Is it possible to take the best of Buddhism and the best of Christianity and come up with something true, hopeful, practical and universal?
I ask this question as I have been pondering the Buddhist teaching on the Self.
From a Buddhist perspective there are three marks of existence: Impermanence, Unsatisfactoriness, and Not-Self. That things rise and pass away, and that all things are ultimately disappointing is not hard for me to swallow. The idea of Not-Self is the one I would dwell on here.
From a practical standpoint Ego, the Self, is the cause of much of the world's ills, and is certainly at the heart of most personal struggles. The Buddhist answer to this is "...not clinging to anything as me or mine". This works. Attachments are the bane of social intercourse and the curse of individual equanimity. To posit Not-Self in the context of universal impermanence is to set the stage for serenity. This vantage point helps me keep Self out of the way.
From a Christian perspective the Self is a unique and beloved creation—I (all that makes for Self) am cradled in the presence of Absolute Compassion. Every Christian doctrine that ascribes meaning to the individual's life begins with this proposition. There is a Self and it is Beloved.
From the standpoint of Christian practice this Beloved Self is the cause of all trouble and also the recipient of all grace. Furthermore, the redeemed self is as likely to cause trouble as the unredeemed self. The only difference is how that self understands Judgment and Hope. The church asks the redeemed self to repent, to walk in love, and to respond with grace to grace. All well and good, but no escape in this life. Judgment forever follows one around, institutionally and internally. It is how we are wired. Grace, that which is meant to trump all else, will inevitably be subsumed by Law, whether in a church structure or a personal lifestyle Law construct.
Still, the grounding sense of being one who is beloved, before, in and beyond the struggles of life, is deeply comforting. For me this is not a matter of what happens to me when I die, but is profoundly a part of how I feel about myself right now.
Where I am with all this makes me want to have the best of both worlds, asking, "Why not?".