Jesus and the Buddha on Good Friday

Thich Nhat Hanh SmilingOn this Good Friday March 29, 2013, I offer these excerpts from a dharma talk given by Thich Nhat Hanh on December 24, 1997 in Plum Village, France.

Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

“There was a film maker who lives in Sweden who wanted to come and ask me this question: “If Jesus and Buddha met today what do you think they would tell each other?” I am going to offer you the answer.

If you were born in Europe there is a big chance you are a child of Jesus and you have Jesus as your ancestor. Jesus is a spiritual ancestor for many people in Europe. We have blood ancestors but we have also spiritual ancestors. Jesus is one of the many spiritual ancestors of Europeans. You may not consider yourself a Christian, but that does not prevent Jesus from being one of your spiritual ancestors. Because your great-grandfather might have been a good Christian. He has transmitted to you the seed, the energy, the love, and the insight of Jesus. If you do well you will be able to help this energy to manifest within yourself.

There are those who think that they don’t have anything to do with Christianity. They hate Christianity. They want to leave Christianity behind, but in the body and spirit of these people Jesus may be very present, very real. The energy, the insight and the love of Jesus may be very true, very existential. It is like the sound of the bell. When you hear the sound of the bell, when you hear the sound of the Church bell, when you hear the sound of the Buddhist temple bell, you may not feel anything. You may think the sound of the bell has not much to do with me. One day it may be very different…

Golden Buddha in LightI would like to answer the film maker’s question: A Buddhist is someone who considers the Buddha as one of his spiritual ancestors. You can say that the Buddha is an enlightened one, a great Bodhisattva, a teacher, the founder of Buddhism. You can say that the Buddha is my spiritual ancestor. I would like to talk about the Buddha as an ancestor. To me the Buddha is very real. I can touch him at any time I want. I can profit from his energy, and insight anytime I want. It is so real. He is in every cell of my body. Every time I need him I have ways to touch him and to make his energy manifest…

I live in permanent touch with my ancestors whether they are blood ancestors or spiritual ancestors. If you are a Buddhist you have the Buddha as an ancestor. The energy, the insight, the love of the Buddha has been transmitted to you by your teacher, and by many generations of teachers. You know how to touch the cells within your body, in your soul, you know how to make the energy of the Buddha manifest. You need the energy of the Buddha. Sometimes you are overwhelmed by the energy of hate, of anger, of despair. You forget that in you there are other kinds of energy that you can manifest also. If you know how to practice you can bring back the energy of insight, to bring back the energy of love, of hope in order to embrace the energy of fear, of despair, the energy of anger. Our ancestors are capable of negating the evil spirit within us and bring back the Holy Spirit in order for us to heal and to be healthy and to be joyful, to be alive again.

In Buddhism we talk about these kinds of energies also, the negative energies and the positive energies. There is a little difference, in the case of Buddhism we don’t have to chase the evil spirit outside, in fact we embrace the evil spirit, the energy of anger, the energy of despair, the energy of hate, the negative energies which should be embraced. They don’t need to be chased away.

What do you do in order to embrace and transform them? You have to call in, you have to help manifest the energy of love, of understanding, of peace in order to embrace these kinds of negative energies. Listening to the bell, for instance, is one of the wonderful ways in order to generate the energy of peace, to generate the energy of mindfulness. These energies will help to take care of the negative energies.

Peace of MindFor instance when you are angry you can always practice like this:

“Breathing in, I know there is the energy of anger in me.”

It is a very simple practice. It is a very wonderful practice. You just practice breathing In, and Out to be aware that anger is in you. You know that when you are angry it is not good to say anything. It is not good to react or do anything. “Breathing In, breathing Out I recognise there is anger in me” is the best thing to do. If you know how to do it the energy of anger will not be able to do anything to you and to the people around you.

During this practice the energy of mindfulness is in you, alive, because you continue the practice of mindful breathing In and mindful breathing Out. Mindful breathing In and Out helps the energy of mindfulness to be alive, and this enables you to embrace the energy of anger, to recognise it as existing. You are put in a very safe situation. You don’t have to chase anger out of you. You allow it to be in you, you embrace it tenderly and then anger will subside, and the danger is overcome. During the practice you have helped anger to be transformed slowly. At times when anger manifests itself you acknowledge your anger smiling to it.

