October 21, 2014

There are more Buddhists in America today than Eastern Orthodox Christians

Kevin Allen wrote this back in 2007 (see: Can Orthodox Christianity Speak To Eastern Religions?) but it hit the Orthodox blogosphere again because it remains timely, especially as we emerge from our ethnic enclaves to engage American culture with meaning and purpose. H/T: Preachers Institute and Orrologion (both sites worth watching).

Can Orthodox Christianity Speak To Eastern Religions?

I recently had a conversation with a dear Eastern Orthodox priest, whose twenty six year old son had left home the day before to live indefinitely at a Buddhist monastery. He was heart broken. His son was not a stranger to Eastern Orthodoxy or to its monastic tradition, having even spent two months on the holy mountain of Mt. Athos.

His son’s journey is not an isolated event. Eastern religious traditions are a growing and competing force in American religious life. Buddhism is now the fourth-largest religious group in the United States, with 2.5 – 3 million adherents, approximately 800,000 of whom are American western “converts”? There are actually more Buddhists in America today than Eastern Orthodox Christians! The Dalai Lama (the leader of one of the Tibetan Buddhist sects) is one of the most recognized and admired people in the world and far better recognized than any Eastern Orthodox hierarch? Have you looked in the magazine section of Borders or Barnes and Noble lately? There are more publications with names like “Shambala Sun”, “Buddhadharma”, and “What is enlightenment?” on the shelves than Christian publications!

In addition to losing seekers to eastern spiritual traditions (many of them youth), eastern metaphysics has also seeped into our western cultural worldview without much notice. They are doing a better job (sadly) “evangelizing” our culture than we Eastern Orthodox Christians are!

The Lord Himself commands us clearly “that repentance and remission of sins (baptism) should be preached in His name to all nations” (Luke 24:47). Buddhists (of which there are many sects) and Hindus live among us in America in ever-growing numbers, in our college classrooms, on our soccer fields, and in our “health foods” stores – they are right in our own backyards! They are a rich, potential “mission field” for the Eastern Orthodox Church in the United States. Unfortunately with few exceptions, like the writings of Monk Damascene [Christensen] and Kyriakos S. Markides, we are not talking to this group at all.

As a former Hindu and disciple of a well-known guru, or spiritual teacher, I can tell you Orthodox Christianity shares more “common ground” with seekers of non-Christian spiritual traditions of the east than any other Christian confession! The truth is when Evangelical Protestants attempt to evangelize the eastern seeker they often do more harm than good, because their approach is western, rational, and doctrinal, with (generally) little understanding of the paradigms and spiritual language (or yearnings) of the seekers of these eastern faiths.

There are three “fundamental principles” that Buddhists and Hindus generally share in common:

  1. A common “supra-natural” reality underlies and pervades the phenomenal world. This Supreme Reality isn’t Personal, but Trans-personal. God or Ultimate Reality in these traditions is ultimately a pure consciousness without attributes.
  2. The human soul is of the same essence with this divine reality. All human nature is divine at its core. Accordingly, Christ or Buddha isn’t a savior, but becomes a paradigm of self-realization, the goal of all individuals.
  3. Existence is in fundamental unity (monism). Creation isn’t what it appears to the naked eye. It is in essence “illusion” and “unreal”. There is one underlying ground of being (think “quantum field” in physics!) which unifies all beings and out of which and into which everything can be reduced.

What do these metaphysics have in common with our Eastern Orthodox Faith? Not much, on the surface. But in the eastern non-Christian spiritual traditions, knowledge is not primarily about the development of metaphysical doctrine or theology. This is one of the problems western Christians have communicating with them. Eastern religion is never theoretical or doctrinal. It’s about the struggle for liberation from death and suffering through spiritual experience. This “existential-therapeutic-transformational” ethos is the first connection Eastern Orthodoxy has with these traditions, because Orthodoxy is essentially therapeutic and transformative in emphasis!

The second thing we agree on with Buddhists and Hindus is the fallen state of humanity. The goal of the Christian life according to the Church Fathers is to move from the “sub-natural” or “fallen state”, to the “natural” or the “according to nature state” after the Image (of God), and ultimately to the “supra-natural” or “beyond nature” state, after the Likeness. According to the teaching of the holy Fathers the stages of the spiritual life are purification, illumination and deification. While we don’t agree with Buddhists or Hindus on what “illumination” or “deification” means (because our metaphysics are different) we agree on the basic diagnosis of the fallen human condition. As I once said to a practicing Tibetan Buddhist: “We agree on the sickness (of the human condition). Where we disagree is on the cure”.

