My Kadampa understanding of the Bible: The story of John and Revelation

Some time had passed and all of Jesus’ apostles had died except John.  John was hiding in a prison on an island, sending out letters to all of the Churches under a false name to hide his identity.  The Roman emperor declared himself a God and demanded that all Christians in the Empire take him as their sole god or die.  The son of a Roman general who was acting as a spy in a Christian village heard rumors that John was still alive, so he went to his father in Rome to tell the Emperor the news.  The Emperor installed the general as governor of the area where the Christians were with orders to kill John and all of the Christians.  The general then sent his son under cover as a prisoner to the same prison John was hiding at.  While there, John impressed the son and eventually won him over.  During this time John received a series of visions about how Jesus’ story ends.  He was transported to heaven, shown the four horsemen of the apocalypse, but with Jesus eventually prevailing over all evil forever.  They then try a prison break for John before they all are to be killed, and in the process the general’s son becomes a believer in Jesus and stops the Roman commander who was about to kill John.  Then, the general arrived, said that the Emperor was assassinated and that the new Emperor declared an amnesty for all Christians.  John then went back to the mainland and preached for a few years before he died.  So just as John was the last to stay with Jesus when he died, so too he was the last to live to spread the word of Jesus.

As a Kadampa, what does this story teach me?

  1. It was very hard to be a Christian in the early days, but because they never lost their faith despite their persecution their religion flourished.  There is something inspiring about somebody who is willing to sacrifice everything for their faith, especially when that faith seems to teach only love.  While believers will be persecuted, those who watch the persecution will be won over, and ultimately the persecutors as well will change their hearts.  As Kadampa’s we can admire and rejoice in such faith, and we can develop gratitude for those who suffered and died to keep the Kadampa lineage alive in this world.  In particular, Jangchub O.
  2. John was shown the end so that the followers of Christ would not lose hope and faith.  In Revelation, after horrific sufferings of war and fire, Jesus emerged triumphant, love emerged triumphant and in the end all were saved in the silence of heaven.  This is not unlike the story of Buddha’s enlightenment where all of the maras attacked him but he overcame them all with love.  The Christians were shown that love conquerors all evil through revelation, and knowing this gives them faith to follow the path of love all the way until the end.

I have learned a tremendous amount by considering each of the stories of the Bible through the lens of the Kadampa teachings.  We need to make a very clear distinction between mixing religions and appreciating all religions while following our own purely without mixing.  One extreme is sectarianism thinking that we alone have a monopoly on the truth and that only the Kadampa is correct.  This extreme is wrong because Buddhas reveal themselves in different ways to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike.  The other extreme is mixing together all religions into a hodge podge of our own creation.  This transforms our ordinary self into our own spiritual guide thinking that we are somehow qualified to put together a spiritual path that is superior to the ones laid out by the holiest beings to have walked this earth.  The middle way is to follow one’s own tradition purely without mixing while appreciating all other traditions as valid for those who follow them.

There are close to 2 billion people on this earth who are Christians.  In particular, Modern Kadampa Buddhism has initially emerged in a Western, Christian cultural context.  Therefore, if we are to learn how to transmit the essential meaning of Kadampa Buddhism in such a cultural context, we must strive to possess the wisdom that can realize how the Kadampa path is revealed through the stories of the Bible.  These stories have shaped this civilization.  If we can see the Dharma in these stories, we will be able to see the Dharma in this civilization, and as such be much more capable of transmitting this wisdom perfectly.  It is with that intention that I have engaged in this project.  It is part of my appreciating other religions, but my appreciation arises out of how they reveal the truth of the Kadampa path or how the Kadampa path explains these stories and this religion.  Realizing this appreciation of the Judeo-Christian world through the lens of the Kadampa helps us eliminate the grasping at any tension between the cultural context we inhabit and the teachings of the Kadampa.  Therefore it helps us accomplish our mission of achieving the union of modern life and Kadampa Buddhism.    Just as it is not mixing to derive Kadampa lessons from the stories of our everyday life, so too it is not mixing to derive Kadampa lessons from what so many consider “the greatest stories ever told.”

I dedicate any merit I may have collected by doing this series of posts so that Dorje Shugden will bless the minds of all those who read these words and bestow upon them correct Kadampa understandings regardless of whether what I wrote was correct or non-sense.  Sometimes reading non-sense helps us realize wisdom, and so may whatever mistakes I have made ripen only as pure wisdom in the minds of those who read these posts.  May all Kadampas unite seamlessly their modern lives with Kadampa Buddhism in such a way that, like a magic crystal,it  functions to transform this ordinary impure world into a pure land in which all beings are free forevermore.

5 thoughts on “My Kadampa understanding of the Bible: The story of John and Revelation

  1. Thanks for sharing your journey through the bible seen through the lens of Dharma, It has been an education and, I think, a very important step up for my own understanding and I hope for others too. Thank you Ryan.

  2. Mary
    Thank you Ryan, your blog from the begining has been a a great help to me your views are non biased and give to reflexion,I admire your energy and intelligence thank you again and take care

  3. Thanks for this series and all your others.

    You have attempted to interpret the Christian story through the lens of Kadampa Buddhism. Do you think the reverse is possible? That is, is it possible to interpret the Buddhist story through the lens of Christianity?

    My answer is that it is not. Because:

    1. Christians do not have a theory of samsara.
    2. Christians do not explain emptiness and therefore lack a profound path.

    Christians do not know how to assimilate emptiness or samsara. Therefore their interpretative framework lacks the means that are necessary to assimilate the core of Kadampa Buddhism.

    Christians are versed in compassion and selfless behaviour. They know love. They have a perspective on the relation between actions and effects. They understand prophetic lineage and auspiciousness, so they may take inspiration from the stories of Buddha and the lineage guru’s. So there are some similarities that can inspire them.

    Maybe the Christian God manifested as Buddha for those predisposed to that type of path?

    • Hi Alex,

      Since I am not a Christian, I can’t say for sure one way or another whether the reverse is possible. My suspicion, however, is that yes, of course they could interpret the Kadampa through the lens of Christianity. The question you are getting at, though, is whether that interpretation is complete – in other words, can Christianity fully encompass ALL of the Kadampa completely? There, I think it depends on one’s interpretation of Christianity. Meister Eckart, for example, has a very radical interpretation of Christianity which seems to come close. But I can’t say for sure. The key question seems to turn around whether or not they share the Madhyamika Prasangika view of emptiness. Some interpretations of Genesis “first there was the word…” gives me pause. Bottom line: we can’t judge the completeness of other traditions from the perspective of our own. It is enough to say our tradition is complete for us. There is no fault in viewing everything, including other traditions, through the lens of our own tradition. But there is fault in mixing traditions or in judging other traditions. So I try keep it simple: I happily follow my own tradition without mixing while respecting all others as good for those who follow them. Then, no problems.

      Ryan

  4. I would like to thank you for these blog posts. I don’t think we have met. I am Susi and I was one of Gen Tharchins former FP and TTP students. so please forgive my reviews.
    At present I am caring for my elderly parents and coping with sickness, aging and death. I am a bit physically out of the loop so receiving these blogs into my inbox is a true blessing. Thank You.

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