enlightenment

Yesterday was quite the day for me.  I went to three different “worship” services of three different groups of Christians.  It was great to be surrounded by so many people seeking to become connected to the divine.  Each experience was beautiful in its own way, but I want to talk about the one that affected me most yesterday, and that was my experience at the Friends Meeting, a group commonly known as the Quakers.

What was so amazing?  Firstly, I really felt the Holy Spirit’s presence there.  There were no scripture readings, no music, and no pastor or sermon, but there were two amazing things of beauty.

First, there was silence.  And lots of it!  How often do you sit in silence for 20 minutes, as we did to begin the Meeting?  How often do you sit in silence to reflect on what has just been spoken?  In many churches, you are lucky to receive 30 seconds to contemplate a sermon after it is delivered.  Having a chance to be totally present is something I haven’t done in a long, long time, if ever.

Second, there were beautiful words of testimony and hope that made me think on and contemplate God.  One man spoke of Quaker children who went (were forced to go) to Meeting growing up but never came back, mentioning his own son, now 41, as well as people like Dan Boone and Annie Oakley.  But within that, he found hope, and that was something special for me to think about and chew on.

He found his hope in the realization that what he and others in the Society of Friends want most is for each to be led by the Spirit.  For some that might mean going to Meeting, but maybe for many others it means something else.  How does the Spirit move?  Where will the Spirit lead?  Must it always be continued participation in one’s current/first religious/faith tradition?

I’m close to finishing the book Living Buddha, Living Christ, in which the author, Thich Nhat Hanh does some comparative study of Buddhism and Christianity and how they overlap in many ways.  Can one be both Christian and Buddhist?  Is the same Spirit leading both Buddhist and Christians?  Thich Nhat Hanh believes himself a follower of both the Buddha and of Christ.  Is this possibile?

I think in our quest to label everything, we sometimes disregard the fact that different people do the same things differently.  Does this happen in religion, too?  I think one might be able to say that within a certain religion, such as Christianity, enough is similar to make things pretty much the same, but how much “overlap” or “similarity” must one find to make things “pretty much the same?”  As I seek to be led by the Spirit, these are some of the questions I ask.

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3 Responses to enlightenment

  1. Dana Bjorlin says:

    I find all of this very interesting. And, I have NOT read “Living Buddha, Living Christ.”
    But the one thing that does strike me is a seeming disregard shown in something like TNH’s writing for the meta-text of Christianity, namely the Bible. Like it or not, Christians are tied to this meta-text, and in fact are tied to it in an inextricable way.
    True, some will focus this connection in such a way as to demand a type of fundamentalism which may even go so far as to demand that they not depart from a particular translation, such as the King James Version of 1611.
    For others the trick is to differentiate how to use the various parts and strands of the Bible, maybe even choosing to elevate some over others, or to disregard some completely. Either way, one is confronted with seeking to find a consistency with their personal beliefs and that meta-text, or to disregard the inconsistencies altogether and to go on their own.
    Maybe this “consistency” is what you are seeking to describe when you mention “overlap” or “similarity.”
    Certainly other things could could be added to the Bible as “meta-regulators,” such as tradition or authority (such as the pope for Catholics), etc.
    So to ask whether or not it’s possible for one to be both Christian and Buddhist at the same time, you need to go back to one or more of these “meta-regulators” and ask whether or not there is consistency between such a claim and what the “meta-regulators” state.
    While it’s possible for one to claim to be both and impossible for anyone else to dispute it, it must also be said that if the “meta-regulatiors” deny it, then one is on the outside looking in. One would then is only someone making a claim, while the “overlaps” of Christianity (for example) would be denying those claims.

  2. Have you read The Life of Pi by Yann Martel? I love the main character’s mix of religions. Why should he pick just one?

  3. eric bjorlin says:

    I have read Life of Pi and enjoyed part one (before the ocean trip) a lot. (The second part was good, too, but very “meta”.)

    And as for the “meta-regulators,” I tried to talk a bit more about those in my second post on this subject, but I think the idea of “overlap” can only take one so far. There are obvious inconsistencies between religions, but the idea of “picking just one” is something to ponder, too. I think one can “claim” anything, but then obviously those on the “inside” would have their thoughts, too.

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