Eastern Orthodoxy – especially the hesychasm (contemplative) tradition – teaches that true “spiritual knowledge” presupposes a “purified” and “awakened” nous (Greek), which is the “Inner ‘I'” of the soul. The true Eastern Orthodox theologian isn’t one who simply knows doctrine, but one “who knows God, or the inner essences or principles of created things by means of direct apprehension or spiritual perception. ” As a well-known Orthodox theologian explains, “When the nous is illuminated, it means that it is receiving the energy of God which illuminates it…” This idea resonates with eastern seekers who struggle to experience – through non-Christian ascesis and/or through occult methods – spiritual illumination. They just don’t know this opportunity exists within a Christian context.

As part of their spiritual ascesis, Buddhist and Hindu dhamma (practice) emphasizes cessation of desire, which is necessary to quench the passions. Holy Tradition teaches apatheia, or detachment as a means of combating the fallen passions. Hindu and Buddhist meditation methods teach “stillness”. The word hesychia in Holy Tradition – the root of the word for hesychasm – means “stillness”! We don’t meditate using a mantra, but we pray the “Jesus Prayer”. Buddhism, especially, teaches “mindfulness”. Holy Tradition teaches “watchfulness” so we do not fall into temptation! Hindus and Buddhists understand it is not wise to live for the present life, but to struggle for the future one. We Orthodox agree! Americans who become Buddhist or Hindu are often fervent spiritual seekers, used to struggling with foreign languages (Sanskrit, Tibetan, Japanese) and cultures and pushing themselves outside of their “comfort zones”. We converts to the Eastern Orthodox Church can relate! Some Buddhist and Hindu sects even have complex forms of “liturgy”, including chant, prostration and veneration of icons! Tibetan Buddhism especially places high value on the lives of (their) ascetics, relics and “saints”.

The main difference in spiritual experience is that what the eastern seeker recognizes as “spiritual illumination”, achieved through deep contemplation, Holy Tradition calls “self contemplation”. Archimandrite Sophrony (Sakharov), who was experienced in yoga (which means ‘union’) before becoming a hesychast – monk and disciple of St. Silouan of the holy mountain wrote from personal experience, “All contemplation arrived at by this means is self-contemplation, not contemplation of God. In these circumstances we open up for ourselves created beauty, not First Being. And in all this there is no salvation for man.”

Clement of Alexandria, two thousand years ago wrote that pre-Christian philosophers were often inspired by God, but he cautioned one to be careful what one took from them!

So we acknowledge the eastern seeker through his ascesis or contemplative methodologies may experience deep levels of created beauty, or created being (through self-contemplation), para-normal dimensions, or even the “quantum field” that modern physics has revealed! However, it is only in the Eastern Orthodox Church and through its deifying mysteries that the seeker will be introduced to the province of Uncreated Divine Life. It is only in the Orthodox Church that the eastern seeker will hear there is more to “salvation” than simply forgiveness of sins and justification before God. He will be led to participate in the Uncreated Energies of God, so that they “may be partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). As a member of the Body of Christ he will join in the deifying process, and be increasingly transformed after the Likeness! Thankfully, deification is available to all who enter the Holy Orthodox Church, are baptized (which begins the deifying process) and partake of the holy mysteries. Deification is not just for monks, ascetics and the spiritual athletes on Mount Athos!

Eastern Orthodoxy has much to share with eastern spiritual seekers. Life and death hangs in the balance in this life, not the millions of lives eastern seekers think they have! As the Apostle Paul soberly reminds us, ” … it is appointed for men to die once but after this the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27).

May God give us the vision to begin to share the “true light” of the Holy Orthodox Faith with seekers of the eastern spiritual traditions.

References

1. Makarian Homilies; Glossary of The Philokalia
2. Hierotheos Vlachos, Life after death; 1995; Birth of the Theotokos Monastery
3. On Prayer; Sophrony; pages 168-170

Kevin Allen, a former Hindu practitioner before becoming an Eastern Orthodox Christian, is also the co-host of the Internet radio program “The Illumined Heart” which is broadcast weekly on Ancient Faith Radio (www.ancientfaithradio.com). © 2007 Kevin Allen.

