That's not the point of this post which is actually about heaven. See in this book about India, there is a chapter on Buddhism since Siddhartha Gautama came out of this region. So Gautama was the son of a lord and his father was fearful that if his son saw suffering people, he would become an ascetic.
1. a person who dedicates his or her life to a pursuit of contemplative ideals and practices extreme self-denial or self-mortification for religious reasons.2. a person who leads an austerely simple life, especially one who abstains from the normal pleasures of life or denies himself or herself material satisfaction.
Right. Since everyone loves denying himself pleasures to live in solidarity with those suffering.
Or maybe people back then and there were this way? It seems not Gautama's father however, if he was willing to remove any suffering person from his midst so his son wouldn't happen to realize some people are poor, some are sick, some are physically challenged by blindness and deafness and distorted limbs.
I just don't see it now. But I am from the United States in a society where most people are more concerned that the transmission went out on their car or their harddrive crashed than the fact some people in the world listen to their children cry themselves to sleep at night because they are starving.
Maybe Indians in those years before Christ were more intune with the suffering of mankind? *shrug*
Ah, heaven. Let me get back on track. So from the talk about Buddhism in this book I get the idea that we were born to suffer or rather "to live was to suffer." I guess this means suffering is common to humankind and that makes some sense. I know no one immune from suffering to some degree or another.
But then I read about the ultimate goal - nirvana - which the author says literally means "extinction." You are completely released from all desires never to be reborn again. Therefore: you are extinct.
Ah, sorry, but that does not sound good to me. Yes, if I were starving to death, a really long sleep might sound good. But to be utterly extinct? Does that not go against the natural longing* of humanity who wants to live forever? Why do we take vitamins and eat rice cakes and exercise and use anti-wrinkle cream? Why do we undergo face lifts and search for that proverbial fountain of youth?
I guess it's because we aren't Buddhists. But still.
We put animals on endangered species lists. We speak of extinct things with some melancholy. We procreate! (Well, not me, but I am abnormal in this regard..ha! My contradictory life amuses me!)
Extinction as our goal seems so, so not-human to me!
Maybe I have found the "otherness" that I cannot abide. Extinction as my goal for eternity. No thank you.
How about you? And while we are on the subject of heaven -- well, sort of. What do you think of it? Islam describes it in very earthly-sensual terms: fine wine, fine food and fine women. Revelation in the New Testament shows it more worshipful: all nations, tribes and tongues surrounding God's throne in praise and worship. Eastern Orthodoxy gives me the impression it's being in God's presence and "one" with Him (whatever that means). My preacher firmly believes heaven will be far grander than anything on earth and not the boring place some imagine where we will sit around on clouds eating grapes. I wonder how it really is.
* Yes, I speak as one who believes God has put eternity in our hearts so we desire to live, we struggle for it! And this fact makes me so not a Buddhist where my goal is to rid my heart of desires including the desire to live.
Aaaaaand I must say for those of you who have heard me say (or write) sometimes I wish I were never born (hey, to live is to suffer!), you might wonder why I think this way. Well, since I'm already born, it doesn't mean I want to now die. Especially if I believe what I do about the eternality of the soul. C.S. Lewis says we are souls with bodies...not the other way around. So where will my soul be a thousand years from now? Extinct?