JuBus and Christian Buddhists

What is the relationship between your religious roots and your current Buddhist practice?

About a year ago, in his piece "Christian Buddhism?" on Buddhist Geeks, Dennis Hunter suggested that we Buddhists ought to more seriously consider the influence of Christianity when we speak of Buddhism in the West.

If the Dharma always melds with elements of the dominant spiritual practices of a new culture, maybe we’re barking up the wrong tree by focusing so much on the intersection of Buddhism and science. Perhaps the spotlight really belongs on the intersection of Buddhism and Christianity, and people like Stuart Lord are the forerunners of an emergent tradition blending Eastern and Western spiritual influences into something whose shape we don’t yet know how to anticipate.

Judging by the number of comments that mention Christianity in an ongoing Tricycle Community discussion, "What led you to Buddhism?," this is an interesting and important topic for Western Buddhists—especially convert Buddhists.

Discussion topic: If you come from a Jewish or Christian background (family, community, or country) and later either converted to or became influenced by Buddhism, what is the relationship between your religious roots and your current Buddhist practice? Does Judaism or Christianity inform your Buddhism? Do Judeo-Christian symbols continue to resonate with you? Or have you rejected all aspects of the Christian tradition? Is it even possible to make Christianity and Buddhism compatible? What, if anything, do you lose when you conflate them? Has your practice of Buddhism changed your relationships with Christian friends and family?

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True Sangha Action's picture

Hi Clarkstrand and Lacy,
I agree that our "root religions" remain very significant in our subsequent religious journeys, particularly if our root religions are Abrahamic. I began life as an Episcopalian, and always had questions which ultimately caused me to waver between agnosticism and atheism, but in retrospect, during this period, I was always an Episcopal agnostic and/or an Episcopal atheist. I actually returned to the Episcopal Church, and began to explore Buddhism as a means of renewing my Christian belief. It worked!
Now I realize:
That I am a Christian...
That I am a Buddhist....
That I am both a Christian and a Buddhist....
That I am neither (exclusively) a Christian nor a Buddhist.
That these "ways" are not the same, but they are not in binary opposition to each other.

My Christian belief has become transformed and enriched by my Buddhist practice. My Christian beliefs are unorthodox, but they work for me in this time and in this place.

LaceyR's picture

I sincerely appreciate your response, you're reply makes a lot of sense. Thank you for your time in helping me understand. :)

Stace's picture

As a child I questioned the teachings of the bible. My family was not church going and I had gone to church only few times with other family's. I was sent to the basement for Sunday school where I was further confused about the subject. I would mentally check out and sit gazing out the window waiting for the time when we would be let loose to play dodge ball.

When in grade shcool I asked my step father about evolution and Genesis. He did the greatest thing he could have ever done. He explained them both to me and let me decide what to think. From that moment on I took evolution to be my guide and I grounded my understanding of life and self as best I could in science, heavily informed by PBS, National Geographic, and later by Carl Sagan, European Enlightenment Philosphers and Russel.

In my teenage years I became a staunch Atheist and thought all religious folk Idiots, especially Christians.This view point continued through college, until I saw the movie "Little Buddha" starring Keanu Reeves as the Buddha. I enjoyed the movie and was really intrigued by the story of the Buddha, his life, his path, the teachings that were presented, and this thing called enlightenment. All of that resonated with me.

I went out and bought a little book from Shambhala Classics called, "Meditation In Action". I liked it, but I was not sold. It wasn't until I read Thich Nhat Hanh's "Old Path, White Clouds" that I knew the Buddha's path was for me. It was also one of Hanh's books that re-introduced me to Christianity via a comment on the dust flap by Thomas Merton. Merton called Nhat Hanh his brother, "More my brother than most Catholic monks" or something to that effect. I was intrigued by this statement and sought out this Merton guy. I picked up some of his books and began reading. In fact "The Seven Storey Mountain" by Merton is one of my favorite books.

Over time my thoughts on Christianity had softened. I began to read the Bible with "my own eyes" and saw so much which seemed contradictory, problematic and simply passed over, but also much that was inspiring and beautiful. I did not become Christian, but I developed an appreciation for the teachings of Jesus, and some of his followers and practitioners of his teachings. I would not put all "christians" in that category as "Chrisianity" is basically creedal. I find the teachings of Jesus, however, to be calls to action.

