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Thread: Man in the Hole?

  1. #1

    Man in the Hole?

    One of the classes I teach is sort of an "intro to college" undergrad course at a local college. One assignment I give is that each student needs to conduct a PowerPoint presentation on any topic he/she wishes, as long as it's appropriate for the classroom. These presentations are usually pretty interesting on topics ranging from SIDS to the history of Nintendo to Peruvian cuisine to the physiology of laughter to Jimmy Hoffa. This evening a young man presented on his own life and how, after much struggle, he became a Christian. I approved his topic prior to his presentation, with the stipulation that he was not to proselytize (however, knowing the make up of the class, I knew most of my students probably had similar experiences and would agree with his point of view). No problem, since I was more focused on assessing his presentation skills rather than his topic. He did a fine job. In fact his presentation was, at times, very moving. During his presentation he showed the video below.

    Now I realize this is a standard-issue born again Christian tract (albeit in video format). It presents a very particular and simple theology, as well as caricatures of other religions. It wasn't the time or place to argue theology, but I'd be interested in knowing how some of you, from a Zen Buddhist perspective, would respond to this video, particularly regarding the man-in-the-holeís dilemma. I have my own thoughts, but I'm interested in yours.

    http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?v ... 6e802fc820

    Gassho,
    Keith

  2. #2

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith
    Now I realize this is a standard-issue born again Christian tract (albeit in video format). It presents a very particular and simple theology, as well as caricatures of other religions. It wasn't the time or place to argue theology, but I'd be interested in knowing how some of you, from a Zen Buddhist perspective, would respond to this video, particularly regarding the man-in-the-holeís dilemma. I have my own thoughts, but I'm interested in yours.

    I agree it's a caricature and a one-sided caricature on Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. Reminds me of Chick Publications. Of course it shows the Christian in good light. He took action. The Good Samaritan. The problem is that one could argue the following. "A man fell into a hole. A man approached him. 'There. You bellow! You fell in because you are Sinner! G-d is castigating you for yours Sins. It was meant to be. Pray that when you die, you do not appear in Hell!." :mrgreen:

    Buddhism is not about inaction and just meditate. That's the simplistic criticism of Buddhism. If you see someone the hole...you act.

  3. #3

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    I suppose a Zen Buddhist perspective would be,

    "And a man came, looked down and said, 'Hey Buddy, do you really think you're in a hole?'"

    Gassho, Tony

  4. #4

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony-KY
    I suppose a Zen Buddhist perspective would be,

    "And a man came, looked down and said, 'Hey Buddy, do you really think you're in a hole?'"

    Gassho, Tony
    Oh, this made me laugh.

    Well, I think the best Compassionate "Buddhist" response would be to find a ladder and get the fellow out, making sure he is okay ... all while explaining to the fellow that each of he, the ladder, the rescuer and the hole were an illusion.

    Gassho, J

  5. #5

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    Quote Originally Posted by Keith
    I agree it's a caricature and a one-sided caricature on Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, etc. Reminds me of Chick Publications.
    PS - I looked over at "Chick Publications" and found this, also quite interesting.

    http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/0016/0016_01.asp

    Personally, I think that someone can be a Zen Buddhist and a Christian at the same time, if they want to be. Like I always say ...

    If there is a Jesus and Jehovah, I will fetch wood and carry water, living as I can not to do harm.

    If there is no Jesus or Jehovah, I will fetch wood and carry water, living as I can not to do harm.


    It seems it is some Christians who might have trouble with being a Buddhist.

    I bet that, if there is a Jehovah, She has little problem with it though.


    PPS - For folks new to Treeleaf, let me say that ol' Jundo is not a literalist on the "rebirth/reincarnation" issue. I do not think that, if we are bad we come back as rats, dogs or, worse, lawyers! But that is a subject for another day.

