Friday, May 25, 2012

Kill the Buddha ...

Confronted for too many days by piles of paper surrounding a water-starved philodendron on the kitchen table, I've watered the plant and dusted off Gary Thorp's little book "Sweeping Changes," subtitled "Discovering the Joy of Zen in Everyday Tasks."

The book's been described as a "primer on making household routines part of the path of spiritual practice."

Not that I'm a good enough Christian to practice Zen, a rigorous discipline --- but I enjoyed the book when first read maybe 10 years ago. Perhaps I'll take it to heart this time. Hope springs eternal and I like the idea of housekeeping as a form of meditation. Actualizing the idea is another matter.

There are quite a few books around here with Buddhist themes --- if I could just find them --- dating from days when it seemed amusing to self-describe as a Zen Lutheran. That was primarily a play on words. I was a member of a Zion Lutheran church at the time. Having taken a step up the ladder toward liturgical glory it would have to be Zen Episcopalian now, and that doesn't roll off the tongue quite so harmoniously.

I'd especially like to find Thich Nhat Hanh's little "Living Buddha, Living Christ," in which that renowned ecumenist draws parallels. I'm sure it will turn up.

One thing I especially liked about Nhat Hanh's thinking involved his contention that it may be best to bloom where you're planted. For a cultural Christian, than would involve incorporating the best of the Buddha's thinking and practice into your worldview, but not necessarily heading for the nearest zendo, determined to be born again in the lotus or half-lotus position.

One more or less classic Buddhist line has stuck in my head --- "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." Atributed to the 9th century master Lin Chi, this does not imply physical violence. Buddhists tend to be a peaceful lot --- with exceptions of course.

It's merely a way of reminding the listener (or the reader) that if one turns the Buddha into a religious fettish the risk increases that what he actually taught will fall by the wayside.

That line came to mind this week while overdosing on the comments sections of my favorite religiously-oriented blogs, where the same arguments circle endlessly, some content to have their say and shut up (always wise), others determined to have the last word.

So what was said about the Buddha also could be said for Jesus, or the equal and more insidious subject in Christian culture --- the Bible. I'm trying on for size, "If interpretation of the Bible becomes a bone of contention, burn it." Keeping in mind that this doesn't necessarily imply getting out the lighter fluid and finding a match.

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