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Posts Tagged ‘Me on Buddhism’

Christmas is kind of hard. Especially since, deep-down, I really want to fit in with everyone else… go to a good service or two and sing about baby Jesus, light a candle, or whatever you all do. I want to, but I just can’t. Or even if I do go, I just can’t forget the things that I know… the things that I know and so many of the other smiling faces in the crowd either don’t know or simply refuse to accept.

Through all my years of Christian (yes good old bible school seminary) education, Church history, apologetics, and various other studies I just know that this holiday can’t be taken literally. Although tonight I realized that I can still enjoy it and take it seriously.

I may not believe in god the same way that you all do. I believe that the whole thing is an allegory, meaning to inspire and point us all towards a greater truth… and one that we took far too literally. Believing, or better put “knowing”, that has always been a hang up for me. Especially on this holiday since it centers so much around the telling, re-telling, and proclamation of a ridiculous series of events as a historical fact that I should just accept as though I’m accepting the fact that there is a Europe, or that Abraham Lincoln was a President of the United States.

Tonight though, while in a service, I smiled and felt a certain amount of release and joy as I slowly broke down and started singing along with one of the Christmas hymns. The joy came from knowing that even though I debate the historical accuracy of this whole thing, and even debate the literal existence of a Christ… that I do believe in it conceptually, and that even if to me he was allegory and to you he is literal, that in the end our songs and our prayers are both reaching the same heavens.

For those of you who are new to this concept, and who think that I must be off my rocker for even proposing it; let me take a second to explain some of the basics of what was once called Christianity but now is referred to as heresy… or Gnostic Christianity.

A fact that I learned while studying church history in my minister’s training, was that in the beginning of church history there was already a debate going as to if the New Testament, and especially the story of Christ was to be taken literally or if it was simply a tool to help man “awaken” and be brought closer to god/enlightenment. There was even a point in time where both of these groups of people were still considered Christians and even managed to get along and worship side-by-side.

Now, most churches and religious schools today will state that the literal Christians came first, and that the non-literal “Gnostics” came along much later as Christianity got watered-down and mixed in with other Pagan religions as it spread through Europe and other territories. That is the popular answer, and as it is commonly said… the ones who win the wars get to write the history books.

However, archeologists, scholars and theologians across the globe have not too recently found enough evidence buried deep in the sands of time to support the theory that it was really the opposite that was true. That the Gnostics were the first to call themselves “Christians”, and that it wasn’t until much later that a fundamentalist movement came along, professing a literal, historical belief in the events of what we now call the New Testament.

Gnostics saw Christianity as a fluid, adaptive religion that could embrace any culture and would not only tolerate but incorporate other beliefs as it spread. For it wasn’t the message which was sacred, it was the end result. Jesus was a path to lead us towards the divine, but they saw many paths and never lost sight of the end goal… knowing that you are a Christ, that you are in God and that God is in you.

Historically, we should all be able to agree, that the split between the “Christians” and the “Christians” came to a head when Constantine decided that he wanted to pick a one world religion for the Roman Empire.

His final two choices had boiled down to what we now know as the Gnostics and the fundamentalists who soon after became the Roman Catholic Church. He made his decision, and one faith was elevated and the other cut-down… almost erased from history. Which does make one wonder… who the heck was Constantine, a political figure and ruler to decide our faiths in the first place?

For many years the church painted Constantine as a saint, even literally made him one, a man of God, a devout Christian who encountered God in a holy vision giving him divine direction, making him a messenger of God… an instrument to give direction to His church.

History, real history, paints quite a different picture. Constantine was a cruel and shrewd ruler, who even after his supposed “conversion” was killing wives, going to orgies and up until his death bed considered himself a pagan.

The desire of a one world religion wasn’t spiritually based but politically. Rome had one government, one ruler, and people needed to understand that there were dire punishments for disobeying that ruler, and benefits for obeying him. The religion needed to be the same. One religion, one ruler, some after-world benefit for following it, and some eternal damnation for disobeying. There would be another catch as well… Constantine wished to control this religion as well, setting himself up as the spiritual leader or director of it and its teachings. Total control of the people, both politically and spiritually.

Now out of the two primary choices, which fits the criteria best? Gnostics do not believe in a “heaven” or a “hell”, and could really care less if someone was Gnostic or not. The point was to help people find enlightenment, unleash the true good of the inner man, and adapt the message to something new if the current flavor doesn’t work for you.

