Theosis

Christianity & Buddhism

I’ve been learning a bit about Buddhism for a while now, mainly through Thich Nhat Hanh’s biography of the Buddha, Old Path, White Clouds (which, full disclosure, I have not yet finished). I see a lot of truth in it, but seeing that I’m a Catholic Christian and not a Buddhist, I feel the need to set the two side by side, to prevent any confusion. Of course, I’m no expert on Catholicism, let alone Buddhism, so please correct me where needed in the comments.

The aim of Buddhism is to attain and share awakening (Buddha means “the awakened one”), realising that there is no such thing as a separate self, thereby liberating the person from suffering as well as the cycle of death and rebirth. Realising that all is one, that all things exist in all other things, the selfish thoughts and desires that cause suffering disappear, as does death and rebirth (as the you that dies and is reborn, was an illusion you are now without). [I’m a bit less clear on liberation from death and rebirth, so if anyone could help me, I’d really appreciate it]

The aim of Christianity is God’s aim to draw all of creation into union with Himself in love, through the cross of Jesus Christ, setting us free from all sin, division, and death. In Jesus of Nazareth, God’s love in which He made the whole cosmos is made manifest, shared with us, and offered back to God in thanksgiving. Jesus loves us to the point of letting us kill Him, and still loving us. He offers up our ultimate crime – His own death – as a thanksgiving to God, His Father. Even in our rejecting Him, He is uniting Himself to us. It is the Christian’s aim to let Him.

The Buddhist concept of Annata, or “non-self”, is met by the Christian Kenosis, or “self-emptying”, which are so close and yet so far apart. Annata refers to how all things lack a separate self, while Kenosis reveals a self that exists precisely in its gift, its self-annihilation. The image of Buddhism is Buddha sitting in meditation, and the image of Christianity is Christ crucified.

In Buddhism, it is recognised that all things are interdependent, all things are one, and this reality must be recognised. In Christianity, all things are already one also, being held together in Christ, the Divine Logos, but are also being taken up in Christ into unity in God the Father Almighty. We are created in God’s love, and receive God’s love in Christ upon the Cross, and are united to His crucified love offering us back, up to the Father and out to mankind. We are in the middle of the dynamic, creative, expansive Oneness of the Trinity, in whom we live and move and have our being.

This has helped clear my mind, and I hope it has helped you too. I think thanks to learning about Buddhism, I understand Christianity better, and I’m deeply grateful. And I don’t mean that just in terms of “what not to believe”.

Let me know if you have any thoughts on this.

God bless you :)

What’s the point of monks & nuns?

I was thinking recently about the contemplative life – the life of those who give themselves up entirely to prayer, night and day – and had those common, critical thoughts about it: Isn’t it cowardly, abandoning the world? Why don’t they do something good and useful for the world instead? Isn’t it selfish, to leave the world in its misery, and go to seek your own heavenly bliss?

It troubled me, because I know the Church teaches not only its goodness, but (at least traditionally) its superiority to the active life. Jesus Himself said, Mary chose the better part, and it will not be taken from her.

And then (thank God), I realised that I was judging the contemplative life not even by the standards of the active life, but by the standards of the world. The contemplative life is on a different plane, and can’t be comprehended by the world. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot grasp it.

The contemplative life weds Heaven to earth, marries God to creation. That is why it is linked to celibacy (that, and practical concerns). In the Contemplative, creation is surrendered and offered to the Father, through and with and in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Through the Contemplative’s prayer, she is divinized, and all of creation with her. In her prayer, we are being brought to fulfillment in Christ.

The contemplative life appears cowardly, because we miss the true battleground of life. To a communist, the wars of the capitalists are stupid, not brave, because the true war, the war that will resolve all others, is the class war; to the Catholic, both are foolish, and every other human war too, because the true war, the one that will resolve all others, is the spiritual war.

It appears useless, because it is the very meaning of life. And how could the ultimate meaning be recognised by those who set their minds upon the use of things, rather than their final ends?

