Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Merton and Borg books

There are a lot more books related to Buddhism and Christianity out there than I thought. I will try to link to them in this blog and also at my Amazon site, which is dedicated to this topic. Two of the most prolific authors proposing views of Christianity that are compatible with Buddhism are Thomas Merton and Marcus Borg. For Merton, it is important to keep in mind that he began with the sort of misunderstandings that Christians typically have about Buddhism and slowly learned more and more. The more important part of Merton's work is his view on Christian spirituality, which is very compatible with Buddhism (in my opinion - Merton eventually came to this conclusion late in his life). Marcus Borg is a more contemporary writer who articulates a view of Christianity based heavily on scholarly and historical work, which I think is the way to go. You don't have to agree with all of his interpretations but it is important to understand the actual history of Christianity and the bible. When you understand what is known and not known about Christianity it is much easier to reconcile it with Buddhism.

Because these two wrote so much I gave each of them there on page on my Amazon site.

Thomas Merton: Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters Series)Zen and the Birds of AppetiteThe Heart of Christianity: Rediscovering a Life of FaithReading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally

Monday, April 5, 2010

Abuse and the Pope

This Pope is not doing a good job. In his Easter address he said nothing about the sex abuse issues and two of his spokespeople made remarks trivializing the issue. As noted in my blog about the cup and the tea, the church is the cup, it is meant to hold the tea, which is the true sprit of Christianity. This Pope seems obsessed with the cup. By focusing on the cup he is acting based on the setting sun principles of fear and control. Even if he did nothing wrong he should still apologize both personally and on behalf of the church. When you are innocent it is difficult to apologize for something and accept the blame. Generally it should be avoided because it is hard on the soul, but sometimes it is necessary to do this for compassionate reasons. In doing this, the innocent party is martyring themselves as Jesus did on the cross. Even if the Pope were totally innocent, taking responsibility and apologizing would help many who have suffered and he should do it. I hope he will see the light and do the right thing. The way forward is for each of us to confront abuse of all types and to search our own behaviors for abuse of any sort, and if necessary, humbly apologize for it.


The events of Easter are obviously very important for Christianity. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey and effectively overthrows the Roman world order and replaces it with a new order. Historically, Jesus’ death led to Catholicism replacing the Western Roman Empire and Eastern Orthodoxy replacing the Eastern Roman Empire. However, despite being based around a man of peace, these new orders quickly become corrupt and arguably caused as much trouble as the old Roman system of belief. Although the message of Christianity is played out historically, it refers to something that has always been and has not changed. In the Shambala line of Buddhism they refer to the eastern rising sun and the western setting sun. The rising sun refers to our experience of love while the setting sun refers to our experience of fear. Jesus was all about the rising sun, he had no fear, even of his own death. Caesar was all about fear, people who rule by fear are bound by fear. Jesus entered Jerusalem triumphantly on a donkey. He mocked both the Roman government and the Pharisees, who were a Jewish sect that focused on the rituals and rules of Judaism and through this gained power. He claimed to be the Messiah, who was expected to be a powerful military hero, and he used titles reserved for Caesar, including “Son of God.”  The fact that he was crucified indicates that he made these people very angry, since crucifixion was reserved for making examples of political prisoners.

Not long after Jesus was tortured to death, Caesar was assassinated. A few hundred years later the Roman Empire was effectively converted into a Christian empire. The rising sun seems weak with its peace and love. The setting sun seems strong with its use of force and coercion.  But the historical story of Easter and the rise of Christianity showed that one rising sun man, riding on a donkey could defeat an entire setting sun empire. But as I said, it is not an isolated historical event. The struggle between rising sun and setting sun is always ongoing. Humans live in fear for the most part, and out of fear we do violence to each other. As the Buddha taught, you cannot get rid of fear and violence through the use of fear and violence. Instead you must start with yourself and first find freedom from fear. Jesus’ example has inspired many others, such as Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Archbishop Romero. But there have also been countless others who are not remembered but nevertheless played an equally important role. Right now the monks in Burma are locked in such a struggle. We should also remember the Dalai Lama’s peaceful resistance to the persecution of monks in Tibet. Just as Jesus prayed for his persecutors, masters in Tibet have exhibited this same spirit by praying for their jailers. Everyday everyone has the opportunity to act according to the rising sun - (1) choose to do the right thing, (2) do it out of compassion and with peace in your heart, and (3) if it causes you some trouble remember the example of Jesus and the countless others who were willing to die for this. They understood the truth - that choosing the setting sun is a life of death, whereas choosing the rising sun is life.
Gandhi (Widescreen Two-Disc Collector's Edition)The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.Romero [VHS]