Sunday, May 1, 2011

Jesus, the Buddha, and me

I love this picture.
I've written before about how appealing Buddhism, as a philosophy, is to me, even as I'm turned off by the ritual and the iconography. The principles of nonjudgment, of compassion, of letting go... they really speak to me; they form a way of looking at the world that makes sense to me. I find it fairly easy to take what I find helpful and leave the rest.

Just lately it's occurred to me that I haven't done that with Christianity. The Universe is, to human minds, essentially infinite in both space and time; I don't believe that we (and only we, not Earth's other creatures) are offered eternal life-- or eternal punishment if we don't believe the right things or behave the right way. I've tried; I went to Baptist religious ed classes in elementary school, attended the Methodist church on Easter, sang in the Catholic folk group, got dragged into a Christian cult (briefly) by my first wife, taught for eight years in Catholic school... it doesn't make sense to me in any kind of literal way.

But I think I've neglected how the culture I come from really is suffused in the moral teachings of Jesus; does a fish notice water? I've been turned off by the hypocrisy of Christians, but the Buddha taught compassion for all living beings and virtually every Buddhist in Korea is a voracious consumer of animals.

There's so much to be gleaned from the Christian worldview, just as there is from the Buddhist. Maybe Buddhism is just more appealing to me because of my nonjudgmental, detached nature or my resentment of authority; Christianity seems to me to be an aggressive, militant pursuit. I'm not saying the Buddha's teachings are right; I'm saying they're right, or more right, for me.

If Facebook had a "relationship with God" status, mine would read "It's complicated". I guess I'm an agnostic/transcendentalist/panentheist/freelance believer-in-something. I know a couple of things have happened in my life that I can't explain in any rational way, things that made me feel as if the wheels of the Universe were aligning and Spirit was opening me, filling me with wonder and peace.

I guess I mostly believe, as Einstein said, "Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible laws and connections, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion."

...and so back to the picture. I think I like it so because Li'l Jesus (must be a fake beard) and Li'l Buddha are gazing together, in an open, candid, childlike way, at something wonder-full. That's how I want to be.

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