Saturday, 7 March 2009

Buddhist Bishop fails to excite much here

Returning, for a moment, to 'business as usual in the Anglican Communion', The Episcopal Church (USA) has continued to act in ways that show its true colours (or should that be colors?) to anyone with 'ears to hear'. Back in February, the Diocese of North Michigan elected as their next Bishop a man who had also received "lay ordination" as a Buddhist.

In England that might still cause a few problems. In the TEC, apparently, it does not - or at least, not enough to make the powers that be in that organization think twice. Just to bring us up to speed, I've copied here various links provided by the Stand Firm website.

The sheer lack of real excitement about this over here is surely a sign that the frog of our own sensitivity to destructive heresy has long since been boiled, served up with garlic and washed down (probably with a nice Chianti).


See here.

As predicted, there were many more blog posts on the Buddhist bishop election this past week.


More Protests

-- Eddie Swain Writes the Standing Committee of Southern Virginia

-- A Rector in the Diocese of Arkansas Writes

-- Unease in South Dakota Over Buddhist Bishop-Elect

More Posts From Other Denominations

-- From the Opinionated Catholic

-- A Professor At Wheaton College: When Is a Church No Longer a Church?

-- What the Buddhists Are Saying Over At New Buddhist

-- A Video Log Response: A Truckie Gets It

-- Roman Catholics Making Fun

-- Gene Veith on a Buddhist Bishop

More Anglican Posts

-- Get Religion: Zen and the art of Episcopal news

-- The Living Church: Buddhist Bishop-Elect Composes Own Eucharistic Texts

-- Standard Radical Liberal Fodder

More Posts On Why Buddhism & Christianity Are Incompatible

-- Five Incompatibilities

-- From Ignatius Insight: Catholicism and Buddhistm

-- The Latest Thing In Syncretism

-- Examining the Fundamental Differences

-- Bishop Holds Buddhist Ordination

-- Frequently Asked Questions

-- "Oh Buddha This Is All We Need"

-- Catholicism and Buddhism: Compatible Beliefs?

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  1. Your list of responses to the election in Northern Michigan does not include, as far as I can tell, any that view the election in a positive light. The objection that you make about "lay ordination" has been addressed in sveral of the blogs that I read and by the Bishop-elect himself. What seems clear to me is that the Bishop-elect practices meditation using techniques learned from Zen Buddhists, and has not abandoned the Christian faith.

  2. Dear Fr Weir

    I think one question a lot of us would be asking is, "In what sense are these 'Buddhist' techniques?"

    I am rather put in mind of people who speak about practising yoga, but actually all they are doing is stretching exercises which copy some of the things found in yoga. To that extent, it is relatively innocent, but only to the same degree it is not really yoga.

    Is that where the Bishop actually stands, and in that case what has his 'ordination' got to do with it?

    Another question would be, "What does the Bishop hope to achieve through these techniques that is not achieved through Bible, Sacrament, preaching, prayer and the communal life of the Church? What else could he need, and why does he think that he would find it through Buddhist techniques?"

  3. Hi John,

    Have you read Ruth Gledhill's defence of Kevin Forrester?

    Roger Gallagher

  4. Dear Roger,

    Just been reading it. My questions above to Fr Weir still stand. Thanks for the reference.

  5. Bible, Sacrament, preaching, prayer and the communal life of the Church...

    ...meditation is quite different from all of these; it's a technique of mind control and of stilling the mind using the breath. It brings tranquillity. 'The peace that passes all understanding'. A level of understanding above the rational. What you list above are either cognitive (focus on mental ideas necessary to support faith) or active (communal life of the church; faith in action). This only takes you so far, though perhaps it is all that is necessary for salvation, I wouldn't know, I'm not God. Certain types of prayer may be similar to meditation; when you pray for grace to come (as the early church did in the didache, for example, for a state of purity and closeness to the presence of God; that's similar to meditation); but Buddhist meditation has taken such techniques further.

    Jesus said: he that would save his life must lose his life. That's very Buddhist. The aim of Buddhist meditation is to achieve ego-lessness; the death of Self. The death of desire, pride, fear.

    There is an Indian tradition (perhaps it has its origins in the Thomas Christians who arrived in India) that around 2000 years ago a holy man came from the west who studied Buddhism and became a bodhisattva but returned to his own country in fulfillment of a prophecy.

    There are many echoes of Buddhism in Jesus' teaching. There were Buddhist missionaries active in the Alexandria of his day.

  6. Bible, Sacrament, preaching, prayer and the communal life of the Church?

    These are cognitive and active modes of witness. Perhaps that is all that is necessary for salvation, but some religious traditions aim beyond this, at direct realisation of God or at closeness to him.

