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Immaculate Preconceptions: Spiritual Practice Minus the Miracles
Submitted by Lawrence Grecco on Mon, 4/25/2011, 11:48am
From an MSNBC article:
Most controversial is its revision of Isaiah 7:14 to predict that the messiah will be born to a "young woman," not to a "virgin," a characterization that some critics say casts doubt on the miraculous nature of Jesus' birth.
I wonder what would happen if someone stumbled upon some irrefutable evidence that the conception of Jesus Christ was the product of a good old fashioned sexual intercourse and not some divine intervention. Would it render his teachings any less important?
There is similar folklore around the birth of the Buddha, yet no practicing Buddhist (at least I don’t think so?) takes the stories around his conception and birth literally.
Mary (Jesus’ mother) was said to have been visited by an angel that told her she was to give birth to a savior, and legend has it she did so without having to have to do that nasty, mundane sex thing. A few hundred years earlier, Maya (Siddharta’s mother) had a dream in which she was pierced by the tusks of a white elephant, and told that she was to give birth to a savior. And she did so, presumably without any help from her husband.
I do think these stories demonstrate our tendency to idealize spiritual practice and try to make it somehow “special” and “out there”.
I first starting meditating during the peak of the New Age movement of the 1980’s because I was hell bent on developing extrasensory perception. And there are some who follow certain spiritual paths in the hopes of a euphoric (or at least slightly more pleasant) afterlife that can somehow compensate for all of their earthly trials and tribulations.
I think Buddhism would catch on much more quickly if it promised an eternal and luxurious afterlife. Or if it taught that praying to someone out there would help make a change over here. But that’s not what this is about, and the sense of personal responsibility required for this practice can be very daunting.
It often doesn’t feel good to practice meditation—in fact, more often than not it’s downright uncomfortable. Some days I sit and I’m lucky if I notice two cycles of breath amidst all of the discursiveness. Then there’s the occasional physical discomfort which I don’t need to go into.
Ultimately, not having to wait around for miracles and knowing there is something we can do anywhere and anytime is more liberating than daunting. There are no promises of otherworldly experiences and no check list of sins to memorize and follow to the letter. There is however a need to somehow conjoin what we experience when we sit with the rest of our lives and to let that better inform our behavior and improve our state of mind.
Nothing magical, just an ongoing process that does seem to yield some nice results, although subtle at times.
I’ll take that over a virgin birth any day.
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