It appears as selfish, because in our selfish worldview, we wrongly assume that happiness and the desire for happiness are selfish. We assume that happiness comes from the self, when in truth, it is from the death of the self, and the Life of God. Contemplatives are happy insofar as they die to themselves, and no further. We have died, and the life we now live is hidden with Christ in God.

So what shall we make of the active life? The active life must be brought to entirely serve the life of the Spirit. Our work is not its own end, however good it may be, but is there for us to encounter and adore God in it.

The contemplative life is superior to the active as the end is superior to the means. Yet, if the active is a servant to the contemplative, it may thereby not only participate in the contemplative, but even fulfil and supercede it by humility. The first shall be last and the last shall be first.

God bless you!

Don’t be the best version of yourself

‘Just try to be the best version of yourself.’

No thank you. I’d rather try to just be me.

I don’t want to be any “version” of myself. They’re fake, every last one of them. I’d know – I created them. They’re just different masks I wear for different people.

And what on earth does it mean by “best”? Whose standard am I using? Who am I supposed to please? Others? Myself? God???

The simple truth is, God doesn’t love “the best version of me” – the “me” that acts “best”, and no one else does either. No one ever could. You can’t love a dead thing.

He loves me. Not this or that version of me. He loves me, with all my wounds and all my weaknesses. I have nothing to hide, even if I could.

Not that I shouldn’t improve and grow. But I can’t do that by pretending. The only way to truly grow, is to live in God’s love, being stripped of my illusions and defenses, and made more truly me. And this, this death to my selves, is to be made into Christ. ‘It is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me.’

God bless you!

[P.S. One more issue with this phrase, is that it suggests there is one best version, and you can’t possibly better it. If there is a “best version”, there is a limit. And it doesn’t imply that the “best version” is all that great. God bless!]

The Holy Trinity

According to a certain sociology model, in each person there exists an I, a Self and a Me. As I understand it, the I is the person, as they truly are, looking out on the world; the Self is their reflective self-image, their idea of who they are; and the Me is the person they present to the rest of the world. The Self originates from the I, and the Me comes from the Self and the I together. To help explain, I will use an example:

Say someone decides to take a selfie. The I takes the picture; the Self is captured/expressed within the picture, reflecting the I; and the Me posts the picture online, sharing the life of the person with others.

Now to talk Trinity. God knows Himself perfectly, and cannot be deceived, so God’s Self is perfectly identical with God’s I, and so both are wholly God. God’s Me, by which God presents God to the world, is the fulness of God, because God is all good, and loves Himself perfectly, and so has no bad to hide and no good to forge. God’s Me, then, is the love of the I for the Self and the Self for the I, and proceeds from both the I and the Self. The Father corresponds to the I, the Son corresponds to the Self, and the Me corresponds to the Holy Spirit. They are perfectly united, and yet truly distinct. Three in One and One in Three.

The I, Self and Me model can also, I believe, help to explain how people come to be united, and so, by extension, how we come to be united with God. As the Me shares the person’s inner life, if it is accepted, those it is shared with begin to take part in this inner life; they spend more and more time with the person, talking more and more intimately. As this goes on, the outsider grows to be ever more closely identified with the person, entering into the person’s idea of their Self; they consider each other as themselves (even to neglecting their own self), and take ever more joint selfies. And as they enter into the person’s Self, they are even drawn into the I, where they live and work as one, with a single set of desires.

Between people, this process can be bumpy to say the least. Sin and the stain of sin place barriers between us at each point, and our own I, Self and Me are not perfectly united. But with God, He removes all such barriers along the way, and brings us to internal unity. And as a wonderful bonus, this removes the same barriers from our relationships with others, enabling true communion on earth also.

We see this growing into unity with God throughout the scriptures, and especially in the Blessed Virgin, the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, whose flesh was made the flesh of the Word, who was united most profoundly to God and so made Queen of Heaven. The Holy Spirit is credited with making the Church the Body of Christ, and with consecrating the Holy Eucharist. It is by the Holy Spirit that we know God’s life, so that we are united to Jesus (especially on the cross), so that we are offered in perfect obedience to the Father.

May God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit bless you