Buddhist Compassion :: Christian Love

Thomas

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This devolved from a discussion on commonality between Christians and Asiatic yoga, and a specific question regarding the eschatalogical horizon of both. My response was that to understand the eschatalogical vision one has to first comprehend the means of its attainment.

From Moti Lal Pandit:
(A noted Indologist)

The Buddha, upon the attainment of enlightenment, found out that the conditioned existence, whatever be its form or state, is inherently characterized by suffering. This contingent existence is painful on account of it being insubstantial and impermanent and also due to it being subject to constant change.

The thrust of the Dharma of the Buddha is not to realize the telos of life in and through the world; rather it is to go beyond that which is given. It is the negation or transcendence of the given that the ultimate goal is reached, which is termed as nirvana or the extinction of suffering.

Since it is not possible for every individual to reach this ultimate goal of nirvana, so Buddhism, particularly in its Mahayana version, devised a practical scheme in terms of which a Bodhisattva, seen as the embodiment of compassion, could come to the rescue of those who sought his help. As a religious idea, the compassion of a Bodhisattva for sentient beings became the basis of Buddhist spirituality, which meant that no more would one seek self-salvation unless each creature attained to the state of freedom from becoming. It is towards the salvation of others that a Bodhisattva works for, and not for his own salvation.

The question then is this: Is this selfless compassion equivalent to the Christian charity which the Word, upon becoming flesh, expressed upon the Cross at Calvary? As Buddhism believes neither in the existence of a loving and living God nor in a substantial self, so the compassion of a Bodhisattva cannot be accorded with any ontological reality. As and when a Buddhist speaks of compassion, he treats it merely as an 'upaya' – 'an expedient means'.

In contrast Christianity treats love both as a means and as a goal of life. Moreover, love is seen as the very nature of God. As love has its source in God, so we are asked to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, and this love found its ultimate expression when offered himself as a victim upon the Cross for the remission of sins of mankind. What it amounts to saying is this: Christian idea of love radically differs from that of Buddhist compassion.

+++

For a Christian man is in the image of God, and so he shares or participates in the essential nature of God, which is that of love. It is why the first commandment tells us to love God, because God's love for us has been actualised in and through the Incarnate-Word. The second commandment, which concerns itself with the love of the neighbour, stems from the first. Love of God, and thereby of neighbour, is the basis of Christian life, as thereby is authenticated the imago Dei which we are. Moreover, Christian love is specific and particular, as it is directed towards a concrete individual. For a Christian love is not abstract or general; it is specific.

As and when we speak of compassion in Buddhism, there is no ultimate ontological source that could be seen as the basis of it. In the absence of God and of self, compassion has no meaning. How can we love anyone when the giver nor the given exist? For compassion to exist there must be a solid subject in whom the impulse of love may germinate. Since there is no such a subject existing, then to speak of compassion is to misuse language for wrong purposes.

For many Mahayanaists, moreover, the existence of life and of the world are suspect, in that both are said to be relative, and thereby have the same status which epistemic illusion has. Upon the negation of illusion, the objects of illusion disappear. Likewise compassion, as a relative category, has no absolute value. It is as illusory as are the dream – objects or the objects of illusion. That is why Mahayanists speak of compassion as being nothing more than an expedient means. Furthermore, the existence of Bodhisattva itself is illusory, which means that his compassion too is illusory. It is a dream world, a world of imagination and not that of actual life, of which the Mahayanaists speak.

The Buddhist compassion, thus, has the same degree of reality which we may accord to a dream. For the Buddhists everything disappears in the apophatic silence of emptiness and emptiness is equated with the void of space of with the interior vacuum of a womb. For this reason emptiness is identified with the womb of a Thatagata. The aim of Buddhist compassion is not to realize the abundance of life, but to transcend it through negation in terms of which emptiness, in its stark nakedness, may be realized.

Thomas
 
Hey Thomas,
Maybe I'm missing something, and if so I apologize, but why is a Roman Catholic trying to explain Buddhism?
 
