Saturday, April 29, 2017

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, April 29, 2017 - The Dharma of Christianity - Part II: What’s a Dharma?

Words. There are words like religion, dharma, dogma, doctrine. We have relationships with these words. Sometimes hostile, or nostalgic, perhaps comforting, sometimes confusing. We often don’t have a clear understanding of them. Either we aren’t familiar with them all, or know them all too well.

The term religion refers to an organized system of public gathering for the purpose of sharing systems of spiritual belief. The systems typically focus around the teachings of or about a deity, or a charismatic leader, or both.

By contrast, dharma is almost always a part of religion, but it is not the religion itself. A dharma is a life practice, a way of deliberately engaging with the world based upon a set of principles usually meant, in one form or another, to bring about a better world through our personal actions. Buddhism is a dharma, though it is often referred to as a religion. Hinduism is also a dharma. Ethical Veganism is a dharma. But not a religion.

Christianity as we understand it today is by definition a “religion.” But that is somewhat misleading. A Christian by definition is a follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Those teachings are: Nonresistance, Forgiveness, Compassion, Hospitality, and Empowerment. That’s it. It doesn’t need to comment on the other stuff. Christianity, when expressed as a deliberate practice of those teachings, looks less like a religion and a lot more like a dharma.

But Christianity is also an organized religion. An institution that creates a particular social scaffolding designed to act as a transporter of the message. They are the purveyors of a central Teaching which we might choose to describe as Dharmic Christianity.

Christianity is both the term describing the Organized Religion as well as the Treasure it charges itself with carrying. Declaring it to be “dogma,” meaning irrefutable truth, divinely given.

“Doctrine” is what the Church teaches based upon their interpretation of what they have declared to be dogma. So first the Dharma, or teaching, exists, then the Religion and Dogma form around one another developing a particular Doctrine or set rules to follow. In essence, the Doctrine is an organized expression of the Dharma. However, doctrine is a middleman and as such, is corruptible. But dharma is free from that.

When we lift just the teachings on their own from amid the text and act as as our own agents of interpretation and discernment, we skip the politics of it all. It’s a natural human urge to monetize and weaponize something we believe is special, even if we don’t quite know what it is. If a loving God exists in any small way, It would know we would do this and use that fact to our advantage.

Organized Religion has served humanity a purpose a dharma might not have been able to live up to on its own. We shouldn’t forget that. Organized Religion was also the world’s first central nervous system and defined the rules of its use, for good or bad.

However, that central nervous system, purposefully or not, in spite of its actions or because of them, has empowered its people to the point where it now runs the danger of becoming obsolete. Unless it re-minds itself of its purpose: to share the Dharma and mindfully live by it.

To be continued.

No comments:

Post a Comment