Monastery focal point for many, warrants coverage 10/1/2013

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Monastery focal point for many, warrants coverage

Lest the reader assume that our coverage in this edition of the Sept. 19-29 visit by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh to the Magnolia Grove Monastery on Red Hill implies an endorsement of the tenets of Buddhism, these lines are penned.

Our coverage recognizes that Hanh is an internationally-renowned religious teacher with millions of followers including many who traveled long distances to come to Batesville and the Magnolia Grove Monastery to hear this gentle, 86-year-old teacher during his 2013 North American tour.
Our ongoing coverage has welcomed the Magnolia Grove Monastery to this county, recognizing the unique community whose people have chosen to live among us.

We’ve been impressed with their work ethic, their lifestyles, their open and welcoming attitude toward their neighbors and us visitors from the local community, and the warm friendships forged across racial, cultural and socio-economic differences that we too often view as boundaries of separation.

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We could learn much from what they teach as well. Mindfulness — the art of living in the present moment and paying attention to one’s immediate surroundings (my oversimplified definition, not theirs) — would do much to reduce our anxiety that we allow to build in our minds when we worry over past events that are over and done and that we cannot change or when we take on worries about the future events before their time.

The monastics at Magnolia Grove have also taught us at their open houses and during other shared meals that their vegan diet can include delicious variety. While we have not been influenced to become vegans, we have come away admiring their minimalist physical lifestyles including their diet, contrasting it with many of the excesses and abuses we heap on ourselves and then suffer consequences that we spend so much trying to remedy.

But it is with some sadness when I consider that when  my Buddhist friends meditate, they are alone inside themselves. In contrast, the Christian is never alone inside his own mind, for whether he or she recognizes it or not, the Holy Spirit is always present and has been since the moment the Christian first believed that Jesus is the Son of God who died to pay the sin debt for all mankind and to offer eternal life to all who believe on Him (my oversimplification again).

And while the Buddhist cosmic rationale incorporates the suffering and injustices of the present creation as necessary elements of existence, the Christian is called out of “this present evil world order” and offered the privilege of inhabiting a new, perfect but as yet unseen creation even as his dying body remains fixed in the old.

The idea that publicity about the activities of Master Hanh and the monastics on Red Hill would glorify Buddhism to the extent that it would lure people away from Christianity fails to take into account assurances in the Scripture that Christians consider God’s Word:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ … neither death, nor life nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present nor things to come … nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35, 38, 39)
Master Hanh unwittingly spoke more than he realized about his own destiny during a radio interview recorded earlier and aired Sunday morning on National Public Radio.

Hanh told the interviewer that he would not want to go to a place where there was no suffering. He said that the existence of suffering creates empathy within us for the sufferer.