I can state that my early introduction and understanding of Christianity as a creedal religion that boiled down to "believe and you will be saved, don't believe and you are damned to eternal hell fire" simply did not resonate and when I found a teaching that stated,

"Therefore, Ananda, be a lamp unto yourself, be a refuge to yourself. Take yourself to no external refuge. Hold fast to the Truth as a lamp; hold fast to the Truth as a refuge. Look not for a refuge in anyone beside yourself. And those, Ananda, who either now or after I am dead shall be a lamp unto themselves, who take themselves to no external refuge, but holding fast to the Truth as their lamp, and holding fast to the Truth as their refuge, shall not look for refuge to anyone beside themselves, it is they who shall reach the highest goal."

I was hooked.

It was through Buddhism that I was able to approach Christianity and Jesus in particular, even though I still don't believe in God, at least not the God that is spoken of at Sunday Schools and by television evangelists. I am however, open to a greater understanding if one should ever come.

All the best,


andapeterson's picture

Because I had been given the gift of desperation early in my life, for the past thirty years I’ve been looking for God. I figured I’d know it/her/him when I saw IT. Unlike looking for love in all the wrong places, all the places I looked for God were all right. Incomplete, sometimes. Worded differently, dressed differently, usually. But I always knew I was getting close to IT.

Often I didn’t know I was getting closer, but the breadcrumbs kept showing up in my path: first in the 12 steps of Al-Anon, then wisdom from “new age” thought and thinkers; then followers of Indian Hindu traditions like Ram Dass, Yogananda, Sadhguru, mystical Christians like Thomas Merton and and Meister Eckert, texts like The Course in Miracles, Buddhists like Thich Nhat Hanh, and the folks who started the Insight Meditation Movement in New England, even naturalists, scientists and philosophers like Thoreau, Emerson, John Muir, Henry Beston, Loren Eisley, Chet Raymo and Native Americans like Luther Standing Bear and Leslie Marmon Silko. I’m sure I’ve left out some.

Yet, though I stopped along the way at some places longer than others, I never felt completely satisfied. I thought maybe the problem was that I was being too much of a dilettante because I had not, as Jack Kornfield tells us, taken ” the one seat”– to choose one spiritual path and fully commit to it.

How could I find IT if I wasn’t meditating and contemplating like a Thomas Merton or fully a dedicated practicing Buddhist like Jack Kornfield? I was making all sorts of detours into lousy relationships, half-hearted career moves, long stops in depression, rage and self-loathing, and shopping.

I was mostly a Buddhist all along, I see–even when I didn’t know it. Sometimes people would refer to me as a Buddhist and I didn’t know why they would say that; sure I was interested but… Even just a year ago I wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist because I was too much of a “dilettante.”

I did not realize that I was following in the footsteps of Buddha all along—find out for yourself. But—and this is important– after you find out for yourself, don’t get too attached to that.

The Vietnamese Buddhist teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a book called Living Buddha, Living Christ. He talks about taking the Eucharist with Father Daniel Berrigan during the Vietnam War. Buddhist and Catholic, they were both peace activists. About that event Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “…our worship became possible because of the suffering we Vietnamese and Americans shared over the years.” He goes on to say that some Buddhist priests were “shocked” at the time and many Christians” horrified.”

We human beings can be nourished by the best values of many traditions…The second precept of the Order of Interbeing, founded within the Zen Buddhist traditions during the war in Vietnam, is about letting go of view: Do not think the knowledge you possess is changeless absolute truth.—Thich Nhat Hanh

Now, I see that I have been discovering the “truth” in many places. It just so happens that, in my understanding, most of it is all pointing to the same compassionate wise stuff that the breadcrumbs lead us towards. I just happened to need a lot of “proof” and the more places I found IT, the more I figured I wasn’t making IT up.

Now I see that I am ready to “take the one seat” because this one seems to encompass all the others with a great open mind and heart. It took a while, but it’s good to be home. And home means No One Building. No One Family. The breadcrumbs lead to a place in the heart with No Name–a place where it’s not possible to declare war because there are no enemies who cling to their attachments.

ClarkStrand's picture

Well, this is such a long odyssey for me that I hardly know where to begin writing about it. Or, rather, I do and I did, in my book HOW TO BELIEVE IN GOD: Whether You Believe in Religion or Not, which I guess would be the long version of my response to the discussion topic, because the whole book is about that.

