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Center for Action and Contemplation
Christianity and Buddhism
Christianity and Buddhism

A Path of Awakening

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Christianity and Buddhism

A Path of Awakening
Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Unlike Jesus, who was born into a lower class, Siddhartha Gautama (who became the Buddha) renounced his high caste in the process of his transformation. Both teachers understood that our true inner nobility has nothing to do with external circumstances. Buddhist teachers Pamela Ayo Yetunde and Cheryl Giles explain:

The formerly noble Buddha proclaimed that nobility is not about caste but is about how one lives one’s life to awaken from ignorance, hatred, and greed. . . . Nobility, in the Buddhist sense, means releasing ourselves from the social constructs that blind us to the truth, positioning ourselves to receive the truth, accept the truth, and learn to live equanimously with the truth. [1]

Yetunde and Giles explore how Buddhism’s path of awakening is relevant to African Americans and people who have been oppressed and had their inner nobility denied:

Buddhism emerged from a caste-oriented culture in which a powerful man of color renounced his power, woke up to his delusions, grew in compassion, and committed himself to teaching a way of life for all to awaken. His teachings, at their root, were caste-disorienting. In other words, Buddhism is a path to de-caste or decolonize one’s mind while simultaneously helping oneself build resilience against trauma. . . .

The system is now called the Noble Eightfold Path . . . and studies have shown that implementing the Path supports psychospiritual resilience against prejudice, oppression, alienation, and trauma. What is the Path?

To understand the path, it helps to understand the four conclusions the economically and politically privileged Siddhartha Gautama . . . came to after years of undertaking ascetic practices to try to avoid human frailty:

  1. Suffering is real and shared throughout humanity.
  2. There are discernible causes for this suffering.
  3. These causes can be transformed and terminated.
  4. The way to transform and terminate the causes is through the path. . . .

The last Truth is divided into an eight-part system: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. [2]

During a 2008 CAC conference on Jesus and Buddha, Living School teacher James Finley reflected on the transformation possible for someone who lives the path of the Four Noble Truths:  

As we walk this walk day by day, as the weeks and months go by, we are already beginning to find our way. We are already on a path of self-transformation, a path of liberation, but we seek clear guidance. What am I to do? How can I, in the intimacy of my own lived experience, actually experience this liberation [that] my heart knows is true? . . . I know even now that God is all and all that I really am. How do I concretely, day by day, devote myself to this awakening path, so that through my presence others might be awakened and set out on their awakening path? . . . This is the Eightfold path. [3]

[1] “Buddhism as a Path of Trauma Resilience for Anti-Racism Activists,” editors’ introduction to Black & Buddhist: What Buddhism Can Teach Us about Race, Resilience, Transformation and Freedom, ed. Pamela Ayo Yetunde and Cheryl A. Giles (Shambhala: 2020), 2, 3.

[2] Yetunde and Giles, 1, 2.

[3] James Finley and Richard Rohr, Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening, disc 5 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), CD, DVD, MP3 download.

Story from Our Community:
How do we swap our “ordinary” minds to a deeper mind? It’s never about being right or wrong, but about surrendering to a deeper mind that’s always with us no matter how much we try to keep it at bay. We can call it Christ Consciousness, Holy Spirit, Buddha Mind, Adishakti, or any number of things. No matter what we call it, it needs no vocabulary, and tapping into it is the thing we’re drawn to no matter the word we use. —Rich J.

Learn more about the Daily Meditations Editorial Team.

Image credit: Rose B. Simpson, Reclamation II (detail), 2018, sculpture.
We featured the artist of these sculptures, Rose B. Simpson, at our recent CONSPIRE conference—so many of us were impacted by her creations that we decided to share her work with our Daily Meditations community for the month of November.
Image Inspiration: This piece is of a series of reclamation and it’s about finding our identities and our empowerment in our histories and stories and timelines and how do we apply that to our beings in order to become whole. —Rose B. Simpson, CONSPIRE Interview, 2021
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