  6. #6

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    This is the most comforting path that I've even encountered! My girlfriend has often quoted from 'Tuesdays with Morrie' by Mitch Albom to me, (which I finally bought & read and can now further recommend). She says that I, like Morrie, am a 'religious mutt' (as opposed to, I hope, a nut) I find this a sloppy happy and totally fitting image. .
    I know that I now can chop water and carry wood, or vice versa, and not worry about it from here on out.

    Somehow I can just picture Jundo----Ann- Sit! Stay! Good Girl!

    With deep Gassho, down-dog, and tail wagging furiously...

    Ann

  7. #7

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Keith--I didn't mean to digress--I'll try to watch the video this weekend and actually answer the question you asked in a few days!

    Ann

  8. #8
    Stephanie
    Guest

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Well, the video is based on the belief that faith in Christ is the only way to get out of the hole. This in itself depends on seeing the world as a hole and believing that there is an alternative to it. Metaphysically, I see Christianity as a form of Platonism. Visually and ideologically this video evokes Plato's allegory of the cave. The main argument of Platonism and Christianity is that there is someplace better than this one. That is what Christ represents to the Christian--the possibility of a better place. If you do not believe in this, that there is a better place, a better world beyond this one, then it renders the whole Christian argument absurd.

    I actually believe that most people cannot believe in this doctrine. I think most Christians are living in a state of "bad faith"--their fervent effort to promote their faith in a better world belies the anxiety underneath that it is really not so. There you have then the whole "heaven / hell" anxiety. Christians are not so certain their efforts are going to take them to a better world. Instead of pointing this anxiety at their beliefs, they point it at themselves--they acknowledge there is a possibility they might not go to Heaven, but it wouldn't be because Heaven does not exist, it would be because they were "bad" and did not earn it. Strangely, that seems more comforting than the possibility it does not exist at all. Strange how our minds work.

    I think there is another way to approach Christianity and the notion of God. I would recommend Karen Armstrong's book A History of God to everyone here; it shows all the ways people have approached God and religion, most of which diverge wildly from modern fundamentalist approaches. I personally appreciate Christianity as being true on the level of myth, on the level of inner experience. To recognize Christ is to recognize the possibility that there is a different way to live, which is by acknowledging the primacy of conscience. To live in accordance with one's conscience (to "love one's neighbor") is to live in the presence of God (to "love God"), a state of transcendence that lifts us out of the hole of self-concern and into the joy of fellowship with all creation.

    And in this sense, a better world is a definite possibility--but not in the sense we ascend to some heaven realm after doing our time here; instead, it is in the sense that we can make a better world of this world in which we find ourselves. Christ cannot lift us out of the hole--there might be a hole, but there is no way out, no alternative to the hole--but he can show us how to make life in the hole more tolerable. In this way, yes, I agree with the message of the video, that helping others is a sort of salvation, but I'm pretty sure that my understanding of this is different from that of the person who made the video.

  9. #9
    Stephanie
    Guest

  10. #10

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Thanks for the postings, folks.

    I am familiar with those Chick tracts. Jack Chick, I think, is way out of mainstream Christianity. He's selling a very simple and fear-based brand, but I guess I can see why it is appealing to some.

    Re: the video, I also see the Buddhist way as assisting the man out of the hole with rope, ladder, or whatever else is available. This is compassion in action. But, it seems the video is also criticizing the Buddhist idea, expressed by Tony and Jundo, that the hole, ladder, and the man are all illusions. I'm not arguing with that, but to the man, they all exist. So, I'm still curious, what would be a more helpful (and perhaps an understandable) way to explain that to the man, who most certainly has felt suffering by being stuck in the "hole"?

    Hey Stephanie,
    Quote Originally Posted by Stephanie
    To recognize Christ is to recognize the possibility that there is a different way to live, which is by acknowledging the primacy of conscience. To live in accordance with one's conscience (to "love one's neighbor") is to live in the presence of God (to "love God"), a state of transcendence that lifts us out of the hole of self-concern and into the joy of fellowship with all creation.
    This is a nicely put, I think. As one who was raised Christian and who doesn't have animosity towards that religion (I still have many warm feelings towards the Catholicism of my birth, I've never personally been hurt or scarred by it, and I once seriously considered the priesthood), I agree that Christianity offers much more than what some brands of it try to sell. As an adult, I never viewed the stories as literal, but as powerful tools to assist us in overcoming our self-centeredness to help relieve suffer. In this way, I see it as very similar to Buddhism.

