Rowan, Archbishop Of Canterbury, Buddhism & Prayer — Seemed Oxymoronic To Me.

Anura Guruge, June 8, 2013.


Anura Guruge

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Click to access the U.K. "The Telegraph" -- my 2nd favorite newspaper of all time.

Click to access the U.K. “The Telegraph” — my 2nd favorite newspaper of all time.

Given that the “C of E” is outside my sphere of interest and affiliation I really don’t know that much about Dr. Rowan Douglas Williams other than he was a scholar, ‘open-minded’, popular and had a good relationship with the prior pope. I have only done one post about him and that had to do with the pope. I just found out, from Wikipedia, that he is from my ‘native’ Swansea. Well, that makes him even more special.

This “Daily Telegraph” article caught me as “funny”, even oxymoronic, given my own personal views on Buddhism, meditation and prayer — all subjects I have written about here over the last year.

I, of course, have no problem with whatever Dr. Williams cares to practice. I am a great believer in ‘each to their own’.

I just would like people to try and draw some demarcation when it comes to Buddhism, meditation and prayer — since they don’t go hand-in-hand as this article tends to portray.

Though I was driven, committed, model Theravada Buddhist for the first 18 years of my life, prior to giving up on any and all belief in any type of afterlife, meditation was not a big part of my life. Prior to leaving Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) a week prior to my 14th birthday, I went to a Buddhist school, went to Sunday school (which seems ‘funny’ since Sundays have no significance in Buddhism), interacted with Buddhist priests daily, had a rather grand Buddhist shrine in the house and visited a temple at least once a week. My life revolved around an axis that was so Buddhist that it was untrue. I was, by adoption, a part of an extremely activist Buddhist family. But, meditation was NOT ever a big part of my life! We might have done, at most, 10 minutes of meditation, typically as an after thought, during Sunday school. I still remember the drill and as with so much of my Buddhism it related to the impermanence and imperfection of life! So the monk would ask us to sit ‘properly’, close our eyes, regulate our breathing etc. etc. Then we were told to visualize holding a brand new, fresh piece of white cloth in our hand. We would then he told, in our mind’s eye, to start stroking this piece of cloth with our other hand. This motion was supposed to regulate our breathing and make us calm. Then would come the kicker. We were told to notice how with time, Ceylon being hot and humid, the pure white cloth would start getting stained with our sweat. Ahhh! The cloth was getting dirty. Now, as part of the meditation, we had to relate this ‘degrading’ of the cloth to what would happen to our bodies with age. That was the meditation. Hey, when I was 8 this was powerful stuff. I soaked it all in. But by the time I got older (and as some used to unkindly say “after I discovered girls”) this all struck me as “screw this for a game of soldiers”. But, my point is that the Buddhism I grew up in, and it was the real McCoy at least as far as we were concerned, didn’t involve much meditation. So whenever I see meditation equated with the end-all-and-be-all of Buddhism, it, at a minimum, makes me raise my eyebrows.

Ditto for Buddhism and prayer. In theory Buddhist should NOT pray! They have nobody to pray to. I kind of explained it here. Yes, Buddhist pray. The family that adopted me were BIG into prayer. But they prayed to the Hindu gods and sometimes even to the Christian God. So that is the flip of what Rowan is doing. Devout Buddhist praying to Christ because the Buddha is unavailable to answer prayer.

That is all. No quarrels. Each to their own. Do whatever you want. I just needed to get off my chest the feelings that I get when I see Rowan Williams, Buddhism, meditation and prayer in the same sentence.

About Anura Guruge

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