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12/9/03


Home______Losing Control

Control is the central issue in all religions. Loss of control delivers the adherent into God's grace, the bliss of nirvana, or satori. Thy will be done, whatever phrase it takes, is common to them.

Religious doctrines hold that the individual cannot choose this deliverance, but must depend on God's grace, or the happenstance of enlightenment. Man can do nothing to achieve it. Christianity, and the two main Eastern religions help an illustration.

Jesus said that nobody can earn God's mercy. St Augustine said God had preordained who would be saved and who, damned. The later Church taught God's grace comes like a thunderclap that the individual can do nothing about.

In Buddhism, all form arises out of emptiness; all emptiness completes form. The individual (as individual) can do nothing to discover his true nature, which is form and emptiness. It offers no threshold for its discovery, just as there is nobody to discover it. In Hinduism, all is divine play, or lila, which manifests as the world, but is like a puppet shadow show, fleeting, seemingly real, without substance to realize and, again, nobody to realize it.

Some years ago, Alan Watts wrote a book, The Wisdom of Insecurity, which title implies that virtue ensues from realizing the absence of control. The book, too, suggests gaining something in that Watts' implication is we have a better life by letting go of our need for security.

The desire for achievement is inherent in humankind. Yet, the paradox is that religion, or any spiritual seeking for that matter, has as culmination no achievement at all. Control is lost, that's all. But we can't even lose control if it is something attempted by us precisely because effort is involved.

A man stumbled over a cliff and fell. On the way down he grabbed the branch of a shrub and clung to it. Then he shouted to the heavens, Is anybody there? Please help me. He waited and got no answer. Then he prayed. Please, Oh, please. Is anybody there? Please help me!

This time he heard a voice. Yes, I can help you, but you must follow my directions exactly.

Yes, the man answered. What must I do?

Let go of the branch, the voice said.

There was silence. One second. Two seconds.

Then the man asked, Is anybody else there?

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