Tag: Buddhism

Jesus and Buddha on Awakening

Awakening

Zen Master Hyon Gak Sunim discusses the spiritual teachings of awakening as presented by Jesus and the Buddha.

Jesus and Buddha both made references to awakening according to Hyon Gak Sunim.  Born in New Jersey, educated at  Yale and raised in a devout Catholic family, Hyon Gak Sunim provides an opportunity with which to understand Buddha teachings through a lens of American culture. Perhaps because of his background Hyon Gak often draws attention to the similarities found in the spiritual teachings of Jesus and Buddha.

Jesus and Buddha

The definition of Buddha is a person who has become enlightened or awake. Becoming awake is one of the central themes of Buddhism. If you accept this definition then Jesus and Buddha were both enlightened spiritual teachers. Hyon Gak Sunim references Jesus discussing enlightenment with his disciples. In the book of Mark, Jesus speaks of “having eyes yet not seeing” and “having ears and not hearing” and is speaking of a non-awakened state.

Right Response

If we wake up what do we wake up to? I believe we wake up to TRUTH. We see things (ourselves, situations, others) as they truly are. If we see things as they truly are we foster understanding. Following understanding we are able to respond with the right response, not a response formed from delusions and ignorance. Given the complexity and problems of our world, the right response is needed and needed now. Environmental stewardship, conscious consumption, care of the elderly, caring for the ill and weak, responding to crime all need a right response, or at least a “right-er” response. The right response is needed not only for global and social concerns but also individual concerns. If we open our eyes to see, and use are ears to  hear, how would we care for our own suffering?  With more compassion, gentleness, letting go perhaps. May we all be following a path which fosters individual and global awakening.

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Virtue and Vice

Virtue

A practice that is common to all major religions is to act with virtue. In many situations it is easy to recognize the path which develops our virtue. If you are not charged for a product or service that you have received, and do not reveal the omission you are stealing. If you lie to manipulate a situation or person, you have not acted with virtue. Sometimes the path to virtue is quite clear, and most of us could probably agree on what would or would not be a virtuous response.

Moral Dilemmas

Some situations are more complicated and present moral dilemmas. An example may include manipulating a powerful person who you know steals from the poor. Would telling a lie to stop a financial predator be more or less virtuous than attempting to protect the financially vulnerable? I don’t know. I suppose I would have to know the extent of the good or bad consequences which may arise from each of these options. I would have to try and remove any part of ego which may be impacting my decision such as strong emotions, impulses, or memories. In these situations, perhaps if you respond in a manner which brings your closer to your values, you are acting with virtue.

Virtue Is Good For Mental Health

Not only is virtue and integrity a common denominator to most spiritual paths, it is also necessary for our mental health. It is not possible to kill, lie, steal, hurt or harm others and be happy. Buddhist teachings say that “Living a virtuous life makes the heart peaceful”. Non virtuous behaviors and thoughts grow the unhealthy conditions of guilt, shame, anxiety, and hate. Living a life that propagates inner-hell and turmoil has a price. It robs us from living as a human. Protecting our virtue allows us to feel proud, at ease, effective, and joyful. Not only is having reverence for all human life the right thing to do, it provides a payback. Your virtue and happiness.

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