07 April 2009

Zen Christian: Comment Re Bishop Elect Thew Forrester

Yesterday I wrote about Bishop-elect Thew Forrester and the fact that he practices Zen meditation in addition to being an Episcopal priest. I received the following comment that I thought I would post in the hopes that folks might help out in answering JW's questions...I plan to write a response of some kind but would love to hear what folks might be thinking!


Anonymous J. Workman said..
Since I am required to vote on this consecration, may I ask you a few questions?

I take it "Roshi" in your blog title indicates that you are a Zen Master.

Bishop-elect Thew Forrester (KTF below) has posted on the diocese website the following statement. I have interspersed my questions for you.

KTF: The ceremony I participated in was quite simple. I provide below the one vow I took and the precepts I affirmed. I believe you will find they have nothing whatsoever to do with me joining Buddhism.

Question: Elsewhere KTF writes that he received Lay Ordination. Is Lay Ordination a lesser thing than "being a Buddhist"? Can one have Lay Ordination and not be Buddhist?

KTF: Within the ceremony I took one vow: “We vow to save all beings.”

Question: Is this not the Bodhisattva Vow to help save all sentient beings, before going into full Nirvana or enlightenment. Does this not require the prayer, "May I attain Buddhahood for the benefit of all sentient beings"?

KTF: For me, as a Christian, this meant a recommitment of my baptismal covenant: to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; to seek and serve Christ in all persons [creatures],

Question: “Creatures” seems a curious insertion here. Don't Buddhists believe that all living things have the Buddha spirit in them?

KTF: There were also “The Three Collective Pure Precepts,” which I affirmed:

-Striving to avoid the unwholesome,
-Striving to do the wholesome,
-Striving to benefit all living beings.

Finally, there was an affirmation of “The Ten Grave Prohibitory Precepts”:

Not taking life
Not stealing
Not indulging in sexual greed
Not speaking falsehood
Not indulging in intoxicants
Not discussing the faults of others
Not praising self or slandering others
Not begrudging the bestowal of Dharma [wisdom] on anyone

Question: The Dharma is not just generic wisdom; is it not the sacred doctrine of the Buddha and of Buddhism? Isn't Dharma transmission one function of a Roshi?

KTF cont.:
Not indulging in anger
Not disparaging the Triple Treasure [the Buddha as a teacher, the wisdom, the community]

Question: Is this not a vow to refrain from critique of the way of the Buddha?

KTF: I hope this provides some clarity. I am not a Buddhist. I am a Christian who has benefited from being taught the spiritual practice of meditation. The Incarnation, I believe, frees us as Christians to recognize and receive the Holy wherever we encounter it. As Christians, we have felt free to incorporate a non-Christian practice such as the labyrinth, and allow it to become a spiritual practice that deepens our walk in Christ. In the Middle Ages, we adapted non-Christian prayer beads and developed them into our rosary. Meditation, for me, and countless others, is a spiritual practice which deepens my contemplative dwelling in Christ, so that I may say ever more fully – into your hands I commend my Spirit. All Christian spiritual practice, whatever it is, is done for this reason alone.

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