Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk, teacher (Thay), and lover of Jesus says, “When we look into and touch deeply the life and teaching of Jesus, we can penetrate the reality of God. . . . God made himself known to us through Jesus Christ.” In his book Living Buddha, Living Christ, Thay seeks the reality beneath the surfaces of both Buddhism and Christianity. For both religious systems, he says, “The practice is to touch life deeply so that the Kingdom of God becomes a reality. This is not a matter of devotion. It is a matter of practice.”
In mid-August, I spent a week in solitude at Saint Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. My room at the retreat center was isolated from everyone else on the campus. Three times each day, at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I left my room and attended prayers with the 24 sisters who came together to sing and read psalms, prayers, and praises. Sister Madeline shepherded me along the way, demonstrating the art and practice of Benedictine hospitality. During the services, I sat in the corner and listened to that group of women, who had devoted their lives to the service and worship of God, some from the age of fifteen, now in their seventies and eighties. I left the nave of the church each time feeling I had experienced a little touch of heaven, of the eternal angelic lifting of voices and hearts to the Divine. The feathery soft voices, the antiphonal call and response that anchors their days, year after year. The energy of the Holy Spirit lifted on soft wings.
The great desire of a Christian is to become a Christ. In its earliest use, the word “Christian” meant “little Christ.” Little Christs want to grow up to be big Christs. The great desire of a Buddhist is to become a Buddha. One meaning of the common Buddhist term “Bodhisattva” is simply someone who is on the path to enlightenment, the path to Buddha-hood. A little Buddha wanting to grow up to be a big Buddha. We have that in common. Little Christs, little Buddhas trying to grow up into big Christs, big Buddhas. Thay says, “We must practice living deeply, loving, and acting with charity if we wish to truly honor Jesus. The way is Jesus Himself and not just some idea of Him.”
Through this practice we “penetrate the door and enter the abode of the living Buddha and the living Christ, and life eternal presents itself to us.” For followers of Jesus, “Because God the Son is made of the energy of the Holy Spirit, He is the door for us to enter the Kingdom of God.” In the prayers of the Sisters of Saint Scholastica, Jesus is “the Beloved.” Three times each day, day after day, year after year, decade after decade. The energy of the Holy Spirit, the Beloved. The door for us to enter the Kingdom of God. Not a matter of devotion, a matter of practice.