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Thread: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

  1. #1

    reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    So,I was debating whether or not to put this out there but decided to go for it.

    A few days ago I picked up a copy of thich nhat hanh's "going home-Jesus and Buddha as brothers"

    I really like thich nhat hanh's style of writing and speaking, so when I saw the book I grabbed it. But after flipping through the pages and reading some of his thoughts on both Buddhist and Christian philosophies, and the similarity between the two I realized that I began to resist reading the book because of my previous feelings towards Christianity. I left the Catholic Church when I was young and I never realized that I was still holding negative views against them.

    I know the meaning of G-d that thich nhat hanh uses is not the same meaning I am projecting onto the word, and I know that the meaning of Buddha that I am projecting is not the same meaning that thich nhat hanh is using , but even so I can't help but make my projections.

    It made me think about how much we don't really listen and take in what others our telling us, but instead we are taking in our version of what others are telling us.

    So I am still reading the book and every time I feel my projections coming up, I try to see them for what they are, and let them go. By doing this I am beginning to see that not only were my thoughts on Christianity all wrong, but even my projection about Buddhism were off as well.

    Has anyone else ever had a similar experience?

    Gassho


    Seiryu

  2. #2
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    So,I was debating whether or not to put this out there but decided to go for it.

    A few days ago I picked up a copy of thich nhat hanh's "going home-Jesus and Buddha as brothers"

    I really like thich nhat hanh's style of writing and speaking, so when I saw the book I grabbed it. But after flipping through the pages and reading some of his thoughts on both Buddhist and Christian philosophies, and the similarity between the two I realized that I began to resist reading the book because of my previous feelings towards Christianity. I left the Catholic Church when I was young and I never realized that I was still holding negative views against them.

    I know the meaning of G-d that thich nhat hanh uses is not the same meaning I am projecting onto the word, and I know that the meaning of Buddha that I am projecting is not the same meaning that thich nhat hanh is using , but even so I can't help but make my projections.

    It made me think about how much we don't really listen and take in what others our telling us, but instead we are taking in our version of what others are telling us.

    So I am still reading the book and every time I feel my projections coming up, I try to see them for what they are, and let them go. By doing this I am beginning to see that not only were my thoughts on Christianity all wrong, but even my projection about Buddhism were off as well.

    Has anyone else ever had a similar experience?

    Gassho


    Seiryu
    I admit I've only read snippets of this book, but I don't think it's off base to say that TNH stretched things more than a bit in this book.

    Chet

  3. #3

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    You bet! the abuse I had to endure from Catholic priests in my childhood, the professional problems I bumped into because I was a Buddhist in England...

    At the same time nothing is closer to my heart than the very selfless radiant Christ, which is formless and present in so many forms, abides everywhere and not specificaly in churches and monasteries ( like Buddha doesn't always live in temple and the likes...)

    That's a very good exercise, Seiryu, to spot right there resistances and negative views because that' what we all do all the time, not to see the world but manipulating it endlessly...So, for this precise reason alone, the activity of reading this precise book is priceless.


    gassho


    Taigu

  4. #4

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Well, it's not a book I'll be dipping into, and I'm a real fan of Thich Nhat Hanh.

    TNH has a romantic view of Christ that he seems to have picked up from people like Dan Berrigan and the Catholic monastics that he's shared dialogue with over the years, especially in the 70s.

    Unfortunately, almost any view of Christ is contrived, as the Christ of the Gospels, whether based on a real figure or not, is entirely a construct built from the agendas of the gospel writers and the communities they represent, using largely textual material from the Hebrew Scriptures, the messianic expectations that had grown over the years, and folk religious stories focussed on charismatic miracle-workers. If there ever was a real figure (a Galilean Hasid?) who gave rise to all these different representations we'll now never know him.

    I worked for the Catholic Church, in Education, for 23 years and tried, as did many of my colleagues, to base my advice and management practices on what I thought were Jesus-based gospel values - values that I still believe are good and that TNH would respect; however I now believe they were and are constructs derived from the humanist aspect of Church as a "People of God" (see Lumen Gentium). Eventually, when time became available, I enrolled in a Certificate and then Master's program in Theology from a Catholic University. I wanted to get it all together and, with scholarly guidance, to go deeper into questions I had. My particular interests were Christology, Ecclesiology and Church History, but of course I had to study scripture, philosophy and systematic and pastoral theology as well.

    Two main outcomes of this study (I finished the Master's in 2009) were that I became deeply skeptical about both traditional Christology and Systematic Theology, to the extent that I don't think I'd ever want to read any of the latter again and probably nothing much of the former unless someone comes up with an exciting discovery.

    In Christology - study of the life and teaching of the biblical Christ and what we can discover of the historical Jesus - the most exciting recent developments have been the work of the Jesus Seminar from the late 80s through the 90s in particular and the emergence of a contemporary scholarly basis for the Jesus-as-Myth point of view. (All of this seems to be unknown to TNH.) I have come round to, if not a full acceptance of the latter view (that there never was an historical Jesus), at least a strong inclination to it. Earl Doherty's writing on Paul's construction of Jesus is pretty destructive of Paul as a source, and Robert Price's deconstruction of the Gospel Jesus, though clutching at straws a bit sometimes, casts serious doubt on Jesus as an historical teacher. However, there may have been an original teacher and a group of disciples that emerged from John the Baptist's followers and set in train some remarkable myth-making. I'm inclined to doubt it, but for now go along with Joseph Hoffman's conclusion that we'll never know.

