Skylar Burris's Reviews > Living Buddha, Living Christ

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thích Nhất Hạnh
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May 25, 08

bookshelves: christianity, sampled-abandoned, eastern-religion
Read in April, 2008

I picked up this book because I thought it might give me some interesting insights into both Christianity and Buddhism (as did Zen Spirit, Christian Spirit), but I chose not to complete it after a ways into it, because I found its picture of Christianity to be insubstantial. G.K. Chesterton wasn't writing a review of this book, but he might as well have been when he said that people "are always insisting that Christianity and Buddhism are very much alike...This is generally believed, and I believed it myself until I read a book giving the reasons for it. The reasons were of two kinds: resemblances that meant nothing because they were common to all humanity, and resemblances which were not resemblances at all…That Buddhism approves of mercy or of self-restraint is not to say that it is specially like Christianity; it is only to say that it is not utterly unlike all human existence. Buddhists disapprove in theory of cruelty or excess because all sane human beings disapprove in theory of cruelty or excess. But to say that Buddhism and Christianity give the same philosophy of these things is simply false. All humanity does agree that we are in a net of sin. Most of humanity agrees that there is some way out. But as to what is the way out, I do not think that there are two institutions in the universe which contradict each other so flatly as Buddhism and Christianity."

I certainly agree with the author, a Buddhist monk, that there is insight to be found in all religions, but I don't agree you can or should sample them like a fruit salad. He seems somewhat condescending to those Buddhists and Christians who are shocked that he should have partaken of the Eucharist, but I have to say I find myself on their side; it's one thing to learn about a religion and take what insights you can from it; it's quite another to participate in its most sacred and private rituals without accepting the assumptions behind those rituals. The author rejects the idea that Christ should be regarded as "unique" as being a narrow minded sort of attitude; in short, he rejects the CORE Christian belief that Christ is MORE than any human being as being essential to Christianity before he embarks on his quest to draws parallels between Christianity and Buddhism. This made me skeptical of the value of the parallels from the start.
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Comments (showing 1-5 of 5) (5 new)

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message 1: by booklady (new)

booklady Thank you for an excellent review. I also did not finish this book for many of the same reasons--although I doubt I could have articulated it so well! G. K. Chesterton is a personal favorite and you have quoted him most effectively! I'm also grateful for the way you have explained the importance of understanding/accepting the beliefs behind the practices as an apriori condition to participating in said practices. This seems a critical, yet difficult idea for many to accept. Indeed Buddhism and Christianity do represent two very different worldviews.

Thank you also for the invite.

regards, booklady




Marion In your review you say "The author rejects the idea that Christ should be regarded as "unique" as being a narrow minded sort of attitude"
-- I wondered where / how you got this impression?


message 3: by Skylar (new) - added it

Skylar Burris Marion - he more or less directly says so in the beginning of the book. I don't have the text with me to quote, unfortunately.


message 4: by Chanel (new) - added it

Chanel Earl Great review. Thank you!


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Hello Skylar, I understand what you are saying and I agree that is where Christians differ, He wrote this because of his admiration for Jesus. I think the author was trying to show the similarities between the message of both. If we take it in that light I am very much on board with him, and I think its why many Buddhists marry and do well in relationships with Christians (non fundamentalists anyway). If you have time read "the sun my heart" very short book about 120pgs that give you insight to Thich Nhat Hanh's way of teaching.


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