The others, on the other hand… fit the criteria perfectly.

But what does this mean for me if I truly believe this? Does this mean that I can’t call myself Christian? Because the Gnostics sure didn’t have a problem with calling themselves that. Can I not enjoy church? They founded the church. Can I not enjoy Christmas? Communion? Easter? What do you think the Gnostics did during those holidays? I’m sure they worshiped right there alongside the rest — knowing full well that even though we may disagree on certain specifics, dogma, or theologies… that their worship and prayers are too making their way to their object of worship.

Am I declaring myself a Gnostic? No. No I am not. And neither would they, for in the end although some did die for their beliefs, many instead just simply adapted again… as I adapt and learn from this wealth of spiritual knowledge that is available to me from not only this one culture but so many, many more.

I like their attitude though, but I see no need for saying that I am any one thing when my attitude and beliefs are fluid, able to learn, able to change, able to appreciate all that is out there, and always, always focused on the end-goal… knowing god and self. Knowing that the form, the message holds nothing sacred for me, but that the quest itself IS sacred.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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When you sit and meditate, given long enough, you get a lot of time for self evaluation and reflection. Some would even argue that is the whole point; where, as one of the many fringe benefits. Regardless, I had one of those moments the other day and now it’s stuck in my mind like a sliver I just can’t seem to pick or an itch that I just can’t seem to scratch.

The realization was a simple question and answer session. Why am I looking, trying so hard to find a brand of religion that I can call my own and agree with 100%? Why am I going to church again, when clearly my theology, if known to these people would set me apart from them as a heretic? Why am I looking for that perfect teacher, temple, religion, practice… so I can find a home and finally call myself a Zen Buddhist in the _____ tradition, or brand myself as a Vedantic, a Mahayana or Gnostic?

Is my motive to find “truth”, god, and enlightenment; or is it that other word previously mentioned in my jumble of thoughts: home? Home. What is my greater desire? Could it be that somewhere along the way my quest changed, or was this it from the very beginning; some primordial need that I was seeking to meet without even knowing it?

Maybe I want to “be” something because I want a religious home, a community of fellow believers to practice with and be a part of — friends, family, teachers, community support and a sense of belonging. Could it be that this natural instinct, something that goes so far back in our genes as pack animals, is so strong that I would even trade finding the truth to fulfill it?

If I found a community that accepted me in, would I not look over all kinds of flaws, short-comings, and differences to hold onto my new found family? Would I play the part of a good Christian, Buddhist or really anything to keep my friends and my newly found social structure of comfort? How long would it take before I even forgot that I didn’t fully agree with what I was being told, and fall into some self delusion?

I can even seen now how cults do so well in bringing people into the fold and how they get such a strong hold on their lives. Soon they are enveloped in it as a community; they find a new family, friends, social activities, a girlfriend, a teacher… everything they always wanted. Everything I want. Now that’s a scary thought.

It’s not easy, that feeling of never fitting in. It’s deep-seeded, and brings back painful memories from childhood that best be forgotten. And what would I give up in order to make that go away?

Now here is the painful truth. If someone were to come to me and offer me belonging; a mate, friends, a community, but their asking price was for me to give up truth… I would be tempted to take the offer.

Look deep inside yourself. Would you? Have you already? It is probably more common than we think.

Knowing this, having this realization, has actually helped me out a lot. I have to be careful in my actions and double check my actions. I had to stop and really decide, am I looking for truth or am I looking for a place to fit in?

I decide I wanted truth. I hope I find community, but I must remind myself what my decision, what the true cry, or at least the loudest cry of my heart is.

This is also a liberating realization, for without the pressure of needing to find that perfect religion I am now freer to take from and enjoy many of them as they come to me. Without having to define myself so specifically I no longer have to so limit and define god, spirit and enlightenment… who I supposed to be limitless anyway.

So what am I then? Nothing really. A seeker, a finder, a good man, and just another crazy mixed-up human being trying to figure this thing out, and trying to enjoy as much of the process as possible along the way.

