I find myself contemplating the Eightfold Path often, and wondering why it is that the faiths that believe in God very God should find it necessary to place commands for right living rather than principles. Buddha said all that was needed, by putting forth 8 well written principles to live by, rather than 100’s of laws that basically say the same thing, but get into the minutiae of how to shake hands on Sunday, if you will. I, personally, have not found ritual to be that helpful, other than in my times of meditation, when I am settling into “that” space, which is what I think it’s all about. Unfortunately, I also think that much of the ritual is intended to entrain one toward the thinking of the leaders rather than enlighten one about one’s own truth.
That being said, I do believe that each of the prophets and teachers was intent upon leading us closer to what was, to them, the desires of a Holy God. Look at Moses, he was nearly right on a lot of things, most of the mitzvot of the Hebrew faith leading his people toward compassion and forgiveness. You can’t ask much more of a leader, until you look at Buddha, who put all those laws into a set of principles that are timeless in nature. Then came Jesus, a rabbi, whose original words have been so coated with other men’s thinking that it is hard to sort through the teachings and come out on the other side truly enlightened. His goal, of course, was to make faith a more personal thing, while still retaining compassion and forgiveness as the center of all that he said and did. Add Mohamed into the mix, and you have compassion mixed with militarism. Eh, not my cuppa tea, but it calls to many.
However, there seems to be a lack of understanding regarding just how far we were to go with compassion. I am not saying they were wrong. I am saying they simply did not go far enough. None of them said war was wrong. None of them said anything about slavery that would make you recognize it as something deeply wrong. Child marriage was still allowed in all that, girls as young as 9 years old. Child labor still remained right up until the 19th century, as legal, and “under the table” it still exists. Rape didn’t even get a nod as the horror it truly is. So, we have a long way to grow in awareness of right and wrong. Pedophilia was never recognized as a sin, but sends shudders up and down my spine every time I think of a child being forced into adult sexual activity!
Many of those faiths and others not listed still consider homosexuality wrong on the whole, even though where it is addressed in both Old and New testament it was being held up as an example of wrong worship (not brought out so that you could see it that way, but when we dig that’s what it was about.) In fact, when you look at Sodom and Gomorrah, the entire question had more to do with people being taken, and harmed, against their will. That isn’t what homosexuality in this era is even about, so there is no connection to that from a modern view.
In fact, it looks to me to be that the Buddha had it closest to right when he said that all sexual contact needed to be consensual, and that one could not even consider it if the person with whom one had it was basically unable to give consent. To Buddha, that meant a child, a slave, a married person. The child because they were not old enough to resist, the slave because they were owned, the married person because they had made promises to another. Buddha thought it was best to remain celibate. but if celibacy was beyond you, at least make sure of the playing field.
In fact, if you are going to quote ancient teachers to me regarding what should and shouldn’t be allowed, quote Buddha. One must strip away most of what is extant in the New Testament in order to get to Jesus actual words, and one must consider that Moses didn’t even know that war, rape, and child molestation were wrong. And don’t quote Mohamed because, as long as it is woman’s fault that men cannot control themselves, (consider the Burka) then something else is going on. It looks to me as though our laws have moved into the realm of what is considered consensual, that’s a major plus. But otherwise, we need to reconsider and revamp our views of what is moral by law. In fact, I am beginning to like the Dalai Lama more and more. It’s time to take this out of the realm of religion altogether, and come to terms with what is compassionate, what is forgiving, and what is right.