Monday, September 26, 2016

The Dalai Lama Visits Wroclaw, Poland

original title: History, ‘Forgiveness and Reconciliation' in Wroclaw, European Capital of Culture 2016

Wroclaw, Poland, 20 September 2016 - His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s first full day in Wroclaw began with an interview by Piotr Krasko for TVN. The conversation touched on his having no fear of death and his sense that the unique Buddhist insight concerning the absence of intrinsic existence of self or phenomena had resulted in a reduction of his negative emotions. He also expressed conviction that through practice in life after life over millions of years it is possible to reach Buddhahood. He observed that the principal message of all the world's major religions is love.

A question about the small boy depicted recently rescued from rubble in Syria reminded him that in Islam prayers are addressed to Allah the merciful and compassionate. He contended that as with other religious traditions the message of the Quran is love. He reported recently meeting with a group of young people from Africa and the Middle East, some of whom had determined in the immediate aftermath of bomb attacks to dedicate themselves to peace.

His Holiness suggested that young people may be induced to fight and kill for their faith when they are convinced that there is only one truth and one true faith and no sense of living in a world where the existence of several truths and a multiplicity of faiths is the reality. He advised that reaching out and listening to grievances would be more effective than trying to eliminate people by force. He recommended that education that includes universal values is the way to shape a better future.

A short drive through Wroclaw old town brought His Holiness to the City Hall, where, escorted by Mayor Rafal Dutkiewicz, he was welcomed to an event in a vaulted 13th century chamber. In 2016, Wroclaw, along with San Sebastian in Spain, is a European Capital of Culture. Before 200 guests, including Archbishop J. Kupny, councillors, rectors of universities, city authorities, consuls, directors of cultural institutions and honorary citizens of Wroclaw, the Mayor introduced His Holiness and offered him a gift representing freedom.

As part of the cultural programme, a group of Egyptian, Iranian and Kurdish singers gave a profoundly moving performance. Chairman of the City Council Jacek Ossowski expressed appreciation of His Holiness's presence among them on this special occasion and invited him to speak. Quipping that he usually prefers to speak standing out of respect, but on this occasion the cameraman had asked that he sit, His Holiness began:

"Brothers and sisters, wherever I go I consider myself just a human being, one of the 7 billion. We all want peace and joy, but we face a lot of problems, many of them of our own making. Where we stress differences of nationality, race, culture and religion we forget that at a deeper level we are all equally human beings. So I always emphasise our need to recognise the oneness of humanity and our need for solidarity. We need solidarity to ensure peace and freedom.

"As a Buddhist monk I don’t usually pay much attention to sensory pleasures like music, but I really appreciated the performance of these singers here just now. Listening to them I felt brought about a sense of solidarity among us, reminding us of the oneness of humanity and that the message of all our religious traditions is love, tolerance, forgiveness and self-discipline. This is why I believe that despite differences in philosophical outlook we are all spiritual brothers and sisters."

There followed a spellbinding performance of Chopin by noted pianist Janusz Olejniczak that was enthralling to both the eyes and ears.

A short distance away from City Hall, His Holiness and the Mayor visited the City Museum of Wroclaw and viewed an exhibition, ‘Forgiveness and Reconciliation’ dedicated to Cardinal Kominek, an unrecognized father of Europe. In the course of the visit His Holiness interacted with a group of schoolchildren. Among them a young boy greeted him as a recipient of the Order of Smiles, an award given by children to adults distinguished in their love, care and aid for children, which he received in 1993.

Outside the museum, both His Holiness and the Mayor gave short speeches. His Holiness, recalling the great violence of the 20th century, urged that if the 21st century is to be different, in future solutions to problems must be sought through meaningful dialogue in a spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation. He repeated how impressed he is by the spirit of the European Union which places the common interest over narrower national interests. He asked his young listeners:

“What do you think? It will be you young brothers and sisters who can build a more peaceful world and it will be you who benefit from it. I don’t expect to live to see it.”

Back in the Museum, Jacek Zakowski (Polityka) interviewed His Holiness, asking him to compare his life as a refugee to those pouring into Europe. His Holiness stressed that the long-term solution is for peace to be restored to the lands these people are fleeing. In the short term, however, they must be given shelter. The children need education and the youth training that will equip them when they eventually return home to rebuild their countries. He pointed out that the prayer and aim of Tibetan refugees has always been to return to their homeland. Asked if that was the natural feeling of a refugee, His Holiness answered, “Yes”.

He talked about how problems developed in Tibet in the mid to late 1950s culminating in his escape to India and becoming a refugee. He reiterated that since 1974 Tibetans had decided not to seek independence and confirmed the support that their Middle Way Approach had received among Chinese writers and intellectuals.

Zakowski took issue with His Holiness’s position that it must be possible to reach out to terrorists, to listen to them and reason with them, stating that many people think it’s easier to kill them. “If you kill 100,000, will that solve the problem?” His Holiness retorted. “Won’t it just stoke more ill-feeling and provoke further violence? We have to use our intelligence and find a human solution. When scientists tell us that basic human nature is compassionate, that’s a source of hope.”

After lunch at the traditional Polish Pod Freda Restaurant, His Holiness visited the Depot History Centre, which opened just five days ago on the site of the 1980's Solidarity protests. Of the 250 people present most were students who welcomed His Holiness and invited him to speak before putting their questions to him.

“Young brothers and sisters, it’s important to remember what we have in common physically, mentally and emotionally as human beings, because today humanity is facing an array of problems. None of us want problems and yet we seem to bring them about through short-sightedness, focussing only on one aspect rather than looking at the whole reality. We need to use our intelligence to the full and take a wider perspective. Instead of being despondent, it’s important to keep your spirits up and work for justice and freedom.”

His Holiness told them that he’d come again to Wroclaw because his friend the Mayor had invited him. Of people who have impressed him he mentioned Solidarity leader and Nobel Peace Laureate Lech Walesa, but also included scientists. He said it was scientists, for example, who warned of climate change that has become such a threat.

The students and local Solidarity representatives presented him gifts and the students requested him to write in their memorial book. His Holiness posed for photographs with the audience before returning to his hotel.

link with photos: http://dalailama.com/news/post/1459-history-forgiveness-and-reconciliation-in-wroclaw-european-capital-of-culture-2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

What are Elemental Spirits?

By Reverend Mark Hunnemann

Few terms are more confused and complicated by webs of different cultural ideas, than elementals or elemental spirits. Nevertheless, they are deeply ensconced in the beliefs of the paranormal community. Let me first quote from the inspired apostle Paul in which he actually mentions elemental spirits. Many people do not realize that the bible actually uses this term. However, as we’ll see the bible fills that term with content that is utterly foreign and antithetical to its common understanding today.

4 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,1 though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary spirits of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then kan heir through God.
Paul's Concern for the Galatians

8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature nare not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary spirits of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have labored over you in vain.(Galatians 4:11..authors partial interpretation and added bold)

ESV — Colossians 2

2 For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at aodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face,2 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments. 5 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ.
Alive in Christ.

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him,7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding min thanksgiving.
8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also vou were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities 2 and he put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. 3 Let No One Disqualify You

16 Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to ia festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. 18 Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions,4 puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
20 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—21 w“Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” 22 (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? 23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.(ESV Colossians 2:1-23)
In three of the four texts, the Greek word is stoicheia. Only in Colossains 2:20 is the Greek slightly different-- ‘stoicheiown’.
In Galatians it refers to what they previously had followed, which for the Jews would have been the Mosaic law and for the Gentiles the basic concepts of their pagan religions. However, the demonic nature and bondage of both are clearly in view.
There is a vast quantity of information and opinions regarding the identity of elementals or elementary/elemental spirits. I haven’t the time to do an exhaustive analysis of FALSE views of elementals. However, below is a sampling of views, and then we shall examine the TRUTH.
According to many, nature is quite mysterious. Some Native Americans believe that an animal of each species houses within it the elemental spirit of that species, and housed within its body is a Mustika Stone/Pearl. They assert that these elemental spirits are often confused with demons due to their disdain of humanity, as the chief culprit in the raping of  ‘Mother Earth’and desecrating sacred places. Oftentimes, they allegedly appear at night with burning animal eyes…which I’ve seen credible pictures of from ‘Hostile Haunts’.

There are those who believe that elemental spirits can be categorized according to which element they are related to: earth, wind, air, and fire. Gnomes, fairies, ect can allegedly be traced to one of these four basic elements. Much more could be said about this and other ideas regarding elemental spirits, but suffice it to say that they are generally seen as ‘nature spirits.’ They either infuse nature and/or defend nature, especially from the encroachments of human beings. Alleged sacred places are of particular interest to them.

