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TitleSerene Compassion: A Christian Appreciation of Buddhist Holiness
Author
LanguageEnglish
File Size2.2 MB
Total Pages145
Table of Contents
                            PREFACE
CONTENTS
1 Introduction
2 The Buddha
3 The Dharma
4 The Sangha
5 Meditation
6 Morality
7 Wisdom
8 Conclusion
INDEX
                        
Document Text Contents
Page 72

The Sangha / 63

Christian Evaluation

Christianity has sponsored a powerful monastic life for both men and
women, as well as numerous adaptations of its doctrine for laity, so
there are good grounds for thinking that Buddhism and Christianity
are quite alike sociologically. However, when we look closely at the
origins of the two religions, at the religious lives that their founders
appear to have led personally, and at the centrality of worldliness to
their doctrinal complexes, we find significant differences. The result of
an overall comparison, then, is analogy rather than close morphological
similarity.

The differences at the origins of the two religions—as these differ-
ences take root in the personal religious styles of the two founding
figures, the Buddha and Jesus, and as they find clear expression in what
seem to be the founders' own teachings—force us to begin our com-
parison on a note of difference. From the moment that he became the
Buddha, Gautama was in effect a monk. Although he was born a mem-
ber of the second caste, a warrior rather than a priestly Brahmin, his
enlightenment took him outside the going social structure, assimilating
him to the sannyasin, the wandering holy man to whom caste meant
little. He embraced celibacy and begging. He undertook the direction
of disciples and endorsed obedience. Little in his own historical teach-
ing, in contrast to the teachings attributed to him or to other Buddhas
or bodhisattvas later, under pressure to develop a kammatic soteriology
for the laity, aimed at anything but the extinction of desire and the
achievement of nirvana. As a result, the present, secular world inter-
ested him very little. Almost always, his pronouncements about it were
negative: it was the realm of samsara, the hell-pit of burning desire, the
radical enemy.

Jesus, in contrast, did not appear on the scene as a monastic figure,
though from the moment that he was baptized by John the Baptist and
driven into the desert by the Holy Spirit, monkish features developed
in his religious style. Jesus was born into an artisan family, grew up
basically as a peasant, and evidenced many countercultural attitudes.5

His sympathies remained lay, even proletarian, rather than priestly or
clerical, and he did not require celibacy or poverty of his disciples. In
addition, he welcomed women into his community (as, Buddhist
traditions suggest, the Buddha initially did not).

However, Jesus did embrace celibacy himself, did live poorly, did if
not beg his food at least accept it as alms from others, and did provide
direction, both practical and spiritual, for his band of disciples. He took
time out for prayer, seemed determined to retain some of the mini-
malism he learned in the desert, and struck a balance (a middle way)
between asceticism and the enjoyment of worldly pleasures, probably
coming down on the side of simplicity, if not austerity. Worldly matters

Page 73

64 / SERENE COMPASSION

did not interest Jesus much personally. Personally, he was so absorbed
in his relationship with God that money, possessions, sex, creative
work, and the personal aspects of politics received little attention. For
the religious life of the individual, these things pertain to the realm of
means, as things we should use gratefully but lightly, referring every-
thing good in them to the bounty of God and maneuvering around
everything problematic, or potentially derailing, because worship of
God and promotion of social justice are matters of much greater
moment.

Promotion of social justice, in fact, is a major difference between the
original slant of Christianity and that of Buddhism. While the Buddha's
teaching certainly carries significant social implications, many of which
Buddhism has developed throughout its history, nothing like Jesus'
preoccupation with the reign of God, need to redo the social contract
on behalf of marginal groups, and criticism of the hypocrisy of an of-
ficial religion that stigmatized many marginal peoples as "sinners" or
classes properly unenfranchised (women, children, and, with many
qualifications, gentiles) appears in the work of the Buddha. The Ser-
mon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7), often considered the epitome of the
preaching of Jesus, and the Beatitudes that one finds in that sermon
(Matt. 5) set Jesus apart from the Buddha, making him a much more
active champion of the downtrodden social classes. Certainly, the jus-
tice that Jesus promises the downtrodden will appear fully only when
the reign of God takes complete hold of history; but it seems clear that
Jesus wanted, indeed expected, that faith in him and his God would
produce justice proleptically, making a powerful beginning. Especially,
it seems, he expected this to happen in his own group, the protochurch
which he imagined developing from his disciples.

From these beginnings, Christianity and Buddhism developed sig-
nificant differences in their doctrinal and theological emphases. As they
reflected on the character of Jesus, the early Christians soon credited
him with properly divine powers and status, so much so that in the
New Testament itself (written within two generations of his death) the
doctrine of the Incarnation was probably well established. This, in turn,
radicalized the Jewish realism, even materialism, that Jesus had inher-
ited and assumed in his preaching. For such materialism, this world of
natural creation and human history is thoroughly real. It may be
flawed, limited, mottled by sin, but it is not illusory, a bin of ignorance,
or something we should characterize as horribly burning. For Christian
theology, the flesh of Jesus became the main sacrament of the divine
presence. If asked what God is most like, most orthodox Christians
point to Jesus of Nazareth, revealed through the Resurrection, espe-
cially, to be the Christ, the special anointed emissary of God. For Chris-
tians, it is not the pure spirit of the human being but the incarnational
composite that is the prime natural locus of divine revelation. The

Page 144

Index I 135

Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, 107
Liberation theology, 87
Logos, 8-9, 27, 44, 46, 120, 121

Madhyamika school, 40
Mahaparinibbanasutta, 109-110
Mahavira, 91
Mahayana, 117
Mahayan Buddhism, 29, 40, 62, 84-85,