    For these reasons I can no longer take seriously any comparative study of the life and work of the Buddha and that of the Christ.

  5. #5
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian
    For these reasons I can no longer take seriously any comparative study of the life and work of the Buddha and that of the Christ.
    Is it because you feel the accuracy of our understanding of the Buddha and his teachings is better than that of Christ? Or did you mean something else?

    Chet

  6. #6

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Well, I think there was a real teacher behind the traditional record and legends of the Buddha. Assuming that, and that he taught for 45 years, there's a chance that a fair amount of substance has been retained as well as myth. It also gave him and his recorders plenty of time to recap the original teachings and develop them where appropriate.

    The synoptic gospels (Mark late 60s, Matthew 80-90, Luke 90-100) have Jesus teaching for between one and two years (only John's gospel, which has little interest in detail, has him teaching for up to three), so there was little time, if Jesus was an historical figure, for his teaching to be consolidated, recorded and systematized. That was all done by the early church up to 5th century when the progressive divinization of Jesus was finally formalized at Chalcedon and Jesus became fully God and fully man; distinct but always in perfect union - one with the Father in two natures.

    And that's the problem. If Jesus was an inspirational philosopher, or a prophet in the Jewish tradition, or an ethical teacher par excellence, his place in history, regardless of the obscurity of his origins, would be uncontested. However, he is regarded by mainstream traditional Christians as one with God, of the same nature, with the father infinitely and co-creator with him as well. And we're not just talking about the cosmic, gnostic Christ of Paul, but the actual man who is said to have walked around Galilee in the 1st century, so the historicity of this claim must be investigated and, if found wanting, rejected together with the claims to supreme divinity.

    It's not a problem with the Buddha. Despite some hyperbolic claims made in some schools on his behalf, I think the Buddha is normally regarded as an enlightened being and outstanding teacher, but a man, nevertheless, and not a God. And even if the Buddha was really just a pretty astute man of his times, the teachings have been passed down and make a lot of sense. His successor is the Dharma, not a doctrine of incarnated divinity and resurrection.

    There are plenty of people in the Church who know about the revisionist scholarship and the increasingly shaky foundations on which the whole edifice has been built. The second Vatican Council - indeed Pope Pius XII before then - opened the doors to revisionist scholarship, but when the later popes (John Paul II and Benedict XVI when he was Cardinal Ratzinger) saw what was happening, they started closing them. JPII, in particular, having seen the liberating role played by the Church in Poland, was adamant that he would not preside over the latter days of the Catholic Church, and his successor has been equally as adamant since the late 60s. (They see the new resurrection occurring in the East and Africa. Korea is now 30% Christian and they have great hopes for China. Catholicism in Africa has grown by 20 times since 1980.)

    I really can't see this kind of struggle occurring amongst Buddhists - not in regard to the core teachings. I know the Dalai Lama has come down hard on the Dorge Shugden cult, and here in Thailand the reformist Santi Asoke movement has been excluded from the State-approved Sangha, but to my knowledge none of the protagonists in intra-Buddhist conflicts question the historicity of the Buddha or the validity of his core teachings ... do they?

  7. #7
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    So I am still reading the book and every time I feel my projections coming up, I try to see them for what they are, and let them go. By doing this I am beginning to see that not only were my thoughts on Christianity all wrong, but even my projection about Buddhism were off as well.

    Has anyone else ever had a similar experience?
    Hi Seiryu,

    Sounds like life in general for me. Enough times in life I have gone through the process of having strong opinions/thoughts on things only later to come around to appreciating that which I originally avoided/disliked. It took a while to realize this trend, and once I did, I've tried ever since to not let my mind become extremely fixed on opinions/beliefs. Flexibility of mind. One of my dearly departed friends said it best when he said "Life always has a way of making you eat your own words."

    Gassho,
    John

  8. #8

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    It made me think about how much we don't really listen and take in what others our telling us, but instead we are taking in our version of what others are telling us.
    Fantastic Seiryu! I think this is a wonderful thing to keep in front of our minds anytime we take in what others are telling us. Whether TNH, Dogen, Jundo, Taigu or even ourselves.

    I read Living Buddha, Living Christ. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Mind you, I read it with an understanding that I was reading his perspective on it...took in what I felt was valid and threw the rest out. Even what I 'take in' I am somehow skeptical of and have to hold loosely.

    Gassho,

    Shawn

  9. #9
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Jundo asked me to drop in on this thread.

    First of all , I have not had the opportunity to read "Going Home...", but I feel I ought to be weighing in somehow to this conversation in light of the general dismissal I read here of Chrisitanity, Jesus Christ and the teaching of the Church to which I belong. It has been noted that Thich Nhat Hanh has a romantic view of Christ perhaps gleaned from his assoiciation with Christian monastics, of which I happen to be one; and so I felt , perhaps a bit qualified to comment on that aspect of the statements made.

