St Helena United Methodist sermon

Faith, a Christian and Buddhist approach

Today I am talking about faith and will focus on three ways to find faith, to connect with our Christian path and life.

One is by community- our church here, and all the other UMC communities, as well as other Christian denominations, reflect this movement to support one another in our faith and give a place for each believer to practice. This is where we work for social and religious understanding and justice, to continually practice our Christian teachings with one another. In Buddhism, this is called Sangha.

Second is by the teachings of the Gospel- our sacred scriptures are the historical link to the time of Jesus and the disciples, bringing us closer to their first efforts to realize God’s kingdom in life. We are inspired and look to the sacred teachings of Jesus and the apostles to learn how to build the community of faith and grace. The Buddha’s teachings are called the Dharma.

Third is by building a relationship with Christ- This is the devotional, worshipful manner of finding and building and realizing faith, by building an ongoing relationship with Jesus and Christ in our lives. By developing our hearts in Jesus, we come to know him in our lives, and see him and his many gifts around us, in the lives and actions of others, and even in ourselves. In time we may find ourselves experiencing Christ consciousness, or as the Buddhist’s call it, Buddhakaya.

A poem that describes the journey to find each other in the divine one by Thich Nhat Hahn, a Buddhist monk.

I have been looking for you, World Honored One,
since I was a little child.
With my first breath, I heard your call,
and began to look for you, Blessed One.
I’ve walked so many perilous paths,
confronted so many dangers,
endured despair, fear, hopes, and memories.
I’ve trekked to the farthest regions, immense and wild,
sailed the vast oceans,
traversed the highest summits, lost among the clouds.
I’ve lain dead, utterly alone,
on the sands of ancient deserts.
I’ve held in my heart so many tears of stone.Blessed One, I’ve dreamed of drinking dewdrops
that sparkle with the light of far-off galaxies.
I’ve left footprints on celestial mountains
and screamed from the depths of Avici Hell, exhausted, crazed with despair
because I was so hungry, so thirsty.
For millions of lifetimes,
I’ve longed to see you,
but didn’t know where to look.
Yet, I’ve always felt your presence with a mysterious certainty.

I know that for thousands of lifetimes,
you and I have been one,
and the distance between us is only a flash of thought.
Just yesterday while walking alone,
I saw the old path strewn with Autumn leaves,
and the brilliant moon, hanging over the gate,
suddenly appeared like the image of an old friend.
And all the stars confirmed that you were there!
All night, the rain of compassion continued to fall,
while lightning flashed through my window
and a great storm arose,
as if Earth and Sky were in battle.
Finally in me the rain stopped, the clouds parted.
The moon returned,
shining peacefully, calming Earth and Sky.
Looking into the mirror of the moon, suddenly
I saw myself,
and I saw you smiling, Blessed One.
How strange!

The moon of freedom has returned to me,
everything I thought I had lost.
From that moment on,
and in each moment that followed,
I saw that nothing had gone.
There is nothing that should be restored.
Every flower, every stone, and every leaf recognize me.
Wherever I turn, I see you smiling
the smile of no-birth and no-death.
The smile I received while looking at the mirror of the moon.
I see you sitting there, solid as Mount Meru,
calm as my own breath,
sitting as though no raging fire storm ever occurred,
sitting in complete peace and freedom.
At last I have found you, Blessed One,
and I have found myself.
There I sit.

The deep blue sky,
the snow-capped mountains painted against the horizon,
and the shining red sun sing with joy.
You, Blessed One, are my first love.
The love that is always present, always pure, and freshly new.
And I shall never need a love that will be called ‘last.’
You are the source of well-being flowing through numberless troubled lives,
the water from you spiritual stream always pure, as it was in the beginning.
You are the source of peace,
solidity, and inner freedom.
You are the Buddha, the Tathagata.
With my one-pointed mind
I vow to nourish your solidity and freedom in myself
so I can offer solidity and freedom to countless others,
now and forever.