All spiritual traditions, whether Buddhist or non-Buddhist, differ in their forms in order to adapt to the abilities and faculties of different kinds of people; all of them, however, work towards establishing beings on the path of well-being and liberation. Since they all derive from perfectly enlightened activity, without exception they merit our trust. — Kalu Rinpoche, 20th century Tibetan Buddhist master
I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. — Fox News talking head Brit Hume, referring to the Buddhist religion
So how is it that one of the great leaders of my faith can praise Brit Hume's religion but Hume feels he can put the smackdown on mine?
Neither I, nor Tiger Woods, nor any of the world's other Buddhists even asked Brit Hume's opinion when Hume last Sunday offered the beleaguered Woods some entirely unsolicited — and some might say entirely uninformed — spiritual counseling.
Hume suggested Woods, a self-described Buddhist, could only recover from revelations of extramarital affairs through conversion to Christianity.
But just what qualifies a former White House reporter like Hume to make such a sweeping and damning statement?
I could point out that the Buddha taught the Dharma (as the teachings of Buddhism are referred to) all across India a full 500 years before Christ was even born, but the point here is to avoid pointless spiritual oneupmanship, right?
I don't doubt that some like Hume find meaning and purpose in their Christian faith. But why must Christians deny the possibility of healing offered by Buddhism?
Having been raised in a Christian home, I came to have little interest in, or use for, Christianity. Others, like Hume, clearly find it of deep value. But to me, it simply was meaningless.
In fact, I considered myself entirely non-religious until I encountered Buddhism a number of years ago. Once I found the Dharma, my life changed entirely. I had found a spiritual path that I understood, and more importantly, I could have faith in.
Since taking Refuge (as the formal conversion to Buddhism is known), I've gone through divorce, re-marriage, serious financial trouble, and more. (Indeed, as I write this, I sit at my infant daughter's hospital bedside as she recovers from a life-threatening chest infection.)
Through it all, I have had my faith in Buddhism to lean on at each turn. It has often been nothing more than my faith in the teachings and limitless compassion of all of the Buddhas, that has kept me going. Without Buddhism, I would not be who I am today. The only thing that has kept me from permanent despair has been my love of Buddhism.
And I have nothing but the most profound gratitude for that.
From my personal experience with Buddhism, I can say that Hume clearly has no idea just how forgiveness and redemption figure into Buddhist teaching.
Essentially, the Buddha taught that all beings have the same basic goodness. The problem is that that basic goodness is covered by our habitual clinging to afflicting emotions like anger, greed and jealousy.
He also taught the law of karma, which says good and positive actions such as patience and generosity eventually lead to happiness while negative actions including lying and sexual misconduct will inevitably lead to suffering.
Through meditation and prayer, we can purify our karma, and ease our afflicting emotions and therefore be free of suffering.
I can see nothing but an opportunity for redemption in those teachings.
Forgiveness, too, plays a central part in Buddhist philosophy — forgiving others and yourself.
In fact, I know for a fact that if he were alive today Kalu Rinpoche would forgive Brit Hume for Hume's inane swipe at Buddhism. That's just one of the reasons I love my religion so much.