Original Sin (Postscript)

While writing this series of articles on candour, our potential for realising our better, divine selves, it occurred to me how equally poorly understood is the Christian doctrine of original sin. (I have no wish to get tangled in theological debate here so I would like to confine myself to some general remarks, speaking as a non-Christian.)

Nothing is more common than to hear non-Christians pointing to the doctrine of original sin as proof of how pessimistic and depressing Christianity is. Even, I am sorry to say, some Buddhists who should really know better. In doing so they will point to the Buddhist doctrine of Buddha Nature, that we all have the potential to attain enlightenment and become Buddhas.

However, there is a nearly identical issue in Buddhism, that of the first of the four noble truths: the truth of suffering. People hear of this , our relative condition (not being enlightened) and don’t make it any further, imagining that Buddhism says that all the world is suffering. (I must here enter a similar caveat to the above; I have no qualification to talk other than in the most general terms on Mahayana Buddhist doctrine, and probably not even that; although I talk as a Mahayanist I believe that what I say is true in general terms for Theravadin Buddhism.) But the subsequent truths explain that it is unenlightened existence that is in the nature of suffering and explain the path away from suffering.

If you stand back a bit you will see that both religions are saying the same thing, that we must accept our relative, suffering, un-divine and imperfect state. If we do that and make good use of our God-given and unique mental abilities then we can have access to the absolute, the divine and a state beyond suffering.

To get to the good news we have to 1) face our imperfections and 2) make an effort to move beyond them. This strikes me as sound common sense.

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