So, what does God say elemental spirits are? If you’ll notice the term is highlighted four times in the two texts above, from Galatians and Colossians.

STOP! Only the Creator has the vantage point and authority to tell us what these entities are. As always, when it comes to identifying paranormal phenomena, we either humbly bow before God’s revelation, or in autonomous rebellion, we prefer speculation. REVELATION VS SPECULATION. In His kindness and love, God has spoken to us about things we could never know unless He revealed truth about them. Praise God, He has spoken clearly regarding the nature of elementary spirits! No speculation needed. Indeed, it is sinful.

The theme of Colossians is: Christ is Lord over all creation, including the invisible realm. He has secured redemption for all His people, enabling them to participate with Him in His life, death, resurrection, ascension and His fullness.

Paul is complaining that false teachings have been inspired by elemental spirits (stoicheia--Greek) in all four of its usages above. Stoicheia is the underlying force behind the false teaching…. and in ancient texts it was used for spirits in Persian religious texts, magical papyri, astrological documents, and some Jewish texts.

However, the important thing is how it is used in the bible. It is not some abstract principle. It was used as an equivalent in (Colossians) v.10,15 of rulers and authorities…which are Pauline synonyms for demonic forces. The classic text in 2:15 speaks of Christ disarming these rulers and authorities. Stoicheia, then, are clearly demons according to God. They are NOT nature demons—elementals or elemental/elementary spirits are simply another term for demons, just as fallen angels, unclean spirits…and principalities and powers…rulers and authorities. I don’t think this is widely known in Christian demonological circles. Perhaps I’m mistaken.

In  Colossians 2:4 Paul states that these stoicheia generated religions often do sound plausible, and in v 23 they have the appearance of wisdom. But its just appearance. Satan does not invent stupid sounding philosophies or religions. Sometimes people do, but Satan knows how to make a lie sound true. v 8 human tradition is not an innocent exercise in God’s eyes…often,  there is a confluence of human autonomy and demonic influence.

Indeed, the essence of stoicheia is that, although false teaching is passed down by human tradition (Col. 2:8),it finds its ultimate origin/energizer in demonic forces.

Once again we see demonic collusion. Take a brief survey of the world’s traditional religions or history of philosophy, and one can see a massive coordinated Satanic effort to suppress the truth and exchange a lie in its place (see Romans 1:18ff) The confluence of man’s sinful autonomy and demonic influence has generated countless religions which are sending billions to hell. Stoicheia. We must never mention hell without tears.

The human tradition which is passed down, whether Jewish legalism or paganism, is ultimately traced to demonic influence.  If you read the texts above you may be struck with the wide diversity of teaching that Paul is attacking due its denial or minimization of the Person and Work of Christ. Specifically, Paul targets the denial that we are saved by the finished work of Christ on the cross, plus NOTHING. Or, to put it positively, we HAVE EVERYTHING WE NEED IN CHRIST JESUS!! In 2:3 we have all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ, and the plausible sounding religions are a flat out denial of that.

We are justified by Christ alone…we are able to call the Creator ‘Abba”….we are released from bondage into freedom…we have been brought into union with Christ…all of our sins have been nailed to the cross…the stoicheia were disarmed and paraded as defeated foes of God…the Holy Spirit indwells us, etc. How, then, could we return to the very thing (stoicheia) that brought such bondage in the first place? That is Gods/Paul’s logic.

A summary may go like this: in the fullness of time, the fullness of God took on the fullness of human nature, in order to accomplish/apply the fullness of redemption. Amen!

This should be of intense interest to us today due to the juggernaut of paganism that is steam-rolling through our culture. However, any religion that is not biblical Christianity is stoicheia.

In vvs. 3,8,9 in Galatians, elementary spirits ENSLAVE people, and of course, that is precisely what demons do. The American credo is: I’m spiritual but not religious. That means different things to different people, but it usually means a denial and rejection of the biblical God, and exchanging the Living God for some demonic lie, or stoicheia. However, this libertarian view of religion does not lead to the liberty people are seeking. Rather, it leads to temporal and eternal enslavement and damnation.

It seems to the writer that many folks view elementals or elementary spirits as the epitome of freedom of pristine nature. But as with every Satanic lie, it sounds so plausible and looks so attractive, but it leads to death. Instead of bringing us into a relationship in which we can cry “Abba”, it leads to death dealing deception and delusion.

Ironically, the modern notions of elemental spirits are themselves the creation of elemental spirits!

So, what about the notion that there are spirits that infuse and protect nature? Below is one of the first verses I memorized decades ago regarding the relation of Christ to nature and supernature.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.(Colossians 1:15-17)

First, we note that Jesus created everything—the cosmos. His creating includes the visible and invisible realms. And just to make sure we get it, God tells us that all angels (probably focusing on being Creator of those angels who later fell) were created through Him.

In addition to creating the universe, He holds it together. Moment by moment the Creator God actively keeps His creation from poofing out of existence. Christ, not some impersonal force, personally pervades all of His creation and sustains all of His creation. God is both omnipresent and immense—He is everywhere present, and all of God is everywhere….not spread out thin like peanut butter on bread.

He is not only the agent of creation but the goal of creation as well—all things were created through Him and FOR Him! Every square inch of the visible and invisible universe is God’s by virtue of His creating it, out of nothing.

One of the more popular notions of the pagan worldview is that there is an impersonal divine spirit that indwells all things, animate or inanimate. This is known as animism. However, the above text is a clear contradiction of that notion. The Holy Trinity is omnipresent, and not some Star Wars type force pervading the universe. Buddhism, Native Americans and the exploding ranks of pagans have bought the stoicheia originated lie of ‘Mother Earth.” God is our Father but the Earth is NOT our Mother! From Genesis 1:1 –Revelation 22 the Holy Creator is utterly distinct from His fallen, but good creation. Paganism seeks to diminish or obliterate the distinction between the Creator and His creation. The creation IS god.

I recently received a text from a Christian friend who celebrated that Buddhists and Native Americans believe that a spirit pervades all nature and rocks are wise and can teach us. Dear friends, as Christians we must think like Christians. (Romans 12:1-2)

Some demons are territorial of alleged ‘sacred places’, and some forests/woods are ‘haunted’ or infested (e.g. Aokigahara…Suicide Forest in Japan). Tragically, this seems to be one place where stoicheia don’t mask their hateful intentions toward mankind. It is curious that many people actually state that elemental spirits ‘act like demons’, but they won’t go the next logical step and call it a demon. Many folks simply have an aversion to calling any spirits a ‘demon’….negative spirit maybe, but not demon.

Paul’s antidote to stoicheia teaching is a passionate defense of the Person and work of Christ..His singular honor and dignity. (see above texts) With a spiritual shock and awe, the miserable, enslaving nature of stoicheia is seen against the backdrop of the wondrous nature of the Second Person of the Trinity and our union with His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. By comparison, any stoicheia derived teaching is pitiful nonsense.

Make no mistake: the Father is not amused with stoicheia religion—He hates it. If He ever has to choose between the singular honor and dignity of His only Begotten Son and our spiritual whims, He will ALWAYS choose His Son. He has made that abundantly clear.

Those who have caught evidence of alleged elementals, which I have seen, show glowing eyes…and this would seem to have animal connection. But categorizing paranormal entities according to appearance is foolish. For example, on Paranormal Lockdown, Nick and crew saw a slithering creature which did not resemble anything any of them had seen before. So, what was his conclusion? “We may have caught evidence of a paranormal entity never seen before.” No. It is a demon Nick. It is stoicheia which may seem plausible to some but is hellish and odious to God.

Stoicheia is a classic case in which God, the Lord of linguistics, chose a word that had been in usage for a long time, and infused it with clear content…demon.

Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Dalai Lama: Body, Mind, Science at University of Strasbourg

Strasbourg, France, 16 September 2016 - The sky was overcast this morning as His Holiness the Dalai Lama drove across the city to the University of Strasbourg to take part in a dialogue with the scientific community, at the interface of modern science, engagement, and meditation. He was welcomed to the University by Theologist Michel Deneken, who just yesterday was promoted to become the University’s new President, Dean of the Medical School, Jean Sibilia and Rheumatologist Jean-Gérard Bloch. They escorted him directly to the small auditorium where an audience of just over 140 staff members were gathered, although another 1300 students and staff were watching elsewhere in the building via a live webcast.