I grew up in a religious Southern household where my father had been to seminary, though he never ordained (my mother later went, too). I was spiritually inclined from the beginning but had a hard time believing a lot of what I heard about Christianity and the Bible. The hypocrisy of most southern churches (including my own) during the Civil Rights era had pretty much put the last nail in the coffin of my belief in Christianity by the early 70s. My sixth grade teacher in Anniston, Alabama (at a religious day school, no less) said to the class the morning after Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot, "Well, maybe that'll shut 'em up for awhile." Just to give you some idea...

When I discovered Buddhism, it was easy to drift away from the religion of my birth, if only because there was something to drift towards. I think this is often the case. In an odd way, atheism alone doesn't make for much of a journey, because in such cases we're still too overly-cathected to the object of our scorn. In pursuing Buddhism, however, I was able to travel pretty far afield and see something of the broader spiritual world. I did this as a teenager and never really looked back, eventually dropping out of college after a mystical breakthrough--which, because I was studying Zen at the time, I interpreted as a Zen experience and therefore a Buddhist one.

Then, in 1983, I had a dream which was really more of a vision. You can read about it here, if you go to table of contents and look for the chapter near the end called "The Cry on the Cross": http://books.google.com/books?id=C_mTgVkT-OMC&printsec=frontcover#v=onep...

I didn't know what to make of this overtly Christian revelation at the time and did my best to bury it, which I was able to do for almost 17 years, at which point I found myself with my family on a plane that appeared (not just to me but to the pilot and crew) to be going down. I wrote an article about the experience for Beliefnet at the time, and again, more recently, for Spirituality & Health: http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/magazine/2011-march-april/a-zen-master...

Thinking I and my whole family were about to die somehow managed to cut through a lifetime of Buddhist practice (much of it as a teacher) to lay bare the Judeo-Christian roots at the heart of my own private spirituality--roots that, at the time, I didn't even know I had. After that experience I came back to Woodstock, New York, where I lived then and now, and started the Koans of the Bible study group. That was in January 2000. Some of my more overtly Buddhist meditation students grumbled at the time, but not one of them quit, and nearly 12 years later we're still reading the Bible like a koan and doing a variety of different spiritual practices, culled from five or six different religious traditions and every imaginable form of Buddhism.

As for myself, I can say now that I do believe in God, even if my conception of God bears little resemblance to that taught by Christian churches, since my understanding of God is so much informed these days by ecology and deep history (it's one of the many reasons I do not consider myself a Christian). I offer instruction in Buddhist meditation techniques to those who want or need them. My own daily practice focuses mostly on the rosary (although I was never a Catholic) and waking in the middle of the night for an hour or more of practice during what I sometimes call Green Mediation and sometimes "The Hour of God." During that time, I may talk out loud to God, or I may do zazen. Such distinctions don't seem very important in the dark.

viccles's picture

I'm an Anglican by birth but went to a Catholic boarding school for many years which sadly, at the time alienated me from Christianity, and at the age of 12 I pronounced myself an agnostic! Good fortune however lead me to a Hare Krishna centre in South Africa in my late teens, and I was blown away by the loving compassion of the Guru who would sit after lunch, teach and lead satsang. One day he asked me to take a book off the bookshelf and open it on any page, of course it was about the life of Christ. His interpretations were beautiful and certainly opened my eyes. I found myself rethinking some of the issues, but whilst feeling more openhearted about the faith, still didn't want to associate myself with it. I started meditating and following Buddhist practices then and haven't stopped. Along the way though, I have found that the practice has opened my heart to all religions, and it has brought me to a love of Christ and his teachings. I recently travelled to a beautiful Virgin of Guadalupe sanctuary in Chio and was deeply moved there - I found myself weeping deeply in one of the little chapels - quite inexplicably. It's been a heartening journey to find this place of resonance again, and I must say that when I look more closely into the essential Christian priniciples I think there is not a huge difference between them, Buddhism or even Islam. It's all in the teaching and the sects which develop and expound distorted principles that gets us all into a stew. Ultimately, each teacher brought us enormous wisdom at a particular time, and in a particular context, and it's their followers who distort these. Buddhism however, always feels like 'Truth' to me and I find it in a form that I can access, so in spite of my interest in (and even enjoyment) of other religions, I know Buddhism is the path in which I can best practice. But it so thrills me to see others growing through their own faiths too - I work in a cross-cultural field and it is amazing to see devotion in so many forms. I must say though that I get many opportunities to practice tolerance!