Hey Thomas,
Maybe I'm missing something, and if so I apologize, but why is a Roman Catholic trying to explain Buddhism?
You are so Cavalier, but as I see it Brother Thomas is Universaly Roamin', it all fits my current paradigm, one Hanh washes the other...
 
cavalier said:
Hey Thomas,
Maybe I'm missing something, and if so I apologize, but why is a Roman Catholic trying to explain Buddhism?

Hey cav! Here is what I think. This is from the thread which spawned this one:

InLove said:
Re: another yoga and christianity commentary

Thomas, thank you. Excellent idea to merge the thread as well, Q.

I am prayerfully reading, and got lots of windows open here! :)

The more I can understand about the mind and heart of my fellow earthlings, the more chance there is for us to peacefully communicate. It may not be that we will agree on everything, especially in practice. But to me, the bridge of understanding extends from the heart (Spirit), and as thus is most stable.

This is why I joined CR. Understanding.


InPeace,
InLove
I am looking forward to comments from a strictly Buddhist view, as well--

I love this!
 
Hey Thomas,
Maybe I'm missing something, and if so I apologize, but why is a Roman Catholic trying to explain Buddhism?

Hi,

Are the questions not "Is this in the right forum?" and "Is the CoC being generally observed?"

I think yes and yes.

s.
 
As Buddhism believes neither in the existence of a loving and living God nor in a substantial self, so the compassion of a Bodhisattva cannot be accorded with any ontological reality.

In the absence of God and of self, compassion has no meaning. How can we love anyone when the giver nor the given exist? For compassion to exist there must be a solid subject in whom the impulse of love may germinate. Since there is no such a subject existing, then to speak of compassion is to misuse language for wrong purposes.

Furthermore, the existence of Bodhisattva itself is illusory, which means that his compassion too is illusory.

Thomas

Hi,

The notion of the lack of a substantial self often causes difficulty, seeming as it does on face value to be counter-intuitive. In this context, I understand it to mean all phenomena are constantly changing in nature (anicca), because all phenomena are in a constant dance of interdependent cause and effect. Therefore all things (including the self) are actually an ongoing “process” rather than permanent, eternal or unchanging entities. Hence the possibly misleading concept of “no self” (anatta).

Bodhisattvas may well be illusory. Or they may simply represent ideals (of, for example, compassion). But then of course, from a certain viewpoint there are many things that people believe in which are said not to exist. An atheist may say “God” for example. Indeed an atheist would say that none of the invisible friends exist, whatever names they are given around the world (See Richard Dawkins for further details).

Whether this changes the conclusions that one wishes to draw is another matter.

s.
 
The question then is this: Is this selfless compassion equivalent to the Christian charity which the Word, upon becoming flesh, expressed upon the Cross at Calvary? As Buddhism believes neither in the existence of a loving and living God nor in a substantial self, so the compassion of a Bodhisattva cannot be accorded with any ontological reality. As and when a Buddhist speaks of compassion, he treats it merely as an 'upaya' – 'an expedient means'.

Thomas

Thomas, you have a great way of explaining things I'm thinking but can't find the words to say!

I think they're very similar if not the same. Here's how I see it...

Buddhism teaches you to free your mind (kill your ego) to end suffering,
Christianity teaches you to put your will aside in favor of God's will.

I think they're two different ways of looking at the same thing.

Buddhism soothes my intellectual spirit and Christianity soothes my emotional spirit.

The biggest difference is the concept of God's love. And that's why I'm a Christian instead of a Buddhist.

(I'm thinking so many more things that are hard to put into words...)

Thanks, Thomas!
 
Thomas,

A well argued case as usual.

I find it interesting that in actual practice most Buddhists are very loving people. Perhaps, then according your model, perception and belief have nothing to do with absolute reality. If that is true then a Buddhist being a child of the Divine will express love in a Christian sense regardless of his ontological model. Or am I way off here?

Peace
Mark
 
In my martials arts days I was told the process of religion in Japan is very simple:

1: Shinto
Shinto has all the best festivals, and the kids have a grand time.

2: Catholicism
Grow up and convert to Catholicism, then you have a white wedding, Christmas, etc.

