Saturday, April 11, 2009

An introduction to Buddhism for Christians

I occasionally quote the Buddha and the Dalai Lama, and have found that this makes some of my readers uncomfortable. With apologies both to those who are well versed in Buddhist philosophy and to those who have been taught that Buddhism is a pagan affront to Christianity, I would like to present my two-minute overview of Buddhism.

Siddhattha Gotama, known as the Buddha, lived in India about 500 BC - at the time the second temple was being constructed in Jerusalem. He was a wise teacher, and is revered, but not worshiped, by those of the Buddhist philosophy. He was born into a wealthy family, but left home as a young man to seek insight into the nature of life. At first, he denied himself all earthly goods and pleasures, nearly starving himself. Then he came to the realization that possessions and comforts were not inherently evil and that asceticism (self-denial) was not a path to enlightenment or unity with Spirit. He discovered that the block to enlightenment is ATTACHMENT to the things of this world, rather than the things themselves. This great revelation is known as the Middle Way - living in moderation, without either gluttony or denial, and without attachment.

Buddhists believe that suffering is inherent in life, and that suffering is the result of attachment. Eliminate attachment to the things of this world, and you eliminate suffering.

Over the last 2500 years, Buddhism has spread and has developed variants. Some branches consider the Buddha to be what Catholics would call a "saint," but others do not. Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the current leader of the Tibetan branch of Buddhism. There are about 350 million Buddhists in the world today. I encourage you to read more about Buddhism.

Here are some of my favorite Buddhist quotes:

Hate is never conquered by hate,
Hate is only conquered by love.
- The Buddha

Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.
– The Buddha

You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.
- the Buddha

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.
– The Buddha

What we think, we become. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world.
- the Buddha

Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.
- The Buddha

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle,
and the life of the candle will not be shortened.
Happiness never decreases by being shared.
- The Buddha

I teach one thing and one only:
that is, suffering and the end of suffering.
- The Buddha

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
- Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

The purpose of our lives is to be happy.
- Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

Through violence, you may 'solve' one problem, but you sow the seeds for another.
- Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama

Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

The only reason we don't open our hearts and minds to other people is that they trigger confusion in us that we don't feel brave enough or sane enough to deal with. To the degree that we look clearly and compassionately at ourselves, we feel confident and fearless about looking into someone else's eyes.
- Pema Chodron

Be gentle first with yourself - if you wish to be gentle with others.
- Lama Yeshe

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