a pathway in the desert just outside my retreat house
Today I have been reflecting on how much my own Christian "faith" has changed since my childhood days. When I was a boy, I was taught (and I believed) that you had to worship Christ, go to church, and obey all the rules in order to go to heaven when you died. I also believed that, whenever you had a problem or needed a favor you would pray to Jesus to take care of it for you.
I don't believe any of that any more, and in fact, when I read the Christian Scriptures, I don't think Jesus ever taught any of that. Jesus never demanded to be worshipped in order to go to heaven, nor did he promise that he would take care of all our problems and needs in this life.
The first Christians were known as "People of the Way." They understood that Jesus came among us, to show us how to find peace and serenity in "this" life. He said very little about the life to come. By his teaching and example Jesus taught that human beings can find a "way" through the wilderness of life by surrendering the desire to constantly feed one's own self-centered "ego" needs. Jesus was an icon of compassion, welcoming, reconciliation, mercy, and forgiveness. He taught that following this path in life would lead to genuine happiness.
Those first Christians understood themselves as travelers on the path that Jesus had carved out for those who would follow his way. They understood Christianity to be a "lifestyle, " rather than an insurance policy for the future or a pill to take in times of need.
The teaching of the Buddha is remarkably similar to the teaching of Jesus.
Siddhartha Gautama eventually came to be known as "The Buddha," which means "the awakened one." He taught that everyone is a Buddha (or at least has the potential to be one). He taught his disciples how they could all become Buddhas.
When you break down the walls of the self-centered ego and realize you are one with everything and everyone and live your life with compassion for every living creature, you are on the path of enlightenment - you are on the "Buddha" path.
The Buddha said:
"Following the path, you shall put an end to suffering.
But you, yourselves must walk the path.
Buddhas only show the way.
I am a Christian. I don't worship Jesus, I follow along the path he has shown me.