Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Does Buddha Offer and What Does Jesus Offer?

I've been in dialog with several Buddhists from around the world in my blog post "Jesus Outshines Buddha. Read the comments to see our dialog.

From my interaction with them, I've begun to believe that it would be helpful for me and for you, my readers, to encounter some positive comparisons between these very different worldviews. I've heard people say all religions or philosophies teach people how to be better. If so, I want to hear about how, specifically.

I hope and have been praying that this blog post will serve to invite Jesus followers and Buddhists to post comments answering this one question:

How has Jesus or Buddha's teaching impacted your life in a positive way? Within this question is embedded the further interesting query of what attracted you to either Jesus or Buddha's life and teaching rather than the other? The more personal and specific you can be, the more interesting your input will be to all of us.

Try to avoid writing things like, "Jesus has saved me" or "Buddha provided the Noble Truths" instead tell us precisely how you've become a better person and how you've appropriated your religious founder's teaching. For example, if you post about how Jesus has saved you, we all want to know what you mean. What has Jesus saved you from? What does 'salvation' mean to you? Please reference the passages in the Holy Book that back up your beliefs, so we can all learn and read more for ourselves.

Holy Books

Like Christianity, Buddhism has different branches, Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana to mention a few, so let's be open to hearing about varieties within their belief system. For instance, as far as I can tell, Theravada Buddhists believe the canon to be closed with the Pali Canon Tipitaka and Mahayana Buddhists believe the canon is still open to more sacred scriptures. Christians look to the Bible as their holy book, Catholics include a few more books in this body of work, while Protestants a few less. Theravada Buddhists rely on the Pali Canon Tipitaka (includes Buddha's sermons, rules for monks and philosophy), Mahayana Buddhists favor the Lotus Sutra (Saddharma-pundarika) and the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajna-paramita) and other writings, Vajrayana Buddhists use the Kanjur and the Tanjur. So keep an eye out for these holy books in our discussion below.

Defining Terms

To get us started, I'd like to point out that there are significant differences in Buddhists and Christians understanding of things like salvation, enlightenment, death, worldview and the purpose of life. This means it is all the more important for each of us to define our terms.

I'd like to begin by re-quoting a few ideas my new Buddhist friend from Malaysia, Rahula, a knowledgeable blogger who I hope will be posting more of his insights here. To see Rahula's comments on the topic of Buddha and women look 1/2 way down in the comments on Jesus Outshines Buddha.

Enlightenment for a Buddhist means: the extinction of lust, hatred and delusion. (Samyutta Nikaya, 38:1-2). This is the definition given for nibbana and arahant.

In Siddhartha’s case, he is said to attain enlightenment when he had:

i)knowledge of recollection of his past lives;

ii)knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of beings; and finally,

iii)knowledge of the destruction of the taints/defilements (Maha Saccaka Sutta)

Rahula's explanation of enlightenment makes me think harder about what Buddha offers and what Jesus offers. How is Jesus' offer of "abundant life" and "living water"(John 10:10, John 4:13) different from Buddha's of enlightenment?

Rules of Engagement

Anyone can post here, I only ask you all abide by a few rules of respectful engagement in your commenting:

  1. Define your terms: whether they be "sin" or "samsara", "atonement" or "nirvana".
  2. Do ask questions of one another. Seek clarity from people who hold a different worldview than you do, ask them to help you understand better.
  3. Do not patronize, disrespect or in any way belittle other people's beliefs. If you do the latter I will reject your blog post.
  4. I invite you to include your email address at the end of our comment so that if your comment is rejected I can email you the offending section and you might be helped to re-post with offensive material deleted. This will help us all learn how to be more honoring in our discussion.
  5. I promise to carefully read every comment submitted. Since I come to this discussion as a follower of Jesus I want to be extra careful to not favor Christians more than Buddhists. So no matter how incredible your argument, do not insult, patronize or accuse others, if you do I will reject your comment. Ask questions, seek understanding, be willing to find Buddhists or Christians who do not fit what we may have previously believed about each other.
  6. I reserve the right to jump in and direct our conversation away from what appears to me to be a tangent and keep us on topic (the positive benefits of following Jesus or Buddha). My comments may be long or short depending on my job as facilitator. I ask that you, however, limit your responses to one comment to each person you are responding to (~4000 characters- blogger will let you know if your comment is too long). This will ensure our writing prevents us from overwhelming each other with exhausting, multiple comments to each other.
  7. As new comments come up feel free to post additional comments. I do not want to limit the times you post on this blog, but I do want the limit the number of comments you post to one person. We don't want to bombard or monologue each other away from discussion.
  8. If you have every taken a comparative religion class you will have amassed beliefs about other people's worldview. Take care when assuming this means you also understand the entire religion. I have been both falsely accused as believing things Jesus never taught and I have been guilty of accusing others of believing things Buddha never promoted. This blog and the ensuing comments are a place to learn. Please ask questions of one another for clarity, but do not assume you know more than adherents of any religion, unless you ask them first.
  9. If more rules are needed I will highlight them in the comments with "NEW RULE ALERT."
One Way Jesus Has Helped Me