    I would never completely dismiss anyone's base of spiritual and moral belief even if that system had not proved adequate for myself. It would seem that sort of stance to be rather depricatory and unworthy of anyone on a balanced path such as Zen Buddhism. If I understand the Dharma correctly, I recall that in the 84,000 Dharma teachings of the Buddha there are believed to be 84,000 paths to Enlightenment so that apparently anyone from any circumstance, education level, belief base, race , age or gender, etc. can expect to find a compatable path. The gate is not closed to anyone: Taoist, Muslim, Jew or....Christian. I really do find it curious that whenever there is a question or comment that stems from a Christian perspective, that I generally read a number of negative comments. It surely cannot be that all are welcome...except Christians to the practice of Zen. I know that there are people who have had, or perceive they have had negative experiences, or heard about others negative experiences with the Church; but, those experiences ought to be understood as having come about through flawed men and their institution, not the teaching of Jesus Christ itself. We have seen the same sort of flawed experience coming from Roshis in both Rinzai and the Soto-Shu...yet here we are!!!

    We should not be characterizing an entire religion, philosophy or belief system on the selfish actions of imperfect men and women in positions of authority. The religion does not give them the right to act as they have. They took those actions despite what they had been taught to uphold.

    The belief in Christianity is just that...belief. You either have Faith, or you do not. I really do not think that logic ( and this is where my Eastern Christian background comes in) can convince one of and convict one in Faith. That Faith must come from within and based on it, one perceives truth. Therefore it is, in the Eastern sense intuitive rather than logical. Thomist thinking does nothing for me! In the Eastern monastic school we are taught Prayer of the Heart which prepares one for Theoria and Theosis, Experience and Deification, which we find akin to Buddhist teaching. I cannot perceive the difference or where the demarcation is when I practice the Prayer of the Heart and Zazen. Maybe that is just me. Maybe that is just my 1 in 84,000th path in the Dharma. It works for me. It may also work for another. No one should deny one's entry or ability to attempt such a path simply because we cannot wrap our head around their belief base. Perhaps I am completely wrong and totally disillusioned, but in this case I tend to lead more with my heart than my head, because if my heart gets bigger, at least I believe I can love more; while if my head gets bigger.....!


    Gassho,

    Seishin Kyrill

  10. #10

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Quote Originally Posted by Taigu
    At the same time nothing is closer to my heart than the very selfless radiant Christ, which is formless and present in so many forms, abides everywhere and not specificaly in churches and monasteries ( like Buddha doesn't always live in temple and the likes...)
    Beautiful! As a Zen Baptist this means alot to me. Thanks Taigu.

    I have read the book. I enjoy TNH. But he is a poet. And he uses his license liberally. Nevertheless, he has some brilliant insight. Attatchment to views is what is wrong with religion, not religion itself. Ramakrishna once said that religions are like boats. But all the boats have holes in them. Just choose the boat with the smallest hole and you have the best chance of reaching the far shore. The choice is ours. We should never take that choice from another human being.

    I don't believe Jesus and Buddha go hand in hand. I mean, there are differences. But for me that's ok. That's what my zen is all about...accepting the wholeness in the midst of differences. Buddha is my teacher, but Jesus is my Lord. This may sound silly to most. But after 39 yrs of searching I've found my own place in the middle path and for the first time I am growing.

    gassho
    Greg

  11. #11
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyrillos
    Jundo asked me to drop in on this thread.

    First of all , I have not had the opportunity to read "Going Home...", but I feel I ought to be weighing in somehow to this conversation in light of the general dismissal I read here of Chrisitanity, Jesus Christ and the teaching of the Church to which I belong. It has been noted that Thich Nhat Hanh has a romantic view of Christ perhaps gleaned from his assoiciation with Christian monastics, of which I happen to be one; and so I felt , perhaps a bit qualified to comment on that aspect of the statements made.

    I would never completely dismiss anyone's base of spiritual and moral belief even if that system had not proved adequate for myself. It would seem that sort of stance to be rather depricatory and unworthy of anyone on a balanced path such as Zen Buddhism. If I understand the Dharma correctly, I recall that in the 84,000 Dharma teachings of the Buddha there are believed to be 84,000 paths to Enlightenment so that apparently anyone from any circumstance, education level, belief base, race , age or gender, etc. can expect to find a compatable path. The gate is not closed to anyone: Taoist, Muslim, Jew or....Christian. I really do find it curious that whenever there is a question or comment that stems from a Christian perspective, that I generally read a number of negative comments. It surely cannot be that all are welcome...except Christians to the practice of Zen. I know that there are people who have had, or perceive they have had negative experiences, or heard about others negative experiences with the Church; but, those experiences ought to be understood as having come about through flawed men and their institution, not the teaching of Jesus Christ itself. We have seen the same sort of flawed experience coming from Roshis in both Rinzai and the Soto-Shu...yet here we are!!!

