My intention at the moment is to create an outline view of where I believe we are in history. I’m not going to delve into any particular aspect in detail on this first pass. It will seem that I’m passing along some controversial ideas in a rather offhand way. But I want to get up to the present day before working my way back again. It’s hard to keep people’s attention on the Internet.
Before picking apart the entity we call Christianity, I need to establish who I believe Jesus was. There is no figure in the history of the West who’s more polarizing and less understood by both his adherents and those who disparage him. If you go to the New Age section of a bookstore, you’ll find books with a lot of farfetched ideas about Christ. For example, some have noticed parallels between Jesus’ and Buddha’s teachings, so they theorize about Jesus’ lost years, when he supposedly traveled to India to study Buddhism. Many will take what I have to say here as being much in the same vein. But my ideas here are not idiosyncratic. Others have said what I’m saying, but it gets drowned out in the fight between those who believe Jesus was the only son of God sent here to save mankind from their sins, and those who believe it’s all just a bunch of oppressive bullshit that’s not worth thinking about.
If you strip the mythology out of the Bible what you have left is the teachings of a sage—the same teachings as transmitted by Buddha, Lao Tzu, Dogen, Hui Neng, and others. A sage is someone who has attained enlightenment, and the sage’s teachings are instructions on how to liberate oneself from the ego. That’s what religion is really about, although it persistently gets lost in the misrepresentations by followers who didn’t go all the way. Whenever something that calls itself religion dedicates itself to something other than enlightenment, it’s not real religion. So, again, if you strip away the mythology, Jesus is telling people to abandon the pursuit of success in this world, to give up your home, your old set of friends, the means of making a living, and instead to devote yourself to a life of focused inner search (the kingdom of heaven is within), total honesty, constant fairness in your dealings, fasting. You’re not supposed to try to satisfy your needs through your own efforts. Anything you actually need will be given to you without you going to look for it. It’s all very explicit. It’s a spiritual path. But it’s not taught by the churches because they got distracted by the mythology. From what I’ve seen, the more people believe in the mythology, the less attention they pay to the teachings.
Buddha and Christ walked the same path and taught the same things. They were both homeless wanderers who lived off the alms of others. Karma is the same thing as “as you sow so shall you reap.” Jesus didn’t have to go to India to learn about it. It’s a universal understanding inherent within all of us. Some people say, “But Buddhism is atheistic” (many Buddhists say so), while Christ taught about God the Father. I think that’s a big misunderstanding, which I’ll take up in a future post.