By: Tyler Sit
February 21, 2014
The people I meet want to learn about Christianity just like I want to learn about Tibetan Buddhism, and the relationships that come from this exchange are God-graced ones indeed.
“What do Christians believe happens when we die?”
I looked up, bleary eyed, from my Buddhist Philosophy textbook. I was doing some late night studying, but I told the Tibetan students that I was becoming a pastor and that I was glad to have a conversation about religion any time. For Tenzen*, that time was midnight.
“Well,” I started, “I can’t speak for all Christians, but it starts for me with the love of God through Jesus Christ …”
If theological discussion was an Olympic event and Tenzen’s face was a scorecard, I probably registered somewhere in the 7.5-range. Tenzen’s English wasn’t exactly polished, and my introductory Tibetan class failed to cover vocabulary relating to theological discourse. Fortunately for me, sharing the story of faith is not an Olympic event.
“So,” he responded after I finished, “does life after death mean that a person could come back as another person or an animal?”
Ah, reincarnation. I recently read about reincarnation in my Buddhist Philosophy textbook, along with the amazingly sophisticated Tibetan Buddhist understanding of the human mind. The book was articulate and effective, and the question I continually had was: if I had to teach Christianity from the ground up, how would I do it?
The Tibetan community and Western travelers are giving me plenty of food for thought. Since the beginning of the semester, I have entered into delicious conversations about afterlife, sin, Christology, and just about every other theological category you can imagine. The people I meet want to learn about Christianity just like I want to learn about Tibetan Buddhism, and the relationships that come from this exchange are God-graced ones indeed.
With the help of metaphors and some elaborate hand gestures, Tenzen and my conversation ended about an hour later. I approach our next conversations with openness, more hand gestures, and in continual awe of the way God is speaking through our graciously connected lives.
Tyler Sit is a seminarian at Candler School of Theology who is pursuing ordination in The United Methodist Church. His interests include embodied theology, environmental justice, and photography.