Building the Perfect Religion: Buddhist Middle Path and the Pride of Sin…

In Spires In Thailand

In Spires In Thailand

Now I’m not sure exactly what the Scottish rock band Franz Ferdinand had in mind when they sang about “right thoughts right words right action”, but I suspect that at least one of the blokes has some interest in Buddhism, because that little trifecta of meaning pretty much sums up the Buddhist ‘Middle Path’.

And if avoidance of excess is one of the cornerstones of our hypothetical perfect religion—akin to the Buddhist Middle Path—then humility would have to be the second cornerstone. Note the similarity—and difference—to and from the related concept of humiliation. This is where the Middle Path comes in again. Humility, aka ‘humbleness’ is a very good thing, while humiliation is not, whether on the ends of giving or receiving…

Pride is its opposite, of course, and well-known as one of the Christian sins, and probably one of the least-respected and most-abused. After all, what father is not proud of his son, and less deserving of it? It’s as though fathers and mothers see their sons’ and daughters’ actions and accomplishments as direct reflections on themselves, as though their offspring are hired hands with scripted roles to play. Sounds like a recipe for disaster… salt to taste…

Self-pride is even worse, of course. After all, we expect such crap from our parents, the pressures to conform to expectations and the ensuing fear of recrimination and failure. But pride of self often goes beyond this by a few orders of magnitude, and is usually known as egotism, by which name it becomes easier to see the ‘sin’ involved. Now, I think by any measure a little self-promotion and selfish rah-rah-rah is necessary to even get out of bed in the morning, to go fight the mob(s) and do our job(s), so it’s just a question of how much is too much—and selfishness gets into other questions…

Pride is a tricky issue, but very important for a religious and/or philosophical attitude toward life, ‘philosophical’ probably my preferred term, as it suggests something other than blind obedience. The deal is that religion is all about loving and being part of something bigger than yourself, and pride doesn’t allow for that. How many of us say or think, “I believe in myself,” without really considering the religious implications? Most of us could care less, of course, but some of us do—care, that is. And, “to be in love with your life,” as one recent indie single proudly proclaims, is frankly laughable…

But it’s true. We are in love with ourselves and our lives and our toys and our terms and conditions, in love with every word that rolls off our collective lips, as if we were truly responsible for ourselves and our effects—beware half-truths. And I’m probably the worst offender. I did an exhaustive analysis of the recipes for success once upon a time, and came up with the brilliant deduction that it’s maybe only 20% due to the quality of the performance or production, other equal portions due to background, promotion, circumstance, and just plain dumb luck. Welcome to my world-view.

Now I’m not a Catholic, and never have been, and I’m not obsessed with sin or guilt, and don’t see any need to live one’s life consumed by guilt. But that’s not what humility is all about, not ultimately. The best part about the humble life is that it’s ultimately peaceful and conciliatory. After all, no one can truly be forced to do something that he doesn’t want to do. There’s always an option.

And so what if the humble guy among us don’t always get the girl? How many did you need anyway? One should be enough. I mean, I’m a red-blooded male, too, so I like a good roll in the hay, but not constant distractions, not while driving a 1954 Libido, with a worn-out clutch. That’s dangerous! And that’s a subject for another corner-stone of the theoretical perfect religion—sexual modesty…

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