Michel Deneken opened proceedings by asking how His Holiness preferred to be addressed, noting that he had recently told an interviewer that he would be happy to be called ‘brother’. His Holiness said he’d love that. Deneken introduced the University as one of the great Universities of Europe established on both sides of the Rhine, being Catholic and Protestant, French and German, and with a reputation for openness. He concluded by telling His Holiness how delighted he was by his presence.

The first session, Neurosciences, set out to examine the regulation of attention and emotions by mindfulness meditation, and was moderated by Michel de Mathelin. Wolf Singer a distinguished neuroscientist interested in the relation between the material and spiritual asked how meditation acts on the mental substrate and how insight influences the brain. His Holiness responded by looking back 3-4000 years in India to the emergence of the practice of shamatha meditation in which the mind is focussed on a single object. Subsequently, vipashyana or special insight meditation emerged which was more investigative. Through concentration and analysis these practices became the basis for coming to understand the workings of the mind.

He mentioned the sensory consciousnesses that are very much related to the brain and mental consciousness.

“Ordinary mental consciousness is quite coarse,” he explained, “but during sleep, when the senses are shut down, consciousness is a little subtler. When there is no dreaming it’s subtler still and when we faint even subtler. My friend Richie Davidson is now investigating the subtlest consciousness that manifests at the time of death. There are cases, and there have been maybe 40 since 1959, when the heart has stopped, the brain has died, but the body remains fresh. My own tutor remained in this state for 13 days after clinical death.”

Antoine Lutz spoke about work he and Gaël Chételat have been doing to investigate the impact of mindfulness meditation among several strategies for tackling ageing and Alzheimer’s disease in particular. He mentioned its successful role in relieving depression which is a problem associated with ageing.

In the second session, Clinical Aspects, Jean-Gérard Bloch and Gilles Bertschy, with Cornelius Weiller moderating, spoke further about the impact of mindfulness meditation on depression and pain. Depression is a public health issue that Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is 30% effective in dealing with. MBCT seems to help when there are difficult issues to cope with.

Bloch asked His Holiness whether language was needed to meditate, prompting His Holiness to speak briefly about the difference between conceptual and non-conceptual thought. He confirmed, however, that simply on the basis of conveying meditation instructions language was required. He also remarked that this is an area in which the Tibetan language is the most accurate medium of communication.

Bloch also asked His Holiness if there is a difference between pain and suffering and he told him that pain is related to physical experience, whereas suffering has more of a mental character. Regarding meditation, His Holiness clarified:

“I’ve already distinguished between concentrative and analytical meditation. The difference lies in how the mind engages with the object. From a traditional point of view the four mindfulnesses are understood as follows. Mindfulness of the body relates to understanding the nature of suffering; mindfulness of feelings relates to understanding the origin of suffering; mindfulness of the mind relates to cessation; while mindfulness of the way things are corresponds to understanding the path.”

After a break for lunch, in a third session, Tania Singer and Ven Matthieu Ricard discussed empathy and compassion, with Michel Deneken moderating. On the one hand Tania Singer’s research is examining the impact steady training in meditation on empathy and compassion has on the brain, but on the other is also seeking to find training and practice to offset the empathy burn out frequently encountered in the medical and other caring professions. She defines empathy as feeling or identifying with others’ pain, whereas compassion is feeling for their suffering—and doing something about it.

His Holiness distinguished between a basic biological sense of compassion that tends to be biased and partisan and a genuine compassion based on reasoning such as the argument that others want to live a happy life and don’t want suffering, just as I do. Ricard pointed out the degree of courage involved in cultivating great compassion. He also observed that co-operation is far more effective than competition.

The fourth and final session, Consciousness, was moderated by B Alan Wallace. He introduced Steven Laureys a neurologist who studies coma and Michel Bitbol a polymath who functions as a philosopher. Laureys, who had brought a brain with him to illustrate what he had to say, declared that he wants to know, “What happens when matter becomes mind?” His Holiness remarked, “I really doubt that it does.” And Laureys retorted, “Can you be conscious without your brain?” He made his approach clearer when asserting that the scientific proof of life after death involves organ donation.

Speaking in Tibetan, which Alan Wallace translated, His Holiness said:

“It’s difficult to explain consciousness if you only take a materialist approach. What we can do is to employ shamatha or concentration focussed on our own consciousness. This reveals its clarity of awareness and knowing.”

He explained that there are further stages of investigation related to employing techniques from the tantras. He observed that Hindu and Buddhist tantras overlap and share features in common. What distinguishes them is the Buddhist view of emptiness of intrinsic existence.

Laureys stated: “Consciousness exists. I try to understand it.” He repeated his question asking whether His Holiness thought there was consciousness without a brain. As time ran out Michel Bitbol spoke about how Edmund Husserl whose work on phenomenology influenced foremost 20th century philosophers like Sartre and Heidegger.  The later Francisco Varela, old friend of His Holiness and founder member of Mind & Life found inspiration in what Husserl had to say about ‘consciousness in the first person.’

Winding up a stimulating day of discussion, Michel Deneken thanked His Holiness for coming and contributing to the conversation. His Holiness replied, “I came because you invited me.” Tomorrow, elsewhere in Strasbourg, he will begin to teach Nagarjuna’s ‘Commentary on Bodhichitta.’

original link with photos http://dalailama.com/news/post/1455-body-mind-science-at-university-of-strasbourg

Friday, September 16, 2016

A Comprehensive Analysis of Alleged Ghost Texts

By  Mark Hunnemann

I came across an argument recently which I consider representative of many thoughtful and sincere Christians. The argument is that there seems to be some “wiggle” room in the bible for considering ghosts as a biblically admissible category—three texts are given as most important. Later, this brother stated that though he believes ghosts may exist, we must not speak with them because the bible is clear that we mustn’t do that (Deuteronomy 18, Leviticus 19, 20). I appreciate this person’s ability to make a distinction as to ghost’s existence and our communication with them as two, distinct issues.

My purpose in this unusually lengthy blog is to establish the fact that the bible is crystal clear regarding the fate of those in the intermediate state—those who have died before Jesus’ return—and that there is no wiggle room for ghosts. Instead of quoting a couple verses and then listing others for folks to read on their own, I have included most of the texts I deem most pertinent to the state of our souls after death. I trust that you will read them carefully, and feel the cumulative effect. I am of the opinion that “mere” belief in ghosts, even if we won’t attempt communication, is harmful….it certainly is unbiblical.

I will address his interpretation of 1 John 4:1 first, list the pertinent verses, and then address the three verses he considers as most supportive of the notion of ghosts. If you are a sincere seeker of truth regarding ghosts, then I appeal to you to listen and read all the texts and arguments carefully. I put a lot of time in this blog.

“It is simply too easy to resign all paranormal phenomenon into the category of the demonic. Besides, we have no need to “test the spirits and see whether they are from God” (I Jn. 4:1) if all spirits (or spiritual phenomenon) are categorically evil. So while the Bible cautions us about deceiving spirits, it does not go so far as to say that all “encounters” are necessarily of the “deceptive” order. (p. 105 paperback edition; bold mine)

The need for spiritual discernment regarding “spirits” is evidence that there may be some wiggle room as to their nature. If all ghosts are demons, we don’t need discernment. But if, as I believe, there’s a broader range of spiritual possibilities, remaining skeptically agnostic may be a virtue.

Furthermore, some biblical texts appear to challenge the “ghosts are demons” narrative. Here’s what I consider the three most important.

Saul and the Witch of Endor (I Sam. 28) — The “ghost” of Samuel is summoned by a witch and witnessed as “a spirit coming up out of the ground” (vs. 13). The spirit is recognized as the dead prophet who validates himself by prophesying against Saul (vss. 16-19). So what was Samuel? A ghost or a demon?

The Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2-8) — Two dead prophets—Moses and Elijah—appear alongside Jesus in a glorified state. Had they been resurrected? Where did their bodies/souls  previously exist? Where did they return to? Compounding matters is that the prophets “were talking with Jesus” (vs. 4).

Jesus’ post-Resurrection appearance to the disciples in which they mistake Him for “a ghost” (Luke 24:36-39) — It suggests that ghosts were an admissible category within their culture. Jesus does not rebuke them for this belief. In fact, He seems to substantiate it—“a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have” (vs. 39). This implies that ghosts ARE something and not another. (Note, this isn’t the first time the disciples thought Jesus to be a ghost — Matt. 14:22-33).