    We should not be characterizing an entire religion, philosophy or belief system on the selfish actions of imperfect men and women in positions of authority. The religion does not give them the right to act as they have. They took those actions despite what they had been taught to uphold.

    The belief in Christianity is just that...belief. You either have Faith, or you do not. I really do not think that logic ( and this is where my Eastern Christian background comes in) can convince one of and convict one in Faith. That Faith must come from within and based on it, one perceives truth. Therefore it is, in the Eastern sense intuitive rather than logical. Thomist thinking does nothing for me! In the Eastern monastic school we are taught Prayer of the Heart which prepares one for Theoria and Theosis, Experience and Deification, which we find akin to Buddhist teaching. I cannot perceive the difference or where the demarcation is when I practice the Prayer of the Heart and Zazen. Maybe that is just me. Maybe that is just my 1 in 84,000th path in the Dharma. It works for me. It may also work for another. No one should deny one's entry or ability to attempt such a path simply because we cannot wrap our head around their belief base. Perhaps I am completely wrong and totally disillusioned, but in this case I tend to lead more with my heart than my head, because if my heart gets bigger, at least I believe I can love more; while if my head gets bigger.....!


    Gassho,

    Seishin Kyrill
    Kryrillos,

    Monastics are often the best exemplars of their faiths, and Christianity comes in seemingly even more flavors and types than Buddhism. My mother is a catholic, and as such, I've referred her to the teachings of Fr. Thomas Keating after she mentioned that her church was having classes about contemplative prayer.

    No one's attacking your right to be a Christian Buddhist - some of the best Zen teachers are also Christian - Fr. Pat Hawk in Tucson and Fr. Kennedy in New York are two that come to mind.

    You must admit, however, that there is a world of difference between the Christianity of these two and the predominant flavor of Christianity in my area - Southern Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal Christianity.

    Chet

  12. #12

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Thank you Fr. K and everyone for your insights here.

    Let me offer a few things I usually say whenever these questions come up ...

    First, let me put this in my usual childish way:

    If someone is a Christian or Muslim or Jew or Atheist or Agnostic and open to Buddhism, I see no reason that they cannot combine the two smoothly and as one. It fully depends on how flexible the person is in his/her own mind in combining the perspectives and seeing through names and labels. Some people make conflicts, some people find harmony and drop conflicts. But (to put it simply) you can practice Zen if you are a baseball fan, you can practice Zen if you are a football fan, you can practice if you believe in god, you can practice if you don't, you can practice if one fundamentally drops the whole need for the question.

    Our core Practice in this Sangha, for example, is Shikantaza ... seeking non-seeking. And one can seek-non-seek Jesus too like all things!

    Thus, I see no problem with someone combining Zen practice with Zen, Pure Land, Christianity, Judaism, Atheism or Agnosticism ... any more than I see difficulty in someone combining Zen practice with somewhat liberal or left politics or somewhat conservative politics (in fact, any politics which the person believes is the best course to help this world, not do harm and benefit sentient beings ... which is why Zen could be, has been, but should not be combined with "Nazi" or other violent politics. Same for religions of conflict, even violence.)

    In my view, it does not matter much if one calls the ultimate Truth as "Allah" "Jehovah" "Thor" "Brahma" "Buddha" "Nature" "Oneness" "Emptiness" or "Stanley". However, if the person, in there heart, wants to make some conflict between "Stanley" and "Buddha" ... then there will be conflict.

    And, yes, I regularly run into Buddhists too who tell Zen folks that they are not "Buddhist enough" or are "practicing the wrong Buddhism". Same for other Zen folks sometimes to me.

    Me, I am a "many roads for different folks with different needs" kind of guy! No one road up the mountain may suit all, although always the same mountain (really, "What Mountain"?). Just avoid the roads that lead to harm or walking off a cliff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Adrian
    Unfortunately, almost any view of Christ is contrived, as the Christ of the Gospels, whether based on a real figure or not, is entirely a construct built from the agendas of the gospel writers and the communities they represent, ...

    ...

    It's not a problem with the Buddha. Despite some hyperbolic claims made in some schools on his behalf, I think the Buddha is normally regarded as an enlightened being and outstanding teacher, but a man, nevertheless, and not a God.

    ...

    I really can't see this kind of struggle occurring amongst Buddhists - not in regard to the core teachings.
    Oh, I think that the Buddha is so lost to the mists of time that we can say too that, for practical purposes, there is "no Buddha". Despite some commonality in Buddhist Basic teachings, it is the details that often matter, and he is a construct of Sutta/Sutra writers with a billion trillion views. And most (not all, but certainly the great majority) have very definitely showered him with hyperbolic claims and super-powers. I wrote about this most recently in my post "JUNDO SAYS: I Don't Believe in Buddha!!"

    viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3673

    As I mentioned, Buddhists also "fight" and cast aspersions all the time on who is right, most "Orthodox and Kosher" in their Buddhist views (with the exception that, as Buddhists, we tend to fight reasonably gently, "casting aspersions" clothed in quasi-gentle speech, and we do not blow each other up so often! :shock: ). I am currently reading Batchelor's "CONFESSION OF A BUDDHIST ATHEIST", and will say that I am in that same "campless" camp of viewpoints without viewpoints ... with the exception that I feel little need to find the "real historical Buddha" as Stephen does. I think he tries so hard to win Buddha over to Stephen's case. In my view, the historical Buddha was just a man, like Stephen says, but a man of his times long ago. The real question is the Buddha we make real in life here and now. Rather ...