Comments

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, Kevin Allen lives in a county in Ca where asians make up about 16 percent of the population and many of them are still buddhists. Granted, there are converts but the states that have the two highest percentage of Buddhists, Hawaii and California have higher than average asian populations. Eastern Orthodox immirgant to the US less than asians.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    I applaud Brit Hume’s recent declaration on TV in which he invited Tiger Woods to seek redemption that “Buddhism doesn’t offer.” We can criticize this as a Western approach (which it is) but it is nevertheless a wake up call to Buddhists. It’s sad that it takes a news reporter to do that where our own theologians in the ethnic jurisdictions are resolutely silent.

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    cynthia curran says:

    This is true. I came across a video on you tube entitled step off ministry, an Evangelical Protestant ministry address to Koreans and other Asians. Koreans are about 35 to 40 percent Protestant and about 8 percent Catholic, and probably .10 percent Orthodox, and the rest are Buddhist. Many of these Asian kids were not the usual successful Asian student type but were skipping high school and taking drugs. This is also related to the social justice blog.

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    Kevin Allen says:

    Cynthia,

    Yes, I do live in an area where there are many Asians, but also non-Asians who have been influenced by eastern religions. I believe this is a cultural phenomenon which transcends California (although we are often social harbingers). Pew reports that there are 800,000 non-Asian practitioners of Buddhism in the U.S. There are – according to credible reports, including Krindatch’s – estimated to be only 1.2-1.5 million “Orthodox” in the U.S. of all ethnic backgrounds (including converts). Krindatch even includes non-Chalcedonians in his numbers (Copts, Syrian Malankaras, Armenians, etc.). Read the book “Unchristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity” (Baker Books; 2007). The data presented is chilling. Bottom line: “…young people are at odds with Christianity…” The author’s solution: “..we must become Christlike again…” What tradition has more ‘tools’ for Christlikeness than the Eastern Orthodox?

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, it depends upon those from the east, western christianity has done poorly reaching populations from Japan or India but so has the eastern orthodox which thinks in terms too much of the Byzantine Empire or Eastern European ethnic concerns which turn off people from mny asian countries. On the other hand, populations from South Korea, the Phillipines, and Vietnam, both Protestantants and Catholics have had success. As for converts to eastern religions its kind of mixed which more of christianity they are attractive top. I think some of the anti-western speech has hurt the Orthodox church in the US and Europe. Most Americans and Europeans do not want to be hear about the Franks and Veniceans sacking Constantinople in 1204. Granted, theological differences between Orthodox and Protestants and Catholics can be pointed out but how about dropping the east versus west labels.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Another reason why Orthodox have been low in the States,some of its related to money but as many of us discuss here a lot of its related to keeping an ethnic idenity. Some converts mention that the cradle orthodox wonder why they would attend their churches since their are Roman Catholic and Protestant churches for the non-orthodox I think this was true years ago. Part of its also general american culture or European culture, the spilit centuries ago led a difference cultural perception between Western and Eastern Europe, not a easy thing to deal with.

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    Kevin Allen says:

    Cynthia,

    The point of the article was to say that it is the experiential — not doctrinal — emphasis of the hesychasm tradition within Orthodox Christianity that resonates with many eastern practitioners and especially western converts. That is not to say that Evangelicalism and Roman Catholicism, as you point out, have not made or are unable to make significant impacts within specific Asian cultures (they have). Frankly I believe if the Orthodox Church had the resources and the evangelical interest, it too could have impacted these areas because of the “common ground” I pointed to in my article. However with American students (or converts if you like) of Hinduism and Buddhism (of which there total more than the total of all Orthodox believers in the US), Eastern Orthodoxy has a significant evangelistic opportunity: IF we will begin to (1) understand what they are seeking, (2) communicate in a way that does not close doors (without compromising Orthodox theology or praxis), and (3) with love and patience. New agers are tougher because many of them are inoculated against anything that looks like “organized religion”; however many of them “run out of steam” spiritually and want to seek out the Truth. We know He Who is Truth (and explaining how Truth is Personal and not Impersonal is one of the challenges!) and so who better than we to “open our doors”? Not all parishes will be able to pursue this ministry, but some (like ours) will.

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      Michael Bauman says:

      Having come from a ‘new age syncretistic Christianity’ I can attest to the fact that it was the experiential promise and what’s more the delivery of Orthodox Church that confirmed it has the place to be.

      It is what has kept my son (age 23–14 years as an altar server) in the Church despite competition from ‘new age’ spirituality.