You know something? During the time you practice breathing In and Out, acknowledging your anger and smiling to it, the energy of the Buddha is in you. The Buddha is in you, the Buddha as an ancestor is protecting you. You know that the Buddha is not an idea. The Buddha is true energy. The energy of the Buddha is the energy of Mindfulness, the energy of peace, the energy of wisdom.

Holy Spirit & JesusIf you are a practising Christian your practice should be something like this also. When the evil spirit is within you, the evil spirit is the spirit of despair, anger, violence, and of hate. When the evil spirit is within you, you have to be aware that it is in you. You ask Jesus to come and to become manifest in you in order for you to be able to recognise the evil in yourself and to embrace it.

With prayer and contemplation, with the reading of the Bible you put yourself in a safe situation. You are able to contain, to control, to transform the negative energy in you, the energy you call evil spirit. The Holy Spirit is the energy that you need in order to embrace and take care of the negative energy in you. For those of us who practice mindfulness, we think, we believe that the energy of mindfulness (which is the energy of the Buddha), is the equivalent of what our friends call the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the kind of energy that is capable of being there, of understanding, of accepting, of loving and of healing. If you agree that the Holy Spirit has the power to be present to understand, to heal, to love, if you agree about this, then you have to say it is the same thing as the energy of Mindfulness. Where Mindfulness is, there is true presence. Where Mindfulness is, there is the capacity to understand.

Heart Glowing with LoveYou have the capacity to accept, to become compassionate, to love therefore able to touch the energy of mindfulness to become manifest in you. The Buddha as a spiritual ancestor is manifest in you. You are able to allow the Holy Spirit to be in you, to guide you, to shine on you like a lamp. Jesus is then alive in you that very moment.

There are those of us who have the Buddha and have Jesus, and these people have roots within the Buddhist tradition and also within the Christian tradition. In my hermitage I put a lot of Buddha Statues on my altar, about 10 or 15 very small Buddhas one centimetre high, and many big Buddhas like this, and also a statue of Jesus as my ancestor. I have adopted Jesus Christ as one of my spiritual ancestors because of the fact that I have met a few Christians I respect and love deeply.

So now, if I am to answer the film maker’s question “If the Buddha and the Christ were to meet today what do they have to tell each other?”

Not only do they meet today but they met yesterday, they met last night, they are always in me and they are very peaceful and united with each other. There is no conflict at all between the Buddha and the Christ in me. They are real brothers, they are real sisters within me. This is part of the answer.

Going Home-Jesus & buddha brothersBuddha and Jesus are two brothers who have to help each other. Buddhism does need help. Christianity does need help. Not for the sake of Buddhism, not for the sake of Christianity but for the sake of humankind, for the sake of other species on earth. Because we live in a time when individualism prevails. We live in a time when violence prevails. We live in a time where ignorance is overwhelming. People are no longer capable of understanding each other, of talking with each other, of communicating with each other. We live in a time where destruction is everywhere and many are on the verge of despair. That is why the Buddha should be helped. That is why Jesus should be helped.

So, instead of discriminating against each other the Buddha and Jesus have to come together every day, every morning, every afternoon, every evening in order to be two brothers. That is the hope of the world today…”

Child Drawing Peace Dove


About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

7 Responses to “Jesus and the Buddha on Good Friday”

  1. Thank you. Do you or anyone relay me a thanks giving prayer for today, being good friday

  2. I REALLY enjoyed reading through this today Steven and, as ever, you have hit the spot at exactly the right time. Anger is so very destructive but to be able to embrace it…to smile and recognize it for what is really is… well that is what we must all strive for. Thank you my friend.

  3. Thank you for this beautiful post. I am new to Buddhism and I live in an area where there are no temples or other Buddhist. So, I have found refuge in this website, and I view it as my sangha. So much wisdom here, thank you so much for all of it!

  4. I love this post Steve. Thank you. It encompasses spirituality across the globe. “You have the capacity to accept, to become compassionate, to love therefore able to touch the energy of mindfulness to become manifest in you” whatever the path you follow. Namaste _()_

  5. Well said, brother! I agree.
    Peace and luvz, Uncle Tree ✟

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