Lured by Buddha but Taken by Christ


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I have reflected and written about the fact that I was enamored by Buddhism in college, especially after a world religion class my freshman year but Buddhism is not where I found my enlightenment. I found my enlightenment in reading the Bible.

I didn’t find enlightenment in reading what other people said about the Bible. I found my enlightenment in reading the Bible myself.

I have written about the facial similarities of Christianity, Buddhism and oneness. They both place some emphasis on losing or denying one’s self and achieving oneness, but that is where the similarities end. In Buddhism, oneness with the cosmic essence of the universe is something we achieve. In Christianity, oneness with God is achieved in us as we submit to God and allow Him to take His rightful place in the center of our lives.

Whereas, Buddhism encouraged me to ignore myself, look past myself and to escape myself and all of my feeling, ambitions and ego into a cosmic forgetfulness of self, the Bible confronted me with myself. Reading the Bible was like having a one-on-one soul-searching conversation with a stern but loving Father who knew me more intimately and fully than I knew myself.

And then I met Jesus in the Gospels. I can only describe him as divine love incarnate. He is a figure like none other. Bold, daring, fearless, loving, brotherly, piercing, healing. He is everything we would expect a God, a father, a brother, a friend to be. (It wasn’t right away that I was introduced to and experienced the person of the Holy Spirit.)

It wasn’t in reading books, listening to my professor or considering what other people said about the Bible and God; it was reading the Bible myself that led me to my enlightenment. Indeed, the Bible was like a sharp, two-edged sword penetrating into my psyche, dividing soul and spirit, exposing and judging the thoughts and intents of my heart.[1] Indeed, when I read those words, I knew it to be true because I had already experienced them.

Reading the Bible was like holding up a mirror to my soul. It was like a skillful surgeon’s hand touching on exactly what was out of joint, finding the cancer and putting a finger on it. At the same time, it was the beacon of hope I was searching for. The Bible resonated with me in its stark exposure of what was wrong with me, and, at the same time, it offered me the way out.

I recognized real hope juxtaposed with a most brutally honest reflection of who I was in my inner being. I trusted the hope because I recognized the brutal honesty.

Buddhism was for me escapism. Christianity, emanating from the words of the Bible, without philosophy, psychology or other layers that men put on it, was like a light bulb turning on in a dark room, like day dawning after the night. It confronted me with myself but held out a real and genuine hope.

I think about these contrasts even now. I think about how each religion affects people, and how the journey of each religion looks and is lived out. We don’t see many devout Buddhist contributors to society, perhaps, because enlightenment in the Buddhist religion takes people on a journey away from society. The very best and most enlightened Buddhists are the ones who live off the grid in a solitary life. Sure there are Buddhists who are scientists and social workers and other kinds of people who are doing good things, but they are not the best Buddhists. The best and highest example of a Buddhist is a solitary, priestly man who lives far away from the rush of society.

In contrast, the very best Christians are the ones living in the middle of the crush of society and ministering to people where they live. I think of Mother Teresa. I think of Jesus, himself. He did often go off into lonely places for solitary time alone with God the Father, but he always returned to the marketplace where the crowds lived and he had his greatest impact.

I very much had within me a desire to retreat to a mountaintop, away from the bustling busyness of society that bombarded me and assaulted me. I believe this is why Buddhism was so appealing to me in college. I did not want to face the crush of humanity and all of the needs and demands on me that are felt in society. Jesus had me turn away from my dream of solitary contentment. He had me pick up my cross and follow him into the marketplace. This is not where I wanted to go.

When I contrast the Buddha with Jesus, when I contrast the end game of Buddhism with the endgame of Christianity, I see differences that are continents apart. In that world religion class in college, I not only went through the academic ritual of learning the facts about the various religions, I tried them on in my heart and my mind. I was searching for truth for myself in a personal way.

I found in the Bible, in Jesus, in God the father and God the Holy Spirit, something that cannot be found in any of the other world religions, philosophies or ways of thinking. I found more than personal knowledge of the essential truth of the Universe. I found more than a personal connection with the essential reality of the Universe. I found a personal relationship with the God of the universe who began actively to work within me to change me from the inside out.

I did not get this from books or from listening to other people. I did not even get this from reading the Bible myself and taking it to heart. I got this from engaging the God who is reflected in the Bible, on a personal, one-on-one kind of way. I took the step of faith to engage God in the same way the Bible engaged me, by being brutally honest and opening myself up in trust and commitment. As I engaged God, He engaged me.

Faith is not believing something without evidence. Faith is not believing something in spite of the evidence. Faith is grasping the evidence in all of its brutal honesty and dealing with it squarely, one-on-one. Faith is being honest with oneself and entrusting oneself to the God who knows me better than I know myself. Faith is committing myself to that God.

