Thursday, 24 July 2008

Demonic Buddhist Chant: Really?

All sorts of trenchant reaction has followed the news that the Bishop of Colombo’s sermon at the Eucharist in Canterbury Cathedral on Sunday concluded with a Buddhist Chant which one commentator described as “demonic.” Another ruled, quick as a flash,
The inclusion of this chant is unconscionable. The orthodox who are there should immediately vacate.
Among more reflective comments on this disturbing story, Bishop Robert Duncan said the inclusion of the chant was “very, very troubling” since it was an “invocation of something other than the God we know... to have a Buddhist chant at an Anglican sermon does not reflect the God we believe in.”

I strongly endorse Cardinal Dias’ rejection of syncretism in an Indian context. My Sinhala is not what it could be. The gospel says that if you have an issue with a brother you owe it to yourself and to your God talk it through calmly and directly with them first. Today I was able to discuss this chant with Bishop de Chickera. Much Sri Lankan culture is essentially of Buddhist origin, he explained. What did the words mean? I asked. Four verses:
I take refuge in God the Father
I take refuge in God the Son

I take refuge in God the Holy Spirit

I take refuge in the One Triune God.
I am surprised that the Bishop of Pittsburgh finds this a deeply troubling invocation of a God he does not know. I am sorry if it does not reflect the God he believes in. I rejoice to know, and better still, to be known through and through by this God, and to believe in him. Over fifty years he has been my creator, saviour, and sanctifier, and I know no other.

When we rush to judgment of others we do not know, like or understand, especially on the internet, especially on the basis of rumour, it is easy to make complete fools of ourselves.

23 comments:

Jonathan of the hirsute chin said...

We've had Christian rock for the past few decades (been exporting it globally too in case no-one's noticed) and seem to have dropped the "Devil's Music" label from that, so it would be somewhat parochial to disallow equivalent praxis elsewhere.

Falling back to Syrian Orthodox chant (closest to the music of the Early Church?) probably really wouldn't suit many Anglicans of whatever persuasion :)

liturgy said...

This is reminiscent of a significant controversy in our diocese over a cathedral multilingual altar cloth which included in Sanscrit the World Peace Prayer, which in fact in our church is part of our Prayer Book formularies:
http://www.liturgy.co.nz/reflection/peace.html

You are daily in my prayers
Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

nlnh said...

Unfortunately, careless accusations of apostasy have become such a habit for Duncan that the words just drop from his lips all by themselves now.

Matt Wardman said...

Lesslie Newbigin must be chuckling into his cosmic cocoa. Wasn't he doing this stuff in the 1940s and 1950s?

Ooops. Was that a Hindu concept?

Anonymous said...

What is the point - and spiritual significance - of praying in 'a tongue not understanded of the people'? (Sanskrit rather than Sinhala is the language of Buddhist invocation.) Aping the practice of Buddhists could only confuse many Christians, and perhaps annoy Buddhists. What's next - a Christian version (in Arabic of course) of the Shahadah?
'I bear witness that there is no god but YHWH and Isa is His Son'?
No, I can't imagine one of the ME bishops doing that, for some reason...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Bp Duncan's reaction is understandable when you realise that actual Buddhist chants, as well as Hindu prayers, etc have been used in Episcopal cathedrals and churches.

Erika Baker said...

On the other hand, did you not have Service sheets? Would it not have been marvellous to have seen this in print at the time so that all bishops present could have appreciated the beauty and depth of the chant?

And it strikes me that those deeply educated and steeped in church tradition still do not apprecite the astonishing superficial knowledge of many others and their willingness to jump to noisy conclusions. While they believe no explanations are necessary they continue to set themselves up for PR failures.

Kathryn said...

Unsure whether to laugh or cry.I've been clinging to the naive belief that those who actually made it to Lambeth were sufficiently open-minded to at least ensure they were correctly informed before leaping to conclusions. I am so sorry that I'm wrong.
Prayers continue...and your blogging the conference is hugely appreciated.

WSJM said...

Is it possible to get a copy of the music to the chant Bishop De Chickera used?

(I find it interesting to compare the comments to this post made by those who provide their names, as opposed to "Anonymous"!)

Bill Moorhead

nlnh said...

What is the point - and spiritual significance - of praying in 'a tongue not understanded of the people'?

