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A Response to:

"Living Buddha, Living Christ"
by Thich Nhat Hanh

Copyright 1999-2002 by John WorldPeace

All  rights reserved


A. His life is His Teaching 100800

There is a science called Buddhology, the study of the life of the Buddha.  As a historical person, the Buddha was born in Kapilavastu, near the border between India and Nepal, got married, had on child, left home, practiced many kinds of meditation, became enlightened, and shared the teaching until he died at the age of eighty.  But there is also the Buddha within ourselves who transcends space and time.  This is the living Buddha, the Buddha of the ultimate reality, the one who transcends all ideas and notions and is available to us at any time.  The living Buddha was not born at Kapilavastu, nor did he pass away at Kushinagar.

Christology is the study of the life of Christ.  When speaking about Christ, we also have to know whether we mean the historical Jesus or the living Jesus.  The historical Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the son of a carpenter, traveled far form his homeland, became a teacher, and was crucified at the age of thirty-three.  The living Jesus is the Son of God who was resurrected and who continues to live.  In Christianity, you have to believe in the resurrection or you are not considered a Christian.  I am afraid this criterion may discourage some people from looking into the life of Jesus.  This is a pity, because we can appreciate Jesus Christ as both a historical door and an ultimate door.

The fact that Christians believe that Jesus was the only son of God, and was in fact God as part of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is what makes Christianity exclusive to all the other religions and prevents any acknowledgment that the other major religions of the world have any validity.  

Christians only comprise one sixth of the world population and yet they believe that they have the only path to salvation.  Christians on every level listen to what others have to say about their religion but never really listen because they believe they have the only true son of God.

This elitist viewpoint has been the cause of Christian genocide throughout the world.  When Christianity came into contact with the indigenous people of America they had no reservations about destroying their civilizations and their religions because all religions other than Christianity were pagan.  In fact, Christians believed it was their God given mandate to convert or kill off all other religious ideas on the planet.

For the Christian bureaucracy to acknowledge the validity of any other religion would have the effect of destroying Christianity.  Without the literal Son of God, Christianity is just another religion among many.

When we look into and touch deeply the life and teaching of Jesus, we can penetrate the reality of God.  Love, understanding, courage and acceptance are expressions of the life of Jesus.

Well this is what is talked about in Christianity but Love means love other Christians, understanding means understanding God through Christianity, and acceptance, true acceptance means the acceptance of other Christians.  

Jesus was somewhat of an elitist himself because he uttered such words as "Do not give dogs what is holy', and "Do not cast your pearls before swine."  These are not loving, understanding or accepting statements.  They are statements that reflect an elitist attitude such that if you are not with us, you are against us.  And it is my belief that these statements have been carried forward in the Christian doctrine and dogma which is not only not understanding, but unsympathetic and outwardly combative toward non-Christians.

It has always been interesting to me that one of the great Christian hymns is "Onward Christian Soldiers, marching as to war."  And so it has been.  Christianity marching on other cultures and religions as if going to war.

And this attitude has not changed even today as evidenced by the Pope of the Catholic Church's comments a few years ago that disparaged the Buddhist religion.  Christians talk about love, understanding, forgiveness and acceptance but if you look carefully you will find that these terms are really restricted to other Christians and not to all the world.

God made himself known to us through Jesus Christ.  

As he also made himself known through the Buddha, Mohammed, Baha'U'llah, Bodhidarma, Krishna, Joseph Smith and Moses.  And in truth, as he makes himself known through every man woman and child.

With the Holy Spirit and the Kingdom of God within him, Jesus touched the people of his time.  He talked with prostitutes and  tax collectors, and had the courage to do whatever was needed to heal his society.

Today Christians talk to sinners in order to bring them to Jesus.  Christians believe that all human beings need to be saved and only by embracing Jesus as the literal Son of God and the savior of the world can one go to heaven after death.  Christians are not accepting of sinners.  They see them as people to be saved.  And when it is determined that a person cannot be saved then the Christians move on to the next potential convert.

Jesus was not really trying to heal Jewish society but was trying to attack the Jewish religious bureaucracy for its hypocrisy.  And this is what got him killed.  The Buddha did the same thing as he rejected the Hindu bureaucracy and its hypocrisy.  It was not a matter of healing society but was a matter of awakening people to their own inner spirituality which was being manipulated by the religious bureaucracy.

