Is Paul a Buddhist?

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit. (1 Thess. 5:16-19)
Is Paul a Buddhist? No, Paul is not a Buddhist. Paul is a leader in the Jesus movement. In the early church, the Jesus movement was a sect, like the Pharisees, within Judaism.
While Paul is not a Buddhist, he certainly is tapping into the eternal wisdom which is found in all religions. Paul was telling the Thessalonians to find joy in everything. He exhorts them to pray without ceasing. He reminds them to give thanks in all circumstances. Otherwise, they will quench the Spirit.
What exactly is Paul talking about? I think we can find guidance in Buddhist practice. Thich Nhat Hahn, the Buddhist teacher from Plum Village in France, teaches us to be mindful. He teaches us to live in the present moment. I remember a book from the 60s which was entitled, Chop Wood, Carry Water. What did the author mean? It was quite simple. When you are chopping wood, chop wood. When you are carrying water, carry water. Thich Nhat Hahn tells us that we are to focus on washing dishes when we are washing dishes. In other words, focus on the task at hand. Focus on the present moment. Be here now.
This is what Paul is telling us when he says that we are to pray without ceasing. Being present to the people around us and to the circumstances we find ourselves in is prayer. Not that we don’t set aside times for formal prayer and especially for contemplation. Time apart is essential; however, unlike people in monasteries, we live in the world. In contemplation we try to place ourselves in the presence of God. We are present to God and God is present to us. When we are engaged in activities and when we focus on the present, on what we are doing at the moment, we are also praying.
The Creator has given us the gift of life. Life is what it is. It is really all that we have at any given moment. As the book of Exodus says, we can choose life or death. When we choose to be mindful, when we choose to be here now, we are choosing life.
Thich Nhat Hahn’s teaching about mindfulness is quite simple. Life gives us breath. We breathe in the air around us. We pause. We then exhale the air. Actually, we do this quite unconsciously. It is a natural instinct.
Amid the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, we can regain mindfulness by focusing on our breathing. When we realize that we are unfocused and not living the present moment, we simply breathe in and out and focus on the inbreath, the pause and the outbreath. We might want to say Je- on the inbreath and -sus on the outbreath—Jesus. In but an instant, we will find out that we are more mindful, more focused, more present.
Paul also taught us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Therefore, we can rejoice always. No matter what is going on in our lives we rest assured of the love of God. Like a shepherd holds the sheep God holds us. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can deprive us of the loving, caring, and compassionate love of God. Nothing! Wherever we are and whatever is happening we are held in that love and hence we can rejoice. Knowing that God is present to us, more present than we are to ourselves, we can pray without ceasing. Understanding that all is gift from the beneficent Creator, we can give thanks in all circumstances.
When we fail to live in the present, we are plagued by the past or troubled by the future. To what avail? The past is over and the future is not here. Why regret the past or worry about the future? When we fail to live in the present, we in effect stifle the Holy Spirit. I have read many explanations of the sin against the Spirit and I am not sure what it really means. Could it be that the sin against the Holy Spirit is the failure to trust in God and to live in the present moment? Look at the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.
Rejoice! Rejoice always! The Creator is flaring forth in the power of the Spirit who is renewing us and the face of the earth. We are living resurrected life in paradise. Let us live in the present. Let us pray always. Let us give thanks in all things.

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