Budda Book Review Essay Research Paper Book

Budda Book Review Essay, Research Paper

Book Review: Living Buddha, Living Christ

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh is a

book that converges the ideas of Christianity and Buddhism.

I chose to analyze this book because I am Christian, and in

class I have observed similarities and differences between

the two religions. Growing up Catholic I did not always

agree with what I was taught or how I was supposed to look

at Jesus and God. I always had a guilty conscience, because

I am a sinner and Jesus died for me, and all other sinners.

There is pressure put on Catholics to live this high

standard that God has set for them to be allowed into

Heaven. Catholicism is a very strict and rigid religion.

Everything is carved in stone, cut and dry, black and white,

and no questions are to be asked. If one lives life as a

sinner and does not seek forgiveness he or she will be

rejected at the gates of Heaven and sent directly to Hell.

If one commits a sin he or she is to fear God s punishment,

and when something goes wrong God is punishing. The

perspective I have taken on life in the Catholic view is

that life is one s way of repaying Christ/God for their

sacrifice and gift of an undeserved life. Live life purely

for Him and not yourself.

I have stepped away from the Catholic church to attend

a Non-denominational Christian church. Here, I have been

able to grow spiritually more than I did growing up

Catholic. Within this church I feel more accepted because

it is more open to the perspectives of God and life. In

church it is recognized that some people do struggle and

question God, His actions, and His existence. Going to

Catholic church there was never any room for questions or

thought. Everything was laid down and if a person did not

believe or understand the Catholic way then he or she was

wrong in everything they did and was an insult to God. From

going to Christian church I have realized that life is a

gift from God and that He wants everyone to live in comfort

and contentment. His teachings simply show His followers

the way to enter His Kingdom through life. I have found in

Buddhism that through practicing mindfulness throughout

daily life one can enter the state of Nirvana. I do not

believe that the Kingdom of God and Nirvana are the same,

but I do believe that through Nirvana one can touch and gain

a better appreciation for God s Kingdom.

Living Buddha, Living Christ is an attempt to reinvent

Christian ideas in a Buddhist perspective. This book brings

together the ideas and teachings of two of the most

influential figures of history, Christ and Buddha. They

have both influenced the way billions of people around the

world live their lives. Throughout the book Hahn reawakens

the reader s understanding of Christianity and Buddhism in

order to show a connection between them. He emphasizes that

people need to be open to other religions, see their

commonalties, and not be close minded. People kill and

are killed because they cling too tightly to their own

beliefs and ideologies. When we believe that ours is the

only faith that contains the truth, violence and suffering

will surely be the result (2). This explains the

persecution of the Jews and the holy wars that are going on

right now. These people fight almost out of pure pride of

belonging to their own religion. They forget the teachings

of peace and compassion that are present in all religions.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes this book on the belief that Jesus

and Buddha s teachings agree. He says, when you are a

truly happy Christian, you are also a Buddhist. And vice

versa (197). I do not agree with the extremity of Hahn s

idea of Christianity and Buddhism being so closely the same.

I believe the two religions do have similarities and have

some common ground, but I do not believe that one is a

precise reinterpretation of the other.

First, Thich Nhat Hahn associates Mindfulness and the

Holy Spirit. The Buddhist definition of Mindfulness is

being awake to the mind; not just thinking but being

conscious of thinking; not just having thoughts but being

aware of the thoughts. Buddhists believe that the mind is

reality. Mindfulness is the awareness of the impermanent

and conditioned nature of reality. The Holy Spirit is the

energy of God that is present in everyday life. The Holy

Trinity is simply a metaphor for God. The Father, the Son,

and the Holy Spirit are ways to explain God perceptually.

The Father is the perpetual God which no one can see. The

Son, is Christ, who lived life on earth as God. The Son is

God on earth. The Holy Spirit is the energy that resonates

from Christ and God that is within everyone and everything

in the world.

Thich Nhat Hahn discusses that the similarity between

Mindfulness and the Holy Spirit is that both are healing

powers. When you have mindfulness, you have love and

understanding, you see more deeply, and you can heal the

wounds in your own mind (14). In the Bible when someone

physically touches Christ he or she is healed of whatever

ailments. Christ as a healer is an example of the

manifestation of the Holy Spirit with in Him. I do not

agree with the similarities of the healing powers of

Mindfulness and the Holy Spirit. Mindfulness is the ability

of one to clear their mind of whatever havoc is causing

them pain. Mindfulness leads to possible Nirvana, taking

one away from the perceptual world. The Holy Spirit is not

an ability to heal; the Holy Spirit is the energy of God

which resides in everything. Jesus is God, who is the Holy

Spirit. If Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit are one how can

a person be the Holy Spirit? People can be Mindful, but

they can not be the Holy Spirit. Mindfulness does not set

people apart from a higher being. Christians recognize God

and Christ as the Lord. The energy of the Holy Spirit is

with in everyone to help them find a means of healing or

salvation on their own. The Holy Spirit does not directly

heal so therefore, the Holy Spirit is not simply a healing


I do feel though that Mindfulness can be used to

understand and seek the Holy Spirit as long as it is not

used to leave the perceptual world to hide in Nirvana.