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For more heresy please join me on my new blog at www.evolitionist.com

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So I just moved into a new neighborhood, its pretty nice; although I think life has a funny sense of humor because now, after writing that article about not killing cockroaches, it seems that I have found an apartment with them in it. But I am just keeping the place very clean, giving them little reason to be here, and I installed some of those electronic devices in my wall outlets that say they release high pitch sounds that make the little things look for a new home to dwell in. So far it is working very well, and I haven’t seen one in days.

Last night I had an interesting meeting with my next door neighbor — it was the first time we have met. It wasn’t a bad meeting or anything like that, in fact we got along quite well, but there was just something odd enough about the interaction that I thought I should document it.

I was coming home from a dinner meeting, and she was coming home from work. She introduced herself as my neighbor and we got to your basic, token, first meeting question and answer session. When she discovered I was not a total weirdo, about her age, and single… she invited me into her house so we could sit down and talk more.

In an shockingly short amount of time I was told that she was single, sexually active, and asked if I was into casual sex. I was a bit taken aback by this, but never lost my composure of anything like that. I just politely acted like I was dull to the fact that this was some kind of an advance and mentioned that as a “Spiritual” person I don’t let myself fall into irresponsible sexual behavior.

“What? You mean you are not saved? You are not Christian?” she said.

I then got a talking to about how I needed to get saved and be Christian like she is. When I mentioned that I was quite happy with my current religious situation, and obviously quite moral as well, she mentioned how maybe I was “too moral” and that her church is great because they don’t care at all about if the people going there are having sex, living together, drinking a lot, or anything like that. “You should try it,” she said.

I asked her if they were so open minded about that kind of stuff how the church treated gay people that wished to attend there… “Oh no,” she said “gay people can’t go there. That’s a sin.”

Now that’s interesting. I think the irony of that one escaped her.

I politely said “no”, to her offer(s), said that it was nice to meet her and excused myself since it was getting late and I still had a few things to do before bed. I don’t think that the conversation ended awkwardly or anything like that.

When I got home I started thinking about something that a pastor I know was telling me about his church a few months ago. It’s one of the fastest-growing in America, but some things about it were frustrating him; he was telling me about how just about every unmarried couple that he knows that goes to his church are having sex, and how most couples he is giving marriage counseling to are already living together and sleeping together.

He said it with a bit of surprise in his voice, and I asked him if he has considered WHY that is the way that the current situation is. His automatic response was simply that these people must be too caught up in the world, not close enough to Jesus, and they are the product of their MTV, Sex in the City, iphone environment.

Obviously, he hadn’t ever really thought about if maybe it was something that he or his church were doing wrong.

Now, I can’t speak for him or his church but should we not at the very least consider for a second if maybe it is something that “we” are doing wrong? Some point that “we” are missing?

These people… they are in your church, some of them have been for years. Are they not also a product of the environment of the church they are going to? Have you had so little impact on their lives that you can’t even consider church or your leadership a factor of influence on your churchgoers? Interesting.

And look at the statistics… you are saying that just about ALL, the overwhelming majority, of the people you are bringing up in your church are doing this, and you have not even stopped to consider for a second that MAYBE this has something to do with your church leadership or direction?

Or have you considered that maybe the same thing that is making your church so appealing that it is growing so fast is the same thing that is lessening its redeemable qualities? Sure you are growing, and you are popular, but at what cost?

The Dhammapada tells us that if the people in your care are screwing up, stop concentrating on their faults and start looking at your own faults, because as leaders after your correct your own, the other’s will naturally fall into line.

If there is disorder it normally flows from the top-down, and not the bottom-up.

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CHAPTER IV: FLOWERS

(44)

Only a skillful flower arranger knows how to select from all the beautiful flowers the very best for their arrangements. But who can rightfully discern the choice flower of the Dharma from all the other tantalizing flowers that the world has to offer?

(45)

The learner who has dedicated themselves to this training will rightfully discern, as the flower arranger. The learner on this path will spot the correct Dharma teachings, it stands out among the others as plain as day to them, but to the rest it remains obscured and hidden.

(46)

Having learned that this body is as temporary as the foam produced by the waters, that it offers no more substance than a mirage, the learner has moved beyond the reach of the temptations and traps which ensnare.

(47)

The pleasures of the world are like beautiful flowers in the forest, one could become so absorbed in collecting them that they forget to stay alert of the dangers that are present, being easily swept into their downfall as a flood sweeps away a sleeping village.

