I was recently asked by a Christian person whether or not there was a similarity between asking for indulgences that the Catholic Church of yore used to have and, in Asia, the practice of offering money in Buddhist temples followed by a chant/offering of incense. The Christian used to think it was similar.
I was at a loss for words temporarily (other than to say, well, you'd have to deeply understand karma and interdependence), mostly because the topic at hand wasn't the topic of this blog post; it was a tangent to a more important topic. I wasn't exactly satisfied with my answer...of course a better answer came to me later:
- When one offers money at a temple, like everything else at a temple, one just does it, and does it wholeheartedly. In effect, the act of offering at a temple is the offering of one's own life itself at that moment. In that sense, it's more like the Christian communion in reverse than the other way around.
- Typically, though people often come to the temple indeed for some reason such as a sick relative, what they say isn't an "I'd like to get something" prayer of course; it's an invocation of the form "Homage to X." It's declarative.
- I was however not off-base with the words karma and interdependence. Most Buddhist chants when they aren't declarative, are in the 2nd person, but the identity of the 2nd person is not of course, separate from the chanter. In Buddhism, of course, there is the principle of no-self. So who is invoking what to whom, or who could possibly be trying to get something from whom?
- Of course, there is the money for services thing, but that's not wholly unreasonable, I'd point out. Temples have to operate on budgets too.
There, that's better.