cover image Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

Thich Nhat Hanh. Riverhead Books, $22 (202pp) ISBN 978-1-57322-145-0

In this short treatise, Vietnamese Buddhist monk Hanh continues the ecumenical dialogue he began in 1995's Living Buddha, Living Christ. The chapters evolved from talks he gave at Plum Village, Hanh's Buddhist retreat center located in the heart of Christian France. In ecumenical fashion, Hanh does not encourage conversion to Buddhism or any other religion but tells followers to bloom where they're planted, cultivating a ""mindfulness"" in their own religious traditions. Unfortunately, Hanh often seems to imply that for Buddhists and Christians to talk to one another, they must first soft-pedal or ignore those beliefs that make them discrete in the first place. He considers it a waste of time to discuss ""whether God is a person or not a person,"" although the Incarnation question carries profound weight in Christianity; he also asserts that ""nothing can come from nothing,"" although creatio ex nihilo is a fundamental Christian tenet. Buddhism is better understood in these pages, but distinctive Buddhist beliefs can also stand in the way, says Hanh: individuals can become too attached to their own ideas of nirvana, forgetting that ""nirvana means extinction of all notions."" Despite Hanh's tendency to ignore significant differences between Buddhism and Christianity, his book speaks powerfully about the need for tolerance and love in overcoming those differences. (Sept.)