Monday, August 25, 2014

My Lesson for the Week: Catholic Nuns vs. Buddhist Monks

Yesterday, I experienced something particularly interesting, for me at least. I watched the beginning of a movie called The Nun’s Story, directed by Fred Zinnerman, and starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter Finch. I only watched the beginning thirty minutes because Herman became bored (he’s not a Hepburn fan like I am,) and switched to a different movie.

What I found so interesting was watching Audrey Hepburn as she struggled through the training of becoming a nun. I confess that, having not been brought up a Catholic, I’m ignorant of the Church’s teachings. Because of my ignorance, I’ve always felt a slight distain for Catholics, having always assumed that my Buddhist teachings were superior. Yet, as I watched her training, I realized that there was little or no difference in what nuns are taught vs. what monks are taught.

The focus of the training Miss Hepburn’s character underwent was to quiet the mind, silence the ego, become selfless, become an empty vessel through which the pure energy of the holy spirit (for Buddhist’s it’s the Buddha’s energy) flows into the world to spread its love to all creatures. By giving up the self, one gains the whole universe through the enlightenment of untainted love.

Even the methods of giving up one’s identity were the same: being taken away from society and everything one knows, giving up all worldly possessions, dressing the same as all the other nuns, giving up freedom of choice by vows of obedience to the senior nuns, and learning to never dwell on oneself, but rather always dwell on the needs of others.

Assuming this movie was realistic, there really is no difference in training or goals, except the names used to depict the holy ones and the processes.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. What actually startled me was my own prejudices I’ve carried around for forty years. Little by little, I keep chipping away my preconceptions, and when that happens I feel myself expand, become more accepting and sympathetic toward the world.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not boasting. I know the path ahead of me is long and hard, so long it takes all my will just to take another step. But with each realization like the one above, each step becomes more joyful.

Now I need to go back and watch the entire movie to see what other lessons are in store.

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