Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Without Him At Our Side

[Excerpt from a letter to a clergy friend. I don't think he would mind my sharing this part.]

Opinions among Christians vary, for sure, but it seems not to me that Buddhism contradicts the teachings of Jesus. On the other hand, who really understands Christianity or Buddhism? Some Christians are concerned about any path that does not confirm the primacy of the Bible or affirm a personal relationship with Jesus as the literally resurrected son of God. Others are more comfortable code-switching, and embrace zen as an accessory to prayer, to touch Christ with our inmost being and transcend our egocentric "selfing." Also, as I have observed the Christian world in America, Christ as king dominates the view of Christ as light. One stresses obedience, the other true liberation.

You see again my Quaker as well as my zen leaning.

There is this, from Thomas Merton:

But Christ Himself is in us as unknown and unseen. We follow Him, we find Him and then He must vanish and we must go along without Him at our side. Why? Because He is even closer than that. He is ourself.

Some find this repugnant, even blasphemous, while others clap their hands and say, Yes! That is what it is like! What He is like, while I dwell in this body.

In any case, even with all this stated, zen practice or consideration of the Buddha's words do not preclude belief in God. You state, with understated elegance, the necessity to realize the promise of the Kingdom here, while we are here. Similarly, zen is about realizing the awakening of which Buddha spoke, in this lifetime - not in some rebirth or Pure Land but in the world of muck and sorrow (but also of laughter and music).

Sometimes when I speak with Christians I even juxtapose salvation with the Bodhisattva vow. Bodhisattvas are beings who could be reborn in the Pure Land or heaven or not at all, but choose to remain within this world until all beings (or all being to take a wider view) are liberated. In light of my vow, I have presented the problem of salvation: why should I not remain among the suffering? My point is ultimately similar to yours: how do we live and uphold one another here?

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