dethbee's picture

I'm new to the Buddhist practice, but I don't think there is much comparison between Christianity and Buddhism. I've been agnostic for years and years because blind faith hasn't sit well with me for a long time. I don't know how everyone else grew up, but when I tried going to church as a kid "blind faith" and "no questions asked" kind of deal. Really didn't like it at all. When I started reading about Buddhism, it was completely opposite. Paraphrased, obviously, Buddha said not to take his words on his reputation alone, but to research them on your own. I still would never call myself a Buddhist after a year of reading and researching. Maybe it was the church I belonged to at the time, but I was told that it was the whole, unquestioning deal if I ever wanted salvation. Now I can look into myself, find the facts for myself, and use Buddha as a guide down a path to spiritual development. I much prefer it to the fear that was put into me by the church and my close friends (that I of course lost once I "renounced" my "faith") that if I did not attend Sunday service everyday for the rest of my life that I would suffer a eternity in hell. Buddhism and Christianity seem on opposite ends in my perspective. Faith vs. reason, really.

Just to make clear, I'm not exaggerating. This was my experience with Christianity for many years, so I'm not too fond of it :\

ToonForever's picture

Unfortunately that's how it's often practiced. I think my recent experience is the exception, not the norm. There's a lot of fear associated with faiths outside Christianity. It really inhibits honest discussion within those circles.

Sam Mowe's picture

Participants in this discussion will benefit from reading Rita Gross's feature in the current issue of Tricycle, "Buddhism and Religious Diversity." As Rita points out, it is possible to engage in debate about religious traditions without proclaiming the superiority of one's own. As this conversation continues, we might do well to keep this in mind. Rita writes:

There is no single religious teaching that works for everyone. In matters of religion, the idea that “one size fits all” does not hold up, because people are too different. What inspires one person leaves another cold. Some people find theism cogent and comforting while to others it appears to be sheer nonsense. Some people are born to be monastics while others would be miserable trying to live that lifestyle. And so it goes, throughout the gamut of options regarding religious beliefs and practices. Despite this, it is all too common for religious people to praise their own doctrines and practices while berating those of others.

Read the rest here:

aewhitehouse's picture

Thank you for this. I feel I have gained much growth by abdicating my sense of superiority both with religion and politics.

ToonForever's picture

I grew up a holiday Catholic. Coming from an Irish family there is really no other way to grow up :) At around 13 I became pretty irreligious. At 18 I became a born-again evangelical believer, with all that entails, as did my fiancee (and high school sweetheart.) I had finally found the real truth that had seemed veiled during my catechism days. I studied the bible intently, memorizing many passages. I attended seminars, such as Promise Keepers. I was a choir member and director, worship leader, children's choir director, drama director, etc. I was a young earth, inerrancy Christian. God said, I believed it, and that settled it. What came from the pulpit was all I ever really needed to know. I prayed and I shared. I looked to the Word to guide my steps, and to overcome my sins and weaknesses. I lived in the painful cycle of failure, repentance, recommitment, struggle, failure, repentance, etc. I considered full time ministry several times, other times thinking that was about as silly a thing as I'd ever heard. Most of the time I was on fire, and often in the center of the action. I could not for the life of me understand how anyone, once they had the Spirit and understood the Word, could ever walk away. Those that did had obviously never been *in* in the first place.

About 12 years ago my wife began seriously questioning our faith. She questioned everything from the reliability of the Bible to the existence of God, and everything in between. After a time of just questioning she said she was an agnostic and gave up our church life altogether. After some conflict, we learned how to love and accept each other where we were, unconditionally. We learned how to debate and spar without fighting, and our communication eventually deepened.

Over the past few years I too began to question things. Not my core faith (Christ died for our sins, was buried, rose again bodily, and is seated at God's right hand interceding for Christians) of course, but the fringe things. Maybe the earth is old. Maybe Adam & Eve were an allegory. Maybe the flood wasn't worldwide. And of course those questions moved closer and closer to the core. Still, my faith in that core belief was unshakable. So I thought.

Earlier this year my family and I were in an auto accident (mentioned this on the original thread that inspired this one too) which we did not cause, but which we could have avoided had I not indulged my typical road-rage anger. Actually, my anger had been an issue in our household for... well, for as long as we've been together. I've always just called it my short Irish temper. But this time it could have gotten us killed. My wife made it clear (though she probably didn't need to this time) that I had to do something about it.

