Religion Through the Ages

You cannot avoid the interplay of politics within an orthodox religion. This power struggle permeates the training, educating and disciplining of the orthodox community. Because of this pressure, the leaders of such a community inevitably must face that ultimate internal question: to succumb to complete opportunism as the price of maintaining their rule, or risk sacrificing themselves for the sake of the orthodox ethic.

Frank Herbert’s Dune

Found this amusing comic by Tom the Dancing Bug recently. It’s a parody of superhero “reboot” movies that are now popular in Hollywood, but in this comic God (in the Judaeo-Christian sense) is also a kind of super-hero.

What’s interesting is that it makes a good point that idea of God has changed and evolved over time because it “reflected the conception of ultimate power in that era’s imagination”.

  • Bronze Age – God as the supreme warrior.
  • Medieval Times – God as a demanding, feudal ruler.
  • Rennaisance – God as a rational king.
  • Industrial Age – God as a kind of C.E.O and “lever-puller”.

….and so on.

If you think about it, this is true with all religions. Even Buddhism.

In ancient India, he was a great sage and ascetic. Centuries later the Buddha in India was not a historical person, but the Dharmakaya, the embodiment of the Dharma itself. Yet more centuries later in China, Buddhist teachings emphasized Confucian-values like conduct and filial piety. In the West, the Buddha is now more rational, less magical and a kind of “spiritual psychologist”. It’s the same cultural pattern: people project their idea of the Buddha (and Buddhism) based on that society’s conception of what the ideal person is.

But it reminds me of a passage from a Buddhist text called Diamond Sutra:

The Buddha: “Subhūti, what do you say? Can one discern the Tathāgata by means of his bodily characteristics?”

Subhūti: “No, World Honored One. One cannot see the Tathāgata by means of bodily characteristics. Why not? The bodily characteristics taught by the Tathāgata are actually not bodily characteristics.”

The Buddha said to Subhūti: “All things that have characteristics are false and ephemeral. If you see all characteristics to be non-characteristics, then you see the Tathāgata.”

Something to think about. 🙂


Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

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