Jesus the Buddhist?

Jesus_Meditating_-34R-L-Bob_Clyatt_SculptureSeveral months ago a pastor friend gave my book to a gal who’d been visiting his church. She really liked it, and for this self-proclaimed seeker, a major point in its favor was “It’s very Buddhist!”

She has a point. I write about living Sabbathly, which means that whether we are at work or play, we strive to be fully present: neither hurried nor sluggish, but awake and alive. This kind of Sabbath mindset is connected to mindfulness and attentiveness, both of which are traditionally associated with Eastern religion and philosophy.

But Abraham Joshua Heschel, a rabbi, wrote that Sabbath is not just a date, but an atmosphere. And as I told the group last weekend at the Oasis, you don’t have to stray far from the Christian tradition to see mindfulness and attentiveness in play. In fact, Jesus strikes me as a very mindful dude.

This is the guy who told distracted but well-intentioned Martha to focus on the “one thing needful.” I’m convinced he was not telling her to drop her work in the kitchen; after all, he relied on the hospitality of his friends for his itinerant ministry. Rather he wanted her to live with intention. Jesus demonstrates and offers an abundant life, but his abundance is not about sheer copiousness. Rather it flows out of simplicity, and a sense of depth.

This all seems to be an argument against multitasking, which research tells us isn’t really possible anyway. When we are multitasking, we are really switching quickly between tasks, with a loss of effectiveness each time we make the switch.

And yet, it is possible to be in a state of flow, which we might call multitasking at its best. Sometimes people call it being “in the zone.” Those moments don’t happen often for me, but when they do, it’s such a joy, even when the work is hard or feels like “too much.”

Here’s what flow looks like: In the gospel of Mark, Jesus is on his way to heal Jairus’s daughter when he has an encounter with the so-called hemorrhaging woman. (Lord love the Baptist church of my childhood, how did I not know what the heck was the matter with her until I got to the Presbyterian Church?)

There’s a great little line, after the woman is healed of her twelve-year period, when Jesus calls her “daughter” and bids her to go in peace and healing. While he was still speaking, Mark says, Jairus’s associates come up and tell him that the little girl has died. Jesus overhears them and is able to respond. Did you catch that? He is speaking words of grace to one person even as he feels the pain of someone else.

That’s what true attentiveness looks like. Is there any doubt that Jesus was fully present with the woman? And yet his senses are so heightened that he is equally tuned in to a completely different situation.

Amazing. And such hard work.

Whether you call it mindfulness, flow, or living Sabbathly, when have you experienced this feeling? What helps create that sense in your own life?

~

The title of this post comes from Ray Wylie Hubbard’s song “Conversation with the Devil”:

I said, “Hotshot tell me this: which religion is the truest?”
He said, “There all about the same; Buddha was not a Christian, but Jesus woulda made a good Buddist.”

Image: Meditating Jesus by Bob Clyatt

 

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