    FIND "THE REAL BUDDHA" ... OR JESUS OR STANLEY TOO ... IN YOUR OWN HEART & LIFE, and make him/her/them/it real right here.

    Gassho, J

    PS - Some folks sometimes get a little irate when they see the start of my essay above ...

    I have a confession to make: I don't believe in Buddha.

    It may be shocking for a Buddhist priest to say so, as shocking as hearing a Catholic priest say he "doesn't believe in Jesus". But it's true nonetheless. I am a Buddhist priest who thinks "Buddha" is largely bunk and baloney.
    But that is usually because they don't read down to the bottom:


    The Buddhist Path is Real



    Liberation is Real



    Buddha is Real


  13. #13

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Hello,

    thank you for all your contributions, this truly is an interesting thread with a wide range of opinions.

    One aspect where I feel like adding my two (to be taken with a pinch of salt) novice cents is my least-favourite and at the same time favourite topic: definitions.

    We all have to be careful not to think that we all mean the same thing when using the e.g. word Christianity, or other general terms for religious traditions. Catholicism in western Europe is pretty open minded compared to most United States based evangelical groups. Looking e.g. at the messages being spread by the Catholic church in developing countries is really different from priests in public schools in Germany almost bending over backwards to both keep a mythical outlook and appeal to masses either disinterested or only open to pop-psychology versions of their own former tradition.

    Btw. I personally feel that one cannot completely disconnect the teachings of a particular religious tradition (be it broad or narrow in its interpretations and varieties) from the actual impact its adherents have on the world both in a positive and a negative way. To do so would mean to make one's own chosen tradition unfalsifiable. Whenever a Buddhist group, a Muslim group, a Jewish group or whomever does something terrible, it's easy to say "they are not true XXXX, true XXXX would not do such things."

    It's a lot harder to acknowledge that every kind of spiritual vision will have a certain impact on society in many ways and that each path comes with its own areas of dangerous territory. The phrase "one person's heaven is another one's hell" comes to mind as well.

    An orthodox and literal belief in karma can be just as devastating for a society IMHO as the belief that this world is flawed per definition and that everything is going to be great after a great Judgement Day involving, fire, brimstone and a whole lot of smiting. To say that people who believe that kind of thing are not hearing the right message and don't understand their own faith can also be a well meaning way of saying "my humanist and liberal tradition is more true than yours".

    I guess the only reason why it's easy to find so many negative examples of Christianity-in-all-its-varieties-in-action is based on the fact that our western status quo is still based on Catholicism and Protestantism in its many forms. If we were living in a Buddhist society we'd be much more at home with criticising Buddhist institutions and individuals, and we would also have more examples at the ready.

    It is good to struggle with all these deep and sometimes unsettling questions, because how each one of us answers them will determine whether there will be a Buddhist Dharma to be passed on to future generations or not.


    Gassho,

    Hans

  14. #14

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Thanks to Seiryu for introducing the topic and to all who have commented from a variety of perspectives.

    My interest in the topic is historical, I think, rather than spiritual. As Father Kirillos and Jundo have said, there are many paths to the same goal, and I hope I’m not so arrogant as to disrespect people’s different goals or the paths they walk (I was inspired in my 20s by the Cistercians with whom I’d stay on silent retreats). However, to compare one literary-historical figure with another and to speak about their commonalities (“Jesus and Buddha as brothers”) is to set up a scenario based on a highly questionable premise, i.e. that these figures actually walked the earth in the form in which they’re presented by their respective scriptural canons.

    I’ve followed the academic literature on Jesus as constructed by the tradition and the texts, so I’ve some knowledge of what is agreed and what is contested among scholars. I have some idea of the literature on the way in which the Buddha has been represented and/or constructed in the texts, but am on less solid ground. But the point is that if we’re going to talk about “what Jesus/Buddha means for me” that is a different topic from one that takes the two teachers as historical figures having reliable biographies and then compares the two.

    “What Jesus/Buddha means for me” could in fact be based on a literary figure, but it would be a figure similar to the ancient heroes whose exploits were written in the epics and sung about by the bards. They were models of honour, courage, perseverance, loyalty and so on and were, indeed, used as such until very recent times. The cult of heroism and the warrior code fueled the British officer corps and parts of the colonial civil service (e.g. the “politicals” in India) at least as much as any residual Christianity did – much more, I would say. That one's hero is a religious figure just makes him/her a different kind of hero.

    But, and here I must confess I have not read the book under discussion (though I have read “Living Buddha, Living Christ”), I suspect Thich Nhat Hanh is not talking about legendary heroes, but, for him, real teachers who lived in the 6th/ 5th centuries BCE or in first century Palestine. And I think his view of Jesus found in these books is not informed by recent scholarship, or he ignores it, yet he claims to know things about a real, historical Jesus that are based on questionable grounds.

