OrthodoxChristianity.net
July 30, 2014, 07:56:37 PM *
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: Reminder: No political discussions in the public fora.  If you do not have access to the private Politics Forum, please send a PM to Fr. George.
 
   Home   Help Calendar Contact Treasury Tags Login Register  
Pages: 1   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: Can Orthodox Christianity Speak To Eastern Religions?  (Read 2068 times) Average Rating: 0
0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.
Tamara
Archon
********
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox Christian
Jurisdiction: Antiochian Orthodox Diocese of America
Posts: 2,208


+Pray for Orthodox Unity+


« on: June 13, 2007, 11:57:59 AM »




Can Orthodox Christianity Speak To Eastern Religions?

Kevin Allen

I recently had a conversation with a dear Eastern Orthodox priest, whose twenty six year old son had left home the day before to live indefinitely at a Buddhist monastery. He was heart broken. His son was not a stranger to Eastern Orthodoxy or to its monastic tradition, having even spent two months on the holy mountain of Mt. Athos.

His son's journey is not an isolated event. Eastern religious traditions are a growing and competing force in American religious life. Buddhism is now the fourth-largest religious group in the United States, with 2.5 - 3 million adherents, approximately 800,000 of whom are American western "converts"? There are actually more Buddhists in America today than Eastern Orthodox Christians! The Dalai Lama (the leader of one of the Tibetan Buddhist sects) is one of the most recognized and admired people in the world and far better recognized than any Eastern Orthodox hierarch? Have you looked in the magazine section of Borders or Barnes and Noble lately? There are more publications with names like "Shambala Sun", "Buddhadharma", and "What is enlightenment?" on the shelves than Christian publications!

In addition to losing seekers to eastern spiritual traditions (many of them youth), eastern metaphysics has also seeped into our western cultural worldview without much notice. They are doing a better job (sadly) "evangelizing" our culture than we Eastern Orthodox Christians are!

The Lord Himself commands us clearly "that repentance and remission of sins (baptism) should be preached in His name to all nations" (Luke 24:47). Buddhists (of which there are many sects) and Hindus live among us in America in ever-growing numbers, in our college classrooms, on our soccer fields, and in our "health foods" stores - they are right in our own backyards! They are a rich, potential "mission field" for the Eastern Orthodox Church in the United States. Unfortunately with few exceptions, like the writings of Monk Damascene [Christensen] and Kyriakos S. Markides, we are not talking to this group at all.

As a former Hindu and disciple of a well-known guru, or spiritual teacher, I can tell you Orthodox Christianity shares more "common ground" with seekers of non-Christian spiritual traditions of the east than any other Christian confession! The truth is when Evangelical Protestants attempt to evangelize the eastern seeker they often do more harm than good, because their approach is western, rational, and doctrinal, with (generally) little understanding of the paradigms and spiritual language (or yearnings) of the seekers of these eastern faiths.

There are three "fundamental principles" that Buddhists and Hindus generally share in common:

A common "supra-natural" reality underlies and pervades the phenomenal world. This Supreme Reality isn't Personal, but Trans-personal. God or Ultimate Reality in these traditions is ultimately a pure consciousness without attributes.
The human soul is of the same essence with this divine reality. All human nature is divine at its core. Accordingly, Christ or Buddha isn't a savior, but becomes a paradigm of self-realization, the goal of all individuals.
Existence is in fundamental unity (monism). Creation isn't what it appears to the naked eye. It is in essence "illusion" and "unreal". There is one underlying ground of being (think "quantum field" in physics!) which unifies all beings and out of which and into which everything can be reduced.
What do these metaphysics have in common with our Eastern Orthodox Faith? Not much, on the surface. But in the eastern non-Christian spiritual traditions, knowledge is not primarily about the development of metaphysical doctrine or theology. This is one of the problems western Christians have communicating with them. Eastern religion is never theoretical or doctrinal. It's about the struggle for liberation from death and suffering through spiritual experience. This "existential-therapeutic-transformational" ethos is the first connection Eastern Orthodoxy has with these traditions, because Orthodoxy is essentially therapeutic and transformative in emphasis!

