(*Edited - content added regarding Theraveda versus Mahayana sects of Buddhism, and PS added.)
I'm sure most of the world has heard by now that we lost a great man and spiritual leader on Christmas Day - Nobel Peace Prize winner, Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Anglican, big brother to my Episcopalian church) of South Africa - he died of prostate cancer.
Yes, he won the Nobel peace prize for helping to end apartheid in South Africa - but he was also known for his great joy, the man exuded laughter and joy, and he also gave spellbinding sermons.
He also had a lifelong good friendship with the Dalai Lama, having very similar personalities - some might even say of a similar spirit - both of them known as loving to joke and laugh.
Here's a mix of some their best moments, times, and talks together :)
These moments are part of the 2021 documentary "Mission Joy - Finding Happiness in Troubled Times" which is about their remarkable friendship (but unfortunately cannot yet be streamed).
What many people don't realize is that Christianity and Buddhism actually have much in common.
Now, when I say that regarding Christianity, I first mean the actual words of Christ - as opposed to first the Old Testament, which was heavily influenced by their captors' law, Hammurabi's Code stone, a Sumerian/Babylonian literal carved-in-stone law - in which all punishment was merciless, harsh, and swift, as they did not believe in an afterlife.
In fact, if you compare OT Levitican law (and most law in the OT), you can see for yourself that many of the same OT laws were already carved - word for word - on their Babylonian captors' Hammurabi stone of law - which predates Israelite arrival and their captivity by the Babylonians.
I secondly mean the actual words of Christ as opposed to even those in the New Testament who came after Christ, who still adhered to this Babylonian-influenced/incorporated Old Testament law, or waffled on adherence to it.
Namely Paul - who clearly did so in vain effort to play politics and prolong his own life and save his own skin, rather than follow the message of Christ and be arrested, crucified/killed, too.
(And I say "in vain" for a reason - because Paul also did not die well, despite his best efforts to avoid Christ's fate by trying to please the Pharisees by following OT/church law, playing politics).
Though the bible didn't narrate them as clearly as previously (likely because they were written by Paul himself) - we were supposed to learn from Paul's mistakes, just like other prophets and disciples in the bible - not follow his mistake examples!
Thus, when Paul said or did something that was the opposite of Christ's instruction, in favor of OT/church law to please church leaders?
Then we shouldn't do it.
Jesus himself repeatedly repudiated Babylonian-influenced Old Testament law, and yet Paul - and us still today - continue to adhere to it.
Likewise, when I say that regarding Buddhism, I mean the actual words of Buddha - as opposed to modern Mayahana Buddhism, most of which has incorporated the prior religion of ancestor worship into the philosophy.
Buddha was speaking to a culture, who at the time, was either predominantly Hindu (Buddhist's parent religion, like Judaism is for us) or practiced animism and worshipped animals and ancestors, warning them of the possible futility of doing so, the setting oneself up for disappointment - and yet the majority of the the religion continues to do so.
Unlike Christ, Buddha himself repeatedly said he was NOT divine and not a deity, and NOT to pray to him or leave him gifts, or to any of their ancestors - and yet modern Mahayana Buddhists still do.
Thus, Buddhism was meant to be a philosophy instead of a religion - with Tibetan Buddhists (Gelugpa Mahayana) being the second closest to the actual words of Buddha with Sri Lankan Buddhists (Theraveda) being the closest.
Just as an FYI, as best I can remember from my comparative religion college days (so forgive me if there are errors) - there are basically two main branches in Buddhism - Theraveda Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism - with several other sects falling under the main "umbrella" of branch of Mahayana Buddhism.
But then again - haven't we all? :)
Including even sometimes Theraveda Buddhists - though they adhere the most closely to Buddha's words, their interpretation of Buddha's words have a bit of doctrinal sprinkling sometimes, too - more on that below.
Also, though the two main branches of Theraveda and Mahayana Buddhist both believe in reincarnation, many older sects of Mahayana Buddhism tend to believe the bad things that happen to us in this life are brought on by our prior misdeeds either done in this life or a prior one - karma.
Theraveda Buddhists, on the other hand, believe some bad things happen to us in life are karma, but they also believe sh*t just happens - bad things sometimes just happen and have nothing to do with what you have or haven't done - but it's how you deal with those things now that dictate your next life's status, they're spiritual tests.
Some older Mahayana sects believe this life should be simply be accepted in piety as punishment consequences for your past life, and that offering prayers of atonement and offerings are the only way to achieve enlightenment and improve your next life.
Other "reformed" or more modern Mahayana sects believe you should actively attempt to seek enlightenment in this life, by living your life for others, ending their suffering, in order to improve not only your next life, but the next life of others.
If you're curious about The Dalai Lama's sect, Gelugpa or Tibetan Buddhism is considered one of those "reformed" Mahayana sects - actually a sort of a mix of both Theraveda and Mahayana - again, with "reformed" or "modern" still meaning at least 1,000 years old.
Also, like Theraveda Buddhists, Gelugpas believe a sort of Mahayana/Theraveda mix as far as karma - some bad things that happen are karma for past misdeeds, but others are simply spiritual tests that you must overcome to improve your next life.
Theraveda Buddhism is practiced almost exclusively in Sri Lanka (followed by Hinduism and Islam) - and is the closest adherent to the words of Buddha.
Interestingly, in Theraveda Buddhism, women can become monks just the same as, and equal to, men - and there is no special pre-designation of holiness from birth like in Mahayana types of Buddhism.
