For some time I’ve been curious about what Christians can learn from Buddhists. I believe there is a lot of wisdom in all spiritual traditions, and when I’ve read Buddhist authors or heard Buddhist acquaintances talking about some of the concepts of their religion, I’ve been interested to know more.
One of those Buddhist acquaintances suggested I should read something by Thich Nhat Hanh, one of the most famous Buddhist teachers of the 20th century. When I found this book, it seemed like a good fit, because it’s basically about some of the parallels between Buddhist and Christian teaching, and what Christians can learn from Buddhism.
While I don’t agree with everything Thich Nhat Hanh says in this short, easy-to-read book, I did feel like I gained some insight from it. I’m particularly interested in a better understanding of the concept of mindfulness, because I feel like I don’t live enough in the present moment — my mind is always flitting off to some other place, and I’m often multi-tasking. Multi-tasking, while a virtual necessity for a working mom, turns out to be a bad idea if you want to practice mindfulness. If the Buddhist monk is washing his bowl, he should be giving careful attention to the task of washing the bowl — as opposed to talking on the phone and supervising the kids’ homework, which is what I’m usually doing when washing my dishes. Of course, monks don’t have kids’ homework to supervise, which is why they are monks, but if they did I’m pretty sure they’d focus on the homework and the homework alone, mindfully present in the moment.
Clearly I have a long way to go in practicing mindfulness, but I am working on it. Any Christian interested in broadening his or her perspective to learn a little about (and from) Buddhism could probably pick up a thing or two from Living Buddha, Living Christ, even if you don’t agree that Buddha and Christ are both “living” today in the exact same sense. (Thich Nhat Hanh would probably say that both Buddha and Christ are living through the followers who practice their teachings, but being a fairly traditional Christian I think Christ is living in that sense and also in the literal sense of being still alive). You might even find it inspiring in places. I did.