A thought for Monday night:

Just a thought for Monday night:

The Zen master says, “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him."

This is considered a great insight. But of course everybody knows this is a koan, an enlightenment puzzle. So we laugh knowingly, or perhaps sit in silence.

The Institutional masters of all political persuasions say, “If you meet the Christ on the road, Crucify Him."

This is considered prudent. And everybody knows we must be prudent. So we do.

How are we Christians in any position to condemn the Buddhist who seeks enlightenment when we join the crowd and crucify the Lord?


  1. A biblical parallel which I have toyed with as a good point of comparison to 'kill the buddha' (which has a long history of exegesis of its own--most americans are not as aware of this rich tradition, of course) is Paul's statement in Romans 9:3:
    For I could wish to be accursed (anathema), and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people.'

    And here too, as I am discovering in my dissertation research, there is a whole remarkable history of interpretation of this most troublesome verse from Paul.

    Perhaps not directly related to your post, Mark, but I too continue to be frustated by the anti-buddhist comments that come from Christians whom, for the most part, are relatively ignorant of the buddhist tradition (e.g. Buddhists don't have a doctrine of sin or evil--patently false!), and sometimes, even their own.

  2. Richard in Chicago16/6/09 12:00 PM

    The way I've come to understand "Kill the Buddha" is that "Buddha" is just another intellectual concept to let go.
    Buddha told his followers to focus on the teachings, try it for themselves, don't take his word for it. It's not hard to shift attention from Buddha the Teacher to the teachings themselves.

    I'm having difficulty relating this to "Crucify Christ" if I use my understanding of "Kill the Buddha". It's very hard to imagine christianity without a focus on Christ. Perhaps you had a different meaning of the koan in mind when you wrote your comments?

    Could you amplify a bit?

  3. John 2007 writes

    I have always found Romans 9:3 to be, in itself, astonishingly beautiful, so I hope that its "troublesomeness" has to do with the multiplicity of interpretations to which you refer (which you know better than I).

    On the original post, I don't quite follow the connection between the exercise the koan puts us through via contradiction and the Christian (Pauline esp) claim that we are contradicted at a deep level, and that we crucify the purposes of God. (I mean, there is no injunction, is there, to crucify christ in the way the koan is a command, is there?)

  4. In "Letters to Malcolm, Chiefly on Prayer", C. S. Lewis wrote, "Every idea of God we form, God must, in mercy, shatter."

    The trick is we are usually more eager to point out where others' ideas of God must be shattered than we are prepared to offer up our own to God's severe mercy.

  5. Jesus, if he did exist, died hundreds of years ago and you're only about 60-70 years old. Nobody alive today could have crucified him.
    This is one of the times when religion looks especially confusing.

  6. As an aspiring Christian doing koan study, Matt (above) speaks my mind.

    word verification: rogue (!)

  7. Nobody alive today could have crucified him.
    This is one of the times when religion looks especially confusing.

    Actually, Brad, *I* did it!!! I crucified him!

    Follow this link, and refer to the last line of the second verse of this hymn: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/a/h/ahholyje.htm

  8. The "point" of a koan is to cease discursive thinking, so to discuss what it "means" really is a fallacy. By cutting off the innumerable opinions, interpretations, exegeses, etc. we find ourselves in a place in which the curtain of our own over-valued intellect is removed and we see and enjoy life. It's there, from a Christian perspective, that we touch God through His Living Spirit. One of the fundamental faults in so-called "orthodox christianity" is that it simply spins more self to cover up God.

    This is one of the gentler teaching techniques, but the point is always to direct one away from mind to consciousness. Sometimes, we get a shock to wake us, instead.

    Once, a disciple came to his teacher meditating by a stream and said, "Sensei, I try to count the breath, but it was so boring." The teacher said nothing, but shoved the disciple, face-first, into the stream and held him there. When he let the disciple up, after the young man had finished spluttering and choking, the teacher asked, "Was your breath boring to you just then?"

  9. Poor Zen practitioner am I!

    So many words!

    I forgot:

    Jesus gave fairly clear koans, though we lump them in as "parables":

    It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter Heaven . . . yet, with God, all things are possible.

    He who would find his life must lose it.

    . . this is my body . . . this is my blood. . .

    Withering a fig tree for having no fruit . . . out of season!

    Before Abraham was, I am.

    Resist not evil.

    We've made clever answers to all of these, and none of those answers really satisfy or cover all bases, do they?

  10. Don't cling to me.

  11. My image of God is just fine, yours needs shattering, theirs is a heresy.

    With apologies to John Justin Smith.



OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.