Wishing you all the best for this winter season, which in so many parts of the world, is celebrated with festivals of light.
Here's an example of how personal hopes plus social context affect one's beliefs.
Stephen Batchelor tells this about himself back when he was a practicing Tibetan Buddhist and friends with a group of young Westerners who had, like himself, taken vows as Tibetan Buddhist monks.
Batchelor tells, how as a young convert to Tibetan Buddhism, he convinced himself that he had witnessed a yogi sorcerer perform a miracle.
Batchelor gives us the setting.
Dharamsala, 1973. Impressive, exotic.
A white canvas awning, straining and flapping in the wind, was strung in front of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. Beneath it sat a huddle of senior monks in burgundy robes, aristocrats in grey chuba robes, and the Indian Superintendant of Police from Kotwali Bazaar.
I joined a crowd gathered on a large terrance below and waited for the proceedings to begin. The Dalai Lama, a spry man of thirty-eight, strodue onto the impromptu stage. The audience spontaneously prostrated itself as one onto the muddy ground. He read a speech, which was barely audible, above the wind,
delivered in rapid fire Tibetan, a language I did not yet understand, at a velocity that I would never master. Every now and then, a drop of rain would descent from the lowering sky.
Nearby, on a ledge, a lama-sorcerer conducted a ritual to delay onset of the rain so the Dalai Lama could finish the lecture.
A white robe, trimmed in red, was slung carelessly across his left shoulder. When he wasn't blowing his horn, he would mutter what seemed like imprecations at the grumbling clouds, his right hand extended in the threatening mudra, a ritual gesture used to ward off danger. From time to time,
he would put down his thighbone (trumpet) and fling an arc of mustard seeds against the ominous clouds.
Then there was an almighty crash. Rain hammered down...the noise went on for several minutes. The lama on the hillside stamped his feet, blew his thighbone,
and rang his bell with increased urgency. The heavy drops of rain that had started falling on the dignitaries and the crowd abruptly stopped.
Next, Batchelor describes the effort of being in a group.
After the Dalai Lama left and the crowd dispersed,I joined a small group of fellow Injis. In reverential tones, we discussed how the lama on the hill--whose name was Yeshe Dorje--had prevented the storm from soaking us.
I heard himself say: "And you could hear the rain still falling all around us:
over there by the Library and on those government buildings behind us as well."
The others nodded and smiled in awed agreement.
Here, Batchelor steps aside and tells on himself.
Even as I was speaking, I knew I was not telling the truth. I had heard no rain on the roofs behind me. Not a drop. Yet to be convinced that hte lama had prevented the rain with his ritual and spells, I had to believe he had created a magical umbrella to shield the crowd from the storm. Otherwise,
what had happened would not have been that remarkable.
Who has not witnessed rain falling a short distance away from where one is standing on dry ground? Perhaps it was nothing more than a brief mountain shower on the nearby hillside.
None of us would have dared to admit this possibility. This would have brought us perilously close to questioning the lama's prowess and, by implication,
the whole elaborate belief system of Tibetan Buddhism.
Batchelor reveals yet more:
For several years, I continued to peddle this lie. It was my favorite (and only example) of my firsthand experience of the supernatural powers of Tibetan lamas. But, strangely, whenever I told it, it didn't feel like a lie. I had taken the lay Buddhist precepts and would soon take monastic vows.
I took the moral injunction against lying very seriously. In other circumstances, I would scrupulously, even neurotically, avoid telling the slightest falsehood.
Yet somehow, this one did not count.
At times, I tried to persuade myself that perhaps it was true: the rain had fallen behind me, but I had not noticed. The others -- albeit at my prompting--had confirmed what I said. But such logical gymnastics failed to convince me for very long.
"I suspect my lie did not feel like a lie because it served to affirm what I believed to be a greater truth. My words were a heartfelt and spontaneous utterance of our passionately shared convictions. In a weirdly unnerving way, I did not feel that "I" had said them. It was as though something far larger than all of us had caused them to issue from my lips".
(Confession of a Buddhist Atheist - Stephen Batchelor, pp 3 -5.
"I wanted to believe all this. Never before had I encountered a truth I was willing to life for.
"Yet as I now see it, my lie did not spring from conviction but from lack of conviction.
"It was prompted by my craving to believe."
(Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, page 5)
Batchelor does not say so, but there may have been something else at work.
Sharing miracle stories creates an intimate bond. Sharing miracle stories also creates a tribe.
Those who tell the stories are the in group, the tribe. Those who are skeptical are the outsiders.
In a lonely world, it is wonderful to find or create a tribe.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/27/2017 10:25PM by corboy.