The second thing we agree on with Buddhists and Hindus is the fallen state of humanity. The goal of the Christian life according to the Church Fathers is to move from the "sub-natural" or "fallen state", to the "natural" or the "according to nature state" after the Image (of God), and ultimately to the "supra-natural" or "beyond nature" state, after the Likeness. According to the teaching of the holy Fathers the stages of the spiritual life are purification, illumination and deification. While we don't agree with Buddhists or Hindus on what "illumination" or "deification" means (because our metaphysics are different) we agree on the basic diagnosis of the fallen human condition. As I once said to a practicing Tibetan Buddhist: "We agree on the sickness (of the human condition). Where we disagree is on the cure".

Eastern Orthodoxy - especially the hesychasm (contemplative) tradition - teaches that true "spiritual knowledge" presupposes a "purified" and "awakened" nous (Greek), which is the "Inner 'I'" of the soul. The true Eastern Orthodox theologian isn't one who simply knows doctrine, but one "who knows God, or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. " As a well-known Orthodox theologian explains, "When the nous is illuminated, it means that it is receiving the energy of God which illuminates it..." This idea resonates with eastern seekers who struggle to experience - through non-Christian ascesis and/or through occult methods - spiritual illumination. They just don't know this opportunity exists within a Christian context.

As part of their spiritual ascesis, Buddhist and Hindu dhamma (practice) emphasizes cessation of desire, which is necessary to quench the passions. Holy Tradition teaches apatheia, or detachment as a means of combating the fallen passions. Hindu and Buddhist meditation methods teach "stillness". The word hesychia in Holy Tradition - the root of the word for hesychasm - means "stillness"! We don't meditate using a mantra, but we pray the "Jesus Prayer". Buddhism, especially, teaches "mindfulness". Holy Tradition teaches "watchfulness" so we do not fall into temptation! Hindus and Buddhists understand it is not wise to live for the present life, but to struggle for the future one. We Orthodox agree! Americans who become Buddhist or Hindu are often fervent spiritual seekers, used to struggling with foreign languages (Sanskrit, Tibetan, Japanese) and cultures and pushing themselves outside of their "comfort zones". We converts to the Eastern Orthodox Church can relate! Some Buddhist and Hindu sects even have complex forms of "liturgy", including chant, prostration and veneration of icons! Tibetan Buddhism especially places high value on the lives of (their) ascetics, relics and "saints".

The main difference in spiritual experience is that what the eastern seeker recognizes as "spiritual illumination", achieved through deep contemplation, Holy Tradition calls "self contemplation". Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), who was experienced in yoga (which means 'union') before becoming a hesychast - monk and disciple of St. Silouan of the holy mountain wrote from personal experience, "All contemplation arrived at by this means is self-contemplation, not contemplation of God. In these circumstances we open up for ourselves created beauty, not First Being. And in all this there is no salvation for man."

Clement of Alexandria, two thousand years ago wrote that pre-Christian philosophers were often inspired by God, but he cautioned one to be careful what one took from them!

So we acknowledge the eastern seeker through his ascesis or contemplative methodologies may experience deep levels of created beauty, or created being (through self-contemplation), para-normal dimensions, or even the "quantum field" that modern physics has revealed! However, it is only in the Eastern Orthodox Church and through its deifying mysteries that the seeker will be introduced to the province of Uncreated Divine Life. It is only in the Orthodox Church that the eastern seeker will hear there is more to "salvation" than simply forgiveness of sins and justification before God. He will be led to participate in the Uncreated Energies of God, so that they "may be partakers of the divine nature" (II Peter 1:4). As a member of the Body of Christ he will join in the deifying process, and be increasingly transformed after the Likeness! Thankfully, deification is available to all who enter the Holy Orthodox Church, are baptized (which begins the deifying process) and partake of the holy mysteries. Deification is not just for monks, ascetics and the spiritual athletes on Mount Athos!

Eastern Orthodoxy has much to share with eastern spiritual seekers. Life and death hangs in the balance in this life, not the millions of lives eastern seekers think they have! As the Apostle Paul soberly reminds us, " ... it is appointed for men to die once but after this the judgment." (Heb. 9:27).

