Several times toward the terminal of Zen retreats we have made together, you hold asked, “ But what does my Christianity attention deficit disorder to my Buddhism? ” And the reply you received was, “ Nothing. It ’ s all traveling the other manner right now. ” I understand that incredulity about Christianity ’ s “ adding ” to Buddhism. Both of us know many fellow-Christians who are drawn to Buddhist pattern, either because of an disaffection from the church, or, as I believe is true for ourselves, because we find in the zendo something we believe we can non discovery in the church. I would non name myself a “ Buddhist ”; even “ Buddhist-Christian ” has its troubles. Although Thich Nhat Hanh has statues of Buddha and Jesus on his communion table, the Dalai Lama has said that blending Buddhism and Christianity is like “ seeking to set a yack ’ s caput on a cow’s body. ” Even Thomas Merton, who did so much to further Buddhist-Christian duologue, says in Zen and the Birds of Appetite that “ studied as constructions, as systems and faiths, Zen and Catholicism don’t blend any better than oil and water. ”
Despite these and other cautiousnesss, I believe that my attempts at Buddhist pattern, and my reading in Buddhist literature, have subtly and significantly influenced my Christian religion – and, I would state, for the better. In traveling from church to zendo and back once more, I know that I have been able to react more and more “ heartily ” to the Gospel. It is non that I have set up a parallel spiritual pattern ( no statues of Jesus and Buddha side by side on my communion table – no statues at all, come to believe of it ) , but in “ Buddhist ” pattern I have somehow come place in a new manner to my Christian religion. What I have found in the zendo is a deeper silence than I expect to happen in the church, at least in my life-time. As you know, for Buddhists, particularly in the Zen tradition, the first measure in “ merely sitting ” is to allow travel of all “ positions, ” that is, softly but steadfastly to put aside all self-generated and not-so-spontaneous discriminating judgements of right and incorrect, good and bad – all judgements whatsoever, even those which might do up “ Buddhism. ” ( This, I think, is the basic significance of the ill-famed Buddhist pronouncement, “ If you meet the Buddha on the route, kill him. ” ) I would non state that this “ emptying of the head ” is the kernel of Buddhism, but Thich Nhat Hanh would surely set as the first measure for the heedfulness pattern which is at the bosom of Zen life.
As our ain Empty Hand Zendo ( zen community ) manual describes it, “ Seated speculation is the nucleus of our pattern. This involves working with the organic structure, breath, and head, come ining into deep silence and hush, and opening to a fresh consciousness minute after moment. ” In short, no “ positions ” to be clung to here! It is this silence that many of us, including practising Christians, have experienced as a “ coming home. ” On one degree, holding set aside so much of our usual hum, one might state that we have come place merely to ourselves, or to what some folks would name our “ center. ” That is surely true, but in the Buddhist tradition I think it would be more accurate to state that we seek to go “ decentered, ” less concerned with ourselves and with the judgements, strong beliefs, semblances, and biass that we so frequently use to prop up those “ selves. ” Raimondo Panikkar titled his major survey of Buddhism The Silence of God: The Answer of the Buddha ( Orbis ), and one of the things the Buddha was most silent about was “ God. ” I think the Buddha has something to learn us on that point. I was introduced at an early age into the tradition of “ negative divinity, ” which stresses the bounds, or even the dislocation, of all our constructs of God. And it is still a really of import portion of my spiritual mentality. If anything, I have become over clip more positive that our ecclesial garrulity, and particularly our all-too-facile “ God-talk, ” can go a existent obstruction to personal religion. ( No 1 can state that we haven’t been cautioned about the dangers of garrulity. Equally early as the 3rd century, Origen warned that “ to state even true things about God involves no little hazard, ” and Henri de Lubac emphasized that hazard once more.
Even earlier, Ignatius of Antioch described God as “ the silence out of which the word comes forth. ” When Karl Rahner began talking of God as “ Mystery, ” he was pressing us to be more cautious. And yet we keep speaking about “ God ” with indecent easiness. No admiration T. S. Eliot protested in “ Ash Wednesday ” that there is non adequate silence for the word to be heard. ) I would non state that one has to travel to a Buddhist zendo to retrieve an appropriate spiritual silence, nor would I say that all the alterations that have taken topographic point in my religion are the consequence of “ merely sitting. ” But, in fact, the Buddhists are better at this spiritual silence than we Christians. Regularly traveling into this silence has made my faith freer, more exploratory, and more personal. I have become more of a “ listener ” to our ain tradition, someway more receptive to it and certainly less defensive about it. What I have come to listen to in this manner is, rather merely, “ the Christian story. ” More and more I have come to believe of Christian religion non chiefly as a credo or as a mystical journey but as duty for a narrative: the narrative of “ God, ” with all its Immigration and Naturalization Services and outs, even as Jack Miles has most late retold it in God: A Biography ( Knopf ), and the narrative of Jesus, in all its New Testament versions, even as deconstructed by John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg. It is a really old narrative. It has been told once more and once more – at Nicaea and Chalcedon; by Athanasius and Augustine and Aquinas; by Eckhart and Ignatius and Newman.
I like some versions better than others, but I respect all the versions, even as I realize I must take duty for my ain deconstruction and retelling of the narrative. In all the brooding authorship Thomas Merton has done on Buddhism ( particularly Zen ) and Christianity, the repeating line is, “ I live, now non I, but Christ lives in me. ” The “ narrative, ” God help us, is now bodied in me. Or so Saint Paul claims, and I ’ m willing to prove it out with him. Even as I describe a religion still in advancement, I besides find myself in understanding with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith ’ s call on the carpeting 1989 missive on “ Some Aspects of Christian Meditation. ” I don’t see the dangers of Eastern mysticism that worry the fold, but I do see that the words of Bible are the carriers of the Christian narrative and the sacraments are the dramatic reenactment of the go oning narrative. If you let Bible, Holy Eucharist, and sacraments travel and seek to “ vanish into the sea of the Absolute, ” as the fold concerns, you may still be portion of some narrative but non any longer the Christian 1. So I find that even as I get deeper into Buddhist pattern, Scripture survey, the Holy Eucharist, and particularly the Eucharist become non less but more of import to me. That’s precisely what I listen to and somehow “ hear ” in a new manner across the silence. In seeking to keep Scripture, sacraments, and Buddhist silence together, I hold found the Hagiographas of John P. Keenan, a Buddhist bookman and an Episcopal priest, really helpful. He has shown how, in at least one Buddhist model, the Mahayana ( the mystical “ Great Vehicle ” tradition of Indian Buddhism, of which Zen is in a particular manner “ the speculation school ” ), it might be possible to read Christology ( ” the Word ” ) in a manner that respects “ the silence ” about which Ignatius of Antioch speaks.
Keenan has proposed that reading the Christian tradition through a Buddhist lens will enable theologists to turn up the philosophy of the Incarnation in the context of God ’ s ultimate “ unknowability ” – the Godhead darkness – which is besides portion of the reliable Christian mystical tradition ( The Meaning of Christ: Angstrom Mahayana Theology, Orbis ; and The Gospel of Mark: A Mahayana Reading, Orbis ) . Keenan makes usage of two subjects: the individuality between “ emptiness ” and “ dependent co-arising ” and the “ distinction between the two truths of ultimate significance and worldly convention. ” The first of these subjects applies “ horizontally ” to our being in the universe and says that nil we experience in our ordinary lives has a world independent of the fragile web of “ causes and conditions ” that convey our experient worlds approximately.