Spirit Alive: What the Dalai Lama Taught Me About Jesus

Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference and beyond.
August 8, 2017

Food for the Soul:

When Inter-faith Dialogue Becomes Sacred Conversation

The event took place back in mid-September 1994 in an auditorium at Middlesex University in London. It was a part of the John Main Seminar sponsored by the World Community for Christian Meditation and included an audience of some three hundred and fifty Christians.
The purpose of these sessions was to have the Dalai Lama comment on some of the significant teachings of Jesus, as recorded in the four gospels. The narrative of this amazing event is captured in the book The Good Heart: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of Jesus. It is a wonderful read and provides for a unique, meaningful journey into the fundamentals of Christian teaching.
As it says in the Preface: "Early each morning before breakfast, before anything else on the packed schedule of the conference, (the Dalai Lama) entered the darkened hall with his monks and, with the assembled Christians, he sat perfectly still and meditated for half an hour. In the silence, broken only by a rustle or a cough, anxiety fell away, and a bond of trust and openness for what was to come took its place. Then, at last, he bowed his shaved head over the text and, tracing the script with his finger like a rabbi, read, "How blest are those of a gentle spirit....How blest are those whose hearts are pure....How blest are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of right." And as he read, it was impossible not to be moved, almost stunned, by the power of these familiar words re-cadenced and re-keyed by a Tibetan voice and a Buddhist sensibility."
The book goes on to become a feast of insight and teaching related to eight of Jesus' key teachings. Here is an example of what the Dalai Lama had to say about Luke 9: 1-6, in which Jesus sends out the twelve with power and authority to cast out demons and cure diseases, saying "take nothing for the journey neither stick nor pack, neither bread nor money..."
In interpreting this text, the Dalai Lama says: "I think these passages point to a very important spiritual
ideal that is common to all religions. That is, that a spiritual practitioner who has gained a certain degree of realization as a result of his or her long practice should not rest content. Instead the practitioner should set out and attempt to communicate it to others, so that they too can share in the experience. Since the essence of all spiritual practice is the practice of love, compassion, and tolerance, once you have had a profound experience of these it is natural that you should wish to share it with others."
He goes on again and again throughout his talks to demonstrate that his own deep spiritual practice has much to teach us as Christian disciples about our own tradition and practice. No wonder, at the conclusion of the book, Fr. Laurence Freeman, one of the organizers of the conference says of the Dalai Lama: "...You have handled what is precious and sacred to us with reverence, with a sense of the sacred, and with the deepest respect....You have used your strength of wisdom, insight, intelligence, and spiritual power with wonderful delicacy. That is a lesson in nonviolence that we will treasure."

I learned a great deal about my own tradition from the book The Good Heart, and hope that in the process I have learned a bit about how to handle what is precious and sacred to others with reverence and respect. After all this is the basis not only for interfaith dialogue, but the foundation of deep and lasting human communication.

Let us walk in the light of God's love,

Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference. It seeks to identify where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities. Check out past editions, or subscribe to the email list.