Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The self as illusion? (Updated)

EmpireStateMom and I have for years had an on-and-off again dialogue about religion. She's an Episcopalian with strong Quaker leanings (but, she'll want me to clarify, not a pacifist). Knowing that I have had a passing fancy with (not anything like a disciplined study or practice of) Buddhism, she passes on thoughts relating to her reading about that subject.

In the Christian Century she read a favorable review of a new book, Without Buddha, I Could not be a Christian, by Paul Knitter, and sent the review on to me.

In her letter, she explained her continued perplexity with the Buddhist notion that "the self" is "an illusion" and her conclusion from trying to understand that concept (from having read certain Buddhist books) that it was a religion "for elites."

I wrote back saying that I didn't perceive it that way at all, that from the little bit of reading I have done (primarily some slim volumes by Thich Nhat Hanh), my understanding is that it is the barriers between people that are illusory. I suggested that, to me, it was a concept very much congruent with the idea of the Kingdom of God as explicated by people like John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg (a favorite of hers, and lately, of mine).

Anyway. Checking out Monkey Mind today I came across this post from yesterday by James Ford. It said more clearly and articulately (and with far greater scholarship and spiritual experience behind it) what I was trying to tell ESM, so I printed it out and put it in the mail to her.

Update, Saturday, March 20, 2010

ESM called me this morning and said she was mistaken -- it was Hinduism she meant when she was talking about being "elitist," because of its caste system.

Oh, well...

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