Religion 313: Simple Prayer for a Tortured Earth

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Buddhism in Sri Lanka

I’m not here to diss or dismiss anyone’s faith nor fantasy—quite the contrary, in fact: I hope to be part of a conversation in which all viewpoints are reconciled, and the human league is improved in its capacity for survival upon an earth grown weary from wars and wickedness, tired of mayhem and mudslinging…

This is in fact the prime role of religion—to make you feel better in situations beyond your control, to make things feel better without taking up arms in dispute.  That religions are sometimes used as battle flags is unfortunate, of course, but hopefully only a paradigm shift away from the pages of history…

Rome was only ultimately saved by church and religion, and I doubt that Washington will fare any better, and this is as it should be, faith in something bigger something better assuming its rightful place in the pantheon of our thoughts and highest common denominators, rather than recourse to rifles as we sink to our lowest…

Like religion, the function of prayer is to make you feel better about whatever outcome should arise, since there is no greater truth than that we really know little or nothing about anything and control even less.  To recognize that no matter how hard you pray, the outcome is reliant mostly upon other factors is so obvious that it should be self-evident—but it’s not…

Competing armies, and football teams, all pray to their own private war gods—originally sometimes even the SAME GOD—yet only one side wins, usually.  So why bother? Because of the changes it effects in the hearts and minds of the prayees—that’s why.  That’s why the coach gives a pep talk.  That’s why cheerleaders—when they aren’t flashing skin—is intent on whipping the crowd into a team-inspiring frenzy.  That’s why losers aren’t winners: they don’t believe enough, in themselves, anything or anyone else…

We all know that belief heals, hence the ‘placebo effect’: you’re healed by fake pills, simply because you believed in them.  Hence: faith healing, ‘earth energy’, this ‘non-establishment’ Democrat or that ‘non-establishment’ Republican.  You believe in them, so they work, despite the lack of logic or empirical evidence that would prove their efficacy.  We love the narrative, and we love the narrator: just tell me a good story, then damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead…

For these very reasons, though I’ve long considered myself ‘spiritual’, I’ve never been very good at praying, for some reason.  I think it’s just never been clear to whom and for what I would be imploring divine intervention.  Bottom line: I’m not quite sure I believe in divine intervention, though I DO believe in acts of faith and forgiveness, and the ultimate triumph of right living over bad (and still holding out hope for divine intervention)…

Buddhism is better about this than most, clearly a philosophy first and foremost, and only an idol-worshiping religion at the village level, of people putting faith in charms and amulets.  And it is NOT some spacey New Age-y religion, in fact pre-dating all the rest, except for Judaism and Hinduism, national religions that spawned most others in the great East-West dichotomy.  Best of all, it offers meditation as an alternative to prayer, though the two can certainly exist simultaneously…

At least Buddhism has rarely—if ever—been used for the battle cries of war, and for that I find it attractive, not to mention the no-lose/no-lose bottom line.  Did you notice that I didn’t say ‘win/win’?  There’s a difference.  Think about it.  So my simple prayer for this tortured earth is that we simply find our place in it, without stepping on the rights and rites of others, that we may all survive intact, older but wiser…

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