Thursday, December 17, 2009

Living Buddha, Living Christ

Living Buddha, Living Christ
© 1995 Thich Nhat Hanh
240 pages

One interpretation of Jesus that I've grown used to seeing in books writing on the necessity for religious pluralism is his depiction as an enlightened teacher in the same manner as Buddha, hoping to improve the quality of human life radically with his teachings centered on love. This is essentially the tack Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, took in writing Living Buddha, Living Christ.  He compares the Buddhist idea of mindfulness and the Christian "Holy Spirit", regarding them as accomplishing the same thing: "being one with the spirit" translates in his opinion to being mindful. It' odd idea, but somewhat useful, I think. If Christians take it to heart, they could adopt meditation and mindfulness into their own tradition without practicing them and wondering if it makes them hellbound.

For the non-Christian reader, there's not a lot of content here other than a few contemplations that reminded me of the Dali Lama's own work in An Open Heart. The book is essentially readable, although sentences tend to be short and choppy -- perhaps a product of the translation. It focused less on the historical persons of Jesus and Buddha than I had hoped, but the book should be of some interest to Christians interesting in makming their own tradition more responsive to the needs that mindfulness meets.

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