Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter: A Buddhist View

Rev. Marvin Harada (Orange County Buddhist Church's minister messages)

You are all aware that Easter is the Christian religious observance that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is thought in Christianity that Jesus rose from the dead, or was “resurrected.” This event proved that Jesus was the son of God, the Christ. Christians throughout the world celebrate this event as Easter.

My feeling is that the real “resurrection” of Jesus does not rely on whether he rose from the dead or not. I would think that the real “resurrection” occurs when Christians receive the teachings of Jesus within their hearts and minds. When a Christian really and truly receives the teachings of Jesus in one’s heart and mind, then Jesus truly “comes alive.” From a Buddhist perspective, isn’t that the real meaning of “resurrection?”

In the same manner, for Buddhists, when we receive the Buddha’s teachings in our hearts and minds, then the Buddha comes “alive” for us. Shakyamuni is not just a great teacher that lived over 2500 years ago, but is a “living teacher” in a spiritual sense for us today. Shinran Shonin lived over 700 years ago, but when Shin Buddhists sincerely follow the path of the Nembutsu, Shinran Shonin comes alive for us today. Of course the Buddha and Shinran do not “literally” come alive or come back from the dead, but their teachings, their way of life of the Dharma, “comes alive” for us today.

Buddhism is not as concerned with historical fact as it is concerned with religious truth. Historical fact stands at one point in time. Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492. America became independent on July 4, 1776.

Religious truth, however, stands beyond time. While Shakyamuni Buddha lived and died as a human being in history, the truth that he attained is a timeless, eternal truth. What is significant for Buddhists is not to simply celebrate the historical events of the Buddha’s life like his birth or entrance into Nirvana, but that the Buddha “come alive” for us in our life here and now.

If Christianity focuses on the historical event of Jesus rising from the dead, then it stands on one event in time. If instead it focuses on Christians receiving the teachings of Jesus in their hearts, then it becomes a religion that stands beyond time.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known Buddhist monk and prolific author of Buddhist books, writes:

“Redemption and resurrection are neither words nor objects of belief. They are our daily practice. We practice in such a way that Buddha is born every moment of our daily life, that Jesus Christ is born every moment of our daily life” — Going Home.

Thich Nhat Hanh has even written a book titled Living Buddha, Living Christ in which he discusses his appreciation of both Jesus and Shakyamuni Buddha and how they must become living teachers for us today.

“When we understand and practice deeply the life and teachings of Buddha or the life and teachings of Jesus, we penetrate the door and enter the abode of the living Buddha and the living Christ, and life eternal presents itself to us” — Living Buddha, Living Christ (p. 56) by Thich Nhat Hanh

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