A Buddhist’s Jesus
In the third of this series hearing insights into Jesus from people of other faiths, Shenpen Hookham brings a Buddhist perspective to the Gospels
Until I became a Buddhist I was a Christian, quite a strong and sincere one. I was brought up in the Church of England and I never explored religion outside that context. I was always of a religious turn of mind and wanted to devote my life to God, but felt that I didn’t really know how to progress spiritually. I thought about becoming a nun, for example, but didn’t know how to do it, never having met one. So, even though I felt I had a calling, I resisted it.
At Reading University in the late 1960s, I started to explore other religions, asking the same question I have been asked by Reform: who was Jesus to them? I was amazed by the Buddhist teachers I met and the whole challenge of the Buddhist path and its approach to Noble Truth. I was being offered guides who could confidently show me the way. I took up meditation and, having read that the path was not a matter of belief but of experience, I sort of gave up God. I made my last prayer to God, saying: ‘I am doing my best with the intelligence that maybe you gave me, and that intelligence tells me to follow the Buddha. If this is a mistake then you must show me somehow and there is no use appearing in a vision because that would just be illusion.’
I converted in a week, but the question remains. Who is Jesus to me now? Did I reject him? Do I reject him? How do I think of him in theory and in practice? …
This is an extract from the September 2016 edition of Reform.