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.
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.