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By David R. Loy

A Buddhist interpretation of Western background that exhibits civilization formed by means of the self's hope for groundedness

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Yet there is an important difference between the Christian understanding of sin and my Buddhist understanding of lack, and their identification was a fateful confusion. Belief in sin does not in itself actually show the way to resolve lack; rather, one’s anxiety is short-circuited by the belief that one’s lack will (or can be) alleviated in the future. For the first Christians this would happen at the Second Coming, which was imminent but later became attenuated into a preoccupation with the future.

Yet it shows us that our understanding of freedom, like that of the self that values it, needs to be contextualized. The history of classical humanism and our present situation both show the problems that occur when the self and its freedom are understood solely in secular terms. Two The Lack of Progress Every time a society finds itself in crisis it instinctively turns its eyes towards its origins and looks there for a sign. —Octavio Paz The more we learn about other civilizations, the more anomalous the West seems.

In such cases the issue of freedom does not arise because the individual does not exist. Questions about the meaning of one’s life also do not arise because human society is likewise integrated into the cosmos, often through the vital role of a priest-king (at the top of the social pyramid) in helping to maintain the cosmos. In such societies there is no clear distinction between sacred and secular, which tends to preempt social revolution: to challenge the orders of a god-king would also be to challenge the order of the universe.

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