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Buddha, Christ, and You

At the Philosophers’ Garden in Budapest, I was pleasantly surprised to find Jesus Christ and the Buddha standing beside each other. It seemed fitting to me, since at the time I was reading the book, “Living Buddha, Living Christ” by Thich Nhat Hanh. The book enthralled me. I knew that some similarities existed between Buddhism and Christianity, but I didn’t realize just how many. I was simultaneously shocked and thrilled to see how well the author, a Buddhist monk, could embody and explain the teachings of Christ – much better than most Christians can, I’d dare to say.

I did not expect that a Buddhist monk would be one to lead me back to Christ. Although I never stopped valuing the teachings of Christ, I stopped practicing Christianity. But after reading this book, I felt encouraged to return to my spiritual roots and more closely re-examine the teachings and traditions of Christ. Thich Nhat Hanh wrote that any time people would come to his meditation retreats who were from other religions, he would not try to convert them to Buddhism, but would instead encourage them to embrace what they learned during the retreat and return to their own spiritual roots. He also wrote that you can have roots in more than one tradition; he considered his roots to be both in Buddhism and Christianity.

The fact that a Buddhist monk made me want to return to my Christian roots points to the truth of Christ’s teachings. However, it points to the truth of the Buddha’s teachings as well. Truth transcends traditions. There is no one religion or spiritual tradition which has a monopoly on the truth.

At the core of it all, Christ and the Buddha were teaching the same thing. We shouldn’t be striving to be Christians or Buddhists – the world doesn’t need any more of those. Instead, we should aim to become Christs and Buddhas, embodying their teachings in our daily lives. To be a living Christ is to be a living Buddha. Everyone has the capacity to tap into the Holy Spirit (mindfulness) and live in the Kingdom of Heaven (nirvana) here and now.

Siddhartha Gautama was called “the Buddha,” which means, “enlightened one.” Jesus of Nazareth was called “the Christ,” which means, “anointed one.” Although Siddhartha Gautama and Jesus are no longer living and breathing on the earth, the Buddha and the Christ still can be, through us. We all have the opportunity to become enlightened by awareness; to become anointed by the Holy Spirit. We can all let go of religion and doctrines and instead embrace the real message that these teachers were giving us – love, peace, unity and acceptance. That way, every person can be a living Buddha / living Christ.

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