Buddhism promises change to be achieved in the inner man as one progresses from this illusory emotional world to enlightenment. Christianity promises a change in the inner man brought about by relationship with God who works within us to accomplish that change. I have experienced this. I know this by experience to be true.

Having entrusted myself and committing myself to the God I saw a reflected in the Bible, to the God who expressed who he is in the most humanly intimate way possible through Jesus Christ, I have found that He does what he says He can do. He has changed me from the inside out, and he continues to change me.

I am afraid that many people, including many people who call themselves Christians, do not really know God in a relational way. They do not approach the Bible as if it were a surgeon’s knife, engaging with it, as God through his Holy Spirit engages with them. It’s easy, less risky to the fragile self, to keep it on an academic, surface-level. I believe that some people do this their entire lives, not realizing that God is relational.

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[1] Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

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11 Comments on “Lured by Buddha but Taken by Christ”


  1. I am glad that you found your faith. I always say that if the divine (God) is where you are looking, he will speak to you. Good luck on your spiritual journey!

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  2. Celestial Says:

    This was such an amazing read!!!! I’m so glad you found God and that you have submitted yourself to him in a relational way. So many are lost, and you’re right, even christians. I love love your emphasis on your experiences with God are your own and not something you heard or read someone say, but a relationship you sought out for yourself. If people would do that, they would begin to understand who God really is and that he is the only way, truth, and life. I also enjoyed your comparisons and contrasts of the two religions and you made some interesting points. That world religions class in college is a turning point for many people. Unfortunately, it’s often the wrong turn. But that’s the beauty of God, we can always come back to him. Thanks for such an insightful read.

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  3. Dear Kevin, thank you for an inspirational read and for sharing your testimony. It seems so rare in life that we find what we need when we are looking for it and I am overjoyed that you have. I am happy that you have found meaning in Christ and by the sounds of it use this to do good. In reading your blog entry I noticed a few things that seem incorrect that you said about Buddhism. Please allow me to elaborate.
    The issues I have are as follows.
    1. Losing or denying oneself is not entirely correct. True we deny ourselves things that harm us or others and we lose our egos. The ego is our selfish part but to lose one’s self or that part of us that cannot be taken apart or destroyed, that part of us that is unborn or eternal is not the goal at all in Buddhism. The goal is enlightenment, first realizing that you are no longer the target of others bad behaviour and your own emotions and second using this freedom to work harder for the benefit of all and finding lasting joy in that. In this, the separation of subjects, objects, and actions is dissolved this is oneness or better said as non-separation. This oneness as you say is not in anyway achieved, it is realised, as it was like this all along we just did not see it. We do not seek enlightenment for ourselves but for all beings, yes even dogs, cats, and ants.
    2. You said it was an escapism for you. I from my point of view could not disagree more. Since I have met the Buddha dharma I am more engaged than ever but in others and their needs instead of myself, as they are many I am one. My Lama encourages all his students to be very active in all areas of life. Ignoring oneself or others would not be healthy for anyone. There is no way you can help others if you are not in a position to do so taking care of our bodies and minds is paramount.
    3. “We don’t see many devout Buddhist contributors to society,” if you don’t see them it does not mean that they are not there. Most Buddhists don’t want credit for things that they do as this would lead to strengthening their egos. It’s not a race to see who gets how many points. You can compare the Buddhist community to the Catholic Church, of course, there is a strong monastic tradition but behind every monastery or temple there must be a large lay community to support it, or they simply would not be able to exist. There is a large and growing Buddhist lay community here in the west don’t kid yourself they are there and active. There is simply no such thing as a “best Buddhist” we are all simply beings on the way. A good Buddhist does not sit in a cave meditating until we disappear. Yes, we spend many hours or weekends in meditation but during the week we are packing boxes, selling cappuccinos, or driving the bus just like any Christian. Living our lives for others is the bodhisattva way. Our meditation allows us to function highly within society, in daily life, at work, and with our families and to not be ruled by our emotions such as anger, jealousy, and greed. Which we all can agree on leads us to suffering.
    I really believe that you have been misinformed or in some way misguided by your professor or teacher on these matters. If you have any questions I am open to meaningful dialogue.
    Once again if you have found something meaningful for your self I could not be happier but please do not misrepresent others so that what you found looks better and they look bad. Big dogs do not need to bark.