    By the way, Iíve read that Armstrong book, and love that Alice in Chains song (along with their Would and Rooster)

    Gassho,
    Keith

  11. #11

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    [
    Keith wrote:

    Re: the video, I also see the Buddhist way as assisting the man out of the hole with rope, ladder, or whatever else is available. This is compassion in action. But, it seems the video is also criticizing the Buddhist idea, expressed by Tony and Jundo, that the hole, ladder, and the man are all illusions. I'm not arguing with that, but to the man, they all exist. So, I'm still curious, what would be a more helpful (and perhaps an understandable) way to explain that to the man, who most certainly has felt suffering by being stuck in the "hole"?
    The hole in the video is obviously a metaphor for despair, depression, rock bottom (it seems that this type of proselytizing always wants its audience to accept these metaphors concretely with little reflection) . The hole is ultimately his creation. Where else does it exist? Active compassion from others should be offered to him to show alternatives and ways out. But, he will have to come out of the hole himself because the hole is only in himself. I believe in Zen, we work with ourselves and with others to get out of our holes. We're not waiting for Jesus, Muhammad, or Amida Buddha to come along with a rope.

  12. #12

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Quote Originally Posted by Keith

    Re: the video, I also see the Buddhist way as assisting the man out of the hole with rope, ladder, or whatever else is available. This is compassion in action. But, it seems the video is also criticizing the Buddhist idea, expressed by Tony and Jundo, that the hole, ladder, and the man are all illusions. I'm not arguing with that, but to the man, they all exist. So, I'm still curious, what would be a more helpful (and perhaps an understandable) way to explain that to the man, who most certainly has felt suffering by being stuck in the "hole"?
    Hi,

    Well, I should have been more careful in using the word "illusion". That's not really right. Our practice is more about seeing things from various perspectives, in some of which "things" are not the "things" we think they are (and neither are "we" ... and neither is the word "are").

    Next, once the fellow is safely out of the hole (and if he has an interest ... we don't push our beliefs on others), I would teach him about Zazen and Buddhist philosophy. Perhaps give him the URL to Treeleaf. :wink: :wink: :wink: :wink: And if he had no interest, I would merely bid him "good day", with a friendly warning to watch where he is walking in the future.

    And if he really really can't be gotten out of the whole despite our best efforts, and if there is no rescue possible ... I would hope he might sit Zazen down there.

    Gassho, Jundo

  13. #13

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Hey Tony,
    Quote Originally Posted by Tony-KY
    The hole is ultimately his creation. Where else does it exist? Active compassion from others should be offered to him to show alternatives and ways out. But, he will have to come out of the hole himself because the hole is only in himself.
    I couldn't agree more.

    Hey Jundo,
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Perhaps give him the URL to Treeleaf. :wink: :wink: :wink: :wink: And if he had no interest, I would merely bid him "good day", with a friendly warning to watch where he is walking in the future.

    And if he really really can't be gotten out of the whole despite our best efforts, and if there is no rescue possible ... I would hope he might sit Zazen down there.
    I love this!