3: Buddhism
When you get old, and thoughts of mortality arrive, Buddhism is the best panacea.

Thomas (not that old yet)
 
Hi Mark –

I find it interesting that in actual practice most Buddhists are very loving people.
I have found the same.

Perhaps, then according your model, perception and belief have nothing to do with absolute reality.
Oooh, there's a discussion! How much does perception and belief determine reality?

Put another way, how much is Pure Land Buddhism not purely an 'upaya' (expedient means) but a reality which Buddhism cannot deny, because it resides in the heart of the people?

I can think of Christian doctrine that is largely founded on the will of the people – the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, for example.

Then again, Truth has so many facets...

If that is true then a Buddhist being a child of the Divine will express love in a Christian sense regardless of his ontological model. Or am I way off here?
No, I don't think so. The only danger, and this is the bit that started it all for me, is to preserve the Dharma from distortion or sentimentalism – the risk that every tradition runs. Thus Buddhism can encompass what one might call 'Christian love' (although I doubt a Buddhist would call it that), but is not obliged to embrace Christianity, nor reject its foundational doctrines.

Thomas
 
Since it is not possible for every individual to reach this ultimate goal of nirvana, so Buddhism, particularly in its Mahayana version, devised a practical scheme in terms of which a Bodhisattva, seen as the embodiment of compassion, could come to the rescue of those who sought his help.
Couple of problems here. Besides the fact that this is just one man's view or understanding, he's dead wrong on a couple of points. First, what is this business about not possible for every individual to reach Nirvana? :p

Why not? What is his discovery that would cause a deviation from what is pretty much standard Buddhist belief? Some say it happens in this very life. Some say it takes many more. But it is in fact, the very POINT of our involvement within the cycle of conditioned existence. There is most certainly a telos, as Buddha did not deny (an) (ultimate) God, or Gods ... including a reason or Purpose for decision on this Being's part for submitting us to these cycles.

The focus, or thrust of the Buddha's teaching, was indeed to go beyond, to transcend. It is a very real, practical, and practicable solution to the problem(s) at hand: dukka, suffering. Rather than get lost in the theology, which is like trying to figure out who shot this poisoned arrow at us to begin with, what tribe he is from, what kind of poison he used, how it was applied, etc. ... the Buddha says, Pull the damn arrow out, silly! :)

The second most obvious problem here is that an assumption has been made, whether through oversight (not considering the obvious), or maybe just by trying to reduce the Dharma to a convenient, more digestible form. We see this Indologist suggesting that Buddhism cooked up the notion of the Bodhisattva to come minister to the laypeople, which sounds conveniently as if he is suggesting the notion is borrowed from something like - say, Christianity.

In the latter, we do find a Savior figure who is most definitely presented as "coming to the rescue of those who [seek] his help." But the idea of the Bodhisattva is not a being who rescues us - either from ourselves, or from the world in which we live, both of these being experientially just extensions of our karma, or modes of our conditioned existence. It is not that anything around is a dream, but rather, our limited range of perceptions causes us to mistake this thin slice of reality for the bigger picture. [Even basic physics shows us how *wrong* we are, in this.] Therefore, the entire world, our (concept of our-)selves, and in fact, all that we know, is LIKE a dream (Merrily, merrily, even) ... relative to the greater Truth (Dharma) of Nirvana. And eventually, we all shall know that!

What the Bodhisattva does, is willingly forgoes, or stays his own entrance into the state of Nirvana ... so that he may assist as many of us as possible to hasten along life's path, and to end all needless suffering as soon as possible (the nature of conditioned being involves suffering, that is unavoidable, but we can easily become "stuck," and this is where the help of the Bodhisattva is invaluable). He may know us beyond subject-object duality, but He still has a message for us, and that is: Come to Know Unity! :)

The Buddhist has not invented a Scapegoat to take away our sins, and to allow us to avoid the natural and karmic result of our actions. This makes God's Laws (if indeed we believe either in God, or in Divine Laws) null and void, or obviously unimportant, if they are breakable - even by God. Besides, why are things so incredibly screwed up that God has to come along, intervene, and break His own laws at all? Isn't He God??? ;)

