Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Study on Buddhism and the Existential theology of Jurgen Moltmann on the issue of Human Suffering

Buddha’s life and teaching
"May all that have life be delivered from suffering" Gautama Buddha
The following excerpts about the life of Buddha are taken from Geshe Kelsang Gyatso’s book, Introduction to Buddhism
The Young Prince
The young prince Siddharta grew up and he mastered all the traditional arts and sciences without needing any instruction. He knew sixty-four different languages, each with their own alphabet, and he was also very skilled at mathematics. He once told his father that he could count all the atoms in the world in the time it takes to draw a single breath. Although he did not need to study, he did so to please his father and to benefit others. At his father’s request he joined a school where, in addition to various academic subjects, he became skilled at sports such as martial arts and archery. The prince would take every opportunity to convey spiritual meanings and to encourage others to follow spiritual paths. At one time, when he was taking part in an archery contest, he declared, “With the bow of meditative concentration I will fire the arrow of wisdom and kill the tiger of ignorance in living beings.” He then released the arrow and it flew straight through five iron tigers and seven trees before disappearing into the earth! By witnessing demonstrations such as this, thousands of people developed faith in the prince.
Witnessing Suffering
Sometimes Prince Siddhartha would go into the capital city of his father’s kingdom to see how the people lived. During these visits he came into contact with many old people and sick people, and on one occasion he saw a corpse. These encounters left a deep impression on his mind and led him to realize that all living beings without exception have to experience the sufferings of birth, sickness, ageing and death. Because he understood the laws of reincarnation he also realized that they experience these sufferings not just once, but again and again, in life after life without cessation. Seeing how all living beings are trapped in this vicious circle of suffering he felt deep compassion for them, and he developed a sincere wish to free all of them from their suffering. Realizing that only a fully enlightened Buddha has the wisdom and the power to help all living beings in this way, he resolved to leave the palace and retire to the solitude of the forest where he would engage in profound meditation until he attained enlightenment.
Buddha’s Teaching on Liberation
Buddha understood suffering not as a consequence of sin like the human understanding but as the consequence of passion and desire that binds the human person. Buddha’s reaction to this was not harsh asceticism like the Hindu mystics but “the middle path” of moderation in all human endeavor. Thus he proposed the four noble truths of human reality and the noble eight path solution.
1. All is suffering (dukkha).
2. Suffering is caused by desire/attachment.
3. If one can eliminate desire/attachment, one can eliminate suffering.
4. The Noble Eight-fold Path can eliminate desire. Extremes of excessive self-indulgence (hedonism) and excessive self-mortification should be avoided.
1. Right Views.
The true understanding of the four noble truths.
2. Right Intent.
Right aspiration is the true desire to free oneself from attachment, ignorance, and hatefulness.
[These first two are referred to as prajña, or wisdom.]
3. Right Speech.
Right speech involves abstaining from lying, gossiping, or hurtful talk.
4. Right Conduct.
Right action involves abstaining from hurtful behaviors, such as killing, stealing, and careless sex.
5. Right livelihood.
Right livelihood means making your living in such a way as to avoid dishonesty and hurting others, including animals.
[The above three are referred to as shila, or morality.]
6. Right Effort.
Right effort is a matter of exerting oneself in regulating the content of one's mind: bad qualities should be abandoned and prevented from arising again; good qualities should be enacted and nurtured.
7. Right Mindfulness.
Right mindfulness is the focusing of one's attention on one's body, feelings, thoughts, and consciousness in such a way as to overcome craving, hatred, and ignorance.
8. Right Concentration.
Right concentration is meditating in such a way as to progressively realize a true understanding of imperfection, impermanence, and non-separateness.

