I just concluded another round of listening to Joseph Goldstein’s 3 volume extended commentary on the satipatthana sutta, Abiding in Mindfulness, which I worked through at a pretty slow pace, listening to it for maybe like 15 minutes each morning before I meditate. (Taken in total, all three volumes are something like 30+ hours of dharma talks.)
The satipatthana sutta is the Buddha’s discourse on mindfulness (sati = mindfulness), and Goldstein summarized the sutta and all of his dharma talks by saying that the great message of the Buddha was simple:
1) The mind can be trained and
2) It’s just a matter of time
The key is to just start (with a meditation practice), and then after that, just keep going, sort of like, yo, just start walking down the road, dude, and eventually it will take you there.
The Christian scriptures have similar teachings — for example, the Apostle Paul in Romans 12 says Be transformed by the renewing of your mind — but such a path of mental transformation has rarely been the emphasis within the Christian tradition, particularly in the modern era. (The Medieval church, at least, had the monastic tradition.) This lack of a path was one of the primary reason I ended up eventually leaving the church.
However, although lacking a really substantive path for transformation, I’ve still appreciated Christianity, particularly the Christian scriptures, because they have sort of an epic scope, a sweeping narrative of history as being a part of God’s redemptive process, and the more that I have stripped away the excess religious dogmas that skew the scripture’s message, the more I’ve found the stories to be not only epic but also deeply human, intimate and very raw.
So, Christianity has its narrative and its stories, while the Buddha’s path is focused first and foremost on the nuts and bolts of individual transformation. Kind of different, but for me these have been good compliments. Sort of a hack on spirituality. It works.