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Living Buddha, Living Christ

by David Steindl-Rast, Elaine Pagels, Thich Nhat Hanh

Buy the book: David Steindl-Rast. Living Buddha, Living Christ

Release Date: September, 1997

Edition: Paperback


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Buy the book: David Steindl-Rast. Living Buddha, Living Christ

Very good, but repetitive and a bit narrow

Thich Nhat Hanh is a living Buddha. Let's get that straight.

However, he tends to repeat his message (often verbatim) from one book to the next. If you know his work, you'll recognize a lot of it here.

On the other hand, if you haven't read him before, then this is a good place to start. It is an admirable attempt at ecumenicalism.

Another caveat: the Christianity that he discusses is not the sort much practiced. That's his point, in part: it should be more practiced. Fair enough, he's right about that. But he tends to cite the Christian mystics with whom he feels most affinity (Thomas Merton, especially) and ignore how most people view Christianity.

In short, if you are a Christian, you should read this book to get another take on your religion. If you are a Buddhist familiar with Thay Hanh's writings, however, you won't find out much about Christianity as it is practiced, and you'll already be familiar with much of what he says about Buddhism.

From Amazon.com

Christianity and Buddhism can bring peace to our world.

Oil and water meet in this book. This is a stimulating and provocative book written by a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who attempts, in good will and world peace, to bring Buddhism and Christianity into a harmonious relation.

Thich Nhat Hanh hopes that, if people would look at what these faiths have in common, there could be tolerance and acceptance of each other.

To bring harmony to these two religious belief systems is no small task, and only someone with a large amount of both faith and love would attempt this. Christianity and Buddhism are diametrically opposed: Faith in God. Faith in Self. So acknowledges Hanh when he says, "In Christianity faith means trust in God, in Buddhism faith means confidence in our ability to wake up our deepest capacity."

But then, Hanh has a large amount of both faith and love, and he is no ordinary Vietnamese Buddhist monk. He has been engaged in peace works for almost 40 years. In 1966 he came to the United States and met with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to protest the war in Vietnam. Pushing forward in his belief in peace, he went on to develop The Fellowship of Reconciliation, an interfaith peace organization, with members like Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Merton and Father Daniel Berrigan. Through his life, and with the contact of many strong Christians, he converted to dualism of beliefs.

"On the altar in my hermitage in France are images of Buddha and Jesus and I touch them both," Hanh says. He believes that ignorance brings bondage and disparity, but understanding of another brings liberation and "unlocks the door to the prison of suffering."

He acknowledges as a Buddhist monk that Buddhism does not hold to the belief of God and he recognizes that Christianity is not a religion of believers in God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And in his own, very unique way, he believes too. Especially important to him is Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Hanh describes his understanding of Jesus Christ as "one through whom the divine was manifested" but not the only expression of the divine, "it is said that there are 84,000 Dharma doors, doors of teaching . . . it would not be very Buddhist to say that yours is the only door."

In addition to highlighting concepts of Buddhism, Hanh offers Christians a new prism, a new angle from which to look at Jesus, the Holy Spirit, their Christian faith and those of other faiths. He says, "If you satisfy yourself only with praising the name of Jesus, it is not practicing the life of Jesus. We must practice living deeply, lovingly and acting with charity if we wish to truly honor Jesus."

Living Buddha. Living Christ is not a primer on either Buddhism or Christianity but rather a compilation of the two by a Buddhist monk who understands where these two great religions can touch and sometimes even dance. Though Hanh never gets the oil-and-water to mix, he does get them to complement each other. This in itself is a great achievement. An index would have greatly assisted in making this a good reference book as well. Recommended

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