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Center for Action and Contemplation

Disciples of Love

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Interfaith Friendship

Disciples of Love
Tuesday, December 5, 2017

True, what Christians are after is different from what Buddhists are after. For Christians, it’s identification with the Christ-Spirit. For Buddhists, it’s realizing their Buddha-nature. And yet, both of these very different experiences have something in common: they are unitive, non-dualistic, mystical experiences in which we find that our own identity is somehow joined with that which is both more than, and at the same time one with, our identity. —Paul F. Knitter [1]

“Putting on the mind of Christ” . . . [is] what we are actually supposed to be doing on this path: not just admiring Jesus, but acquiring his consciousness. —Cynthia Bourgeault [2]

In my (Richard’s) view, we would do better if we had the faith of Jesus (open, humble, trusting toward God and reality) instead of simply having faith in Jesus (which history has shown usually becomes competitive and sectarian).

Today James Finley, one of CAC’s core faculty members, continues reflecting on interfaith friendship:

When we seek what is truest in our own tradition, we discover we are one with those who seek what is truest in their tradition. There is a point of convergence where we meet each other and we recognize each other as seekers of awakening.

In order to do this, it’s important to understand the distinction between exoteric and esoteric aspects of religion. Exoteric qualities are the specific sets of beliefs, customs, rituals, and traditions that make each religion unique. We are not attempting to blur the line between religions at this level. As Thomastic philosopher Jacques Maritain (1906-1973) says, “distinguish to unite.” [3] Being clear about the Gospel of Jesus allows us to have a meaningful conversation with a Buddhist who is very clear about the Dharma. How could that not be good for all concerned? (Unfortunately, many Christians—both liberals and conservatives—are not at all clear about their own essential Gospel.)

Esoteric qualities have to do with transformation of hearts. In the free fall into the boundless abyss of God, we meet one another, beyond all distinctions. This is the oneness that includes and is not limited by differences.

In the Christian Scripture Paul writes, “May the mind that is in Christ Jesus also be in you” (Philippians 2:5). This is the truest depth of our Christian tradition, what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus. We are called to recognize, surrender to, and ultimately be identified with the mystery of God utterly beyond all concepts, all words, and all designations. This is our destiny.

And, what’s more, we are to realize that this destiny—the boundless, oceanic, birthless, deathless mystery of God—is manifesting itself and giving itself to us completely in every breath and heartbeat. If we fully experienced the generosity of God loving us into existence, we would then bear witness to that realization by the way we treat ourselves, others, and all living things. There is a way to do this that will not compromise our faith in our own tradition but enrich it.

Gateway to Silence:
We are already one.

[1] Paul F. Knitter, Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian (Oneworld: 2009), 155. Emphasis in original.
[2] Cynthia Bourgeault, The Wisdom Jesus: Transforming Heart and Mind—a New Perspective on Christ and His Message (Shambhala: 2008), 29.
[3] This is the original title of Maritain’s seminal book, The Degrees of Knowledge, first published in 1932.

Adapted from James Finley, Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening, disc 2 (Center for Action and Contemplation: 2008), CD, DVD, MP3 download.

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