Having been through the typical failure/repentance cycle (see above) over and over again, I cast about for a different approach. What I found was a book called "The Cow in the Parking Lot," by Edmiston and Scheff. It promised a Buddhist approach to anger, but one that did not require religious belief, nor would conflict with one's current belief system. The promise of a peaceful letting go was very attractive to me, not to mention I was in a questioning mood.

This book literally changed my life. The Buddhist philosophy as explained in this book not only gave me what I needed to change the way I dealt with life and my family, but it fit much better the personal philosophy I'd developed over years of experience with just plain life.

For the first couple months I tried to meld this philosophy with my Christian beliefs, which were already teetering. On the surface it was easy, as there is much in common with Christ's teachings and Buddha's (i.e.: the sermon on the mount.) Yet there were some very important concepts that did not mesh. I had to decide what I actually believed, and I went on a reading and research binge, reading Christian apologetics, atheist and anti-Christian writings, Buddhist books, etc. I decided that I could no longer remain an evangelical Christian, and it was only about a week ago that I sat down with my pastor to explain why I could no longer lead music and such. It was a tough conversation, but he was loving and understanding, as everyone at our little church has been, contrary to what some hereabouts might have you believe about Christians. So as I pursue Buddhist practice intently, I look at Christ's teachings as an additional guide to help me let go and see life for what it is right now, and to encourage me to treat those around me with lovingkindness and compassion.

dennis.newberry's picture

Wow! You have effectively just described my path to this point ultimately finding this magazine, site, forum and searching for "Christian Buddhist" leading me to this post. I grew up in a Southern Baptist home in the south and have been a professed Christian most of my life, albeit with many periods where I was away from the church and certainly away from the "practice" of praying, attending and reading.

I too have struggled with anger and had an incident where I got into a fight (or near fight) in a Walmart parking lot because someone cut me off and I was already having a bad day. Here I was a 40 year old father of two who had never done anything criminal in my life, chasing another guy back into his car in a rage. Once I returned home, I Googled "anger management" and found an audio from Venerable Thubten Chodron and immediately identified with what she was saying. It seemed as if I had just had the "truth". Thankfully, there were no photos or obvious Buddhist references in my path to this audio clip, otherwise I likely would have never taken it seriously. That's where I was in my world view then. Once I realized who she was my perspective had been turned upside down. I then started researching the 4 Noble Truths and found many many others whose writing and audio made a tremendous amount of sense to me.

Here I am now, still living an outwardly Christian life, but inwardly dealing with how to process what seems to be an inevitable transformation process in what I believe. It's as if now I can no longer see things through the lens of my former life, but struggle with a lifetime of programmed belief and guilt by questioning that belief. I wonder sometimes if it's possible to really completely turn away from Christianity at this point or if I really want to. I am one who feels to have found some element of value and truth in both religions and do identify with both. However, there are clearly many obstacles as you dig deeper. It can actually be quite frustrating. I then remind myself that it isn't Buddhism that is making me feel that way, otherwise I've totally missed the point.

Thanks for the post! It has been very encouraging to know there are others with similar experiences.

ToonForever's picture

Wow is right :) Amazing the parallels in our stories.

I think it's important to say that there is a lot that I gained from my Christian experience. While there are ways it subtracted from my life, there are also ways it added to my life. It helped me grow up, develop the devotion I needed in my marriage, learn to love others unconditionally, and other things. I can't discount that. I do think, however, that those things aren't unique to Christianity either, but are a reflection of the basic value of those concepts and practices to humans all over. You may not go the direction I have, actually deconverting and pursuing Buddhism as my sole personal practice. I didn't deconvert to become a Buddhist. It was the need to be able to be open about my practice that forced me to take a hard look at everything I believed, which brought me to where I am. Your version may vary still, but I wish you the best. Thank you so much for responding and letting ME know there are others out there like me :) Cheers -

Wayoutthere's picture

Dear "toonforever" -:) reflecting on my comment below of march12th I decided to reread your comments and was struck even more deeply by the integrity of your whole process. Your candid sharing has given me a much better understanding and trust that my two boys who have joined a fundamentalist church will be just fine with the foundation that we have given them.

I see and feel this fire you are talking about in my oldest and his wife and have come to greatly honor it. I see a level of integrity between their belief and their daily actions especially in community. Where I found confirmation in your words was with regards to their struggle in their inner lives. I wasn't aware of the immensity of the impact of this perpetual cycle of sin and redemption and the waiting for peace in eternity that keeps one separate from the present moment. In fact your words made me realize how much this cycle is still influencing my own inner life and resulting outer actions having been brought up in rural catholic Germany - despite many years of basically vipassina practice.

