Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jesus and Buddha: A Humanistic Interpretation. Pt 1

Today I began reading Marcus Borg's Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings. It is a collection of parallel preachings of both Jesus and Buddha. I picked up my copy from my local library. The local library is a fantastic, wonderful public place. Take your children and take them often. 

The book at face value appears to be what it says it is. A collection of sayings by Jesus on the left page being displayed with the analogous verse from Buddha on the right page. Simple and straight forward.

I could not however get pass the Introduction by Jack Kornfield without need for comment.  He describes a trip to a monastery in Vietnam that I can only assume was during the Vietnam conflict as he described fighting going on around him. He speaks of a 50 foot tall Buddha statue in the middle of the jungle erected next to a statue of the Christian god Jesus. Monks, arms around shoulders, were smilingwith Mr. Kornfield obviously impressed and caught up in the scene before him. Yet for all of his good motives, I believed he completely missed the point of Buddhist texts that he quoted to accompany this image. And I quote:

..."They both inspired their disciples to turn from the materialism of the world and live a life of the spirit, to come to know the timeless truth, to awaken to the undying. "There is one truth, not many," say the Buddhist texts. It is open to all. "See and know this for yourself," said the Buddha. Jesus pointed in the same openhanded fashion when he said, "The Kingdom of God is within you." - Kornfield, pg ii

Buddha Statue - Dobong Valley, South Korea
23 March 2012
The text described the "one truth" but went no further. At least no further in Mr. Kornfield's introduction. Not having read the Buddhist texts myself, I cannot speak with absolutes that it doesn't go further into detail about the "one truth", somewhere. So admitting my ignorance of the subject as a whole, and to move forward for this article's sake, let's assume only what the author of the introduction has provided us. What is this truth they are speaking of? Is it my truth? Your truth? Maybe it's Buddhas, or Buddha himself? But Buddha himself taught four of these (The Four Noble Truths). Or could it be more humanistic? Whichever it was, Mr. Kornfield completely missed the pitch. He likened the "one truth" to "The Kingdom of God." Here lies the subtle and devious betrayal within his words. The "one truth" is a truth within us all. We all must find it. We can logically assume it will lead us all to the same end, enlightenment. But how we get their is our own life's journey. Mr. Kornfield unceremoniously took away our option to discover this ourselves by replacing the "one truth" with the Christian Bible, which provides us with the instructions we need. No fuss, no muss. This position Mr. Kornfield so quickly and unthinkingly took stripped us of our right to chose our path. There is no room for translation, or profound discovery. What Buddha, Siddartha Gotama before his enlightenment to Buddha, taught was a "way of life", not the answers to it. Mr. Borg, you could have optioned for a more critical scrutiny of Mr. Kornfield's writing.

 My take on the Editor's Preface to come.

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