Saturday, August 09, 2008

Are You Raising Him Buddhist Or Christian Or What?

There will be a Buddhist ceremony and a Christian ceremony this month.

The first will be a 100-Day Ceremony at Providence Zen Center in Rhode Island. Some of my oldest and dearest friends will be on hand to chant the name of Kwan Seum Bosal, the bodhisattva embodying compassion; and then Zen Master Dae Kwang will press a little water on Gabriel's forehead three times in the name of great love, great compassion, and the great bodhisattva way.

The following weekend, there will be a dedication ceremony at the Living Word Family Church in Deming, New Mexico. The pastor (who also happens to be the Mayor of Deming) will charge the congregation, and us parents, to be solid examples and resources for Gabriel, and he will put his hands on the child and pray for him. (No baptism - that happens when he's older, if he chooses.)

In our home these two traditions will exist side by side in friendship and mutual respect. There is Christian prayer and Bible study here; there is also daily bowing, chanting from Buddhist sutras, and zazen - the seated meditation of Buddhist tradition. Outside our home, as long as we are in Deming, there will be social pressure towards Christian beliefs, but that is a phenomenon out of our control.

Deming is an overwhelmingly Christian town. Walk around our neighborhood and count the churches packed into a small area. Go into the local shops and you are likely to see citations of scripture on the bulletin board. It is part of everyday conversation to speak of God and His actions. Even at my school meetings this week, as we teachers get ready to start a school year, there was open talk about God's intercessions in people's lives, and a group prayer before our luncheon in the cafeteria of the high school. In Deming, "faith" means Christian faith, and it is socially reinforced in most places, private and public. It is socially reinforced to a degree that residents might not notice unless one belongs to a different religion, or to none.

Sarah will take him to church and give him good instruction on Christian teaching. Buddhist temples are more scarce around here, but I'll see to his cultural education in that respect. He'll see me practicing and he'll ask questions. I'll take him to Buddhist temples and educate him. I trust that he'll make up his own mind about things. He is already showing signs of a strong will.

It's an unapologetically Christian-Buddhist household, a place of conversation and love and awareness. If we pray and sit and practice sincerely and consistently through his childhood, that will be the best education we can give him on the two faiths and how they interrelate.


Pam said...

He will be raised in love and strong traditions of faith, exemplified in the daily interactions of his family.

Your current entry left me with a smile on my face and a warm feeling.

Gabriel is blessed!

Ji Hyang said...

Great love, great compassion.

Kelly said...

You can rest assured that he'll make up his own mind. And.... as he matures, he may change horses in midstream.

Religious belief is something that shouldn't (and really can't) be forced down one's throat.

Hal Johnson said...

I'm reminded of the words of that wise Texas troubadour, Ray Wylie Hubbard: "Buddha was not a Christian, but Jesus would have made a good Buddhist."