Posted on January 28th, 2012 | Filed under Challenges, Featured, Interfaith, Learning, Philosophy, Theology, Uncategorized
Tagged with alterity, Buddhist-Christian dialog, Interfaith, interreligious dialog, multireligious dialog, social hermeneutics
Our Father, who does not exist from Your Own Side, but who is merely imputed on the thought, “God the Father,” and therefore only exists dependently on causes and conditions, and who (is very mystical) art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name!
Just sit for a moment, with the feeling of reading such an odd but somehow familiar string of words.
Does it feel oh just a wee bit sacrilegious to have a profoundly familiar theological liturgy taken from its Rightful Home and Owners, and ruthlessly but artfully manipulated to conveniently fit the ontological and epistemological perspective of Another, who has TAKEN it to give away for FREE to a bunch of spiritual interlopers, (who have paid a handsome sum for such mind-candy), and all without getting any property rights permissions?
Yes, well, ahem, welcome to another day of tortured religious ownership in the life of an OTHER.
I am pretty sure I may have earned the distinction of being the first non-Judeo-Christian monastic clergy (Buddhist) in a Christian theology school's [Christian] practical theology program, at least in third-millennium USA. I am pretty sure I was the only non-Christian religious in each of my three doctoral course requirements last semester.
On the other hand, I am Irish-Italian middle class-born (albeit economically demoted, as a destitute minority clergy) and Baltimore-catechism raised, with healthy exposure via extended visits in Congregationalist and Unitarian abodes, so am not really, entirely, unfamiliar with Christian theological territory, at all.
And thus I find myself at complete ease here among my Christian theology student brethren and curricula....until.....my Christian theologian ordained Presbyterian minister practical theology professor (who “considers Buddhism a second spiritual 'home' and has a keen interest in hybrid religious/spiritual identities and Buddhist-Christian dialogue” )....brings Christianified buddhism into class through some back or side door [from my Buddhist perspective], to share with his mostly Christian theology students!
(Note: here I mean “mostly Christian” in the sense of predominance in population, rather than theologically Christianity-heavy, all-you-can-eaters at the salad bar of religious preferences, although I suspect there may be no shortage of these latter around here too.) Of course, I would not even be here, if it weren't for this professor's engagement with Buddhism, and his presence here is the main reason I felt it might be spiritually “safe enough” to live and study here.
Alas, to be utterly honest, I find such Christianified Buddhism ghastly!
Did Christian readers find it ghastly to see THEIR Lord's Prayer mutilated thus?
And yet....why should the sensation be ghastly? What is it that gives way to such an uneasy movement, like one's stomach suspended on a roller-coaster ride, never to come down?
Hmmm, it seems I did forget my manners entirely, and forgot to greet you properly! Ahem, yes, well, please kindly do excuse my lapsed etiquette, and let me entreat you directly without further ado: Welcome to the first inter-religious theology school in the world!
Okay, soooo...then what? Well, the first thing I noticed was that the professor was entirely deliberate about his actions. It was somewhat wrathful by virtue (if such a word is suitable to use here) of the fact that while he knew his Buddhist doctoral student to be present for his spiritual performance “art”(stitch-craft), he gave me no advance warning of what was to come, by way of polite preludes and platitudes.
He had a cute metal singing bowl with its own cheap imitation brocade cushion and stained wooden dinger, (low-cost factory product; definitely not original Nepali handicraft), and I rode along comfortably until I hit the surgical ontological bump, where the otherwise traditionally-Buddhist meditation turned decidedly into what I announced afterward to be “reified monism.”
Thereupon, a middle-aged African-American Christian woman student in the class asked me what reified monism was. I took some time to try to explain it in a meaningful way, that would be faithful to how I wanted the phrase understood in the context of the just-concluded mutilated Buddhist experience (or what, in a parallel universe, without mutilization, very likely would have been a Buddhist experience).
That is, I insisted on explaining what reified monism is not! (This took at least a few sentences, which is a worthy feat in its own right.) When she looked puzzled, Respected Reverend Professor succinctly explained the terms one by one, without any references to my roller-coaster ride, having nodded assuredly at me, all the while brushing it off like a few crumbs from a dinner napkin.
Now, and only now, I suspect I may have some idea of how my Christian, Reverend, Seminar in Practical Theology course professor may sometimes feel, when she sees and listens to me insist that I can do Buddhist Practical Theology!
Schleiermacher? No problem!
Silent meditation? Perfect! (Free to be, you and me! Jah love!)
Guided meditation, Christian-style? Not really my cup of tea, or so it seems. (Or, at least, if someone else is teaching it. I have no problems with the secular/interfaith-friendly Buddhist version I usually teach.)
I am pretty sure I would prefer thirty-three Hail Marys, any day of the week!
post-script: Fyi, I didn't feel any such above-mentioned difficulties in generalizing my Buddhist practice tradition for use by non-Buddhists, which I share care of a text I authored entitled Buddhism for Non-Buddhists. (If anyone is interested, the first chapter is available freely on my Mahaprajapativihar website. It should be available freely or otherwise in its entirety by the end of the year)
Bhikshuni Lozang Trinlae, B.Sc., Ed.M., (भिक्षुणी लोजाङ् त्रिन्ले) is presently a doctoral student in practical theology at Claremont Lincoln University, where she is conducting research in formal vajrayana meditation practice. She was ordained a novice Buddhist nun in Mysore in 1991; took full-ordination Bhikshuni precepts in 1998 in Bodhgaya, India; and is also a priest in the Buddhist vajrayana tradition (Drukpa Kagyu and Gelug lineages primarily). A summa-cum-laude graduate in physics, she earned her master's degree in education from Harvard University, where she also studied Tibetan language in the Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies. She taught science and English in India and in Tibet while undertaking contemplative training in vajrayana Buddhism. After teaching Buddhism in Taiwan in the mid-1990's, she founded Mahaprajapati Hermitage in Sagarmartha Mt. Everest National Park in Nepal, where she completed ten years of cloistered, intensive, vajrayana retreat, including two great approaching retreats (शतलक्ष मन्त्र इष्टदेव पुरश्चरण/བསྙེན་ཆེན།). Bhikshuni Lozang is also a trained chaplain and certified instructor in relationship education. More details of her present research, and hermitage, including texts and photo album, can be found at bhikshuni.insightdeliverysystems.com, research.insightdeliverysystems.com, and mahaprajapativihar.insightdeliverysystems.com.