May God give us the vision to begin to share the "true light" of the Holy Orthodox Faith with seekers of the eastern spiritual traditions.


References

1. Makarian Homilies; Glossary of The Philokalia
2. Hierotheos Vlachos, Life after death; 1995; Birth of the Theotokos Monastery
3. On Prayer; Sophrony; pages 168-170


Kevin Allen, a former Hindu practitioner before becoming an Eastern Orthodox Christian, is also the co-host of the Internet radio program "The Illumined Heart" which is broadcast weekly on Ancient Faith Radio (www.ancientfaithradio.com).

http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles7/AllenOrthodoxy.php


Logged
Αριστοκλής
Merarches
***********
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox Catholic
Jurisdiction: American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese
Posts: 10,026


« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2007, 12:18:30 PM »

This articles nicely complements Christ -The Eternal Tao by Hieromonk Damascene.
Logged

"Religion is a neurobiological illness and Orthodoxy is its cure." - Fr. John S. Romanides
GabrieltheCelt
Hillbilly Extraordinaire
Taxiarches
**********
Offline Offline

Faith: Eastern Orthodox Christian
Jurisdiction: OCA
Posts: 6,983


Chasin' down a Hoodoo...


« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2007, 01:03:03 AM »

Can Orthodox Christianity Speak To Eastern Religions?
Surely this is a rhetorical question? Wink

Logged

"The Scots-Irish; Brewed in Scotland, bottled in Ireland, uncorked in America."  ~Scots-Irish saying
Nacho
OC.net guru
*******
Offline Offline

Faith: EasternOrthodox
Jurisdiction: OCA
Posts: 1,482

The face of Corporate America


« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2007, 01:56:38 AM »

Interesting article. I do feel sorry for the son of the priest that chose to join a Buddhist monastic community. Hopefully he will return someday seeking something much deeper. I was also unaware of so many Buddhist adherents in the US. I'm not sure if this is good or bad. Buddhism does teach people to live in a very 'holy' type manner, which is a good thing. I would rather see people living in such a way and treating others with respect compared to what many Americans have become these days. This culture is getting more and more wretched, so any religion that instills good values is better than none, though I would rather see people flocking to Orthodoxy. 
Logged

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."--Mere Christianity
Jonas Suender
Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 111


« Reply #4 on: June 14, 2007, 06:19:31 AM »

Interesting.  I'm going to study that OP and get back to this . . . .
Logged
Jonas Suender
Member
***
Offline Offline

Posts: 111


« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2007, 02:37:23 PM »

Can Orthodoxy speak to eastern religions?

Yes.  If the Orthodox speak with the heart and mind of Christ.

In other words, I think the only real, significant difference between Christianity and any other religion is  . . . Jesus Christ.    Applied towards the East Asian religions (especially, Hinduism and Buddhism), Christianity asserts that Jesus Christ is the only avatar / buddha, precisely because He Is and therefore he is not only an appearance of God in human form (avatar / Gnosticism) nor only an enlightened man (buddha / Ariansim).  Instead, He is the only Son of God:  truly human, truly a man, one person, Jesus Christ.  And He is love.

It is the selfless love of Jesus Christ, in people and shared among people, that Jesus uses to attract people to Himself.  That's what worked with me . . . and I had been interested in East Asian religions for years. 

Once people find Jesus, then they can be open to receiving the Holy Spirit. 

What doesn't work is saying "My spiritual system is better than your spiritual system." 

What works, instead, is showing people Jesus.  Then, as people respond to Him, they will want to know more about Him and they will want to grow close to Him.  Then tell them about the Holy Spirit and how He gives us Jesus, unites us to Jesus, and perfects us in Jesus.  And when they ask "how,"  show them how.  Prayer.  Fasting.  Almsgiving.  Loving kindness.  The Jesus Prayer.  The Liturgy.  Etc.

All we have to do is let Him --Jesus-- clearly live through us.  He will do the rest. 

