for growth. In Tibetan Buddhism, the “script” is too often mechanical and mundane for me to flourish as a Buddhist.

Step 1. Contemplate your Precious Human Life.

I grew up Protestant, and even the childhood songs I remember singing in church were scripted. At some point, I sat alone in my treehouse and wrote my own scripts. I did not change the script that much from the original, but unless we can script our own message, I don’t see much opportunity to contemplate the deeper questions of our reality.

Tibetan Buddhism is an oral and written tradition, and like many religious institutions, one follows the steps. However, to face the paradigm shift in reality that Kuhn engages, we must crack open the traditional script and find our path through the help of a teacher, a spiritual friend, and through our steps.

I am still reading the script because I have yet to transcend the script. In the past month, I have gone through many opportunities to crack the code of me. I lost my grandmother and uncle to old age and disease and had the opportunity to contemplate death and my precious life. Life is impermanent; I see it in the corpses of my relatives! Also, I have started a new life, so to speak, without my family’s home. We lost our home to the whims of the owners, and now we stand beyond our traditional comfort zone.

With no zone to feel confident, we are forced to realize confidence in self-expression by standing proud and recognizing this entire existence represents a minor illusion or daydream in the grand scheme of our lives and the universe.

To conclude, Thomas Kuhn writes,

The crises of our time, it becomes increasingly clear, are the necessary impetus for the revolution under way. And once we understand nature’s transformative powers, we see that it is our powerful ally, not a force to feared our subdued.

Let’s wake up to the transformative power of selflessness. Let’s shift our paradigm to an evolving creature when the material world seems too powerful. In the end, we die. We leave our toys behind. And we rise toward a new birth and revolution of spirit that we cannot identify until we arrive there. Let’s spread our wings and get ready to engage the paradigm shift.

Ready, set, go!


I Am

18 Mar

The words currently do not flow. My pinkie finger rests on the delete button. Thoughts begin and flutter like a kite smacking into the grass.

I can walk though.

I walk the streets of Tulsa, my old stomping ground.

I can sit, too.

I sit in a Starbucks with my son. I look out the window and watch the wind sway the trees like drunk dancers.

Maybe there is nothing to say or think.

Just be alive. Breathe in. Breathe out. Don’t think. Don’t force. Don’t write elaborate sentences.

Make the sentence kick. That’s enough for now. My mood.

My life is a kite allowing the wind to kick itself into the dirt. I stay in dirt and still flutter my wings. The sound of flapping keeps me awake. The whistle of wind brings the pumping heart its purpose.

I am not melancholy. I am just am.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 154 other followers