Author Topic: Finding Common Ground Between Buddhism and Christianity  (Read 5357 times)

Ensapa

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Finding Common Ground Between Buddhism and Christianity
« on: May 01, 2013, 02:46:52 PM »
There are common grounds between all mainstream religions, and this article highlights that of Buddhism and Christianity.

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Finding Common Ground Between Buddhism and Christianity
Posted: 04/23/2013 9:05 pm
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Buddhism , Christianity , Interfaith , Liberation Theology , Union Theological Seminary , Buddhist-Christian Dialogue , Christian-Buddhist Dialogue , Paul Knitter , Religious Pluralism , Religion News
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Too often we only recognize greatness in the past. We are blinded to its presence among us in a living moment. Occasionally, however, we can recognize it in its moment. So it was with the career of Paul F. Knitter, soon to be the Emeritus Paul Tillich Professor of Theology, World Religions and Culture at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, whose career and concerns were celebrated this past weekend at the 2013 International Buddhist-Christian Conference: Enlightenment and Liberation: Engaged Buddhists and Liberation Theologians in Dialogue. Knitter will, of course, see this and respond with a characteristically Midwestern "aw shucks" humility. It's part of why his colleagues and former students would come from as far away as Thailand to see him off to retirement. It's also why we had 25 hours of programming over three days before he would assent to be directly honored. As retirement sendoffs go, it doesn't get much more fitting than that. What follows are some reflections on three packed days of contemplation and discussion.

In her opening address to the conference, the seminary's president Rev. Dr. Serene Jones framed our task for the next few days in terms of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." Before action, a kind of self-purification is necessary. We need to know and thoroughly vet our intentions before rushing into direct action. Knitter put it a little bit differently. "In listening to the voices of those who suffer, we can listen to each other." The "we" here are Engaged Buddhists and Liberation Theologians: those who feel called by religious principle to progressive social action designed to reduce and eliminate suffering in the world. While it might first appear that there is a common social program between the Buddhists and the Christians -- not to mention those who, like Knitter, claim a dual belonging -- there are important differences to parse prior to joint action.

Neither time, nor space, nor attention spans allow a full debriefing of the weekend's events. Please allow me to frame my reflections through the lens of Knitter's farewell address. The speech was a retrospective tour of the veritable "Who's Who" of his interlocutors and friends in theology. He arrived in Rome to study at the Pontifical Gregorian Institute one week prior to the opening of the Second Vatican Council. Nostra Aetate, the document produced at that council on the relationship of Christianity and non-Christian religions, lit a fire in Knitter which still burns. He longed to create a theology which responsibly and respectfully dealt with the world's many faiths, as opposed to the classical Roman formula extra ecclesiam nulla salus: "outside the Church, there is no salvation."

Both in Rome and later in Meunster, Germany, Knitter learned from Karl Rahner, who helped him frame Christian faith claims in the way he'd dreamed. After becoming active with CRISPAZ (Christians for Peace in El Salvador/Cristianos por la Paz en El Salvador), Knitter's conversations with Jon Sobrino, SJ pushed him toward Liberation Theology. It was Aloyisius Pieris, SJ, Raimon Pannikar, and John Cobb who convinced Knitter that his urges in the realms of both liberation and pluralism could be complementary. This is the theme which became apparent throughout the conference: to be liberative, Liberation Theology must be pluralistic; to be pluralistic, Dialogical/Comparative/Pluralist Theologies must be liberative. The two concepts -- liberation and pluralism -- mutually enfold each other in Knitter's thought. When he reflected on his departed friend, John Hick, Knitter sounded a note that rings true of this understanding: "Theological revolutionaries, if they are to have any success, must be hard-nosed thinkers and deep spiritual seekers."

This is, I believe, the challenge and the promise of Knitter's legacy. We must be hard-nosed when faced with resistance from entrenched and power-seeking forms of religion. We must, however, temper the urge to become only social prophets with deep spirituality. At times, the steady stream of criticism leveled against late capitalist economics seemed to belong more at a session of the Left Forum than at a seminary. Speaker after speaker thought deeply and compassionately about the real material suffering of human beings and of the Earth itself and realized a common theme: capitalism -- at least the capitalism we have now -- is at the root of this suffering.

The common ground for Buddhism and Christianity is not then found in texts or philosophical musing. It is found in the hungry, the poor, the suffering, the sick. Suffering is not an abstract principle. It is the result of too few having too much while too many have almost nothing. Sakyamuni Buddha recognized this in the First and Second Noble Truths: that life is marked by suffering and that suffering is caused by attachment. In the cases described at the conference, the suffering of the Global South is caused by the attachment to wealth of the Developed World. Jesus Christ recognized this in preaching "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of Heaven...but woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation" (Lk 6:20, 24 NRSV).