    Gassho,
    Keith

  14. #14

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony-KY
    [
    Keith wrote:

    Re: the video, I also see the Buddhist way as assisting the man out of the hole with rope, ladder, or whatever else is available. This is compassion in action. But, it seems the video is also criticizing the Buddhist idea, expressed by Tony and Jundo, that the hole, ladder, and the man are all illusions. I'm not arguing with that, but to the man, they all exist. So, I'm still curious, what would be a more helpful (and perhaps an understandable) way to explain that to the man, who most certainly has felt suffering by being stuck in the "hole"?
    The hole in the video is obviously a metaphor for despair, depression, rock bottom (it seems that this type of proselytizing always wants its audience to accept these metaphors concretely with little reflection) . The hole is ultimately his creation. Where else does it exist? Active compassion from others should be offered to him to show alternatives and ways out. But, he will have to come out of the hole himself because the hole is only in himself. I believe in Zen, we work with ourselves and with others to get out of our holes. We're not waiting for Jesus, Muhammad, or Amida Buddha to come along with a rope.
    Yes, this is very nice. For a metaphorical hole, I could not agree more Tony. Thank you.

    For a literal hole, I would get a ladder.

  15. #15

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Hell Keith,

    I think this is a pretty interesting exercise, wish I could contribute. However, I just can't force myself to watch the thing. It would probably remind of past experiences when people were trying to force that pablum down my throat.

    Perhaps it's a mistake for me to judge the video before watching it, but I feel like I've spent so much time trying to get my head around christianity already and for me it just falls way short.

  16. #16

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    well i must admit only one things comes to mind after watching this video and reading the comic strip Jundo mentioned.

    i am amazed at how one tracked people are.
    it is like a horse who has his eyes covered so he could not look to the sides.
    people judge without understanding... i see it a lot in Israel which is in itself a religious country.

    i have been told once that how could i believe in something with no god?! it was like i was crazy or something...
    how could i explain whee we come from? how could i explain who made the world?
    and many other stuff...
    when i said that i dont know, and i dont really care because it has no real effect on my life they looked at me funny.
    i told it doesnt matter if god exist or not, even if he doesnt it would make the Jewish religion any worse, since it is still a very wise and beautiful faith... well lets just say people didnt agree....

    anyway, i remember a while back someone here asked what we should do if we see people whole could benefit from Buddhism.

    well i still say the same thing... i look at things not the same way as someone who is a christian or follows Judaism or Islam.
    the best i could do is try and help them in a jam and that's it... if i tell them my point of view on things its not a Buddhist view its just a human view ( even thought it is effected by my practice ).

  17. #17
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Man in the Hole?

    The video made me think of the ox herding pictures, the version that ends with going back to the market. In this case it was going into the hole to get the man. So, forgetting the Cross imagery for a moment, maybe that last guy was a bodhisattva.

    I must admit, tho, that my first thought was, "What, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. don't understand the concept of a ladder or know about rope? C'mon!!! Don't all religions offer their own brand of rope? Since when did christians get the rope monopoly? I could go on but won't, because I know it was just a characature.

  18. #18

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    PS - I looked over at "Chick Publications" and found this, also quite interesting.
    Chick Publications are something else.

    Here is a re-mixed Chick Publication take on Goth music. :Warning: If you love Goth music and don't like cussing, DO NOT click on link. :mrgreen:

  19. #19

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Hey Greg,
    Quote Originally Posted by Gregor
    Hell Keith,
    Is this a Freudian slip or what? :wink:

    Hey AlanLa,
    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    The video made me think of the ox herding pictures, the version that ends with going back to the market. In this case it was going into the hole to get the man. So, forgetting the Cross imagery for a moment, maybe that last guy was a bodhisattva.
    Interesting take. As the last guy is obviously Jesus (notice the stigmata), I do like to think of him as a bodhisattva.

    Gassho,
    Keith

  20. #20

    Re: Man in the Hole?

    Setting aside the video's underlying "My God can kick your God's ass" (tm Yiddish rapper :shock: Socalled) message, I think there's a good lesson for me in there. In talking to people who are depressed or discouraged, I do tend to jump in with well-intentioned but unwelcome advice even before I've heard the person out. I found meditation very helpful for dealing with my own bouts of depression, so I started recommending it to everyone who told me that they were feeling depressed. This was not a very good strategy - they were looking for a sympathetic friend, not someone else to tell them what they should be doing.

    I have to learn to be more careful to answer the question I am asked (even if the answer is "I don't know").

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