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Religion, spirituality, suffering - a questionnaire


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This is not a thread about particular religious doctrines - which I know this forum prohibits. Instead, I'm curious about the relationship between religion and suffering.

 

Story on top, questions at the bottom.

 

First, my story

 

Throughout my childhood and young adolescence, I was interested in religion. At first, I was intrigued by Zhuangzi and Daodejing. I was also interested in qigong, internal alchemy, and various Chinese spiritual practices.

 

When I was a kid, I also believed I could speak with trees and waters. Therefore, I sometimes visited a river in the forest behind my house. I imagined that river goddess was a beautiful woman, and so I prayed to her.

 

Young men often have intense religious aspirations. So when I was sixteen, seventeen, I became very interested in Buddhism. I wanted to spend my life in a cave to seek enlightenment.

 

When I was seventeen and a half, I had a realisation experience. I perceived that there was no one to be enlightened, because a) the body is non-self, and therefore cannot be enlightened, b) the mind is non-self, and therefore cannot be enlightened, c) awareness is unchanging, and has always been enlightened.

 

This experience lasted for a day at most. But it intensified my religious interests. After this experience, I felt I understood intuitively the meaning behind many obscure religious texts.

 

When I was eighteen, a series of evil things befell me. My religious knowledge - of which I had been so proud - was of no help at all. The next two years were intensely unhappy. Around this time, because of my personal difficulties, I did not pursue enlightenment actively.

 

When the two years were over, I began rebuilding my life. During this time, my life was tolerable. I regained interest in pursuing enlightenment.

 

However, during this time, it occurred to me that "pursuing enlightenment" is counterproductive. In this, I'm affected by the proponents of non-duality. They believe that pursuing enlightenment, or "seeking," is the problem in the first place.

 

Without going into details about this, let's just say I realised that religious knowledge, especially cultural knowledge, is irrelevant to enlightenment. Enlightenment is cannot be sought the same way worldly things (e.g. love, money) can be sought.

 

Nevertheless, I remain interested in religious knowledge, especially cultural details. First of all, ever since childhood, I've been fascinated by the mystique of fairy tales, mythologies, and religious stories. To be a cultured person, one must have cultural knowledge, which takes many years of refinement.

 

So, having reread the Analects, I decided that I admire Yan Hui. Yan Hui was poor all his life, but he was dedicated to self-cultivation. Therefore, I would like to acquire religious knowledge, even if religious knowledge is irrelevant to enlightenment.

 

In summary

 

1. As a kid, I was interested in religious knowledge.

2. Then, I became interested in enlightenment.

3. I went through a period of personal difficulties, which demolished many old assumptions.

4. I realised that religious knowledge is useless, but I would still like to acquire religious knowledge.

 

Questions

 

1. Does anyone else here feel the same way about religious knowledge (in whatever tradition, e.g. Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Daoism, etc.), such that, even though you realise that religious knowledge is irrelevant to enlightenment, you would still like to acquire it?

 

By religious knowledge, I include folklore, mythology, fairy tales, religious songs, etc.

 

2. Is anyone here driven away from religion, because of suffering? Or is anyone here driven toward religion, because of suffering?

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Questions

 

1. Does anyone else here feel the same way about religious knowledge (in whatever tradition, e.g. Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Daoism, etc.), such that, even though you realise that religious knowledge is irrelevant to enlightenment, you would still like to acquire it?

 

By religious knowledge, I include folklore, mythology, fairy tales, religious songs, etc.

 

2. Is anyone here driven away from religion, because of suffering? Or is anyone here driven toward religion, because of suffering?

 

1) No. I'm not driven to acquire religious knowledge. I don't find it uninteresting when I hear it but I'm not driven to acquire it.

 

2) I am driven away from religion by the suffering of others. I understand why others turn to religion to ease their suffering. But .. I guess I see it this way.. any form of escapism (including escaping into religion) can ease one's suffering. My choice is compartmentalism. I compartmentalise those things I have no control over, and try to act on things I do have control over to make my life better. I prefer that because it keeps me in touch with my true self (which must involve some suffering) and yet keeps me functioning well and living my life the best I can.

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