This weekend I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Lancaster, the brilliant and pioneering professor of Buddhist Studies, who gave a lecture at Hsi Lai Temple in Hacienda Heights. The title of his talk was “How Religions Learn,” though in the same way as many of my favorite speakers he used the talk as an opportunity to weave together his most recent thoughts and questions.
But Dr. Lancaster’s topic is a point of interest for me. It points to an uneasy contradiction in any religion’s self-composed history: religions must learn and change to respond to the spiritual needs of the people, but one of these fundamental needs is to have an absolute and unchanging truth to anchor ourselves to.
I worry that this contradiction is becoming increasingly insurmountable, and that religion is entering a place where it can no longer learn.
One of my recent general observations about religion is that its role in the lives of the younger generation has been deteriorating. While I do not have the numeric data that my fellow blogger arunlikhati is so skilled in collecting to support my claim (I tried to sort out some PEW stats but gave up…), I think many readers will agree with my claim just through each of their personal experiences with the youth, namely children up until high school. I am well aware that this is not the case for all youth and each of us can easily come up with children who do hold their faith close to their hearts. However, I do think that in a society where people share their latest thoughts and status with Facebook and Twitter more often than God, where money and power have become society’s determining factor for success rather than morality, and where Miley Cyrus has become a more influential icon for children than most religious figures, religion certainly has much more competition nowadays especially in finding a place among the youth.
Last week, a dear friend’s dog died. He only had the opportunity to know him for a week: he had been abandoned at a temple, left and unwanted. He only had three legs.
My friend named him Milo after the chocolately drink. The temple took him in, and the devotees washed him, fed him, played with him, and gave him a home.
Then one morning they found him – lifeless, with blood strewn about. Some guessed a coyote had come down from the hills during the night but, regardless, after one week at the temple his life was over.