To Become Truly Human










Sung Bae, Park


Professor of Buddhist Studies

Department of Comparative Studies

State University of New York at Stony Brook



 

To Become Truly Human


 







1. Preface: The True Human

I think we all agree that the current International
Conference on Korean Son Buddhism is an extremely
important event. It provides a rare opportunity to
gather together many thinkers of diverse backgrounds
and points of view. Some are scholars and some are
monks, some are Koreans and some are non-Koreans.
What this diverse group holds in common is the desire
to clarify the meanings of Josason, or "Son of the
Awakened Masters", and Ch’am Saram, or "a true
human being," an ancient model of self-cultivation
currently championed by Great Master Seo-Ong.


In the following paper, I will explore the idea of "true
humanness" in reference to the Buddhist concept of
karuna, or compassion. Though I am a Buddhist scholar
and my point of view is essentially Buddhist, my
approach is comparative: I will draw on Christianity’s
model of ideal human behavior to make connections
between karuna and the Christian ethic of love.
Ultimately, I hope to reveal both how Christians and
Buddhists share a common goal to become "truly
human" and how similar their conceptions of "true
humanness" proves to be, despite apparently vast
differences in doctrine and world-view. My endeavor is
thus ecumenical in spirit; I place great value on
open-mindedness and intellectual freedom and hope to
avoid narrow-minded, religious partisanship. In the
course of my presentation, I also hope to demonstrate
how much we, Buddhists, can learn from other religious
traditions in our quest to become "true human beings."

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2. Is True Compassion Possible?

As we all know, karuna, which is generally translated as
"love" or "compassion," is a key concept in Buddhist
thought. Simply put, karuna is the compassion that the
Buddha gives to all sentient beings. It is karuna that
motivates bodhisattvas to postpone immediate entry
into the final stage of nirvana and stay in our world to
help all sentient beings toward liberation from suffering.
Ordinary practitioners likewise struggle to exercise this
deep compassion for others in their own lives. Without a
doubt, karuna is one of the most essential elements in
the Buddhist view of what it means to be truly human.


Widening our view, I think we can say that love or
compassion is a fundamental concept in all of the
world’s religions. In Christianity, for example, love is
brought up again and again. We hear about God’s love
for humanity, and Jesus’ love for all people, and the
need for everyone to exercise this kind of divinely
inspired love in their own lives. The injunctions to "love
thy enemy" and to "love thy neighbor as thyself" are
famous.


However, the practice of love is not easy. Everyone
knows how difficult it is to love one’s neighbor, let alone
one’s enemy. More often than not, the injunction to
love others defeats us and we end up experiencing it in
the distorted form of guilt, a sense that we are not
living up to our own convictions. Sometimes we manage
through sheer force of will to pantomime the outer form
of love. We offer up apparently kind words and deeds,
trying to be "good" and "nice" to those we instinctively
find distasteful. But despite such efforts we often find
that we continue to harbor deep within our hearts a
concealed well of resentment and antipathy that we are
helpless to remove. We end up acting lovingly toward
our enemies while in reality we hate them. This of
course is sheer hypocrisy, and a poor foundation on
which to practice karuna. Any act of so-called
compassion that conceals suppressed feelings of hatred
or resentment will quickly break down and create
suffering both for oneself and others.


The kind of inner conflict that I have just described is
quite common, in fact, universal in the world of
unenlightened sinners. Exercising genuine compassion
is so difficult that it begs the question: Is it really
possible for me to be compassionate? When we ask
such a question, we are really asking: Can I become a
true human being?


Both Buddhism and Christianity answer, "Yes," to that
question. A comparative look at the practice of love in
these two traditions reveals significant points of
agreement between Buddhism and Christianity on the
subject of being truly human. Here, at the meeting point
of these two traditions, we might find a way for each of
to love both honestly and unconditionally.


To begin, consider the mechanics of compassionate
behavior, in other words, how compassion works in the
real world. When we look at traditional interpretations of
compassion–those of Buddhism and Christianity
included–we distinguish two divergent approaches.


The first view of compassion rests on seemingly
reasonable assumptions regarding the relationship
between self and other and appears to be corroborated
by our living experience. Put simply, the first
interpretation runs something like this: "I am I, and you
are you. We are separate people, and in order to feel
compassion for you, I must overcome the gulf or
barrier of our separateness. That is why compassion is
so hard, because it requires that I leap over the barrier
of our difference."