As the child of Mary and Joseph, Jesus is the Son of Woman and Man.

With all due respect, Brother Hanh, Joseph was Jesus's father in name only.  One of the foundations of Christianity is that Jesus was the literal Son of God and the virgin Mary. Mary was a virgin when she became pregnant with Jesus.  This is again why Christians give only polite lip service to other religions.  Christians belief that Jesus is the only literal Son of God.  No other religion can make that claim and so all other religions are inferior to Christianity; so believe Christians. 

As someone animated by the energy of the Holy Spirit, he is the Son of God.

No, Brother Hanh, Christians will tell you that he was the literal Son of God.  We are all animated by the Holy Spirit if you believe that we are all children of God.  But according to Christians there has only been one literal Son of God and that was Jesus.

The fact that Jesus is both the Son of Man and the Son of God is not difficult for Buddhist to accept.

Brother Hanh, I submit that it is impossible for any Buddhist to accept that Jesus was the literal Son of God.  If a Buddhist were to accept this, that Buddhist would surely renounce Buddhism and embrace Christianity.

We can see the nature of nonduality in God the Son and God the Father, because without God the Father within him, the Son could never be.

Brother Hanh, my truth is that we are all sons and daughters of God as was Jesus.  But from a scientific biological perspective in this earthly reality, Christians belief that the biological father of Jesus was the literal anthropomorphic one God himself.  Son of God is not a metaphor for Christians but a literal fact.

But in Christianity, Jesus is usually seen as the only Son of God.

Jesus is not usually seen as the only Son of God but always seen as the literal Son of God and if you do not believe this, then you cannot be a Christian.

I notice Brother Hanh that you skip over this very controversial issue.  You skip over the one obstacle that forever prevents any true common ground of understanding between Christians and Buddhists or any other religion.  Brother Hanh, your refuse to openly state that Buddhist would never embrace Jesus as the literal biological Son of God.

I think it is important to look deeply into every act and every teaching of Jesus during his lifetime, and to use this as a model for our own practice.

Well again Brother Hanh, I do not think you want to make this kind of statement.  You see Jesus when he came to the Temple in Jerusalem became highly upset at the commerce going on within the Temple.  He became so upset that the made a whip and began to turn over tables and whip the vendors.  I do not think that you advocate such extreme behavior.

Further you can see here the precedent that Jesus set for later Christians to deal accordingly with non-Christians and their pagan religions. 

And you can also see why the Jewish bureaucracy was instrumental in having Jesus crucified.  Jesus was bad for business and if left unchecked would have overturned the entire Jewish religious establishment.  The way of this world is the way of materialism and money.  And when spiritual philosophy interferes with making money then it is the spiritually that must be subordinated.  This is the reality that you sir do not understand in your position as a monk.

I truly respect you Brother Hanh, but you are attempting to write about Christianity which you do not fully understand and you do not bring to your discussion a personal knowledge of how the vast majority of human beings make a living in the world.

This is why I feel that I must continue to practice law.  If I can maintain my spirituality while working in the most combative profession on the planet, then I can be an example to others.  They cannot discount what I have to say because I do live in the real world, in their world.  

Jesus lived exactly as he taught, so studying the life of Jesus is crucial to understanding his teaching.

No Brother Hanh, Jesus did not live exactly as he taught.  His admonition to turn the other cheek did not apply to his actions in the Temple.  There are many such examples in the gospels of the New Testament in the Christian Bible.

For more examples go to The Saying of Jesus

For me, the life of Jesus is His most important teaching, more important that even faith in the resurrection or faith in eternity.

Well now Brother Hanh, I see how you diplomatically get around the issues of Jesus as the literal Son of God, born of the virgin Mary and dying for the sins of man, and rising from the dead; in essence the guts of Christianity.

You sir, avoid this subject and look at Jesus outside this role of the true Son of God.  You avoid saying that you do not believe in Jesus as the savior of the world.  And I expect that you will now in the rest of your book compare Jesus to Buddha without referring to the guts of the Christian doctrine and dogma.  I commend you the effort.

