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Wednesday July 22, 2015
The third part of an extended commentary on an ancient Indian proverb explains the difference between Christianity and Eastern religion regarding the flesh and spirit worlds. Shit's about to get heavy, folks.
Check out part I and part II.
In the world, not of the world
He who purifies himself in the river of a subdued spirit, the waters of which are truth, its waves compassion, and its shores excellent temper and conduct, will be liberated from this world; but liberation cannot be obtained by just outward observances.
-Ancient Indian proverb
This proverb promises us that if we search for truth, practice compassion, control our temper, and have excellent conduct that we'll be liberated from the world. This is an interesting point of both similarity and dissimilarity to the Christian tradition.
By Eastern standards a person practices virtues, like compassion and good temper, in order to escape the world itself because it is evil. Jesus spends a lot of time condemning those of “this world” throughout the Gospels but he does not have that dualistic hatred of the physical world itself. The point of his Incarnation, the concept of God becoming human, is that humanity and the material world are good and are worth saving. Although he had problems with the system, Jesus was a faithful Jew of his time, and as such believed the Jewish philosophical claim that the physical world was “very good” because God created it. This is in sharp contrast with dualistic Eastern traditions which claim that the spirit is good and the world is bad.
There is a similarity between the two views, though. Jesus called Satan “the prince of this world” in the context of those who are weighed down by detrimental worldly things: lust, pride, power, and other temporary fixes that do not satisfy. Indian philosophy warns of these things as well. The difference is that Christianity sees it as a sickness in an otherwise good world, while Eastern thought claims it as proof that the world is bad in and of itself and thus must be transcended.
Check out part IV here.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik's music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.