It is probably safe to say that this is the way most of us
actually experience our attempts at practicing
compassion: Very strenuous attempts at bridging the
gap between ourselves and other people.


The second model of compassions holds opposing
presumptions about the connection between self and
other and requires a depth of engagement with others
that most of us do not experience often. Thus, upon
hearing of it for the first time many find it
counter-intuitive. The operative principle of the second
interpretation of compassion is what Buddhists call the
non-difference or non-duality of all beings. It is also
called the mutual interpenetration of all things. A
practitioner of this non-duality model of compassion
would say something like this: "I am contained in you,
and you are contained in me. We are not different from
each other. For that reason, compassion is simple and
natural, a human reflex as fundamental as breathing. I
love you just as I love myself."


This automatic love for others is not something we
experience much in daily life. The closest example we
can point to is probably the love of a mother for her
child–a love so absolute and instinctual that it often
transcends the boundaries of individual identity. It is
quite common for a mother to put the interests of her
child before her own, feeling that "What is good for my
child is good for me." The automatic, unthinking identity
of interests between two different people–the instinct
that says "What’s good for him or her is good for
me"–is the essence of non-duality-based compassion.


Obviously there are striking differences between these
two models of compassion. The first, which I will now
refer to as the duality-based model, accords with our
common-sense view of the world and seems like the
right way to go about it. But we know that, more often
than not, it simply doesn’t work. In the duality-based
model, compassion or universal love is difficult and
confusing. We engage it as an abstract moral principle
and find that we honor it more often in the breach than
in practice. Often enough, it leaves us feeling like
hypocrites and failures.


In contrast, the non-duality-based model is
counter-intuitive: Most of us do not experience mutual
interpenetration with other beings in daily life. The
reason for this, expressed in Buddhist terminology, is
that unenlightened beings cannot perceive the reality of
mutual interpenetration without the practice of
self-cultivation. To an untrained person, we all seem
separate and distinct. Thus, the proposition that I am
contained in you, and you are contained in me, is hard
to accept. And the idea that one person might love
another with the same unthinking devotion that he feels
for himself seems the stuff of legends and children’s
tales.


However, though the non-duality-based model of
compassion is counter-intuitive, it has the distinct
advantage of working. It makes perfect sense to say
that if you and I are a single being, I should guard your
interests with the same zealous regard I have for my
own, because these interests are, in fact, identical. In
other words, the Awakened person continues to
exercise the same self-Love that we all practice, but
because he or she can see beyond the apparent confines
of the physical body, and thus knows that his body
includes all bodies, his self-love extends outward to
include all sentient beings. Love for others thus
becomes a direct and natural expression of self-love,
the same automatic, unthinking self-love that makes me
eat when I am hungry and put on a sweater when I am
cold. Thus, in the non-duality-based model, love for
others is not construed as an abstract moral principle,
something we try to force ourselves to follow; it is a
fundamental aspect of our nature, a reflex as instinctual
as breathing or blinking.


Of course, I am aware of the many real differences
between Buddhism, a non-theistic religion, and
Christianity, a theistic one. But in discussing the topic
of compassion, I want to deemphasize these differences
as much as possible and focus instead on the many
striking points of agreement. Most importantly, I am
firmly convinced that both Buddhism and Christianity
agree on the subject of karuna: Both religions propose
a non-duality-based model of love. They ask us to
move upward from the straight-forward,
commonsensical commandment of "love thy neighbor"
to the counter-intuitive dictum of "love thy neighbor as
thyself."


This fact can be hard to discern because of the
differences in both emphasis and terminology between
the two religions. Buddhists are accustomed to thinking
overtly about non-duality and interpenetration, and
have, over the centuries, developed a specialized
vocabulary to describe these ideas. Christianity, in
contrast, has focused on other issues and non-duality
has not occupied a similarly prominent position in
Christian intellectual discourse. The concept of
non-duality, however, is implicit to the Christian notion
of love. If it is difficult for a Buddhist to pick up on the
non-dual implications of this Christian concept, it is
only because the language in which that concept is
couched is so very different from the one Buddhists are
used to.