But in the end, when your book is finished, the question will still be asked by your Christian audience, "Do you believe in Jesus as the literal Son of God who died for your sins?"  If you answer yes, then you are a Christian and must remove your Buddhist robes.  If you answer no, you will be thanked for your interesting lecture.

B. Mindfulness is the Buddha

The Buddha was a human being who was awakened and, thereby, no longer bound by the many afflictions of life.  But when some Buddhists say that they believe in the Buddha, they are expressing their faith in the wonderful, universal Buddhas, not in the teaching or the life of the historical Buddha.  They believe in the Buddha's magnificence and feel that is enough.  But the examples of the actual lives of the Buddha and of Jesus are most important, because as human beings, they lived in ways that we can live, too.

When we read, "The heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove," we can see that Jesus Christ was already enlightened.  He was in touch with the reality of life, the source of mindfulness, wisdom, and understanding within Him, and this made Him different from other human beings.  When He was born into a carpenter's family, He was the Son of Man.  When He opened His heart, the door of Heaven was opened to Him.  The Holy Spirit descended on Him like a dove, and He was manifested as the Son of God -- very holy, very deep, and very great.  But the Holy Spirit is not just for Jesus alone; it is for all of us.  From a Buddhist perspective, who is not the son or daughter of God?  Sitting beneath the Bodhi tree, many wonderful, holy seeds within the Buddha blossomed forth.  He was human, but, at the same time, he became an expression of the highest spirit of humanity.  When we are in touch with the highest spirit in ourselves, we too are a Buddha, filled with the Holy Spirit, and we become very tolerant, very open, very deep, and very understanding.

C.  More Doors For Future Generations

Matthew described the Kingdom of God as being like a tiny mustard seed.  It means that the seed of the Kingdom of God is within us.  If we know how to plant that seed in the moist soil of our daily lives, it will grow and become a large bush on which many birds can take refuge.  We do not have to die to arrive at the gates of Heaven.  In fact, we have to be truly alive.  The practice is to touch life deeply so that the Kingdom of God becomes a reality.  This is not a matter of devotion.  It is a matter of practice.  The Kingdom of God is available here and now.  Many passages in the Gospels support this view.  We read in The Lord's Prayer that we do not go to the Kingdom of God, but the Kingdom of God comes to us: "Thy Kingdom come..." Jesus said, "I am the door."  He describes Himself as the door of salvation and everlasting life, the door to the Kingdom of God.  Because God the Son is made of the energy of the Holy Spirit, He is the door for us to enter the Kingdom of God.

The Buddha is also described as a door, a teacher who shows us the way in this life.  In Buddhism such a special door is deeply appreciated because that door allows us to enter the realm of mindfulness, loving-kindness, peace, and joy.  But it is said that there are 84,000 Dharma doors, doors of teaching.  If you are lucky enough to find a door, it would not be very Buddhist to say that yours is the only door.  In fact, we have to open even more doors for future generations.  We should not be afraid of more Dharma doors -- if anything, we should be afraid that no more will be opened.  It would be a pity for our children and their children if we were satisfied with only the 84,000 doors already available.  Each of us, by our practice and our loving-kindness, is capable of opening new Dharma doors.  Society is changing, people are changing, economic and political conditions are not the same as they were in the time of the Buddha or Jesus.  The Buddha relies on us for the Dharma to continue to develop as a living organism -- not a stale Dharma, but a real Dharmakaya, a real "body of teaching." 

D.  The Mother of All Buddhas

The Buddha said that his Dharma body is more important than his physical body.  He meant that we have to practice the Dharma in order to make nirvana available here and now.  The living Dharma is not a library of scriptures or tapes of inspiring lectures.  The living Dharma is mindfulness, manifested in the Buddha's daily life and in your daily life, also.  When I see you walking mindfully, I touch the peace, joy, and deep presence of your brothers and sisters, I recognize that living Dharma in you.  If you are mindful, the Dharmakaya is easy to touch.

