Friday, May 10, 2013

Buddha Nature

A Buddhist Temple in China

I have had the opportunity to visit several Buddhist temples and monasteries in my visits to Asia, and I have discovered that in almost every temple there is not just one statue of the Buddha placed in some central position above the altar; but rather there are multiple Buddha images. I eventually came to understand the reason for this.

The Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) became an "enlightened one." Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi tree for forty days and eventually woke up to his "true"nature.  Through this experience, Siddhartha became a Buddha.  He came to experience that the true self is "no self" or "inter being." The true self is not an isolated separated individual, rather the true self is a dynamic relationship with all creation.  

Having come to that experience, the Buddha's heart was filled with compassion for everything and everyone as he understood that everything and everyone was indeed his "true self."

The Buddha then went on to teach his followers that they too were called to wake up to the experience of their true self - the experience of self as "inter being."  He called his disciples to find their own "Buddha nature," that they too might be enlightened and live with compassion.

That's why there are multiple Buddha images in Buddhist temples throughout the world. The Buddha is not to be worshipped or even admired for what he did or who he was. Everyone is called to enlightenment- to experience their Buddha nature (their true self) .

So the many statues of the Buddha essentially represent anyone who comes to worship at a Buddhist temple. They serve as a reminder of the Buddha nature of all human beings. 

I think Jesus taught his disciples exactly the same thing.

Jesus went out into the wilderness for forty days, and he also woke up to the experience of his "true self." He shed his individual ego and, at the core of his being, experienced what he called "the Kingdom of God." He experienced himself as being "one with" all that is or was or would yet be. And so, like the Buddha, his heart was also filled with boundless compassion.

And then, also like the Buddha,  Jesus went out from the desert and taught his disciples to "follow" in his path. He taught that if you want to find your "self" you have to lose your "self." In other words, if you want to find your true self, you have to lose your isolated, self-centered ego nature. He also taught his disciples to live a life of compassion- loving others as your "self." 

In my meditation today, I had this fantasy of designing a Christian church to resemble those Buddhist temples. Instead of one central statue or crucifix above the altar (a Christ to be worshipped, adored and admired), the altar would be replete with many statues of the Christ - a reminder to any who come into the church that we are all called to experience our own "Christ nature."

We are all called to be enlightened, all called to the experience of our "true self"-  our "Buddha nature." 


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