Take, for example, Jesus’ famous dictum in Matthew
19:19, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." On
the face of it, this deceptively simple statement
commands us to love other people in exactly the same
way we love ourselves. It tells us to love them as if they
are us. But going beyond appearances, we can we might
consider that perhaps Jesus is presenting a kind of
dialectical process, one that synthesizes two different
types of love to create a new form of love that is both
more expansive and inclusive. On the one hand, there is
ordinary neighbor-love, which, though noble in intent,
lacks immediacy and naturalness. On the other hand,
there is self-love, which is instinctual and unconditional,
but limited to the confines of the psycho-physical self.
Drawing on the best qualities of each and discarding the
negative features creates a vision of self-love that
extends outward to include others, thus transcending
the limitations of the two other forms of love on which
it is based. "You shall love your neighbor as yourself"
clearly implies that neighbor-love comes out of
self-love, in other words, that true love for others is an
extension of the love you feel for yourself.

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3. Mom-Love and Momchit-Love

This hidden correspondence between self-love and
other-love in Jesus’ famous declaration can be further
clarified by a return to the Buddhist perspective.
Traditionally, East Asian thought has described the
relationship between such distinct but non-different
pairs through what I like to call the mom-momchit, or
body-gesture construction. Some may know this
hermeneutic device better by its original Chinese
formulation, the t’i-yung or essence-function
construction.


Basically, mom, or t’i, refers to t>



Transfer interrupted!


corresponds to the uses of the body, its functions. All
human gestures and expressions, whether physical,
verbal, or mental, are included in the realm of
mom-chit. Mom, on the other hand, refers to the base
or root from which all mom-chit becomes possible. The
most important aspect of the relation between the two
is that they are inseparable. Wherever there is mom,
there is mom-chit; correspondingly, wherever
mom-chit occurs, mom abides. These two qualities
cannot be separated from each other. Mom-chit can be
compared to the branches and leaves of a tree, visible
to all. Mom is then understood as the hidden roots of
that tree, invisible but necessary for the branches and
leaves or mom-chit to exist. When we consider Jesus’
dictum about loving one’s neighbor as oneself in these
terms, self-love is the root-body, or mom, from which
the branch-extensions, or mom-chit, of neighbor-love
emerge.


At this point the character of self- or mom-love must
be defined more precisely to avoid misunderstanding. I
have already claimed earlier that it is as natural and
reflexive as breathing. I would like to elaborate here by
saying that it is also both absolute and permanent.
After all, do you love yourself one day and not the
next? Of course not. And do you love yourself simply
because you are intelligent or handsome or wealthy or
successful? Obviously not. You love yourself for the
sole reason that you are you. You forgive your lapses
and faults, and accept your shortcomings, simply
because they are yours. The love you bear yourself is
thus unchanging, unquestioning, and completely
unconditional. No matter what happens, it will never be
withdrawn.


Compare this to the love we usually extend to others in
our daily life. In contrast to our mom-love, this other-
or momchit-love is both highly conditional and
mercurial. We care for others for many reasons:
Because they are kind to us, humorous, intelligent,
attractive, wealthy, etc. It doesn’t matter whether the
reasons are laudable or shallow. The point is that there
are reasons; in other words, our love for others is
conditional and subject to withdrawal. If any of the
qualities that we love in another should change or
disappear, then our love for that person would
accordingly adjust or vanish.


Given the all too obvious differences between these two
forms of love, we can see the astonishing depth of
committment that is necessary to apply Jesus’
command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.
Essentially, he tells us to extend our mom-love to
include other people. In other words, our love for others
must be reflexive, absolute and unconditional. We must
love the ugly as well as the beautiful, the bad as well as
the good, the cruel as well as the kind. We must love
without qualification or change, just as we love
ourselves.


When we can do that, we will be exercising karuna, the
unconditional compassion that the Buddha feels for all
sentient beings. To a Buddha, the bodies of all sentient
beings are his or her own body. We ordinary,
unenlightened people, trapped within a limited form of
self-love, naturally care most for ourselves and our
children, because these are all that we recognize as our
bodies and the extensions of our bodies. But a Buddha
cares for all sentient beings because he experiences
directly the reality that everyone is part of his body.


Where Buddhism and Christianity seem to diverge,
however, is on the question of how we learn to extend
our mom-love to other people. Buddhist teaching
demands that we attain Awakening. It is assumed that
when we are enlightened we will perceive directly that
other people are really part of ourselves. Seeing others
as one with ourselves is the real meaning of Josason, or
Son of the Awakened Masters, and it is the full and final
realization of the concept of Ch’am Saram, "the true
human being", described by Great Master Seo-Ong.
With this deeper understanding, what Buddhists call
wisdom or prajna, mom-love becomes completely
natural: We love others because they are ourselves.


