Sunday, March 23, 2008

Resurrection is the Heart of Buddhism

From Parallels Between Buddhism and Christianity, a talk given by Shinzen Young:

My teacher Sasaki Roshi used to quite regularly hold Zen retreats at a Trappist Monastery where Father Thomas Keating used to be the abbot. He would go in and put on the Trappist robes and he'd make up Christian kōans for the monks.

The first kōan he gave them was What is your experience of God when you make the sign of the cross?

He would also describe Buddhism in terms of Christianity. He would ask them questions like What was Jesus's experience of God when he was on the cross?

He would say, "Resurrection is the heart of Buddhism. Unless you understand about resurrection, you cannot understand what Buddhism is about. Dying is the easy part. The resurrection is the hard part. Any religion that doesn't teach resurrection is a false religion." He was talking about his own experience which is why he would say it with such conviction.

Do you understand what he meant when he said resurrection is the heart of Buddhism? Well, it goes back to the experience of no self and full self. Allowing the self to dissolve is half of the enlightenment experience. Allowing the self to reform without interference, that's resurrection, isn't it?

Thomas Merton wrote, "All the paradoxes about the contemplative way are reduced to this one: being without desire means being lead by a desire so great that it is incomprehensible. It's too huge to be completely felt. It's a blind desire, which seems like a desire for nothing. Only because nothing can content it. And because it is able to rest in no thing, then it rests, relatively speaking, in emptiness. But not in emptiness as such, emptiness for it's own sake, actually there's no such entity as pure emptiness. And the merely negative emptiness of the false contemplative is a thing, not a nothing."

[It's very true. In other words, the negative emptiness, empty in the sense of your bank account is empty, that's not the emptiness that the meditator is talking about. That's actually a thing.]

"True emptiness is that which transcends all things and yet is imminent in all. For what seems to be emptiness in this case is pure being. But it's not this or that. Whatever you say of it, it is other than what you say. The character of emptiness, at least for a Christian contemplative, is pure love, pure freedom. Love that is free of everything, not determined by any thing or held down by any special relationship. It's love for love's sake. It's a sharing through the Holy Spirit in the infinite charity of God. And so when Jesus told his disciples to love, he told them to love as universally as the Father who sends rain alike on the just and the unjust. This purity, freedom, and indeterminateness of love is the very essence of Christianity."