Lost wisdom of Buddhism:
I suppose you can come up with categories of religion.  The “Gnostic” faiths hold that what is important is not understanding God or a god, which sounds very modern, nor performing rituals, which is quite traditional as well as being widely practiced; what is important is having a personal awareness of God or a god.  By this criterion, Methodism is a gnostic faith.  John Wesley had an experience in a small chapel on Aldersgate Street when his heart was, “Strangely warmed,” and he declared that this direct experience with the divine was what it was all about.

Buddhism is generally referred to as a “wisdom religion.”  One is taught certain disciplines expected to yield a more fulfilling life and a happier afterlife.  Well and good.  I can make a reasonable argument for the existence on an afterlife, and if my cosmic conjecture – which argues strictly from widely accepted science – is correct, then by and large yes; commendable behavior in this life will generally improve the “next,” although admittedly that word “next” is problematic in my cosmology.  I argue from science while Buddhism is argued, if I understand it, from authority.  No matter, as they say the problem is not choosing the right ladder, for there are many; the problem is deciding to climb it. 

Along with many others, I am well disposed toward Buddhism, which I do not in fact practice. So it was with a sad heart that I read “Temples of Doom,” Economist vol. 427 no. 8962 October 31, 2015 page 40.  There is a melancholy tone as the article describes the 77,000 temples facing possible closure with maybe 40% gone by 2040 as young people move to the cities and develop other interests.  One of the factors is that Buddhist funerals are expensive; this is after all a journal named the Economist.  Along economic lines, I am sure there are developers who might dream of buying up closed temples and turning them into country homes for the super rich.

And then in the last sentence the article, all unaware, drops the curtain.  It takes 200 families to support a temple.  Boing!  How’s that again?  Over eons the temples have developed routines that require 200 families?  That’s amazing.  So far as I can tell, that’s the perfect number for a community to be stable.  I keep lurching between thinking this sized community being too small because the resulting growth rate would be too high to be sustainable and that sized community being too big because the resulting growth rate would be too low to be sustainable.  Balance, and it would be a self – sustaining balance – has to be somewhere in between.  And 200 is, indeed, somewhere in between. 

So we are not dying, or perhaps we are dying gracelessly, because our gods have abandoned us.  We are dying gracelessly because we have abandoned our gods. 

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