Zen and the enlighenment of Christians

I have often been asked to recommend an introductory book–to Thomas Merton, to meditation, to Christianity. Recently a friend lent me a book she had enjoyed: Resurrecting Jesus–Embodying the Spirit of a Revolutionary Mystic, by Adyashanti. He is a teacher in the Zen tradition, and writes books on spirituality.

What I found most interesting about this book was its perspective on conversion, or changing one’s religion. The conservative segments of Christianity favour conversion, with the ideal being a world in which everyone was a Christian. The liberal segments typically take a pluralistic view, with all major traditions granted respect, and no expectation of conversion to Christianity–although of course in a free country, everyone is free to change religions if they so wish. (I say “major” traditions: I’m not ready to respect Scientology or the Moonies.)

Adyashanti takes a different view. He wants Christians to remain Christian, *and* to open themselves and experience enlightenment. In other words, for him, enlightenment is the important thing, and it doesn’t matter in which tradition it occurs so long as it does occur. I find this very appealing. He holds before us a vision of the major traditions, the members of which live lives of inner experience of divinity, an enlightened state in which we know ourselves as divine.  Here’s a paragraph that expresses this point of view.

Today we’re in need of a mythos that shows us what real, engaged spirituality looks like. The words of the Jesus story have inspired people for the better part of two thousand years. And yet, those words and images need us to breathe new life into them so that they once again come to life within us and reveal heaven here on earth. For Jesus the Christ walks amongst us even now, in the depths of our own consciousness, proclaiming the reality of eternal life that is present in the core of our being. 

He says that we need to “pour ourselves into the story,” “become the story in ourselves,” “breathe the all-transforming spirit of new life,” and thereby “reclaim the original power it once had before it became weighed down by centuries of egoic misunderstanding. When we become the story, we resurrect it from all of the old ways, . . . as Jesus had intended it to do.”

Enlightenment, or, in the Zen tradition, satori, is what he wants for everyone. He wants Buddhists to be enlightened while remaining Buddhist, Christians while remaining Christian, and so on. The larger vision this holds before us is of a family of religious traditions, their members living enlightened spiritual lives, working together in love, joy and peace. Now that I think about it, this is very close to what Thomas Merton might say.

Enlightenment for all: may it be so!

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2 Responses to Zen and the enlighenment of Christians

  1. Phil Sunderland says:

    Thanks for another thoughtful article. All the best!

  2. David Belcastro says:

    Thanks. Two students, one undergrad and other grad, asked me to oversee their work in this area … so sent your review to them.

    BTW … group here may become a chapter of Sojourners … the first in the nation as a pilot project.

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