23 July 2007

Chesterton on Buddhism vs. Christianity

NO two ideals could be more opposite than a Christian saint in a Gothic cathedral and a Buddhist saint in a Chinese temple. The opposition exists at every point; but perhaps the shortest statement of it is that the Buddhist saint always has his eyes shut, while the Christian saint always has them very wide open. The Buddhist saint always has a very sleek and harmonious body, but his eyes are heavy and sealed with sleep. The medieval saint's body is wasted to its crazy bones, but his eyes are frightfully alive. There cannot be any real community of spirit between forces that produced symbols so different as that. Granted that both images are extravagances, are perversions of the pure creed, it must be a real divergence which could produce such opposite extravagances. The Buddhist is looking with peculiar intentness inwards. The Christian is staring with a frantic intentness outwards.


1 comment:

Oliver said...

Not all of the Buddhist images portray them with their eyes closed. The Bodhisattvas of the Mahayana, such as Chenrazee or Tara, have their eyes open in compassion.

Chesterton was a very good writer, but he lived before the Western understanding of Eastern Religions was anywhere near complete.