Thursday, November 24, 2011

Alan Watts: Buddhism and Christianity, part 1

Allen Watts was a pioneer in understanding religion. He was most famously known for his writing on Buddhism but he was also an ordained Anglican (Episcopal) minister.  In these videos he argues that Christianity and Buddhism are quite different but also shows how they are related. I think what he says has validity in terms of explaining the differences between main stream Buddhism and main stream Christianity. However, it is the point of this blog that it is possible to interpret Christianity in a way that is consistent with Buddhism. I believe Watts would have agreed with the message in this blog, it is just a question of taking what he is saying a bit further.

Alan Watts: Buddhism and Christianity, part 2


People with great humility often place themselves lower than others. This is because they are aware that much has been given to them (spiritually) and they are aware of the difference between where they ought to be, given what they know and understand, and where they are. They can put themselves lower than someone who knows less because the distance between where this person is and where they should be, given what they know, is smaller. This is why saint Francis could say that he was much worse than others, when actually he was a saint and the others were not. It seems it is a rule that the further one proceeds spiritually the greater this gap is. But there is a parallel understanding that also develops. This is the humility of no-self. Ultimately, real humility arises from abandoning a sense of self. Real humility has nothing to do with comparing yourself to others. It is about abandoning the will associated with our false self. There is a lot of confusion over this in Christianity, and also some in Buddhism. Humility is not about ranking yourself lower than others, although that is an outward result, as explained above. The actual sense of humility arises from abandoning a sense of self.

As it says in the Imitation of Christ (book 1 chapter 2)

The more and the better thou knowest, the more heavy, therefore, will be thy judgement, unless thy life be the more holy