Am I a Zen Buddhist?

Earlier this week, I visited a Zen Buddhist temple.  As I sat there listening to Abbot Carlson lecture (along with the other students from my World Religions course), I couldn’t help but wonder, Am I a Zen Buddhist too?

The Abbot began his talk by tracing the history of Buddhism. Over the centuries, Buddhism, like all major religions, began to stagnate. Leaders were too dependent on political structures. The practice was getting lost in facades. It was the type of stuff that would never happen in Christianity. Because of this stagnation, some people decided they wanted to get back to basics. They wanted Buddhism to be free of the lust for power. They wanted a more pure and true Buddhism. I began to sympathize a bit.

He then said that Zen Buddhists are welcome to newcomers, but they try to steer people away from becoming Zen priests. They realize that being a priest is a great responsibility. It calls for a greater renunciation of goods. It calls for more dedication. It calls for a higher spirituality. Sound familiar?

Abbot Carlson went on to describe something he called dharma. The dharma, he said, is living life in deep harmony with what is inherently true. When you do it, it feels like you’re dancing. In the past seven years, I’ve had moments of dancing.

He then said that selfishness is hollow in the long run. Each of us needs to recognize that I am the problem of the world. G.K. Chesterton said the same thing as a Christian. The Abbot then said that evil is the degree to which we become entangled, disillusioned, or attached to things that aren’t important. We need to get beyond materialism and realize what’s worthwhile. We need to mindfully engage our lives. Once again, a nod of agreement.

Finally, he talked about living in balance. We mustn’t hold too tightly to praise from others or to good things. But, at the same time, we mustn’t hold too tightly to the bad things that happen and become embittered and angry. He said there is ease to be found in not grasping. Hm…

So my question is: Am I Zen Buddhist or am I a Christian? What distinguishes one from another?

Published by omerdylanredden

I write.

2 thoughts on “Am I a Zen Buddhist?

  1. Are you a Zen Buddhist?

    Wanting a religion to be free of its lust for power, to be more pure, deep harmony with the truth, realizing that every individual themselves is the problem of the world, not holding tightly to praise from others and good things, and not holding onto bad things that occur in our lives are all great ideas. However, I think we both know that there are a number of things that the Abbot maybe didn’t talk to you about. For instance, they believe that nothing in life is permanent, individual selves do not exist, that reincarnation is an endless cycle of suffering that they are trying to break free from, nirvana (Buddhist’s only hope, which I’ll talk about later), the belief that nothing is real (wait, I thought suffering was real?), the doctrine of karma, and more.

    Buddhists believe in reincarnation. However, life is considered nothing but suffering. Therefore, to break this cycle of reincarnation and in an attempt to separate from this suffering (which remember is not real) they are striving for nirvana. Nirvana is a “permanent state of non existence.” However, if nirvana is their future hope, its not much of a hope at all. Nirvana is only death and extinction.

    My point is that I feel that Buddhism may have some very good ideas and thoughts. However, I think the Jewish religion, Muslims, Hindus, Mormons, Jehovahs Witnesses, Catholics, Seventh-Day Adventists, evolutionists, and atheists may also have some very good thoughts on the world, life, suffering, etc. However, just because you may agree with something a Muslim or Mormon preaches, does not mean that you are a Muslim or Mormon. Religions have to have appealing doctrines or no one would be interested. Buddhism, I agree, has some interesting points, and could very well be true. However, just because you like a FEW things that a religion teaches doesn’t make you part of that specific religion (in this case a Buddhist).

    I would still say that Christianity has the best worldview. I feel that it makes the most sense of suffering, death, struggle, and all the other matters of life. I can also see that it is true in my own life. I have seen and felt the Lord move. And personal testimony is the best way to explain something, so I am saying that I know that I know Jesus is truth.

    Omer, you are still a Christian. You just happen to agree with a couple things Abbot Carlson said.

  2. Thanks for the confirmation Tay Dog. I appreciated your response. It’s apparent that you’ve thought about these things for awhile. Here is my only caution: leave out the phrase “Christianity has the best worldview.” It rings of marketing and advertisements.

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