As we have previously discussed, I am not Christian. I find it a little irritating when people ask me, upon finding out I am Buddhist, how long “that” has been going on as if it were a whim or fad. The answer is about 12 years. Prior to that, my mother took me to a number of churches of all different faiths as she searched for one that would tell her what she wanted to hear. I also visited synagogues as part of the Bar/Bat Mitzvahs of my Jewish friends, Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines in Japan, studied Paganism, and went to school at a Catholic university. To this end I would say that I’ve had a decent look at the different ways peoples’ faith manifests itself, and I believe that I made the choice that is correct for myself. My father is proud, because this was what he always wanted for me as far as religion and philosophy are concerned.
Easter is an interesting subject for me, as such. Around each religious holiday people make a regular attempt to “save” me by telling me I’m going to Hell because I don’t believe what they do. Easter is the most severe because according to Christian tradition it is when their savior died for their sins and, they like to tell me earnestly, mine. Because of this, I “owe him” my allegiance, worship and respect.
Allow me to be perfectly clear: I have every respect for Jesus. As a person, he most certainly did exist. At my temple in Chicago, we discussed on Easter Sunday how many Buddhists and their sects respect Jesus as a teacher. He preached kindness and tolerance, peace and harmony between men. He did not believe in revenge, war or prejudice. He loved the whore and the saint equally. These are all tenets of Buddhism as well, and so we respect him.
Additionally, many see him as a bodhisattva.
Traditionally, a bodhisattva is anyone who, motivated by great compassion, has generated bodhicitta, which is a spontaneous wish to attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings.
(From The Bodhisattva Vow: A Practical Guide to Helping Others)
Here we can read “Buddhahood” as “enlightenment,” because this is the essence of the Buddha. This is what Jesus wished for; men to love one another to such a degree that they wish to help one another in life. This was how he believed one could live a spirital/holy life. He was a compassionate man with great wisdom, which he never held back to make himself more special than others. Instead he shared it, discussed it, and encouraged others to share it.
Whether you agree with me or not is irrelevant. If you believe I am going to Hell because I do not believe in Jesus as a deity, then that is your right. However, please don’t try to tell me that I am not Christian because I don’t respect Jesus. Also, remember the words of Sartre:
L’enfer, c’est les autres. (trans: Hell is other people.)
Buddhists believe that there is no such place as “Hell.” Hell is what men create on Earth through anger and hatred every day. Look at the news and tell me this isn’t true. Why would a person want to believe that there is something worse?