The Theravada tradition of Buddhism teaches that everyone must individually seek salvation through their own efforts. To attain nirvana, one must relinquish earthly desires and live a monastic life. The meaning of the term nirvana, literally "the blowing out" of existence, is not entirely clear. Nirvana is an eternal state of being. It is the state in which the law of karma and the rebirth cycle come to an end - though Buddhist conceptions of personal (non-)identity make these notions problematic. Nirvana is the end of suffering; a state where there are no desires, and individual consciousness comes to an end. Attaining nirvana is to relinquish clinging, hatred, and ignorance. Its achievement entails full acceptance of imperfection, impermanence, and interconnectedness. Sometimes "nirvana" is used to refer to nothingness
( 24-08-2010)
Jurgen Motltmann’s life and theology
Jürgen Moltmann was born in Hamburg, Germany, on April 8, 1926. He was raised in a rather "enlightened secular" home; therefore, he underwent no very profound Christian socialization, but grew up with poets and philosophers of German Idealism: Lessing, Goethe and Nietzsche. He was, for the time being, far from Christianity, the church, and the Bible. On this account he has always thought that he must discover, learn, and comprehend for himself everything that others had already learned from an early age. Thus theology has always remained to him even until today an "incredible adventure."
Moltmann was drafted, at the end of 1944, into the German army at the age of eighteen to fight in World War II. At that time he took with him Goethe’s poems and Faust as well as Nietzsche’s Zarathustra as intellectual nourishment. He served as a soldier for six months before surrendering, in Belgium in 1945, to the first British soldier he met in the woods. For the succeeding three years he was confined to prisoner-of-war camps in Belgium, Scotland, and England. In the Belgium camp he saw how other prisoners collapsed inwardly, how they gave up all hope, sickening and dying for the lack of it. Moltmann was saved from the same fate only by a religious conversion that began in a POW camp in Belgium. When he was given a Bible—a copy of the New Testament and Psalms—by an American military chaplain, he started to read it behind barbed wire. Though he began largely out of boredom, he was surprised to find that the words of Scripture fed his imagination and emotional need. They opened his eyes to the God who is with the broken-hearted. Moltmann found the God who was present even behind the barbed wire.
After he returned to Germany in 1948, Moltmann began to study theology regularly at Göttingen University. He studied there under teachers strongly influenced by Barth; he imbibed thoroughly the theology of Karl Barth. Therefore, he initially became a disciple of the great master of dialectical theology. Later, however, he saw some need to move beyond the narrow understanding of Barth and "Barmen orthodoxy"—solus Christus—when he wanted to give positive answers to the political possibilities and cultural challenges of the post-war period. Thus he became highly critical of Barth’s neglect of the historical nature of reality, while remaining indebted to Barth. Moltmann could come out of the dilemma by D. Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison. From Ernst Wolf as well as from Bonhoeffer’s work he developed his concern for social ethics and the church’s involvement in society. In addition, he was also influenced by Luther and Hegel through Hans Joachim Iwand. Luther and Iwand convinced him of the liberating truth of the Reformation doctrine of justification and the theology of the cross; Hegel and Iwand helped him develop his dialectical interpretation of the cross and the resurrection. Moreover, he gained his solid grounding in biblical theology from Gerhard von Rad and Ernst Käsemann. Above all, Otto Weber, who supervised the doctorates of him and his future wife—Elisabeth Wendel, helped him gain the eschatological perspective of the church’s universal mission toward the coming kingdom of God.
(From my previous assignment on “The Christology of Jurgen Moltmann”- Main sourceürgen_Moltmann)
The Cross and the problem of suffering
Moltmann’s major theological inspiration is Martin Luther. Luther’s “theology of the cross” deals with the pain and death of God on the cross of Jesus Christ. Moltmann also borrows extensively from St Paul.
His major theme is the alienation of Jesus on the cross. Jesus died the death of the sinner so that the sinners might come into fellowship with God. God suffered on the cross of Jesus so that those who suffer in this life look upon the God who suffered and felt the pain and alienation of death and can identify themselves with him.
Moltmann also deals with paradoxes especially the Pauline paradox of “In my weakness is his strength made whole…” The God who died on the cross derives his strength and his life from his suffering on the cross.