Jesus takes a different approach. He states that the
unconditional love we feel for ourselves is a mirror
image of the unconditional love God feels for all
humanity. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus points out
the absolute and impartial quality of God’s love for man
through a metaphor of nature: "God makes his sun rise
on the evil and on the good and rain on the just and on
the unjust." (Matthew 5:45) He then exhorts his listeners
to be like God: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as
your heavenly father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) For
Jesus, God’s unconditional love for humanity is the
model that all people must emulate in their own lives.


At this point, we need to consider another question: If
mom-love exists in us from the moment we are born, in
the form of self-love, how is it that we’ve gotten lost,
so to speak, in the changeable and conditional world of
momchit-love? Why can’t we simply extend our
mom-love to others automatically, since mom-love is
inside of us already? These are rephrasings of the most
fundamental questions in Buddhism: If we all have the
Buddha-nature, or mom, why is it that we can only see
the world of duality and discrimination–the momchit
world?


The answer to this question is extremely complex, and
can only be touched upon here. Christians explain our
current state of delusion or sin through the story of
man’s fall from grace in the garden of Eden. Buddhists
rely on the concept of karma, the law of causation.
Because of karma, the Buddhist argument goes, we
look outside of ourselves for self-knowledge, trying to
construct self-identity from the array of our external
attributes. Asked the question, "Who are you?", we
almost invariably list "objective" qualities, a curriculum
vitae that contains, among other things, nationality,
religion, education, and profession. We unconsciously
feel that, because they are seemingly "objective," these
qualities are somehow "truer" or more stable than other
characteristics we might mention. The irony, of course,
is that all of these qualities have less to do with us than
with karmic forces outside of us, historical, political,
cultural, and so on.


This tendency to "objectify" ourselves is exacerbated by
the role of language in our self-understanding. As we all
know, language is not only the medium by which we
communicate with others, it is also the primary tool we
use to communicate with ourselves. We think in words,
and words therefore determine the shape and direction
of our thoughts. If the right word or combination of
words doesn’t exist, then it becomes almost impossible
for us to envision the thought. We bump up against the
limits of our conceptual capabilities. This means that, in
the course of our lives, what we can know is basically
determined by what we can say in words, through
language.


The implications of this fact are extremely important.
We do not learn words in a methodical, logical way.
They are inserted into us at a very early age as the
primary substantive content, hodge-podge and chaotic,
of our historical and cultural legacy. They are
prefabricated units of meaning, defined by cultural and
historical forces–karmic forces. And they shape us
because they determine not only what we can and
cannot say to others, but what we can and cannot think
about ourselves. The end result is thus inevitable: Since
we know ourselves by way of our thoughts, and our
thoughts are delimited by language, our self-knowledge
comes to us filtered through the karmic forces of
culture and history–in other words, through the world
of momchit.

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4. Realizing Mom

How, then, can we break free of the confines of
language, the momchit world, to realize the world of
mom that already exists inside of us. Both Buddhism
and Christianity focus a great deal of attention on this
problem. For Buddhism, the answer involves meditative
practice directed toward Awakening. Practice, it is
believed, turns the eye inward and allows us to observe
mom, free of the distorting prism of language.
Christians, too, emphasize breaking away from
ordinary, mundane life, in order to participate in the
perfect mom-love of God. Jesus tells his prospective
followers:


If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and
give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven;
and come, follow me. (Matthew 19:21)



And everyone who has left houses or brothers or
sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my
name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit
eternal life. (Matthew 19:29)



Jesus is as sensitive to the distorting influences of
language and culture as Buddhist thinkers are. He, too,
feels the need to strip away mental and physical
possessions to reach the eternal soul–the world of
mom–inside the temporal self. He announces:


Let the children come to me; do not hinder them; for to
such belong the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you,
whoever does not receive the kingdom of god like a
child shall not enter it. (Mark 10:14-15)



What does Jesus mean when he says that "whoever does
not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not
enter it?" In my view he is pointing to the layers of
momchit-knowledge–language, education and
culture–that must be stripped away if one is to reach
the mom of God. If you would know God, he seems to
be positing, you must be as natural and unthinking as a
child, free of culturally conditioned presuppositions and
biases and the normative restrictions of society. Only
then can you exercise the pure, reflexive mom-love
inside of you.