    I have no problem whatsoever about people finding their way to God or Nirvana via Christianity, Buddhism, Sufism, Theosophy or whatever, but I am a bit uncomfortable when they make claims about religious founders or the origins of religious teachings that are unfounded or dubious and expect you to simply take them as “gospel”.

  15. #15
    disastermouse
    Guest

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Quote Originally Posted by Hans

    An orthodox and literal belief in karma can be just as devastating for a society IMHO as the belief that this world is flawed per definition and that everything is going to be great after a great Judgement Day involving, fire, brimstone and a whole lot of smiting.
    My mind does not immediately find a scenario where this is the case. I fully acknowledge that the defect may be on my end, but I wondered if you could paint the picture a bit more fully.

    (Oops, and then my mind found one. Are you referring to the caste system, by chance?)

    Gassho,

    Chet

  16. #16

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Hello Chet,

    the caste system or caste system like structures are without doubt being strengthened by an underyling acceptance of notions that people being in miserable situation just "have to work through their karma" and the like. No matter how often one repeats "that's not proper Buddhism/Hinduism", it is part of the legacy of these traditions.

    Once influential and important to a wider spectrum of a society's makeup, every religious current will have to deal with the responsibility for a certain social status quo and will willingly or unwillingly change society.

    All major religions have had an extremely powerful impact on the societies they "conquered" (i do not necessarily mean conquer in a military sense), and depending on one's own value set, one might rather like or not like a particular model per se.

    I commend the Christian teachings e.g. for their strong ideas regarding the inherent worth of life for example, but do think that the overall Christian approach towards sexuality until very recently has been largely horrible.
    On the other hand Japan used to be less puritan when it came to sexual matters before the Meiji restoration....but then again abortions were and are seen as completely normal...and senior monks forcing teenage boys to have sex with them was not uncommon in your average Buddhist monastery in Japan for quite some time.

    Gassho,

    Hans

  17. #17

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    I'm glad I found this post Seiryu - had just ordered Thich nhat hanh's 'living buddha, living christ'

    I'm going to be knocking against my defences - as you felt you were - but I feel I need to sort out in my mind
    why I'm finding this subject of the compatability of buddhism/christianity difficult.

    Gassho

    Willow

  18. #18
    Treeleaf Unsui/Engineer Kyonin's Avatar
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    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Like Dokan said, I go through mind bending and wall crumbling processes rather often.

    Recently I hit a wall that made question my points of view against marketing and advertising and I had a hell of a week trying to figure out my new discoveries.

    Granted, those rants were not as a transcendental as to speak about religion, but I think the main point is that we constantly have to question life in order to learn.

    We have to stop our preconceived ideas and look at information for what it is. It's very difficult sometimes because of our personal baggage, but doable if you just let things flow.

    On the subject of religion I admit I have a lot of mental blocks that I need to work on. Maybe I should get Susuki Roshi's book?

  19. #19

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    What does finding compatibility or harmony between Christianity and Buddhism mean? Does it mean finding an inner likeness or source? Doesn't it require being selective, seeing some things and ignoring others? The fence in the back yard is green painted wood about 30 ft long. The sock drawer slides out on rollers and is full of socks and some loose change and receipts. These two things don't need to be shoehorned into a likeness to be compatible. My kid had a teacher, a really nice woman, real solid Christian by her definition, who rejects outright any Buddhist seeing of likeness, and sees me as sweet but misguided. That's fine, we are friends just the same.

  20. #20

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    ...just a few thoughts.

    I'm fine with the notion that it doesn't matter what we call 'ultimate truth.' If human beings of all faiths could extend this degree of
    generosity and humility to eachother, we could all happily cross to the other side on our various rafts - and ideally put the whole glorious mix up of rafts
    in a heap when we get there.

    Chrsitianity clearly states that Jesus is The Way - the Only Way to Truth. I was brought up with this and I find it dogmatic. It doesn't fit with the notion of many paths.
    I understand that the latter is just a doctrine - perhaps not much to do with Zazen (open to all) but it makes we wary round the idea that integration is possible.

    Thich Nhat Hanh writes - 'We and God are not two separate existences; therefore the will of God is also our own will.'

    Ok -maybe a God fashioned in the way of Zen Buddhism - but not the Judeo-Christian God? It just leaves me confused. Maybe people of good will from all faiths can sort this out - but can't help feeling it's a bit like ignoring the elephant in the room, or trying to find a way through difference by watering down semantics.

    Sorry - words from a mind that's not supposed to be 'thinking' at the moment - just 'being' is hard, and it was so much easier when I didn't label whatever it was I was doing as anything at all!


    Gassho

    Willow

  21. #21

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    perhaps an occasional sit-a-long with Father Kirill may help the interfaith dialog along a bit.

  22. #22

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Maybe there can also be resistance to difference?.... and maybe in difference, in the clear uniqueness of each thing, there is the deepest unity of all. It reminds me of that handy mirror analogy that always pops up in Buddhism. Looking in a mirror there is a single image, a single reflection, yet the eyes are not the nose, and the shirt is not the wall. So instead of looking for some inner essence or oneness, the oneness is the very uniqueness of each thing, precise and clear, without any blurring or compromising of eyes as eyes and nose as nose.

