Bookmark and Share
My Photo


    Opinions expressed on the Insight Scoop weblog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Ignatius Press. Links on this weblog to articles do not necessarily imply agreement by the author or by Ignatius Press with the contents of the articles. Links are provided to foster discussion of important issues. Readers should make their own evaluations of the contents of such articles.


« A "book is set to electrify"—yawn—"the Catholic Church" | Main | Pope Benedict XVI and the Essential Worldwide Mission »

Friday, August 24, 2007


Stephen Sparrow

Didn't Hazel Motes in Flannery O'Connor's novel Wise Blood utter the words, "The only truth is that there is no truth." ?

Yes, and Thich Nhat Hanh holds a similar viewpoint.


Father Benedict Groeschel has a favourite saying;

"The wrong prayer to the wrong God done in the right way is better than the right prayer to the right God done in the wrong way."

I'm still thinking about that.

Meg Q

Remember, Hanh is NOT to be confused with Hahn.

Nick Milne

Chesterton, from Orthodoxy ("VIII: The Romance of Orthodoxy"):

Students of popular science, like Mr. Blatchford, are always insisting that Christianity and Buddhism are very much alike, especially Buddhism. This is generally believed, and I believed it myself until I read a book giving the reasons for it. The reasons were of two kinds: resemblances that meant nothing because they were common to all humanity, and resemblances which were not resemblances at all. The author solemnly explained that the two creeds were alike in things in which all creeds are alike, or else he described them as alike in some point in which they are quite obviously different. Thus, as a case of the first class, he said that both Christ and Buddha were called by the divine voice coming out of the sky, as if you would expect the divine voice to come out of the coal-cellar. Or, again, it was gravely urged that these two Eastern teachers, by a singular coincidence, both had to do with the washing of feet. You might as well say that it was a remarkable coincidence that they both had feet to wash. And the other class of similarities were those which simply were not similar. Thus this reconciler of the two religions draws earnest attention to the fact that at certain religious feasts the robe of the Lama is rent in pieces out of respect, and the remnants highly valued. But this is the reverse of a resemblance, for the garments of Christ were not rent in pieces out of respect, but out of derision; and the remnants were not highly valued except for what they would fetch in the rag shops. It is rather like alluding to the obvious connection between the two ceremonies of the sword: when it taps a man's shoulder, and when it cuts off his head. It is not at all similar for the man.

These scraps of puerile pedantry would indeed matter little if it were not also true that the alleged philosophical resemblances are also of these two kinds, either proving too much or not proving anything. That Buddhism approves of mercy or of self-restraint is not to say that it is specially like Christianity; it is only to say that it is not utterly unlike all human existence. Buddhists disapprove in theory of cruelty or excess because all sane human beings disapprove in theory of cruelty or excess. But to say that Buddhism and Christianity give the same philosophy of these things is simply false. All humanity does agree that we are in a net of sin. Most of humanity agrees that there is some way out. But as to what is the way out, I do not think that there are two institutions in the universe which contradict each other so flatly as Buddhism and Christianity.

Even when I thought, with most other well-informed, though unscholarly, people, that Buddhism and Christianity were alike, there was one thing about them that always perplexed me; I mean the startling difference in their type of religious art. I do not mean in its technical style of representation, but in the things that it was manifestly meant to represent. No two ideals could be more opposite than a Christian saint in a Gothic cathedral and a Buddhist saint in a Chinese temple. The opposition exists at every point; but perhaps the shortest statement of it is that the Buddhist saint always has his eyes shut, while the Christian saint always has them very wide open. The Buddhist saint has a sleek and harmonious body, but his eyes are heavy and sealed with sleep. The mediaeval saint's body is wasted to its crazy bones, but his eyes are frightfully alive. There cannot be any real community of spirit between forces that produced symbols so different as that. Granted that both images are extravagances, are perversions of the pure creed, it must be a real divergence which could produce such opposite extravagances. The Buddhist is looking with a peculiar intentness inwards. The Christian is staring with a frantic intentness outwards. If we follow that clue steadily we shall find some interesting things.


There was also a good comment from him elswhere about how Leo the Great could stop Attila the Hun, but the thought of a Lama giving pause to Genghis Khan was laughable.


Interestingly enough, the story of the Buddha ended up in the Canon of Saints as St. Jehoshaphat, I believe.

That aside, the best distinction between Buddhism and Christianity I can think of this late at night would be to say "Christianity is a religion of self-denial and Buddhism one of self-negation."

The best illustration of the difference would be to look at Siddartha Gotma under the Bodhi tree for days and days while the world tempted him and Jesus and the Disciples picking grain on the Sabbath. The Buddha, like some kind of gnostic, seeks to leave the world behind, while Christ actually lives in it. The Buddha started out as a prince, given every pleasure and sensory delight imaginable; Christ and the Apostles never ceased to live by the work of their own hands.


IMO, Thich Nhat Hanh has some wonderful insights into violence, human nature and humanity as a whole. But, the buck stops there! Those insights are worth reading as long as one eye is kept on the Cross. One, he denies the divinity of Christ and His role as the unique and sole mediator between God and humanity. For Hanh, ontological language and speculation is meaningless and futile. Ontologically speaking, suffering (and I guess reality as a whole) for a Buddhist is an illusion, for a Catholic it is both efficacious and redemptive not only for himself but all of humanity when one's individual sufferings are united to the Paschal Mystery. Thus, Christian suffering is far from an illusion because it unites one to others and the fullness of reality, the Triune God.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Ignatius Insight


Ignatius Press

Catholic World Report


Blogs & Sites We Like

June 2018

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30
Blog powered by Typepad