      Ultimately, people have to choose between the feel-good promises of paganism or ‘spiritual paths’ and the reality that redemption is required and the Cross is where it is found. No where else.

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Kevin, I agree with you. You’ve hit the nail on the head: “experiential.” That’s why I’ve been on such a tear about canon 28 and the whole “who’s on first” nonsense. There is nothing Christ-like or experiential about it. Just feather-bedding and turf-building. Young, interested, and sincere seekers can see right through this.

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    Kevin Allen says:

    Yes the governance issues are important. However, George, even if we had a canonical structure in place (per Canon 28), the Orthodox Church would still need the interest and the resources to engage the culture. I’m not sure our existing bishops (except with one possibility) have the interest to do this. Part of the cultural reality in the U.S. is that Christianity is being challenged at every turn: Evangelical Christianity is fragmented and losing its former voice of confidence; and the Roman Catholic Church has lost its moral authority due to the scandals. Eastern religions and non-institutional “spiritualities” (and not only in California) are – for increasing numbers – filling the void! Most of our Orthodox priests – not to mention our bishops and metropolitans – cannot even spell Theravada or Mahayana Buddhism, or have ever heard of “A Course in Miracles”. But when one engages in this sort of outreach, one must be willing to take abuse from those (even) within Orthodoxy who will inevitably accuse you of “syncretism” or being — as I was recently accused on the Orrologian site — a “barely baptised pagan”, for writing the article!

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      George Michalopulos says:

      Kevin, agreed. There’s more than simply correctly the uncanonical situation. At best, that’s a start, but I don’t see how we could realistically do evangelism until that’s corrected. As for the fitness of 90% of our bishops, I couldn’t agree w/ you more. There’s two in the AOCA who I think “get it,” about five in the OCA, and maybe one in the GOA. And that’s a stretch.

      The darn thing is that our priests (who I think mostly do get it) take their cues from their bishops. I’ve seen more than one priest (and heard about dozens of others) who’ve had the rug pulled out from them by bishops who succumbed to the ethnocentric pull.

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    cynthia curran says:

    Well, I think that we still have influence from old pagan beliefs such as Fortune or Tyche. How many people say Good luck even to this day.

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    cynthia curran says:

    I listern to Christ the Eternal Tao, and thought that there was nothing wrong with it. Of course Paul quoted Greek philosophers, and he dealt with the stoics. The stoics while a western philosophy believe in pantheism. As mention in the Eternal Tao, Greece was getting some eastern ideas and certainly a lot of eastern influece after Alexander’s conquests.

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    cynthia curran says:

    I mean St Paul of course.

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    Mary says:

    The comparison of main points of eastern religions versus E. Orthodoxy is informative for readers, but surely the son of the Eastern Orthodox priest knew these things, and if he didn’t then maybe the father assumed his son indirectly picked these points up. Id’ be interested in knowing why the son said that he was making this move?

    R. Catholics are having the same problem. Roman Catholics and Jews make up the largest group of Buddhist converts.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Christianity, even in the most mystic sense still has the judgement; “Only by me can you see the face of the Father”, and “Be in the world, not of it”.

    The first two statements are incompatible with modern egalitarianism and individualism, the third with the complete transcendence of sin, error and evil promised by Buddhism (one does not have to do battle on a daily basis with fallen nature).

    Also many American churches lack all understanding and appreciation of genuine community having been overwhelmed by the individual/nuclear family model of society and culture.

    Those seeking genuine spiritual depth and formation are most often left to go it on their own or worse, enter into a false ‘spiritual father’ relationship with what essentially amounts to an Orthodox guru. When all that is seen and often experienced is a complicated mass of rituals, rules and incomprehensible theological jargon combined with the distance, lack of pastoral engagement, lack of genuine spiritual authority and often moral turpritude of many of our bishops lends credance to the promises of eastern paths.

    I came from a syncretistic mystery cult. I’d never go back, but we do make things unnecessarily difficult when everything BUT the encounter with the living Christ in community is practiced, preached and expected.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Yes, the self-realization promised by the eastern paths, is just that–the deification of self, not union with God. That is a big hurdle. It is easy to downplay the differences between Christianity and eastern paths:

    Eastern paths: no Cross, no grave, no descent into Hades, no Resurrection and ascension, no personal unity with the living resurrected and ascended God.

