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Buddhism in the News


Friday, April 24, 2009

Born Again Buddhists.

Heard this joke today,

"What did the Buddhist say to the Born-Again Christian missionary?"

"No Thanks. I've been born again many times!!"

O.k. so that's a bad joke but at least I got you to stop thinking about your worries for a moment.

Moving on, I was reading that FOX News here in America (known for its conservative, Christian slant) will be interviewing the Dalai Lama. The news channel is asking their viewers to come up with some of the questions to be asked of the Buddhist monk. So I was scanning some of the questions posted on their website--some are serious, some ridiculous like, "Who will win the American League baseball championship?" I think that person thinks the Dalai Lama is some kind of fortune teller.

Then there was this one, "Can I share with you the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" As if the Dalai Lama hasn't heard it before. I am convinced that this well-read, well-traveled, highly intelligent, Dalai Lama who has been apart of countless inter-faith forums knows well the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And I am sure that he finds much good in it and finds a lot of agreement in the teachings of Jesus. And he would probably listen to someone explain it to him again with a smile and a nod or two. He is very polite and understanding of people much more so than most of us including myself.

That said, I have found that many (not all) Christians think that the only reason that people aren't Christian is because they haven't heard "the gospel." These Christians (not all by any means) can't imagine that a person can have a happy, spiritually fulfilling life without the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Surely once they hear "the gospel" (these Christians think) they will drop Buddhism and become Christian and those who don't are dismissed as "not truly understanding" the gospel of Jesus. That or they say that we "know it to be true" but we reject it to try and thwart the plan of "God."

They can't fathom someone understanding "the gospel" and then saying, "No, I think I'll stick with Buddhism." To them it's like someone being handed a diamond and saying, "No thanks." The problem is that they are blinded by duality and can't see that Buddhism has its own diamond to cherish. They don't realize that for us, Christianity is but one diamond in a fisherman's net (Indra's net) of diamonds sown in at each knot in the net. All the diamonds are beautiful and just because the diamond you know is gorgeous doesn't mean that the diamond I know isn't.

Can't we just enjoy the diamonds instead of arguing over whose diamond is brighter? I'm not saying that all religions are the same but they all (or most at least) have the same roots in believing that we are apart of something bigger than ourselves. I can rejoice for the peace and joy that Christians find in their religion without it taking anything away from my own branch in the universal path of peace and love. May all awake from the great slumber.

Joseph Campbell said, "All religions are true. You just have to understand what they are true of."

~Peace to all beings~

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Michael said...

I was disowned by a family member this week for not "coming to Christ". He is VERY newly "reborn" and is still under the impression that anything that isn't overtly Christian is Satanic.

He disowned his sister as well for being a practitioner of the "dark arts". She is a Reiki healer. How does one even begin to argue with that kind of logic (not that I was given the opportunity)?

Tom said...

Excellent, O Wonderful James!

From an understanding I've gained living for the past year among a hoard of conservative Christians, I think you understand the, sigh, narrow Christian mindset very well.

Though I love by brethern, the Christers, very very much, I have to admit, like them, I have what may be a flaw: I confess that I do think that MY religion (In my case, Buddhism, rah! rah! rah!) is VASTLY superior to, um, that other one (in their case, Christi-insanity).

Yes, indeedy, the Christians DO think that if only we heathens gave it a wee bit of thought, everyone would convert to Christianity -- with, as I see it, the vain delusion of imagining your own thoughts come from to you via God Radio.

Shinzen Nelson said...

Wonderful post.

I have rolled the aisles and spoken in tongues with many a good Christian and am well read on the Gospel...yet I am a Zen Buddhist in the Soto Tradition. Go figure.

Hands palm to palm

Reymiland said...

I fear the zealot most, as they are the ones who will, in the name of their Jesus or Mohammad, kill me for my own good.

Spare me the lectures, spare me the hatred, spare me the righteous indignation's.

I walk the middle path.


mentalzenn said...

Agreed! Actions for a religion, or strong belief can and most often are misguided. Having the ability not to argue with these strong beliefs is indeed a step above the rest. See it for what it is, and accept it.
To be a hero and explain they are wrong or misguided is to be in the same boat with them.
There is enlightenment in all religions, but just like Buddhism it takes time. The Diamonds in indra's net is the perfect analogy. To show compassion for these people is the best thing to do! Or in Christian terms walk in the foot steps of Jesus and they will follow. This goes well with family as well. I was raised strict Christian and "lost my faith" seeing the actions people did in church. Finding Buddhism showed me my faith was never lost just miss placed. Over years of compassion my father now is asking me questions of faith after he left the same church for the same reasons. However I try to guide him in Christian terms so he can see that what I found in 'MY' belief can be found in his belief as well!

