Zen Buddhism Supports Christian Faith

A Jesuit Priest is a good teacher of Zen. In his book Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit: The Place of Zen in Christian Life (Continuum), Father Robert Kennedy shares his discovery that the interplay of traditional Christian beliefs with the study of Zen leads to a new way of being Catholic by rooting faith in the whole person and not just the head. He learned firsthand that Zen is not a religion but a way of viewing life that can enhance any faith. Zen leads to self-knowledge, deeper prayer, and a livelier service to others.

Zen’s path to salvation encourages each person to discover the Buddha nature within oneself and all things. The journey of discovery leads to unity with the living, dynamic, formless source of all existence. One achieves the goal not by formal teaching but only through experience. We liberate our minds from preconceived concepts and illusions about the world and about who we are through meditation. Parallel ideas from Christian traditions come from contemplative prayer and mysticism which point to the God beyond our normal images of God and help Christians discover a new sense of personal identity as they experience themselves to be a part of the whole.

Zen teaches that the Absolute is contained in everything, even the smallest pebble. Similarly, Christ is fully present in the Eucharist. Also, Jesus taught that by helping the hungry and sick we are also helping Him.

The response to the Zen puzzle, "Where did the holy ones of the past go?" is simply, "What?" The implication that one can not separate the holy from the non-holy in life reminds Christians not to focus so much on holy places and holy times that they remove the sacred from the here and now and all ordinary life activities.

A Zen student tries to explain his experience by quoting another Zen master. The student is told that he has missed the point. Christians are taught not to imitate Christ in a literal way but to allow the Christ spirit to flow through all their actions. "I live, now not I, but Christ lives in me."

Zen teaches that "if you see the Buddha along the road, kill him." The message of seeking the Buddha nature within oneself and not projecting it onto someone outside onself. One is to discover and express one’s essential Buddha or Christ nature.

The Edgar Cayce readings tell us that there is truth in all religions. Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit invites us to discover how Zen truths enhance our spiritual journeys.

(Digest by Kieth VonderOhe, Atlantic University.)