In the course of this essay series, I have been able to highlight numbers of bridges, and occasionally, certain incompatibilities, between two major religious and spiritual traditions of our world : Christianity and Buddhism. The question of authority allowed us to realise that in spite of the depths of the teachings of Jesus and the Buddha, the growing communities always acquire a hierarchical organisation, often at the cost of what should remain their central concern : the authentic practice of the believer. But it was also a way to reassert the importance of the community in any human undertaking; a highly relevant message in our epoch always on the verge of an excess of individualism. It is another contemporary risk that the Christian and Buddhist views on sexuality try to resist. While non-duality and flexibility even in the realm of sexuality are ideal, and radical austerity, better avoided, one cannot deny that today, several western nations’ popular cultures are somehow paying the price for a liberal ideology on the senses that refuses all restraints and criticality. Exploration is preferable and ideal, but experimentations can also regularly go wrong.
Willy-nilly, Buddhism, Christianity and generally all religious traditions must accept that they have a weaker hold on their populations than by the past. But judging them as obsolete would be hasty. Their best representatives – the mystics – transcended all contradictions and adopted righteous lifestyles so authentically that categorising them as religious actors would be highly reductive. Their inner understanding of Christianity or Buddhism comes out through their highly theoretical and abstract debates, but also in their attention to the most practical aspects of everyday life. Perhaps they represent the right interlocutors to the modern philosophical developments that have hurriedly turned their back on all things religious. And perhaps, outside the borders of religion, they can also come to remind our contemporary intellectuals what the philosopher originally was : not just an academic, performer of abstract verbiages, but a thinker, attentive to life around her, to other beings and to herself, modestly aiming at the attainment of a higher peace. If anything, it is this dialogue that this essay hopes to recall.
Image courtesy: The Research Council of Norway
|Reason and the Senses :
A Dialogue Between Buddhism and Christianity
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