Book Discussion - "Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers"

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tinythinker
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Book Discussion - "Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers"

Post by tinythinker » Mon Feb 18, 2008 1:44 pm

I am posting this thread in case anyone has or might one day read the book mentioned in the title. I sometimes find it interesting to read the comments made in ratings at places such as Amazon.com. In this case, many of the lesser or poor ratings came from people who were wanting or expecting the book to "be" on thing or to give them something and it turned out to offer something else instead. I find that to be a common theme among negative reviews in general.

I was also unsurprised that while many Christians and Buddhists did like it, some from each religious affiliation didn't like it because they felt that the picture presented of their own tradition was too simplistic. But what was being represented? I find that having dug into Christian theology and then having dug into Buddhist cosmology, from what I can tell the most important lessons really are simple. Yes, there is this sophisticated system of this and that with a variety of meanings and implications for the interpretation of blah blah blah under these circumstnaces yada yada yada. Such systems have their place and purpose, but they can also obscure that which they were supposed to clarify if we are not careful.

I am not saying this book is flawless. But ironically, if I had read this book last year, or two years ago, or three, I might have felt the same way as many of the critics. Too simple, or too much seemingly unrelated or circular discussions (note - this is a collection of transcribed dharma talks, which accounts for some of the repetition). But it's ironic, you know, you get really into satisfying this intellectual need to make sense of topic "A", and then ponder the deep philosophical connection to topic "B", and to try to get to the bottom of things. And then it hits you, that much of that complexity in doctrine or in description was put there to satisfy our own need to explore and to examine and complicate things, not because the teachings themselves require such mental gymnastics.

So while it is true that TNH does simplify some teachings for the sake of his audience and for the sake of clarity, this is no different than what many teachers do. But if we say, "I know more than that about some of the things he is discussing so this teaching must be too easy for me" or "I know more than that about some of the things he is discussing so I must already know this", we run a big risk. I myself have as an instructor left out some details in order to try to get a certain notion across, and just because you already knew the details I left out does not at all mean that you "got" what I was trying to say. On such an ocassion there was a chance for my students to go beyond what they already thought they knew, and some took it and others left it alone.

I think the same thing is very true here. If you simply say, "I already have a more detailed or complicated knowledge of Buddhism or Christianity than what seems to be presented in this book", I there is a very real chance you have missed the boat, so to speak. It's like those situations where the truly accomplished or insightful can "get it" with a few words, where for the rest, no amount of concepts and formulations is ever enough. I have definitely been in the latter category, and it is with that group that I identify, not with the truly accomplished or insightful. And yet, for all of that, I am "ready" to hear some of the deeper meanings and realize the more subtle insights presented in a book like this. It's the same kind of thing I've heard and "learned" over and over, and then every so often I "get it". Not entirely, but just a bit more than before.

So perhaps I was simply "ready" to read this book, having explored and practiced Buddhism and having read excerpts from Tillich about "Ground of Being" and "Grace" or whole works by folks such as Fr. Thomas Keating. So I cannot know that you will appreciate it, but I do think it describes in a very accessible way how one can see Christianity from a Buddhist perspective. If you have or do get a chance to read it, I would be interested in what you make of it.

(I particularly wonder what Metacrock would think of it given his range of views on mysticism and other religions.)
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Re: Book Discussion - "Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers"

Post by Metacrock » Tue Feb 19, 2008 9:55 pm

tinythinker wrote:I am posting this thread in case anyone has or might one day read the book mentioned in the title. I sometimes find it interesting to read the comments made in ratings at places such as Amazon.com. In this case, many of the lesser or poor ratings came from people who were wanting or expecting the book to "be" on thing or to give them something and it turned out to offer something else instead. I find that to be a common theme among negative reviews in general.

I was also unsurprised that while many Christians and Buddhists did like it, some from each religious affiliation didn't like it because they felt that the picture presented of their own tradition was too simplistic. But what was being represented? I find that having dug into Christian theology and then having dug into Buddhist cosmology, from what I can tell the most important lessons really are simple. Yes, there is this sophisticated system of this and that with a variety of meanings and implications for the interpretation of blah blah blah under these circumstnaces yada yada yada. Such systems have their place and purpose, but they can also obscure that which they were supposed to clarify if we are not careful.

