The Supreme Identity: Breaking the Bonds in Buddhism and the Orthodox Connection
A reader sent me an email last week asking for my thoughts on any possible connections between the Buddhist concept of the "supreme identity" and the Orthodox understanding of God.
Fr. Seraphim Rose has a good answer--one from personal experience:
"That concept comes from people who don't want to meet the personal God, because He definitely requires things of one. I think that, in many cases, when people say they have this experience, it's some kind of illusion--some kind of wishful thinking."
"This is very much helped by the feeling of Zen meditation, in which you 'quiet yourself down'--And if you haven't got anything really deep inside of you that wants to come out, you can get yourself into some quiet state, and think you've met God, or whatever you're looking for. It's a kind of spiritual immaturity; but I think that, if there's anything passionate inside of you, finally you'll go crazy and break the bonds." Quoted from "Father Seraphim Rose: His Life and Works" page 45.
As a former Zen devotee myself, I can't begin to tell you how true this is. Buddhism is like Christianity without Christ and the Church....which, at the time, didn't sound quite as bad as I understand it to be now.
Buddhism is asceticism without the Incarnation and thus without a proper love for the body. It is contemplation without an Other to contemplate. It is meditation--not on God but on oneself. It is prayer that becomes a shouting into the void. It is union with the divine--not through dying to oneself and rising again in union with Another....but simply by dying.
It is the pursuit of a "truth" that does not originate in a Person, has no boundaries, and therefore no eternal power. It opens one's eyes to the superficiality of contemporary Christianity only to lead to self absorption, soul destroying dualism, and a way of life that has the potential to make one worse off than one was before.
The paradox, for me, is that I would not be Orthodox if it wasn't for my stint in Buddhism. It opened my eyes to truths I would not have experienced in contemporary Christianity and that are fulfilled and transfigured in Orthodoxy.
But it is only now, looking back through the years, that I see the risk God took with me when he allowed me to explore Buddhism.....like Fr. Seraphim I was blessed to "go crazy and break the bonds"--both as a western Christian and again as a Buddhist.