At Present I Know Partially

I’ll be flying back to Minneapolis this morning from Boston, where I’ve had three days of book talks. Saturday evening, I spoke at Kurukulla Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies, which was the first time I’ve spoken about Growing in Love and Wisdom in a Buddhist center.

Not surprisingly for a Buddhist center in the United States, many of the Buddhist practitioners in the audience were people who had been raised in a Christian tradition. Some others were Christians who have incorporated some aspects of Buddhism or Buddhist meditation into their practice. (One was a Congregationalist minister who was looking for language to be able to present some Buddhist concepts in a way her congregation could understand.)

As always the question and answer portion was engaged, thoughtful and left me with things to continue to ponder.

One of the things that came out of the dialogue were reasons many had left their Christian communities (both Catholic and Protestant). Sadly, many of those comments reflect a failure on the part of Christian Churches to share enough about the contemplative strand of our Christian tradition and others reflect genuine grounds of criticism of catechesis or our own failures to live up to our Christian ideals.

One of the questions that evening helped me articulate another reason that I do not identify as a Buddhist-Christian. (There are several reasons that is the case; and the question comes up often.)

Someone has asked me what I had originally found most profound in Buddhism. Before addressing the “most profound” part, I started by saying that what had first attracted me to Buddhism was the Buddha’s insistence that no one had to believe anything because he or anyone else said it. Rather, the truths he had realized were open to all through their own meditation experience. If you sit, this is what you will realize.

Coming from a tradition where, as a teen, it seemed like the answer to every question I had was “it’s a mystery” or “you just have to take this on faith,” that was very appealing. I embraced the Buddhist notion that I could know all fully by my own meditation practice.

Only as I was sharing this on Saturday night did I articulate that it is in this that I truly am no longer Buddhist. I believe firmly in the necessity of experiencing God in prayer (and not just talking about or reading about God.) But, I have also come to believe that, in the words of the First Letter to the Corinthians we heard at Mass on Sunday, “at present I know partially.” I have come to believe that in this life there are things I cannot fully understand, that my ability to comprehend certain things awaits the point at which I reach full union with God. It is only then that “I shally know fully, as I am fully known.”