Seated Buddha at White Sands Buddhist Center
As I pray the Our Father daily in my morning devotional, I struggle with the up-there-out-there cosmology, the place theology of heaven and earth. Modern cosmology and evolution in particular cause us to wonder whether God is not always above creation but also immersed (I think the theological word is incarnate) in the unfolding cosmos. The original oxygen, hydrogen and carbon—the stardust—is of the Godhead. God is with us and in us. God dwells in our hearts, a code word for the deep, dark depths of our being which is in the very image of the Godhead. We are created in the image and likeness of God. The incarnate Christ affirmed this in the second creation—Jesus’ birth. Paul got it, “I live. Now no longer I but Christ lives within me.” Buddhists speak of bodi nature—another code word for the divine arising within the human. Christians have saints; Buddhists have bodhisattvas.
The Christ became human so that we might become divine. Is this not a call to higher consciousness? Mystics of all ages call us to awake. Recently, Pope Francis told a group of men’s religious superiors that their function and indeed the function of church is to call the world to awake. We are to awake to higher consciousness. In the story of Samuel, we find out that the Israelites (and indeed many Christians today) did not get it. They wanted a king so they could be like every other nation. God relented. Knowing that a king would enslave them to the values of this world, the people still wanted a king. Their progeny rejected a king who would have the stand apart from the things of the world—“My kin-dom is not of this world.” Our kin-dom is not of this world. We are to awake and as we awake we will realize that power, riches and security are not kin-dom stuff.
The rest of the Our Father I have constructed is self explanatory. A word about precepts. I would say that the precepts of Jesus are in the Sermon on the Mount and through the Gospels, especially in the lessons from the parables.
Sometimes these get too familiar and it serves us well to look at what is true and good in other belief systems. In my recent weekend retreat at White Sands Buddhist Center, I came to a knowledge of basic Buddhist beliefs. Buddhists take refuge in the Buddha, the dharma, and the sanga. Buddha is again self explanatory. Dharma represents the teachings of the Buddha and sanga refers to the community. They speak of the Buddha nature within us while we Christians speaks of the Christ within us. Many Christian practitioners (Johnston of Japan, Bede Griffiths of India, and Thomas Merton of America) have found that Buddhist practices enhance Christian daily living.
Karl Rahner once perceived as a stoic German theologian who wrote in long undiscernible Ciceronian sentences was indeed a mystic. He dwelled on the mysticism of everyday, routine living. We find the divine in the very ordinary (incarnation to the max). Buddha taught that suffering is the cause of all our problems. Suffering comes from craving. Once we eliminate the cravings, we find true happiness. One Buddhist described happiness as a deep sense of peace and well-being. This is the very definition of the Hebrew word shalom. We get rid of suffering by taking refuge and agreeing to following the five precepts—which in the Rahnerian sense are prescriptive for our daily practice.
The five precepts for Buddhist laypersons are:
Observance of the five precepts constitutes the minimum moral obligation of a practicing lay Buddhist. These five precepts enjoin against killing living beings, taking what is not given (or stealing), sexual misconduct, false speech, and use of intoxicating drink or drugs.
The practice of Buddhist moral precepts deeply affects one’s personal and social life. The fact that they represent a course of training which one willingly undertakes rather than a set of commandments willfully imposed by a God or supreme being is likely to have a positive bearing upon one’s conscience and awareness. On the personal level, the precepts help one to lead a moral life and to advance further on the spiritual path. Moreover, popular Buddhism believes that the practice of morality contributes to the accumulation of merits that both support one in the present life and ensure happiness and prosperity in the next. On the social level, observing the five precepts helps to promote peaceful coexistence, mutual trust, a cooperative spirit, and general peace and harmony in society. It also helps to maintain an atmosphere which is conducive to social progress and development, as we can see from the practical implications of each precept.
The first precept admonishes against the destruction of life. This is based on the principle of goodwill and respect for the right to life of all living beings. By observing this precept one learns to cultivate loving kindness and compassion. One sees others’ suffering as one’s own and endeavors to do what one can to help alleviate their problems. Personally, one cultivates love and compassion; socially, one develops an altruistic spirit for the welfare of others.
The second precept, not to take things which are not given, signifies respect for others’ rights to possess wealth and property. Observing the second precept, one refrains from earning one’s livelihood through wrongful means, such as by stealing or cheating. This precept also implies the cultivation of generosity, which on a personal level helps to free one from attachment and selfishness, and on a social level contributes to friendly cooperation in the community.
The third precept, not to indulge in sexual misconduct, includes rape, adultery, sexual promiscuity, paraphilia, and all forms of sexual aberration. This precept teaches one to respect one’s own spouse as well as those of others, and encourages the practice of self-restraint, which is of utmost importance in spiritual training. It is also interpreted by some scholars to mean the abstention from misuse of senses and includes, by extension, non-transgression on things that are dear to others, or abstention from intentionally hurting other’s feelings. For example, a young boy may practice this particular precept by refraining from intentionally damaging his sister’s dolls. If he does, he may be said to have committed a breach of morality. This precept is intended to instill in us a degree of self-restraint and a sense of social propriety, with particular emphasis on sexuality and sexual behavior.
The fourth precept, not to tell lies or resort to falsehood, is an important factor in social life and dealings. It concerns respect for truth. A respect for truth is a strong deterrent to inclinations or temptation to commit wrongful actions, while disregard for the same will only serve to encourage evil deeds. The Buddha has said: “There are few evil deeds that a liar is incapable of committing.” The practice of the fourth precept, therefore, helps to preserve one’s credibility, trustworthiness, and honor.
The last of the five Buddhist moral precepts enjoins against the use of intoxicants. On the personal level, abstention from intoxicants helps to maintain sobriety and a sense of responsibility. Socially, it helps to prevent accidents, such as car accidents, that can easily take place under the influence of intoxicating drink or drugs. Many crimes in society are committed under the influence of these harmful substances. The negative effects they have on spiritual practice are too obvious to require any explanation. (http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma2/5precepts.html) [Follow this link for a more detailed explanation]
Together with the precepts of Jesus, these Buddhist precepts help us to AWAKE! Christian centering prayer and Buddhist breathing and/or walking meditation daily help us to awake.
Thus we pray:
Our Creator and Sustainer who dwells in the dark depths of our being, your name is holy, your kin-dom is in our hearts where your will is being done in the deeds being done because you are ever calling us to higher consciousness. Give us the bread we need for this day. Forgive us as we forgive others. Do not let selfish wants distract us. Deliver us from all impediments to greater union with you by teaching us to follow the precepts which give life. For yours is the kin-dom, the power and the glory of resurrected life now and in the future. AMEN.