(48)

The person immersed in gathering pleasures drowns in their own insatiable thirst, never satisfied, always reaching for the next and greater sensation.

(49)

As a bee travels from one type of flower to another, bringing out the honey but leaving each flowers own unique fragrance and color intact, so should a sage bring out the good in each village or person they meet without altering their uniqueness.

(50)

While working to bring out the good pay no attention the faults of others, or what they have haven’t done; instead, pay attention to your own faults and your own inactions.

(51)

For even a beautiful flower, full of color, but without scent is worthless, as worthless as your eloquent words if only spoken but never lived out personally.

(52)

But a beautiful flower, full of color, and full of scent is a joy to others, like one whose good words matches their own good deeds.

(53)

One may look at a heap of flowers, cut down and consider them futile, knowing they will soon wither and die, but a skillful flower arranger knows they can use the time they have left to make beautiful garlands. Just so, your own life is mortal and fleeting but you can still do many skillful things.

(54)

The scent of a flower cannot travel against the wind, not even the strongest incense or perfume can. But the fragrance of a person of virtue will spread to the ends of the earth, regardless of how the wind blows.

(55)

The aroma of flowers, incense or perfumes can be excellent, but the aroma of virtue surpasses them all.

(56)

Compared to virtue, whose scent reaches up to the heavens, even the strongest incense becomes nothing.

(57)

Living life as a fragrance, the virtuous have no body or home to be found in by their enemies, like a vapor they cannot be grasped by their snares, for they dwell in mindfulness and are freed by right understanding.

(58-59)

Every once in a while a beautiful flower sprouts forth out the piles of trash heaped on the sides of the road, and when it does it dazzles us all. Just so, you, the disciple of the Buddha have risen out of the heap, distinguishing yourself as a light to those still blind and bound to the limitations of this world.

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Preface

This lovingly made, non-literal, contemporary translation of the Dhammapada is provided for you as a free service. For those of you who are interested in the teachings of the Buddha on meditation, concentration, discipline and even the morals and ethics of Buddhism but who are turned off by “Religious Buddhism”, it is my hope that this more proverbial, even somewhat humanist translation will be of use to you. For others, who were leery of it such an old writing could be pertinent to them today, I hope this more modern translation will show you that it still is. For those who already know this text well, and even live by it, it is my hope that this may either challenge you to think of it anew, or at the very least may it refresh your spirits.

THE DHAMMAPADA

CHAPTER ONE: TWIN VERSES

(1)

As one thinks, so one acts. Thought precedes action, gives birth to action, and brings it to maturity. Speak or act with impure thoughts and suffering follows, as the wheel of a wagon follows the ox which pulls it.

(2)

As one thinks, so one acts. Thought precedes action, gives birth to action, and brings it to maturity. Speak or act with a pure thought and happiness follows, as a shadow follows a traveler on a sunny day.

(3)

“I was hurt, I was mistreated, I was defeated, I was robbed!” Holding onto these thoughts only keeps the pain alive.

(4)

“I was hurt, I was mistreated, I was defeated, I was robbed!” Letting go of these thoughts releases you from suffering further.

(5)

For hating those who wronged you will not release you from hate, it will only create further suffering. The cycle of hatred will only be broken by non-hatred. This is an ancient truth.

(6)

Most do not live in the realization that life is short. For those who fully realize this, quarrels become unimportant.

(7)

One who lives for self gratification, is over-indulgent, uncontrolled, unrestrained, full of laziness and apathy, is easily broken by hard-times and temptations, just as a small storm can easily break a weak tree.

(8)

One who lives for a higher purpose, is moderate, controlled, restrained, not afraid of hard work and devout, cannot be easily broken by hard-times and temptations, as even a great storm still cannot move a mountain.

(9)

The robe does not make the monk. If the one wearing the robe lacks self-control and honesty, they have defiled it.

(10)

One who is free from inner defilements, having self-control, and honesty, standing strong in the precepts, only such a person is worthy of a monk’s robe.

(11)

Those who consider the unimportant things in life to be important and the truly important as unimportant will never find that which is important, for they were looking in the wrong place all along.

(12)

However, those who correctly see the important as important and the unimportant as unimportant will find the important, rightfully discerning where to begin their search.

