Buddha and Christ Consciousness

Buddha and Christ Consciousness2 imageBuddha and Christ consciousness dialogues exhibit the ecumenical path (promoting unity among the world’s religions).  One such interdenominational initiative was the Buddha and Christ consciousness dialog that started in Japan in the 1960s, eventually developing into Shinmeikutsu, a Zen-Christian monastery outside Tokyo. This monastery has produced some notable teachers, some of whom reside in the United States today.

This ecumenical Buddha and Christ Consciousness dialog, especially between Zen and Christianity, continues. To this day, for instance, a Benedictine monk regularly visits a northern California Zen monastery to hold a public conversation with a Zen priest about the similarities and differences between East and West.

The Mundane and the Sacred: Going Through the Dharma Gate

But what of the conflict and difficulty that exist in our lives as we pursue our “path with heart”? What is to be done when once more, as we try to deal with our shadow side, it appears that things fall apart and no longer work?

Buddha and Christ Consciousness imageAn answer to that question could lie in the Shambhala spiritual warrior tradition, which turns toward and not away from that which is not wanted. The tradition was promulgated by Trungpa Rinpoche, one of the more charismatic Tibetan Buddhist teachers to immigrate to the USA. Buddhism teaches that difficulty is often a “dharma gate”: the entrance into enlightenment. Of all our difficulties, what seems the most onerous is our clash with others’ difficulties, especially those with whom we’re in intimate relationships. In modern conflict resolution, conflict isn’t about the other; it’s rather nature’s way of informing our understanding of those parts of our personalities that we’re in conflict with but would rather avoid. This resistance can manifest itself as an inability to connect with teachings that require us to change.

Many of the world’s spiritual paths suggest that deep mystical teachings will not resonate with us unless we’ve already done the hard preparatory work. The problem is we have to be ready to change, and only a visceral connection with those spiritual tectonic plates that herald deep change can instigate readiness. By itself, the brain doesn’t recognize such shifts, so we have to rely on some other way of working within our interconnected, interdependent reality.

Richard Rohr, in his contemplation from March 18th, 2015 says: “A paradox is something that initially looks like a contradiction, but if you go deeper with it and hold it longer or at a different level, it isn’t necessarily so. Holding out for a reconciling third, a tertium quid, allows a very different perspective and gives a different pair of eyes beyond mere either/or. You’d think Christians would have been prepared for this. Notice that Jesus in many classic icons is usually holding up two fingers as if to say, “I hold this seeming contradiction together in my one body!” Jesus is the living paradox, which, frankly, confounds and disturbs most of us. Normally humans identify with only one side of any seeming contradiction (“dualistic thinking” being the norm among humans). For Jesus to be totally human would logically cancel out the possibility that he is also totally divine. And for us to be grungy human beings would cancel out that we are children of God. Only the mystical, or non-dual mind, can reconcile such a creative tension.

That’s why Jesus is our icon of transformation! That’s why we say we are saved “in him.” We have to put together what Jesus put together. The same reconciliation has to take place in my soul. I have to know that I am a son of earth and a son of heaven. You have to know that you are a daughter of God and a daughter of earth at the same time, and they don’t cancel one another out.”

Consciousness of this is what I understand to be “Christ consciousness”: that we are conscious that Jesus is our model of human and God both combined in us, and we manifest this consciousness by realizing it.  (Please note that as I’m using the word, realization is completely different from understanding.  Realization is at all three levels, mind, heart and gut, while understanding is only intellectual).

Buddha consciousness is very similar, in that the same dichotomy is held in realization: that we are individuals and at the same time the One, represented as Buddha nature.  So while we are unable to eat someone else’s dinner for them, we are at the same time One, the same as they are.

Zen says: “not one, not two”.  Therefore, both at the same time.

I’ve heard a good metaphor for this. A wave is generated on the west side of the Pacific Ocean, and travels 5,000 miles eastward.  As it approaches the rocks of the coast of North America, it cries out to others, anticipating its death.  But another wave, washing back from that shore, comforts the wave, reminding it that even as it ceases to be an individual wave, it is still an indivisible part of the ocean.

Above all, this is a novel, a story of one man’s spiritual journey. It interplays between the mundane and the sacred. Sometimes they appear separate, unrelated; other times they appear as one. I hope you find the story rewarding.