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 4:1-6)

First, I need to address the author’s interpretation and application of 1 John 4:1….notice that I quote the entire text to preserve context. Many people assume that John has 3 kinds of entities in mind when it comes to discernment (true, demonic, and ghosts) In fact, the author states we would not need discernment if all ghosts were demons. This is simply not true. Read 1 John 4:1-6 carefully and you will not see ghosts anywhere in the context. What John is clearly calling Christians to be is discerning about human teachers within the church.(1b) The spirits and human teachers are inextricably connected in v. 1.(for many false prophets have gone out into the world.. see v 5-6 for same connection of spirits with teachers) John’s point is that some people’s teaching is animated by the Holy Spirit, and others are animated by demonic spirits. THAT is what discernment is needed for. When he says “test the spirits” it is a call for doctrinal orthodoxy, especially a Christological test. Namely, any spirit which denies that Jesus was fully human is demonic in origin (unclean spirit), and any spirit which affirms it is from God. The clarion call for discernment had only two foci in this context….godly human teachers who were guided by the Holy Spirit who taught orthodox views of Christ, and ungodly teachers who were guided by unholy spirits who taught heterodox views of Christ. False teaching regarding Christ was/is rampant and John (the Holy Spirit) commands us to not be spiritually gullible, but discerning. The author’s assertion that discernment was not needed unless ghosts existed is simply not true, and misses the Holy Spirit’s intent for this text. Discerning false teaching regarding the Person and Work of Christ is plenty reason for dogged and determined discernment. Such calls for discernment regarding false teachers is a common motiff from Genesis to Revelation…from Jesus Himself and in virtually all the epistles. V.6  summarized John’s point. ”We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” It is an either/or. Human teachers like John who speak correctly regarding Jesus have the Spirit of truth, but human teachers who speak falsely of Christ are animated by demons—the spirit of error. John does not have ghosts anywhere in his mind in this text. Nowhere! And yet there is an alarming sense of urgency that we be discerning. I honestly don’t understand how one can say this text makes no sense (in its call for discernment) unless it was implying a need for discernment of ghosts. The issue is discernment between teaching from the Holy Spirit, and teaching originating from demonic influence. That is clearly the Holy Spirit’s intent for this text and not just my interpretation.

From here, I want to list the primary texts that clarify the nature of the intermediate state, which are uniformly ghost-less. For sake of space and time, my comments after each will be minimal. Please read ALL the texts,

9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, (2 Peter 2:9) Peter is speaking present tense. ALL of the unrighteous are being punished in hell during the intermediate state. From Adam and Eve onwards, there  have been two streams of humanity—the righteous (those who looked forward to the coming Messiah, or look back to the Messiah who came) and the unrighteous. The seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Again, there is no allowance for exceptions regarding the location of all the unrighteous who have died.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Who is the author of Hebrews referring to as surrounding us? We need to look at the context, especially the preceding chapter. Starting with Abel there is a list of “faith hall of fame”… Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc. All of these folks listed in chapter 11 are commended as living by faith and not by sight…waiting for their heavenly home. The astonishing thing is that we are told that this great cloud of witnesses in heaven “surround us”. They are earnestly looking down upon us, perhaps cheering us on as we run our race of faith. These Old Testament believers are currently in heaven….disembodied but glorified spirits worshiping God face-to-face, covered in the righteousness of Christ, who is seated at the right hand of the Father. No exceptions….all the righteous dead from Old Testament times comprise the cloud of witnesses in heaven. In light of all Jesus endured (v.2) is it not noxious in the extreme to think that the perfect atonement made by the perfect Atoner of our sin, let somebody “slip” and become earthbound? The clear picture is that ALL the righteous dead comprise this great cloud of witnesses. They are conscious, and not in some suspended animation or soul-sleep, as some assert.

For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (Hebrews 12:18-24)

This astonishing text is often overlooked. As is often the case in Hebrews, the greater glory of the New Covenant is accented in this text. Moses, and all the Jews, were fearful of God’s theophany on the mountain. Speaking to all true Christians, the author says that “we have come (not future tense!!)…to the heavenly Jerusalem.” There is a true, proper mysticism in Christianity. The church militant is united with the church triumphant! In some sense, by virtue of our common union with Christ, we have access to the spiritual realm of heaven where we worship together with angels and deceased believers. Notice that God is called the “judge of ALL” (accent added)..nobody is immune from the Judge of heaven and earth. “The spirits of the righteous made perfect” can only mean all believers now in heaven. Notice they are called spirits…their souls are in heaven…and upon death, their souls were glorified; made perfect and free from all sin. Whether living during the Old Testament era or the New, believers are said to be in assembly in worship in heaven, along with innumerable angels. In 2:12 Jesus is leading the assembly in singing!! This is the glorious hope of all Christians upon death. Nobody will escape from our holy God, who is a consuming fire. (v. 29) I earnestly hope that nobody would think to refer to these “spirits of the righteous made perfect” as ghosts, simply because they are disembodied spirits.

Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing pat the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together2 at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:54-60)

When the human courts had cast their vote of condemnation, Jesus came to Stephen’s aid. He was one of the first Christians killed (violent death, lots of emotion, unfinished business, before his time, ect…in world’s eyes—criteria set by paranormal community for haunting) But Jesus, King of Kings, became Stephen’s defense attorney. As His son was unfairly condemned and dying, Jesus STOOD UP—He is usually seen as seated at right hand—to tenderly welcome Stephen home. Jesus is our righteousness and He will similarly come to our defense when we die….if we are His children. What “fell asleep” was his body, until resurrected at Second Coming. Stephen’s death is a clear picture of God taking personal interest in everyone’s death, righteous or unrighteous. Can you picture, in light of this text, God just letting some poor soul become earthbound…avoiding any judgment or homecoming? At this point, I hope the cumulative effect of these texts is making its intended mark.

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10 They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been. (Revelation 6:9-11)

Under the altar is where sacrificial blood would pool. John sees the souls of believers under the altar, using Old Testament sacrificial imagery. The white robes signify victory and purity. Martyrs should be seen as symbolic of all believers who are called to be living sacrifices. (Romans 12:1-2) Obviously, these disembodied but glorified spirits are more alive and conscious than they ever were on earth! This is one of the clearest and most compelling pictures of the condition of believers during the intermediate state. Symbolism abounds in Revelation and these are symbolic of ALL believers who have died. Are they literally under an altar, cramped? No! All deceased believers are in heaven and clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and worshipping and enjoying God. Their cry for vengeance would become increasingly answered as the book progresses. Once again, we are walking on holy ground as we peer into heaven, where all deceased believers reside….very much conscious, but no communication seen in any text with those on earth.

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house—28 for I have five brothers7—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’

There are many things one could discuss regarding this remarkable parable, but I need to stay focused on what happens to all people when we die. We see both sides of the coin: after his death, Lazarus was taken to heaven (that is where Abraham is now), and the unrighteous rich man was sent to hell after death….that is what Hades means in this context. Putting aside all the other details, this parable clearly displays the reality of the intermediate state. After death and judgment, our souls go either to heaven or hell. The notion of anyone being trapped here is utterly foreign to biblical theology. V.31 intimates that there will be no visitations from heaven by righteous souls to folks on earth.
27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28 so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:27-28)

This one verse is so clear it should resolve the issue for the open-minded. Since the bible does not contradict itself, less clear verses should be interpreted in a fashion that does not contradict this crystal clear verse. First, note that all men are “appointed to die”. Clearly the unspoken appointer is the Judge of heaven and earth. This is a strong verb—the sovereign King has appointed your death, down to the exact second. God makes an appointment which no man can cancel. All men must die and will die. Not by fate but by divine appointment. We die once—“hapax”(denying reincarnation)…” meta de touto krisis.” In the Greek it is even clearer…immediately after death we face judgment. Death is a means to an  end—to bring us before the judgment seat of Christ. This text disallows any wiggle room for anybody to remain earthbound and avoiding immediate judgment. We all die once, then we all immediately face judgment.  That is the force of the Greek word rendered “after” (meta).This text strictly denies any option of entrapment. What is usually overlooked in discussions of this verse is the singular honor and dignity of Jesus as well as the perfection of the atonement in the follow up verse. (v.29)…a recurring theme in all these texts. We meet Christ immediately after death, whether believer or unbeliever, there is apodictic certainty that none will remain behind,,,you MUST  appear before Christ’s seat of judgment. Christ shed His infinitely precious blood ONCE, just as we die once. This is a judgment before THE Judgment….a personal reckoning before God immediately after death which ushers us into the intermediate state. Our disembodied souls are sent to either heaven or hell…..until Jesus comes a second time and our private sentences will be made public, and we are reunited with our bodies.