But how does a fully developed adult become a child
again? How do we, firmly entrenched in the world of
momchit, break free and enter the world of mom?


Both Christianity and Buddhism propose a faith-based
model of self-transformation. In Christianity, the
believer places his faith in the mom-love of God, and in
the example of mom-love set by Jesus Christ. In
Buddhism, the practitioner must believe in his teachers
and in the Awakened masters who came before them;
the seeker believes, in other words, that it is possible to
realize his Buddha-nature because others have done so
in the past.


Both the Buddhist and Christian traditions also posit a
startlingly counter-intuitive view of the relation between
practice and attainment: They hold that
self-transformation must precede practice. This is a
paradoxical conceptual twist that has caused a great
confusion and debate in the Buddhist world over the
centuries.


For the sake of clarity it is best to consider the
Christian view first. Jesus insists that one must become
like a child before receiving the kingdom of God. If one
is not already like a child, meaning free of the world of
momchit, one will be unable to "receive the kingdom of
God" and follow Jesus. The stripping away of momchit,
and the realization of mom, must take place before one
can exercise mom-love, and thus live the life of a true
Christian.


Similar reasoning is deployed in the Buddhist
understanding of the relation between practice and
Awakening. Enlightenment must be present for true
practice to begin. In the Four-fold Hua-yen theory of
practice faith is depicted as the first step toward
understanding or enlightenment; an initial Awakening
allows the possibility of correct practice; and this
practice ultimately takes the seeker to what is called
"proof," or the certification of the authenticity and final
perfection of one’s original Awakening.


The Four Noble Truths, the central credo of Buddhism,
also assume the need for transformation to precede
practice. Briefly stated, the first of the Four Noble
Truths is dukkha, or suffering, which refers to the fact
that for the unenlightened every moment of life is
accompanied by suffering. The Second Noble Truth is
samutpada, or co-arising, and it posits that we
ourselves are the cause of our own suffering. The Third
Noble Truth is nirodha, meaning cessation, a reference
to the cessation of suffering that comes with
Awakening. Only after achieving enlightenment do we
arrive at the Fourth Noble Truth of marga, or the
Eight-fold Path of Buddhist practice. Nirodha, the end
of suffering that comes with enlightenment, is a
prerequisite for marga, the true practice of Buddhism.


How can it be that enlightenment precedes practice?
The answer resides in the distinctive meaning ascribed
to the word "practice." The "practice" of the Eight-fold
Path is not to be understood as steady progress toward
a future goal or polishing a set of skills. We do not
practice Buddhism in the way that we practice tennis or
golf to improve our performance. Rather, we "practice"
Buddhism because we are already fully enlightened
Buddhas, and cannot help doing otherwise. Practice, in
this sense, is the "gesture" or "expression"–momchit–
that arises automatically and directly from our mom,
our Buddha-nature. It is not a deliberate act of will, but
an activity wholly characteristic of our essential self, as
reflexive as the body’s inclination to breathe.


Here a powerful similarity with the Christian view is
visible. Jesus states that, before we can receive the
kingdom of God, we must make ourselves like children
again. We must return to an originally pure nature
comparable to, if not identical with, the simplicity of a
child’s mind. Only then can we love others with the
unconditional mom-love that God shows to all
humanity. Similarly, the Buddhist tradition claims that
before we can truly practice Buddhism, we must return
to our original nature as fully enlightened Buddhas.
Once this is achieved, Karuna, or Mom-love towards
others, becomes as automatic as sleeping or eating. The
teachings of both religions agree in the assumption that
we are already truly human, capable of selfless
compassion towards others and lacking only in the
understanding of what it means to be truly human.

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5. Conclusion: The Uses of Suffering

I will conclude by touching on a subject that is of central
importance to both religions: The reality of suffering. In
Christianity, Jesus’s willingness to suffer on behalf of
all mankind is essential to understand of his teaching. In
Buddhism, duhkha, or suffering, is the first of the Four
Noble Truths, the starting point for the Buddhist
journey of self-discovery.


