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Christianity and Buddhism
Christianity and Buddhism

Our True Nature

Monday, November 8, 2021

Christianity and Buddhism

Our True Nature
Monday, November 8, 2021

Father Richard has long said, “We’ve got to get the ‘who’ right.” [1] For Christians, our identity lies in the fact that we are loved by God from the beginning and “hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). Discovering who we are is an important theme in Buddhism as well, as today’s two gifted teachers explain. Tara Brach is a psychologist and Buddhist meditation teacher. She writes of our basic goodness:

For decades a prayer has circulated in the background of my daily life: May I trust my own goodness. May I see the goodness in others. This longing emerged from a deep place of suffering I went through as a young adult. During that dark time, I felt anxious and depressed, separate from the world around me. I was continually judging myself as falling short, not good enough, doubting my basic worth. That of course kept me from feeling close and connected to others and to the world. It blocked me from feeling creative, stopped me from being fully alive.

It feels like grace that this “trance of unworthiness” led me onto a spiritual path [Buddhism] that showed me how to hold myself with compassion. This allowed me to see through the layers of judgment and doubt and to discover beneath them clarity, openness, presence, and love. Increasingly over the years, my trust in this loving awareness as the essence of who we all are has become a guiding light. No matter how wrong or lacking we may feel, how caught in separation, or how trapped by the messages, violations, and inequities of the society we live in, this basic goodness remains the essence of our Being. [2]

Theologian Paul Knitter has explored both Buddhism and Christianity extensively. He writes:

The underlying reason why people keep causing themselves and others so much suffering . . . is because we are ignorant about who and what we really are. Our problem is not an inherent sinfulness but an inherited ignorance. . . . But—and here is the really good news—if ignorance is our fundamental problem, we are dealing with a fixable problem. This problem is not within us as part of our human nature. Rather, it’s around us. . . . The antidote for the ignorance that causes suffering is to wake up to what we really are.

So, what are we really? . . . Following especially Tibetan and Zen teachings, we can say that our true nature, our real nature, is Buddha-nature. [Richard: what Thomas Merton called the “true self” or Christ-self.]  Our real self is not our individual self. Our individual small minds are really part of a big Mind. . . .

Once we wake up to our Buddha-nature, once we realize the Space in which and out of which we live and move and have our being, then nothing, no matter how much it hurts or disappoints or frustrates, can destroy the strength of our inner Peace, of our ability both to endure and to respond to whatever happens. [3]

[1] See Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality (St. Anthony Messenger Press: 2008), 27–51.

[2] Tara Brach, Trusting the Gold: Uncovering Your Natural Goodness (Sounds True: 2021), 1–2.

[3] Paul Knitter and Roger Haight, Jesus and Buddha: Friends in Conversation (Orbis Books: 2015), 41–42.

Story from Our Community:
When I signed up for the daily meditations and read about Shamanism, Islam, Taoism, and Buddhism, I was convinced I was connecting with a heretic! I pressed through the confusion with Fr. Richard’s consistency, transparency, and sincerity. What I fought for for years became mine by love, and not fighting at all. The Daily Meditations are a love letter and I am eternally grateful to Fr. Richard for this expression of Love—and THE Love. —Thomas G.

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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