This is a good place to point out the serious implications of believing in ghosts. The atonement is like a multi-faceted gem. Put another way, 10,000 benefits flow from the cross. The bible states that the perfect atonement was a frontal assault on sin, Satan, and death. Death lost its sting. However, if only one person gets trapped here, then that implies imperfection in the atonement or the Atoner, or both. It also takes the certainty out of our glorious hope. If for whatever reason folks can get trapped here, then nobody can die with utter certainty of seeing Jesus upon death.Not only is the notion of ghosts inconsistent with the bible it is hostile to every major doctrine in the bible. It certainly casts a shadow over the perfection of the atonement. That is a serious red flag.

All leave earth upon death.

Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Philippians 1:18-26)

Paul states it explicitly…he had the certain hope that when he died, he was going to be with Jesus. ….depart and be with Christ. It was so wonderfully simple for Paul—die and he would be with his beloved Jesus. How clearer can a man be? In this sense Paul was not special. All Christians are to see these verses as their certain hope—their inheritance. Notice it is all so very Christocentric…these verses ooze and dance with Jesus as the center stage in Paul’s life and death. Another verse which should be enough to demolish earthbound spirits. There is simply no way to jive the notion of earthbound spirits with this text. And as we’ll see, less clear texts are to be interpreted by clear verses like this one. The certainty of being with Jesus upon death was grounded in the Person and work of Christ, as seen in the larger context (cf. 2:8-11…ch.3) Clinging to the righteousness of Christ was the basis for Paul’s (and ours) absolute confidence regarding our heavenly home during the intermediate state. All leave earth upon death.

So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. (2 Corinthians 5:6-10)

WE…..WE….(9 times in English bible) Frequently in his letters, Paul would use the first person/plural..we. What was true of the great apostle is true of the garden variety believer, like me/us. No exceptions. First, as in previous text, Paul states that death leads to going home to be with Jesus. Death is an immediate and certain doorway for believers into the beatific vision….seeing the Lord Jesus in His indescribable beauty, which will be the greatest pleasure in heaven. Second, we experience what is called the believer’s judgment prior to entry. I don’t have time to elaborate but this teaches that “each one” (no exceptions) will experience it upon death.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.  (Revelation 1:17-18)

Having the keys to death means that Jesus has authority over it. Once again, His authority and victory over death is inextricably linked to Jesus’ death and resurrection. “I died…am alive forevermore”….As if to say, therefore I have absolute sovereign authority over death. I determine what happens to you when you die, not you. I have the keys, not you, and not Satan. John, perhaps Jesus’ closest friend while on earth, almost died from fright when he saw the ascended Lord Jesus in His holy glory. Then Jesus gently touched Him. I honestly believe that the greatest need of Christians is a renewed understanding of God’s holiness. With God as truly God Almighty, God-dishonoring notions like ghosts would melt away. Our God is too small.

Every person who dies has to face the One who owns death and has authority over it. Nobody can just hang around and not have to deal with the One who owns them by virtue of creating them and has the keys.

One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43)

According to the paranormal community certain circumstances and kinds of death raise the chances of one becoming trapped. This man was experiencing one of the most painful ways to die ever devised by man…he met most, if not all, of the so-called death criteria. But he believes in Jesus at the eleventh hour, and Jesus says to him: ”Today you will die and get trapped here for an indeterminate amount of time….and your residual energy will seep into this ground” Right? Obviously not. Sounds horribly foolish doesn’t it? Jesus tells this dear man, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”  In other words, Jesus was assuring this dying man that he would be in heaven after he died. During the intermediate state this man would be in conscious fellowship with Jesus Christ. Luke was written in part to show that Jesus is the Divine Messiah for all people. What was true for this man is meant to be seen as paradigmatic for all believers….going home.

Before looking at three classic texts used to support the notion that ghosts are an admissible category, it is prudent to list some basic rules of hermeneutics. It should become clear as we proceed, but there is a science to proper interpretation. Errors can be caught at the gate if we are cognizant of these basic rules. Honestly, most Christians are not trained in this area.

Rules for interpretation

1. New Testament interprets Old Testament
2. Scripture interprets scripture…..in non-contradictory fashion
3. Always interpret text in it’s context…immediate and larger (what precedes it, and purpose of book….e.g. what immediately precedes Mark 6 and what is purpose of Mark’s gospel? And the context of the entire bible, which takes hard work)
4. Determine what kind of literary genre text is (e.g. poetry, historical narrative, ect.)
5. Historical narratives are to interpreted by didactic (examples of historical narratives are 1-2 Kings and gospels….note that all texts cited by author are historical narrative)  They record history and often without comment….generally they are descriptive and not prescriptive…unless meaning is made clear. Epistles were written to explain in further detail the meaning of the person and work of Jesus recorded in gospels and its application…and are almost always prescriptive
6. Unclear or bizarre texts are not to be used to formulate doctrine, and should be interpreted by clearer texts.
7. Determine the main intent of Holy Spirit and not what we wish it to mean. Determine what text meant to original audience before seeking personal application.
8. Any interpretation or implication drawn from text that implicitly/explicitly diminishes the singular honor and dignity of Jesus Christ, or casts a shadow over the absolute perfection of the atonement, should be rejected. If interpretation is inconsistent with letter or spirit of other clearer texts it should be rejected.
9. It should be noted that at significant junctures of redemptive history, there is usually an increase of extraordinary, sometimes mysterious, Divine activity. Examples would include Noah, Abraham, Moses, Saul/David, Elijah/Elisha, and Jesus. Care must be taken to ensure that the Holy Spirit’s intent for these texts is sought out, and our own agendas put aside. They are  often extraordinary in nature and not directly applicable to us….e.g..just because Elijah did not die and was carried to heaven in chariot, does not mean we will have same experience!
10.  Any comments made by disciples BEFORE Pentecost must be interpreted with extreme care and caution
11.  Texts should be read theo-centrically. That is, after determining what the meaning was to the original audience, we should first ask: what does this text reveal about the nature of God, and of the Person and work of Jesus in particular?

3 Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him kin Ramah, his own city. And Saul had put the mediums and the necromancers out of the land. 4 The Philistines assembled and came and encamped at Shunem. And Saul gathered all Israel, and they encamped at Gilboa. 5 When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly. 6 And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or by Urim, or by prophets. 7 Then Saul said to his servants, “Seek out for me a woman who is a medium, that I may go to her and inquire of her.” And his servants said to him, “Behold, there is a medium at En-dor.”
8 So Saul disguised himself and put on other garments and went, he and two men with him. And they came to the woman by night. And he said, “Divine for me by a spirit and bring up for me whomever I shall name to you.” 9 The woman said to him, “Surely you know what Saul has done, how he has cut off the mediums and the necromancers from the land. Why then are you laying a trap for my life to bring about my death?” 10 But Saul swore to her by the Lord, “As the Lord lives, no punishment shall come upon you for this thing.” 11 Then the woman said, “Whom shall I bring up for you?” He said, “Bring up Samuel for me.” 12 When the woman saw Samuel, she cried out with a loud voice. And the woman said to Saul, “Why have you deceived me? You are Saul.” 13 The king said to her, “Do not be afraid. What do you see?” And the woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.” 14 He said to her, “What is his appearance?” And she said, “An old man is coming up, and he is wrapped win a robe.” And Saul knew that it was Samuel, and he bowed with his face to the ground and paid homage. 15 Then Samuel said to Saul, “Why have you disturbed me by bringing me up?” Saul answered, “I am in great distress, for the Philistines are warring against me, and God has turned away from me and answers me no more, either by prophets or by dreams. Therefore I have summoned you to tell me what I shall do.” 16 And Samuel said, “Why then do you ask me, since the Lord has turned from you and become your enemy? 17 The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David. 18 Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day. 19 Moreover, the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me. The Lord will give the army of Israel also into the hand of the Philistines.” 20 Then Saul fell at once full length on the ground, filled with fear because of the words of Samuel. And there was no strength in him, for he had eaten nothing all day and all night. 21 And the woman came to Saul, and when she saw that he was terrified, she said to him, “Behold, your servant has obeyed you. I have taken my life in my hand and have listened to what you have said to me. 22 Now therefore, you also obey your servant. Let me set a morsel of bread before you; and eat, that you may have strength when you go on your way.” 23 He refused and said, “I will not eat.” But his servants, together with the woman, urged him, and he listened to their words. So he arose from the earth and sat on the bed. 24 Now the woman had a fattened calf in the house, and she quickly killed it, and she took flour and kneaded it and baked unleavened bread of it, 25 and she put it before Saul and his servants, and they ate. Then they rose and went away that night.