Two people who showed me selfless love showed me Jesus:  without preaching, just by taking care of me when I was very ill.

One priest --a uniate priest, no less-- showed me the Holy Spirit by showing me theosis:  in his speech and by his mindset and example.

All that, plus some very good books (especially by Bishop Ware) pointed me towards Orthodoxy.

In short, it all happened and is ongoing by grace:  in and through each other.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2007, 02:39:26 PM by Jonas Suender » Logged
MichaelArchangelos
Member
***
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox Inquirer
Posts: 103



« Reply #6 on: July 04, 2007, 10:30:34 AM »

I was involved with Hare Krishna/Hinduism before I came to Christ. Their "gods" aren't even real - just figments of their imagination. Hinduism is just really a blanket term for the general pagan cult of the Indian sub-continent - it's not a religion that can be traced to one specific founder.

 My girlfriend is from Malaysia and was brought up a Hindu. She loved the Orthodox Church the first time she went because the chants were similar to those in the Hindu temple. She is converting to Orthodoxy.
Logged
ytterbiumanalyst
Professor Emeritus, CSA
Merarches
***********
Offline Offline

Faith: Christian
Jurisdiction: OCA Diocese of the Midwest
Posts: 8,790



« Reply #7 on: July 06, 2007, 03:20:56 PM »

^

Good news. Of course, Orthodoxy is no stranger to the Indian subcontinent, having been brought by St. Thomas the Apostle two millenia ago.
Logged

"It is remarkable that what we call the world...in what professes to be true...will allow in one man no blemishes, and in another no virtue."--Charles Dickens
MichaelArchangelos
Member
***
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox Inquirer
Posts: 103



« Reply #8 on: July 07, 2007, 09:19:48 PM »

^

Good news. Of course, Orthodoxy is no stranger to the Indian subcontinent, having been brought by St. Thomas the Apostle two millenia ago.

This is true, however, the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church of India has fallen into the Monophysite heresy. I visited a Malankara church in Kuala Lumpur, and the priest told us that they were in communion with the Coptic Church. He also said that Monophysitism was a misunderstanding (but I can't remember what else he said about it).

Interestingly enough, they had a lamp in their church which looked almost exactly the same as the lamps in Hindu temples, but with a cross on the top.
Logged
ozgeorge
I'll take you for who you are if you take me for everything.
Hoplitarches
*************
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox Christian
Jurisdiction: Oecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the New Rome, the Great Church of Christ.
Posts: 16,382


My plans for retirement.


WWW
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2007, 10:04:10 PM »

This is true, however, the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church of India has fallen into the Monophysite heresy.....He also said that Monophysitism was a misunderstanding (but I can't remember what else he said about it).
Oh dear. I wish you hadn't said that in the public forum.
There are, on this forum, two Private Forums which you can pm FrCris to get access to:
"Politics"
 and
"Eastern/Oriental Orthodox Private Discussions"
Polemical discussions regarding EO/OO differences are discussed in the second one of these Private fora.
You may want to pm FrChris for access to the private forums if you wish to read what others have said on such matters.
Logged

If you're living a happy life as a Christian, you're doing something wrong.
tpkatsa
Jr. Member
**
Offline Offline

Faith: Antiochian Orthodox
Jurisdiction: Midwest Diocese, HG Bp. MARK
Posts: 40


Micah 6:8


WWW
« Reply #10 on: September 25, 2008, 12:02:07 AM »

Quote
"Eastern/Oriental Orthodox Private Discussions"
Polemical discussions regarding EO/OO differences are discussed in the second one of these Private fora.

I suppose I can understand politics being discussed in a restricted/private forum, since in the view of many people politics and faith are tangential at best, and there is a compelling reader interest to keep the board (mostly) free of politics.

But why does Eastern/Oriental Orthodoxy require a private forum? Are they not Orthodox? What is the big secret that the forum requires private access?  Shocked  It would seem that any discussion of EO/OO would be of a theological bent and perhaps of interest to many readers, myself included.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2008, 12:03:38 AM by tpkatsa » Logged

~Those who are merciful to the cruel will, in the end, be cruel to them that deserve mercy.~
PeterTheAleut
The Right Blowhard Peter the Furtive of Yetts O'Muckhart
Section Moderator
Protospatharios
*****
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox Christian
Jurisdiction: OCA
Posts: 31,601


Lord, have mercy on the Christians in Mosul!


