CHRISTIANITY FOR BUDDHISTS
by Frederick Farrar
(Saint Austin Press, 2002, 76pp plus notes, appendices and bibliography, $27.40 plus $4.40 postage. Available from PO Box 180, Sumner Park Qld 4074, (07) 3279 7415)
Reviewed by Michael Daniel
The recent visit of the Dalai Lama to Australia highlighted the growing interest in Buddhism in our community. One writer remarked that whereas many commentators adopt a critical attitude towards religions, particularly Christianity, their treatment of Buddhism is invariably positive.
Author Frederick Farrar, a convert to Catholicism who was himself a Buddhist for a number of years, argues that rampant materialism, the general disillusionment in the West in the second half of the 20th century, and a general disdain for Christianity (albeit arising out of inadequate, simplistic understandings of Christianity), have led to a growth in interest in Buddhism.
Farrar explores what he perceives to be the similarities and differences between the two religions, praising Buddhism for the natural insights into spirituality it offers. He argues that the major differences between Christianity and Buddhism are that while Buddhism advocates detachment from this life - which for a Buddhist is suffering - for Christianity, creation and our humanity are integral aspects of our redemption, reflected in the person of Christ who became human and suffered an agonising death so that we may have eternal life. Interestingly, it was an image of Christ crucified that was the catalyst for Farrar's conversion to Catholicism.
Christianity for Buddhists is a timely work, although not light reading, as it presumes some knowledge of philosophy.
Michael Daniel teaches at a Melbourne independent college.