Again, the Buddha did not deny God. He simply taught that we must be ready, willing and able to transcend ALL of our precious, pet conceptions - even including those of God, Buddha, Self (Atman) - in order to experience THAT which lies beyond. And Hinduism speaks of THAT. Even Christianity, so apparently different, makes God to say, "I am THAT I am." But so long as we cling to mind, to thoughtforms, to ideas, we cannot GO BEYOND ... as the Tathagatas (or `Gone-Beyonds') have done, and have direct perception, direct experience, subject-object dissolution and therefore true Identity.

Patanjali called these the "ceaseless modifications of the thinking principle." But neither he, nor the Buddha, denied the reality of the world(s), or the importance of Love, as Compassion, for all beings still caught within the wheel. Like Christianity, always harping on about God's *expulsion* of Adam & Eve from Eden for an apparent sin, Buddhism is usually presented as teaching that it is our great misfortune to be "caught up" in the wheel of rebirth. It becomes very difficult to transcend this value judgment, this assessing statement of our condition, and get to the very heart of things.

Buddha's Eye Doctrine was seized upon, and has become almost the exclusive focus both of Western scholars (whatever their personal belief) and Eastern pundits, err, Pandits, beg pardon. What has been almost entirely missed, is an esotericism - or esoterism, as some prefer - which would rightly be termed the Heart Doctrine of Shakyamuni, and which would address more clearly this question of Buddhist Love and Christian Compassion ... showing them to be modalities, at best, of the exact same Universal Principle in Nature (whether we attribute this to Deity, or recognize its function in mankind). I mixed the terms for a reason. ;)

Nevertheless, even with the wrong emphasis of the centuries, both in terms of Buddhism (Eye Doctrine usually superseding Heart Doctrine) and Christianity (Confounding the Message with the Man, even to the point that people genuinely do not know any better today) ... look what has resulted, regardless. Buddha not only brought the Light to the East, but the Compassion of the Buddhist is also *almost* the stuff of legends, as people have pointed out. Buddhist Compassion is *almost* a redundant phrase. Likewise, Christian Love, or Christian Charity - ironically, even with some of Paul's emphasis - will strike many as a redundant phrase.

I simply submit, that we do not know one tenth of the Buddha's true Love, His true Compassion, and we really haven't a clue what He taught to His closest circle, which has probably never yet been given as open teaching to humanity. Some may find it easier to respond to Christ's Love, yet this a great deal to do, in the last analysis, with the mindset and the temperament of the Westerner, as contrasted with the mind, psyche and disposition of the Easterner. In time, we may find that Christ's Love, as Buddha's has never yet been plumbed to its depths, save in trite expressions and pithy sayings ... and we may also discover that His Light has still many a mystery to uncover, which none of us would suspect.

Are these two Teachers not both to be revered, and their Gifts to mankind honored as our among the most precious? For God's sake, I would hope so.

~Zagreus
 
Hi,

Perhaps a wider perspective can be illuminating. It seems that humans may be "hard-wired" for compassion and empathy, according to Daniel Goleman (the man who coined the term Emotional Intelligence). It's already "there", in our genes, in our brains.


We simply need to ensure we develop this in-built capacity as much as possible.


s.
 
Hi Zagreus –

I think you're being somewhat unfair, or at least difficult, and it's a shame that you choose to demean Christianity as part of your defence. Neither I, nor I believe Moti Lal Pandit, inferred any assault on Buddhism, quite the opposite.

What has been almost entirely missed, is an esotericism - or esoterism, as some prefer - which would ... address more clearly this question of Buddhist Love and Christian Compassion ... showing them to be modalities, at best, of the exact same Universal Principle in Nature.

I think this is precisely what was not missed, but what was presented is the metaphysics which determines esoterism, in that it is the metaphysic which interprets the modality:

As Buddhism believes neither in the existence of a loving and living God nor in a substantial self, so the compassion of a Bodhisattva cannot be accorded with any ontological reality.

