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Switch to Forum Live View UU views about suffering
9 years ago  ::  Aug 02, 2008 - 6:35PM #1
Posts: 6,839
My lengthy reply to thelovesower's question seemed to me to be rather off-topic on the UU's and God thread, so I thought I'd start another thread for discussion about suffering.

thelovesower wrote:

As a former Buddhist, I used to believe in cause-effect law, which seemed to have every answer for all human suffering.

Now I become a UUist monotheist, I don't find it make sense anymore.

I have a question for UUists who believe in cause and effect. I only want to know. I don't mean offending to anyone. If it does sound like I'm offending, I apologize.

How do you explain why good people suffer?

The way that I would explain that--and good question, by the way!--is that karma is more a matter of balance than of cause and effect. I don't see karma as reward and punishment but instead as giving a chance to see another side of what you did.

So, if you worked hard to learn and practice a sport, you might come back in a future lifetime very talented at that sport. I don't see that as reward so much as a different way to grow and learn with more opportunity than you had when you were just learning the sport and weren't very good at it.

Also, if you did something wrong, you would be given a lifetime that would help you to understand how the other people you wronged felt and suffered. For example, if you overdosed on drugs and died, you might come back as the parent of a child who gets into drugs or maybe will be in a love relationship with someone who is addicted so that you learn what it feels like to love someone who is living like you did in the past and how much an addict's loved ones can suffer. It's balancing out what you did so that you have a chance to learn what is the better way spiritually, not punishment, I don't believe.

Or you might have some condition that limits how many choices you can make for yourself so that you are led to focus more upon spirit than upon action. For instance, you might be physically disabled so that you don't have as much freedom of action as "normal" people. You may be mentally disabled to limit how many activities you can do and choices you can make to lead you to be more spiritual. So since you don't have as much freedom to do what you want or to make lots of money and buy things, you may be led to be more loving and caring. This, I think, is a possible reason for both physical and mental disabilities. Again, it's a way to balance selfish actions. Someone who killed another person might not be able to move freely so that this lifetime does not give the chance to kill again since the person is too disabled to do that. And the disability might be in a part of the body that the murderer injured in the past life. Strangling someone, for instance, might mean that the person is reborn with a disease like asthma that makes breathing difficult.

Balance in order to show a better spiritual way, that is my belief about karma.

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9 years ago  ::  Aug 03, 2008 - 5:01AM #2
Posts: 97
DotNotInOz, thank you so much for doing me a big favor!

I believe that I'm not the only one who thinks about human suffering. It's really good that you can open this thread, so I can learn something.

Last week at Berkeley congregation, there was a sermon talking a bout Dance Our Lives. In general, it said that we should dance along with our happiness as well as with our sorrow. It's like that we should enjoy our present moment whether it's good or bad.

I admire you when you can meditate Buddhist karma into your life positively. I can't do that. Buddhism in my country is in fact heavily influenced by Chinese Buddhism. Hence, the religion centrality is cause-effect law and reincarnation.

I can't accept reincarnation concept because:
1/ Each person is unique. Each one deserves a healthy and happy life. It says that we are who we are. When we love someone, we should love him/her for who he/she is, not who we expect him/her to be. I believe that we all have a special spirit that makes us who we are, and it's eternal. Einstein and Newton are great scientists of all time. However, Einstein is Einstein; Newton is Newton. I can't say that Einstein is reincarnation of Newton to fish where he left off. That's silly.
    In that sense, I love animals because I love them simply. I can't say that that they used to be humans in their past lives, so I need to have mercy on them.

2/ Human relationship is also uniquely wonderful. My love for my parents, my siblings, my relatives, my spouse, my friends etc is not the same. I love all of them uniquely, and the level is different.
    According to Buddhism, if I have a loyal friend in this life, that one may become my sibling or my husband in my next reincarnated life to fulfil our love for each other. I find this theory either superstitious or very ridiculous.

3/ I believe in God, and God puts you and me together on this Earth for a purpose: to live in harmony. There was a time my Buddhist uncle told me that if I did not do good in this life, I would be reincarnated in Africa to suffer famines. If I was a righteous person, I would have a chance to reincarnated in a "higher race". For example, I'm Vietnamese, and if I live a noble life, after I pass away, I can reincarnate in European society or even better White American society, and I won't have to suffer discrimination or poverty.
    This belief makes me vomit. It supports more discrimination/racism.

Excluding reincarnation, I can't also trust cause-effect law, which Buddhists say universal law or natural law. If cause-effect law is right, it had to accompany with reincarnation. I don't know what is different in other branch of Buddhism. In Chinese Buddhism, cause-effect law can't stay by itself without reincarnation.
With reincarnation, the law is endless. Without reincarnation, the law doesn't make sense.

Let's go back the example of Greg McKendry, the heroic man who dared to used his body to block shooter's bullets so that many people were saved. What did he do wrong? He lived a noble until his death. Instead of hiding or running away, he sacrificed himself to prevent the shooter from killing more people. That's the cause. The result is he suffered a terryfying death. Is the natural law fair?

If we say that he did bad deeds in his previous lives, so in this life he had to pay back, how about all the goood deeds he committed in this lifetime. Shouldn't they at least balance out his "bad deeds" so he can die in peace?

Let's talk about Katrina. 1,836 died from that hurricane. Are all 1836 bad people? Assume that they are bad, they can't be bad for their whole lives. More over, there were children and animals. Animals live by their instinct. They can't think like us humans what is morally or immoral. Children are innocents, and they also died from Katrina either directly or due to post trauma suffering.