112, 114
and laity, 20-21, 60
and nirvana and samsara, 20, 23, 75,

79
andTantra, 116, 118

Mandalas, 51, 117
Mantras, 51, 75, 117-118, 119
Mar-pa, 79-80
Marxism, 96
Materialism, 121

Christian, 64, 65, 116, 120, 122
Mayanidessa, 13
Mediation, 6, 67, 68
Meditation, 12, 55, 61, 92, 128

and attention, 68-70
and awakening, 76, 78-81, 86
and Christianity, 70, 77, 81-84, 126,

131
four concerns of, 71-74
and imagination, 73-74, 86, 112
and monastic Buddhism, 50-51
and morality, 70, 86, 87, 89
and the Noble Eightfold Path, 33, 34, 68
and nondualism, 75-78
and social issues, 95
andTantra, 118-119
and wisdom, 4, 70, 87, 105, 124

Merit, 60, 61, 62
Milarepa, 78, 79-80
Milinda (Menander, king of India), 111
Monks, Buddhist, 56

ideals and morals of, 48, 49, 50-51, 52
and laity, 52-56, 59, 62

Morality, Buddhist, 4, 68, 86, 87-100,
124, 128, 129-130

and Christianity, 101-104
and interreligious dialogue, 127, 131
and meditation, 70, 86, 87, 89

Muhammad, 106, 107
Muslims. See Islam

Nagarjuna, 40, 75
Nagasena, 111, 112
Naropa, 78
Neo-Confucianism, 75

New Testament, 15, 44, 64, 65, 80. See
also Bible; Gospels

Nibbanic Buddhism, 60, 61
Nichiren Buddhism, 62
Nirvana, 19, 20, 21, 22, 111

attributes of, 3-4, 5, 6, 15, 37, 38-41,
42

and the Buddha, 13, 14, 15
and Christianity, 37-38
and samsara, 15, 23, 45, 47

Noble Eightfold Path, 31-34, 36, 44
Nonviolence, 88, 90-93, 94, 101, 102
Nuns, Buddhist, 48, 50, 55-56, 62

Obedience, 51, 56-59, 65
Otto, Rudolf, 5
Oxtoby, Willard, 5-6

Pali, 60
Pali Canon, 71, 97, 109
Parinirvana, 28
Patisambhida, 13
Paul, Saint, 5, 104, 106
Peace, 41-44
Peter, Saint, 103
Platform Sutra, 80
Pragmatism, 87
Prajnaparamita, 112-116, 117-118
Prayer, 82, 83, 84, 122
Process thought, 27
Protestantism, 65, 101
Protestant Reformation, 65
Psychology, 27, 73-74
Purity, 5-6

Rahner, Karl, 8, 83
Rahula, Walpola, 94, 96
Realism, 64
Reincarnation, 21-22, 45
Resurrection, 26, 28-29, 45, 46, 64, 121
Reynolds, Frank E., 13-14
Rinpoche, Sogyal, 3, 79
Rinzai Zen, 76-77
Ritual, 5, 68
Roman Empire, 65

Sage, 105-109
Saints, 4-5, 6-7, 18-19, 22, 59
Salvation, 46

in Buddhism, 22, 29, 30, 46, 60,
61-62

Samsara, 20, 21, 22, 31, 34
and Christianity, 26, 28, 45
gods trapped in, 13

Page 145

156 / Index

Samsara, (continued)
and nirvana, 5, 15, 19, 23, 47
and the Three Marks, 35, 36

Samyutta Nikaya, 13
Sfl«0/ld, 36,42,48,62, 130
Sanskrit, 60, 114, 117
Sariputra, 115
Sat, 15
Scripture

Buddhist, 109-112
Christian. See Bible; Gospels; New

Testament
Selflessness, 35-36, 46, 57-58, 70
Serbs, 42
Shakyamuni. See Buddha
Shinran, 62
Shintoism, 6, 50, 75
Siddhas, 17
Sila, 86-90, 93, 94, 101
Soteriology. See Salvation
Soto Zen, 76
Spiro, Melford E., 60-61
Stalin, Joseph, 88
Suchness, 74, 76, 77, 86, 90, 100

Tantric Buddhism, 62, 82, 90, 112
Christian evaluation of, 83, 116
method and wisdom in, 116-119
and sexual drives, 49, 51, 116, 117, 119

Taoism, 50, 75, 101
Tao Te Ching, 97
Teresa of Avila, Saint, 8
Thailand, 23, 51, 52
Theravada Buddhism, 13

and meditation, 71, 73, 74, 75
and merit, 60, 61-62
social ethics of, 96, 97, 100

Thomas, Edward J., 116

Three Jewels, 30, 48, 67, 68, 129,
131

Three Marks, 34-37, 59, 70, 72, 75
Christian evaluation of, 45-46

Three Pillars, 67
Tibet, 10, 114

Tantrain, 51, 116, 118-119
Tibetan Book of the Dead (Rinpoche), 3
Tibetan Buddhism. See also Buddhism

guru-disciple relationship in, 78-81
Tilopa, 78

Vajrayana Buddhism, 62, 79
Vegetarianism, 6, 80, 90, 91
Vimalakirti Sutra, 60
Vipassana, 82, 83

What the Buddha Taught (Rahula), 94
Wheel, 98-99
Wisdom, Buddhist, 4, 50-51, 68, 70, 105-

106, 124
Christian evaluation of, 115, 116, 119-

122, 123, 128, 131
Women

in Buddhism, 45, 50, 63
and Christianity, 45, 63
and obedience, 58-59

Yoga, 34, 68-69, 116-117, 118, 119
Yogacara, 24
Yugoslavia, 42, 93

Zen .Buddhism, 51, 80, 82, 83, 130
and the Buddha, 8
lineage in, 50
and meditation, 75-76

Zoroaster, 106
Zoroastrianism, 6

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