Before we interpret this text we must ask what the central themes of the books of Samuel are. The essential theme is God exercising His cosmic Kingship by inaugurating a Davidic dynasty and not a Saulide one, and establishing Jerusalem as the place where the Divine King Yahweh will be worshipped. This is a very significant time in the flow of redemptive history as God’s people move away from a period of ruling Judges to a central monarchy, who is to be subject to the Word of God. (see rule #9).

The key themes in Samuel are: the absolute cosmic Kingship of God, His providential guidance, and God’s sovereign will and power. Obedience of God’s deputy (the king) to His revealed Word is of paramount importance. All of this is very significant when looking at this text.

This text is preceded by a narrative of God’s chosen one, David, and is followed by a tragic story of Saul’s rejection and God-ordained death.

All of the rules for interpretation given above must be kept in mind. Above all else, the clear and cumulative evidence of what happens to us when we die (both godly and ungodly) from the multitude of texts above must guide our interpretation of this bizarre and singular text. The New Testament interprets the Old, and didactic interprets historical narrative—and this is a historical narrative.

I am going to make this short, dealing with just the major issue. This is a significant juncture in the flow of the drama of redemption—Israel’s first king is about to be killed. Hence, it is no surprise to me that we have this singularly bizarre incident occuring. In keeping with the theme of the book, the Sovereign King steps in during this séance with a medium (not witch..’ob) and providentially guides its proceedings. Samuel’s soul is dispatched by God to deliver a message of judgment upon king Saul. Samuel is at rest in heaven (why did you disturb me?). God gives him an appearance that all would recognize as the deceased prophet. At this unrepeatable and significant juncture in redemptive history where Israel’s first king is on the verge of death—and the forerunner of the Lord Jesus is about to become king, David—God does something extraordinary. Remember that this is historical narrative and an in-depth commentary is lacking. Thus, drawing doctrine from this would be contrary to several of the hermeneutical rules laid out above. However, just because there was a very brief visit by a glorified soul is no basis for establishing further visitations. Here is a very significant point—Samuel was NOT an earthbound spirit. His rest was “disrupted” and after delivering his message, Samuel went back home to his celestial rest.

The issue at stake is not whether there are disembodied spirits (there are millions in heaven and hell right now). Like Moses and Elijah on the mountain with Jesus, Samuel was sovereignly dispatched during a time of crisis at the beginning of the monarchy stage.

Ghosts are said to be trapped spirits, and usually for a long time. Samuel was not trapped and his visit was measured in minutes. There is nothing in this text which provides ammunition for those looking for a biblical basis for saying that ghosts is an admissible category. In fact, Samuel predicts that” tomorrow” Saul and his sons would join him. Nobody is being trapped or earthbound in this text. Case closed.

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure,2 which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”— not knowing what he said. 34 As he was saying these things, ma cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One;3 listen to him!” 36 And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. (Luke 9:28-36)

Three questions are asked of this text: are Moses and Elijah resurrected?; where did they previously exist? Where did they return to? And a comment was made that their talking with Jesus compounds the matter.

This is the Transfiguration of Jesus on the mountain with Peter, James and John. From the outset, we must point out this is historical narrative, which describes an event, but often without commenting on it….which is somewhat the case in this text. Let me hasten to add that the gospels obviously do contain much teaching from Jesus (or didactic), but they are primarily theological biographies of the Lord Jesus. Events are often compressed and frequently events are described without comment on it…..usually left to reader to see this through Holy Spirit’s anointing and wisdom.

The context and the Holy Spirits main intention for this text is to accent the divine glory of the Lord Jesus. The texts preceding this and the episode with the demoniac coming after it (on the next day intentionally “hooks into” this theme”).

The transfiguration is an illumination from the inside/out of the true divine glory of Jesus which He suppressed during His incarnation. His divine glory shone exceedingly brightly!

Peter, out of fear, makes a foolish comment regarding making a tent for all three….”not knowing what he said”. This is another situation in which a disciple made a dumb comment without Jesus rebuking or correcting them. This will be significant when we look at the text in Mark when Jesus made no comment regarding their fear-laden comment that He was a ghost.

In a rare case in which the Father spoke verbally, He tells the disciples that Jesus is His beloved Son and they/we must listen to Him. Jesus’ ministry supersedes and fulfills all those who preceded Him, like Moses and Elijah.

Speaking of Moses and Elijah, the purpose of their presence was that Moses represented the Law and Elijah the Prophets, and most importantly, Jesus fulfills both. I chose the Lukan text because it tells us what Jesus, Moses, and Elijah were discussing. V.31 says that they were discussing His impending departure (“exodus” in Greek), which would entail His death, resurrection, and ascension. These were the events that all the prophets foretold and every inch of the Old Testament progressively revealed the coming ministry of the Messiah. How marvelous it must have been for Moses and Elijah!

To answer the questions: no, Moses and Elijah were not resurrected—that will occur at the Second Coming when we are reunited with our glorified bodies, such as Jesus’s was on the mountain. As we saw in the many texts above, Moses and Elijah existed in heaven, in the form of glorified souls. Jesus gave them an observable form but it was not yet their glorified bodies. Jesus’ whole ministry was THE most significant juncture in redemptive history. Hence we see unparalleled healings and exorcisms and other extraordinary, singular events—which include this Transfiguration. Jesus sovereignly transported Elijah and Moses for this short but magnificent event. How wonderful it must have been for Moses to see how the sacrificial system pre-figured the once for all sacrifice of The Lamb of God. And how moving it must have been for Elijah as he saw Jesus as The Divine Prophet..prophet, priest and king.

After their brief encounter (like Samuel) they went back home to heaven as the glorified souls we read about above (see Hebrews 11-12). Why does Elijah and Moses speaking with Jesus compound things? In God’s inscrutable wisdom, He included these two primary figures of the Old Testament. I find it unspeakably beautiful that God incarnate would bring these two men here to have a heart to heart about the upcoming events, which all of human/cosmic history hinge. The Creator of Moses and Elijah can certainly give them (as glorified souls) the ability to verbally communicate. Once again, their appearance was measured in minutes and they went back home. They were not earthbound. Their appearance enriched the significance of Jesus’ transfiguration by showing the centrality of Jesus in the Old Testament…and more glorious New Covenant.

To take such a God (and His glory) saturated text—with the Father telling us to listen to Him—and use it as an inference for ghosts is unwise, to put it mildly. We need to look to the epistles to give us the understanding of the status of Moses and Elijah. These are glorified souls engaged in conversation with their Creator and Savior, and were then sent back home. No ghosts. Indeed the notion detracts from the central theme—the glorious divinity of King Jesus. It saddens me that this God besotted text—and surrounding context on both sides- is used to support that which undermines the glory of Jesus by undermining the  perfection of the atonement which they were discussing on that holy mountain. To infer that other spirits could remain with us, is to overlook the singular nature of Jesus and His role in redemptive history as expressed in His transfiguration. It also overlooks the main intent of this passage and breaks several of the rules of hermeneutics.

all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.
Jesus Walks on the Water

45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:42-53…emphasis added)

I added this text because many folks are persuaded that this is the most powerful text proving Jesus believed in ghosts because he didn’t correct the disciple’s belief in ghosts. This text is preceded by the miracle of feeding 5,000…it is followed by Jesus landing on shore and healing everyone that came to him. These texts are designed to prove that Jesus is the divine “I AM”, and worthy of our worship and implicit trust. However, as we’ll see, this lesson was lost on the obtuse disciples.

Immediately (v.45) after a sensational, miraculous display of Jesus’ divine power and glory, Jesus made the disciples get into their boat. He went to pray. To condense this, when the disciples saw Jesus they thought He was a ghost (phantasma) Since He did not correct them, it must be that he agreed that ghosts is an admissible category.

Several problems with that argument. First, it is an argument from silence, which is a logical fallacy. You cannot derive doctrine from what Jesus didn’t say, especially in a historical narrative. Speaking of historical narrative, this text needs to be interpreted along the lines mentioned above—through the lenses of the epistles. Thirdly, what was the disciple’s emotional state when they thought this regarding Jesus….who they had just left across the lake, very much alive? We don’t have to guess. It says they were terrified, both by their crisis and Jesus’ appearance.

