How (not) to Christianize Zen

Not so long ago I wrote some articles on Christian yoga. Firstly, in How (not) to Christianise Yoga, I outlined a basic methodology. Secondly, in Yoga Body Yoga Spirit, I outlined some specific challenges, namely, how we understand Spirit (pneumatology) and how we understand union with God (soteriology).

So, having stirred the pot on Yoga and Hinduism, I now what to turn my attention to Zen and Buddhism. To what extent can we Christianise Zen? Again, there are good ways to Christianise a non-Christian practice … and there are not so good ways. Again we can find a multitude of less than inspiring examples. But before we begin, I have a confession to make, I am actually a former Zen Christian … of the distinctly syncretistic, mix-n-match kind. So when I say there are some “not so good ways”, I cite my own initial practice as a prime example.

You see, when I converted to Christianity out of the New Age Movement some 16 or so years ago now, there was not much guidance available in those days. So I had to figure things out for myself, and I made many mistakes getting to that point. It took me some time to realise that any Zen, any dhyāna, any meditation, that can be authentically called Christian, will be grounded in Christ and Christ alone, before anything and everything.

Following this, in exploring Zen as Christians there is a sense in which we need to develop our own Christian Buddhology. In the same way Buddhists see the need to articulate a Buddhist understanding of Christ, Christians need to articulate a Christian understanding of Buddha. And here is the crux of it: if we seek to practice meditation in an authentically Christian way, the Buddha can never be granted the same authority as Christ. His perspectives may prove useful, but we cannot never hail him co-master, so long as we wish to remain Christ-centred that is.

That’s enough for now, I’ll return to this topic soon.

One thought on “How (not) to Christianize Zen

  1. Whichever religion or practice one finds out there, is always a group at the bottom of the pyramid trying to make sense out of things. Most likely you have discovered this for yourself by watching Christian networks and dealing with the main-stream of things.
    There is nothing wrong with Christianity in and of itself, in that, it is only a very large and diversified religion in which the man Jesus really had little or nothing to do with . . . but is ultimately working for the good for those who love God and want to realize Him. And as far as we can tell, there is one God – one creator, the eternal. Other religions are not on a blind path to no where; they all lead to the same place. Division occurs when there are literal and widely misunderstood interpretations of “words” that are trying to describe the same thing. Remember that Jesus said, “the words that I speak to you are spirit” (Joh 6:63).
    I would never say these things to someone who doesn’t have somewhat of a esoteric/non-traditional point of view. However you do and that’s why I am commenting.
    So to say that “Buddha can never be granted the same authority as Christ.” is a misunderstanding of what the word Christ means — Buddha knew what “the Christ” was. How do you think he had such a large impact on humanity? This is the start of your divisiveness, as well as other Christians, from people who are trying to realize the same thing.
    A quote from Wikipedia:
    Christ is the English term for the Greek Χριστός (Khristós) meaning “the anointed”. It is a translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ (Māšîaḥ). The term “Christ” was a title rather than a proper name. In the four gospels in the New Testament, the word “Christ” is nearly always preceded by the definite article (“the Christ”). For centuries the Jews had referred to their expected Deliverer as “the Anointed.” The term “Christ” carries much of its original Jewish meaning of “Messiah”—”one [who is] anointed” or appointed by God with a unique and special purpose (mission) on Earth. It was later in the first century that the title gradually became a proper name, and the expression “Jesus Christ” or “Christ Jesus” became only one designation. Jesus is a central figure in Western civilization.
    So we see that originally the term “Christ” was actually a title and not a person. It was later that Christianity personified the name.
    Philippians 2:5 “Let this mind [the mind of Christ] be in you, which was ALSO in Christ Jesus”
    The mind which was the beginning/head of the creation of God, according the Revelation 3:14. . .
    “The Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Head of God’s creation…”
    So for us to look for an outward savior is a mistake since “the Christ” is within every person. He’s not going to come out of the clouds literally — He IS, WAS and WILL come “within” (Rev 1:8). The laborers are few (Mat 9:37) to realize this. The time is right now (Luk 17:21) and at all times, within.
    Christianity made a huge impact in the world for us to realize what it meant to recognize Christ – the only way we can know God.
    Quote from the Christ Wiki, by Mary Baker Eddy, who in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”, said:
    “The invisible Christ was imperceptible to the so-called personal senses, whereas Jesus appeared as a bodily existence. This dual personality of the unseen and the seen, the spiritual and material, the eternal Christ and the corporeal Jesus manifest in flesh, continued until the Master’s ascension, when the human, material concept, or Jesus, disappeared, while the spiritual self, or Christ, continues to exist in the eternal order of divine Science, taking away the sins of the world, as the Christ has always done, even before the human Jesus was incarnate to mortal eyes.”


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