They say travel is the best possible education, and some push the wording even harder pointing, “Don’t tell me how much you’ve learned. Tell me how much you’ve traveled.” In my case, a chance was given to test the above statement, spanning an approximate time frame of two weeks when I had to migrate here to Ohio, United States, from my motherland, Cambodia. On my count, that was a total of 5 countries known as Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, and the US. Of all the odds happening along the way, the mentioned statement is proven most valid.
So much of knowledge acquisition occurred during the trip, but I am for now going to pick and describe one which Singapore was where it took shape. Surprisingly, it was just so religious.
What you are going to read in this piece of writing is sort of a personal realization of how Buddhism and Christianity can stand on each other’s shoulders so as to offer the ultimate spiritual and intellectual experience to mankind.
It is not to say this article is biased, favoring only these two religions while I do reckon others are, too, of significant moral greatness. The thing is I came from a Buddhist background, getting exposed to just this one new religion, Christianity. However, I would love to, and will learn more about other ones in the future when time allows.
Christianity from a couple of hours of observation
Starting off with me going to a Christian church with my friends in Singapore, I first met with Jesus and his children (the participants) for the first time. It is interesting to notice that I have this disease which conditions me to observe and question every surrounding I encounter. Yet, trust me this disease won’t kill me like the similar one that did to Socrates of Greece, if you know what I mean.
The disease did take effects in full force there, like seriously intensively. I am saying I looked around and tried to understand deeply about Christianity in general. I did arrive at a conclusion and I expect corrections if it fails to satisfy followers, especially the radically committed some.
I posted a status on Facebook that day saying, “My first time in a Christian church. Drinking the blood and eating the body of Jesus, listening to all the stories and praying surprisingly give me a sense of being loved and not lonely.”
It was love. Unconditional love. Love between Jesus and followers and love among followers toward each other. With all due respect, I concluded that Christianity disciplines followers with the most powerful mean, what I would call “a sense of love”.
When I discussed with my friend the true meaning of Christianity, she said there is an immediate relationship between God and every follower. God loves everyone unconditionally, and is ready to be responsible for everyone’s sins.
God does not ask the followers to do anything in return to his sacrifice and love for them. What matters is the followers just need to remember that God is always there for them, loving them without any reservation. The love is extended to all kinds of circumstances where God cherishes their good deeds and takes punishments for their sins.
I think this fundamental belief of unconditional love builds a close, personally touching relationship between the followers and God. The psychology is then framed towards a state of logic that God is the ultimate provider for his people. He has always wanted the best for his people, and has planned everything for them.
That’s why, I believe, Christians use the term “Thank God!” when they are in a position of positivity. In unfortunate situations, they think it’s God’s will to insert certain occurrences in his plan for their life which will eventually end up alright. With this firmly-established emotional relationship with God, the followers tend to (as what they commonly say) have the courage to believe in the promising God’s plan (or I would call it fate from an optimistic perspective).
How would this relationship with God make people be good?
God is an example of a grade-A individual who is not associated with evils, and when people have this high-virtue relationship with him, it’s a natural sequence that they are raised to the standard God holds. That basically means the relationship with God makes people be, do and stay good. In a way, it’s quite reasonable to conclude that Christanity influences the followers with the power of touching emotions.
In the church, I saw nothing but a complete communication of love. The priest told stories about God with a huge emphasis on love and sacrifice as the morals. Participants, with tears of joys, sang Christian songs filled with lyrics pronouncing God’s greatness. At the end, followers started socializing with one another. They showed attention and willingness to know and help each other. I’d never seen a more friendly group of people in my life that time. Even more significantly, the church is like a community. Families, new migrants, homeless, and even a complete stranger like me were welcomingly part of it.
I feel this kind of social interaction is the highest value Christianity can offer. After all, this religion unites the followers who come from unique backgrounds and life stories, both fortunate and hapless. At least, once a week at a church everyone is reminded that they are not alone, left in the cold, heartbreaking world. There are other caregiving followers and of course the one and only, God.
The community actually extends beyond the church. In 2011, I went to San Francisco, California, on an exchange program. It was very heartwarming that my team and I got to meet a community of Christian generous hearts. They were our amazing hosts who made our stay so much fun and convenient. I still keep in touch with them till these days. I’m honored.
That said, Christianity is so much about emotional supports.
At this point, are you already tired, reading this article? I know it’s been so long, but I have yet to mention anything to do with Buddhism. I’m going to keep writing, and you may choose to come back again later after some rest. My reflection about Buddhism is printed in the second major section of this post.
Buddhism from a life-time
While Christianity conquers the emotional side of humans, Buddhism in my opinion seizes the rationale territory. Lots might agree with me that Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion. Probably, the core theory of Buddhism is the phenomenon of “causes and effects”, what most widely known as “Karma”. In simple terms, Buddha said you get what you do. If you do good, you logically receive good, and it’s the opposite for the bad.
In life, if you kill, you will be wanted and avenged. If you offer help, you will be loved, remembered and given back the favor. If you have a strong desire for certain things, you become restless and disappointed when you can’t get them. If you limit your desire and possession, all kinds of emotions (love, hatred, disappointment, anger, and what not) can’t attack you. If you live in a peaceful state of life without the presence of any kinds of emotions, you almost reach Nirvana (a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism).
Nirvana might not be the state that everyone can achieve other than Buddha himself, but everyone can commit themselves to achieve the Buddha’s version of good life which I would call the life with high-level of rationale or reasoning towards good deeds. Simply put, Buddhist followers need to keep doing things rationally in orders to maintain and collect more good deeds to make their life better.
It is worth noticing that Buddhism considers good deed as a currency in past, present and future lives. Yes, Buddhists believe in reincarnation. The idea is you carry both of your good and bad deeds with you across lives in different times. The more good deeds you had from your past life, the better your life is now, and the more good deeds you gain in this present life, the better your life can and will be.
How would this Buddhist teaching make people be good?
Good deeds have become what people try to retain in the hope to have a good life. On that account, they on a daily basis employ rational thinking on how to be endorsed with good deeds. Helping, offering food and money, taking care of the suffering, and making others happy are among such included.
In a way, Buddhism creates a reality spotlighting good deeds as what people need to save up by rationally executing good wills in their daily activities.
The ultimate spiritual and intellectual experience
I entitled this blog post “Buddhistianity”, and you might already have an idea of why I did so. Apparently, I think there is a space that both Christianity and Buddhism can complement each other so as to offer mankind the ultimate spiritual and intellectual experience.
Looking at what I just described about Buddhism, you may see that Buddhism somehow involves many layers of critical thinking before really deeply understanding the core intentions of the religion itself. To me, this is a rather stressful, yet intellectually rewarding, process an individual can experience. After all, Buddha doesn’t tell you directly what to do. He forces you think before you do things.
On the contrary, Christianity portraits a sense of love and sacrifice from God who would cure all the hardships for his people. To me, this represents a parents-children situation where the followers are left to believe, and trust God to make their lives better. As they love God so much, they want to be good children of God, spreading out good wills of God to the world. Obviously, there is an emotionally touching experience there.
To this end, what I’m trying to say is if you can pick the best of both, you will make your life so much better. The rational thinking from Buddhism and the emotional supports from Christianity will complete all the missing holes for a happy and meaningful life.
I am a Buddhist who goes to church. And, you?