10 February 2008

Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

From the author of the best-selling Living Buddha, Living Christ comes a journey into healing one of the greatest wounds of our time: alienation from our own spiritual traditions.

Living Buddha, Living Christ opened the door to a dialogue between Christianity and Buddhism. Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers takes us on a journey into the practice of revitalized Christianity. Living Buddha, Living Christ, Buddha and Jesus say "hello" to each other. In Going Home, they sit down together and have a lengthy conversation. They ask each other for advice. They talk about how they can be united. They demonstrate their theological convergence. They talk about each others' prayers, rituals, and forms of practice.

Thich Nhat Hanh celebrates the life-affirming roots of two ancient spiritual traditions. As he says, "Redemption and resurrection are neither words nor objects of belief. They are our daily practice. We practice in such a way that Buddha is born every moment of our daily life, that Jesus Christ is born every moment of our daily life."

When it comes to contemplation and living the monastic life, both Buddhism and Christianity share many similarities. Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese monk and poet, explores these commonalities in many books, but this one is a quiet, easy-to-read summary of his insights in the matter.

The book (Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers) is perhaps easier to read than some of his others because it is largely a compilation of talks he has given to groups of pilgrims at his retreat house in Paris. So, while reading it, one has a sense of hearing the voice of this very gentle, learned man. Hanh draws interesting comparisons between the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in Christianity and the discipline of mindfulness in Buddhism.

The Christian monastic father, St. Benedict of Nursia, for instance, asks us to treat kitchen utensils as if they were the vessels of the altar. Hahn urges us to eat slowly and mindfully. Then, he says, even a simple bit of toast and warm milk can seem like a sumptuous meal.

Hanh also delves into his other familiar themes: how to cope with our anger, how fear of the other leads to conflict, and how we can make compassion a daily spiritual practice.

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