That is because Buddha's whole point of separation from Hinduism was to do away with a caste system of predestination reincarnation from birth that cannot be changed during one's own lifetime, because it's your punishment, your karma, for deeds done in a prior life.
Buddha separated from Hinduism on this exact point - preaching that anyone who wanted to follow the path to enlightenment could reach it during their lifetime - regardless of their social class at birth, their gender, race, or ethnicity at birth - and that they should try, lest they repeat the same life they live now.
Unfortunately, however - today, not only do Indian and Nepalese Hindus still believe the status you're born into is your punishment for misdeeds and should not be tampered with - but most Asian and Southeastern Asian sects of Mahayana Buddhism also believe that, too :/
As mentioned, all Mahayana sects believe, to varying degrees, that your birth status is your karma - and the Gelugpa sect is no exception when it comes to this - believing the Dalai Lama himself was predestined to be born into holy status.
HOWEVER - in the Gelugpa sect of Mahayana Buddhism -this can be changed, and your status at birth can be a lesson for others.
For example, the Dalai Lama may be a holy soul reincarnated, but he can be born of poor parents and circumstances, and is not required to be Asian or Indian (although he usually is) - in order to better teach us to look deeper than one's outward circumstances for truth and enlightenment :)
In that way, the Gelugpa sect is likely the closest form of Mahayana Buddhism to Theraveda Buddhism, who are, again, the closest adherents to the actual words of Buddha.
This brings us to one of the many similarities between the actual words of Christ and Buddha (versus what we say and practice in those religions today) - though Jesus claimed to be a deity and Buddha did not - they both preached that spiritual enlightenment is available to anyone - despite your gender, race, ethnicity, economic status, or social class.
Because remember, importantly, Mary and Joseph were poor, homeless immigrants, and Christ was born in a stable, and he grew up to preach that salvation, redemption, and spiritual enlightenment were available to anyone that asked.
This then brings me to my overall point - how both Christianity and Buddhism have been inappropriately influenced by, and have incorporated, prior cultural influence and religion - despite both Christ and Buddha repeatedly repudiating our doing so - to our own selfish desires, cultural comfort level - and to our own detriment.
Regardless, in this way, you can be both Christian and Buddhist - a Christian in faith and a Buddhist in adjunctive/supplemental/addendum philosophy :)
But the main tenet that the actual words of Christ and the actual words of Buddha have in common is the same - "end all suffering" - not of ourselves, but of others.
I think most of today's Christians have forgotten that.
Jesus did not come to redeem, bless, and end just your suffering or just your family's suffering, or even just other Christians or just other white people!
Thus, according to Christ, if you're wealthy, there's a greater chance you're doing something wrong, than you are doing something right ;)
Because if Christ were here, he'd do it anyway, because it's the right thing to do - whether they believed in him or not, appreciated it or not.
How do I know?
How many times did Christ heal people, only to have those same people later vilify him and call for his crucifixion, and yet he died for their redemption anyway?
(The same Peter, mind you, who later denied he knew Jesus three times.)
That's how I know.
Thus, I don't recognize the Jesus that people are carrying on about, these days, with shouting, tear-gassing and flash-banging those in peaceful assembly - themselves brazenly and arrogantly carrying their guns and their rude, angry, cruel and hate-filled signs in Christ's name ..
... bearing false witness/falsely-accusing others in conspiracy - for which they have no proof other than their own wild speculation and paranoia, or they twist innocuous events into danger and detriment, even pronouncing them as Satanic.
I don't hear the voice of Jesus in self-professed Christians displaying lack of mercy and compassion for others who aren't of their faith, skin color, gender, consensual sexual proclivities, politics, or socioeconomics - making excuses for not doing so, or only doing so with the intent of saving souls.
I can't reconcile the Jesus that I know with the Jesus people are carrying about like a weapon today, justifying it by calling it self-defense, despite actually being the aggressors, as the same Jesus ..
... all the while, praising Jesus as being of equal value to their own greed and prosperity as "God's blessing" - as if they were more deserving of of God's grace, which cannot be earned - trying to convince us Jesus saved just their souls and ended just their suffering - when in fact, it seems they actually suffer from a self-induced, paranoid, angry, hate malady.
I see Christ better in people like Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama :)
And I'm going to continue listening to them, and others like them, instead - despite how much rarer they've become - because Christ said his true sheep will always hear their master's true voice :)
Happy to be a "sheep" to my true master's voice - not politicians and many other self-proclaimed Christians, shamelessly using Christ's name as subterfuge to cover their own multitude of grave sins, selfishness, greed, lack of mercy, encouraging aggression/violence, for their own selfish gain.
PS - After reading this post, my husband privately said, "Okay, but I thought all Buddhists revered and recognized the Dalai Lama as their supreme holy leader?"
Well, not all do - it's a bit like all Christian faiths somewhat revere the Pope as the most educated human being in Christianity on earth, but not all believe he is ordained by God or follow his teachings.
Likewise, the Dalai Lama is considered the most educated in Buddhism on the planet - HOWEVER - there is even greater respect among Buddhists for the Dalai Lama than all Christians have for the Pope - because Buddhists believe there must be universal balance - and to them, the Dalai Lama is the perfect balance of all the different sects and denominations of of Buddhism combined AND Hinduism - he's the best of all Buddhist and Hindu worlds.
In other words, the Dalai Lama is "The Great Balancer" of differing beliefs.
Make more sense now? :)