How about Thailand? Thailand's national religion is Buddhism, isn't it? So people may know cause-effect law well. And look what happened?     2,568 Thai died from Tsunami.
Isn't there a single good person among those 2568 who deserved a peaceful death?

And there are many other examples showing that cause-effect law doesn't work, at least for me. No Buddhists I met didn't say that I would have been given back exactly what I gave.

Certainly, I can't claim that God caused all those natural disaster to wipe out some groups. I don't know for sure, so it's better that I'm silient. I can't use the Bible to justify for what happened and say that's God's punishment.

I can't say like pastor Hagee
"I believe that New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God, and they were recipients of the judgment of God for that. This view was echoed by Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, who promote the view that virtually all wars and natural disasters affecting America are God's punishment for tolerating homosexuality. The newspaper carried the story in our local area, that was not carried nationally, that there was to be a homosexual parade there on the Monday that the Katrina came."

As a God believer in UU, I don't know why God lets so much suffering on certain places or groups of people. However, I believe that God lets those things happen for a reason. I may not understand now, but I will perhaps in the next few years, or when I meet the right events.

At present, what I understand from human suffering is that God perhaps wants us to enjoy our lifetime on Earth every single moment. He may want us to love our fellow human beings unconditionally without expecting something in return. I can treat a person well today, and I may be killed by that same person tomorrow. However, when I make someone happy, I'm happy too, and that is already a big reward. When I see a smile from a homeless receiving my money, I'm already rewarded. When I walk a dog that is excited to exercise with me, I'm already rewarded. When I can say hello to UU members at my congregation, I'm already rewarded. When I spend my evening helping my friend with his math homework and I have to come home late, I'm already rewarded.

I don't expect to receive good results from what I do. Doing good itself is already rewarding. I believe I'll be rewarded later, but it's not like a return for what I do and it can happen anytime. Life is a miracle. Therefore, if I make someone happy today and I die tomorrow, I won't complain to God. I may not be as calm as Greg McKendry when death comes to me, but God is by my side, so I won't be alone. I believe Greg is in heaven, and he won't regret for what he did even though his family may be grieving now

So I'm trying to see positivity in all aspects of my life, and I'm trying to be a good Samaritan, who does good without asking for return (and he still inherits eternal life without knowing it according to Jesus' answer to the Jewish lawyer). It's not easy, but it's worth trying.

That's my understanding of suffering.

I hope to see other views of suffering from other UUists. Please tell me your thought of it from whatever view you have. I'll appreciate it.
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9 years ago  ::  Aug 03, 2008 - 12:59PM #3
Posts: 6,839
You've said several things that I have more thoughts about, thelovesower, but I'll have to respond to them later.

I'd like to learn more about and understand better your experiences with belief in reincarnation as simply cause and effect. I admit that I have a very New Agey American theory of it that I've pretty much put together as I wished.

Maybe we had better talk about details of belief in reincarnation over on the Past Lives and Reincarnation board since I doubt that such are of very much interest to most UU's.

But I'll say more about suffering and the possible reasons for it as I see them later.
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9 years ago  ::  Aug 03, 2008 - 8:53PM #4
Posts: 97
[QUOTE=DotNotInOz;666070]You've said several things that I have more thoughts about, thelovesower, but I'll have to respond to them later.

I'd like to learn more about and understand better your experiences with belief in reincarnation as simply cause and effect. I admit that I have a very New Agey American theory of it that I've pretty much put together as I wished.

Maybe we had better talk about details of belief in reincarnation over on the Past Lives and Reincarnation board since I doubt that such are of very much interest to most UU's.

But I'll say more about suffering and the possible reasons for it as I see them later.[/QUOTE]

Thanks for reminding me! Actually, I don't mean to dig in reincarnation stuff. I just want to say that from my Buddhist background, suffering associates with cause and effect just like happiness. However, cause and effect can't stay by itself without the support from reincarnation. At least it can't in Buddhism from my country.

Hence, I look at suffering as something that is either set up by God or a consequence from a wrong action. In either case, I believe God wants to teach us lessons from our sufferings.

When I say this, I know that many of my fellow UUists won't agree with me. That's complely fine. Please state your beliefs! I want to learn about them.

Unlike Fundamentalist Christians, who may think that suffering is God's punishment for our original sins or whatever sins we commit, I think that suffering is God's means to teach us spiritual/moral lessons. The lessons certainly carry different meanings to each person.

I wondered (and still do) that "why good-hearted people have to die vengefully, be always poor or sick, constantly fail in what they love to do, lose their loved ones, ..."

My uncle-in-law was a good man. He always cared for his family and other people who needed his help. He passed away four years ago due to pancreatic cancer. My aunt was desperate a lot at the beginning. Eventually, I don't know how she changed. She treats her older sister much more nicely. Before she could yell at her whenever she wanted. My aunt also visit her in-laws more often, and they love her very much. When my uncle-in-law was alive, my aunt didn't like to visit his family. She was even happy when she could seperate her husband from his mother by moving to another state. My aunt used to be a non-stop complainer whenever she wasn't satisfied at something. Now she is much more easygoing and doesn't talk much.

I think that my uncle-in-law's death has made an impact on my aunt, helping her live a better life. I believe that after the rain, the sky is clear again. When dark clouds fly away, the moon will shine again. Everything happens for a reason.
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