    ‘Seekers’ not disciples

    No sin, no judgement

    No need of a Savior, a Lord or a King.

    No Holy Trinity, therefore no real appreciation for other’s personhood (thus a caste system as many are persumed to be unevolved souls) and lack of charity

    A wholly different cosmology that negates the essence of man as the uniquely created steward of a good creation. The physical world itself is an ‘illusion’
    Thus there is a fundamental hatred of the created world and by extension its Creator

    Idol worship, not just veneration, which can lead to the experience of demons rather than holiness.

    In some forms of Hinduism the passions need to be statified (not transcended)before attempting to worship thus temple prostitution, gluttony, etc.

    A degradation of women

    I fear that sometimes we have the same communication problems with those of eastern paths as we do with Protestants–using the same words but with differing if not diametrically opposed meanings.

    Read “The Gurus, the Young Man and Elder Paisios” for some of the experential differences. Might help the priest who fears he has lost his son as well.

    If all we do is preach doctrine, no matter how well and true, we will never experience the depth of true worship and communion with God, each other and the rest of His creation, nor disciple anyone else either.

    Even among those who are faithful Orthodox there is difficulty really accepting the Psalm we sing at Nativity: “God is with us, submit yourself all ye nations, for God is with us”

    “We all like sheep have gone astray, each one to his own way….”

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    Michael Bauman says:

    A brief quote from the book:

    One day, sometime after my experience with “my friend” (the demon that was possessing him that Elder Paisios exorcised) in the elders yard, I asked the elder about the yogis. By that time, I had become convinced that the yogis worked in cooperation with demons – but I couldn’t understand how it was possible for anyone to make such a choice. “Elder, I just can’t understand why they would want to be evil men. They are intelligent, educated people with many abilities. They don’t have any reason to be evil.” The elder looked at me and shook his head, but didn’t say anything. Shortly afterwards, as planned, I left the Holy Mountain (Mt. Athos the monastic republic in Greece) in order to be with my family for Pascha (Easter) which we would spend in my childhood home of Florina, to which my parents had returned in their retirement.
    One afternoon at the beginning of Holy Week (the week preceding Orthodox Easter), having made a stop in Thessaloniki, I was by myself in our home there, when, suddenly, my surroundings vanished. There were no images to be seen, sounds to be heard, or objects to be touched. My five senses had ceased functioning. It was as though the light switch had been flicked and the room plunged into total darkness.
    My mind turned its full attention to a spiritual realm that it found utterly riveting and captivating. In one direction, I saw a soft but intense light – brilliant but gentle. In the other direction, I saw a thick, cavernous darkness. Initially, I turned my attention towards the awesome, yet fearful, darkness. It made my flesh crawl, but I was overcome by curiosity, the desire to understand what it was. My mind advanced towards the darkness. It had vast power and, if I dare put it this way, a certain grandeur. It represented a negative perspective on reality, unhesitatingly extending into reality as depth, even as the light stretched infinitely into reality as height. On one side, there was immense love; on the other immense hatred. The light was overflowing with unconditional altruism, while the darkness pulled away in utter self-centeredness.
    Though I couldn’t see into the darkness, I could feel the presence of souls in it, leaping about, and shrieking with insane, wicked laughter, as they were pulled deeper and deeper into the ocean of darkness, until the sound of their voices disappeared altogether. Frightened by this savage madness, I headed towards the light, seeking its protection. Just reaching its outskirts, I felt the relief of having been rescued from a grave danger.
    Although I didn’t advance very far at all into the darkness, I was able to feel the depths of its evil ocean. I could understand the very essence of the enticing power of sin to tempt, as well as its laughable powerlessness, utter dependence, and shadowy nonexistence. The darkness, I saw, is fearsome when it has won you over, but it is absurd and feeble when you reject it — it cannot defeat even a small child if he does not fall on his own. In the same way I didn’t advance far into the light — only so to speak, skating its edge — but even there I felt confident and comforted by a fullness of life, peace, joy, and knowledge. The light loved me greatly in spite of my unworthiness and granted me its gifts I never dreamed existed. At this point, I realized that the light created the world and every living being. The existential space in which each person dwells is itself a creation fashioned by the light, which also fills and permeates these spaces. On being decided to stay outside of the existential space created by the light, thus creating a sort of space for itself, though only by denying the light, turning from it, and driving it away. The darkness has no existence of its own, but only denies the ever-existing and sovereign light. That is to say, the existence of darkness would have been impossible without the existence of the light; though the light had no need of the darkness for existence, for its existence is self-sufficient. The light respected the free decision of its creation to reject it, and so kept its distance. In this way, a dark existential space made its appearance—the darkness, in this sense became a reality.
    The darkness resulted from the inclination of a conscious being, called Satan, who chose such a form of existence though he had no reason to. And this denial made the darkness a reality. Although this act of denial may have resembled God’s act of creation, it was not creation, but an imitation of creation performed in reverse. That is the devil tried to behave like God, but, since he did not have the ability to create on his own, he was capable of only denying God’s creation, energies, light, and grace. He pulled away from the very borders of reality and made non-existence a way of being, thus “creating” death and darkness, but all things are filled with light and life.
    Just as the light ‘s love wishes to unite all things, being the source of existence and creation, so the hatred of the darkness wants to divide all things, being the source of nonexistence and destruction. Just as the light extends out into infinite beyond, so the darkness seems to extend into its infinite beyond. Just as there is a grandeur about the simple, yet infinite light of God, with all His attributes and energies, so there is a certain grandeur about the blunt, yet apparently infinite darkness of the devil, with all his deep- rooted and ferocious self-destructiveness, full of stubborn and manic rage.
    Having come to such realization, I found myself as with a flip of a switch, surrounded again by familiar sights and sounds of my room. Within a matter of minutes, I had a lesson of immeasurable depth. It was not only a revelation beyond word, of subtle differences of profound meaning and great importance, but also — and even more — a test and a trial of the deepest inclinations and intentions of my heart, to see whom I would follow and who I would leave behind. Fortunately, although my heart initially moved towards the darkness, it ultimately found repose in the light — and fortunately, the light still accepted me.
    This experience taught me that, just as God surpasses the human mind, so do His works, His creations, and His gifts. On its own, the human mind can only acquire a relative idea about these realities, producing hypothesis, conjectures, opinions, and imaginary presuppositions to justify its views. However aided by the grace of the Holy Spirit, it can begin to fathom these mysteries.
    I also received from this experience a deep appreciation of the mystery of human and angelic freedom, a divine gift beyond human understanding. My experience of light and dark helped me to grasp the fact that God endowed angels and men with free will so that they could move independently, freely and without compulsion in the moral sphere. The elder once told me. “God would forgive the devil if he would just say one ‘Lord have mercy.’ There’s a dear old monk near here who used to pray for the devil, because he felt compassion for him. After all, the devil was one of god’s creatures — in fact, he was an archangel before he fell into such a sorry state. While the elder was praying for him, the evil one appeared in the corner and started to make fun of him. The devil is unrepentant.” He concluded. As I would learn latter, this elder was actually Father Paisios.

