Thursday, August 29, 2013

Buddhism and Christianity

Thomas Merton and the Dalai Lama

The Famous theologian Paul Tillich said that the meeting of Buddhism and Christianity would lead to a spiritual revolution.

Paul Tillich

In the 20th Century, several notable representatives of both faiths of worked to make this meeting happen.

John C.H. Wu

Wu Ching-hsiung, also known as John C. H. Wu, was an author, lawyer, juristic philosopher, educator, and prominent Catholic layman. He was president of the Special High Court at Shanghai, Wu translated the Psalms and the New Testament into Chinese.

Although he converted from Buddhism to Catholicism, he did not reject his Buddhist heritage. He translated the Gospel of John, chapter 1, verse 1, "In the beginning was the TAO, and the TAO was with God, and the TAO was God." As a Christian, he wrote a great book called The Golden Age of Zen, and made one of the most authoritative translations of the Tao Te Ching.

He served as Chinese minister to the Holy See (1947-48). Wu authored and translated numerous books and articles on many subjects including Religion, Philosophy and Law.

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton, the Roman Catholic Monk, was very interested in the affinities between Christian and Eastern Mysticism, particularly Buddhism. He was friends with both the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh, and wrote several books on the relationship between Christian and Buddhist spirituality, including Mystics and Zen MastersZen and the Birds of Appetite, and his Asian Journal.  He died in Thailand, where he was addressing a meeting of Christian and Buddhist Monks. 

The Dalai Lama and Bede Griffiths

Bede Griffiths, the English Benedictine who led a Christian Ashram in India, was an exponent of deep ecumenism, and taught that all religions had the same Reality "at the center." Bede engaged in dialog with Buddhists and met with the Dalai Lama. Bede brought Buddhist teachers from both the Zen and Theravadan traditions into his Christian Ashram to teach meditation techniques.

The Dalai Lama himself led the John Main Seminar for the World Community of Christian Meditation in September of 1994. A book based on the seminar, The Good Heart, was released, with portions of the Dalai Lama's talks and dialog from other seminar participants. Most the Dalai Lama's comments were his reflections, from the viewpoint of  a Buddhist, on select readings from the Christian Gospel.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Thich Nhat Hanh is a Zen Master and popular Buddhist writer and speaker. Influenced in part by the social action in Christianity, he champions "engaged Buddhism," which seeks to combine Buddhist mindfulness and awareness with social justice. Th?y, as he is affectionately called, says that on his own personal altar in France he has images of both Christ and Buddha, and he wrote two books on the relationship and affinities of Christianity and Buddhism, one the classic, Living Buddha, Living Christ, and the other Going Home, Christ and Buddha as Brothers. He notes that as Christians take refuge in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. He makes a connection between Buddhist mindfulness and the Holy Spirit.

In summary, Christ and Buddha indeed are brothers. Both teach wisdom and compassion, both lead the way to peace- within ourselves and in the world. We Christians and Buddhist can learn from each other.

When I was in undergrad, I took a class with a Unitarian Universalist Minister who also was a therapist with a Jungian orientation. It was at that time I was reading a lot on Buddhism, and was very interested in Thich Nhat Hanh's engaged Buddhism. My professor gave me this formula "contemplation + awareness = liberation." In other words, our meditation practices should not take us out of the world, but help equip us for engaging the world. The first step to justice and world peace is to find peace within ourselves. Christ and Buddha both show us how to seek peace.

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