(13)

As rain will always find the crack in a poorly-made roof, so Want will find its way into an undisciplined mind.

(14)

As rain cannot find a way through a well-made roof, so Want cannot find its way into a well-disciplined mind.

(15)

For those who do wrong to others it will only end in grief, grief in the present, grief in the future. In both states the wrongdoer grieves; from the initial seed, to seeing the seed come to bear fruit.

(16)

For the doer of good there is much rejoicing, rejoicing in the present, rejoicing in the future. In both states there is joy; seeing one’s own pure acts bear good fruit brings joy and delight to everyone.

(17)

Those who do wrong suffer in the present, suffer in the future. In both states there is suffering. Tormented today by the thought, “I have done wrong”, tormented tomorrow, having fallen into the cycle of suffering.

(18)

Those who do well to others delight in the present, delight in the future. In both states there is delight. Here they are delighted knowing, “I have treated others well”, and tomorrow for they have entered into the cycle of bliss.

(19)

One, who studies the teachings, memorizes them, quotes them often, but doesn’t do what they say, is like a banker, surrounded by other people’s wealth, counting it as their own, deluding themselves into thinking that they are now rich. Such a person does not gain any real benefit from their studies.

(20)

One, who knows little of the teachings, but still lives according to them, free of grasping, hate, and delusions; revering and discerning what truth they find, not clinging to this life or the next, such a person, will gain the benefits of the contemplative life.

CHAPTER II: DILIGENCE

(21)

Diligence is the path of liberation; negligence the path to bondage. The vigilant can never be truly bound; the negligent can never be truly free.

(22)

The wise, knowing this to be true, develop their diligence; consider it a joy to do so, having found their happiness in the wisdom of the noble ones.

(23)

Now awakened, dedicating themselves to meditation, striving forward with firm minds, they find the ultimate liberation.

(24)

The glory of a virtuous person is their reputation, and for one who is active in pursuing that which is good, diligent, pure and considerate to others, it is ever increasing.

(25)

The wise, by much effort, discipline, restraint and self-control, make for themselves an island which no flood can submerge.

(26)

The foolish surrender themselves over to negligence; while the one who is wise carefully guards their discipline as their most valuable possession.

(27)

Don’t give in to negligence; don’t look for pleasure in temporal desires — for it is the disciplined, who having absorbed themselves in meditation find true happiness.

(28)

The wise, drives out negligence with discipline, like a climb up a tall mountain; now free from sorrow, they see the sorrow of the masses in the valley from which they came.

(29)

The disciplined among the negligent, the awake among the sleeping — so the wise advance, like a well-trained racehorse surpasses the weak and untrained.

(30)

Even in the fable of Indra, it was through diligence that he became king of the gods, for even these gods praised diligence, and looked down on negligence with contempt.

(31)

A monk who delights in diligence and sees the danger in negligence advances like a fire, burning the ropes which bound them both great and small.

(32)

A monk who delights in diligence and sees danger in negligence is bound to never fall astray and is close to liberation.

CHAPTER III: THE MIND

(33)

As a skilled arrow maker knows to shape the arrow straight so that it will not waver, so does a skilled meditator know they must shape their wavering mind.

(34)

Like a fish when lured of its watery home thrashes about on dry land, so a mind thrashes about from thing to thing when lured into the land of pleasing the senses.

(35)

It is difficult to wrestle with the mind; it is hard to pin down, nimble and quick — wishing to wander wherever it pleases. Difficult but worth it, for a well disciplined mind brings much happiness.

(36)

The wise should pay close attention to what tries to slip into their minds, for its enemies are subtle and can be difficult to perceive. A mind well guarded brings much happiness.

(37)

The mind like a ghost is bodiless, strays far and wide, and can hide itself alone in secret chambers; however those who learn to restrain it will be freed from their bonds.

(38)

For a person with an unsteady mind, not knowing the true Dharma will be incapable of recognizing it until their mind and wavering faith has settled.

(39)

For the one who is awake, whose mind is calm and steady, having abandoned the dualities of good and evil, there is no more fear or danger to perplex their hearts.

(40)

Aware that this body is fragile like a clay jar, and that it is the mind which we must make strong like a fortress; fortify your mind, and then battle the enemy with the sword of truth, protecting the spoils you have won, knowing never to let your guard down, even in victory.