Socrates died as a wise man. Cheerfully and calmly he drank the cup of hemlock. This was a demonstration of magnanimity, and was also a testimony to the immortality of the soul, which Plato tells us he taught. For him, death was a breakthrough to a higher, purer life. Thus his farewell was not difficult. He had a cock sacrificed to Asclepius, which was only done on recovery from a severe illness. The death of Socrates was a festival of
liberty. The Zealot martyrs who were crucified after the unsuccessful revolts against the Romans died conscious of their righteousness in the sight of God, and looked forward to their resurrection to eternal life just as they looked forward to the resurrection of their lawless enemies, and of the transgressors of the law who had betrayed them, to eternal shame. They died for their righteous cause, the cause of the righteousness of God, conscious that this
would ultimately triumph over their enemies. Many of them succeeded in cursing their enemies even as they died. RabbiAkiba found in his death on the cross the freedom for which he had longed, to give himself utterly to the God who, according to Israel's Shema, can only be loved 'with the whole heart, the whole soul and the whole might. The wise men of the Stoics demonstrated to the tyrants in the arena, where they were torn to pieces by wild animals, their inner liberty and their superiority. 'Without fear and without hope,' as we are told, they endured in freedom and demonstrated to their fearful overlords and horrified crowds their complete lack of terror even at their own death. The Christian martyrs too went calmly and in faith to their death. Conscious of being crucified with Christ and receiving the baptism of blood, and of thereby being united for ever with Christ, they went to their death in 'hope against hope'. The last words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, with which he took leave of his fellow-prisoner Payne Best as he went to the place of execution in Flossenburg extermination camp were: 'This is the end—for me the beginning of life.' As he had written in a letter, he was certain 'that our joy is hidden in suffering, and our life in death'. Jesus clearly died in a different way. His death was not a 'fine death'. The synoptic gospels agree that he was 'greatly distressed and troubled' (Mark 14.33 Par-) and that his soul was sorrowful even to death. He died 'with loud cries and tears', according to the Epistle to the Hebrews (5.7). According to Mark 15.37 he died with a loud, incoherent cry. Because, as the Christian tradition developed, this terrible cry of the dying Jesus was gradually weakened in the passion narratives and replaced by words of comfort and triumph, we can probably rely upon it as a kernel of historical truth. Jesus clearly died with every expression of the most profound horror. How can this be explained? The comparison with Socrates, and with Stoic and Christian martyrs, shows that there is something special here about the death of Jesus. We can understand it only if we see his death not against his relationship to the Jews and the Romans, to the law and to the political power, but in relation to his God and Father, whose closeness and whose grace he himself had proclaimed. Here we come upon the theological dimension of his life and death. Mark 15.34 reproduces the cry of the dying Jesus in the words of Psalm 22.2: 'My God, why hast thou forsaken me?' This is certainly an interpretation of the church after Easter, and indeed Psalm 22 as a whole had a formative influence on the Christian passion narratives. But it seems to be as near as possible to the historical reality of the death of Jesus. The Western group of texts of Mark 15.34 have watered down the words, and read: 'My God, what hast thou to reproach me for?' Luke omits these words completely and replaces them by the confident utterance of the Jewish evening prayer from Ps. 31.6: 'Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit' (23.46). Therefore the disciples in Luke do not flee from the cross, for in his view Jesus did not die 'forsaken by God', but as an exemplary martyr. In John, for different theological reasons yet again, we read: 'It is finished' (19.30), since for John Jesus' struggle ends with his victory and glorification on the cross. The history of the tradition being as it is, it can be accepted that the difficult reading of Mark is as close as may be to historical reality. To complete the paradox, in Mark the Gentile centurion responds to the cry with which Jesus breathes his last by professing that Jesus is the Son of God: 'Truly this man was the Son of God' (15.39). ^n t n e pages that follow, therefore, we start from the assumption that Jesus died with the signs and expressions of a profound abandonment by God.

The Crucified God – Jurgen Moltmann

The Resurrection
The resurrection is not seen as a fact for Moltmann unlike other modern theologians but as the righteousness of God made whole in history.
The resurrection according to Jurgen Moltmann similar to the theology of St Paul is the resurrection of the crucified God. That is God saw the suffering of Jesus and witnessed the death of his son on the cross and he ceased to be the eternal father. Thus the fatherhood of the father was dead and the spirit that proceeds from this is the spirit of abandonment that justifies the ungodly and raises Jesus from the dead.
Thus God deals with the problem of suffering with his own death on the cross and with the resurrection the Lordship of Jesus is validated and the suffering of our present times is nailed to the cross with him and is overcome by his resurrection. The resurrection is the glorious Christian hope that gives dignity to a human person and gives him eternal access to the uncreated life of God.

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