Volume > Issue > Is Christianity the Same as Buddhism Underneath?

Is Christianity the Same as Buddhism Underneath?


By Thomas W. Case | May 1986
Thomas W. Case is a Ph.D. student in Theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley.

All over the country (but especially in Califor­nia) little groups of people have for years been in­voking certain relic-deities with elaborate and ex­acting ritual, intense concentration, and that deep sense of awe and fear that comes of opening one­self to the unknown. Diana is invoked by a warm­ed-over Wicca, Isis and Horus and Hermes Trismegistus by self-styled magicians, Dionysus by bacchanalians in the May-time in Marin. The Great Mother is especially in vogue today over a broad spectrum of groups and psychologies, from Wom­en’s Lib to those with a nostalgic reverence for the earth that has disappeared beneath the sidewalks.

I have to wonder what would happen if Jesus Christ or Mary the Mother of God were invoked so passionately and so longingly and with such au­thentic dread. Or more to the point, invoked ex­perimentally and ingenuously, as if in the infancy of time? If one were to chant “Yahweh, Yahweh, Yahweh” with the mounting intensity of a Hindu chanting “Siva, Siva, Siva” — what would happen? If one were to sing for and worship the Holy Trin­ity instead of considering it a riddle fit for the de­liberations of hair-splitting theologians — what would be the result? And why does the Virgin Mary appear only to children — at Lourdes, at Fatima? Because children are so uninhibited in their religion?

I think a distinction must be made between the content of a religion and “sacred techniques” per se. Sacred techniques are universal. Shamanism, which is not just altered consciousness but in its most fulsome sense is possession by the god, is the most direct, most radical, most dangerous, and most effective sacred technique. Though compara­tively awesome and dramatic, it is in the same cate­gory as mystical contemplation: the intention of both is identification with, union with, divinity. But does it make a difference whether your union is with Quetzalcoatl or with the Sacred Heart of Jesus?

I would say so. There is a difference between a Living God “victorious and able to save” (Isa. 45: 21) and a god who is in truth “no god” (Jer. 2:11).

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