It is this last phrase upon which everything turns. If you wish to discuss this point, and I am willing to do so without heat or invective, then the metaphysic/ontology of compassion must be addressed if it is to be equated with Christian love.

The fact that Christianity is not Buddhism is no reason to ridicule Christianity, and I find that a disingenuous way of arguing. I could, for example, argue that Buddhism does not 'know God' as Christianity does because God has not revealed Himself in Buddhism, so what could the Buddha say?

Let me offer, instead, an esoterism:
Buddha (Pratyeka / Samyaksam):
To this difference between “light” and “radiation” corresponds the distinction between the Pratyeka-Buddha and the Samyaksam-Buddha, the first being enlightened “for himself” and the second having the function of enlightening others through preaching the Dharma, which makes one think of the respective roles of the Jivan-Mukta and the Avatara or – in Islamic terms – of the Wali and the Rasul.

Buddha (Samyaksam / Bodhisattva):
It is appropriate not to confuse the Samyaksam-Buddha with the Bodhisattva who has not attained Nirvana and whose cosmic movement is “spiroidal” and not “vertical,” in conformity with his particular vocation. The Bodhisattva is, in his human aspect, a karma-yogi completely dedicated to charity towards all creatures, and in his celestial aspect, an “angel” or more precisely an “angelic state,” whence his function of rescuer and “guardian angel.”

And this I found of real interest:

Buddha Image:
The image of the Buddha is like the sound of that celestial music which could charm a rose tree into flowering amid the snow; such was Shakyamuni – for it is said that the Buddhas bring salvation not only through their teaching but also through their superhuman beauty – and such is his sacramental image. The image of the Messenger is also that of the Message; there is no essential difference between the Buddha, Buddhism and universal Buddha-nature. Thus, the image indicates the way, or more exactly its goal, or the human setting for that goal, that is, it displays to us that “holy sleep” which is watchfulness and clarity within; by its profound and wondrous “presence” it suggests “the stilling of mental agitation and the supreme appeasement,” to quote the words of Shankara . . . Like a magnet, the beauty of the Buddha draws all the contradictions of the world and transmutes them into radiant silence; the image deriving therefrom appears as a drop of the nectar of immortality fallen into the chilly world of forms and crystallized into a human form, a form accessible to men . . . He is the gateway to the blessed Essence of things, and he is this Essence itself.

Buddha (three “hypostases”):
Let us recall here the doctrine of the three “hypostases” of the Blessed One: the Dharmakaya (the “universal body”) is the Essence, Beyond-Being; the Sambhogakaya (the “body of felicity”) is the “heavenly Form,” the “divine Personification”; the Nirmanakaya (the “body of metamorphosis”) is the human manifestation of the Buddha.

Collected from the writings of Frithjof Schuon.

Thomas
 
Hi Zagreus –

I think you're being somewhat unfair, or at least difficult, and it's a shame that you choose to demean Christianity as part of your defence. Neither I, nor I believe Moti Lal Pandit, inferred any assault on Buddhism, quite the opposite.

What has been almost entirely missed, is an esotericism - or esoterism, as some prefer - which would ... address more clearly this question of Buddhist Love and Christian Compassion ... showing them to be modalities, at best, of the exact same Universal Principle in Nature.

I think this is precisely what was not missed, but what was presented is the metaphysics which determines esoterism, in that it is the metaphysic which interprets the modality:

As Buddhism believes neither in the existence of a loving and living God nor in a substantial self, so the compassion of a Bodhisattva cannot be accorded with any ontological reality.

It is this last phrase upon which everything turns. If you wish to discuss this point, and I am willing to do so without heat or invective, then the metaphysic/ontology of compassion must be addressed if it is to be equated with Christian love.

The fact that Christianity is not Buddhism is no reason to ridicule Christianity, and I find that a disingenuous way of arguing. I could, for example, argue that Buddhism does not 'know God' as Christianity does because God has not revealed Himself in Buddhism, so what could the Buddha say?

