Yesterday, I left Woolworths in Musgrave Centre, via the main upstairs entrance and past the well-dressed but pervasive security man, who smiles lugubriously at you while simultaneously sweeping you with his shfty eyes for hidden Woolies goods. I heard a light and lilting song and turned to see a well-turned out and sprightly middle aged lady leaving with me.
"Wow! That's great! you're singing...", I said, smiling broadly.
"Well", she replied, hardly missing a note, "there's so many problems out there that this is what I do about it."
"One heck of a lot better than moaning or leaving", I remarked, still grinning.
"It doesn't help much tho' as nobody listens..."
"I am!...and I can assure you that now I will start to sing and that will make other people sing!" was my immediate response.
"That's wonderful...you obviously have Jesus in your life!"
"No!", I say, grinning even wider, "I sing without Jesus."
"But", and now she has stopped singing...."But, you do believe in Jesus?"
"No" say I, grinning as wide as possible now.
"Why NOT!!"...her tone is now direct and somewhat accusatory...we have both stopped in our tracks in the middle of Musgrave Centre.
"Because", say I, "people keep telling me that Jesus is alive but try as I might I cannot find him anywhere...".
"Oh he IS alive! I talk to him all the time!"
At this point I looked around in case any of my friends could see me talking to a looney and then strolled off, singing softly to myself.
I have been left with a real feeling that there must be some kind of path for people to follow that is not just damn stupid, like Christianity and the rest of the bunch. Something that can cater for people who are too scared to have the word 'átheist' or 'bright' attached to their CV, preferring some kind of more normal 'ism'.
Well, a little research in Adams Book Store comes uip with a viable altrernative. It's not quite a religion, but it is a perfectly respectable label to have if you keep having to answer the question: 'What church do you belong to?'
What we need for intelligent folk living in the 21st century is a belief system/philosophy that needs no gods, miracles or blind faith and is happy to change its dogma in the light of new scientific evidence....enter...Buddhism!
Quote from Dalai Llama:
'Älthough modern science and the Buddhist tradition grew out of quite different historical, cultural, and intellectual circumstances, I have found that they have a great deal in common. By some accounts, both traditions are motivated by an urge to relieve the hardships of life. Both are suspicious of notions of absolutes , whether these imply the existance of a transcendent creator or an unchanging entity such as a soul, preferring to account for the emergence of life in the world in terms of the natural laws of cause and effect. Both traditions take an empirical approach to knowledge.'
Says Alan Wallace, Buddhist scholar and veteran participant in Scientific dialogue with the Dalai Llama, 'Four themes are common to Buddhism at its best: rationality, empiricism, skepticism and pragmatism.'
Indeed the Dalai Llama is adamant the Buddhism has to yield to rational argument and empiricism. He often says that if there is empirical evidence that contradicts something in Buddhism, 'Into the garbage!'
And then there is Jose Cabezon, dept of Religion and Science, Uni California (Santa Barbara).
He writes, 'Buddhism subscribes to the view that there are natural laws that govern the development of both persons and the world....Buddhism (is a) non-theistic tradition, with no creator god and no need for explanations that go beyond that of science, there being no need for miracle or faith.'...'Buddhists stand to profit by gaining access to new facts concerning the material world - facts that have lain outside traditional Buddhist speculation due to technological limitations.'
The real cherry on the top of this option is that, like Christianity (and it's strange bedfellows), Buddhism also addresses the core challenge of ...DYING!
At i'ts most fundamental, Christians are simply told, 'Don't worry, you don't actually die. You just go into another room where you will sit forever at a long table with Jesus, Bishop Tutu and 12 hippies'.
Buddhism instead, gives you an actual tool, that if used correctly really removes the trauma and pain of death and allows one to easily cross over from the living world to the dead one (however you may see it). This is meditation, which if practiced over many years can not only give you great health and well being while alive but also ultimately put you in control of your own dying process.
Now, that's the one for me!!!!!