Sunday, March 27, 2011

the spiritual poobah

Something else I don't know: Did the Roman Catholic church ever name a saint from among those who were not Roman Catholics? I don't mean to pick on Catholics -- they are simply the most obvious closely-held religious corporation I can think of. It's the principle, not the persuasion, that interests me.

Maybe it's just part of the human exercise ... to have a stated and sometimes lofty goal (heaven, enlightenment, peace, etc.), to create a framework that appears to make that goal attainable, and then, because the goal is not yet attained, to put a lot of effort into the institution or framework chosen. The goal is not the framework, but the framework is what is shored up and fenced in as (initially) the means of attaining the goal. Sometimes, of course, the goal gets buried and the framework gets elevated ... it's human, I think.

If the goal had been attained by those expounding the framework, what reason would there be for picking and choosing exclusively from among your own those who deserve recognition and praise? "Some pigs are more equal than others" -- something like that?

I guess it's just something to keep an eye on. Framework is necessary to goal and without a whole-hearted effort, the goal is unlikely to be attained. But whole-hearted is not the same as attainment, any more than the framework is.

In Buddhism, there is the metaphor that suggests Buddhism is a raft that carries people across the raging torrent that life can be. On arrival at the far shore, the traveler leaves the raft behind ... who the hell keeps dragging a raft when the ground is firm beneath the feet? What sort of fool would ....

And yet the raft is so intimate and supportive. You can understand why someone might drag it along with them ... a beloved raft. So much effort went into the building. So much effort went into the use. So much effort and so much life bound this raft together that it may become 'unthinkable' to leave it behind and just continue your travels.

If the framework pins a medal on your chest or on the chest of another, keep on paddling. If the framework suggests there is no grandeur at all, keep on paddling. Keep on paddling -- that's the framework. Paddle until there is no more paddling and there is just paddling and the one who created this framework is revealed and laughs in some wide-open field.

Saints or sinners, I think it's worth considering.


  1. Well, the Roman Catholics did twice canonize the Buddha by accident, as the saints Barlaam and Josaphat:

    More purposefully, the Anglicans installed statues of Martin Luther King Jr. (Baptist), Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Lutheran), and Oscar Arnulfo Romero (Roman Catholic) above the door to Westminster Abbey:

  2. Thank God they were all Christians. :)