Mindfulness is a way to become aware that selfhood is an

illusion. According to Nhat Hahn, mindfulness reveals the

conditioned nature of people s lives, thoughts, perceptions

and actions. Then by recognizing the conditioned world, one

is able to leave it in order to walk peacefully with in it.

I see it plain and simply as losing your head. The mind

becomes empty and far away. The world is what it is,

chaos, life itself is filled with stress, turbulence,

illness and, unhappiness. Mindfulness does not get rid of

or change the perceptual world, it simply allows one to get

away for awhile. In comparison to Mindfulness, the Holy

Spirit gives people a crutch to lean on and the energy to

transform when they need help. The Holy Spirit does not

offer a place to hide, but rather a way of facing the world

and dealing with it.

Next, Thich Nhat Hanh associates Nirvana with the

Kingdom of God. Buddhists and Christians know that Nirvana

or the Kingdom of God is within our hearts. Buddhist sutras

speak of Buddha nature as the seed of enlightenment that is

already in everyone s consciousness. The Gospels speak of

the Kingdom of God as a mustard seed planted in the soil of

consciousness (167). The Gospels are an emphasis of the

growth of God s kingdom from such a minute origin. How can

Nirvana be compared to the Kingdom of God, when Nirvana is

simply a state of consciousness? Nirvana is an enlightened

state of consciousness where one feels no struggles. The

Kingdom of God is everything physical, psychological,

tangible, and intangible, the perceptual world we live in

today, and the Heaven or Hell we will live in tomorrow. God

is the Creator of all, Heaven and Earth. He and His

creations are not a mere state of mind.

Also, Hanh tends to place people on the same level as

Jesus. We are of the same reality as Jesus. This may

sound heretical to many Christians, but I believe that

theologians who say we are not have to reconsider this.

Jesus is not only our Lord, but he is also our Father, our

Teacher, our Brother, and our Self (44). If Jesus is our

self, then he can not be our Lord because we would be one in

the same. In order to have a Lord or God there has to be a

follower or a believer. Christ or the Holy Spirit resides

within everyone and everything, but everyone and everything

is not God. God is the Creator and therefore, He is only a

part of everything. Many Buddhists are atheists and do not

believe in an everlasting God. This is why Hanh does not

recognize that people are not Jesus and can not become

Jesus. Hanh has overly merged the concept of mindfulness

and becoming mindful with recognizing the Holy

Spirit/Jesus/the Father as simply God.

Overall, in Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thich Nhat

Hanh attempts to connect the religions of Buddhism and

Christianity. I find Buddhism to be extremely contradictory

in its concepts and teachings and an easy way out of

life/reality. I agree with Hahn that people should not be

close minded about other religions, because I believe that

aspects of one religion can supplement another religion.

For example, the concept of Mindfulness in the Buddhist

tradition can be applied to Christianity in a way of just

touching and appreciating life and the world. What I

disagree with is that Mindfulness and the Holy Spirit are

the same. The Holy Spirit is God s energy within everyone

and everything that perpetuates people s lives and the world

around them. Next, Hanh tries to associate Nirvana with the

Kingdom of God. The two are incomparable simply because

Nirvana is more of a state of mind, while the Kingdom of God

encompasses the world and everything in it, whether it be

physical or psychological. Nirvana is a way of almost

attempting to escape God s Kingdom. Finally, Thich Nhat

Hanh writes that Jesus is within ourselves and that many are

just too blind and ignorant to recognize Him. I believe

that everyone is God s child, and that people are a part of

Him, because He is the Creator. It is not possible that

people can become Jesus or exactly like Jesus because then,

there would be no Lord or God. Living Buddha, Living Christ

is an attempt to converge the ideas of Christianity and

Buddhism. The two may supplement each other s concepts, but

their concepts are clearly not the same. As a Christian,

this book has opened my eyes to the likenesses and

differences of Buddhism to Christianity. By learning about

Buddhism in perspective to Christianity I have been able to

reaffirm my beliefs in the Christian Faith.


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