I'll get this started with a few things I've found Jesus has given me.

Jesus has given me steady companionship, someone I can ask questions of and find direction from. He promised he would be a friend to his followers (Matthew 28:20, John 15:15). For instance, I've struggled with lust and Jesus has been someone I can actively engage in my struggle. As I've written in a previous post, I practice inviting Jesus into my lustful thoughts and he works a 180 degree change in my beliefs, thoughts and desires. I find myself not ceasing to have desire for men, but my actual desire changing into hunger to know them as people, noticing the men around me, not in a predatory way, but with new eyes, to see them as made in God's image, valuable and distinctly personal with family, friends and the capacity for dignity.

I invite you to share how your spiritual journey, with either Jesus or Buddha's teaching, has changed your life positively. Let's learn and challenge one another toward truth!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

When Women Carry . . . Handguns: Sergeant Kimberly Munley and Fort Hood

The recent shooting at Fort Hood has left me sober, but also grateful. If you have not heard the story I recommend you read it here:"Hash Browns, Then 4 Minutes of Chaos." Below is a significant section that I want to highlight this morning:

"Kimberly Munley, a 35-year-old police officer, happened to be nearby, waiting for her squad car to get a tune-up, when she heard the commotion. She raced to the scene . . . As she rounded a corner, she saw Maj. Hasan chasing a wounded soldier through an open courtyard. He looked as though he was trying to "finish off" the wounded soldier, Mr. Medley said.

"He looked extremely focused," said Francisco De La Serna, a 23-year-old medic who had fled the building and was watching the same scene unfold from a hiding spot across the street.

Ms. Munley's first shot missed Maj. Hasan. He spun to face her and began charging, Mr. Medley said.

The time was 1:27 p.m., just four minutes after the initial 911 call.

Authorities haven't said precisely how many shots were fired during the running gun battle between Maj. Hasan and Ms. Munley. But one of her shots hit Mr. Hasan in the torso, knocking him to the ground. With that, officials say, she quite likely prevented more injuries or deaths on the base.

Ms. Munley took two bullets to her legs. Both entered her left thigh, ripped through the flesh and lodged in her right thigh. She also received a minor wound to the right wrist.

Specialist De La Serna, the medic hiding across the street, sprinted to the scene as the shooting stopped and put a tourniquet on Ms. Munley, who was fading in and out of consciousness, he said. Then he moved to Maj. Hasan, who had a gunshot wound through the chest.

Ms. Munley underwent surgery Thursday night to halt bleeding and faces at least two more operations to remove the bullets in her thigh." quoted from The Wall Street Journal, to read more from this article or from another in the WSJ "Lethal Rampage at Fort Hood."

In these pictures of Major Hasan and Ms. Munley, both man and woman involved in this gunfight look like kind people. And yet they each took their weapons out to kill one another. This forces me to note an unsettling and significant fact of our fallen world.

When Sergeant Kimberly Munley pulled out her handgun to shoot Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan, a man who had killed 13 and wounded 30, she put herself, a woman, against a man. Without her gun she could not have matched his strength, but with her sidearm she was capable of meeting his aggression.

Ms. Munley makes me think of the unnecessary losses when a man pits his strength against a woman's vulnerability and dominates. Makes me think of the students at Virginia Tech. What if one female student at Virginia Tech, with the same tenacity to run after the assassin as Munley had been permitted to carry concealed weapons? Makes me think of my neighbor whose close friend was hunted down at her own home by a serial murderer and despite a long, physical struggle against him, eventually decapitated in her own home. What if she had had been carrying a concealed weapon and knew how to use it?