Being well versed in two or more religions is like being bilingual I can not see any down side to it!

诺尔文。谢 said...

every religion, that leads people in a good way is a diamond. it brings lights and hopes to the people.

human is still human. they kill each other and hurt their family member in the name of god. it is very sad because they could do every sin in the name of god.

sometimes, i would think, people try to play the role of god, define their own truth.

if there is no respect and understanding amongst the religions, we will never have a peaceful day for our next generation.

a said...

your words are kind and true. all religions have Truth. mine is not better than any other. it's the same path, the scenery merely seems different based on our individual interpretations.
thank you, James.
i bow,

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

The gospel in a nutshell is that if you don't accept the premise that Jesus is god and the only way to heaven, you will be tossed into a fiery pit for all eternity. Gee, that's some "Good News". Little beauty in that proposition from my perspective.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Actually, I just stated a very fundamentalist take on the gospel. I'm pretty fond of Jesus of the Beatitudes and the sheep and the goatsMatt 25:31-46). But even so, 'eternal punishment'? Sheesh!

They call him James Ure said...


I hear ya. My family has taken years to warm up to my new religion and some I think still aren't comfortable with me practicing a different religion.

I don't think it's possible to argue with that kind of logic. If they aren't willing to at least respect your right to follow what path you want--if any it's hard to have a decent conversation.


Yeah they can be pretty pushy sometimes.


I use to be a hard-core, Mormon so yeah we've come a long way. I never thought in a million years while a Mormon that I'd eventually find my home in Zen Buddhism!!


Exactly. The radicals are the loudest, craziest and the most dangerous.

Mental Zen:

Very well said, great points. Thank-you for adding your comments to this thread.

To the Asian characters blogger:

Yes, it is sad when religion leads to violence no matter the religion. You're very right that all religions have the potential to be shining diamonds to light our way forward.

Equa Yoni:

Yeah not exactly the good news. If people want us to listen to the "good news" they have to be more respectful.

When someone starts off insulting me like in a recent comment I don't feel very moved to embrace their way of thinking. Insulting people is not a good way to convert someone!!

They call him James Ure said...


Great comment, I especially like this part:

it's the same path, the scenery merely seems different based on our individual interpretations.

Wendy said...

I just had this same discussion with someone today. I was describing how an older lady who I don't know came to my door and invited me to her church. I politely said "No Thanks, I'm a Buddhist." And she asked me if I'd heard of Jesus Christ.

Um, yes. Are you kidding me?

Then she asked if I knew that he'd died for my sins. I said, "Well, I'm sure that you believe that he did, but I don't believe that."

We were at an impasse. She couldn't conceive that I had heard the same story she had and wasn't instantly taken with it. I couldn't conceive how anyone would want a religion based on fear and guilt.

So, I guess I do have a hard time seeing it as a diamond. I'm sure that means I have more work to do. ;) Dang, I thought I had reached enlightenment already.

Dhamma81 said...

I just had someone come to my door the other day too. Back in high school one of the hall monitors actually came up to me , snapped her fingers and asked, "Come on, whats the truth?" I was dumbfounded and asked her what she was talking about. She started with the whole, "God created the world in seven days" bit.

I am secure enough in Buddhism to not be swayed or bothered by Christians arguements as to whether I'm "saved" or not. I find a lot of goodness in Christianity and once thought of becoming a Benedictine monk but anymore I'm ok with not being Christian or thinking much of Christianity at all.

I find fundamentalist Christians to be good people for the most part and since I live in the Southern US there are a lot of them around.

dwhayes said...

Re your quote from Joseph Campbell "All religions are true. You just have to understand what they are true of." - there's a pretty good book which tries to identify that common true-of-ness: Essential Spirituality by Roger Walsh. I liked it enough to stick it on my website.

PeterAtLarge said...

Interesting, James. I'm off to hunt out more information about this Fox News interview. You describe the ignorance of the intolerant mind with great clarity and precision...

keva said...

