My Arguments with Organized Religions, Including Buddhism

Feeling some joy while sitting in Zazen, sometimes happy,
my ruminating mind struggles, suffering, not satisfied
wondering whether I will ever understand,
and whether I should try to escape, or find a better escape.

My understanding labels distractions that should not bother me, but do,
while my gainful mind should not but still hopes to transcend.
If "I" can just be honest, will enlightenment permeate? Am "I" a delusion?
Letting go, will there be perfect illumination and enlightenment?

In my Catholic childhood, I learned
that the objective of life was to get into heaven after death.
Non-Catholics could not get into heaven,
and the only permanent alternative was hell.

I doubted, since even to my childish mind it seemed
God would create my playmates and then condemn them.
Nevertheless some distinctions took hold,
my foundation for growing bigotry and prejudice.

Contempt came naturally in World War II for Japs and Germans,
and later for others, drunks, natives and Indians,
I judged my teenage peers by looks, sex, popularity, smarts, and strength.
and in college saw most fields, and work, as unworthy of attention.

I conditioned myself to take responsibility for accomplishments
in competing and comparing myself to others, and surpressed fear and shame when I fell short.
These neurotic tendencies flourished in school, projects, careers, and even families,
but are they self-inflicted, or determined by social environment and inheritance?

Clearly we all have beliefs that are connected to such tendencies.
Insisting on one's individual identity, as opposed to interbeing?
Belief in a permanent identity, a Self or Soul, is in part neurotic.
Neurotic tendencies will transcend death, particularly within families.
I will die (possibly being subsumed into the source, or burning in hell),
but my neurotic attachments will survive insofar as I have influenced others.

Yet ultimately we are not responsible
we do not cause ourselves, nor do we create ourselves
instead we live within families, communities, and social influences
that largely determine our success or failure, and even our neuroses.

Many organized religions claim The true teachings.
Christ for example reportedly said something like
"there is no way to the Father except through me".
Catholicism insists on its being the one true church.

Where Christ talked about the Father (as God),
Zen may instead talk about Truth, Reality, Source, or suchness.
Reincarnation is a cornerstone of many eastern religions.
Determinism (i.e., that the future is preordained) is also an Eastern tradition.

Thich Nhat Hahn argues that any notion, including the notion of reincarnation, is an attachment.
There are no particular rules, beliefs, or commandments in Buddhism, and no central authorities.
One author, Stephen Batchelor, in "Buddhism without Beliefs", describes
Buddhism is something one does, and what one does reflects Buddhism.
But the practices are open to interpretation, teachings differ widely,
there is no central Buddhist authority or organization,
(although there are many national and sectarian centers within Buddhism).

Joeseph Goldstein's "One Dharma", beautifully describes Buddhism from a unified, western perspective.
Bhante Henepola Gunaratana' book, "Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness", describes Buddha's Eightfold Path in more detail.
Basic Buddhist guidelines are listed in my Buddhism in a Nutshell
Poems, Mind and Meditation

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