Birth, Death, and Regeneration: Why I Am Only a Kind of a Buddhist by Carol P. Christ

In a recent blog describing conversations with my friend Rita Gross, I said that I think of myself as a “kind of a Buddhist” because I have given up a great deal of the ego(tism) described by Buddhists. I also remarked that “I must be a Buddhist after all” because I accept my finitude and do not fear death. At the same time, I said that the idea of a relational world coheres with my experience and is more satisfying to me than the Buddhist theory of nondualism. When I speak of a relational world, I am referring to the worldview of process philosophy.

One of the central insights of Buddhism is the concept of “dependent origination.” This means that “no thing” exists in and of itself:  “all things” are related to and dependent upon “other things.” One of the key assumptions of western philosophy is that “things” exist in and of themselves: all things have an single, unchangeable “essence” or “nature.” Buddhism considers this assumption to be false: if all things are dependent on other things, then they cannot finally be separated from the web of dependence in which they exist. Buddhism insists, moreover, that the interdependent world is in flux. This means that what a thing-in-relationship is in one moment changes in the next.

Process philosophers, including Whitehead and Hartshorne, recognized that Buddhism affirms a central truth that western philosophy has denied: the truth that life is in flux and that no individual exists apart from or independent of others. Continue reading “Birth, Death, and Regeneration: Why I Am Only a Kind of a Buddhist by Carol P. Christ”

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