He did speak to them by telling them to not be afraid. Then He says “ego eimi” which is Greek equivalent of Old Testament Yahweh, I AM….was passing by them. But they totally missed it. In the Mt of Transfiguration, we have a precedent of a disciple saying something foolish without being corrected. What is kindness? Well, when people are terrified kindness and compassion looks like not jumping all over loved ones who just made a mistake. They were terrified…no time for lecture.
Most significantly, we are given a divinely inspired commentary on this whole event in v.52….it says that they didn’t understand the loaves (nor Jesus) because their hearts were hardened. This verse casts a long shadow over everything the disciples said/did in this text…especially regarding ghosts. Instead of operating out of well deserved faith and trust in Jesus, they were sunk in abject terror, unbelief and lack of faith. They (like me) were slow learners, until after Pentecost. Their cry of Jesus being a ghost was prompted by fear and unbelief. Here is the great I AM walking by, and they cling to popular superstition instead of faith in God Almighty. Without beating a dead horse, v. 52 makes it clear that the disciples were operating out of fear and not faith….their hearts were hardened to the lessons they should have learned the miracle done just hours before. Their utterance of Jesus being a ghost (which was absurd anyway since they knew He was alive) was an expression of their hardened heart. As Jesus said, out of the fullness of our hearts, the mouth speaks. In this context Phantasm is best translated as superstitious imagination. Ghosts were a popular notion in their day, as it is in ours, but the bible is our foundation. We must be transformed and not conformed. It was not until 24:25 that we are told that Jesus “opened their minds”….prior to that the disciples were quick to stick their foots in their mouths, and as historical narrative, often commentary is often very brief or lacking altogether.

36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they still disbelieved for joy and were marveling, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,2 43 and he took it and ate before them.

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you ware clothed with power from on high.”  (Luke 24:36-49).

First, it is noted in v.37-38 that the disciples were once again overcome with fear and doubt—similar to the commentary in Mark 6:52, where their hearts were said to be hardened. With these emotions flowing from fear and not faith, they thought Jesus was a spirit (pneuma….not a ghost). There were many disembodied spirits in heaven and hell at that time. In fact, Jesus does gently rebuke them for their comments. If Jesus said “Hey, I’m not like those earthbound spirits which are all around us” then we would have a basis for inference regarding ghosts as an admissible category. Contrary to what the author said he does rebuke them. He gently rebukes them for their unbelief/fear, and simply states he is not a spirit.

Jesus had a glorified body and not an appearance like Moses or Elijah, who have to wait for their glorified bodies. Jesus was simply emphasizing that He had a true, physical body (though glorified)…THAT is the main point. He refers to disembodied spirits as a means to an end….to counter the notion that He only appeared to be fully human after the resurrection. It was not until v.49 that we see Jesus foretelling a time when His disciples would be filled with the Spirit and finally understand…and stop making foolish comments.

Jesus took bread and ate it to prove to them that He was not a spirit. His intent was not to give us a ghostology, but address THEIR mistaken belief that He was a spirit. In a simple attempt to comfort them He says that He is not a spirit. Using their own words, Jesus said He was not who they thought He was, a spirit. Nowhere is the modern notion of an earthbound spirit referred to.

Like other historical narratives, we must view this text through the grid of the above didactic texts. It is not that some verses are more inspired/important than others, but there are common sense rules for interpreting the bible properly…which is what we must do if we believe it is the very Word of God.

By the way, while Jesus ministered to countless demoniacs, He never sought out a ghost to help them. Likewise, we never see an earthbound spirit approaching their Creator to help them, as did many demoniacs. The only inference one can take away is that Jesus did not have a ghostology ministry because there are none. If we allow for the admissibility of ghosts, then we open a Pandora’s box from hell.

Mark Hunnemann is the author of Seeing Ghosts Through God's Eyes: A Worldview Analysis of Earthbound Spirits. It's also available in eBook format.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Q&A with the Dalai Lama

Question: How do you view yourself?

Answer: I always consider myself as a simple Buddhist monk. I feel that is the real me. I feel that the Dalai Lama as a temporal ruler is a man-made institution. As long as the people accept the Dalai Lama, they will accept me. But being a monk is something which belongs to me. No one can change that. Deep down inside, I always consider myself a monk, even in my dreams. So naturally I feel myself as more of a religious person. Even in my daily life, I can say that I spend 80% of my time on spiritual activities and 20% on Tibet as a whole. The spiritual or religious life is something I know and have great interest in. I have some kind of confidence in it, and thus I want to study it more. Regarding politics, I have no modern education except for a little experience. It is a big responsibility for someone not so well equipped. This is not voluntary work but something that I feel I must pursue because of the hope and trust that the Tibetan people place on me.

Question: Will you be the last Dalai Lama?

Answer: Whether the institution of the Dalai Lama remains or not depends entirely on the wishes of the Tibetan people. It is for them to decide. I made this clear as early as in 1969. Even in 1963, after four years in exile, we made a draft constitution for a future Tibet which is based on the democratic system. The constitution clearly mentions that the power of the Dalai Lama can be removed by a two-thirds majority vote of the members of the Assembly. At the present moment, the Dalai Lama's institution is useful to the Tibetan culture and the Tibetan people. Thus, if I were to die today, I think the Tibetan people would choose to have another Dalai Lama. In the future, if the Dalai Lama's institution is no longer relevant or useful and our present situation changes, then the Dalai Lama's institution will cease to exist.Personally, I feel the institution of the Dalai Lama has served its purpose. More recently, since 2001 we now have a democratically elected head of our administration, the Kalon Tripa. The Kalon Tripa runs the daily affairs of our administration and is in charge of our political establishment. Half jokingly and half seriously, I state that I am now in semi-retirement.

Question: Do you think you will ever be able to return to Tibet?

Answer: Yes, I remain optimistic that I will be able to return to Tibet. China is in the process of changing. If you compare China today to ten or twenty years ago, there is tremendous change. China is no longer isolated. It is part of the world community. Global interdependence, especially in terms of economics and environment make it impossible for nations to remain isolated. Besides, I am not seeking separation from China. I am committed to my middle-way approach whereby Tibet remains within the People's Republic of China enjoying a high degree of self-rule or autonomy. I firmly believe that this is of mutual benefit both to the Tibetans as well as to the Chinese. We Tibetans will be able to develop Tibet with China's assistance, while at the same time preserving our own unique culture, including spirituality, and our delicate environment. By amicably resolving the Tibetan issue, China will be able to contribute to her own unity and stability.

Question: The Chinese have recently stated that the next Dalai Lama will be born in Tibet and chosen by them. What do you have to say about this?

Answer: If the present situation regarding Tibet remains the same, I will be born outside Tibet away from the control of the Chinese authorities. This is logical. The very purpose of a reincarnation is to continue the unfinished work of the previous incarnation. Thus if the Tibetan situation still remains unsolved it is logical I will be born in exile to continue my unfinished work. Of course the Chinese will still choose their own Dalai Lama and we Tibetans will choose our own according to tradition. It will be similar to the present situation of the Panchen Lama. There is a Chinese-appointed Panchen Lama and there is the Panchen Lama chosen by me. One is paraded to serve its master's purposes and the other is the Panchen Lama accepted in the hearts of all the Tibetans.

Question: What are your commitments?

Answer: In general, I always state that I have three commitments in life. Firstly, on the level of a human being, my first commitment is the promotion of human values such as compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline. All human beings are the same. We all want happiness and do not want suffering. Even people who do not believe in religion recognize the importance of these human values in making their lives happier. I remain committed to talk about the importance of these human values and share them with everyone I meet. Secondly, on the level of a religious practitioner, my second commitment is the promotion of religious harmony and understanding amongst different religious traditions. Despite philosophical differences, all major world religions have the same potential to create better human beings. It is therefore important for all religious traditions to respect one another and recognize the value of each other's respective traditions. Thirdly, I am a Tibetan and carry the name of the Dalai Lama. Tibetans place their trust in me. Therefore, my third commitment is to the Tibetan issue. I have a responsibility to act the free spokesperson of the Tibetans in their struggle for justice. As far as this third commitment, it will cease to exist once a mutually beneficial solution is reached between the Tibetans and Chinese. However, my first two commitments I will carry on till my last breath.

Question: What were your first feelings on being recognized as the Dalai Lama? What did you think had happened to you?