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    Kevin Allen says:

    Mary,

    You asked, “the son of the Eastern Orthodox priest knew these things, and if he didn’t then maybe the father assumed his son indirectly picked these points up. Id’ be interested in knowing why the son said that he was making this move?”

    The son told his father (the Orthodox priest) that he thought Buddhism (especially pureland Buddhism, akin to non-dualism in Hinduism) revealed a “higher” spiritual level of ‘reality’ than the level of “gods”, among which he included Jesus Christ.

    The article was written three years ago. Since then the son left the Buddhist monastery and has become a novice at The Monastery of Saint John of San Francisco (CA) in manton, California!

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    George Michalopulos says:

    Praise God!

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    Michael Bauman says:

    Those who are actually interested in the truth will find Him, or rather, He will find those who want to know Him.

    It is a wonderful blessing. I’m sure the young man will be a strong witness for the reality of Christianity.

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    gregd01 says:

    I heard a radio commentator who is syndicated from San Francisco talk about all the the Buddists he’s met out there. From listening to the commentators program for awhile you realize that although rough around the egdes he is worldly, well-travelled, and almost hyper-intelligent. Anyway, he laughs at most of the people that claim to be Buddists and he says they don’t know the slightest thing about the religion the say they belond to. It seems to be the latest fad and is in vogue because its so easy and cool to pass yourself off as as some deeply spritual eastern adherent because very few can call you on it. Having met more than one person myself that claims to be spritual but not religious that left me with the impression of being neither, I suspect there is more than a kernal of truth to the radio personalities observations. I guess what I’m saying is there certainly aren’t 2.5 million Buddists in America. There are 2.5 million people claiming to be Buddists with a vast majority of those actually being agnostic.

