He said, "You have GOT to be f_____ kidding me."
I avered that, regardless of my wishes to the contrary, I was f_____ kidding him not.
When this topic first floated across my email, a song popped into my head. One of those old hymns from Bible camp; “I am the Resurrection/And the life/Those who believe in me will never die.” Not the world’s greatest Bible camp song, though it involved a lot of clapping. This being Easter Week and all that (yes, we Buddhists keep track of the Christian holidays; it’s hard not to when you live in frick’n Texas), it’s wholly appropriate to be talking about this coming back from the dead thing—even if it calls to mind, as it does for me, those creepy-crawly guys that growl and hiss their way through The Walking Dead on AMC. (Seriously. Jesus. Zombies. There’s a connection. It gets creepy if you think about it for too long.)
For some reason, resurrection has become the subject of arguments. When I was in college, some Christian organization was showing a movie about a guy who set out to prove the Resurrection never happened. If Christ never came back from the dead, as the story goes, then obviously all of Christianity was a fraud, and the entire Church would cease to exist. (The tag line: “Can your faith survive?”) I’ll admit I never saw the film, but I thought the premise was a little flawed. I know this will come as a news flash to some of you, but disproving something has never done much of anything to change anybody’s mind about anything religious. Every now and then some guy (it’s almost always a guy) announces that the day of judgment will be, say, next Tuesday at four o’clock, and when it doesn’t happen, his flock doesn’t exactly get up and leave him. If anything, they believe in him even more, because he’s singlehandedly staved off the Apocalypse. (Okay, sometimes they commit mass suicide instead. But nobody’s perfect.)
Sometimes I take in one of those Shroud of Turin shows on NatGeo or the History Channel. The shroud, in case you did not know this, is a piece of cloth with a radiographic image of a guy who looks remarkably like Jesus. Supposedly the image was made as His body dissolved into light, which is pretty interesting because, uh, you can only see the image with a radiograph. So as He was dissolving into light He had to predict that many years in the future, somebody would invent radiography, and then they’d be able to see that he’d dissolved into light, which is kind of an obscure thing to be thinking about at the moment you’re going from the state of being human to the state of being divine, if you ask me. But hey, he’s Jesus, right? He can do whatever He wants, right? So, yeah, he could commune with his divine state and dissolve into light and think about radiography all at the same time. I mean, why not.
So do Buddhists believe in resurrection of the body and life everlasting? I dunno. Go ask a Buddhist. Just kidding. Seriously, though, let me channel my inner Brother ChiSing here and say that Buddhists believe it does not matter if there is resurrection of the body and life everlasting. What’s important is living mindfully and graciously in this life. After all, this life is the one we have. There’s no reason to speculate about a life we don’t have. Anyway, if this is the only life we have, we would want to live it as mindfully and graciously as possible. And, if there is resurrection of the body, we would want to live this life as mindfully and graciously as possible, so as to be resurrected in a blessed state and have a better chance to be of use to more people following the resurrection.
What, you were expecting something profound? We haven’t even settled the question of reincarnation yet. Ask ten different Buddhists how reincarnation works and you’ll get twenty answers and forty deep discussions. And that’s just if you ask them today. Ask them again tomorrow and you’ll get twenty entirely different answers. Ask them before they’ve had their coffee and—no, don’t do that. That could get ugly.
What do I think about the resurrection of the body? That’s easy. Gross and no thank you. Reincarnation I can handle; Nature is a very efficient recycler. Besides, I’m planning to be cremated and made into plant food. This Jesus guy better be pretty good if He’s going to try to reconstitute me from ashes, soil and a big ol’ live oak. I’m just sayin’.
Happy Easter, everybody!!