More Crossover Wisdom


More derived from reading Buddhist books. I should note a caution here--Buddhism is not something that everyone should approach or that the person young in his or her Christian vocation should look into extensively. There is a seductiveness to doctrine and idea, and particularly to the very appealing notions in Buddhism that allow us to overlook certain intrinsic difficulties with the dogmatic side of the religion.

I present here parallels in Buddhism. They are parallels. Buddhists and Christians do not share the same faith structure nor even, in any meaningful sense, the same cosmology. Nevertheless, we are adjured to take what is good among all the good things in the world, and Buddhism has much in it that could strengthen a Christian vocation. For example:

from Cultivating Compassion
Jeffrey Hopkins

In order to value the time we have--to cherish it--it is important to reflect on the certainty of death and the uncertainty of when death will be. In meditation, contemplate: "I will definitely die--as will all of us--but I don't know when I'm going to die. It could be at any time!" Such reflection puts a value--a premium--on the present, on the time you have.

Be prepared and aware of death which comes as the end. An awareness (though not a constant fear) of the end can inform the entire life in ways that bring forth the potential for sanctity. St. Therese of Lisieux has a passage that parallels the above, though not in its memento mori aspects. She notes that all our sorrows are in the past which cannot be rectified or in the future, which we have not seen, but the authentic Christian life is lived mindful of the present, which is all that we have. That is the "premium" of focusing on the end--a realization that every moment is precious, valuable, and important. God blesses us with time--we don't know how much--so it is better to count all the time in the moment and not to look into far futures that may not exist. Not to worry oneself over things that cannot be controlled, but to focus attention on those things which are within our control.

Before continuing to a final point, it is useful to reflect for a moment on a passage immediately preceding the one quoted above.

The actuarial tables say that males as a whole will live so many years and females as a whole will live so many more years, but such figures are irrelevant with respect to any specific individual; if you're going to die next week, it's a hundred percent chance you're going to die then. It's not a such and such percentage that you might live to be seventy-eight. If you are to die on the road today, it's a hundred percent certain you'll die on the road today.

Having quoted the first passage, in which there is nothing objectionable to Christianity, I deftly ignored the sentence that begins an exposition immediately following. I will note it below:

"Since it is obvious that the body and possessions are left behind, on need to put more emphasis on consciousness."

I'm intrigued by this statement as it seems to imply that consciousness does not pass away and if consciousness is the Buddhist equivalent of a soul, that goes without saying. But nothing I've read suggests this to be true. Consciousness is incredibly important in Buddhist thought because of karma. Every conscious act is at once the ripening of one of the potentialities of karma and the setting of new potentialities. And again, we can draw parallels, but this emphasis on what we would lightly read as aspects of the self can be misleading.

Now, to do justice, we must recognize that Buddhists do not think that Mind (consciousness) is equivalent to "self." And so to assume that what is meant by the common usage of the word consciousness is what is meant when discussing Buddhism is an error. However, it is an easy error that can easily lead astray. Hence my recommendation that Buddhist texts are not for everyone. There's too much there when read with the literalist, rational, western mind can be misread or mistaken for something other than what is actually meant. Better, if one is likely to stumble into this trap, to stay out of that forest entirely.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 28, 2007 8:56 AM.

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