What do we do, then, when we recognize this common ground? While the conference was long on critique, it was short on constructive suggestions for positive next steps. Bearing in mind the charge at the opening -- that this was a time of reflection before action--that's not too surprising. This is what Knitter's career has left a younger generation of theologians and activists: a strong critique of suffering and injustice and a plea to work out an alternative. If we can think and write the kind of creative, pluralist, and liberationist theology Knitter suggests we must, then maybe--just maybe--we'll have a chance to make a better world. Maybe this is what the reign of God looks like. Maybe this is Nirvana. Maybe there's no difference between the two. I hope that we younger theologians are up to the task and the legacy we've been left.

yontenjamyang

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between Buddhism and Christianity
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2013, 07:12:31 AM »
If we were to disregard a few differences between Buddhism and Christianity namely the creator God, reincarnations and the latter days human factors or interpretations; then these 2 religions are uncannily the same. Values like love, kindness, compassion and salvation are common. Salvation is prevalent concept in some Buddhist schools.
Some Christian churches even preach "the truth" which is very similar to way Buddhist teaches the Dharma or "the truth".
So, as far as the day to day practice, both Christianity and Buddhism teaches one to be kind, loving and be compassionate and at the same the time to be forgiving (patience), hardworking(effort), generous, be ethical and on a higher level teaches concentration and wisdom in it on way. Sound like the perfections to me.

kris

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between Buddhism and Christianity
« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2013, 09:30:38 AM »
Yes, I agree with yontenjamyang. The similarities between Christianity and Buddhism are a lot more compare to the differences.

Don't you see what Mother Teresa did is 100% selfless and great compassion? Isn't that what Buddhism is teaching? Even within Buddhism, there are many differences in rituals, etc.

Therefore, we should look at the big picture, the similarities NOT the differences. This will reduce friction between religions.

sonamdhargey

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between Buddhism and Christianity
« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2013, 09:38:48 AM »
Finding the common ground already self defeating. By finding the common ground we are just looking for an excuse to have a common ground that we use it to be in common. But that is the very action that divide us all. Why find a common ground when we can just accept each other's beliefs and practice patience and compassion and tolerance? When we find common ground, we are just creating another reason to be uncommon. We humans beings created the differences because of what we believe or don't believe in in the first place.

Big Uncle

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between Buddhism and Christianity
« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2013, 10:01:52 AM »
Well, besides the fact that both religion seem to share the very basic divine appreciation for compassion and selflessness, Buddhism and Christianity seem to share a basic appreciation of symbolism and deities. Well, at least in certain sects of both religions. In Christianity, there's only 1 god but there's Jesus, the holy father, the holy spirit and a whole pantheon of saints and angels. The same can be said of Buddhism with the pantheon of yidams, Dharma Protectors, Bodhisattvas, Arhats, Dakas and Dakinis.

Symbolism of the divine as exemplified in beliefs of a pantheon. However, the worship of the pantheon takes on a very divergent pattern in both religions. Christianity worships the pantheon as external beings to aid one's communion with God. Meanwhile, in Buddhism, the Buddha, Yidam and so forth are to be worshiped and meditated as both an external and internal being. This is to realize our Buddha potential within us. Of course this is grossly simplified because the highlight is common ground of both religions.

RedLantern

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between Buddhism and Christianity
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2013, 12:28:47 PM »
Buddha's true and original teachings almost mirror Jesus's teachings;divinity within,balance,eminating spirituality and goodness from within and sharing it with the world.
While Christianity is about Salvation,Buddhism is all about Enlightenment.The common ground for Buddhism and Christianity is not found in text or philosophical musing.It is found in the hungry,the poor,the sick and the suffering.Buddhist and Christians are all human and have common goals:both religions aspire to teach love and compassion for others.

Dondrup Shugden

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between Buddhism and Christianity
« Reply #6 on: June 17, 2015, 04:52:23 PM »
Finding the common ground already self defeating. By finding the common ground we are just looking for an excuse to have a common ground that we use it to be in common. But that is the very action that divide us all. Why find a common ground when we can just accept each other's beliefs and practice patience and compassion and tolerance? When we find common ground, we are just creating another reason to be uncommon. We humans beings created the differences because of what we believe or don't believe in in the first place.

Basically all religions teach the practitioner to be kind, caring and loving.  It is fanaticism that makes any religion in being intolerant to others.  Therefore it is the acceptance of either the differences or similarities that make interfaith harmony possible.

Except for the teaching of loving kindness between Christianity and Buddhism, the element of one god and no reincarnation makes the principles of these two great religions totally different.

Sorry this is my point of view.

cookie

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between Buddhism and Christianity
« Reply #7 on: June 24, 2015, 11:21:29 AM »
On the surface there seems to be many common ground between Buddhism and Christianity; as mentioned in the above replies, areas relating to love, care, peace and worship. However the approach to these values between the 2 religions is very different. In Buddhism the teaching of Karma is the very basis of our practice. Every phenomena in our lives is a result of our own doings. Hence it is our own responsibility to purify the bad karma/sin. No one else can do it for us or it cannot be negated via forgiveness or confession. Also, our existence carries on life after life. Hence the basis of our practice being virtuous is the only way we can have a good rebirth. Again the main drive of our virtuous practice has to come from ourselves, not externally. Buddha is there to give us the methods but can never walk the path for us.
On these basis our approach to loving kindness etc is quite different.
However i must conclude that there should be different methods for different people. It's not the Gods or Buddhas wanting all the differences, it really is because the beings in samsara are so deluded that they require different methods to encourage them to be good.

pinecone

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Re: Finding Common Ground Between Buddhism and Christianity
« Reply #8 on: June 27, 2015, 02:17:09 PM »
There are many remarkable similarities between the teaching of Buddha and Jesus.  Both espoused altruism, emphasizing that it is more blessed to give than to receive and that love is the best way to overcome hatred. Similarly both Buddha and Jesus  stressed on the golden rule and urged followers not to judge others and at all times perform virtuous deeds.
But regardless of the similarities and the differences between this two religions, the main objectives of both teachings are to eliminate sufferings and  pain from all being and to live in peace and calm.