A clash of cultures appeared in my little world today, a contrast concerning the aftermath of a life on earth, whether the actions, good or evil, of a human being, have an effect on an afterlife. The contrast came as a result of my getting up early this morning and reading some of the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West, or Monkey, followed by attending morning services. In the novel, on display is the Buddhist philosophy of reincarnation and a life of works that will lead to a better next life. Monkey and his troupe struggle with the concept of doing good for others, saving a king from a wrongful death, for example. They are selfish and mean, but with effort they can gather their will to do right for others. When they do right, it’s not clear why they do it. Monkey does some good works for fame, Pigsy does them for treasure. But why does the monk take on these challenges? That’s a tricky question, in part because he’s got Monkey and Pigsy (and Sandy) to do his good deeds for him. But well understood among them all is the importance of acting for others; it’s just not easy or desirable always to do.
With this concept in mind of the importance of a life of self-sacrificing acts leading to an improved state in the afterlife, with the possibility of reaching perfection, I then went to services which included a hymn that pointed to the falseness of such teaching. The hymn stated emphatically that works don’t count in salvation, that only faith matters. For my poor whiplashed mind, it was a clash, something I wonder about and something religions clash over. In your teaching, how do you make it clear that the Samaritan should stop? So it says in Luke 10: "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "What is written in the Law?" he replied. "How do you read it?" He answered: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" The idea here is the struggle, “What must I do?”