Let me offer, instead, an esoterism:
Buddha (Pratyeka / Samyaksam):
To this difference between “light” and “radiation” corresponds the distinction between the Pratyeka-Buddha and the Samyaksam-Buddha, the first being enlightened “for himself” and the second having the function of enlightening others through preaching the Dharma, which makes one think of the respective roles of the Jivan-Mukta and the Avatara or – in Islamic terms – of the Wali and the Rasul.

Buddha (Samyaksam / Bodhisattva):
It is appropriate not to confuse the Samyaksam-Buddha with the Bodhisattva who has not attained Nirvana and whose cosmic movement is “spiroidal” and not “vertical,” in conformity with his particular vocation. The Bodhisattva is, in his human aspect, a karma-yogi completely dedicated to charity towards all creatures, and in his celestial aspect, an “angel” or more precisely an “angelic state,” whence his function of rescuer and “guardian angel.”

And this I found of real interest:

Buddha Image:
The image of the Buddha is like the sound of that celestial music which could charm a rose tree into flowering amid the snow; such was Shakyamuni – for it is said that the Buddhas bring salvation not only through their teaching but also through their superhuman beauty – and such is his sacramental image. The image of the Messenger is also that of the Message; there is no essential difference between the Buddha, Buddhism and universal Buddha-nature. Thus, the image indicates the way, or more exactly its goal, or the human setting for that goal, that is, it displays to us that “holy sleep” which is watchfulness and clarity within; by its profound and wondrous “presence” it suggests “the stilling of mental agitation and the supreme appeasement,” to quote the words of Shankara . . . Like a magnet, the beauty of the Buddha draws all the contradictions of the world and transmutes them into radiant silence; the image deriving therefrom appears as a drop of the nectar of immortality fallen into the chilly world of forms and crystallized into a human form, a form accessible to men . . . He is the gateway to the blessed Essence of things, and he is this Essence itself.

Buddha (three “hypostases”):
Let us recall here the doctrine of the three “hypostases” of the Blessed One: the Dharmakaya (the “universal body”) is the Essence, Beyond-Being; the Sambhogakaya (the “body of felicity”) is the “heavenly Form,” the “divine Personification”; the Nirmanakaya (the “body of metamorphosis”) is the human manifestation of the Buddha.

Collected from the writings of Frithjof Schuon.

Thomas
Some fine descriptions of some Buddhist concepts Thomas. For what it's worth, (more or less depending upon the individual:);) ), there have been more than a few writers on both sides of the Christian-Buddhist fence that have suggested the the "trikaya" of Buddhism-the 3 hypostases you speak of-can be 1 way to view the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. earl
 
I think you're being somewhat unfair, or at least difficult, and it's a shame that you choose to demean Christianity as part of your defence. Neither I, nor I believe Moti Lal Pandit, inferred any assault on Buddhism, quite the opposite.

Hi,

I think it is rather disingenuous to make this statement when the OP contained the following:

As Buddhism believes neither in the existence of a loving and living God nor in a substantial self, so the compassion of a Bodhisattva cannot be accorded with any ontological reality.

In the absence of God and of self, compassion has no meaning. How can we love anyone when the giver nor the given exist? For compassion to exist there must be a solid subject in whom the impulse of love may germinate. Since there is no such a subject existing, then to speak of compassion is to misuse language for wrong purposes.

Furthermore, the existence of Bodhisattva itself is illusory, which means that his compassion too is illusory. It is a dream world, a world of imagination and not that of actual life, of which the Mahayanaists speak.

The Buddhist compassion, thus, has the same degree of reality which we may accord to a dream.

If not exactly an assault, my comprehension of this is that it is neither supportive, nor merely comparative. Or have I not understood?

s.
 
