Jul 15 2010

July 2010 Newsletter

Published by under Newsletters



July 2010



Professor Kevin Clements  spoke to us on:

‘Honouring the Other: The Quest for Respect, Equality
and Small Goodnesses in Aotearoa-New Zealand’

Kevin is the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies. He  gave us this summary:

This lecture argues that until individuals learn to honour and respect each other the possibility of building stable peaceful relationships anywhere is slight. It develops a rationale for nonviolence based on the development of trusting and caring relationships. It raises questions about whether Pakeha and Maori can bring themselves to honour and respect each other.

If there is no such willingness the prospects for harmonious race relations in New Zealand are precarious. While formal acknowledgement of historic grievances will continue and the Crown will make appropriate compensation to Iwi within the Waitangi framework it is argued that unless these are accompanied by a growing mutuality of respect across boundaries of ethnic difference, Maori and Pakeha will continue to co-exist in an uneasy relationship. It concludes that Maori and Pakeha need to “attend” to each other in a very different way (and proposes some alternatives) if we are to have a peaceful future in Aotearoa-New Zealand.


Food Offer
At our July meeting you will be able to purchase a slice of bacon and egg pie and/or a slice of apple shortcake for $2 a slice. Some of you may appreciate this option rather than bringing your own meal. We are trialling this and, if there is sufficient interest, may offer it each month. Of course, you can still bring your own food – or not – as you wish. Everyone is still asked to pay $2 for the hall rental which includes a cup of tea or coffee.


From the Editor
I’ve been reading Stephen Batchelor’s recent book: “Confession of a Buddhist Atheist”. One of the interests of the book is his life story, beginning with growing up in the north of England, years as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in the North of India, and then, because that was unsatisfying, years in a Zen Buddhist monastery in Korea – which was ultimately unsatisfying also.
But the greatest interest for me was in his account of studying ancient documents in the Pali language, which have been ignored by all the major strands of Buddhists. He acknowledges that the picture of Gotama, the Buddha, that he has built up from these writings is liable to reflect his own prejudices, but I find the picture interesting and convincing. It describes a wandering teacher who had no interest the supernatural, or Karma, or endless cycles of rebirth, but who:
“ … had found a way of being in this world that was not conditioned by greed, hatred or confusion. This was nirvana. The way was now open for him to engage with the world from the perspective of detachment, love, and lucidity. …. “
“Siddhattha Gotama rejected the idea that freedom or salvation lay in gaining privileged access to an eternal …. source or ground, whether it be called Atman or God, Pure Consciousness or the Absolute. Freedom, for Gotama, meant freedom from greed, from hatred, and from confusion. Moreover, such freedom (nirvana) was to be found not by turning away from the world, but by penetrating deep into its contingent heart. …“Gotama declared that his awakening …. contradicted the belief in an eternal soul and, by implication, in the transcendent reality of God. Rather than disassociating oneself from the world in order to achieve union with God, Gotama encouraged his followers to pay close, penetrating attention to the rise and fall of the phenomenal world itself.In contrast with this active, involved life that he found in these ancient Pali documents, Batchelor found that:
“Wherever I looked – in India, China, Southeast Asia, or Tibet – it was always the serene, worldrenouncing, contemplative monk who represented the ideal of Buddhist life. Lay people tended to be seen as second-rate Buddhists, whose duties in the world prevented them from pursuing a high-octane spiritual career.”

I see strong parallels here between the ways in which Buddhism has distorted the life and teaching of Gotama, and Christianity has distorted the life and teaching of Jesus. Although there seem to have been significant differences between Gotama and Jesus, both of them taught and set an example of living a rich and full life here and now, a life in which caring about and caring for others was central, rather than concern for one’s own self, one’s soul, or one’s destiny beyond death.
Stephen Batchelor’s understanding of the life and teaching of Siddhattha Gotama seems to me to be similar, in a number of fascinating ways, to the understanding of the life and teaching of Jesus that we are hearing in our day from the Jesus Seminar and in such books as Lloyd Geering’s recent “Such is Life”.

Chair: Marjorie Spittle – Phone 481 1418 – Email: Marjorie
Newsletter Editor: Donald Feist – Phone 476-3268 – Email: Don

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