For quite some time now I've been contemplating this religious shit flinging that has taken place recently in the form of book burning. It always nice to see that the pious, monotheistic religions of the west have not allowed the purely materialist act of book burning go out of style. These people have obviously taken their eye off the ball when it comes to the spiritual well-being of the planet and its inhabitants. Religion can, in fact, be very beneficial to a society when utilized properly. The problem with institutionalized religion is the idea that the dogmas set forth by religious authorities, are not in any way shape or form, perversions of the doctrine, and that the doctrine being interpreted is divinely inspired, and thus an infallible guide to living life. Alan Watts was once asked by a radio announcer, "Don’t you think that if there is a truly loving God, He would given us a plain and specific guide as to how to live our lives?” he knew that the man was referring to the Bible and replied, “On the contrary, I think a truly loving God would not stultify our minds. He would encourage us to think for ourselves."
Although it may be true that many of these writings contain some form of the teachings of Moses, Jesus or Mohamed, it is irresponsible to assume that the pen-holders did not inject some of their personal beliefs into the mouths of these men, or that some statements may have been distorted unintentional and lost in translation. All religious text from the Qur'an to the Bible and even eastern text, such as Hindu Bhagavad Gita or Buddhist Bardo Thodol (Book of the Dead), contain teaching that can help guide some to a more spiritually loving path. I find it really disheartening when individuals use the dogma of interpreters, such as St. Augustine, to condemn people as unfaithful sinners. All of these ideologies that have been handed down to us are rarely question. I would consider this a failure of moral courage, and a transgression on the human soul. I doubt Jesus would waste his time concerning himself with things such as “Original Sin” or the idea that accepting him as the son of God was the only path toward salvation. Many people consider me odd and eccentric, but I think my idea of of who Jesus was is closer to the true nature of Christ and his message to humanity, dogma and doctrine aside.
First, it is important to point out that many people are labeled non-believers by the so called “Faithful”, when they question the dogma erected in the name of Jesus Christ or any other religious figure, or what many consider to be messengers of God, or what I think is more appropriate “couriers of the Universe”. One thing that people seem to forget is that Jesus was quite the questioner himself. Many seem to forget that he spent a lot of time questioning Judaism, which is most apparent in narratives like the The Money Changers, where Jesus quotes from the Torah by exclaiming, "The Scriptures declare, 'My Temple will be called a house of prayer,' but you have turned it into a den of thieves!”.(Isaiah 56:7, Jeremiah 7:11) This seems to be a staple in the teaching of Jesus, which is the fundamental idea that materialism has no place in a temple, intended solely for communion with God. If anything it is the materialism that distracts us from uniting with the divine. Therefore, by allowing materialism into the temple, in the form of the merchants and money changers, a place where people went to commune with god, the leaders of the temple were undermining the basic spiritual function of the temple.
It is interesting to point out that the spiritual teaching inherited from many of the spiritual leader's that have presented themselves in the history of mankind, have epitomized similar spiritual tenets. From Jesus and Socrates, to Buddha and Gandhi they have all had similar underlying ideals. All of which, with the exception of Buddha, were killed subsequently. The disparity in this trend was pointed out by Bill Hicks when he said, “It's just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … Jesus - murdered; Martin Luther King - murdered; Malcolm X - murdered; Gandhi - murdered; John Lennon - murdered; Reagan... wounded.” It seems that the western mind has a tendency to over value life, and fear death even though they are one in the same. There is a grace in these “preachers of peace” deaths who, as some would say, had a lot more to give, but I guess the universe thought differently.
I think the most profound teaching, that a person like Jesus had to offer humanity, was in his death, but not in the traditional way that we have been lead to believe. I think Jesus demonstrated his philosophy of anti materialism most profoundly in his self sacrifice. I don't see Jesus' death as a provocation of the sacrifice that Jewish prophecy predicted, or the idea perpetuated by an institution like the Catholic Church, that Jesus was dying for the world sins. Our body is what connects us to the material world and, as Gnostics believed, was the final obstacle in the way of our inevitable reunion with god, or more precisely the universe. It as if Jesus wanted us to know that we should never fear death, or we may forget to live.
I think the attempt of preserving the material body, as observed in the funerary processes of traditional Judaism and Christianity are a bit morbid and far from practical. It is an attempt to persevere a vessel, a mere shell of a person, in attempt to preserve the essence of that person, even though the essence goes much deeper then the skin and the body, and leaves after we die. Our body is animated by the energy, which may radiate from our soul, or true self, which many refer to as the “Spirit” or essence of a being. There is really no need to preserve the entirety of an empty vessel, unless you are materialistic. Furthermore, the amount of money spent on these frivolous ceremonies is just another aspect of this misguided materialism.
On the other hand, when compared to the funerary practices of eastern religions, which may be seen as morbid to the western mind, is far more practical and much more captivating. Of the many forms of eastern burials I find the sky burial most intriguing. This is a practice in Tibet wherein a human corpse is cut in specific locations and placed on a mountaintop, exposing it to the elements or the mahabhuta and animals, especially to birds of prey. A sky burial, or Jhator, is considered an act of generosity on the part of the deceased, since the deceased and surviving relatives are providing food to sustain living beings. Generosity and compassion for all beings are important virtues or paramita in Buddhism. I hope that one day my remains can be disposed of in this fashion, as George Carlin once said, "If we're going to recycle, let's get serious!"
Materialism, in a nut shell, is a very narrow and bleak philosophy for simple minded people. It over values the external world, and neglects the internal world, or at least fails to unite body, mind and spirit in a more psychologically healthy union. Much like the great spiritual teachers before me, I view the material world as a world of illusion; inherit with the spiritual trappings of mankind. As Nikos Kasantzakis stated so eloquently in the Epilogue for The Last Temptation of Christ:
“Within me are the dark immemorial forces of the Evil One, human and pre- human; within me too are the luminous forces, human and pre-human, of God— and my soul is the arena where these two armies have clashed and met.
The anguish has been intense. I loved my body and did not want it to perish; I loved my soul and did not want it to decay. I have fought to reconcile these two primordial forces which are so contrary to each other, to make them realize that they are not enemies but, rather, fellow workers, so that they might rejoice in their harmony, and so that I might rejoice with them.”
-The Dead Guy