Answer: I was very happy. I liked it a lot. Even before I was recognized, I often told my mother that I was going to Lhasa. I used to straddle a window sill in our house pretending that I was riding a horse to Lhasa. I was a very small child at the time, but I remember this clearly. I had a strong desire to go there. Another thing I didn't mention in my autobiography is that after my birth, a pair of crows came to roost on the roof of our house. They would arrive each morning, stay for while and then leave. This is of particular interest as similar incidents occurred at the birth of the First, Seventh, Eighth and Twelfth Dalai Lamas. After their births, a pair of crows came and remained. In my own case, in the beginning, nobody paid attention to this. Recently, however, perhaps three years ago, I was talking with my mother, and she recalled it. She had noticed them come in the morning; depart after a time, and then the next morning, come again. Now, the evening the after the birth of the First Dalai Lama, bandits broke into the family's house. The parents ran away and left the child. The next day when they returned and wondered what had happened to their son, they found the baby in a corner of the house. A crow stood before him, protecting him. Later on, when the First Dalai Lama grew up and developed in his spiritual practice, he made direct contact during meditation with the protective deity, Mahakala. At this time, Mahakala said to him, Somebody like you who is upholding the Buddhist teaching needs a protector like me. Right on the day of your birth, I helped you.  So we can see, there is definitely a connection between Mahakala, the crows, and the Dalai Lamas.

Another thing that happened, which my mother remembers very clearly, is that soon after I arrived in Lhasa, I said that my teeth were in a box in a certain house in the Norbulinka. When they opened the box, they found a set of dentures which had belonged to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. I pointed to the box, and said that my teeth were in there, but right now I don't recall this at all. The new memories associated with this body are stronger. The past has become smaller, vaguer. Unless I made a specific attempt to develop such a memory, I don't recall it.

Question: Do you remember your birth or the womb state before?

Answer: At this moment, I don't remember. Also, I can't recall if at that time when I was a small child, I could remember it. However, there was one slight external sign perhaps. Children are usually born with their eyes closed. I was born with my eyes open. This may be some slight indication of a clear state of mind in the womb.

Question: Between the ages of sixteen and eighteen, after you assumed temporal power, did you change?

Answer: Yes, I changed a little bit. I underwent a lot of happiness and pain. Within that and from growing, gaining more experience, from the problems that arose and the suffering, I changed. The ultimate result is the man you see now (laughter).

Question: How about when you just entered adolescence? Many people have a difficult time defining themselves as an adult. Did this happen to you?

Answer: No. My life was very much in a routine. Two times a day I studied. Each time I studied for an hour, and then spent the rest of the time playing (laughter). Then at the age of 13, I began studying philosophy, definitions, debate. My study increased, and I also studied calligraphy. It was all in a routine though, and I got used to it. Sometimes, there were vacations. These were very comfortable and happy. Losang Samten, my immediate elder brother, was usually at school, but during these times he would come to visit. Also, my mother would come occasionally and bring special bread from our province of Amdo. Very thick and delicious. She made herself.

Question: Are there any of your predecessors in whom you have a special interest or with whom you have a particular affinity?

Answer: The Thirteenth Dalai Lama. He brought a lot of improvement to the standards of study in the monastic colleges. He gave great encouragement to the real scholars. He made it impossible for people to go up in the religious hierarchy, becoming an abbot and so forth, without being totally qualified. He was very strict in this respect. He also gave tens of thousands of monks' ordinations. There were his two main religious achievements. He didn't give many initiations, or many lectures. Now, with respect to the country, he had great thought and consideration for statecraft. The outlying districts in particular. How they should be governed and so forth. He cared very much how to run the government more efficiently. He had great concern about our borders and that type of thing.

Question: During the course of your life, what have been your greatest personal lessons or internal challenges? Which realizations and experiences have had the most effect on your growth as an individual?

Answer: Regarding religious experience, some understanding of shunya (emptiness: lack of independent self nature) some feeling, some experience and mostly bodhichitta, altruism. It has helped a lot. In some ways, you could say that it has made me into a new person, a new man. I am still progressing. Trying. It gives you inner strength, courage, and it is easier to accept situations. That's one of the greatest experiences.

Question: When you became a refugee, what helped you gain this strength? Was it the loss of your position and country, the fact of everyone suffering around you. Were you called on to lead your people in a different way than you had been accustomed to?

Answer: Being a refugee is really a desperate, dangerous situation. At that time, everyone deals with reality. It is not the time to pretend things are beautiful. That's something. You feel involved with reality. In peace time, everything goes smoothly. Even if there is a problem, people pretend that things are good. During a dangerous period, when there's a dramatic change, then there's no scope to pretend that everything is fine. You must accept that bad is bad. Now when I left the Norbulinka, there was danger. We were passing very near the Chinese military barracks. It was just on the other side of the river, the Chinese check post there. You see, we had definite information two or three weeks before I left, that the Chinese were fully prepared to attack us. It was only a question of the day and hour.

Question: About you being the incarnation of the bodhisattva of infinite compassion, Avalokiteshvara. How do you personally feel about this? Is it something you have an unequivocal view of one way or another?

Answer: It is difficult for me to say definitely. Unless I am engaged in a meditative effort, such as following my life back, breath by breath, I couldn't say exactly. We believe that there are four types of rebirth. One is the common type wherein, a being is helpless to determine his or her rebirth, but only reincarnates in dependence on the nature of past actions. The opposite is that of an entirely enlightened Buddha, who simply manifests a physical form to help others. In this case, it is clear that the person is Buddha. A third is one who, due to past spiritual attainment, can choose, or at least influence, the place and situation of rebirth. The fourth is called a blessed manifestation. In this the person is blessed beyond his normal capacity to perform helpful functions, such as teaching religion. For this last type of birth, the person's wishes in previous lives to help others must have been very strong. They obtain such empowerment. Though some seem more likely than others, I cannot definitely say which I am.

Question (follow up): From the viewpoint then of the realistic role you play as Chenrezi, how do you feel about it? Only a few people have been considered, in one way or another, divine. Is the role a burden or a delight?

Answer: It is very helpful. Through this role I can be of great benefit to people. For this reason I like it: I'm at home with it. It's clear that it is very helpful to people, and that I have the karmic relationship to be in this role. Also, it is clear that there is a karmic relationship with the Tibetan people in particular. Now you see, you may consider that under the circumstances, I am very lucky. However, behind the word luck, there are actual causes or reasons. There is the karmic force of my ability to assume this role as well as the force of my wish to do so. In regard to this, there is a statement in the great Shantideva's Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds which says, As long as space exists, and as long as there are migrators in cyclic existence, may I remain removing their sufferings. I have that wish in this lifetime, and I know I had that wish in past lifetimes.

Question (follow up): With such a vast goal as your motivation, how do you deal with your personal limitations, your limits as a man?

Answer: Again, as it says in Shantideva, If the blessed Buddha cannot please all sentient beings, then how could I. Even an enlightened being, with limitless knowledge and power and the wish to save all others from suffering, cannot eliminate the individual karma of each being.

Question (follow up): Is this what keeps you from being overwhelmed when you see the suffering of the six million Tibetans, who on one level, you are responsible for?

Answer: My motivation is directed towards all sentient beings. There is no question, though, that on a second level, I am directed towards helping Tibetan. If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it's not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.

Question (follow up): A lot of people say this, but few really live by it. Did you always feel this way, or did you have to learn it?

Answer: It is developed from inner practice. From a broader perspective, there will always be suffering. On one level, you are bound to meet with the effects of the unfavorable actions you yourself have previously committed in body, speech or mind. Then also, your very own nature is that of suffering. There's not just one factor figuring into my attitude, but many different ones. From the point of view of the actual entity producing the suffering, as I have said, if it is fixable, then there is no need to worry. If not, there is no benefit to worrying. From the point of view of the cause, suffering is based on past unfavorable actions accumulated by oneself and no other. These karmas are not wasted. They will bear their fruit. One will not meet with the effects of actions that one has not done oneself. Finally, from the viewpoint of the nature of suffering itself, the aggregates of the mind and body have as their actual nature, suffering. They serve as a basis for suffering. As long as you have them you are susceptible to suffering. From a deep point of view, while we don't have our independence and are living in someone else's country, we have a certain type of suffering, but when we return to Tibet and gain our independence, then there will be other types of suffering. So, this is just the way it is. You might think that I'm pessimistic, but I am not. This is how, through Buddhist teaching and advice, we handle situations. When fifty thousand people in the Shakya clan were killed one day, Shakyamuni Buddha, their clansman, didn't suffer at all. He was leaning against a tree, and he was saying, I am a little sad today because fifty thousand of my clansmen were killed. But he, himself, remained unaffected. Like that, you see (laughter). This was the cause and effect of their own karma. There was nothing he could do about it. These sorts of thoughts make me stronger; more active. It is not at all a case of losing one's strength of mind or will in the face of the pervasive nature of suffering.

Original link: http://dalailama.com/biography/questions--answers

Amazon SearchBox