Buddhism And Christianity
A reader writes:
As a Christian myself, the thing that I find so attractive about Buddhism is the practice. I always cringe when someone calls themselves a Budddhist simply because they like hippy dippy shit. My mother is a Zen Buddhist nun (shaved head, robes - the whole 9 yards) and let me tell you, there's nothing hippy dippy about what she does. Up at 4am, meditation for hours on end, it is not for the weak. It's extremely disciplined and challenging. And on the flip side, what I dislike most about present day Christianity is that it more often than not is perceived as being simply a set of beliefs, not a practice.
As you know, Christianity has it's own version of meditation, we just call it 'centering prayer', or 'contemplative prayer'. It is, however, exactly the same thing. And it's this PRACTICE, not set of things to believe, that connects one to God. All prayer does that, of course, but I tend to think that it's only when we stop asking God for favors and are simply present for him that we actually might manage to connect with him. And this goes back to the issue of the 'self' - I don't think that's a specifically Buddhist notion. Centering prayer brings us to the same idea - letting go of the self and simply being present for God. If I recall correctly Simone Weil talks about this at length in "Waiting for God" and "The Cloud of Unknowing" is of course all about this too. The 14th century monk who wrote that was talking about this exactly.
And I say all of this being a complete hypocrite who can't seem to manage to detach from my life for 10 minutes a day and start meditating/centering/whatever you wanna call it. I should really work on that.
And I gotta ask, what is it that Jesus was doing in the wilderness for 40 days? Just hanging out?
(Painting: Martha and Mary by He Qi.)