Newness in the Body to Love and Serve

Developed Buddhist philosophy contains the view that the absence of clear awareness leads to skandas building up and these form a new life, a new life that can come about within a present lifespan as well as after death. We change all the time; how we change is explained traditionally by karma - actions of mind, speech and body - and the process of change, punarbhava, is a process of becoming again, for which, in the end, to come about, a lived-life and body is needed.
Christianity too, at its heart, is about a lived-life and the body and change.
Rebirth in Buddhism is not about dying and then some sort of soul pops itself into a new body. There is no soul in Buddhism: it is rather a process of change of properties that build into a new life where these properties can change again in a new living body. Only when full awareness is achieved does that tension of this process come to an end, and so there is no rebirth, says the developed explanation.
Christianity has a kind of battle between Jewish body and Greek soul. Perhaps the body, the material, is the more important and original insight. The world is material, and Christianity links the body of the person and the ecological body of the world in a redeeming process, a process of change. It is painful, gradual, frustrated, rather as can be in the process of Buddhist rebirth, unless one is really dedicated and focused.
Christianity, like Buddhism, is therefore interested in a new life. Buddhism says we are sticky in a kind of samsara gunge that holds us back: in being too attached to things that will pass away and therefore leave us disappointed. But every lived life for Buddhism is a new chance to start again, because here is a new creation and a new beginning. Buddha teaches action towards clarity and awareness, to remove attachment and break free of the grip of samsara. This newness is so even if karma is not believed; after all Buddhism is a practice out of which belief is realised, not a belief that demands a practice.
Christianity too sees a new beginning, this time through the person of Christ; we are also a new creation in our bodies. We do not have to accept a doctrine of original sin to nevertheless to see the opportunity of personal reorientation through a practice of the presence of Christ, a practice of eucharistic participation - perhaps.
The Buddhist treats any iconographic representation of Buddha as if that is Buddha himself present, and this Buddha may be given a material gift (for example an offering of lotus flowers) in addition to the effort of participation in the meditation process as part of a process of beginning to achieve clarity of mind - Buddha's spiritual gift to us. Clarity means an opened awareness to the crying needs of the world, so the Buddhist serves the world in openness and love, making it new.
In a similar way, the Christian comes to the eucharistic practice to give of themself, as a body and mind, materially, and do so in preparation of some sort of clarity as to what they have done and should not have done, and trying to achieve a mindfulness of peace with the other person in preparation; and then the iconography of the eucharist in eating and drinking (linking Christ and the world's produce as a holistic overview) is a central focus of presence; and from that presence a new stance is possible as a spiritual gift to be taken back into the particularity of the world, to offer the world love and service and make it new. We participate in Christ's resurrection life, in newness in and amongst others.
These are different streams: the Buddhist approach is a reform of Hinduism and part of a spiritual elitist tradition, but in the end it is an approach of the body to bring about a new creation every time and oneself and the other nearer to nirvana. The Christian stream comes from Judaism, resurrection belief even earlier from Zoroastrianism, and all mediated through Greek understanding, and it intends to be equalitarian; yet it too in the end is an approach of the body to bring about a new creation every time and bring oneself and the other to the Kingdom.


Adrian Worsfold

Pluralist - Liberal and Thoughtful