Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” John 14: 5-7
I love these verses! Many Christians state their entire theology and life on these verses. What if these verses never existed in the New Testament? Would Jesus be simply a Messiah and not God himself?
Jesus (or Yeshua) is about to leave his disciples. What happens when he leaves? Who can his disciples trust? Yeshua’s words point his disciples to a pragmatic example; Yeshua is the best example of God to his disciples. Follow this path! Yeshua has revealed a set of principles and truth to his disciples; follow this path! Yeshua provided an example of how to live; be that example! In these three ways, then, Yeshua explains that this method ultimately reveals God or the path to God or the example of living toward a life pleasing to God.
Why not follow the example of Yeshua?
I do, even as a Buddhist. Does this idea sound perplexing and paradoxical?
God, in Buddhism, is complicated. We don’t necessarily believe in a creator God. The historical Buddha rejected the concept of the Hindu Gods as being “perfected,” for they demonstrated in many respects the elements of the five poisons–anger, jealousy, delusion, greed, and desire. Think also of the Greek pantheon. Any time a recent film is made describing the Gods, Zeus and his brothers cannot get along! They constantly war against each other. They aren’t too different from the Vedic (pre-Hindu) God, Indra, who one invokes during a time of war. Why would Buddha want to worship a God of War? Why would Buddha place his trust in a Hebrew God whose name is called out in battle to win the land? Don’t our own minds and actions send us to hell? Why do we need a god or goddess to condemn what we naturally have done in our lives?
Jesus, though, seems to invoke a different view of God. Read the Gospel of Luke. If we want to follow the path of Jesus as a representation of what God is, then God is not too different from the Buddha’s representation of life, too. God is a nurturing, loving, compassionate being who treats women and men equally. That’s the kind of life we should aspire to!
Do I believe in God? Not a Sky God! Not a War God! Not even a Creator God! Instead, I believe in love, compassion, and nurturing ideals! Jesus and the Buddha both represent these qualities and have manifested them completely in this earth realm!
Christians may not like what Buddhists do with Jesus. Jesus is a Bodhisattva! According to Chogyam Trungpa, a bodhisattva is “a statement of willingness to give up one’s own well being, even one’s own enlightenment, for the sake of others.” Didn’t Jesus accomplish this task? Chogyam Trungpa is also a bodhisattva! Trungpa came to the United States to spread the dharma to hippies, who may have used drugs and other intoxicants. He became one of them, so to speak, as a method to cut through their obscurations to pass Buddhism to this United States. Trungpa’s life ended from this tough materialistic ride in the United States, but he left a legacy that allowed people like me, a baby bodhisattva, to experience Buddhism!
Trungpa’s way was very different from Yeshua’s! The Buddha’s way was very different from Trungpa’s also, for the Buddha starved himself to death similar to the India yogis before him before he realized the middle path and the bold teachings of the dharma–the way!
Throughout history, we have opportunities to meet or read about great human beings. I never met Jesus (or Yeshua), but having the possibility to read the Gospels has inspired my work as a follower of the Buddha. Trungpa, too, has given me other possibilities of cutting through this spiritual materialism existing within the United States. The Dalai Lama, though he lost his country, opened the door for me to see beyond my limited scope of existence. Thich Naht Hanh, the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, changed my life when he published the book, Living Buddha, Living Christ.
Without these bodhisattvas and other influences, I know I would not be following any way, truth, or life! I would be living the life of self-righteous ego and feeding it desire, delusion, anger, greed, and jealousy…like the gods and goddesses in so many religions!
May compassion anoint every single being on this earth!
May we come to know the nature of our minds!
May we treat each other with complete equanimity!
May we understand the way of the great bodhisattvas!
May we realize complete freedom and enlightenment!
May we accomplish this good news for all sentient and non-sentient beings, including the environment!