sacred space, and as an aid to meditation. The basic and final aim of such meditation is to comprehend and eventually experience an existential “emptiness", often described as the cessation of duality, the cause of all suffering. In this Buddhist view the individual human being is born into the illusion of being an isolated and alienated self (ego). This ego-self falsely generates impressions of mental, emotional and material separation. The Buddha described this experience as dukkha, sometimes translated suffering, but better understood as dislocation or separation. Psychotherapist Mark Epstein in Thoughts Without a Thinker describes dukkha as "pervasive unsatisfaction", writing:
From the very beginning, the human infant is vulnerable to an unfathomable anxiety that survives in the adult as a sense of futility or as a feeling of unreality. Hovering between two opposing facts--one of isolation and the other of dissolution or merger--we are never certain of where we stand. We search for definition either in independence or in relationship, but the ground always feels as if it is being pulled out from beneath our feet. Our identity is never as fixed as we think it should be. (46-47)
|Akshobhya Buddha at the center|
Now the LORD God had planted a garden...in Eden; and there he put the humans he had formed...In the center of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge... A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. [God said to the human]...you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die... (Genesis 2:8-15)
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God [cursed and] banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Gen. 2:15-3:24)
It is generally accepted among analytical psychologists [Jungians] that the task of the first half of life involves ego development with progressive separation between ego and Self; whereas the second half of life requires a surrender or at least a relativization of the ego as it experiences and relates to the Self. The current working formula therefore is, first half of life: ego-Self separation; the second half of life: ego-Self reunion. (5)
In the previous books I have set forth the causes for which God permitted these [material] things to be made, and have pointed out that all such [souls] have been created for the benefit of that human nature which is saved, ripening for immortality that which is [possessed] of its own free will and its own power, and preparing and rendering it more adapted for eternal surrender to God. And therefore the creation is suited to [the wants of] man; for man was not made for its sake, but creation for the sake of mankind... (Against, V,29,1 italics mine)
The Body that is sown a natural body is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man. (I Corinthians 15:44-49)
[In]…the general Buddhist view…the mind-stream, as it occurs in every sentient being, is something endless and beginningless. It has no assignable origin…Grounded in the deluded notion of self, sentient beings seek to achieve their aims, to find happiness and avoid suffering, according to the dualistic interplay of ‘I’ and ‘other,’ self and external phenomena. But because phenomena are impermanent, this situation is intrinsically unstable. Beings therefore pass through an unending sequence of states, more or less protracted, cognized as pleasure or pain, all transient and all incapable of bringing lasting satisfaction. This process is not only unlimited, it is uncontrolled and unpredictable even though, within certain broad parameters, it is endlessly repetitive and devoid of purpose. This is the definition of samsara. As the experience of unenlightened beings, it has always been the case and, left to itself, it will continue forever. (xviii italics mine)
...how, if he [a human] had no knowledge of the contrary, could he have had instruction in that which is good?...For just as the tongue receives experience of sweet and bitter by means of tasting, and the eye discriminates between black and white by means of vision, and the ear recognises the distinctions of the sound by hearing; so also does the mind, receiving through the experience of both [good and evil]...But if anyone shuns the knowledge of both kinds of things, and the twofold perception of knowledge, he unawares divests himself of the character of a human being. (Against 39, 1 italics mine)
In the center, around the throne, were four living creatures, and they were covered with eyes, in front and in back. The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under its wings. Day and night they never stop saying: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty,’ who was, and is, and is to come.” (Revelation 4:6-8)
...the counterparts, in the Buddhist mythic image, of the cherubim placed by Yahweh at the gate of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life...in the Buddhist world the worshipper is instructed to walk right between those two gate guardians and approach the tree without fear; whereas, as told in the Book of Genesis, our own Lord God put his cherubim there to keep the whole human race out...One is not to be intimidated by the death threat of those guardians, but to cast aside the fear of death and come through to the knowledge of one's own Buddhahood-- or...in biblical terms: one's own Godhood...it is our own attachment to our temporal lives that is keeping us out of the garden. (202-04).
If I have disparaged the transcendental approaches of humanistic and Oriental psychology, it is because they disparage the actual soul. By turning away from its pathologizing they turn away from its full richness. By going upward towards spiritual betterment they leave its afflictions, giving them less validity and less reality than spiritual goals. In the name of higher spirit, the soul is betrayed...The archetypal content of Eastern doctrines as experienced through the archetypal structures of the Western psyche becomes a major and systematic denial of pathologizing. (Re-Visioning 67)
Dictate, we must all
Complete the cycles
Of our existence.