*** Full disclosure: I am a Buddhist, and although Christianity is not my religion, I admire its wisdom, and I am happy to learn from any tradition that has something worth learning. And although I disagree with Christianity in certain regards, that politically correct breed of anti-Christian vitriol so common these days in the media will find no sanctuary on these pages. ***
There is no small amount of scholarship dedicated to the symbolism behind the Judeo-Christian tradition. Carl Jung wrote about these archetypes at length, and of course Joseph Campbell might have argued that the crucifixion of Jesus was an archetypal expression of the self-sacrifice of the Hero, a self-sacrifice without which man can never "enter into the Kingdom of God," nor take his place as "a Son of God."
But why should that be necessary? Why should it be necessary for each man to "take up his own cross, and bear it?"
In Buddhism, the First Truth asserts that, "Iddam dukham," that "This world is dissatisfactory." This, along with the following three Truths of the Nobles, is the fundamental truth upon which all Buddhism is dependent. Similarly, the Judeo-Christian tradition describes this state of affairs in terms of the world being "fallen." This dissatisfaction, this fallen-ness, exists because of what Buddhists call the klesas, the "stains" that prevent human beings from realizing their true nature, and which is very much akin to the Judeo-Christian conception of sin. So there is much commonality between these traditions, as is always the case when truth is being told.
It is this original state of dissatisfaction, of fallen-ness, that makes the sacrifice of the self necessary. For if we are not willing to sacrifice the mortal self, we will never bear witness to the Dharmakaya, the Buddha-nature present in all human beings; we will never attain the realization that we are made Imago Dei, in "the Image of God." We will always view the world through the "stains" of our mortality; we will always want and need through sin. And it is this staining, this wanting and needing, that must be put to death in order for our true nature to be revealed to us.
We live in a world of division, and there are more than enough opportunities for us to argue about this or that, and the case is no different with religion. So we should be grateful when we find some reason for agreement, and in this, at least, Buddhism and Christianity agree: There is no liberation, and no salvation, without the death of the mortal self. This is our work in this world; this is meaning of all religion, a singular truth told in various ways. But the beauty of the Easter story may be the most beautiful of all possible ways of telling it.
~ Joshua van Asakinda
1 April, 2018