2015, October 31
presentation at the
Catholic and Buddhist Luncheon at the
Dhamma Sarana Temple in Greens Road, Keysborough,
“Freedom and Slavery:
Interior and Outer aspects from Catholic and Buddhist perspectives”.
The typical attitude of the Christian is thanksgiving. Indeed, the central act of the Christian faith, in all traditions of Christianity, is Thanksgiving, which is also called the Mass or ‘Eucharist’ a Greek word that means ‘thanksgiving’. In fact before pronouncing the principal prayer or mantra of the Mass, the celebrant invites the people saying, “let us give thanks to the Lord our God”, and the people reply, “It is right and just to do so.”
It is thanksgiving for all, because all has been given. There is freedom and liberation from all that hold us down, from everything that holds us down in the state of suffering, what ever that might be. All has been accomplished through Jesus of Nazareth who has known the height and the depth, good and evil. He wished to experience he whole range of life and death so that he could be with all who have lived and all who have died.
Someone might object, well there is still suffering in the world, lots of people die by war and famine each day. Yes of course, but it is like when a battle has been won. There is a lot of work still to be done in making sure the peace benefits everyone. The essential victory has been won. We are in a situation of ‘already and not yet’. That is, the victory has been won; it now needs to be applied.
We need to purify our minds and actions. The victory needs to be applied in our own selves,, allowing the freedom that has been won to have its effects and rebuild our lives.
We can believe this because we have been taught. Not just with words, but we have been loved and treated with respect. This is true perhaps of our upbringing, but also of our experience of community. We know we are wanted and loved. The good news has been given to us and by the grace of God we believe it. We have the conviction of faith. Salvation has been given to us, we only need to realise it and live it out.
The result of this sense of freedom is that we need not crave for anything. If everything has been given, what could we crave for? There is the cessation of desire since all has been achieved. There is no need to grasp and fight and cling to anything because all is given. There is no need for aggression. We live in hope that we will experience liberation in every faculty and circumstance of our lives.
As a consequence, joy rises up in us. There is a peace and a good humour, a sense of compassion for others, and a deep humility. Because our God and our Church have treated us well, we can also be generous to others. The person who is truly free will make others free. Freedom is expansive and liberating. Inner freedom leads naturally to the wish to see freedom everywhere, and to liberate those who are prisoners in any way.
This has led to a tradition of service. What do the words ‘hospital’ and ‘hostel’ have in common? The all derive from the rule of hospitality, which the monks practised at a time when Europe was living in the Dark Ages, when the cities had collapsed, and there was no rule of law. The rule of service lead to the foundations of hospitals and universities. And again, the bishops of the Middle Ages spoke out against injustice. Even now, every year the bishops of Australia publish a Social Justice Statement. This year it dealt with ‘Justice for refugees and asylum seekers’. In a previous year it dealt with ‘The fight against world poverty’.
The work of ACRATH (Australian Catholic Religious Against Human Trafficking) is closely tied to their work imparting a right attitude and right conduct.
The converse is also true; if we are not free we cannot communicate freedom. If we are slaves to our passions and desires, then we will naturally enslave others. Unfortunately we see so much of this. We see people trying to dominate and take to themselves more than they are due. Greed and violence is all around us. This is the suffering of the world and it springs from the deep suffering of those who make others suffer. They think that are superior and triumphant, successful and glorious, but in fact they are deeply mistaken. Their minds and hearts are enslaved.
They are slaves to their emotions and their resentments; they are bound, and addicted. Their egos need constant boosting since they do not really respect themselves. They are never satisfied because they do not have the constant source of life welling up in them. What comes from outside can never satisfy. Inner springs are constantly nourishing, but this inner spring is unlocked only by knowledge of the truth. They are caught up in a gross individualism, where ‘I’, ‘mine’ and ‘me’ are the motives of their being. The live in fear of death and every form of loss, since they do not find the inexhaustible riches within themselves.
Our attitude to them is joy, but our joy becomes offensive to them since it shows what they do not have. They may resent us, but we do not fight back because we have inner security. As Jesus says, if a man strikes you on one cheek, turn the other to him; if he would take your cloak, give him your tunic as well; if he makes you walk one mile with him, walk a second mile with him. Do good to your enemies.
Those who are joyful in every circumstance become unbearable to those who do not have it. Those who have joy can see the lack of joy. They fill their lives with objects and adulation.
There is profound insecurity, and so they must fight. They are deprived in the deepest parts of their being and are unable to see this fact. They are blind to their blindness.
They are not free. Therefore they deprive others of freedom and do not need even notice it. They do not see what this says about themselves. They think they are successful but they are profoundly failures.
The attitude of the Christian is not to condemn but to enter into the lives of such people, to be with them in their profound sorrow. This is the work of compassion.
Jesus is profoundly compassionate. This is said famously by St Paul in the ancient hymn where he speaks of Jesus being in the form of God and not clinging to this equality with God but emptying himself and taking on the human condition in all its weakness. He is humbled even to the point of being shamed and rejected by all and finally being crucified on a cross. But he wishes to be with all manner of people so that he might be a source of joy for them. He shares their sorrow so as to share out the riches of his own character.
Therefore Christians and many others acknowledge him as lord the one who brings truth and reconciliation and unity to humanity.
It is clear that the problems of our world can be solved only by the work of our religious tradition in leading people to their inmost truth, which will then have its effect on freeing people from their salery.
We share so much in common with the Buddhists for they too, following the example of the Buddha, wish to set people free from the suffering which arises from ignorance. The Buddha and Jesus Christ both bring good news to mankind. Both have had a huge impact creating whole civilizations. Our work as Buddhists and Christians will continue to have its effect. .