Monday, August 09, 2010

Jesus and Sangha

My long-time friend Jane Redmont has An Open Letter to Anne Rice up at the Episcopal Cafe which I found interesting, and would like to recommend to Christian readers of this blog.

(I would also recommend her blog, Acts of Hope. Adorable cat photos interspersed with her thoughtful posts about actively engaging Christian faith in the world. Hard to go wrong there.)

In Buddhism, we speak of three essential treasures or gems: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The third, sangha, is about community and fellowship. This is not only about encouragement and support, although these are important for most of us. It is part of the process of waking up from our ignorant dreams. The other is in fact yourself: when you spend time with others, your mind appears and is reflected back to you. We practice "correct situation, correct relationship, and correct function" in our encounter with the other -- this is the body of Buddha.

As Jane writes, "You can't do the Jesus thing alone."

What I am writing to tell you is that there’s no such creature as a lone follower of Jesus. You can’t be a Jesus-person away in a corner. Even hermits pray in communion with a larger tradition, a church beyond themselves in a world which is the place where God becomes incarnate.

In isolation it is very easy to get caught up in dreams and self-satisfaction. Mu Sang Sunim, reflecting on his travels in Korea, used to tell me stories about hermit monks who would have some sort of "experience" and, in solitude, would convert it into an "attainment" with a conceptual framework. Sunim said, "That's how new religions get born."

Jane is a Christian who has sat Zen herself, and understands this point well. The sangha jewel, together-action with other people, helps us put down our ideas about what we are doing. At that point, it becomes possible for us just to do it, with undivided minds (or no mind at all, some would say).

This Christ you believe in, Anne Rice, where do you meet him? He doesn’t only live in your head and heart, or in the Eucharist you told us you will miss so deeply, or in the scriptures that are our legacy from the early churches. We meet Christ every day in others, especially in what Mother Teresa called “the distressing disguise of the poor.” Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker, knew and lived this also, but she went a step further than her co-religionist in analyzing the causes of poverty, the deadly rush to war that robs the poor even when we are only preparing for military battle and not waging it, the love of possessions and power above the respect for the dignity of humans all made in the image of God.

And there is also an interesting variation on a theme that appeared on this blog in our series about Zen institutions. Instead of quoting more, I'll let you go visit and read, if you want.


Kelly said...

Thank you for posting the link to your friend's blog. I very much enjoyed reading that post.

I have heard many times the opinion that one doesn't need to go to church to be a Christian. (any more than just "going" makes one a Christian) This may be true, but I sincerely believe that as a Christian I NEED the fellowship of other Christians. I also think it's important that one keeps in mind that although we need each other in fellowship, it should be God/Christ that we ultimately look up to and follow.

A brief and shallow comment, I know.... but it's an awfully deep topic and its getting late. It's been a long day.

Thanks again for sharing this.

Sabio Lantz said...

I noticed you borrowed the photoshopped pic I borrowed. Thanks for the link.

I liked your comment on another blog and will start following you.