This essay appears in our Spring 2016 digital issue. The entire issue with its’ many offerings is available for download.
As Christians engage more and more in an interfaith dialogue with Buddhism, and other faiths, they are constantly challenged by a vocabulary, which is very different from the one they know and love. This is especially true in working with and studying Buddhism, with its non-theistic approach to understanding the nature of reality.
How may a Christian perceive and understand the Buddhist concept of Sunyata – Nirvana, written of in the Heart Sutra, Mahayana Buddhist literature? Where the Heart Sutra teaches Sunyata-Nirvana, is that, which is empty of emptiness, and is that, which, points a Buddhist to an experience and union with Ultimate Truth, Ultimate Reality, as the Perfection of Wisdom. A teaching that leads a Buddhist to great wisdom and compassion. How may we understand “emptiness is form, form is emptiness,” coming from a spiritual tradition like Christianity that is theistic?
May a Christian embrace a non-theistic approach to understanding the Divine Mystery, and still hold on to their theistic relationship with the Divine? My simple answer is, yes; an answer that I have learned from Paul F. Knitter, author of Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian, as well as other writers and theologians. I believe that we may do both, understand and see the Divine through both a Buddhist and a Christian lens.
RON STARBUCK is an Episcopalian, a Poet and Writer, and the Publisher CEO of Saint Julian Press. Author of There Is Something About Being An Episcopalian (Summer 2016), When Angels Are Born, and Wheels Turning Inward, three rich collections of poetry, following a poet’s mythic and spiritual journey that crosses easily onto the paths of many contemplative traditions. To learn more go to www.saintjulianpress.com.
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