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    G says:

    When it comes to the issue of Eastern Religions being reached by Orthodox, would this mean Eastern Orthodox alone or would it also include those who are Oriental Orthodox (i.e. Coptic, Ethopian, Syrian, Indian, etc) as well? I ask due to being more alligned with this specific camp than with others….and I’ve noticed that many times it seems that with EO, there’s a tendency in some camps to disregard any of the contributions that they have made to reaching those in Eastern religions. Of course, that’s not necessarily representive of all within Eastern Orthodoxy–nor is it representative of others here on this specific blog…..but it does happen. Thus, I’m curious as to what others here may have to say on the issue.

    Additionally, what of those who are Eastern Catholics? Would they also be able to speak to Eastern Religions? For I’m very supportative of them as well for much of the wonderful work they’ve done–even though it often seems that get stereotyped as if they’re exactly the same as most Roman Catholic rites when it comes to things such as materialism and rationalism.

    I made a thread on the issue entitled “East Vs West: Is Western Christianity or Eastern Christianity best suited for evanglising those in Eastern Religion?”—as I’ve long appreciated the thoughts of those in Eastern Christianity more so than Western Christianity. They ways in which they emphasize mysticism and philosophy–as well as action—-in one seems to be a good demonstration of what it means to combine orthodoxy with orthopraxy. Many in the West have become immensely tired of living within a world where all that happens is either reading scripture and quoting creeds—-or simply having services and yet feeling disconnected with others.

    Forgive me if its an offense for me being here, seeing that I’m not Orthodox (though I have friends who were in it/appreciate it greatly).

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    G says:

    On the thread I mentioned that I sought to make on the issue ( as well as where I quoted the article by brother Allen), one can go here to East Vs West: Is Western Christianity or Eastern Christianity best suited for evanglising those in Eastern Religion?

    As it stands, Asian Culture is so diverse—and each of the respective cultures/religions vary. Thus, I think it’d be difficult to say that the EO Church alone could possibly reach each one of them in a manner that would ensure all needs of each groups are fulfilled. In doing inner-city ministry, I’ve noticed that even with Asian Communities the needs/concerns are very diverse…with certain things more focused upon than with others beyond spirituality.

    For more info, some of the following may be beneficial:

    —”Urban Ministry: Asian American” ( http://www.urbanministry.org/search/google/Asian%20American?query=Asian%20American&cx=017405804136166701815%3Anc9jskbtk8y&cof=FORID%3A11&sitesearch=#924 )

    –”Urban Ministry: Asian American” ( http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/asian-american-podcast/id265080960 )

    –”Being an Asian in America” ( http://www.urbanministry.org/being-asian-america-0 )

    –”Sebastian Huynh – Connecting to the Asian American Teen- UYWI 2003″ ( http://www.urbansermons.org/f/audio/sebastian-huynh-connecting-asian-american-teen-uywi-2003 )

    —”Asian American views on Ethnic Specific Ministry and Multi-ethnic Ministry” ( http://www.intervarsity.org/mx/item/5811/ )

    Even outside of that, as others have noted, those from Non-Asian cultures are drawn immensely toward Eastern Religions…desiring something deeper than what it is that they may’ve found soley within their church experiences or background. For the one who grew up outside of Christian fellowship, the desire was to find something that was spiritual/with meaning. For those within the church, the desire was to have something more than simply philosophy or self-discipline without any real kind of purpose and impact…or, as often happens, doing many honorable deeds/social justice for others but then feeling spiritually empty when it came to deeper communion with the Lord.

    I noticed a book that was mentioned entitled “Unchristian: What a new generation really thinks about Christianity” (Baker Books; 2007). I’ve read the book and thought it was excellent when describing what young adults are looking for today, especially as it concerns the thirst for being spiritual and yet not religious where one is simply going to service/going through the motions when engaging in liturgy, be it in Protestant or Catholic or Eastern Orthodox circles. Although the Eastern Orthodox tradition is suppose to emphasize the experiential aspect rather than the doctrinal, it does seem for many leaving Orthodoxy that in many places it was indeed another form of doctrinal that was emphasized when it came to the liturgical practices that seemed to be focused on solely just as one would see in a church always discussing creeds alone.

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  1. [...] other places that the article can be found, one can go to There are more Buddhists in America today than Eastern Orthodox Christians and Orthodox Way of Life: Can Orthodox Christianity Speak To Eastern [...]

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