    QP

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    • I appreciate your explanations. They have helped me understand better than I did before the nuances of Buddhism. I would not lay any blame at the feet of my professors 35 years ago. My understanding has no doubt become a bit foggy over the years, and that assumes that I understood Buddhism accurately in all of its nuance at the time. My ultimate point is, really, that there are some similarities, but those similarities lie on the surface between Buddhism and Christianity. As we dig deeper, we find fundamental differences. Some of those similarities, to be fair, do run deeper than the surface. That Buddhism for you has lead you to be more engaged with others. This is a result you have realized from your devotion to Buddhism that would be similar to the experiences of some Christians who have found peace and forgiveness and a renewed mind in Christ that, similarly, has freed them from the bondage to self to be more liberally engaged in giving to others. I realized, even as I wrote about Buddhist contributors to society, that I was very likely skating out onto thin ice, and I can definitely see how meditation and focus on “losing” that ego and harmful sense of self that is destructive and set against other people would allow a person to function more harmoniously in society. The primary areas of difference I see between a Buddhist view of life as you have described it, and a Christian view of life, is in what you describe as realizing that oneness which already is (which I assume is a fundamental goodness and finding harmony with that essence of what is fundamentally good). I think you would say that this fundamental goodness lies already in each of us, and its just a matter of realizing it. The Christian view is that we were made for such fundamental goodness, but we are not in harmony with it. That fundamental goodness lies in God to whom we must turn and with whom we must connect, denying that tendency in ourselves to go our own way and determine our own fate, giving ourselves in humble submission to our creator. In Buddhism, I believe, there is no creator per se. There is no eternal Being/Person, but eternal being which is more of a pantheistic notion.

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  4. Hi, Kevin thank you so much for responding so kindly to me. I am very grateful to have met you. May I please be a little more clear. With some of the things I mentioned?
    Oneness is so much more than fundamental goodness.
    Oneness is not really a Buddhist term oneness is really Hindu to be one with everything. In Buddhism, we take this a little further. Let me explain if you have one you have many it’s like left and right very dualistic like good and bad etc. Our language which is also very dualistic has difficulty explaining things beyond the opposites. We try to use words like “non-separation” that’s only a little closer but in the right direction. We say we are not separated from others due to ignorance we think we are but we are not and never were. Through meditation, we can realize the unity between the meditator, the focus of the meditation and the act of meditation. We see in our mind’s eye that are all united. It’s actually much like the holy trinity god the father, the son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. They can be seen as separate because they all have different names and activities but are actually one in the same. We just see this unity on a divine-human level. Does that make sense to you? You could also say it would be like looking back death and seeing that god was always by your side although you might have felt one or twice forsaken. We can have This realization with the divine or mind as we say in Buddhism in this life here and now and realize it on the deepest of levels. Further, we can apply it not only to god but to all beings who as you know are made in his image. We should also not separate that which unites us.
    Buddhism is often misunderstood as Pantheistic and I can understand why especially when one see Buddhist art such a refuge tree and you see one meditating in front of it and if course wearing “Christian coloured sunglasses” it looks like we are praying to all these gods. But this is also far from the truth when one sees a Buddha aspect such as Chenrezig or “loving eyes” in English one mediates to see or find that the enlightened qualities such as love and compassion that Chenrezig represents are already in oneself, it’s like a mirror. We see these qualities outside and understand that if they are there in front of us they must also be with us. This is another example of non-separation. Secondly, Buddhism suffers from several generations of poor translation of their texts. When Catholic missionaries when to India in the 1700’s they began to translate many texts but they did so use many “Sunday terms” that although close and somewhat correct often misrepresent the true meaning. The best example is that one who reaches Nirvana has meditated themselves into nothingness. Once again nothing could be further from the truth.
    While I clearly see that the idea of salvation in Christ and finding your own salvation or freedom of mind from the Buddha are different. Don’t you think we focus more on our commonalities and work together for the betterment of all beings on our planet or should we focus on what divides us?

    QP

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    • In my opinion, we should have enough commonalty in being human, in living together on this planet, to be able to love, respect and live in harmony with each other. In Christian thinking, we are instructed to love God above all and love others as ourselves with such a radical love that it also includes our enemies. This suggests that, while we have differences, we don’t necessarily have to ignore or make little of our differences to be able to love, respect and treat people as we want to be treated. Sadly, much of the Christian world (and the larger world as well) does not demonstrate that principle. In truth, I don’t think Jesus was saying that we should have enemies; He was saying that those people we might be tempted to call our enemies are really our neighbors; they are people like us who we should love and respect. As for pantheism, a dictionary definition is identification of God with the universe, or identification of the universe as a manifestation of God. Whereas the Christian view of God is that He is separate and distinct from the universe which He created.

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    • By the way, I like the way you look at science through the eye of Buddhism. A segment of our academic, scientific world seems to be pulling further and further away from theology and philosophy and reducing the definition of reality to nothing more than molecules in motion. I think people know intuitively that this isn’t true, but some modern scientists can be very dogmatic in their naturalism.

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  5. Oh and the idea of a being or eternal person is what we call mind or sometimes buddha nature, something that we all have in abundance.

    QP

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