Sunday, April 8, 2007

Who can celebrate Easter?

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

If you check the Christian blogosphere today, I bet you will see that sentiment or some variant written all over the place. That's not surprising. But what may surprise some of you is that I can appreciate that message too!

Or maybe it wouldn't.

One of the first things I published here was an update of an essay I had written on the Gospel, and why from the view of ecumenical mysticism and the Bodhisattva ideal of Mahayana Buddhism, one could find great inspiration within and gain much strength from it. I do fully appreciate that for a majority of professing Christians, it is the historical reality of the Gospels, and the resurrection in particular, that validates their spiritual journey as Christians. I am not arguing here for or against the historical reality of the events detailed in the Bible concerning the life of Joshua bin Joseph, but affirming their ahistorical value for all who share a orientation toward what Tillich referred to as an (the?) “ultimate concern.” That is, there is something in the Gospels for those such as myself who would not be considered Christians (let alone theists by most standards), and it's also there for Christians because, again, it does not hinge on believing or not believing in the Gospels as being one hundred percent historically accurate. In other words, this is not intended to replace whatever belief one may have in these stories from a literal perspective.

That being said, let me clearly articulate that (for me) the value and the reality of the Gospel is ahistorical, which refers to something which is not limited to any particular, fixed, and singular point in time and space. To exercise a little conceit here, I can best express my attitude thus: It doesn't matter one bit if Jesus was or was not crucified and resurrected thousands of years ago in Judea if he hasn't been crucified and resurrected in your heart, and if he has been crucified and resurrected in your heart it doesn't matter one bit if he was crucified and resurrected thousands of years ago in Judea.

As I wrote in my earlier essay, if God ("the Father") is the object of ultimate concern/reality (or the dharmakaya/tathata for the Buddist readers) and Jesus is walking the path of the Bodhisattva, then his temptation by Satan represents the struggle of the ego (in Buddhist usage of that term) and the attainment of nirvana (death on the cross), permitting a realization of one's union with that ultimate reality. This is the basis for the transformation and revelation of Christ as a fully realized Buddha after having worked to free all sentient beings from their suffering (atonement by crucifixion by which Christ is able to enter Hell and rescue those trapped there as well as those who would have gone their eventually - again, it's very ahistorical). The last bit is of course more in line with those Christians who advocate Universalism, but then, I figure I've already lost most Christians who believe in a literal eternal damnation for the unsaved anyway.

When I observe Christians celebrating Easter, I realize many non-Christians (and especially some of the non-religious) only see a bunch of saps celebrating a fictitious miracle that by their own admission could only be meaningful if it actually happened. But I tend to see that many (hopefully most) of them are getting that ahistorical truth, the nature of redemption and grace, even if they wouldn't express it as such. That they are indeed deeply meditating and praying about becoming selfless, about dying to their pettiness and insecurity and vanity, and being resurrected in the image of Christ, the image of a Bodhisattva, and thus reaffirming their own commitment to walk the path of compassion, equanimity, loving-kindness, and sympathetic joy.

Romans 11

3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4 therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6 knowing this, that our old man in crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.
8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him;
9 knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

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