2/24/13 Brian about 60
Brian, a self-described “Jesus Freak” from the sixties sporting a peace patch and a “legalize marijuana” button, told me he went through several religions after the sixties including Christian Science and Scientology until he has now found “enlightenment” in Buddhism. “You create your own reality with your thoughts, your own heaven or hell” is how he described the afterlife, and went on to describe Buddhism as his answer to John Lennon’s song “Imagine”, viewing the belief in God and religion as a source of conflict in the world. He sees Buddhism as being simple and innocent and unselfish, where one puts aside all desires and clears all thoughts until they reach a total state of peace and freedom from suffering called “nirvana”. There are some things about Buddhism Brian spoke of that agree with Christian values, such as the teachings against covetousness (greed) and the belief that the more one is consumed by their own feelings and desires the more they are just trying to be a god themselves. But the whole premise of Buddhism as I understand it –to achieve a state of enlightenment and inner peace by emptying oneself of desires and feelings- seems to me to be more like suicide – the ultimate act of selfishness. Jesus, on the other hand, calls us to a life of self-denial and self-sacrifice not for the sake of achieving inner peace but for the sake of loving our neighbor and, ultimately, to bring glory to God. Paul wrote of the way to true peace in Romans 5: “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This implies that outside of being justified by faith in Christ, we are outside of peace with God. Our primary problem then isn’t the need to escape the conflict in the world around us, it’s the conflict in our relationship with God as we live in rebellion against His authority over us. We can only find “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil 4:7) through Jesus Christ, not in achieving “nirvana” or anywhere else.