Monday, August 19, 2013

Buddha Christ

A Buddha and a Celtic Cross
-my meditation garden-

As I sat in my meditation garden looking at my statue of the Buddha sitting next to a Celtic Cross, an image of the Catholic nuns who taught me in my childhood came to mind. They warned us that if we even so much as enter a "Protestant Church, " we would commit a serious sin. Now, many years later, when asked about my faith,  I tell people that I am a Christian Buddhist ("you've come a long way, baby!")

There are some who, no doubt, would label me a heretic and others who would pray for me because I have lost my faith. As I see it, when I embraced Buddhism, I found my faith again in a new and fresh way.  

My move toward Buddhism happened a few years back. I was reading about Siddhartha Gautama (later to be acclaimed as the Buddha):

He saw, not only with his mind but with his whole being, just how the world and human existence in it worked, how everything was in a constant process of interconnected movement, how suffering is caused when humans greedily try to break the interconnections and hold to things just for themselves, how suffering can be stopped through letting go not just of selfishness but of the very self in compassion for all beings.

When I read this for the first time, I thought to myself, "This may be about the Buddha, but it is the most clear and articulate statement I have ever seen describing the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth- later to be known as the Christ." My eyes were opened and I came to realize that the way to the "Truth" is not the exclusive property of Christians. There are many paths on the road to truth.  In fact, the Buddha helped to point me on the way to the Christ.

Although they are separated in history by 500 years and by vast differences in culture and geography,  the life and teachings of Buddha when compared to Jesus are dramatically similar.  

The Buddha and Jesus are both counter-cultural figures standing against the status quo of oppression and domination. Jesus and the Buddha never present themselves as figures to be worshipped, rather they both point to a "way" of life to be embraced by disciples who come after them.  They both teach that everyone has a Buddha nature- everyone has a Christ nature (everyone, an anointed child of God). The disciple is to walk on a path leading to the discovery of one's own "Buddha nature," one's own "Christ nature."

And what does this "way" look like?

Do unto others as you would have them do to you.  (Jesus)
Consider others as yourself.  (Buddha)

If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also. (Jesus)
If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or with a knife, you should abandon any desires and utter no evil words. (Buddha)

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. (Jesus)
Hatreds do not ever cease in this world by hating, but by love. (Buddha)

Just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me. (Jesus)
Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick. (Buddha)

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own. (Jesus)
The faults of others are easier to see than your own. (Buddha)

I sit in my garden this morning surrounded by the Buddha and the cross. Embracing the Buddha has enriched, broadened and deepened my understanding of  Jesus in whose "way" I gladly and willingly walk. 

I haven't lost my faith. I have found it.  


  1. It appears we have a similar spiritual history. I attended Catholic school from kindergarten to university (Jesuit). Catholicism couldn't answer many of my questions so I drifted away and studied Eastern philosophy and theology. I eventually came to rest on Buddhism in 1996. Like you, I've discovered there are more similarities between Christianity and Buddhism than differences.

    august (aka FredZilch)

  2. THe similarities are astounding ..thanks for the comments

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I am currently in seminary at Naropa University, but my Christian roots are strong. Like you, Buddhism helped me see the Christ in an entirely different fashion, and helped me heal from the spiritual abuse I'd suffered along the way. What this means for my professional life, I don't know, but I trust it will emerge. I think both faith traditions can benefit from each other.

  4. Italiana, thanks so very much for your gracious and generous response. I wish you great peace on your journey.