(41)

For soon this body will simply lie on the ground, lifeless, deprived of this consciousness, to be cast aside like a useless scrap of wood.

(42)

Think of two people who hate each other, or two mortal enemies locked in combat, then realize that your mind if not under your control can cause you more difficulties than either of these.

(43)

Think or a loving mother, father, or any friend or relative who cares for you, then realize that your mind if well-centered can do you more good than any of these.

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PGRDSeveral months ago a friend of mine who is a devout Buddhist got into a good discussion with me about why I felt such a need to study Buddhist scriptures so throughly, literally, and why I searched so much for a very pure practice. You see, I would be practicing Soto and would start reading Dogen and wonder why our current practice was so far off from his teachings. Or I would study the Pali Canon and wonder why so much of it is ignored. I also was looking for a practice that was “pure” from the standpoint of it being very established, traditional, and with a long lineage and history behind it.

He, on the other hand, was very eclectic and had little concern otherwise. He was into really anything that appealed to him at that moment, gathering things from here and there along his path, and forming his own kind of practice that suited him best. There was certainly a kind of freedom there that he was enjoying that I was not, but I questioned if this was right way, or at least if this was the way for me.

I was more of the mindset of researching and finding a tradition/Master that I felt in my heart to be true and sticking to it… even the parts that I didn’t like or that “cramped my style”. Also, as a scholar, I was and still am into the notion that scripture and history must be revered and considered seriously. Now I am not saying that it ALWAYS has to be followed — just that it always has to be considered seriously and if not followed for good and defensible reason.

He proposed two arguments to me which I had no real answer for that I would like to finally answer today. They were as follows:

1. If whatever it is they are doing/believing, is helping them they who really cares if it’s false or true?
2. Even the oldest of scriptures still is most likely impure, so who cares if we adjust them even more?

The first of the two arguments lead into a long discussion on Upaya, and it did open my mind up to a lot of things. There is some truth to this argument, and I must concur that there is time and place for expedient means. However, we must also agree that the purpose of Upaya is to get someone to move from one state to another, so that they may receive a new truth and be freed from the old one. Once this is accomplished the individual now should be able to walk in this new truth and no longer feel the need to cling to the past delusion or the delusion that was presented to them through Upaya to motivate them in the first place. If this is not done, then was progress really made?

Also, what is the definition of something helping? What is the definition of something not harming? Does something help someone if it does not really lead them to liberation? Doesn’t it harm someone if they pick up some teaching or mindset along the way that hinders their long-term progress even though it provides some kind of temporary solution to a problem? This technique of expedient means must be used by a Master out of loving-kindness and tempered with wisdom, for the good of their student to move them along the path. It is not license for us to simply do as we wish and see fit without skill and purpose.

For the second argument, I was already familiar with this topic from my days in Bible Seminary. Not only do we have to take into account when reading ancient text that it may have been, and was most likely altered by people with alteriar motives or agendas, but we also have to take into account the fact that even the most pure, divine revelation is still going to have to be filtered through the eyes and mind of a mortal and even their most direct and accurate account will still be tainted in some way, shape or form. As the Apostle Paul wrote himself, “we see in a mirrordimly“.

Yet, does this give taint us license to further filter scripture as we see fit to adjust it to our own social, political, personal or other preferences?

I think it is a lot like peeing in a pool.

If you were in a large pool of water with a group of people and word got out that someone may have peed in it, does that mean that we all then will just figure it’s ok for the rest of us to take a dump in it?

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3rdjesusBook Review on Deepak Chopra’s The Third Jesus: The Christ We Cannot Ignore

I have seen many reviews of this book online, so I guess the question is: “Why one more?” However, if you look at them carefully you will probably notice that they are either by institutions trying to sell you the book, fans of Deepak Chopra; or, in the opposite vein, person’s of a fundamentalist Christian background who automatically already knew they would disagree with this writing. So in all fairness, none of these commentaries would be fair.

However; I actually read the book (most reviewers only skim). I neither like nor dislike the author or his views. I am a Bible Scholar, Buddhist scholar, and practice daily meditation. Finally, I am currently working on my Masters on the very subject of comparative religion (Eastern and Western).

