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Excerpted from Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers by Thich Nhat Hanh. Copyright 1999 by Thich Nhat Hanh. Excerpted by permission of Penguin Putnam, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 

"If we spend time quarreling with each other as to whether God is a person or a non-person, we waste our time."

  Thich Nhat Hanh, Going Home, Part 2

If you are a Christian, you feel that Jesus Christ is your home. It's very comfortable to think of Jesus as your home. If you are a Buddhist, then it's very nice to think of the Buddha as your home. Your home is available in the here and the now. Christ is there, the Buddha is there. The practice is how to touch them, how to touch your home. You call Christ "the Living Christ," so you cannot believe that Christ is only someone who lived in the past, and is no longer there. He is ever-present. Your practice is how to touch him; he is your home. If you are a Buddhist, you practice very much in the same way. You invoke the name of the Buddha as one of the ways to touch the Buddha, because you know that he is your home. The living Christ, the living Buddha is your home.

But the living Christ is not only a notion, or an idea. He must be a reality. This is true for the living Buddha, too. How can you recognize the presence of the living Christ or the living Buddha? This is your practice. Maybe when you hear the sound of the bell, you are able to recognize him, to touch your true home. Maybe because you know how to walk mindfully, with concentration, you recognize your home.

What is the home of a wave? The home of the wave is all the other waves, and the home of the wave is water. If the wave is capable of touching himself and the other waves very deeply, he will realize that he is made of water. Being aware that he is water, he transcends all discrimination, sorrows, and fears. Your home is available in the here and the now. Your home is Jesus or God. Your home is Buddha, or Buddhahood.

A Person? Or More than a Person

Last week we spoke of nirvana as the reality of no birth and no death.

Nirvana is our true substance just as water is the true substance of the wave. We practice to realize that nirvana is our substance. Once we realize this, we transcend the fear of birth and death, of being and non-being. God is an equivalent expression. God is the foundation of being, or as many theologians, like Paul Tillich, say, "God is the ground of being."

Last week we said that the notion of being and non-being cannot be applied to God or to nirvana. The notion of beginning and end cannot be applied to the absolute either. That is why both the notion of person and of non-person cannot be applied to God nor can it be applied to nirvana. So if we spend time quarreling with each other as to whether God is a person or a non-person, we waste our time. That is discouraged in the Buddhist practice and that is why Paul Tillich was so skillful when he said, "God is not a person, but not less than a person." It was a wonderful way to advise people not to spend too much time speculating.

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