Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Peace of the Buddha vs the Peace of the Christ

Buddhist teachings about peace repose at the core of its worldview and ethical teachings. Being a peaceful person and helping to create a future karma of peace for oneself and the world are at the heart Buddhist practice. Consider this statement:
Even if we feel our cause is just, if we in thought, word, and deed make war against injustice, we are still part of the problem and not contributing to the solution. On the other hand, if we concentrate on putting our own minds at peace, then we can broadcast peace mentally and generate peace through our actions. We should use a peaceful mind to act for peace in the world. From Buddhist Ideas for Attaining World Peace, by Ron Epstein (Lectures for the Global Peace Studies Program, San Francisco State University, November 7 & 9,1988)
One might be inclined--many have--to take a few select statements of Jesus, such as,"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God," and suppose that he and his predecessor of four centuries, Siddhartha Gautama, were on the same page about this subject. There seems a sort of mania on the part of religious unifiers to show that all the great religious thinkers of the past drew from the same universal well of divine inspiration and that their differences are only peripheral and inconsequential. This unifying impulse is, I suppose, commendable on some level, but it winds up muddying things for those seeking clarity regarding religious and spiritual values.

Jesus spoke about peace a great deal. Just when you might begin to think that Jesus had perhaps slipped off to India in his younger days and hijacked the Buddhist teachings on peace, he comes out with,“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword" and really throws you for a metaphysical loop. Luke, recording the same teaching, has Jesus saying, " Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division." What's a follower of Jesus to think? Do these discordant sayings of the Prince of Peace rattle your mind and disturb your heart? Not to worry, the Master has a word for you: "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled..."

The Buddha would have us become human prayer wheels for peace, blowin' in the wind, "broadcast[ing] peace mentally" to the tumultuous war-ravished world around us. Jesus would have us speak the sword-sharp Truth about Himself and redemption--a truth he promises will brings division and even pit people against one another.

The Buddhist path would have us eschew any effort to battle injustice or confront oppressors, and instead have us create good karma for the future by means of projected peaceful thoughts and gentle friction-soothing actions. Isaiah exhorts us to, "Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows." [emphasis added]

The paradox in all this is that there is a profound peace for the followers of Messiah Jesus, even as they confront injustice and fight oppressors, for as Jesus told the original disciples, "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

If all this hasn't given you enough to think about, I'll just leave you with this final thought from the Apostle Paul:

"And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen." (Romans 16:20)