Thursday, July 20, 2017

What Does it Mean--Jesus Learned Obedience?

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

This is a brief reply, as one could easily spend an entire blog answering this question.

“Although He was a Son, He learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him…” (Hebrews 5:8-9)

Does that imply He was not perfectly obedient early on? No!! What DOES it mean, then?

Though fully God, Jesus is also fully human. He lived a sinless life (Heb. 4:15; 7:26) and was always obedient to the Father. Nevertheless, Jesus acquired knowledge as a normal human would, and He gained experience (in His human nature)by living 33 years as a human being (Luke 2:40, 52), and He came to know experientially what it cost to walk in obedience in the midst of suffering.

In a manner appropriate to each stage of development (physically and psychologically), Jesus was perfect, and He grew in wisdom in His human nature. He was a perfect two year old…perfect four year old…perfect teenager…perfect young adult…and perfect up to His death at approximately 33 years old. He was perfect in ways appropriate for each stage of development as a growing human being.

No doubt, as Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, successive temptations and trials became more difficult to deal with. It was as He obeyed His Father in the face of lifelong temptations that Jesus “learned obedience.”…His human moral ability was strengthened as He grew.

As a child, Jesus did not lack any godly traits, but He was lacking in the full experience of having lived a perfect human life, as man—obeying the Father in everything. It is in this sense, that in His human nature, Jesus “learned obedience.”

Hence, our Lord is experientially aware of the trials and temptations that we experience. Though fully God, Jesus still retains His human nature/body in heaven. So, He is tender and sympathetic to all the struggles you are facing. Look to Him for comfort, as he knows what it is like to suffer as a human. And look to Him as your Savior if you have not already, for there is no other road to heaven, but through Jesus.

Lastly, and remarkably, the lifelong perfect obedience of Jesus provides the basis for eternal salvation. Justification consists of a double transfer. Our sins were transferred to Jesus on the cross, and His 33 years of perfect obedience is transferred to our spiritual bank account. It is the robe of righteousness that surrounds us, and the Father sees Jesus’ perfect life, as He looks at us, due to our union with the life of Christ. How can you look with detachment at such a great salvation? Let us rejoice at such a great Savior and salvation!

Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Dalai Lama on How to Be a Buddhist in Today’s World

Once people adopt a religion, they should practice it sincerely. Truly believing in God, Buddha, Allah or Shiva should inspire one to be an honest human being. Some people claim to have faith in their religion but act counter to its ethical injunctions. They pray for the success of their dishonest and corrupt actions, asking God or Buddha for help in covering up their wrongdoings. There is no point in such people describing themselves as religious.

Today the world faces a crisis related to lack of respect for spiritual principles and ethical values. Such virtues cannot be forced on society by legislation or by science, nor can fear inspire ethical conduct. Rather, people must have conviction in the worth of ethical principles so that they want to live ethically.

The U.S. and India, for example, have solid governmental institutions, but many of the people involved lack ethical principles. Self-discipline and self-restraint of all citizens—from CEOs to lawmakers to teachers—are needed to create a good society. But these virtues cannot be imposed from the outside. They require inner cultivation. This is why spirituality and religion are relevant in the modern world.

India, where I now live, has been home to the ideas of secularism, inclusiveness and diversity for some 3,000 years. One philosophical tradition asserts that only what we know through our five senses exists. Other Indian philosophical schools criticize this nihilistic view but still regard the people who hold it as rishis, or sages. I promote this type of secularism: to be a kind person who does not harm others regardless of profound religious differences.

In previous centuries, Tibetans knew little about the rest of the world. We lived on a high and broad plateau surrounded by the world’s tallest mountains. Almost everyone, except for a small community of Muslims, was Buddhist. Very few foreigners came to our land. Since we went into exile in 1959, Tibetans have been in contact with the rest of the world. We relate with religions, ethnic groups and cultures that hold a broad spectrum of views.