The Buddha described the seed of the mindfulness that is in each of us as the "womb of the Buddha" (tathagatagarbha).  We are all mothers of the Buddha because we are all pregnant with the potential for awakening.  If we know how to take care of our baby Buddha by practicing mindfulness in our daily lives, one day the Enlightened One will reveal himself or herself to us.  Buddhists regard the Buddha as a teacher and a brother, not as a god.  We are all Dharma brothers and sisters of the Buddha.  We also say that Praj˝aparamita (Perfection of Wisdom) is the mother of all Buddhas.  Historically, in Protestantism, the feminine side of God has been minimized and God the Father has been emphasized, but in Catholicism, there is a great deal of devotion to Mary, the Mother of God.  In fact, "father" and "mother" are two aspects of the same reality.  Father is more expressive of the side of wisdom or understanding, and mother the side of love or compassion.  In Buddhism, understanding (praj˝a) is essential to love (maitri).  Without understanding there cannot be true love, and without love there cannot be true understanding.

E.  The Daughter of God

The Buddha is said to have ten names, each describing an auspicious quality.  The first, Tathagata, means "he who has come to us through the right path," "he who comes from the wonderful reality of life and will go back to that wonderful reality," and "he who has arrived from suchness, remains in suchness and will return to suchness."  "Suchness" is a Buddhist term pointing to the true nature of things, or ultimate reality.  It is the substance or ground of being, just as water is the substance of waves.  Like the Buddha, we too have come from suchness, remain in suchness, and will return to suchness.  We have come from nowhere and have nowhere to go.

One Buddhist sutra tells us that when conditions are sufficient, we see forms, and when conditions are not sufficient, we don't.  When all conditions are present, phenomena can be perceived by us, and so they are revealed to us as existing.  But when one of these conditions is lacking, we cannot perceive the same phenomena, so they are not revealed to us, and we say they do not exist.  But that is not true.  In April, for example, we cannot see sunflowers around Plum Village, our community in southwestern France, so you might say the sunflowers do not exist.  But the local farmers have already planted thousands of seeds, and when they look at the bare hills, they see sunflowers already.  The sunflowers are there.  They lack only the conditions of sun, heat, rain, and July.  Just because you cannot see them does not mean that they do not exist.  In the same way we say that the Tathagatha does not come from anywhere and will not go anywhere.  He comes from ultimate reality and will go back to ultimate reality, unbound by space and time.  If you walk past the fields near Plum Village in April and ask them to reveal to you the ultimate dimension of reality, the Kingdom of God, the fields will suddenly be covered with beautiful, golden sunflowers.  When St. Francis looked deeply at an almond tree in winter and asked it to speak to him about God, the tree was instantly covered with blossoms.

The second name of the Buddha is Arhat, "one who is worthy of our respect an support."  The third is Samyaksambuddha, "one who is perfectly enlightened."  The fourth is Vidyacaranasampana, "one who is endowed with insight and conduct."  The fifth is Sugata, "one who has gone happily along the path."  The sixth is Lokavidu, "one who knows the world well."  The seventh is Anuttarapurusadamyasarathi, "the unsurpassed leader of those to be trained and taught."  The eighth is Satadevamanusyanam, "teacher of gods and humans."  The ninth is Buddha, "enlightened one."  The tenth is Bhagavat, "blessed one." Every time we take refuge in the Buddha, we take refuge in the one who has these ten attributes, which are at the core of human nature.  Siddhartha is not the only Buddha.  All beings in the animal, plant, and mineral worlds are potential Buddhas.  We all contain these ten qualities of a Buddha in the core of our being.  If we can realize these qualities in ourselves, we will be respected and honored by all people.

I see the rite of Baptism as a way of recognizing that every human being, when opened to the Holy Spirit, is capable of manifesting these qualities, which are also the qualities of being a son or daughter of God.  We do not speak about Original Sin in Buddhism, but we do talk about negative seeds that exist in every person -- seeds of hatred, anger, ignorance, intolerance, and so on -- and we say that thee seeds can be transformed when we touch the qualities of a Buddha, which are also seeds within us.  Original sin can be transformed when one is in touch with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of Man.  We are all, at the same time, the sons and daughters of God and the children of our parents.  This means we are of the same reality of Jesus.  This may sound heretical to many Christians, but I believe that theologians who say we are not have to reconsider this.  Jesus is not only our Lord, but He is also our Father, our Teacher, our Brother, and our Self.  The only place we can touch Jesus and the Kingdom of God is within us.

