Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

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Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby mint » Fri Jan 06, 2012 5:34 pm

Has anyone read this book?

http://www.amazon.com/Without-Buddha-Co ... 357&sr=1-1

It seems like an intriguing read - but it also seems like it panders to the current postmodernism and pluralism of our globalized society, dilluting both Christianity and Buddhism.

Apparently the author, Paul Knitter, though remaining a Catholic Christian, has decided to take refuge and bodhisattva vows. There is some discussion of his "double belonging" here: http://ncronline.org/news/podcasts/with ... ul-knitter. In his discussion, he talks about the need for us all to be open to "the whole." Would you classify this as syncretism or touching upon Dzogchen?

His views on religious pluralism has received some criticism from Pope Benedict XVI, who is a noted traditionalist Catholic intent on the strict separation of religious identities and praxis. Former Professor of Buddhist Studies, Paul Williams, author of the celebrated Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, has also, since his own conversion from Buddhism to Catholicism, gone on record several times noting the discrepancies between Christianity and Buddhism, defiantly rejecting their compatibility: http://whyimcatholic.com/index.php/conv ... l-williams

I'm reminded of the very beginning of Chogyam Trungpa's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism where he talks about the accumulation of religion and wisdom the way some people collect antiques: eventually you end up with a junk shop. Also, in The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, Sogyal Rinpoche invites his readers of whatever faith to remain faithful to their one religion, not flip-flopping which can cause confusion.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby Jikan » Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:10 pm

mint wrote:I'm reminded of the very beginning of Chogyam Trungpa's Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism where he talks about the accumulation of religion and wisdom the way some people collect antiques: eventually you end up with a junk shop.


Yes, this.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby thetrouserman » Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:48 pm

I read it but didn't like it so I got rid of the book.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby mint » Fri Jan 06, 2012 7:56 pm

thetrouserman wrote:I read it but didn't like it so I got rid of the book.


Would you care to elaborate on what you specifically didn't like about the book?
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby mindyourmind » Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:58 pm

I read the book some years ago, and while I accept that Knitter is quite comfortable with his "dual identity" I personally cannot be comfortable with a person walking actively on both these roads. Here I must agree with Pope Beenadick - if you truly believe in the Big G of the Bible then you really should not dabble in other religions, especially one like Buddhism. If you accept the god of the Bible he is not a very live and let live type of guy, if you start watering down and re-interpreting that god as you please, as Knitter seems to be doing, then you end up with a buffet style religion that is so vague as to be meaningless. So, on both counts I do not see the point.

Knitter forces some really square pegs into round holes with his forced chapter style of taking a teaching from the one tradition and then "going over" and applying it to the other tradition. I think he's a nice guy and a good heart, but I would personally not be able to juggle these two balls in any meaningful manner.

We must not confuse acceptance, tolerance and religious freedom with a mix-and-match do-it-yourself religion.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby mint » Tue Jan 17, 2012 3:42 pm

mindyourmind wrote:If you accept the god of the Bible he is not a very live and let live type of guy, if you start watering down and re-interpreting that god as you please, as Knitter seems to be doing, then you end up with a buffet style religion that is so vague as to be meaningless. So, on both counts I do not see the point.


I don't think Knitter is the first to reinterpret the god of the Bible. The god of the Bible is not a static character at all due to the continual development (understanding?) of that god's character as the different books of the Bible were written. Jack Miles' biography makes that pretty evident, I think. So, re-interpretation of that god goes back to the foundations of biblical religion itself.

Such is the nature of theology.

Knitter forces some really square pegs into round holes with his forced chapter style of taking a teaching from the one tradition and then "going over" and applying it to the other tradition.


Of course, Knitter takes many of his cues from Thich Nhat Hahn. So, this isn't simply a case of a Christian trying to procure Eastern methods since even Buddhist masters have attempted to realize the internal harmony between theistic and non-theistic religion.

We must not confuse acceptance, tolerance and religious freedom with a mix-and-match do-it-yourself religion.


True, as this could lead to moral relativism and sustain a confused, dissolute lifestyle. However, I don't see Knitter as crafting a DIY religion as much as I see him utilizing the methods and vernacular of Buddhism to better understand "God." He doesn't always succeed, but he does make some valid points which even the most conservative Christian would have to concede.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby mindyourmind » Tue Jan 17, 2012 4:21 pm

mint wrote:
Of course, Knitter takes many of his cues from Thich Nhat Hahn. .



For me the significant difference lies in the fact that TNH is a Buddhist that is ecumenical, that tries to build bridges, while Knitter is really a Christian that uses his selective cherry picking of the Dharma to plug the holes in his own chosen religion.

I do not have any serious problem with that, but to me it really seems like the worst of both worlds - he is not really practicing Buddhism, and he is not really practicing a Christianity that can be recognized as such.

