Having lived in Vietnam for a number of years I regularly witnessed Buddhist monks walking barefoot through the dirty streets of Vietnam. I was always struck by their humility a sense of grace.
I once went to the memorial to Thich Quang Duc, the Buddhist monk who self immolated during the Vietnam war. There is apparently a pagoda where his heart is preserved in a jar as a relic.
As a Christian living here in Vietnam I was am genuinely humbled by the Buddhists I meet. I was very struck by what I saw as their simplicity and humility and felt they possessed a sense of holiness that we Christians seem to have lost.
The truth is many Christians in the west have become obsessed with personal success and wealth. I think I would have been no different if it weren’t for the fact that I was just not very good at making money.
As I rode around the streets of Vietnam, I couldn’t stop thinking about the holiness I saw in the Buddhist monk as they walked the streets of Vietnam in their bare feet and saffron robes.
In Thailand I had worked briefly at a school that had lessons from the Buddhist monks of the forest. The Thais are very devout and I found many of them to be very good natured and kind.
So anyway the point of this story is this. One day while riding my motorbike to work I looked up to the heavens and said “Lord, I can see the Buddhist saints in Heaven praying for their spiritual children here on earth.”. Jesus said to me “Blessed are you my son, since flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but my father in heaven.”
This amazed me, I realised I hadn’t imagined the sense of holiness I encountered in the Buddhists it was real, but I didn’t understand how.
As a Christian I believe Jesus is part of the Trinity, He is God from God, and has revealed the entirety of the truth to us through his word. So what did this revelation from Jesus mean. Who are the Buddhists and what is the source of their teaching.
I have prayed about this…and what I came to understand is that Jesus as the second person of the Trinity came here to be among us and reveal the truth to us. This is not a new religion but the truth. The truth in how to think, in how to live and in how to know the Father.
This truth was obscured by corruption and sin but it was still there. Jesus in his ministry remarked on the faith of many of those who were not of the Jewish faith. The good Samaritan, the centurion whose servant was sick, the leper who returned to praise God.
Who can forget, at Christs birth, the presence of three wise men who had travelled from other lands to witness an event that must have surely been revealed to them.
It is then by this revelation, a singular gift of grace, that God the father can give to anyone that people throughout the world can come to know something of the truth.
As someone who grew up in a non-Christian household, I can testify to the fact that grace and insight about the nature of truth and reality were something I definitely encountered.
My own understanding of this is that people who preserve what is good and virtuous in themselves and their families and communities are not far way from the Kingdom of God.