« Reply #11 on: September 25, 2008, 12:06:59 AM »

Quote
"Eastern/Oriental Orthodox Private Discussions"
Polemical discussions regarding EO/OO differences are discussed in the second one of these Private fora.

I suppose I can understand politics being discussed in a restricted/private forum, since in the view of many people politics and faith are tangential at best, and there is a compelling reader interest to keep the board (mostly) free of politics.

But why does Eastern/Oriental Orthodoxy require a private forum? Are they not Orthodox? What is the big secret that the forum requires private access?  Shocked
Simply this:  The debates regarding who was on the right side of the Council of Chalcedon can themselves become pretty vicious in pretty short order.  It's not about how related the topics of discussion are to Orthodox faith, it's about how heated the polemical arguments can get that determines the need for private forums.
« Last Edit: September 25, 2008, 12:10:06 AM by PeterTheAleut » Logged
tpkatsa
Jr. Member
**
Offline Offline

Faith: Antiochian Orthodox
Jurisdiction: Midwest Diocese, HG Bp. MARK
Posts: 40


Micah 6:8


WWW
« Reply #12 on: September 25, 2008, 12:12:11 AM »

Quote
Simply this:  The debates regarding who was on the right side of the Council of Chalcedon can themselves become pretty vicious in pretty short order.

That doesn't say much regarding the civility of the debaters. I have not studied too much on the Council of Chalcedon. I believe the Nicene Creed as given to us by the fathers minus the filioque (with no offense to my Roman Catholic brethren).

As Maimonides once said, "the rest is commentary."
Logged

~Those who are merciful to the cruel will, in the end, be cruel to them that deserve mercy.~
PeterTheAleut
The Right Blowhard Peter the Furtive of Yetts O'Muckhart
Section Moderator
Protospatharios
*****
Offline Offline

Faith: Orthodox Christian
Jurisdiction: OCA
Posts: 31,601


Lord, have mercy on the Christians in Mosul!


« Reply #13 on: September 25, 2008, 12:18:27 AM »

Quote
Simply this:  The debates regarding who was on the right side of the Council of Chalcedon can themselves become pretty vicious in pretty short order.

That doesn't say much regarding the civility of the debaters.
You're right.  It doesn't. Tongue

Now we should probably take this tangent either to the PM system or to some other location so we can keep this thread on topic. Wink
Logged
Jetavan
Most Humble Servant of Pan-Vespuccian and Holocenic Hominids
Taxiarches
**********
Offline Offline

Faith: Christic
Jurisdiction: Dixie
Posts: 6,300


Barlaam and Josaphat


WWW
« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2011, 04:45:55 PM »

Catechizing New Age and Eastern Religion Seekers

"In this episode, the microphone is turned as AFR General Manager and founder John Maddex interviews host Kevin Allen on the catechism module he developed (with his priest's blessing) specifically for inquirers coming from New Age and Eastern spiritual backgrounds. Is the entrance of New Age and Eastern seekers perhaps a trend the Church needs to prepare for? Are the issues, concerns and paradigms of these seekers the same as those inquiring from Evangelical backgrounds? Must the catechist know something about New Age and Eastern religions in order to catechize effectively? These are some of the question that will be addressed in this program."
Logged

If you will, you can become all flame.
Extra caritatem nulla salus.
In order to become whole, take the "I" out of "holiness".
सर्वभूतहित
Ἄνω σχῶμεν τὰς καρδίας
"Those who say religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion is." -- Mohandas Gandhi
Y dduw bo'r diolch.
Tags: Eastern religion 
Pages: 1   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by MySQL Powered by PHP Powered by SMF 1.1.18 | SMF © 2013, Simple Machines Valid XHTML 1.0! Valid CSS!
Page created in 0.089 seconds with 41 queries.