But it clearly works for him, so good luck to him.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby mint » Tue Jan 17, 2012 4:54 pm

mindyourmind wrote:For me the significant difference lies in the fact that TNH is a Buddhist that is ecumenical, that tries to build bridges, while Knitter is really a Christian that uses his selective cherry picking of the Dharma to plug the holes in his own chosen religion.


I don't think we can really, fairly say that Knitter isn't a practicing Christian. According to him, he attend Mass regularly, believes in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, and has attempted to live a life of virtue.

Hahn's ecumenism is not just a gateway for Western practitioners to approach the Dharma, but I think also a way for Buddhists to approach a fuller, deeper understanding of Christianity beyond fundamentalism.

Hahn, of course, is an isolated example, though. Trungpa Rinpoche's vision of Shambhala was not limited to Buddhists alone. Even today, many Shambhala practitioners are shocked to discover how non-Buddhist some of the Shambhala training is. And Trungpa's heart student, Pema Chodron, has found a vast audience among non-Buddhists, not without reason, bringing Buddhists and non-Buddhists together at her retreats.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby justsit » Tue Jan 17, 2012 5:05 pm

mint wrote: Even today, many Shambhala practitioners are shocked to discover how non-Buddhist some of the Shambhala training is.

Hardly shocked - Shambhala training was designed to be secular.

From Wiki, quoting Rose Gimian (2006) "Shambhala Training is a secular approach to meditation developed by the late Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa and his students.[1][2] It is based on what Trungpa calls Shambhala Vision, which sees enlightened society as not purely mythical, but as realizable by people of all faiths through practices of mindfulness/awareness, non-aggression, and sacred outlook.[3]"
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby Jikan » Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:21 pm

justsit wrote:
mint wrote: Even today, many Shambhala practitioners are shocked to discover how non-Buddhist some of the Shambhala training is.

Hardly shocked - Shambhala training was designed to be secular.

From Wiki, quoting Rose Gimian (2006) "Shambhala Training is a secular approach to meditation developed by the late Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa and his students.[1][2] It is based on what Trungpa calls Shambhala Vision, which sees enlightened society as not purely mythical, but as realizable by people of all faiths through practices of mindfulness/awareness, non-aggression, and sacred outlook.[3]"


Some may well be shocked depending on their expectations. Remember the changes in org and curriculum at Shambhala Int'l since 2000 or so... the Buddhist activities are lumped in with the Shambhala activities into a composite called "Shambhala Buddhism." Where does the Shambhala Training stop and the Buddhist Training start? The line may not be clear to all who participate.

This isn't the place to pose the question, but no one's answered it for me so I'll just blurt it out again: is Shambhala Training profitable? Are those leading the trainings professionals? This may be where the line can be drawn: if you're making money at it, you're a consultant or a professional trainer or motivational speaker (even if you're livin' in a van down by the river), not a Buddhist teacher.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby justsit » Tue Jan 17, 2012 6:57 pm

Shambhala training was profitable to me, as it taught me the basics of how to meditate. Yes, I paid money. No, AFAIK the teachers were not paid. They were all card-carrying Buddhists, many former Trungpa students. Fees went to pay center upkeep expenses. They did mention ground, path, and fruition, but I had no clue what they were talking about, and no one mentioned Buddha. We were, however, meditating in a shrine room. :tongue:

It was a good jumping off point, IMO, but not a place to settle. That said, I will always be grateful for their teachings.

Regarding the OP - to paraphrase an old story, if you want to dig a well, you don't dig a bunch of shallow holes, you dig one hole deeper and deeper until you hit water.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby daelm » Fri Jan 20, 2012 2:02 pm

mint wrote:
I don't think Knitter is the first to reinterpret the god of the Bible. The god of the Bible is not a static character at all due to the continual development (understanding?) of that god's character as the different books of the Bible were written. Jack Miles' biography makes that pretty evident, I think. So, re-interpretation of that god goes back to the foundations of biblical religion itself.



goes all the way back to the original compilation of the old testament. analysis has shown at least two (three?) Yahweh's in Genesis alone, for example. one of them is a bit of a dummy who physically takes a stroll every afternoon - i assume after a late lunch - and who can be fooled by Adam hiding behind a tree. the other is omniscient and all powerful and has no corporeal form. these were different texts that got mashed up into what we now have.

so, the process of integration, amendment and interpretation started with the first drafts of the texts themselves going as far back as we have record of, and probably extends further back, where we don't.

