Hi, all, it's Tania, from The Friendly Funnel. I recently took my Buddhist refuge and boddhisattva vows and was wondering about the experiences of other Buddhist Quakers were like. Personally, I've found that Buddhism complements Quakerism, and vice versa. Buddhist practices allow me to be a better Quaker; Quaker practices allow me to be a better Buddhist.

What are particular Buddhist practices you like? There are some aspects of Buddhist theology I'm ambivalent about (such as reincarnation, but I don't focus on what happens after death--I'm a lot more interested in what happens before), but Buddhist practice (the Eightfold Path, meditation, etc.) has really strengthened my ability to be compassionate and respond to that of God in others.

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There are quite a few entries on my blog that speak to this in detail; for now, I'll just give a few brief examples.

Mantra meditation is helpful in centering my mind during the first few minutes in Meeting for Worship. It allows me to have a deeper, more centered Meeting than I had had in the past.

The practice of mindfulness--or being truly aware and in the moment--is pretty essential and seems to be an element of Simplicity as well.

The Noble Eightfold Path (Right Speech, Right Understanding, Right View, Right Action, Right Livelihood, etc.) guides me to better live out the Quaker Testimonies. For example, how can one truly act in a way that encourages peace if one doesn't have Right Understanding? Without Right Understanding, one's action may actually promote violence, even if one's intention is peace.

The theologies are a bit different and would vary depending on who you'd ask, both for Quakerism and Buddhism! But the main similarity for me is that everyone has access to that part of oneself that is truly open, not self-centered, and compassionate; what in Quakerism might be called "that of God" and in Buddhism "bodhichitta" or "Buddha-heart". For me, both Quakerism and Buddhism are religions of the present: you can be one with God and perfect before death; you can become enlightened in this lifetime. They are both optimistic and tend to believe that people were born good/untarnished; as opposed to, say, Roman Catholicism that believes one is born sinful.

So, I do find quite a bit of similarities theologically... but in all honesty, what I care most about is practice: does practicing Buddhism make me a more compassionate person? does practicing Quakerism connect me to the Divine?