  23. #23

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Whomever developed the teachings attributed to Buddha may as well be Buddha.
    Whomever developed the teachings attributed to Bodhidharma may as well be Bodhidharma.
    Whomever developed the teachings attributed to Jesus may as well be Jesus.

    All regardless to what you happen to think about their quality.

    Is it the faith or the institution that creates the issues?

  24. #24
    Senior Member Marek's Avatar
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    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Quote Originally Posted by willow
    Chrsitianity clearly states that Jesus is The Way - the Only Way to Truth. I was brought up with this and I find it dogmatic. It doesn't fit with the notion of many paths.
    I understand that the latter is just a doctrine - perhaps not much to do with Zazen (open to all) but it makes we wary round the idea that integration is possible.

    Thich Nhat Hanh writes - 'We and God are not two separate existences; therefore the will of God is also our own will.'

    Ok -maybe a God fashioned in the way of Zen Buddhism - but not the Judeo-Christian God? It just leaves me confused. Maybe people of good will from all faiths can sort this out - but can't help feeling it's a bit like ignoring the elephant in the room, or trying to find a way through difference by watering down semantics.
    Exactly.

    As a former catholic I can speak only from that Christianity tradition and I' m confused as well.

    For orthodox catholic Jesus, God, Church are not only words or labels no matter how open-minded they are. To see through these words seeking the truth maybe is important specially in monastic way of living but still there are dogmas you cannot pass through for your soul good. Don' t get me wrong, I' m not blame those people, I don't feel better than them because I' m a zen practitioner. I understand. Everyone has to find his own way...or way somehow will find everyone.

    One benedictine monk, student of Roshi Jakusho Kwong, Father Jan Bereza heard once from Saung Sahn:
    ,,Zen is when you doing something in 100%. So if you are a catholic, be a catholic for 100%. This is zen"

  25. #25

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Father Kyrill - I hope you read this as 'opening all doors and windows' of my mind I would like to learn from
    your sharing.

    You pick up on confusion here - but I hope not hostility - as you say - surely all are welcome to the practice of Zen.

    It would really help me (and perhaps others) if you could say a little more about Theosis and prayer - as you feel there is
    no demarcation between Theosis and shikantaza. There are many testimonies from Christians saying that the practice of zazen
    has heightened and deepened their experience of prayer. I would genuinely appreciate understanding more of this.
    I'm wondering what is the extra element. Is it just a change of focus within prayer or something more fundamental?

    I am trying hard to drop all prejudice against labels/doctrine/dogma in asking this - fully accepting that what others do in the name of a religion
    does not necessarily define a faith - and that through hermeneutics all interpretation of 'a word - doctine' - moves on, renews, adapts, and changes.

    Perhaps faith 'as lived' necessarily transcends written word - and makes it possible to cross bounderies rather than
    erecting them?

    Gassho

    Willow

  26. #26
    Senior Member Marek's Avatar
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    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    I agree with you Willow.

    Father Kyrillos, it would be great if you would put some words about practice just to share your experience, which I belive is very precious.

    After all this forum is all about sharing not dividing

    Gassho.

  27. #27
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Interesting to see this thread open up again, or still, or as yet, or.....

    First of all everyone ought to understand that the greater portion of my monastic and theological training has been in the Eastern Church, particularly the Russian Orthodox Church and the Fathers of Athos. It has only been in the past 10-15 years that I have been living and working in the Western Benedictine tradition. The Eastern approach in the Church is very different than the Western, even though there is a very basic agreement (with a few notrable exceptions) in the "dogmas" of the Faith. The Western approach is very legal and rule oriented, perhaps as Jundo has said, like the "big box" Soto-Shu organization. Every "t" must be crossed and all the "i" dotted. There are rather unyielding definitions for things and definite prescriptions and proscriptions for the various states a soul may find itself it.

    The Eastern tradition is not so interested in that. The mysterion of even such things as "dogma" is more honored in the East than the West. For instance: the Western Catholic tradition "must" be able to define exactly when and how something occurs, whether it be about the Holy Eucharist, a miracle or other fine point of theology. The East does not pin-point such things and thus allows them to remain mysteries, allowing for things to happen "outside of time". The different approaches are also quite dissimilar with regard to spiritual practice and personal developement and devotion.