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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby mint » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:26 pm

Knitter is far from alone. While it's no revolution, by any means, more and more Christians are finding clarity about their own beliefs through Zen meditation. These are all older articles:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Kennedy_(Jesuit)

http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/kralis/060206

http://www.monasticdialog.com/a.php?id=398
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby Jikan » Thu Feb 02, 2012 6:38 pm

mint wrote:Knitter is far from alone. While it's no revolution, by any means, more and more Christians are finding clarity about their own beliefs through Zen meditation. These are all older articles:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Kennedy_(Jesuit)

http://www.renewamerica.com/columns/kralis/060206

http://www.monasticdialog.com/a.php?id=398


Look at Mr. Gibbs:

http://www.fmzo.org/clergy.html

I'd say that Christians are practicing Christianity through Zen-style meditation, which is different from saying that Christians are practicing Zen.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby cog » Fri Feb 03, 2012 8:51 pm

Some scholars suspect that Christianity was inspired by Buddhism, which was already present in Ptolemaic Egypt. Some aspects, such as monastic life, may have been copied from buddhist habits.

So, if Christianity itself is derived from Buddhism, this syncretism would not be so senseless.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby Jikan » Fri Feb 03, 2012 9:23 pm

Perhaps. But Christianity isn't reducible to Buddhism: there are elements in Christian doctrine and practice that aren't found in Buddhism, and vice versa. Christianity is derived from numerous sources (among them the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth), and the same can be said for all of them.

There's the rub.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby Dave The Seeker » Sat Feb 04, 2012 12:21 am

With out Jesus Christ, there wouldn't be Christianity.
There would only be the Old testament, and Jewish beliefs.
Christianity took some of the Jewish practices and added those of other religions and belief systems that they "absorbed/took over" in the inquisitions.

I believe it was Lama Surya Das that said
Without Christ there wouldn't be Christianity, but without Buddha, Buddhism would still exist. Since all the teachings were already there, the Truths, Buddha just made them more clear to understand


Kindest wishes, Dave
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby Adumbra » Sat Feb 04, 2012 7:11 am

I think a lot of Christians read parts of the Tripitaka, notice the strong similarities between the ethics of Buddha and those preached by Jesus. Despite his theism, Jesus' conception of right and wrong seemed to be rooted, like Buddha's, on compassion and empathy -- not God's will. Buddha's and Jesus' ethical stances are basically identitical, but beyond that there is great divergence:

* Jesus' believed in God and looked to him for the answer to human suffering. Buddha, while accepting the possibility that God or gods existed, was a de facto atheist when it came to actually living his life. He lived as if there were no God and encouraged others to do likewise.

* Jesus believed in an immortal soul while Buddha adamantly denied the atman doctrine.

* Jesus believed that history was leading up to something purposeful (the Kingdom of God). Buddha saw existence is cyclical and essentially purposeless.

* Jesus was fundamentally an optimist who found value in human existence for its own sake. For Buddha, however, this human life was but a stepping stone to be abandoned for Nirvana. The world was something to ultimately be transcended, not reformed.

Of course, there is talk that Jesus may have visited India and picked up some Buddhist ideas. If you read the Gnostic gospels it becomes apparent that he may have believed in reincarnation. But all this means is that he was probably more likely influenced by Brahmanism, rather than Buddhism. While Christians can definitely benefit from practices like zazen and still remain Christian, I find it difficult to understand how someone can consider themselves Buddhist and Christian.
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby Distorted » Wed Feb 08, 2012 3:44 am

Did all the Guru's that Shakyamuni Buddha studied with on the path to enlightenment belong to the same school of thinking before Shakyamuni found his way to enlightenment? Seems like those different guru's did not work out to take him where he wanted to be though still were vital for his final results. No?
"Sona, before you became a monk you were a musician". Sona said that was true. So the Buddha said, "As a musician which string of the lute produces a pleasant and harmonious sound. The over-tight string?" "No," said Sona, "The over-tight string produces an unpleasant sound and is moreover likely to break at any moment." "The string that is too loose?" Again, "No, the string that is too loose does not produce a tuneful sound. The string that produces a tuneful sound is the string that is not too tight and not too loose."
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Re: Without Buddha I Could Not Be Christian

Postby Greg » Sun Feb 12, 2012 4:24 am

justsit wrote:Shambhala training was profitable to me, as it taught me the basics of how to meditate. Yes, I paid money. No, AFAIK the teachers were not paid. They were all card-carrying Buddhists, many former Trungpa students. Fees went to pay center upkeep expenses. They did mention ground, path, and fruition, but I had no clue what they were talking about, and no one mentioned Buddha. We were, however, meditating in a shrine room. :tongue:

It was a good jumping off point, IMO, but not a place to settle. That said, I will always be grateful for their teachings.

Regarding the OP - to paraphrase an old story, if you want to dig a well, you don't dig a bunch of shallow holes, you dig one hole deeper and deeper until you hit water.


The Directors get paid a couple hundred bucks, or something like that, and the ADs get less. Shambhala Training is profitable for the centers and the HQ.
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