Yes to both.
Hmmm.... I am an Adult ministries Director at a very liberal UMC church. they hired me as a Quaker. They indicated they did not want me to teach them Quakerism, but Christian theology, and that I would develop theology and membership courses, as well as educational opportunities, from a specifically Methodists, and biblical, point of view, as interpreted through Christian lenses. Critiques from other faith and social communities are welcomed. However, the church does not identify themselves as a Quaker or Buddhist Methodist church. In fact, the choir director is one, how, like you have stated, considers herself more "Buddhist." Well, she knows next to nothing about Buddhism, but that is not the point, as you certainly must. My point is, the Methodists accept her for who she is. but if you ask any United Methodist Church what they teach, a vast majority of them will say we are a Christian Church, we use the language of Christ, and we maintin this identity while welcoming all, who can call themselves what they wish. the difference being, Methodists are not offended when they are referred to by themselves or others as Christians. Christ is their communal identity, and they don't change it top accommodate others who are still seeking. So, maybe you can be a Buddhist Methodist, but to most people, it just doesn't make much sense as far as having a corporate identity. If you want to be an individual, great. I don't know how my wishing to be identified with Christ-centered Quakerism, and then suggest that our roots are Christ-centered an to discontinue that corporate identity is judgment. As for the snide remark about judgment, when you sit down to a meal with Bush and Cheney, and welcome them to worship as Torturer-Quakers, then I'll admit you are a better person than I am.  Indeed, most Friends fired weapons in World War II, and more than half of Quakers are not really pacifists. So, I guess that we will be accepting militaristic-Quakers to sit next to our Tea-Party-Quakers and  non-theist Quakers.
I would like to crearly re-state that I am not in favor of a "Jesus-only" world, nor am I claiming that Jesus is the only way to salvation. I do not believe that the world need be evangelized in the name of Jesus, or the God of Abraham. quite honestly, I am not willing to tell someone that this. God necessarily exists. I am calling for a maintainance of particularity and linguistic/metaphorical'textual boundaries with which a community uses to establish faith and practice. This is not exclusionary, and does not limit ecumenical dialogue. I am stating that once any community disavows boundaries, not only does it cease to exist, it ceases to offer any real potential to be anything other than an individual experience that does very little by underwrite individual experiences. I am not sure how maintaining an identity excludes others from practicing freely. This searching and seeking for the truth in a manner that seeks to do away with any actual potential for truth to ever be realized is alarming, in that it indicates we can not allow people to contribute their experiences in any canonical way. This does away with both Christ-centered and Buddhist identity, limiting the ability of religous practicioners to identify, grasp, and reconcile the nuances and tensions that exist in every worldview. there are significant differences between Buddhist concepts of emptying and Jesus-centered concepts of justice. There are significant differences between accepting suffering and self-emptying as a way of responding to persoanal attachements and desire, and voluntary suffering on behalf of justice and dignity for humanity. As far as I can tell from numerous conversations, workshops, and readings, teh Christ-centered and traditional Quaker views of justice and sacrifice are worlds apart from Buddhist concepts. If one is identifying mediation with Quaker silence, well, Quakerism is not about "silence" It may be about waiting for the Word to guide us toward ministry, but Christ-centered Quakerism is about Quaking, and doing... assertiveness of the Spirit and the enacting of prophetic ministry. I do not understand why the maintainance of particular aspects of a 400 year-old community is viewed as exclusive. Should I go to our local Temple and insist that I am part of that community, and then practice Quaker Testimonies as a legitimating practice for that Temple? Indeed, the leader of the Temple in my rural neighborhood told a friend that he favored working with American seekers because they were willing to accept the historcial teachings of the Buddha more than life-long Buddhist, who were more concerned with new-found American identity. Yet, Quakers are not concenred with Seekers finding a new path. We are more concerned with their individual development, which, if it occurs, is great, but if it does not, simply marks the faith community with one more itinerant ghost of a seeking soul, that would never allow itself to be satisfied. Quakerism's refusal to pass on any corporate spiritual expertise in any language or text has resulted in the lack of any intelligible faith practice. Indeed, Quakerism is dead. Long live universalism, for it has competed its task.

Friend Joseph:

 

This is a central question for Quakers these days.  It is a difficult one to deal with.  As someone who spent a long period of time, decades, identifying as a Buddhist, before becoming a Quaker, I would like to make some tentative responses.

 

First, there is in the Christian tradition a teaching referred to, sometimes, as 'natural theology'.  As I understand it God reveals Himself through the creation and as the creator of all that exists.  It is possible for someone to access the divine through this understanding of creation.  Jesus at one point says that "I and the Father are one."  I take this to mean that there is no difference between God the Creator of all that exists and Jesus who walked the earth.  If this understanding is accurate, then comprehending God through natural theology would, it seems to me, also mean accessing the reality of Jesus because they are one.

 

I have read that natural theology is used as a way of pointing out that those who have never heard of Christianity, or even monotheism, are still held responsible for their actions and their life by the Creator.  This is because God is displaying His reality through the creation constantly.  Natural theology implies the possibility of salvation outside of a specifically Christian context, in particular for those who, for example, lived before Jesus, or live in areas not accessed by evangelists, or those who dwell on other planets and worlds.

 

I once met a Mennonite who considered the Buddha someone who had found a lot of the truth through this means of natural theology, so I think it has some play in conservative theological circles, though I'm not overly familiar with that arena.

 

I don't think this undermines the unique efficacy of Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life.  If I may make an analogy; the world we observe is based on certain natural laws and they are there for anyone to access provided they apply themselves.  But because scientists have taken the time to explicitly open up these laws of the natural and physical world, it becomes much easier for us to access them who follow in their footsteps.  I would suggest something similar for Jesus as uniquely efficacious, in the sense that the bridge to eternity has become much more easy to access since His appearance.  While it is possible for someone to walk the bridge to eternity simply by contemplating creation, it is extremely rare that someone does do that.  The function of Jesus, from this perspective, was to make that access available to all people, not just a select few.

 

These are just a few thoughts stimulated by your post.  I hope that they are helpful.

