Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Koan of Christian Buddhism

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Now on Buddhist Geeks: "The Koan of Christian Buddhism," my follow-up to last week's controversial article, "Christian Buddhism?" In this second piece, I look at the range of reactions people have had to the suggestion of "Christian Buddhism" -- from people who identify with that label and feel it describes their spiritual experience, to people who gruffly denounce the very idea as madness. It is, without a doubt, a charged topic.

But as I suggest in this second article, it's also a bit more than that. That very charge is an invitation for us to look within and discover something about ourselves.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

A number of readers commented that they, too, were actively exploring how to bring together their Christian and Buddhist beliefs and practices. One remarked that as a Quaker and a Buddhist, she often gets criticized by both Quakers and Buddhists for combining the two faiths in her own life. Others expressed a sense of relief at seeing someone talking about this under-explored issue openly—like a taboo was broken.

Even more surprising were some of the reactions that didn’t appear online. A former Buddhist nun from Vancouver confided in me that when she was struggling with depression last year, she found her Buddhist practice wasn’t helping at all; she realized she “really needed to talk to God.” For her, returning for a time to the prayer of her Christian childhood, not sitting in shamatha or doing sadhana practice, was what relieved her suffering. And a Buddhist monk from Eastern Europe, practicing in the Tibetan tradition, confessed that he connects more deeply to his sadhana practice when he visualizes Jesus than he does when he visualizes Padmasambhava. These personal stories—both from Western monastics in the Buddhist tradition—suggest once again that, for many of us, our Christian roots are deeply embedded in the ground of our psyche, and it can sometimes be profoundly healing to reconnect with those roots even in the context of identifying as a practicing Buddhist.


Another way of saying this is that people who deny that one could meaningfully practice both Christianity and Buddhism are probably looking myopically at the exoteric or outer aspects of the two traditions: their dogmas, creeds, rituals, myths, institutions, and so on. But those who proceed to the esoteric or inner dimension of these wisdom traditions find little or no conflict between them. As Louis Claude de St. Martin famously said, “All mystics speak the same language, for they come from the same country.”

Check out the full article at Buddhist Geeks, and add your thoughts to the discussion.

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