Further, Tibetan youth now receive a modern education in which they are exposed to opinions not traditionally found in their community. It is now imperative that Tibetan Buddhists be able to explain clearly their tenets and beliefs to others using reason. Simply quoting from Buddhist scriptures does not convince people who did not grow up as Buddhists of the validity of the Buddha’s doctrine. If we try to prove points only by quoting scripture, these people may respond: “Everyone has a book to quote from!”

Religion faces three principal challenges today: communism, modern science and the combination of consumerism and materialism. Although the Cold War ended decades ago, communist beliefs and governments still strongly affect life in Buddhist countries. In Tibet, the communist government controls the ordination of monks and nuns while also regulating life in the monasteries and nunneries. It controls the education system, teaching children that Buddhism is old-fashioned.

Modern science, up until now, has confined itself to studying phenomena that are material in nature. Scientists largely examine only what can be measured with scientific instruments, limiting the scope of their investigations and their understanding of the universe. Phenomena such as rebirth and the existence of the mind as separate from the brain are beyond the scope of scientific investigation. Some scientists, although they have no proof that these phenomena do not exist, consider them unworthy of consideration. But there is reason for optimism. In recent years, I have met with many open-minded scientists, and we have had mutually beneficial discussions that have highlighted our common points as well as our diverging ideas—expanding the world views of scientists and Buddhists in the process.

Then there is materialism and consumerism. Religion values ethical conduct, which may involve delayed gratification, whereas consumerism directs us toward immediate happiness. Faith traditions stress inner satisfaction and a peaceful mind, while materialism says that happiness comes from external objects. Religious values such as kindness, generosity and honesty get lost in the rush to make more money and have more and “better” possessions. Many people’s minds are confused about what happiness is and how to create its causes.

If you study the Buddha’s teachings, you may find that some of them are in harmony with your views on societal values, science and consumerism—and some of them are not. That is fine. Continue to investigate and reflect on what you discover. In this way, whatever conclusion you reach will be based on reason, not simply on tradition, peer pressure or blind faith.

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet. He is co-author, with Thubten Chodron, of “Approaching the Buddhist Path,” from which this article is adapted.

Originally published in the Wall Street Journal on July 6, 2017.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Thank You from His Holiness the Dalai Lama

I would like to thank everyone who sent kind greetings on the occasion of my 82nd birthday and who joined in celebrating the day in many parts of the world.

As you are probably already aware, my life is guided by three principal commitments — to contribute to bringing about a more compassionate world; to encourage inter-religious harmony, and to work to preserve Tibet’s Buddhist culture, which is a culture of peace and non-violence, while also drawing attention to the need to protect the natural environment of Tibet. Since the Tibetan Plateau is the source of Asia’s major rivers, more than one billion people depend on the water they provide.

Tibet’s Buddhist culture is derived from the traditions of India’s historic Nalanda University, which encouraged dependence on reason and logic over reliance on mere scriptural authority. It adopted an empirical approach, like science, which included a thorough knowledge of the workings of the mind and emotions that remains extremely relevant today.

These are commitments by which I abide myself, but I often ask brothers and sisters who show me affection and respect to consider joining me in upholding them.

In short, may I request you please to help others whenever you can and if for some reason you can’t do that, at least to refrain from doing anyone any harm.

With my prayers and good wishes,

The Dalai Lama

Leh, Ladakh, 9 July 2017

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Dalai Lama Meets with Teachers & Business Leaders in Newport Beach

Meetings with Teachers and Business Leaders

Newport Beach, CA, USA - Anaheim city school principals and teachers, friends of Mayor Tom Tait came to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama this morning. In his introduction to His Holiness Mayor Tait mentioned the positive change that the City of Kindness project, and participating in the One Million Acts of Kindness campaign, has brought to Anaheim’s schools. He recalled that when Ven Tenzin Dhonden heard about what they were doing, he brought Mayor Tait to meet His Holiness in Dharamsala, for which he thanked him.

“Firstly, I very much appreciate this opportunity to meet with people who are actively involved in education,” His Holiness began. “Our common goal is to build a happier humanity. The greater part of this century is still ahead of us. I believe that if we start working now on this with a clear vision now, the later part of the century could be happier and more peaceful.