Traditionally, suffering is seen in Buddhism as a tool in
the struggle to realize enlightenment. Buddhist
practitioners are taught to utilize their personal
suffering as a lever or oar for moving themselves closer
to the goal of Awakening. Similarly, they are taught to
regard the suffering of others as call to practice karuna,
the compassion of the Buddha. Both of these responses
to suffering are essential for the Buddhist seeker to
become human.


Unfortunately, in modern times the Korean Buddhist
monastic system has veered away from communicating
and learning the teachings of duhkha and karuna in the
context of Buddhist quest. I don’t think I need to
remind anyone that Korea is, at present, enveloped in
an economic crisis that is causing real suffering to
ordinary citizens. The economy is contracting,
businesses are going bankrupt, and decent, hardworking
people are losing their jobs. I doubt there is a single
family in the entire country that has not, to some
extent, been affected. And yet Korean monks continue
to live, relatively speaking, quiet, comfortable lives in
their monasteries. They are effectively insulated from
the anxiety and torment which color the lives of
everyone outside of their monastery walls. The duhkha
of ordinary citizens is barely seen or heard from within
these confines. Thus, they miss the call and opportunity
to practice karuna. This is a terrible loss for everyone,
laypeople and monks alike. This national economic crisis
highlights the deficiencies of the current system of
interpreting and applying the Buddha’s teaching.
Despite the central importance of compassion in
Buddhist doctrine, most Korean monks feel no
inclination to leave the safety of their monasteries to
assuage the suffering of the people.


I am not implying that monasteries should not exist or
that monasteries do not serve an important function. I
am merely pointing out within monastic walls one often
becomes habituated to considering the monastery a
haven from the world and not a haven for the world.
The Protestant thinker Calvin berated the Christians of
his day for becoming so attached to the external
structures of the Church–ritual, dogma and
property–that they had forgotten what he called the
invisible church, the living spirit of Christianity to be
found within one’s heart. Similarly, Buddhists might
recall that the invisible monastery, the glowing
sanctuary within that shines upon and pervades the
entire universe, is more important than the structures
which house the monks.


I want to stress, however, that it is not just Buddhists
who are negligent when it comes to meeting duhkha with
karuna, and not just Koreans in Korea. I am equally
saddened by the attitude displayed by many members
of the Korean Christian community in the United
States. Surrounded by American affluence, they seemed
to have turned their attention to commerce,
consumerism, and pursuit of "the good life," forgetting
the important creative role of suffering in their own
religious tradition. They forget, for example, that it was
the suffering of the Israelites in Egypt that led to the
creation of the Old Testament, the spiritual seed from
which the entire Judeo-Christian tradition grew.


Without an awareness of the dynamic, creative role of
suffering, any religion becomes spiritually enervated
and self-serving. The willingness to embrace suffering
is, in fact, the flip-side of mom-love, and an essential
element of compassion. If one sees beyond the
boundaries of the physical body and realize that each
body includes all bodies, then true neighborly love
begins. This love intensifies as it transforms the nature
of personal suffering. Since my body is my neighbor’s
body, my mom his mom, his suffering becomes my
suffering. Without properly recognizing the relation
between love and suffering, the depth of the Buddha’s
boundless compassion and Jesus Christ’s absolute love
can never be understood, let alone experienced.


The central role of suffering in both the Buddhist and
Christian concepts of love has implications too
far-reaching for investigating in a single paper. Suffice
it to say that many of the ramifications are again
counter-intuitive. For affluent believers, building
churches and giving money to charity are positive
pleasures that require little in the way of self-sacrifice.
They are good works, certainly, and should be
applauded as such, but they are still firmly rooted in the
momchit world of you-and-I. They do not partake of
the mom-love and mom-suffering which both Jesus and
the Buddha taught.


Finally, I want to end by stressing my belief that the age
of religious partisanship has ended. I believe we are
entering a new age, in which spiritual seekers will be
willing to look for and accept wisdom and guidance
wherever they occur. As I hope this paper has shown,
non-theistic Buddhism has more in common with
theistic Christianity than one might otherwise assume. I
have come to believe that Buddhists can gain important
insights into their own tradition by looking at the way
Christianity and other religious faiths approach themes
of mutual concern such as love, compassion and
suffering. These are, after all, the key elements of
becoming truly human and one can never be too
truthful or too human. For me it doesn’t matter which
doctor the medicine comes from–the Buddha or Jesus.
It only matters that the disease be cured.

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