A number of Buddhist teachers insist that everyone is already a Buddha (The Awake One.) Underneath, we might say, all the falsifications about who we think we are, there exits our Buddha-hood. I believe that something similar can be said about being “in Christ Jesus.” If Jesus, as the Christ (Messiah), is understood as a revelation of our profound humanness, then all of us are already “in Christ.” Our profound humanness has never been missing, and it is still there. We simply have to get our alien self-images out of the way. That is a serious business, for we are sociologically conditioned to a human build world that is a far approximation of what is really real.
It is interesting to note that when Siddhartha realized that he was the Awake One (the Buddha), he continued his meditation practices for the rest of his life. He apparently assumed that these practices assisted him in being the Awake One and further exploring the full realization what that meant.
It seems to me that those of us who are willing to view ourselves are already “in Christ” also need to do our solitary practices, our Bible reading, our group practices, and our history-bending engagements in order to manifest our “in Christ” essence and to further explore the full realization what that means.
My understanding of doing religious practices was enriched deeply by this story I heard about the student who asked his Buddhist teacher if meditation caused enlightenment. His teacher answered, “No, enlightenment is an accident, but meditation makes you more accident prone.”
That reminds me of Paul Tillich’s Christian teaching about grace—that “grace is a happening that happens or it does not happen.” That implies that grace is also an accident, and that our Christian practices only make us more accident prone to the grace that heals our lives. That also implies that our “in Christ” awakenment is not a human achievement, but our true nature or essence breaking through our human achievements.
I believe that this trend of thought applies to all religious practices. Such practices are only a means of assisting us to be more accident prone to experiencing our essential profound humanness—a human essence that all of us already are, but that all of us have clouded with falsifying overlays.
Over the years I have studied and practiced all sort of religious practices, and I have recently constructed this list of secular categories for all the religious practices I have ever heard about:
In this spin I am not going to spell out all these sets of religious practices. I am going to focus on Historical Engagement. We don’t often thinking of historical engagement as a religious practice, but for Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jesus, Mohammed, and many more, I believe it was for them a religious practice—and that it has been for me.
In 1963 I went to Jackson, Mississippi to march with Martin Luther King Jr. I stayed in the house of one of my friends, Bob Kochtitsky, whose house had been bombed a few months back by people who did not like the leadership he was taking in the civil right revolution. As I was marching down that Jackson, Mississippi street seeing people on their porches and policemen standing around, I did not think of this as a religious practice. But reflecting on it later (as well as now), I am viewing it as an example of what I mean by “Historical Engagement as a religious practice.”
My brief Jackson-Miss engagement was not a religious practice because I was walking in a group with Martin King. It was not a religious practice because it was a little bit dangerous. It was a religious practice because I was in this small way participating in the bending of history toward justice. Doing such a thing was making me more accident prone for accessing my profound humanness.
So what does this say about having a true religious practice? A good religious practice is anything that makes us more accident prone to the accident of accessing our profound essence of being human. A true religious practice can be done alone, or with a group of like-minded practitioners, or with a large group of people of many backgrounds,
Good religion is whatever practices assist us toward the accident of being “a Buddha” or being “in Christ,” or being “in” the meaning of whatever “vocabulary” points to our profound humanness. Certainly, no practice has the right to be called the exclusive good religious practice.
It is also true that religious heritages that have served human beings for thousands of years have something that can be and need to be recovered for our times. I personally feel called to build a next Christianity that is relevant and vital for our emerging era. I believe that such a next Christianity will learn from contemporary and ancient Buddhists, perhaps sit Native American sweat lodges, do Sufi dancing, and join with many types of spirit explorers in forming together the spirit care for our wide diversity of humans. This next Christianity will also realize what it means to be “resurrected in Christ Jesus.”
For further probing of these boundless topics, I recommend my book:
The Love of History and the Future of Christianity?
Toward a Manifesto for a Next Christianity