F.  We Continue to be Born

When we celebrate Christmas or the birth of the Buddha, we celebrate the coming into the world of a very special child.  The births of Jesus and the Buddha were pivotal events in human history.  A few days after the Buddha was born, many people in his country of Kapilavastu came to pay their respects, including an old sage named Asita.  After contemplating the baby Buddha's father, was alarmed.  "Holy man, why are you crying?  Will some misfortune overtake my child?"  The holy many replied, "No, your majesty.  The birth of Prince Siddhartha is a wondrous event.  Your child will become an important world teacher.  But I am too old and I will not be there.  That is the only reason I am crying."

A similar story appears in the Bible.  Eight days after His birth, the baby Jesus was brought to the temple for circumcision.  When a man named Simeon looked at Him, he was able to see that Jesus would bring about a profound change in the life of humankind: "When the time came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord ... and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons.  Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon.  This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Messiah.  Guided by the spirit, Simeon came into the temple and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying, 'Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the gentiles and for glory to your people, Israel.'  And the child's father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him."

Whenever I read the stories of Asita and Simeon, I have the wish that every one of us could have been visited by a sage when we were born.  The birth of every child is important, not less than the birth of a Buddha.  We, too, are a Buddha, a Buddha-to-be, and we continue to be born every minute.  We, too, are sons are daughters of God and the children of our parents.  We have to take special care of each birth.

G.  Touching our Ancestors

I am not sure if I am myself or if I am my brother.  Before I came into the world, another boy tried to come before me, but my mother miscarried him.  If he had continued to live, I would have another brother.  Or perhaps I would have been my brother.  Many times as a child, I pondered this.

Expecting parents have to be very careful because they carry within them a baby, one who might become a Buddha or Lord Jesus.  They have to be mindful of what they eat, what they drink, what they think, and how they act.  The way they take care of their bodies and their feelings affects the well-being of the child within.  Our mothers and fathers helped us come to be and, even now, they continue to give us life.  Whenever I have difficulties, I ask for their support, and they always respond.

Our spiritual ancestors have also given birth to us, and they, too, continue to give birth to us.  In my country, we say that an authentic teacher has the power to give birth to a disciple.  If you have enough spiritual strength, you will give birth to a spiritual child, and through your life and practice, you continue giving birth, even after you die.  We say that sons and daughters of the Buddha came forth from the mouth of the Buddha, because the Buddha offered them the Dharma, his teaching.  There are many ways to offer the Dharma for a child to be born in his or her spiritual life, but the most usual is to share the Dharma through words.  I try to practice in a way that allows me to touch my blood ancestors and my spiritual ancestors every day.  Whenever I feel sad or a little fragile, I invoke their presence for support, and they never fail to be there.

H.  Suffering and the Way Out

As children, Siddhartha and Jesus both realized that life is filled with suffering.  The Buddha became aware at an early age that suffering is pervasive.  Jesus must have had the same kind of insight, because they both made every effort to offer a way out.  We, too, must learn to live in ways that reduce the world's suffering.  Suffering is always there, around us and inside us, and we have to find ways that alleviate the suffering and transform it into well-being and peace.

Monks and nuns in both their traditions practice prayer, mediation, mindful walking, silent meals, and many other ways to try to overcome suffering.  It is a kind of luxury to be a monk or a nun, to be able to sit quietly and look deeply into the nature of suffering and the way out.  Sitting and looking deeply into your body, your consciousness, and your mental states is like being a mother hen covering her eggs.  One day insight will be born like a baby chick.  If monks and nuns do not cherish their time of practice, they will have nothing to offer to the world.

The Buddha was twenty-nine, quite young, when he became a monk, and at the age of thirty-five, he was enlightened.  Jesus also spent time alone on the mountain and in the desert.  We all need time to reflect and to refresh ourselves.  For those who are not monks or nuns, it may be difficult to find the time to mediate or pray, but it is important to do so.  During a retreat, we learn how to maintain awareness of each thing we do, and then we can continue the practice in our daily lives.  If we do this, we will see deeply into the nature of our suffering, and we will find a way out.  That is what the Buddha said in his first Dharma talk at the Deer Park in Sarnath: "Look deeply into the nature of suffering to see the causes of suffering and the way out."  Monks and non-monks can all practice this.

