Sunday, October 16, 2005

Corresponding with a Christian

At the link above, you can find the extensive response from Mac to my "Epistle to the Christians" posted three days ago. His blog is Doghouse Ministries. Mac kindly asked if I would in turn respond. I'm afraid that this is all I can contribute for now:

Again thanks for your response -- which fulfills the meaning of responsibility and also of correspondent: co-responding in equal responsibility for what will have been said.
I'm very surprised to learn that you wrote all that in a 90 minute torrent of words. If you're doing that without benzedrine or gallons of caffiene, then it must be pure inspiration and preparation. I write more slowly and lose track of time. And time I don't have enough of, what with work and all the rest. (Maybe too much rest!)
I love how you brought in the bit about another bus story to complicate my bus story. That's an example of preparation and inspiration working together. And I think I should learn more about your phrase "Depth Pluralism". Different traditions or approaches both overlap and remain unique at the same time. We shouldn't get too hung up on one or the other extreme. Christianty shares similarities and differences with Buddhism. But my further point is that Zen shares similariities and differences with Buddhism itself. You've studied enough to discover that there are so many different types of Christians and Christianities going around; much the same for Buddhism. Most people on the street remain at a very simplistic version of "faith" in most traditions. They are shocked to discover that Zen turns out to be so very different in its aims.
Some Buddhists believe that because Jesus arrived historically after the Buddha, that therefore he must have been the Maitreya, the promised coming Buddha of the future. But this is falling into theological speculation and doctrine, to which Zen remains indifferent. What does it matter if we were to answer yes or no? We're still right back where we started as individuals. Enlightened masters on the other hand remain silent on such issues. Those who speak do not know; those who know do not speak. That much is abundantly clear when you watch the TV preachers!
Jesus occasionally sounded a lot like the Buddhist sutras, so perhaps he'd read or heard some. They were around for about 500 years during his day, although it is doubtful that they were easily available in Palestine. If you read the excluded "Gospel According to Saint Thomas" you get something closer to a Zen Jesus, or a least a mystical Jesus instead of just a Jewish revolutionary prophet. On other occasions, Jesus did not sound at all like anything in Buddhism, much less in Zen.
But "Depth Pluralism" resonates with the attitude of the masters. The key plurality or differences that remain are for me those issues I raised -- faith in an authority of revealed truth and tradition, vesus faith as a mode just to get you into your own spiritual illumination, after which _faith_ becomes the wrong term. And, the historical disaster of the desert religious theology. Etc.
I'm late for appointments here, so in closing I'll say that you are my kind of Christian! Stop by if you're ever in Taipei.


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