February 07, 2007

The Soul as a Rainbow

Philip Ryan

The Christian Post, a website providing daily coverage of Christianity all around the globe, is preparing its readers for the Dalai Lama's upcoming U.S. visit with an article called, "How to Evangelize Tibetan Buddhists in the West," by Michelle Vu.

"'The Dalai Lama’s visit to the U.S. this spring is certain to heighten awareness about Buddhists,'" says David Householder, author of Jesus in a New Age, Dalai Lama World. (Householder writes under the nom de plume Marku Tsering. The book is a complete rewrite of his earlier Sharing Christ in the Tibetan Buddhist World.)

The article provides information about Buddhists to help Christians understand them. "One thing [Tibetan Buddhists] respect is sacred books of other religions, which includes the Bible," according to Householder, so inviting Buddhists to Bible study groups may be a good way to start the conversation. However, it should be kept in mind that Tibetans can be particularly tricky to convert because, "their religion is inherently linked to their culture and identity." But Western-born adherents of Tibetan Buddhism may not be so intransigent.

Another challenge for Christians is that Buddhists have a different undertstanding and terminology about spirituality, and employ unfamiliar concepts such as sunyata and annata. "For Buddhists, there is no such thing as a soul, which Christians consider a person. Buddhists view the soul similar to a rainbow composed of many elements but not existing in a distinct form," writes Vu, employing a very beautiful simile.

Because of Buddhism's emphasis on this world rather than the next, some say it is "more of a lifestyle than a religion," but this is not really so, according to the article. And while meditation may seem like a harmless non-spiritual way to reduce stress, Christians need to understand that there is spirituality underneath it all and "be able to respond Biblically."

Books such as Householder's should prove a valuable resource in helping Christians and Buddhists learn to understand each other and co-exist peacefully until Kingdom Come.

(The DL's 2007 schedule is here.)

Philip Ryan, Webmaster

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Gregor's picture

Wow.

I really appreciate your ability to see the good in this. Perhaps it is a wonderful opportunity for Christians and Buddhists to come to understand one another.

I don't believe that either group will have much luck in "converting" each other. In reality this should not be the goal.

We each need to find our own path and move beyond judgments about the merits of each others faith. For me personally, Buddhism is the best. I am inclined to value the Dhamma above all other spiritual practices. However, this is a personal judgment, made for personal reasons. I don't wish to judge others' beliefs and only hope that we humans can move beyond this. I'll be busy working at this myself. After all, I am the only one that I can truly shape.