Hard as it might be to believe, some people in the world speak languages other than English. I believe that Sinhala is one such language.

Of course, this does not change the fact that Duncan could easily have spoken with the bishop himself before running to the media to make a statement.

Sometimes it seems that the most dangerous place on earth to be is between Duncan and a reporter.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Many thnks for comments and ideas. I think the best way to get music would be to email the bishop directly, but I got the impression it was a street chant rather than anything written down musically, and possibly an afterthought anyway, to do a trinitarian ascription in that way. But when I say that, I am already going beyond what I know, and speculating! I'm sure explanation would have helped, and hope this did. It was a celebration of the whole world of Anglicanism, and without expression of authentic non-Atlantic cultures, would have been far poorer. I'm always struck by Max warren's comment — it takes a whole world to know Christ. On this occasion that fact was especially apparent.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Just to say Amen brother to ninh. We come here from over 130 nations — and a majority of us do not have English as our first language. To hear the works of God in your own language is what we've been doing since the day of Pentecost, and I find it an immensely moving part of the Lambeth conference.

nlnh said...

Thank you, Bishop Alan. I have greatly enjoyed your blog and look forward to your comments on this new proposal to give us our very own College of Cardinals.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Bosco, thanks for the reminder of your incident.

I've just discussed this with an ecumenical observer from the Salvation Army. The weirdness, we felt, was the whole set of assumptions underlying the fear and paranoia here. Imagine you invited me round for a meal and gave me a fruit salad. Unless I thought you were a complete Bozo (the kind of person I might say :raca" to and have to answer in the fires of hell) I'd eat it on trust, I think. The whole idea I'd say to you "Nothing personal, but I just want to send this away and have it analysed at the local public health lab in case you're trying to poison me with it — but no offence" is just dumb, dumb, dumb. I'm coming back to a comment I've been contemplating by a Caribbean suffragan in my indaba who said "The real problem is our attitudes. That's what we gotta work on."

Abram and Sarah said...

I'd assume you talked first (calmly and directly) about the issue you have with Bp. Duncan before you wrote this post about him....Would love to hear more about that conversation, since that would shed some more light on his reaction and theology.

Huw said...

These words (in this translation) remind me of some of the invocations collected in the Carmina Gadelica. Thank you for sharing it. I was beginning to despair of actually hearing the chant that caused so much trouble - I'm glad to at least read the words! Bp Duncan's words were in the press - this was not. This completes a picture.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Dear A & S,

+Robert had to return to look after something in his diocese, I'm told. I think the meaning of his published words, in my own language, was clear and intentional. I was just taking them seriously, as I'm sure he intended. I agree there is an interesting (but not exactly practicable) conversation that could be had about the "meta" of this subject.

Abram and Sarah said...

Bishop--

Indeed. The longer I am a Christian, the more I realize how profoundly one's Trinitarian theology shapes so much else about how one lives life.

Greg the Explorer said...

I wish we had Bishops like you here in Australia! Say hello to Bishop Brian Fallan from Newcastle Diocese for me - Greg from Wyoming tell him we're thinking of and praying for him

John T said...

Poor Bob Pittsburgh. He really does seem to have gone off the deep end this time. Or perhaps the bile choking the life out of his heart has finally affected his brain. Such sadness.

liturgy said...

Unfortunately the false version of the story is spreading, increasing ordinary parishioners' paranoia. I hope this will also help put the correct version out:

http://www.liturgy.co.nz/blog/lambeth-buddhist-chant/43

Bob K said...

I am really quite upset by this development. For starters, the liturgical language for Sri Lankan Buddhism, which is of the Theravada tradition, would be Pali, not Sanskrit. Secondly, so what?

If it isn't WASP, it isn't Christian? The Western Church has its fair share of practices of pagan origins that we now celebrate as commemorations and manifestations of God's grace. I'd use Allah at the drop of a coin to worship the Lord as it is my language and culture to refer to God as Allah!

In a sense, perhaps the Lutherans have it a bit easier. The Germans have way too much collective guilt; not that it is a good thing in itself; to try to impose a Teutonic expression of Church life to Lutherans elsewhere.

Pardon my angst.

liturgy said...

Bob K, my memory of going to church in Indonesia was that God was addressed as "Allah"

Blessings

Bosco+
www.liturgy.co.nz

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...