[Rector]

Buddhism

 

Just off the expressway, south of Sydney, there is an amazing set of buildings with orange-tiled roofs. They are set between Mount Kembla and the sea and are destined to become a hot tourist attraction. The complex is a Buddhist Temple called Nan Tien (Paradise of the Southern Hemisphere), run by the Fo Kuang Shan sect of Buddhism. In the project is a 100 room motel for visitors. The religious center serves to "promote cultural exchanges between East and West, and especially to propagate Buddhism." There is a large columbarium wall, a resting-place for the ashes of ancestors. Part of the Buddhist ritual involves saying prayers for the dead to help them get into the land of paradise, nirvana. The Fo Kuang Shan sect comes from Taiwan and is a liberal sect of Buddhism, but very evangelistic. They offer a way of life which emphasizes peace, high morality and respect for old age.

The Temple has a large staff whose prime task is to teach Buddhism. They have learnt well from the corrupt methods of evangelism used by the Christian church. They run interesting programs, to gather a group of interested people, so that may present Buddhist teaching. Classes include meditation, cooking, self-awareness, yoga.... Watching others use these tactics may help us to question our own inclination to get into these types of games. Certainly Jesus didn't play them.

Westerners have grown increasingly cynical of democratic socialism. The collapse of traditional morality, along with a declining institutionalized Christianity focused on guilt and survival, has left many open to alternative beliefs. Buddhism seems an attractive alternative in a world of greed and violence. It offers self-fulfilment, inner peace and eternal rest. It provides a way free from absolutes and judgmentalism. It provides morality, a gentle spirit and a realistic destiny, along with a high view of ecology.

The Buddha (the Enlightened One) was a prince named Siddartha Guatama who lived in Nepal around 500BC. As he observed the horrors of the world around him he proclaimed his "4 Noble Truths": Suffering is universal, the cause of suffering is selfish desire, the cure for suffering is the elimination of desire, and desire is eliminated by following the "Noble Eightfold Path." This path involves having right views, aspirations, speech, action, mode of working, effort, awareness and meditation.

In the end, it comes down to who got it right, either Siddartha or Jesus. To my way of thinking, if Jesus didn't get it right then no one did. So I will stick with the resurrected one who offers freedom from self, guilt and fear, a freedom just for the asking.