Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Despite many external similarities, Buddhist meditation and contemplation is quite different from orthodox Christianity. Buddhist meditation strives to "wake" a person from his existential delusions. "Therefore, despite similar aspects, there is a fundamental difference" between Christian and Buddhist mysticism, writes Pope John Paul II. "Christian mysticism . . . is not born of a purely negative ‘enlightenment.’ It is not born of an awareness of the evil that exists in man’s attachment to the world through the senses, the intellect, and the spirit. Instead, Christian mysticism is born of the revelation of the living God" (Crossing the Threshold of Hope).
The Buddhist mystic seeks absorption into an impersonal whole, looking to rid himself of desire and suffering. The Christian mystic, on the other hand, desires neither the loss of personality nor an impersonal oneness with all but a deep and abiding communion with the Triune and personal God.
Jean Cardinal Daniélou, known for his study of Eastern religions, explains in God and the Ways of Knowing that "mystical knowledge partakes in the life of the Trinity. It is the realization by man of his deepest being, of what God meant to achieve in creating him."
For the Christian mystic, there is an object (the loving and merciful God) and a growth in the salvific life of grace, leading to everlasting life. On the other hand, the Buddhist sutras state that the "categories of everlasting life and death, and existence and non-existence, do not apply to the essential nature of things but only to their appearances as they are observed by defiled human eyes." Buddhism resists existential possibility; Christianity affirms it.