Tea House

Daily Perspectives and Stories on Buddhist Trends, People, and Ideas

Tag: theology

Is Pure Land Buddhism a “Mystic” Tradition?

The Cathedral of Ávila. From Buddhistdoor Global

A groundbreaking conference between Teresian sisters and priests and Buddhist scholars and monastics has just concluded at the University of Mysticism in Avila, Spain. During our time here among new friends and Carmelite masters, I had the chance to visit many churches in the Old City (the UNESCO-listed complex behind the grand walled fortifications) and those beyond the walls, each of which hold a piece of the life of Saint Teresa, Saint John of the Cross, or some other Christian figure associated with the Discalced Carmelite Order. Within each sublime structure we were reminded of the simultaneous grandeur and humility of the contemplative life, which demands a retreat from the lies and futility of the world and an inner turning that results in the elevation of the human being and a union with God.

So, we turn inwards single-mindedly. What of the single-minded determination to become a Buddha, which is the ultimate goal in Mahayana Buddhism? What of the path to achieving Buddhahood, the quickest and most effective of which is total reliance on Amitabha Buddha’s 18th Vow and one-minded invocation of his Name? Isn’t this Buddhist anthropology also one of the highest elevation, of an evolution through bodhi to Buddhahood that parallels the metamorfosis of the Carmelite mystic into something God-like, a true human of light and love unified with all of God?

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Why I Don’t Believe in Spiritual Experiences

Raymond Lam

Some scientists and psychologists draw parallels between religious experiences and psychological illnesses and conditions, like epilepsy. We’re not just talking about feelings of lovingkindness or compassion generated in meditation, but ecstatic visions of angels or hearing thundering voices of celestial beings. Drawing parallels between mental illness and religious ecstasy is pretty politically incorrect, as one can imagine. I also don’t believe in the efficacy or the necessity of these experiences, though for completely different reasons to religious skeptics. I take after my theological hero Saint Augustine, who believed that such experiences handicapped the genuine spiritual life.

"The Conversion of Saint Augustine" by Fra Angelico (circa 1395-1455). From tollelegecamp.com

“The Conversion of Saint Augustine” by Fra Angelico (circa 1395-1455). From tollelegecamp.com

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