Integrative Conception of Human Being
The deeper problem with religions such as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism is that the spirituality is seen as divorced from physicality, which leads to similar separation in social reality. The people with spiritual inclinations go into monasteries or into ministry; the women have to share their lives with men who believe that women are evil and that their duty is to control their every action and every thought. The world, being seen as one of illusion or one of Satan, becomes that way more convincingly by being shorn of the attention of those who have it within themselves to want to improve things. And the concept behind these convictions becomes self-fulfilling and then becomes reality for the people living under such beliefs.
This is not accidental; this is an inevitable, logical result of the beliefs themselves. To conceive spirit as being forever divorced from flesh, or of human nature as sin, or of desire as root of all suffering, is to rob the real world of the spiritual riches and to damn it to ever-perpetuating, ever-consuming darkness. In all such cases, the injury done to mankind is monumental. And in both cases at the root of the problem is a cognitive error: One of portraying non-valued a duality (spirit and physicality) as valued, and using one to destroy the other.
Christ and Buddha had to adopt the attitude that they did toward the world, because of where they were in the world, what the world wanted from them, and what the world at the time was like. Jesus had to decide that the world "of flesh" was evil, because his flesh and his world was owned by an alien militaristic empire that ruled with crosses and whips. He had to reject the world and damn it as being a world of sin, because the world belonged to his enemy. He had to reject - women, money, politics, power, even his physical body - because all this was in the hands of the Roman Empire, which could do anything with all this anything that it wanted. So he had to actually transcend the flesh and then resurrect, in order to prove that his true self was not owned, that the power of the Roman Empire was not absolute, and that there was a light at the end of the darkness - the light of heaven, over which the Emperor and his thugs had no power.
There were many people who could very well believe at the time that the world was the world of sin. The Roman Empire was a brutal militaristic organization where three quarters were slaves and endured constant brutality and humiliation. It was not an ethical enterprise, and many people made the mistake of conflating the slavery and the brutality in the Roman Empire with its religious diversity. The truth is, the two had nothing to do with one another at all, and while Christianity offered a promise of eternal life to people living in slavery or under the Roman yoke, it offered less than nothing for people's earthly experience, while maintaining the abuses and wrongs of Roman Empire after the Roman Empire itself became Christian.
With Buddha, the circumstance was not the same, but analogous at a mental level. He was the son of a king, and at his birth his parents were given a prophecy that he would be either a great king or a founder of a major religion. His parents wanted him to become an emperor and kept him from fulfilling the prophecy of his becoming a founder of a major religion by lying to him, keeping him from knowing anything, and removing all sights of suffering out of his eyes. So first he saw real world outside the royal compound - people sick, dying, in torment - and found out that his education was a lie. Then as he left the city to meditate under the tree, the king kept luring him by his desires - dancing girls, tasty fruit, friends, wife, power - back to the kingdom hall that had deceived him. So what would it be logical for the meditating mind to decide but that the world is one of deception (maya) and that desire is the root of all suffering – suffering that had been shut away from his eyes by those perpetrating the deception? And what more would be logical but to see ego as an evil that entraps one in the maya, when everything that an ego might want was under control of those who had lied to him? He had to reject both his education and his education- shaped mind along with any desire that he may have had, and to do away with his ego, in order to find freedom or truth. That was because his education was a lie, and his desires were being tempted to go back to the powers that had lied to him.
Buddhism preaches non-attachment; there is a good reason for that. All attachment - emotional, physical, intellectual, personal - was being used to tempt Buddha away from his pursuit of the truth and into the maw of the people who wanted him to serve their will for him - the will that he had found out to be a deception. He had to break all desire for everything that the kingdom had to offer, as well as his family bonds and his personal friendships and loyalties and romantic attractions, and destroy everything in the self that was vulnerable to these things or that wanted or required these things, because all were used to control him and lure him back into deception. Buddha is offering a path that he himself had to go in order to achieve freedom. That path meant moving away from all that desired - because the desires were used to tempt him to that which had deceived him. It also meant going away from ego - because all ego's wants and longings and attachments were used to entrap him in the kingdom that had deceived him and that had absolute power over everything - money, fame, power, status, admiration, respect, validation - that an ego might want. It meant spending many years silencing, deconstructing and transcending the mind - because the mind was falsely educated and falsely conditioned and made to think things that were not true. It meant what he had to go through to free himself from false things; but it does not mean that all suffering is based in desire, or that ego is a piece of dirt, or that mind is evil, or that life is an illusion, or that spirituality is forever divorced from these things.
