A few weeks ago I had a great conversation with church member Steve Moldt who agreed to write a guest blog post on our church's blog. Steve is a practicing Buddhist who has found a wonderful way to weave his Christian and Buddhist perspectives of faith. Many of our members have been keenly inspired when, during various adult education classes, they have heard Steve speak about how he interprets life through these dual lenses.
And so Steve will be writing a couple of guest blogging posts (and perhaps more!). This post will feature his first post. You, dear reader, are invited to engage him, respond and prod him. Just click the reply link and enter your response. It'll be posted to the blog (once it's been approved by me, this approval is necessary to eradicate spam repliers).
So without further delay, here is Steve's post:
I have long had an interest in the eastern perspective on religion, enlightenment and what we refer to as the spiritual life. Among many other things this has led me to explore Zen, Yoga, Taoism and Buddhism. I have found many of the precepts and practices potent and compelling. As I return more actively to my Christian roots, I find myself searching for sources of the same practical spirituality in the faith I learned as a child and young adult. As I continue on this path, I seek to find what I believe to be the common foundations in the traditions that shape our beliefs. To that purpose I would like to engage in an on-going conversation about things we believe, why we believe them and how we can open ourselves to the multitude of ways in which each of us can find our paths together.
The first of the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism states that life means suffering. This truth is viewed as an irrefutable fact, not a negative, but an unchangeable condition of this physical existence. We suffer the ordinary and sometimes extraordinary pains of life, physical, emotional and spiritual. We experience aging from the day we are born, loneliness, fear, sickness, injury, insecurity, desire, etc. In the Buddhist view, acceptance of this Truth is key to the eventual transcendence of suffering and the attainment of true enlightenment and happiness.
For Christians suffering is interpreted in many ways. Some Christians feel that we suffer because we are sinful. That illness, tragedy, pain arise out of our denial of God’s laws and truths. While this may not necessarily be a one to one cause and effect, the general feeling is that the sinful life bears bad fruit. This is similar to the idea of Karma where all deeds have an effect on the rest of ones life(s), past, present and future.
There are many Christians who believe that suffering is not permanent and can be eliminated. This can be accomplished by adherence to God’s laws and the realization of his purpose in our lives and the lives of others. This certainly leads to many good works being done in the world, but does this way of addressing suffering get at its root?
Some other traditions believe that suffering is essential to the Christian experience. That Jesus suffered and died for us and that we must suffer in order to become like him. Transformation and salvation are seen as possible only through such experience. Indeed some feel that if there is no suffering then there is no true Christian experience.
The Buddhist strives to transcend what we perceive as the dual nature of reality; good and evil, beauty and ugliness, suffering and happiness. The goal is the realization of the unity of all things, all experience, all realities. It is with this attitude, this incite, that the Four Noble Truths address the main facet our life experience, suffering, often seen as the opposite of happiness and the thing that keeps us from it.
How does this compare to the Christian experience? Does the Jesus that we know from the Easter story simply accept his suffering or transcend it? Is the life of Jesus a coincidental convergence of political history and a radical rabbi? Or is it a deliberate cultivation of an approach to life as a manifestation of God?
I will follow up this post with a brief explanation of the Four Noble Truths and what I see as the connections my experience of the Christian life.
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