What if women were encouraged to know how to use guns, instead of our society relegating guns to violent, dangerous, testosterone-fueled obsessive types?

Munley laid her own life in harm's way to protect those who could no longer protect themselves. She was equipped not only with a weapon but with the courage and skills to protect herself and others. She bent stereotypes and for that I am deeply grateful. I feel my heart quake in me when I think of her running toward Maj. Hasan, drawing his fire away from the wounded. I'm sure she knew she might not come through alive. Still, because she was armed, a woman's strength was on equal ground with a violent man's. It surprises me that there are not more feminist's blogs commenting on the need for women to carry a concealed weapon.

Ms. Munley's heroism and willingness to attack an aggressor, rather than run, speaks to the power a sidearm when held by a capable woman in battle. Because she was trained and armed she was a force powerful enough to stop Maj Hasan.

Upon moving to the woods, a remote region in the Rocky Mountains, Dale and I both filed for concealed carry licenses. We had to take a three hour safety class and then endure fingerprinting and knowing we're under suspicion (you should hear some of our big-city friends when they find out) for the offense of wanting to exercise our Constitutional right (something I thought only fanatical, kooky people every wanted) of carrying our own guns.

Last month we took a handgun defensive training class, in Eastern Oregon at Thunder Ranch. Their goal, "Our primary concern is that people who come to Thunder Ranch® leave with a peace of mind in their heart and head. We strongly hope that they never have to use any of the skills or things learned here for the defense of themselves or their family, but if they do, we want this knowledge to be used confidently and with great vigor."

Still, I was, frankly, afraid. I didn't know my 40 caliber pistol all that well, I was nervous about making a mistake with so much risk at stake and the gun is just LOUD and forceful. Besides, I was 16 weeks pregnant. Was this a wise thing to do? My doctor, surprised at my request, said the baby would be fine and to be careful. If I learned anything at Thunder Ranch it was awe for the power of a gun. We NEVER allowed the gun to point at something we did not want to destroy. I'm more careful now than I was before, but I'm also a heck of a lot more accurate. Dale says he's glad to have me at his side.

Our instruction, Clint Smith, marine corps veteran and police officer, nationally known for training SWAT teams in urban defense, and his wife and one other assistant, helped me and 11 others learn the importance of steady, careful gun drawing, shooting, re-loading, clearing jams and re-holstering. We fired over 800 rounds in 3 days. And I've never met a more conscientious, respectful group of strangers. None of them fit the stereotypes of gun-carrying fanatics. You can, by the way take classes like these all over the nation, but Clint's record of safety (he's had NO accidents and 19,000 clients) and professionalism motivated us to make the trip.

The cost of the class was severe, not only in dollars, but also in energy, strain and fatigue. By the end of each day my pregnant belly, around which I could barely squeeze my belt to hold my holster, were aching. While the class included several couples, I was the only pregnant woman. By the second day I had rubbed my fingers raw with clicking the safety on and off of my handgun. It was very cold most the time (watch the video below to see our breath in the air as we practice a leaning drill to know how to be off balance and shoot around corner). We could not wear gloves, so we would know how the gun felt without any protection. I felt every bump and button, I know how to load and ask for "Cover!" while I'm vulnerable. And Dale and I know how to work as a team. The ear protection helped, but the repetition of drawing, firing, belting out verbal commands to "Get Away" or "Stop" combined with the ceaseless vigilance, left me utterly exhausted at the end of each day. Then we had to pick up all our shells, carefully unload, clean our equipment, then finally off to find some dinner.

While men and their guns has grown into a stereotype mixed with red-necks and caricatures of violence, I know many gun-carrying men (many who attended the class at Thunder Ranch) and women who carry their weapons with humility, respect and utmost safety. I would trust them to defend me. I'm grateful for their willingness to carry a dangerous weapon so others might be safe. So as I move on to catch up with the rest of my life, as I read the week 24 update on my pregnancy, as I think of protecting the lives of those nearest to me, I'm grateful to have a husband who wanted to educate me about concealed carry.

And in light of the sobering murders committed at Fort Hood, I want to salute the women across the country today who bare the disapproval, misunderstanding and mockery of carrying a sidearm, not only for their own safety, but for the love of their fellow men and women.

To read more about the Biblical justification for carrying a handgun see this helpful blog: The Cornered Cat