    The West has a large number of religious orders of monks, nuns, friars, canons, priests and sisters; the West simple has a monastic order that is the same no matter what flavor of the church one belongs to:Russian, Greek, Serbian, Romanian, etc. The West has a regular and regulated formation for clergy with several approved (they must always be "approved") exercises that may be followed. The East follows a general rather sketchy format with three degrees of monastic committment, but does not say with any regularity when any of these degrees is available, reached or given. The formation of an Eastern monastic is entirely up to the elder monastic to whom the neophytes attach themselves. One of the few things that most of the Eastern monastic tradition does agree on is what is termed "Prayer of the Heart", or Hesychysm. What one who practices this is preparing for is "Theosis". In the West the monastic does not do this. What can be seen as "theosis" in the West is something which happens to someone "touched by Grace" with no effort of their own other than total surrender. This would be like the Ecstacy of St. Terese of Avila. In the East we are taught that"theosis" is our natural state and that toward which we strive. Prayer of the Heart (the Jesus Prayer) is the means to this and is taught to the monastic by the Elder. It is quiet prayer without an overly complicated form and within which are allowed great spaces of true quiet. It is in those spaces that theosis happens. (Theosis - making divine, in likeness to and union with Diety) Theosis is the third part of the Path of Hesychysm, those parts being: Katharsis=Purification; Theoria=Illumination; and, Theosis=Deification.

    For myself, and please understand that I certainly do not speak for all Christian monastics, either of the East or the West; and I would probably be roundly disagreed with by many of them, both East and West; I know that I have had similar personal experience practicing the Prayer of the Heart and Zazen/Shikantanza. Being more of an Easterner in this, I cannot say whether those experiences or states were Katharsis, Theoria or Theosis (although I would hesitate to say the latter); but I can say that they were not of the ordinary milieu of contemplation, prayer or meditation. In the Eastern Church we speak of those things as being lifted out of time and space. I am not sure what it may be called in Zen practice. But I can say that it has been that which has convicted me in my heart and convinced me that my life as a Christian and a monastic is entirely compatible with the practice of Zazen. In those "moments". if indeed there can be moments when lifted out of time and space, there is only a clear unity and a clear falling away of difference and division. These glimpses, as I am sure they are only fleeting glimpses and certainly not "all" hold me in a very real sense of the non-difference in the "end" of Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu or Buddhist spiritual practice.

    As I has mentioned before, I usually lead with my heart rather than my head and I think this is why Jundo gave me Seishin as a Dharma Name. Seishin means holy or sacred heart. I cannot pretend that many of my Christian brothers and sisters could not agree with me in what I have just said. Many are quite wrapped up in the "rules and regs" and what they term mystics are always held in suspicion. I do not think that they will move any closer to accepting or understanding this than they are capable of doing with one another in the 36.000 denominations they have created. Rather than holding the "rules and reg" as my Gospel and many do, I have tried to open my ears and heart to the simple words of the Master I set out to follow: "Love one another as I have loved you"....Love your neighbor as yourself. I want to apologize to any and all who have suffered at the hands of the Church, either a spiritual or even physical violence; for any uncharitable acts or words; for narrowness that in its one-pointedness can be painful; for rejection or indifference. I can only offer you my open heart in reparation and in love and in unity.

    Gassho,

    Seishin Kyrill

  28. #28

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Thank you so much Seishin, sacred heart indeed.
    Your words touched me deeply.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyrillos
    but I can say that they were not of the ordinary milieu of contemplation, prayer or meditation. In the Eastern Church we speak of those things as being lifted out of time and space. I am not sure what it may be called in Zen practice. But I can say that it has been that which has convicted me in my heart and convinced me that my life as a Christian and a monastic is entirely compatible with the practice of Zazen. In those "moments". if indeed there can be moments when lifted out of time and space, there is only a clear unity and a clear falling away of difference and division.
    To me, that would be an excellent description of samadhi. I have only experienced the out of time and space state once in Zazen (a couple of times there has been stillness and no time, but extremely real space). Like for you, those experiences finally convinced me. Had I believed in God, I would have believed I experienced God in those moments, of that I am sure.

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  29. #29

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Thankyou for this Seishin - especially for your words of healing
    which must surely also reach out beyond time and space.

    Gassho

    Willow

  30. #30
    Senior Member Marek's Avatar
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    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Thank you, Father Kyrillos for your post and your presence here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyrillos
    I usually lead with my heart rather than my head
    This is , I belive, where every practice starts


    To me, that would be an excellent description of samadhi. I have only experienced the out of time and space state once in Zazen (a couple of times there has been stillness and no time, but extremely real space). Like for you, those experiences finally convinced me. Had I believed in God, I would have believed I experienced God in those moments, of that I am sure.
    I feel the same Omoi

  31. #31

    Re: reading thich nhat hanh's going home

    Hi all.

    I think this is only my third post here, but i have been rocking around Buddhist forums for some time, and have seen lots of the, "i am/he is/she is" more Buddhist/orthodox/realised than you stuff. I have also seen a lot of "Christianity is rubbish/Buddhism is rubbish/Islam is rubbish type debates as well. I'm pretty sure i have been in a few of these debates myself as well, and took up a strong position on one side or the other.

    I hope i'm a little older and wiser now. I have my own views on things, but i am becoming more and more aware that my views are just that. My views and are rarely if ever repressentative of any kind of universal truth, ( if their is such a thing.)
    So i think although i still have my own mind and my own "views" i'm trying to be far more accepting of others "views," even if they clash with my own.
    And if i read some thing that i don't agree with? That's o.k to.

    Just some thoughts. Nice, friendly sangha you guys have here, by the way.

    Take it easy. Metta, bukowski.

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