“These days if a human being is killed by a tiger or elephant it’s news, but to be killed by another human being is no longer extraordinary. Meanwhile, despite every human being having a right to be happy, we see images on the television of numbers of children dying of starvation. How can we remain indifferent? These people are our brothers and sisters. We have to do something.

“Violence has long been part of human history, but in the past, involving hand to hand combat, its impact was limited. Today, we have weapons of mass destruction, such as nuclear weapons, that are so powerful, the whole of humanity is endangered. Violence derives from anger and anger clouds our ability to think straight and properly assess what is happening. Anger in turn is related to fear and anxiety.

“One of the lessons we need to learn is how to cultivate those positive emotions that counter destructive emotions like anger and fear. Compassion, for example, brings self-confidence and the ability to act transparently. It strengthens trust which is the ground for friendship.

“All the major religious traditions teach about love and to protect that message they also counsel tolerance and forgiveness. However, these days, when 1 billion people claim to have no religious faith, instead of relying on faith alone, we have to use our intelligence to examine whether anger brings any benefit. If we’re honest we’ll see that anger ruins our peace of mind. Fortunately, one of our qualities as human beings is our ability to reinforce such human values as warm-heartedness.

“In education we should explore how to build on those human values that are based on scientific findings, common experience and common sense. In India and here at Emory University work is going on to prepare a curriculum to bring this exercise into schools. We aim to teach that on a mental level kindness and compassion give rise to lasting joy. They reduce fear.”

His Holiness explained that we will only make the 21st century an era of peace on the basis of inner peace. However, he said, we won’t overcome anger and establish peace of mind just by praying for it. An outbreak of fire will not be quenched by prayer alone, it’s far more important to prevent its breaking out in the first place.

In answering questions from the audience His Holiness made clear his view that ancient Indian psychology is relevant today, since it clearly explains how to increase positive emotions and reduce negative emotions. He pointed out that we all, even animals, have a basic seed of compassion, a wish for others to overcome suffering, but to raise and extend it to the point where we actually act on it takes training.

He recommended adopting different approaches, experimenting and sharing what we learn with each other. He also remarked that anger and aggression sometimes seem to be protective because they bring energy to bear on a particular situation, but what needs to be acknowledged is that that energy is blind. He stressed that it takes a calm mind to be able to consider things from different angles and points of view.

Noting that more and more people are paying attention to kindness, the evidence of the naming of a City of Kindness in Anaheim and a Compassionate City in Louisville, is that a revolution is taking place in education. He asked the teachers of Anaheim to help lead that revolution in the right direction.

Meeting Orange County business leaders in the afternoon at the behest of Noah McMahon, His Holiness picked up his earlier theme that despite great material development people are increasingly showing interest in achieving peace of mind. He again stressed that, if we make efforts now, it is possible to envisage a happier more peaceful world emerging later in the century. He reiterated that scientists revealing findings that basic human nature is compassionate is a source of hope. He mentioned the power of being able to smile.

Speaking of peace in the world prompted His Holiness to discuss the need for global demilitarization. He spoke with regret of the money spent on weapons, but also of the dangers of a policy of mutual destruction. Mentioning a dream of a world without borders, a truly global world, he wondered whether he would be thought unrealistic.

He declared that the world belongs to the 7 billion people living in it, just as American belongs to the American people. He expressed regret at the US’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord. He speculated that if there were more women leaders the world might be a more peaceful and co-operative place.

Challenged to say whether religion might have outlived its usefulness, he mentioned three aspects of religious tradition. The religious aspect involves the practice of love and compassion, the philosophical aspect, concerning, for example, belief in a creator or the law of causality supports this practice. But there is also the cultural aspect, influenced by social conventions. When this aspect is judged to be out of date, he said, it should adapt. His final remark was to note that while people go to great lengths to look physically attractive, inner beauty is far more important and a stronger basis for lasting relationships.

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