Thomas said:
Collected from the writings of Frithjof Schuon.
I have perhaps not read anything so beautiful, so eloquently put, in a very long time. To have shared this with me, is a greater gift than any I could have asked. :)

Pity you do not seem to concur, Thomas. I have not your gift for flowery speech, only for being verbose. So let me put it simply. If you're interested in speaking about how Christ and Buddha each embodied a different Aspect of Deity - one Love, the other Light - then count me in! :)

If you're interested in looking at how Buddha's message, his presentation, and even his very being was the Light of Asia (as Sir Edwin Arnold put it), while Christ, the Gospels and Christ's message are the same for the West, then count me in! :)

If you'd like to talk about how the Christ, so very different from Buddha in many obvious ways, was yet an *equally* wonderful exponent of God's concern for His Creation (contradictory as this may Seem to Buddhist doctrine - and remember, Esse quam videri), then yes, *please* count me in! :)

However, if the goal is to show that there are some really nifty, spiffy and cool similarities ... but that, hey, at the end of the day, Buddha and Buddhism come "close, but no cigar" ... then please, count me out. :(

Snoopy, I think your post about Emotional Intelligence squarely frames part of what I was trying to say. Yet I can't add anything, till I get the book out of the box behind me, and give it an honest read. But yes, I do think we're hard-wired with everything that we ever will be. Like a flower, it unfolds. Wow, that's a good idea for a sermon! ;) :p :)

The reason I think Christ cannot be removed from this equation, is that I think Shakespeare wasn't just trying to be clever or create a pithy saying, when he made Juliet to say, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."

Modalities, variations on a theme, sure. It gets complicated. I'll probably get lost in it all. But my intention, if anything, is not to demean Christianity - or any other religion. It would be, instead, to say that both Founders of these respective traditions, made equal - if also different - contributions. The only thing I suggest about Christianity, is that sometimes one's faith in an external savior figure becomes confounded with a recognition of our own Innate Potential! But this has much more to do with how the religion has come to be practiced, and a tradition established, and not with the Founder, or with Agape at all.

I could not say it better than one of the Eastern Masters:
People will ask: "Who is greater, Christ or Buddha?" Answer: "It is impossible to measure the far-off worlds. We can only be enraptured by their radiance." The Ray of Christ feeds the Earth as much as the Rainbow of Buddha bears the affirmation of the law of life. -Leaves of Morya's Garden - Book 2 - Illumination (1925)
I think Mr. Schuon's writings also communicate this message.

Thomas said:
The Buddhist compassion, thus, has the same degree of reality which we may accord to a dream. For the Buddhists everything disappears in the apophatic silence of emptiness and emptiness is equated with the void of space of with the interior vacuum of a womb. For this reason emptiness is identified with the womb of a Thatagata. The aim of Buddhist compassion is not to realize the abundance of life, but to transcend it through negation in terms of which emptiness, in its stark nakedness, may be realized.
Succinctly put, but I disagree with some of your assumptions (or at least, these conclusions that you have reached) ... or in the very least with the direction that this seems to be going, as it strikes me.

Let's remember how a Tibetan Buddhist regards the Bardo, wherein our dreams take literal shape and *become* our after-death experience, for a while. These phantasmagorical experiences, bad dreams to our waking awareness, are not only no-less real ... they are - after our passing - all that is left, in that moment, of our objective physical world. This world which we have built into our consciousness and memory, through hundreds if not thousands of repeated incarnations, is all that most souls are able to experience of the Bardo.

Yes, to realize the Void, the emptiness of Tong-pa-nid or Sunyata, is the ideal, but unless we are very highly attained, we are not likely to completely escape from the whirling vortex of multi-dimensional sounds, colors, lights, and phenomena that compose Samsara. We must sojourn through the Bardo, and await a subsequent rebirth to "try again" to master our self, our conditions (conditioned being), and the environment (not-self).

Now ask yourself, this comparison of emptiness to the womb, do you feel that it is fair, what you have allowed your mind to have tricked you into saying, immediately after you invoke this word, this imagery, these feelings (usually those of warmth, security, happiness and well-being, even for both Mother-Paramita-Tathagata, and child-arhat-Bodhisattva)?

