Being 8 years old, I was prone to saying things in certain situations that were not, shall we say appropriate. One Sunday, after Mass, Father Cosby was greeting the congregation as they walked passed the doors to the parking lot. I tugged on Fathers gown and without hesitation I asked "Was Buddha there when Jesus was killed Father?" The smile on his face melted like an ice cube in an oven, his face turned blood red, and I swear I could feel his coal black eye's behind his coke bottle glasses eating a hole through my skull. I was ushered out the door quickly by my mother, and I never did get an answer from Father Cosby.
I spent the rest of the day relegated to my room and I sure was angry at this Buddha fellow.
Dr. Marcus Borg is a fairly controversial figure in the Christian community, considered a fairly liberal voice in the progressive Christian movement. Dr. Borg has made many comparisons between Christ and the Buddha and has attempted to show them as living traditions and bridge the gap between the two cultures.
Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings uncovers the shared wisdom of two of the greatest spiritual teachers of all time by placing quotations from their teachings side by side to illuminate their similarities. Let's start by talking about the historical parallels between the lives of Jesus and Buddha.
One of the big similarities is that both Jesus and Buddha, around age 30, have a dramatic religious experience that transforms them and launches them into their public lives as teachers and ultimately founders of religious traditions -- even though I do not see either one of them as seeking to found a religious tradition. For the Buddha, [this transformation] comes in the form of an enlightenment experience under the Bodhi Tree which is clearly a mystical experience of some kind. And for Jesus, it is his relationship with John the Baptizer who, according to authors of the New Testament, seems to have functioned essentially as the spiritual mentor of Jesus. Jesus undergoes what William James might have referred to as a "conversion experience" at age 30 -- not conversion from Judaism to something else -- but a conversion within a tradition where religious energies become the very center of your life. According to the Gospels, Jesus has a vision at his baptism which is a paranormal experience certainly and then goes on this wilderness quest which is a classic example of a vision quest or quest for enlightenment. Both Jesus and Buddha have transforming spiritual experiences that they each sought after. And ofcourse, the other huge parallel is that both Jesus and Buddha become teachers of an enlightenment wisdom.
The whole Article can be found here.
He isn't the only one to try and draw the traditions of the two spiritual men closer together. The famous Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book 'Living Buddha, Living Christ' attempts to persuade the two communities to come to some common spiritual ground. Hanh describes how the two religions are more alike than most think when pushed down to the core foundations of both.
To me, religious life is life. I do not seee any reason to spend one's whole life tasting just one kind of fruit. We human beings can be nourished by the best values of many traditions. (pg.2)
It is good that an orange is an orange and a mango is a mango. The colors, the smells, and the tastes are different, but looking deeply, we see that they are both authentic fruits. Looking more deeply, we can see the sunshine, the rain, the minerals, and the earth in both of them...If religions are authentic, they contain the same elements of stability, joy, peace, understanding, and love. The similarities as well as the differences are there. They differ only in terms of emphasis. Glucoise and acid are in all fruits, but their degrees differ. We cannot say that one is a real fruit and the other is not.(pg.111)
Jesus told us to love our enemy. ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ This teaching helps us know how to look at the person we consider to be the cause of our suffering. If we practice looking deeply into his situation and the causes of how he came to be the way he is now, and if we visualize ourselves as being born in his condition, we may see that we could have become exactly like him. (pg. 83)
People kill and are killed because they cling too tightly to their own beliefs and ideologies. When we believe that ours is the only faith that contains the truth, violence and suffering will surely be the result.
THICH NHAT HANH, Living Buddha, Living Christ
I think, in our Western Buddhist tradition, it is important to cultivate these bridges between not only Christianity but all other religions that find at their core peace, understanding and the pursuit of truth. However, I think it is just as important that we as Buddhists do not let the fundamentals of our practice to become too diluted or distracted from our core teachings. The key is not conversion to either, but an understanding and respect for both.
I know this topic is not only controversial, but has been touched on by many others on both sides of the discussion. How do you see the modern Buddhist community reaching across the street into other religious communities?