Thursday, December 30, 2010

In case you're wondering ...

... What it is to be a Christian. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

... a nameless spirituality denies that we are people with names - formed by particular cultures, times, traditions. You've just got to engage with those cultures, times and traditions, for good or ill, to become more of a person. (Hence the Dalai Lama also tells westerners not to become Buddhists.)


  1. Huh?

    When has the Dalai Lama ever told Westerners not to become Buddhists?

    Since I've seen him address Westerners who were Buddhists lots of times, and never say anything but positive remarks about Western Buddhists, I guess I must have missed that memo.

  2. Guy Newland explains "Why the Dalai Lama Does Not Want You To Become Buddhist" here:

  3. Thanks, Dave.

    What I get from that is that he does not want us substituting one dogma for another, which of course is what a lot of "shoppers of religions" do. He also does not want people to find yet one more excuse to have wars based on religious differences.

    Countering that, however, the Dalai Lama has just as often pointed out the universality of many spiritual paths, and how they all have something to teach us, and all have ways to achieve enlightenment, or however we label our goals.

    So I read this not so literally as perhaps Mr. Newland does, but as an admonishment not to convert between religions for all the wrong reasons. Don't become a Buddhist because you think it's going to solve all your problems. You'll just take your problems along with you.

  4. Some years ago, I interviewed the late Basil Pennington, abbot of a Benedictine monastery in Hong Kong. One of the things he mentioned that Buddhists complained of in inter-faith meetings was that Christians were all interested in learning about Buddhism, but offered nothing of their own in exchange. They simply had not really explored their own tradition, so they had, as it were, nothing to bring to the table. Their point, interestingly, was that you could hardly understand their tradition if you knew nothing about your own.

  5. During the 1960s when the Beatles and other celebrities were attracted to Eastern religions, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote that these people knew more about carburetors than Christianity.

  6. I can think of at least four or five books that are dialogues between Christians and Buddhists, from monastic and lay perspectives alike. Not least of these is the dialogue between Thomas Merton and Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki.

    Such meetings between the religions are not so uncommon after all.

    The idea that one must know everything there is to know about one's own culture before studying others is debatable. It's a nice theory, but in real life, nobody actually does that. It's not so necessary, perhaps, as implied.

    It's analogous to the thinking that demands that a poet must know everything there is to know about formal poetry before they can do free verse—which is demonstrably not the case. Such knowledge is great to have—but not essential.