James, I have enjoyed your site for several months and learn quite a bit. I find it quite interesting that you used to be LDS. I'm raised LDS and love the principles taught in the New Testament. However, over the past several years, I have been studying Buddhism and learning related principles such as meditation and mindfulness. I find there are important truths in most "religions", and compassion for others that the Buddha taught is one of the most important. The politically conservative "Christians" scare me to death, so remember, that remember that not all who follow the teachings of Christ are conservative zealots, in fact some of us could also be considered liberal Buddhists.

Niemo said...

This is so a hot topic these days. Where everyone is trying to find their way through this life and needing to be saved by something. Christians often believe that their religion tops all others. And all others is an occult. So sad. May all beings live in understanding*forgiveness*Unconditional Love!

They call him James Ure said...


I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I enjoy much of the New Testament as well. Especially the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes. I'm glad that you find some of Buddhism to be helpful on your spiritual path.

I agree that most religions have some truth to them. I just get a bit nervous when someone doesn't just claim their religion to the be only true one but go out of their way to try and make society bend to their rules. And that applies to Buddhism as well.

Jett said...

I would like to echo Keva's comments.
I was also raised LDS. My dad is the stereotypical conservative Christian.
My mother, on the other hand, is completely different. She has always said, "Most churches are true, but they don't have the complete truth." She didn't care which church we went to, as long as we went to church. "We all need faith."
I am currently learning about Buddhism, and I am amazed that the 8-fold path basically describes my mom.
It seems like she found enlightenment through the Mormon church.
My mother has a quiet stregnth, much like Aesop's sun, while my father is the wind.
Spirituality is incredibly complicated. I hope that all of you don't allow the blowhards to prejudice you towards Christians and their love.

Worldwatch said...

When a person is 'born-again' of the Spirit of God (John 3:3-7) he/she 'knows' it for sure in his/her heart. It's not a mid-set change, it's spiritual.

Therefore, while Buddhism teaches re-incarnation (rebirth several times over) a person cannot really 'know' whether she/he was 'born before' and will 'live again' in the future. There is no certainty. It is only a teaching, supported by a philosophy around it. Rebirth cannot be proven.

So, in the same way that I cannot 'prove' to anyone I am 'born-again' spiritually, which is what a follower of Christ professes, compared to a Buddhist who claims he/she is 're-born' physically (there is no strict sense of the 'spirit' as it is known in the sense of the Bible, in buddhist teaching) the evidence of my 'spiritual birth' (which is my second birth compared to my 'physical birth' which is the first,and only, one.) is only visible through the change in me that is perceived by and evident to others who knew me from my past. That is known to a follower of Christ as one's 'testimony.'

My spiritual birth, compared to my physical birth, can only be known by me. No one else can 'sense' it since they have only 5 'known' senses to deal with.

My physical birth can been seen and touched. My spiritual birth is only known by God and me. The manifestation of this 'inward change' in the physical world is only evident from the change in my behaviour/habits/ways and distinct love for God and His righteous ways.

I will never be able to 'prove' it in the worldly sense. Hopefully the evidence is clearly visible to others as living proof of my 'born again' experience, for which to come true I need to die daily to self, and live only for Christ who is within me.

Karma Tsering Lhamo said...

I am a Buddhist. I know what born again Christians believe, I have studied many religions, I have taken the time to understand various perspectives via comparative religious studies, and what I find interesting is how very little most Christians, particularly "born again/evangelicals" actually know about the evolvment and history of their own religion much less have any understanding or knowledge of the religion of others & their beliefs. It is like they are stuck in a hypnotic state of ignorance & it is impossible to have any kind of meaningful dialogue with them. They are stuck on the concept of duality, and physicality, etc., and all you can get from them is a constant regurgitation of their dogma...there is no exchange or conversation, there is only a one way *the born again Jesus way* of thinking and that is it. So, I know what it is like to be shunned, disowned, and approached by fundamentalists, and I find I do not like talking to brick walls, so I just do my practice and try to develop more compassion for all and for myself as well...patience, diligence, meditation & wisdom.

Anonymous said...

I have a well read friend who believes Jesus was an enlightened Buddhist,something predicted by the "wise men" from the east who found him shortly after birth and was educated to Buddhism in his missing years.I am not sure I would tell fundamental Christians that.

greenreports said...

Back to the title and the joke at the top: LOVE IT!

Jeph said...

Wendy wrote:
[I couldn't conceive how anyone would want a religion based on fear and guilt.]

May I know where did you get the idea that Christianity is a religion that is based on fear and guilt?

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