Posted by: rusch | November 18, 2007

Changing for the better

Changing for the better

by

Chris Rusch

Being in the world but not of the world is something that I have thought of often over the years. I especially appreciated David R. Stone’s talk entitled Zion in the Midst of Babylon from the Sunday afternoon session of the April 2006 General Conference of the Church.

Among the many views that exist on God and religion, there are two views that have caught my attention. Of these views one holds that religion answers the question of how do I get near to God and experience the Divine. The other less prevalent, and I must say less popular, view turns the question on its’ head by asking what does God want me to become and expect me to do in order for this to happen. Another question asked by the second perspective is as I become what God wants me to become, what are my obligations to others?

I try to combine the best of both in my outlook. I do believe that people should seek to be closer to God but simultaneously hold that progression towards an end is primarily what God wants for us and is concerned about. God wants us to progress to a point where we are not only able to be near to him, but to also be like him and take part in his life and works.

My LDS sense of things tells me that people who begin this journey, pilgrimage, vision quest, walk about, or whatever you want to call it, even when they are in the initial stages will find that they are thus differentiated from others, even those within their own traditions who might say “all the right things” but are not actively engaged in this changing process of becoming.

The Latter-day Saints are not the only ones who hold to this idea of personal change and differentiation through outward practice and inward belief. From my own limited reading of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Tibetan Buddhists might see things similarly. For one thing, certain sections of the book emphasize importance of breaking free from cyclical existence, the process of continual rebirth or reincarnation, by purging the soul of desire through practicing Dharma or righteousness. In fact the Tibetan Book of the Dead along with Shantideva’s Way of the Bodhisattva explicitly emphasize that adherents should strive to attain Buddhahood. I could be wrong on this, but this is what my readings have persuaded me to believe thus far.

Naturally those working towards this end will find that they are differentiating themselves from others, and that if they continue to move towards God/Enlightenment they will ever increasingly become different from those around them who place their focus elsewhere.

Some would say that this breeds elitism and pride. But the texts indicate that this is not the case. My reading of LDS scripture tells me that the more one becomes like Christ, the more they are concerned with the needs and the well being of others. The more one progresses towards becoming a Buddha, the more they will show compassion to all sentient life. The teachings require the adherents to differentiate themselves from the common, or the profane, in order to be a force for good with whomever the disciple is in contact with.

I am encouraged by the fact that the more I seek to have the mind and heart of Christ, the more that I seek to help and succor those within the reach of my influence. I will go so far as to testify that as I have sought to become more like Jesus, to have my own nature changed through his sacrifice, my consciousness has been acutely raised to the suffering and trials of those around me and that I have been in a better position to help them now as opposed to a couple of years ago when I was wholly focused on myself.

I will conclude with some thoughts from the late Victor Frankl. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning (something that everyone who claims status as a human being should read) Frankl turns the question, “what is the meaning of life?” on its’ head stating that human beings should instead seek to answer the question, “ what is life asking me?” With God it is probably no different. We gain and grow in a relationship with Omnipotence when we try to answer that question with our lives and in turn find that we have become very different from the rest of the world.

And from what I have observed, this world needs more people to be different.


Responses

  1. Hey! I hadn’t been to visit in quite a while. Sounds like you’ve been having an interesting time out there in Utah. I sure am excited to see you when you get home!


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