It is here where I see the interaction between Christianity and Buddhism: integrity of belief with daily outer actions in a physical community supported by ritual on the one hand and sincere inner practice to become more and more present to the truth of the moment and the resulting sense of compassion on the other. My kids seem to need this outer sense on security and comfort of the former and hopefully continue to get infused with the latter through our example and guidance.

Even though I miss the beauty and depth and transcendance of more ritual in ancient established ways I would not trade the old ways nor any new outer structure for the richness of my inner life lived out of being present in the moment in a compassionate way. My growing trust and wish is for everyone to find that balance. Thank you from my heart for this profound understanding "toonforever" from Gabrielle

vgwatson's picture

Yours is an amazing and affecting story. Thank you for sharing it.

ToonForever's picture

Thank you so much for reading it and for your kind and encouraging words :)

ecoartisan's picture

yours is an amazing story of transformation, and it is an honor to be able to read it. i have not had the opportunity to have this discussion with very many people. having grown up protestant Christian in the bible belt south, i had a falling out with Christianity as a teenager, due to witnessed hypocrisy. I called myself agnostic for a while, but still had the feeling that there was more to life than no creative and connecting spirit. now, i believe that we are all connected, that our souls make this journey of life more than once (how could accomplish it all in just one?!) and that there is wisdom in all faith practices of the world including Christianity. therefore, i have made it my goal to focus on using Buddhism as a was to continue to work on the development of my soul, my compassion towards others, and becoming the best human being possible before i die. i believe we must all find our own path to nirvana, and whether we completely denounce all other faith practices or find a way to incorporate more than one, it should be ok as it is a personal choice.

ToonForever's picture

Thank you for your kind words :) I too find it is difficult to locate people you can discuss this - transition - with in depth. Having been a Christian so long, nearly all of my good friends are Christians who have no concept of what it is like to have such a transition. They can't imagine what it would be like to move away from the core fundamentalist approach to religion and god. At this point I believe we just go around once, and that has imbued every moment with a preciousness that was lacking a little before, when it seemed like I had an eternity ahead to right any mistakes I made.

Good fortune on the way :)

Sam Mowe's picture

That's quite a story. Thanks for sharing.

LaceyR's picture

There is no comparison between christianity and Buddhism. Just like there is no comparison between King Ashoka (after converting) and the Crusades. No comparison between His Holiness the Dalai Lama's peaceful Tibet and the Catholic Spaniard's Spanish Inquisition.

ToonForever's picture

I'm sorry, Lacey, but you sound like a bible belt Christian fundamentalist when you make such blanket pronouncements. The Christian circles I walk in are more loving and understanding by far. One would do well to attend to one's own practice. There is much to compare between Christ and Buddha, your own prejudice notwithstanding.

monthibbard@gmail.com's picture

I have struggled to reconcile the Christian teachings of my youth with the actions of congregations and churches. It can be difficult describing , what I saw and experienced, with compassion. I’ve been slow to tell some friends of my practicing Buddhism. Those who are aware have provided mixed reactions from concern to understanding. My Christian and non-religious family have been very supportive. I generally say that I “practice Buddhism,” where Christian friends say they “are Christian” which suggests some finality, no longer needing to practice. Does this distinction suggest some righteousness that leads to hypocrisy? Is there a similar potential for those saying they “are Buddhist?”

LaceyR's picture

After growing up in a supposedly "christian" household in the deep south bible belt, I have completely renounced the "Christian" ways. Only after I started studying Buddhism did everything start to make sense. From my experience, most "christians" are the most UNchristian people you'll ever meet in your life!