    Buddhist meditation aims at tranquillity, at stilling the mind, emptying the mind of its impurities, at 'the peace that passes all understanding', a suprarational state, of God-consciousness, perhaps this is what the desert fathers also aimed at.

    Jesus said: he that would save his life must lose his life.

    That's very Buddhist. Meditation aims at ego-lessness, at the dissolution of Self, letting go of pride, fear, desire; just as Jesus taught. To give up one's possessions, one's attachments, father, mother, home, wealth and all pride and all fear. That's a tall order by cognition alone. It's like trying to fly without devising an aeroplane or sail without devising a boat.

    There is a Buddhist tradition in India that about 2000 years ago a holy man, a great teacher, came from the west to study Buddhism and achieved enlightenment, became a bodhisattva, but despite the pleadings of the people returned again to his own country in fulfillment of a prophecy.

    Perhaps this comes from the Thomas Christians who settled there in the first century, but in the time of our Lord there were also Buddhist missionaries active in Alexandria. Maybe this also influenced Gregory and the early eremitical tradition.

    The connections between early Buddhism and early Christianity are now a serious area of academic study.

  7. Anonymous (WHY??)

    You wrote, "Jesus said: he that would save his life must lose his life. That's very Buddhist."

    Yet the quote continues (Matt 16:25; Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24), "but whoever loses his life for me will save it." Is that Buddhist? And what does it mean, anyway?

  8. Marianne

    This is slightly weird. Are you 'Anonymous' or just reading from the same script?

    Anyway, my comment would still stand.

    The big difference between Buddhism and Christianity surely begins with the Christian confession that Jesus is the one "By whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven ..."

    The rest, as they say, is commentary.

  9. Sorry for confusing you with my double post. I was having trouble negotiating your site. (I'm not very techie).

    My point about meditation was quite simple. It is just a vehicle. There is nothing to fear from it in theological terms. A Christian who uses Buddhist meditation techniques is no less theologically a Christian (all other things being equal) than one who doesn't. Meditation tries to simply empty the mind of thought and self so as to be receptive to formless 'ultimate reality'. Flawless, seamless, luminous, infinite, eternal. I've suggested this is 'the peace that passes all understanding' that the medieval mystics spoke of.

    As regards Buddhism and Christianity of course there are real theological differences in the conception of 'ultimate reality' (which for us is more formalised and we call God) but also real similarities. There are far more similarities between Christians and Buddhists than between Christians and Muslims (Sufi mystics excepted). The key similarities are in orientation. This in Christianity and Buddhism (and Sufi mysticism) is towards egolessness, service and the turning away from self and the world - or at least, worldliness. This it seems to me is a far more cardinal point than the any formalisation of how 'ultimate reality' is envisioned.

    Now that I have located my Bible, King James version, the verse I was thinking of is Mark 8:35 'For whoseover will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it'.

    What does it mean?

    I can only say how I read this. It follows on from Peter recognising Jesus as the Messiah; and Jesus explaining the kind of Messiah he will be; that he must suffer humiliation and die. Peter is appalled and promptly 'rebukes' him. Jesus rebukes him back, angrily, firmly, saying: 'Get thee behind me Satan!'

    These are harsh words! I confess to feeling sympathy for Peter. It's like he's being punished for his impassioned loyalty. Peter, sympathetically perhaps, wishes to prevent his Lord from suffering rejection and being killed. But what Jesus wishes to say is that Peter's conception of the Messiah is fundametally flawed: that he 'savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men'. Jesus is the Messiah in a non-worldly way, not a mighty king or ruler of an earthly kingdom, let's get that prideful thought straight; but as one who has conquered death and fear by complete egolessness and complete union and identification with God.

    Peter on the other hand, being a red-blooded unreconstructed Alpha male, is full of ego. I find this sharp exchange very poignant. For despite his faults Peter's love of Jesus is real enough. You can only suppose he felt this rebuke keenly.

    Sufi mysticism has a similar theme: 'Die before you die'. That is, die to self (nafs).

    It is true that Buddhism does not have a conception of a Creator god but looks beyond creation to 'ultimate reality'.

  10. Yoga is a way of life, a conscious act, not a set or series of learning principles. The dexterity, grace, and poise you cultivate, as a matter of course, is the natural outcome of regular practice. You require no major effort. In fact trying hard will turn your practices into a humdrum, painful, even injurious routine and will eventually slow down your progress. Subsequently, and interestingly, the therapeutic effect of Yoga is the direct result of involving the mind totally in inspiring (breathing) the body to awaken. Yoga is probably the only form of physical activity that massages each and every one of the body’s glands and organs. This includes the prostate, a gland that seldom, if ever, gets externally stimulated in one’s whole life.