Voices of Faith offers perspectives from religion columnists. This week’s question: How does “bliss” figure into your faith?
Lama Chuck Stanford, Rime Buddhist Center: All beings experience some form of bliss. Even animals experience pleasure and bliss. The problem is that most of the bliss we experience is “conditional” bliss; that is, it is generated in response to some object of pleasure.
For example, there is the bliss of looking at beautiful objects or hearing beautiful sounds. We might experience the bliss of beautiful fragrances, tastes and touches. This could include the bliss of food or physical sensations.
The one thing all of these “conditional” blisses have in common is that they are impermanent – none of them lasts. All of these are quite different from the Buddhist form of “non-conditional” bliss.
From the Buddhist perspective, enlightenment is the combination of bliss and emptiness. Not emptiness alone or bliss alone, but both combined. The bliss that the Buddha experienced upon enlightenment was non-conditional and therefore was non-fading. In other words, the bliss the Buddha experienced was not the result of external causes but rather was inherent, permanent and everlasting.
Conversely, conditional bliss is contaminated with feelings of craving, desire and attachment. These usually arise from being near the object of our desire.
This type of conditional bliss is in reality a cause of suffering, because it is contaminated with ignorance. Cravings, desires and attachments that originate in our mind are the source of our suffering. The Buddha taught that through the practice of meditation we can eliminate the clinging and grasping of our mind. And that each of us possesses “Buddha-nature,” the potential for enlightenment – a bliss that is permanent and non-fading.
Salvation in Jesus
The Rev. Jeff Palmer, Crossroads Christian Church: Attaining true bliss in the Christian faith can have several different connotations depending on the intended use of the word. Although the proper term “bliss” is not specifically used in biblical Scripture, concepts of the word and synonymous ideas are evident nonetheless.
If the assumed definition of bliss is happiness, we must understand that happiness is a feeling that is quite circumstantial and situational. In other words, a person’s happiness correlates directly to the situation or circumstance they find themselves in.
Unfortunately the feeling of being happy can be short-lived, since our circumstances and situations change frequently. We are happy when the (Kansas City) Royals win; sad or disappointed when they lose.
Christians are not guaranteed happiness 100 percent of the time. Matthew 5:45 states, “For (God) causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Therefore, little weight should be placed on us discovering happiness in this life; our true hope is in ascertaining bliss as defined by joy.
But it is possible to express and retain feelings and actions of joy even in the most unfortunate of circumstances. People can actually maintain a consistent state of bliss throughout their lives on Earth.
As Christians, we believe this comes through our salvation in Jesus, from which we are no longer bound by the dead-end, short-lived happiness in this life. Instead, we have an outlook toward life after death that is brilliant and filled with eternal happiness.