I.  I am the Way

The Theravada school of Buddhism emphasizes the actual teaching of the historical Buddha, the Buddha who lived and died.  Later, the idea of the living Buddha was developed in the Buddhism of the Northern schools, the Mahayana.  When the Buddha was about to pass away, many of his disciples were upset that he would no longer be with them.  So he reassured them by saying, "My physical body will no longer be here, but my teaching body, Dharmakaya, will always be with you.  Take refuge in the Dharma, the teaching, to make an island for yourselves."  The Buddha's instructions are clear.  The Dharma is our island of refuge, the torch lighting our path.  If we have the teaching, we needn't worry.  One monk who was very ill expressed regret at not being able to see the Buddha in person, but the Buddha sent word to him: "My physical body is not what is most important.  If you have the Dharma body with you, if you have confidence in the Dharma, if you practice the Dharma, I am always with you."  Jesus also said, "Whenever two or three are gathered in my name, I am there."

J.  I am Always There for You

After the Buddha passed away, the love and devotion to him became so great that the idea of Dharmakaya changed from the body of teaching to the glorious, eternal Buddha, who is always expounding the Dharma.  According to Mahayana Buddhism, the Buddha is still alive, continuing to give Dharma talks.  If you are attentive enough, you will be able to hear his teachings from the voice of a pebble, a leaf, or a cloud in the sky.  The enduring Buddha has become the living Buddha, the Buddha of faith.  This is very much like the Christ of faith, the living Christ.  Protestant theologian Paul Tillich describes God as the ground of being.  The Buddha is also sometimes described as the ground of being.

K.  Seeing the Way is Seeing Me

To encounter a true master is said to be worth a century of studying his or her teaching, because in such a person we witness a living example of enlightenment.  How can we encounter Jesus or the Buddha?  It depends on us.  Many who looked directly into the eyes of the Buddha or Jesus were not capable of seeing them.  One man who wanted to see the Buddha was in such a hurry that he neglected a woman in dire need whom he met along the way.  When he arrived at the Buddha's monastery, he was incapable of seeing him.  Whether you can see the Buddha or not depends on you, on the state of your being.

L.  I am the Understanding, I am Love

Like many great humans, the Buddha had a hallowed presence.  When we see such persons, we feel peace, love, and strength in them, and also in ourselves.  The Chinese say, "When a sage is born, the river water becomes clearer and the mountain plants and trees become more verdant."  They are describing the ambience surrounding a holy man or a woman.  When a sage is present and you sit near him or her, you feel peace and light.  If you were to sit close to Jesus and look into His eyes -- even if you didn't see Him -- you would have a much greater chance to be saved than by reading His words.  But when He is not there, His teaching are second best, especially the teachings of His life.

M.  Freedom from Notions

 When I read any scripture, Christian or Buddhist, I always keep in mind that whatever Jesus or the Buddha said was to a particular person or group on a particular occasion.  I try to understand deeply the context in which they spoke in order to really understand their meaning.  What they said may be less important than how they said it.  When we understand this, we are close to Jesus or the Buddha.  But if we analyze their words to find the deepest meaning without understanding the relationships between the speaker and his listeners, we may miss the point.  Theologians sometimes forget this.

When we read the Bible, we see Jesus' tremendous courage in trying to transform the life of His society.  When we read the sutras, we see that the Buddha was also a very strong person.  The society of India at the time of the Buddha was less violent than the society into which Jesus was born, so you may think the Buddha was less extreme in his reactions, but that is only because another way was possible in his milieu.  His reaction to the corruption among Vedic priests, for example, was thoroughgoing.  The notion of Atman, Self, which was at the center of Vedic beliefs was the cause of much of the social injustice of the day -- the caste system, the terrible treatment of the untouchables, and the monopolization of spiritual teachings by those who enjoyed the best material conditions and yet were hardly spiritual at all.  In reaction, the Buddha emphasized the teachings of non-Atman (non-self).  He said, "Things are empty of a separate, independent self.  If you look for the self of a flower, you will see that it is empty."  But when Buddhists began worshiping the idea of emptiness, he said, "It is worse if you get caught in the non-self of a flower than if you believe in the self of a flower."

