Happy Easter and Buddha’s Birthday

Jesus and Buddha

April 8th this year is unusual because it marks two holidays at once: Easter according to the Western calendar (the resurrection of Jesus Christ) and the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha according to the Japanese Buddhist calendar.1

The photo above is the front cover of issue 3 of the excellent manga seinto oniisan (聖☆おにいさん, “Saintly Young Men”) which I enjoy reading a lot. It features both the Buddha and Jesus as bachelors living in modern day Tokyo. It offers some pretty witty views of Japanese society and religion as a whole without being crass or tasteless. I like this particular cover because it fits the theme of this post. Here, the Buddha and Jesus enjoy a train ride together as friends, and enjoy the countryside. 🙂

Anyhow, I know a lot of people tend assume either Jesus was really a Buddhist, or that the Buddha was a good teacher (though not divine like Jesus). I never really felt comfortable with either view because I feel like it subsumes one religion under the other. Japanese history shows that this happened too between Shinto and Buddhism in the Heian Period onward, and the result wasn’t entirely satisfactory to either one.

But that’s just me. Please don’t flame me over it.

I simply prefer to celebrate both holidays as two completely separate but venerable religious traditions on their own merits, even though I personally consider myself a follower of one, and only one, of them.

Anyway, for all you readers out there, Happy Easter and Happy Buddha’s Birthday! 🙂

P.S. Easter also reminds me of this funny comic from Sluggy Freelance.

1 China, Korea and Vietnam use the lunar calendar for Buddhist holidays, so according to that, the Buddha’s birthday was in March for 2012. Oops, I noticed that too late. Sorry faithful readers. 😛 But if you’d like an interesting Korean-language fact, the Buddha’s birthday is called either seogga tanshinil (석가 탄신일) or bucheonim osinnal (부처님 오신 날).

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Author: Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

6 thoughts on “Happy Easter and Buddha’s Birthday”

  1. Love this. That “Buddha and Jesus as modern-day buddies” manga sounds awesome – almost makes me want to learn Japanese so I can read it. There isn’t by any chance an English version out there?

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    1. Hi Jonathan,

      No, there’s no English version sadly. For me, it takes days to read just one issue in Japanese (heavy use of dictionary sometimes), while my wife can read it in an hour. ;p

      Still worth it I think.

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  2. Thank you Doug!

    Last night Ikumi and I celebrated Easter at the Great Easter Vigil at at St.Albans here in Tokyo (a magnificent candles and incense service) and today, after a bit of Hanami, we’re off to a few temples and then I’m going to sit zazen in another temple in Yanaka.

    I agree with you in “celebrat[ing] both holidays as two completely separate but venerable religious traditions on their own merits” I even join you in “personally consider[ing] myself a follower of one, and only one, of them” as I am a Buddhist, not a Christian (I’ve taken refuge, and never been baptised), but at the same time I see nothing wrong with fully embracing all the strands of my religious and cultural heritage and personal makeup.

    I believe that behind the words and different pratcices and beliefs (God, Emptiness, Amida, Christ, Buddha-nature, Holy Spirit) stands one external and internal reality – I just happen find myself pretty much fluent in two of the religious (if not spoken!) langauges used to express it! And I enjoy both!

    I had bibimbap for dinner last night, I’m having toast and marmalade for breakfast this morning, and we’ll probably have udon for lunch. It would be a sad world if we had to choose only one!

    So no flame here – just a deep appreciation of your post and kind words.

    With a deep bow,

    Marcus

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    1. Hi Marcus,

      Interesting analogy about the food selection, and ironic given that I’ve used a similar analogy in the past (re: Pure Land Buffet).

      Anyhow, I was more concerned about incidentally lending support to the whole “Jesus Lost Years” theory, which is a something I definitely do not support. I’ve had ecumenical discussions about Jesus and Buddha that inevitably devolved into this sort of subject. :-/

      But I digress. Glad you had both a happy Easter and Hanamatsuri. 🙂

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  3. Yes, I think it is interesting that the dates coincide this year (except for Orthodox Easter, which is April 15). A friend pointed out that the cherry blossoms popped out suddenly in the week before, reminding us of the ‘Flower Festival’–in Japanese most temples refer to the Buddha’s birthday celebrations as Hana Matsuri.

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    1. Hi John,

      Heh, good thinking. Sadly, it wasn’t the case here in Seattle. We went to the famous Tulip Festival here in Washington State two days before Hanamatsuri, but very few tulips had blossomed yet. The ones that did were lovely though. 🙂

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