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From Bethlehem to Calvary - Chapter One - Introductory Remarks on Initiation

It is of interest to recall that other teachings besides that of Christianity have emphasized these five important crises that occur, if so desired, in the life of those human beings who take their stand upon their essential divinity. Both the Hindu teaching and the Buddhist faith have emphasized them as evolutionary crises which we may not ultimately escape; and a right understanding of the interrelation of these great world religions may eventually bring about a truer understanding of all of them. The religion of the Buddha, though preceding that of the Christ, expresses the same basic truths, but phrases them in a different manner, which can help us nevertheless to a larger interpretation of Christianity.

"Buddhism and Christianity find their origins respectively in two inspired moments of history: the life of the Buddha, and the life of Christ. The Buddha gave his doctrine to enlighten the world: Christ gave his life. It is for Christians to discern the doctrine. Perhaps in the end the most valuable part of the doctrine of the Buddha is its interpretation of his life."
- Religion in the Making, by A. N. Whitehead, p. 55.

The teaching of Lao-Tzu can also serve the same purpose. Religion must eventually be composite, gathered from many [13] sources and composed of many truths. Yet it is legitimate to feel that if one had to choose, at this time, one faith, one might choose Christianity, and for this specific reason: the central problem of life is to lay hold upon our divinity and to make it manifest. In the life of Christ we have the most complete and perfect demonstration and example of divinity lived successfully on earth, and lived - as most of us have to live - not in retirement, but in the full tide of storm and stress.

Exponents of all faiths are today meeting to discuss the possibility of finding a platform of such universality and truth that upon it all men may unite, and on which the coming world religion may be based. This may perhaps be found in a clearer interpretation and understanding of these five outstanding episodes, and in their practical and unique relationship not only to the individual but to humanity as a whole. This realization will bind us more definitely to the past, anchoring us in the truth that was; it will indicate to us our immediate goal and duty, which when understood will enable us to live more divinely, to serve more adequately, and thus to bring the will of God into fruition on earth. It is their inner meaning and our individual relation to them that are of importance.

There is nothing but a valuable gain to us, an enriching of our consciousness, when we realize the unity, and at times the uniformity of the teaching as it is given in both the East and the West. For instance, the fourth event in Christ's life, the Crucifixion, finds a parallel in the fourth initiation of the Oriental teaching which is called the Great Renunciation. There is an initiation, called in the Buddhist terminology the "entering of the stream," and there is in the life of Jesus an episode which we call the "baptism in Jordan." The story of Christ's birth at Bethlehem can be paralleled in practically every detail in the lives of earlier messengers from God. These proved facts should surely evoke from us the recognition that though there are many messengers there is only one Message; but this recognition in no way [14] detracts from the unique task of the Christ and the unique function which He came forth to fulfil.

It is interesting also to bear in mind that these two outstanding Individualities, the Buddha and the Christ, have set Their seal upon both hemispheres - the Buddha being the Teacher for the Orient, and Christ the Savior of the Occident. Whatever may be our personal conclusions as to Their relations to the Father in Heaven or to each other, the fact stands out past all controversy that They gave the revelation of divinity to Their particular civilizations, and that in a most significant manner They worked together for the eventual benefit of the race. Their two systems are interdependent, and Buddha prepared the world for the message and the mission of Christ.

Both embodied in Themselves certain cosmic principles, and by Their work and sacrifice certain divine potencies poured through and upon mankind. The work done by the Buddha, and the message which He sounded, stimulated intelligence into wisdom. Wisdom is a cosmic principle, and a divine potency. This the Buddha embodied.

But love came to the world through Christ, and He, through His work, transmuted emotion into Love. As "God is Love," the comprehension that Christ revealed the love of God makes clear the magnitude of the task He undertook - a task far beyond the powers of any teacher or messenger who had preceded Him. The Buddha, when He achieved illumination, "let in" a flood of light upon life and upon our world problems, and this intelligent understanding of the causes of world distress He endeavored to formulate into the Four Noble Truths. These are, as most of us well know:

  1. That existence in the phenomenal universe is inseparable from suffering and from sorrow.
  2. That the cause of suffering is desire for existence in the world of phenomena.
  3. That cessation of suffering is brought about by eradicating all desire for existence in this universe of phenomena. [15]
  4. That the way to the cessation of suffering is by treading the noble Eightfold Path, wherein are expressed right belief, right intentions, right speech, right actions, right living, right endeavor, right-mindedness and right concentration.

He provided a structure of truth, of dogma and of doctrine which has enabled many thousands, down the centuries, to see the light. Today Christ and His disciples are occupied (as they have been for two thousand years) with the same task of bringing enlightenment and salvation to men; blows are being struck at the world illusion, and the minds of humanity are arriving, en masse, at an increasing clarity of thought. Through the message, therefore, of the Buddha, man can, for the first time, grasp the cause of his eternal discontent, of his constant distaste and dissatisfaction, and of his endless nostalgia. From the Buddha he can learn that the way of release is to be found in detachment, dispassion and discrimination. These are the first steps on the road to Christ.

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