Taoism and Buddhism
The classic Tao Te Ching . . . reveals how both action and contemplation are paths to experiencing harmony, peace, and unity amidst diversity. —Lama Surya Das (Sunday)
At first light, Siddhartha turned and looked at the day star with awakened eyes, as the Buddha—meaning “the one who is awake”—seeing life the way it really is, free from all projections, all distortions, all delusions, all belief systems. He saw, we might say, the boundary-less, trustworthy nature of what is. —James Finley (Monday)
The Third Noble Truth is that it is possible to be healed from [the propensity for suffering] by learning to live as one with the way life is. This is the truth of nirvana—this way of abiding peace and equanimity in the rise and fall of daily circumstances just as they are. —James Finley (Tuesday)
Buddhism can help Christians to be mystical Christians . . . to realize and enter into the non-dualistic, or unitive, heart of Christian experience—a way to be one with the Father, to live Christ’s life, to be not just a container of the Spirit but an embodiment and expression of the Spirit, to live by and with and in the Spirit, to live and move and have our being in God. —Paul Knitter (Wednesday)
By “being peace,” . . . [Thich Nhat Hanh] means deepening the practice of mindfulness, both formally in regular meditation as well as throughout the day as we receive every person and every event that enters our lives; through such mindfulness we will, more and more, be able to understand . . . whomever we meet or whatever we feel, and so respond with compassion. —Paul Knitter (Thursday)
If we can truly be mind-ful of what is going on in us or around us—that’s how we can find or feel “the Spirit” in it. Then our response to the situation will be originating from the Spirit rather than from our knee-jerk feelings of fear or anger or envy. And whether the response is to endure bravely or to act creatively, it will be done with understanding and compassion—which means it will be life-giving or life-creating. —Paul Knitter (Friday)
Practice: The Four Limitless Qualities
Buddhism identifies Four Limitless Qualities: loving kindness (maitri), compassion, joy, and equanimity. Loving kindness and compassion may appear to be the same, but there are subtle differences. In Buddhism, compassion includes a willingness to identify so fully with someone that you would be willing to carry a little of their suffering. Equanimity may be close to what Christians mean by peace. These four qualities are limitless in that they increase with practice and use. If you don’t choose daily and deliberately to practice loving kindness, it is unlikely that a year from now you will be any more loving. The qualities are also limitless because they are already within you—which beautifully parallels the Christian theology of the Holy Spirit. There is a place in you that is already kind, compassionate, joyful, and equanimous.
Paraphrasing Tibetan Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön, here is a practice for growing loving kindness or maitri. I invite you to set aside a quiet period to go through these simple steps with intention and openness.
- Recognize the place of loving kindness inside yourself. It is there. Honor it, awaken it, and actively draw upon it.
- Drawing upon the source of loving kindness within, bring to mind someone for whom you feel sincere goodwill and tenderness, someone you love very much. From your source, send loving kindness toward this person and bless them.
- Awaken loving kindness for someone who is a casual friend or associate—someone not in your inner circle, but a bit further removed, someone you admire or appreciate. Send love to that individual.
- Now send loving kindness to someone about whom you feel neutral or indifferent—for example, a gas station attendant or a cashier. Send your blessing to this person.
- Think of someone who has hurt you, who has talked evil of you, whom you find it difficult to like or you don’t enjoy being around. Bless them; send this would-be enemy your love.
- Bring all of the first five individuals into the stream of flowing love, including yourself. Hold them here for a few moments.
- Finally, extend this love to embrace all beings in the universe. It is one piece of love, one love toward all, regardless of religion, race, culture, or likability.
This practice can help you know—in your mind, heart, and body—that love is not determined by the worthiness of the object. Love is determined by the giver of the love. These steps can be repeated for the other three limitless qualities. Remember, spiritual gifts increase with use. Love, compassion, joy, and equanimity will grow as you let them flow. You are simply an instrument, a conduit for the inflow and outflow of the gifts of the Spirit. You are “inter-being.”
For Further Study:
Paul F. Knitter, Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian (Oneworld Publications: 2009)
Derek Lin, Tao Te Ching: Annotated and Explained (Skylight Paths Publishing: 2006)
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching (Broadway Books: 1998)