You speak of Buddhist Compassion as transcending "through negation" - and you state the goal as realization of the stark nakedness of emptiness? Why am I picturing a bony, malnutritioned body now? :confused:

Was stark nakedness, emptiness, plus negation supposed to yield something different, and hence evoke a feeling (or experience) of compassion equal, or similar, to Agape? Ummm, it didn't work! (Blame my subconscious for some, yet not all, of the association - read on!) :(

However, you did make it abundantly clear that Christian Love is to realize the abundance of life, and suddenly I feel like, all happy-gay images of cornucopia and Venus on the half-shell are dancing through my more enlightened, cheery, refreshed consciousness! :)

Thomas, my intent is neither to be purely sarcastic, nor to suggest even that you wove your words with anything other than an instructive, or illuminative intent. As I say, I think you *phrase* things very well. However, as one who does at least have *SOME* training with and command of the English language - as well as a small smattering of awareness of both Eastern terms and conceptuality, at least as far as religion is concerned ... I feel it only helpful to express how strongly this impacts me.

Your word choice, the imagery, that which is invoked - helps to make your point, but the sophistry (from which we get the word `sophisticated') and casuistry, even at the unintentional level - is a disservice to Buddhists and Buddhism. Perhaps no harm was intended, and you will respond that you think I'm far too sensitive, or that I'm "reading things into it." Go back, read your final paragraph. Then reread what I said above. THINK, please. And feel.

I assure you, equally as you may feel that I have slighted Christianity or Christians, by saying that we all have inherent Buddha-nature, or Christ-nature ... (or that we are Sons of God in embryo, even as we have seen demonstrated in Christ Jesus in full) ... so do I feel, and maintain, what I have put forth above. ;)

I say, no harm done! And I go back to the words of Master M., or Frithjof Schuon, or a Thomas Merton. I do feel, however, that arguing over Love (Compassion, etc.), is - hmmm, not altogether unlike f**king for virginity. :p

~Zag
 
Snoopy, I think your post about Emotional Intelligence squarely frames part of what I was trying to say. Yet I can't add anything, till I get the book out of the box behind me, and give it an honest read.

Hi,

Feel free of course, but I may have mislead you; I'm referring to Social Intelligence (the sequel!!!)

s.
 
Hi Snoopy –

If not exactly an assault, my comprehension of this is that it is neither supportive, nor merely comparative. Or have I not understood?

Well, I hope so. What I meant in my comment to Zagreus was that I hope I have not ridiculed Buddhism in the way that he diuscreetly seeks to ridicule Christianity. I have since realised that he is a Theosophist, which explains much.

The post highlights a metaphysical issue, although I for one moment never meant to imply that Buddhism was without love or compassion – I think the Metta Bhavana meditation (Loving Kindness) is a profound and powerful practice – one that would not go amiss in a Christian context – but there are metaphysical questions which I personally never successfully resolved ...

The post sprang from Pattimax's question about Nirvana, which again is too easily presented simply as 'extinction' ... as Schuon said, if nirvana is the 'nothing' which it is so often presented as, how can one realise 'nothing'? There is more to it than that, if it can be realised, it must be something ...

My question, I suppose, was aimed at the ontology of being.

There are a significant number of people who present Christianity and Budddhism as saying practically the same thing, which they do not, and that was what this post was intended to highlight.

If I am wrong, then I was hoping for a Buddhist to put me right ... Earle has offered his own distinctive and knowledgeable view ... and I think we find some common ground in apophatic and cataphatic spirituality (not to mention heroes in common) ... if I have offended, I apologise, but I make no bones in saying that if Theosophy makes as fast and loose with Buddhist doctrine as it does with Christian, then from where I choose to stand there is doubly no reason to continue the dialogue.

Thomas
 
Namaste all,

interesting discussion thus far...

i would be interested in having the questions framed again so i could answer them in a more discrete manner.

that said...

the very axioms upon which the questions are formed are, from the Buddhist point of view, invalid.

let me say this about that... one need not read the understanding of others, one can read the Suttas themselves to see what is said about Nibbana/Nirvana. the Buddha Shakyamuni speaks about it rather plainly in several different places and explains it in both positive and negative terms. i am unclear why the negative is focused on by so many beings in the Western hemisphere.

in any event, i hope that it's not too much to ask to have the questions which spawned this thread summed up for me :)

metta,

~v
 
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