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Dialogue on Judgement and Salvation

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Judging you, judging me
Between Amaranatho and Andrew Copson

Andrew Copson

Christians, Jews and Muslims often talk about judgement and salvation as being really important in life - being judged by god and seeking salvation by obeying the laws of god. Is this something that Buddhists believe?


Amaranatho Samanera
From a Buddhist point of view there is nobody judging you. We learn to notice how conditions effect us. When we do something good we look at the results of that, or something not so good and how that effects us.

Dhamma is called the law of nature - laws that are natural - and we can recognize these by again looking how life effects us.

What would humanist say about judgment and salvation?
Andrew Copson
Humanists would judge actions on the effect they have on human welfare and human fulfillment, not on rules external to mankind. I believe that if there is any saving to do then we must do it for ourselves and that there is no salvation from somewhere else. Can you tell me more about dharma - how does that relate to judgement and salvation?
Amaranatho Samanera
Dharma is sometimes translated as truth. So when we know the truth about ourselves, we can see the natural laws for example a peaceful person would not want to kill anybody. Its not coming from some external force, its coming from looking within.

How would humanist define human fulfillment?
Andrew Copson
I think that every person will have their own model of the good life - how they can get fulfillment in their life - whether it's through art, science, discovery, social action or building a family or through all these things. I think one of the bad things about some religions is that they can try to force one model of the good life on people, but I think that the diversity of aspirations that people have is healthy. Unlike morality - the question of how we should treat other people - which I think has some universal answers, fulfillment - the question of how we can live a live that is meaningful and purposeful - has a diversity of answers that are different from one person to another.
Amaranatho Samanera
I think from a Buddhist point of view fulfillment is about freeing the heart. So on a personal level there are many ways we can can feel fulfilled but a deeper sense comes from something which is not based on personality but understanding what personality is. As it personality which creates judgment and salvation.

How would you define universal?
Andrew Copson

I mean generally common so, for example, in terms of morality, I would say that the fact that the principle of not doing to others what you don't want done to you has recurred so often all over the world and throughout time in all human communities - it is universal. So, I think there are universal moral principles.

I would like to know what you are freeing your heart from, what the fulfillment is based on if it is not based on personality, what you are using the word personality to mean.
Amaranatho Samanera
From a Buddhist point of view - being a human is based on greed, hatred and delusion. And until we truly understand ourselves we are motivated by these pulls. For me personality, is who we think we are e.g cultural conditioning, society, parental influence. And we use awareness, the ability to be aware of being aware to free ourselves from these pulls.

These pulls are based on having a body, which gives us certain feeling and our mind responds in certain ways, which unless we are aware of we follow without knowing why.

Really you have to know this for yourself, so all this is pointers and you have to work it out for yourself.

Do you think you can be free from judgment?

Andrew Copson
I think there are instincts, 'pulls' in us that go in all directions - certainly the tendencies to acquire, hate and so on, but also to love, share and cooperate. I think these are all part of being human. But because we are conscious we can choose for ourselves how to behave to a great extent. I think you're right that we have to be aware of ourselves and our impulses in order to do this, but I think that being a human is just as much about the 'good' instincts as the 'bad'.

I think we will always judge ourselves and each other and that this is a good way to grow in self-awareness and be able to make the most of our good instincts and control the destructive ones. We can also make life better for each other - fairer and more equal so that the environment in which the negative impulses thrive is minimised. How do you try to maximise the good impulses, or do you think that the pulls are all negative? Who do you think can judge us?

Amaranatho Samanera
Yes I agree we have both good and bad impulses and improving the good ones is in the end about taking the time to develop good qualities. Buddhism generally starts with this and moves towards a deeper self awareness of they way good and bad effects us. Look how some good people act in a not such a good way? Why is that...

I think we are the ones that judge ourselves, that is why its important to understand who we are.

How would you like to end this conversation?
Andrew Copson
I think we can agree that the only judges of human beings are themselves and that this is how we have to make sense of what is right and wrong - is that something humanists and Buddhists could agree on?
Amaranatho Samanera
yes we can agree on this

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