Those who are familiar with Marcus Borg will note the title of this post is a reference to one of his more recent books, "Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings". Having finished reading that book last week and being suitably inspired by it, I decided to put some thought this week into comparing Taoist philosophy and Christianity. As someone who is married to a non-Christian, the study of common ground between different forms of spirituality is both important and very personal to me.
While Jesus certainly had some Taoist-like teachings, such as his pacifism and his insistence that the strong would be overcome by the weak, he of course was not an Eastern teacher. As a Hebrew prophet, his world view would have been shaped by forces unknown to the East. In quoting the Tao Te Ching and the New Testament rather selectively, I do not mean to show that Taoism and Christianity at their core are identical, but I do wish to show how the parallels of the thoughts of two major schools of thought that have shaped the world we live in.
In the beginning
There was something formless and perfect
before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
~Tao Te Ching 25
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
~ Tao Te Ching 9
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘There is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’
~ Luke 18:22
Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’
~ Hebrews 13.5
On peace and the Kingdom of God
Since before time and space were,
the Tao is.
It is beyond is and is not.
How do I know this is true?
I look inside myself and see.
~ Tao Te Ching 21
‘The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, “Look, here it is!” or “There it is!” For, in fact, the kingdom of God is within you.’
On gaining success
If you want to become full,
let yourself be empty.
If you want to be reborn,
let yourself die.
If you want to be given everything,
give everything up.
~ Tao Te Ching 22
For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.
The low and the high
The soft overcomes the hard.
The slow overcomes the fast.
~ Tao Te Ching 36
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
~ Matthew 20:16
On dealing with those who oppose you
The Master has no mind of her own.
She works with the mind of the people.
She is good to people who are good.
She is also good to people who aren't good.
This is true goodness
~ Tao Te Ching 49
But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
~ Luke 6:27-32
The three most important things
I have just three things to teach:
simplicity, patience, compassion.
These three are your greatest treasures.
Simple in actions and in thoughts,
you return to the source of being.
Patient with both friends and enemies,
you accord with the way things are.
Compassionate toward yourself,
you reconcile all beings in the world.
~ Tao Te Ching 67
And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
~ Corinthians 13:13
On self knowledge
My teachings are older than the world.
How can you grasp their meaning?
If you want to know me,
look inside your heart.
Not-knowing is true knowledge.
Presuming to know is a disease.
First realize that you are sick;
then you can move toward health.
~ Tao Te Ching 71
But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’
~ Matthew 9:7
Thus whoever is stiff and inflexible
is a disciple of death.
Whoever is soft and yielding
is a disciple of life.
The hard and stiff will be broken.
The soft and supple will prevail.
~ Tao Te Ching 76
By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
~ Galatians 5:22