Let’s start off with what the book is and isn’t. Deepak presents us with his thesis that the Christ of the bible, and of Christian lore, could have possibly been instead another enlightened or awaken being, akin with Gautama Buddha and various other noteworthy religious figures. So what it “is” is a thesis, then followed up with some practical, although sadly not unique, instruction as to how one could meditate and have a very “Eastern” faith experience while still holding onto their familiar Jesus figure, prayers, and bible passages.

What the book “isn’t” is apologetics. The author offers little historical, biblical, or intellectual argument to support his thesis. He simply puts it out there, and moves along swiftly into application. His arguments for why he believes his thesis to be true is that it makes sense to him, he likes it, Jesus had similar teachings and experiences to the Buddha, and his main argument is that not only would Jesus’ teachings be impossible for a person to live out without awakening, but they make little sense unless reinterpreted that way. He does a very good job going through various teachings or sayings of Jesus and then showing how it could very well be him referring to an awakening experience that was later misinterpreted; or more likely, deliberately.

The major claim that may ruffle some people’s feathers is that he believes that the Christ did exist, but that through many years of religion, and the passing along of information, and in the hopes to establish a dominant religion, this original Christ has been altered, added to and deleted about so that his real message has become muddled; although still hidden in the text if we look at it through a new perspective. There is more than enough viable, undeniable, and confirmed information out there by noteworthy scholars to back up a claim that certain text in the bible has been purposefully changed by the church, especially during its formative years and it’s rise to power as the State lead religion of the Roman Empire; however, the author takes little-to-no time to delve into the facts, and even if he did it would still not back up his theory that Jesus was a “Buddha”; its reference only serves to cast a shadow of doubt.

This then breaks down then into their three different Christs. The first being the actual, historical person who walked the earth; but, whom we can not say with any clarity that we actually know since all we know of him is from religious, non-historical, text. The second Christ is the Jesus of myth and religion. The one who comes to our minds when we hear the word Jesus; based off the influence of the bible, our society, televisions and homes–the one that was “invented” to fit into a certain religion, culture, and philosophy. Then, Chopra presents us with the third option: Chopra’s own made up, non-historical and mythical Christ — one that fits well into his own philosophy and suites his own philosophy. The hard part to swallow about this train of thought though is that after the author establishes his pretense that nobody can actually say that they really know who the historical Christ was, and that the Christ of the Bible is myth, then how in the world can one offer up a third option with any certainty or conviction? It is not based of the historical, for it was stated that nothing is known of the historical, and it is not based off the mythical; so what source is really left over for this deduction?

From a bible scholar’s perspective the defense of his thesis does not stand up well, and if you are looking for an intellectual argument you will not find one here. From a Buddhist perspective, if you are looking for a book to teach you about Buddhism, meditation or any such thing… then I suggest that there are much better books out there to instruct or inspire you. This books closes out with average instruction to begin a quest for awakening, that is really sub-par, although it may seem appealing to those from a Christian background since he revamped it to use Christian prayers and bible verses.

Was the book worth the read? Yes. Yes it was. But I see it more as a primer education piece for someone who wants to hold onto their title of Christian but is slowly finding themselves to be swayed into and enticed by New Age or Buddhist philosophies. So, if that is you and you want to read something that tells you something that you already know you want to hear… great. If you are looking for something “deep” about the practice of Buddhism… then not so great. Finally, if you are looking for a real thesis that digs into factual information to confront your current perception of Christ… this is not going to cut it. You would be better off reading Pagan Christ or The Jesus Mysteries. I personally was just fascinated to see what Chopra’s own personal “take” on Jesus would be, and I was not disappointed by it.

In closing, it was a good read and I am going to keep the book on my shelf instead of trading it in at the used book store, but it was nothing too surprising, new, and it was full of information that I had already heard before but that was presented to be better the first time.

Personal Note:

In the East many are against how the States had taken meditation and stripped it down into some kind of relaxation or self-help guided therapy. In India most yogis are dismayed at how we are teaching yoga as some fitness package for middle-age ladies and did away with all spiritual aspects and benefits of the practice. So I find it of little surprise that Westerners would prefer that their Jesus be left alone. I don’t want to go to a Christian church to meditate, no more than I want to show up to a Buddhist temple to hear about Christ. Some may call that closed-minded, but as someone who studies and loves religion I disagree. It is because I love it that I think it’s integrity should remain untouched.

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