I am not saying this book is flawless. But ironically, if I had read this book last year, or two years ago, or three, I might have felt the same way as many of the critics. Too simple, or too much seemingly unrelated or circular discussions (note - this is a collection of transcribed dharma talks, which accounts for some of the repetition). But it's ironic, you know, you get really into satisfying this intellectual need to make sense of topic "A", and then ponder the deep philosophical connection to topic "B", and to try to get to the bottom of things. And then it hits you, that much of that complexity in doctrine or in description was put there to satisfy our own need to explore and to examine and complicate things, not because the teachings themselves require such mental gymnastics.

So while it is true that TNH does simplify some teachings for the sake of his audience and for the sake of clarity, this is no different than what many teachers do. But if we say, "I know more than that about some of the things he is discussing so this teaching must be too easy for me" or "I know more than that about some of the things he is discussing so I must already know this", we run a big risk. I myself have as an instructor left out some details in order to try to get a certain notion across, and just because you already knew the details I left out does not at all mean that you "got" what I was trying to say. On such an ocassion there was a chance for my students to go beyond what they already thought they knew, and some took it and others left it alone.

I think the same thing is very true here. If you simply say, "I already have a more detailed or complicated knowledge of Buddhism or Christianity than what seems to be presented in this book", I there is a very real chance you have missed the boat, so to speak. It's like those situations where the truly accomplished or insightful can "get it" with a few words, where for the rest, no amount of concepts and formulations is ever enough. I have definitely been in the latter category, and it is with that group that I identify, not with the truly accomplished or insightful. And yet, for all of that, I am "ready" to hear some of the deeper meanings and realize the more subtle insights presented in a book like this. It's the same kind of thing I've heard and "learned" over and over, and then every so often I "get it". Not entirely, but just a bit more than before.

So perhaps I was simply "ready" to read this book, having explored and practiced Buddhism and having read excerpts from Tillich about "Ground of Being" and "Grace" or whole works by folks such as Fr. Thomas Keating. So I cannot know that you will appreciate it, but I do think it describes in a very accessible way how one can see Christianity from a Buddhist perspective. If you have or do get a chance to read it, I would be interested in what you make of it.

(I particularly wonder what Metacrock would think of it given his range of views on mysticism and other religions.)

I would like to read it. I wish I had time. It sounds like a good idea. I am betting a lot of people feel threated by it. A lot of Christians know nothing about Buddhism and feel threatened by anything not Christian. "he must be saying something bad about Jesus somewhere." That's probably what they would feel. or the feel compelled to see Buddha as a bad guy since he was "deceived by the devil."

I generally don't like comparison it's too like compare and contrast, freshman comp assignments, But the idea of examining Christ and Buddha in light of each others seems interesting. I think you should get to a point where it all gets simple again. If you are really advanced the hugely complex structures of faith that have built up over life time will collapse like they did for Aquinas, and you go "it's all bs, I don't know anything." then it becomes very simple and clear and nice.

I am reminded of a PBS show that aired just days after I got saved. It always meant a lot to me to watch it because it was my first real exposure to mysticism and it featured Jacob Needleman who was a sociologist of religion we had been studying in soc of rel class(he was very big in the 70s). The commentator (I don't think it was needleman, but he was on it) had spoken with monks of the Romaninan orothdox chruch and with Buddhists, and with baptists and all. He said "if I got all the people from these traditions that I spoke with together in this room I doubt they would have much to say to each other.I think they would smile a lot and probably offer each other tea." It ended with the focuss on the camera upon the boiling tea pot.

I've always remebed that because it seemed interesting to me to be so confident in your own thing that you don't have to convert other or see those of their traditions as enemies; yet you can share and realize you are experiencing the same things and yet remain committed to your own way. It seemed so neat to me, as the alternative to my Church of Christ upbringing. IT seemed like that's the way it should be.
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