The Buddha did not present an absolute doctrine.  His teaching of non-self was offered in the context of his time.  It was an instrument for meditation.  But many Buddhists since then have gotten caught by the idea of non-self.  They confuse the means and the end, the raft and the shore, the finger pointing to the moon and the moon.  There is something more important than non-self.  It is the freedom from the notions of both self and non-self.  For a Buddhist to be attached to any doctrine, even a Buddhist one, is to betray the Buddha.  It is not words or concepts that are important.  What is important is our insight into the nature of reality and our way of responding to reality.  If the Buddha had been born into the society in which Jesus was born, I think he, too, would have been crucified.

N.  Seeing the way Taking the Path

When Jesus said, "I am the way," He meant that to have a true relationship with God, you must practice His way.  In the Acts of the Apostles, the early Christians always spoke of their faith as "the Way."  To me, "I am the way" is a better statement than "I know the way."  The way is not an asphalt road.  But we must distinguish between the "I" spoken by Jesus and the "I" that people usually think of.  The "I" in His statement is life itself, His life, which is the way.  If you do not really look at His life, you cannot see the way.  If you only satisfy yourself with praising a name, even the name of Jesus, it is not practicing the life of Jesus.  We must practice living deeply, loving, and acting with charity if we wish to truly honor Jesus.  The way is Jesus Himself and not just some idea of Him.  A true teaching is not static.  It is not mere words but the reality of life.  Many who have neither the way nor the life try to impose on others what they believe to be the way.  But these are only words that have no connection with real life or a real way.  When we understand and practice deeply the life and teachings of Buddha or the life and teachings of Jesus, we penetrate the door and enter the abode of hte living Buddha and the living Christ, and life eternal presents itself to us.

O.  Your Body is the Body of Christ

When the Protestant minister described me as someone who is not grateful, he was speaking a language different from Buddhism.  To him, love could only be symbolized by a person.  That is why belief in the resurrection is so important to Christians.  If Jesus died and was not resurrected, who would carry His eternal love for us?  But does God have to be personified?  In Judaism and Christianity, the image of a person is always used.

In Buddhism, we also personify traits we aspire toward, such as mindfulness (Shakyamuni Buddha), understanding (Manjusri Bodhisattva), and love (Maitreya Buddha), but even if Shakyamuni, Manjusri, and Maitreya are not there, it is still possible to touch mindfulness, understanding, and love.  Students of the Buddha are themselves a continuation of the Buddha.  It is possible to manifest mindfulness, understanding, and love through people of our own time, even ourselves.  We do not need to believe in the resurrection of Buddhas and bodhisattvas as much as in producing mindfulness, understanding, and love in ourselves.

The living Christ is in the Christ of Love who is always generating love, moment after moment.  When the Church manifests understanding, tolerance, and loving-kindness, Jesus is there.  Christians have to help Jesus Christ be manifested by their way of life, showing those around them that love, understanding, and tolerance are possible.  This will not be accomplished just by books and sermons.  It has to be realized by the way we live.  In Buddhism we also say the living Buddha, the one who teaches love and compassion, must be manifested by the way we live.

Thanks to the practice of many generations of Buddhists and Christians, the energy of the Buddha and the energy of Jesus Christ have come to us.  We can touch the living Buddha and we can touch the living Christ.  We know that our body is the continuation of the Buddha's body and is a member of the mystical body of Christ.  We have a wonderful opportunity to help the Buddha and Jesus Christ continue.  Thanks to our bodies and our lives, the practice is possible.  If you hate your body and think that it is only a source of affliction, that it contains only the roots of anger, hatred, and craving, you do not understand that your body is the body of the Buddha, your body is a member of the body of Christ.

P.  Enjoy Being Alive

To breathe and know you are alive is wonderful.  Because you are alive, everything is possible.  The Sangha, the community of practice, can continue.  The church can continue.  Please don't waste a single moment.  Every moment is an opportunity to breathe life into the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.  Every moment is an opportunity to manifest the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

"There is a person whose appearance on earth is for the well-being and happiness of all.  Who is that person?"  This is a question from the Anguttara Nikaya.  For Buddhists, that person is the Buddha.  For Christians, that person is Jesus Christ.  Through your daily life, you can help that person continue.  You only need to walk in mindfulness, making peaceful, happy steps on our planet.  Breathe deeply, and enjoy your breathing.  Be aware that the sky is blue and the birds' songs are beautiful.  Enjoy being alive and you will help the living Christ and the living Buddha continue for a long, long time.

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