DocGrose's picture

To my knowledge, no buddhists ever tortured or killed others who refused to convert. They never claimed land as "theirs". Buddhism never argues or postulates about what you can't directly experience. Christianity and Judaism, and all then other major religions I know are after the same thing - a place in the universe for the practitioner to put themselves that makes some sense out of life. They offer visions of equal beauty and peace. The traps are there in every religion, even Buddhism, but they don't lead to so much degradation of the other in Buddhism, and the mental gymnastics necessary to maintain orthodoxy in judaism and Christianity are extreme. Such actions take away from the message of peace and love and understanding at the heart of all traditions. Buddhism takes away the spoonful of sugar from the medicine of truth. We are just here. We are all now. No glorious later on or long lost paradise. Just now, present. As I tell my 5 year-old when she complains: life may seem boring and lonely, but that is just an illusion. Pay attention.

graysoft's picture

I had a major falling out with Christianity and swore I would have nothing to do with it anymore. I started searching for a new spiritual path, and finally found a home in Buddhism. When I heard the teachings on how the Buddha gave different teachings to different people depending on their ability (e.g. "skillful means"), something clicked in my mind, and I was able to re-approach the teachings of Christ from a non-fundamentalist point of view. Now, I have much greater respect for those teachings, even greater than when I was a "practicing" christian.

However, all that being said, I do think that despite the braying of the right wing in the USA, science is the true religion of the land, not Christianity, and Buddhism would do well to keep primary focus there. We in the west still seem to be stuck in the split that gave morality to religion and everything else to science. Since there is very little moral teaching outside of the Vinaya (at least in my experience), I don't see a huge intersect between western Christianity and Buddhism in the minds of the people. This is a shame, because there are obvious and profound similarities between Christ's teachings and those of the Buddha. Still, to avoid the misconception that Buddhism is a religion rather than a philosophy, I think it best that we continue down the road with science.

gilder's picture

Considering that there's some research showing the influence of Christian Mary worship on the evolution of Avalokiteshvara to Guanyin (Martin Palmer and Jay Ramsay, with Man-Ho Kwok - Kuan Yin: Myths and Revelations of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion), perhaps the consideration of Christianity co-extant w/ Buddhism is particularly timely ~

connierose0218's picture

I am Jewish by birth and will always resonate with Jewish people. I feel we are a tribe, wherever we are, and I am always delighted to meet another Jew. But I haven't been involved with a synagogue since I left the homefront during college, and I never really had a solid grounding in Judaism to begin with. I never felt a strong connection to the Jews' conception of God, rather have always gravitated to more of an Eastern approach to God as Spirit.

For the last number of years I have been a follower of the Science of Mind, and it is here, with Science of Mind/Religious Science that I feel a very strong compatibility with Buddhism. I read and reread several Science of Mind-type books, such as Practicing the Presence by Joel Goldsmith, and essentially it is about mindfulness, being in the moment to realize Spirit right here and now. I consistently study Science of Mind and Buddhism materials at the same time.

I don't think of Buddhism as a religion, so it really has no impact for me on many of the questions posed in the discussion topic. Or rather, the questions don't mean anything to me because I don't feel pigeon-holed religiously, and I suppose I never have. For me, being Jewish has always been more about tradition and heritage than about religion. Becoming Buddhist, which I consider myself regardless of whether I "do" the religious aspects of it is rather the same for me. It's about how I think about my life and my place in the bigger picture, not about whether I pray to anyone in particular.

paulacrooks's picture

I wanted to suggest that anyone struggling with Christianity vs Buddhism (I've been there) consider that the West (starting with Constantine and the church councils in the early centuries of the CE) has made a mess of Jesus' true message. If you were to study his parables with an eye and a heart for metaphor and allegory, rather than a rigid "my way or the highway" stance, you would find the same teachings as the Buddha. They were two of the most enlightened beings ever to grace this earth. Unfortunately, the Christian churches have historically made hierarchy, rules and dogma king. And so you have Christians all over the West worshiping hierarchy, rules and dogma and calling it "God". This is the shallowest possible interpretation of the rich and transformative message of Jesus Christ. So I'm urging you to not throw out the baby with the bath water. Dig deep into the rich depths of your Christianity. Ask the really difficult questions of your faith. Challenge it and yourself. Go beyond what you swallowed whole as a kid. Explore the experiences of the Christian mystics, who did get the real message. And marry all of that with the gift of Buddhism. The two fit together like a hand and glove. And if you need to explore this any further, read Richard Rohr, an amazingly evolved Franciscan priest who runs the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque. Or Cynthia Bourgeault, an Episcopal priest who's written about the true meaning of Jesus' parables. They are both Christians who appreciate that many different fingers can point at the one awesome moon.

Dominic Gomez's picture

The Lotus Sutra teaches that the moon itself is mind (i.e. the reality of life). Different religions are different fingers, each pointing at life itself. The challenge for us today, then, is to actually create peace on earth and goodwill to all human beings.