 

Best wishes,

 

Jim

 

Joey, You have fully understood me, and detailed much more succinctly and in a more Friendly manner than I tend to. I do not take this to be an agreement, but I certainly feel heard. Thank you, Scot
True Religion is unconditional love. I could not agree more. And unconditional love can be expressed in a number of ways, so that each of us remain challenged inour ability to articluate our experiences of such love. I am not arguing against this point. It does matter, a great deal, that we call it the Light of Christ and Buddhist cal it Enlightenment. they are distinct discourses that allow for corporate expression of spiritual experience and hope that might stand in tension with one another as much as they do compliment each other. Maintaining a separate identity allow for these distinctions to continue, ao that we can always reevaluate our experiences and the way sin which we articluate them to others. Once you begin to hyphenate discourses, you lose nuance, meaning, and integrity of discourse. I am no tsaying Jesus is greater than Buddha. I am saying that a language of Jesus needs to be maintained as a means of identity. If you favor Buddhism, well, that is truly an admirable way of sharing faith and spritual experience. Just call yourself a Buddhist, and be an expert at Buddhism. Why bother to be a Quaker at all. For silence? Or for Brand.
Thank you. This speaks my mind exactly.

The thing is that I would be being dishonest if I chose Buddhism or Quakerism. Uncomfortable though sometimes it may be, I am a Buddhist. And I am a Quaker. I cannot deny the experiences I have at Meeting for Worship, nor can I deny the benefit and truth I discover while meditating. I cannot deny the Truth of the Testimonies, nor can I deny the Truth of the 4 Noble Truths.

 

To do so would violate both the Quaker Testimony of Integrity and the Buddhist practice of Right Speech.

 

So, I will apologize if my dual affiliation makes others uncomfortable, but my faith is what it is and I will not deny it.

It seems to me that Friends involved in this discussion are actually meaning very different things when they say "Quaker," and having no shared definition of that word makes meaningful conversation on this sort of topic, well, impossible, I think . . .

Hi Tania. I am a Conservative Quaker. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.

 I practice mindfulness, or recollection ("I will keep in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Me"; "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, WITH ALL YOUR MIND, with all your strength..."; "Pray continuously") , and I practice meditation (contemplation, waiting, LectioDivina). I believe there is suffering, and a way out of suffering. I believe Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Light. I believe there are many "Christians" whose Gods are Mammon, Caesar, or Mars, and I believe there are Buddhists who know the Eternal Christ, the Alpha and the Omega, the One who is, was, and will be. I would prefer to wait on the Lord with other Christians, but I would also prefer to wait on the Lord with Buddhist Quakers than with those whose lips preach Christ but whose hearts are far from Him.

Peace to you, Tania!

Friend,

I, like you, felt I was out of place once. But I was among fundamentalist Baptists. I, like you, thought, 'this is supposed to be a Christian group'. But what I heard preached was nationalism, hate, and bloodlust. The letter, which kills, was the law, rather than the Spirit, which gives life. I literally became a quaker in that church, trembling and having to speak out every time God's love was turned into hate. And I, like you, decided I would wait on Christ alone before sitting in that church again. 

I also know that the One who speaks within us and leads us from our sins is Christ Jesus. But I recognize a brother or sister in Christ not from professions of Christ but from expressions of Christ.

I will wait on the Lord with Gentiles who know the Eternal Christ inwardly, even if they don't know Him by name, before waiting on the Lord with Scribes and Pharisees. 

Thank you, Kenneth. Your comment has been a breath of fresh air to me.

 

I sometimes feel like an assumption is made that because I'm both Buddhist and Quaker, I deny Jesus's relevance or am ignorant of him. The truth is that this is the first year in 6 that I haven't started reading the New Testament on Christmas with the intent of finishing it by Easter. (I'm taking the year off because I think I need to come at the NT with some "new eyes".) I've read the Bible--as a whole. 

 

I am very much a fan of Jesus's. I think the world would be a better place with more people like him. The reason I usually don't identify as a Christian is I am not sure of my beliefs about the Resurrection, which is very much--as you well know--integral to most Christians. 

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