To damn the world, or to claim world as necessarily one of suffering, or to remove from the world desire, is in no way a way for making a better world. Instead it is the way to remove light from the world and plunge it into self-feeding and self-perpetuating darkness. So while many people in monasteries have successfully and effectively followed Christ's or Buddha's paths, their social advice has been absolute disaster for the societies that followed their guidance in matters of life. In both cases, relationships, science, education, business, politics, - everything - has been damned and have been therefore carried out in the most destructive possible manner. And that does not make anyone or anything holy. It makes life an unnecessarily and self-fulfillingly toxic hell.
Christ's advice on the best way to have a relationship is not to have a relationship. That flesh is sinful and that therefore there cannot be at the same time a sexual and a spiritual love. That sex is a dirty thing and that anyone who elicits sexual desire or erotic passion deserves not love but physical, personal and spiritual violence. Few beliefs are responsible for greater wrongs and greater abuses than this one.
With both Buddhism and Christianity, there is contempt for intelligence; for fact; for nature; for reality. So it is no surprise that application of both theosophies have eradicated learning, prosperity and accomplishment from the world in which they were applied. Roman Empire had great inventors, great philosophers, great scientists, great doctors, great engineers. They had a steam engine 1,800 years before the Industrial Revolution. And while religious people claim that Roman Empire was undone by its "decadence" (reality check: It was conquered 200 years after it Christianized) the true reason that it was undone is that it listened to Roman-day Republicans who thought with their pocketbooks instead of their brains and believed that the cheapness and abundance of slave labor made the steam engine uneconomical. If they thought ahead, they would have realized the promise of that invention and not only created real prosperity that they would have never dreamt of, but have also been able to invent war machines that would have vaporized any invading army - as well as being able to end the horrible institution of slavery that was the true moral outrage of Roman Empire and the real source of hatred and resentment against it.
In choosing whether to embrace high-technology, high-intelligence, job-creating clean energy, or to go on with the ruinous policies of Texas Oil, the present-day world faces a similar choice.
But that is a different matter, no matter how crucial in significance. The Romans had great science and engineering and could have had a world we have now, two millenia before it came about, if they had been smarter about their economic and political policies. Nothing of that sort existed in the Christian world until it was shaken to its core by European Enlightenment and American Revolution.
So it is no surprise that, in order to find intellectual, political, social, personal, sexual, physical freedom, many people have made the same choice that Christ and Buddha have made, in reverse. Like Christ and Buddha rejected the physical world, they have rejected the world of the spirit, because the world of the spirit was under control of mentalities that were hostile to intellect, nature, prosperity, science, human rights, sexuality, beauty, and all else that affirms life on earth. The European Enlightenment grew out of that, as well as a profusion of secular mindsets - rationalism, pragmatism, capitalism, realism, scientific materialism, economics, psychology, atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, and many others.
There is a problem with these mindsets as well. They stake their central claim on denying the world of spirit. So any spiritual longing, or any appreciation for or expression of splendor, or anything loving and warm and tender in people, is by them brutally and maliciously suppressed. Their supposed rationality becomes so overbearing, so controlling, so abrasive and horrible and destructive, that people flee from them even if it means disastrous consequences for themselves. Denying spirituality to people with the same violence with which the religious deny physicality, these mindsets become just as cruel and just as horrendous as the ones that they seek to replace. And then what is left for people, is choice between one semi-life or another semi-life - the life of spirit without flesh, or the life of flesh without spirit. Both of which, in this situation, become lives that are thoroughly incomplete.
There has to be a better way than either of the preceding. A positive way is an integrative experience of life, in which both the physical and the spiritual are affirmed and work to each other's benefit. It is a way in which both the physical world and the spirit world are affirmed and find ways to enhance one another and exist in synergy rather than disintegration. And it is a way in which life as a human being - a being that combines the spiritual and the material aspects - can be affirmed in its entirety, allowing for lifestyles and covenants in which the totality of humanity can exist - and achieve greatest human experience, greatest human accomplishment, and most complete and integrated manifestations of human beings themselves.