His Sacred Humanness (HSH) Heiwa no Bushi is a Buddhist-Christian monk and Abbot of the Thomasville Buddhist Center in Thomasville, North Carolina. He is a former Christian minister, having served in the Christian denominations of Southern Baptist, Missionary Baptist, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, and Church of God (Anderson, IN). He has advanced degrees in philosophy and systematic theology. He also received training in both Mahayana and Daishin Zen Buddhism. As a physical specimen, Bushi holds black belts in three different Japanese martial art forms, making him, as friends often say, an “official badass.” Heiwa no Bushi places his teachings under the moniker of “BodhiChristo,” which means “enlightened Christ,” an amalgamation of the two rich streams of Buddhism and Christianity. Here he describes the arc of his journey until the present.
In the book, The Smile on a Dog: Retrieving a Faith That Matters, Bushi shared the arc of his journey.
“This is my story; however, I believe it reflects all of our stories.
“I grew up in south Florida, particularly West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach on the Atlantic coast. I was a preacher’s kid. My minister grandmother was heavily involved in both the Southern, Missionary, and Primitive Baptist churches. She was so devoted that when people within her circles wanted to erect a building, she loaned them the money and became a member of their Board of Trustees.
“By the time I was six-years-old, my grandmother had become a minister in that church, but she struggled constantly against patriarchy. The congregation was so misogynistic that they wouldn’t allow her to be a regular preacher. However, she was a very clever bird. She decided that every time they gave her an opportunity to speak from the pulpit, she would use me to introduce her. It was a way of deflecting all the attention from her, and the result was that I became a phenomenal, well-spoken, entertaining bit of Sunday mornings. People came to hear my grandmother because there was a young boy doing the introduction, and he really knew how ‘to lay it out there.’
“All that time I worked with my grandmother, traveling to various congregations, I saw the inconsistency between her church life and her home life. At church she was outwardly ‘righteous,’ but at home she would speak in ways normally prohibited. As a boy being raised in the ethic of Christian fundamentalism, I thought it was quite hypocritical, but she would often quote the Apostle Paul from I Corinthians: ‘I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.’
“As Granny’s ministry grew, I began to feel a leading, or calling, to attend seminary. I would later receive my theological training. In my early 20s, I traveled overseas with the military and found a myriad of contradictions regarding culture, history, and my own Christian faith. It was a time of hands-on experience for me, or better said: mind experience. It was what I call ‘tacit education.’ These diametrically opposed theologies, ethics, and human understandings challenged me to look at the deeper and wider aspects of life on our planet. I encountered many other faiths and religions. Not only did I see the beautiful richness of religious diversity, but also their many parallels to my Christian faith, particularly referencing ‘The Golden Rule.’
“In my experiences as a Christian, I had not encountered a real moral teaching about how to treat our planet, especially the ‘lesser creatures,’ or sentient beings. As a lover of creation, I found a much greater connection to the earth through other religions, especially Buddhism and its tremendous emphasis on caring for all living things. Jainism also intrigued me. It insisted on not naming ‘God,’ believing there is no particular god outside of ourselves.
“These religions lifted up a type of humanity for me that many circles of Christianity seemed to usurp and ignore. These experiences spoke volumes of higher learning to me, and it seemed to me that Christianity’s attempt to nurture and care for the Earth and its sentient beings, big and small, did not stand up in the court of reality. For instance, where in Christian scripture is the insistence on cultivating an intimate relationship with all living things? What is the theological course of study for that called? Where might we find a majority of ‘Earth Conscious Christians’ in America?
“Then I thought of the parable Jesus told of seeking out the one lost lamb. He was saying to the majority, ‘You hold on tight; I’m going to get the one that matters in this moment.’ These insights began to bring out what I call the ‘more mature’ interpretation of Christ that I am trying to live out today.
“In my teachings, I emphasize that there are three types of knowledge.
- Explicit knowledge that comes to us from textbooks, manuals, Sunday school lessons taught as literal. This is a form of cultural programming, even indoctrination.
- Codified knowledge which is the design of the society around us—from traffic signs to laws to the licenses we need to practice our professions. All this is meant to make sure that we follow the rules and remain in compliance with the status quo.
- Tacit knowledge which we gain firsthand in the laboratories of our own lives. It can’t just be told to us; we must experience it and adapt it to reality of our own understandings.
“The bottom line is that we must test any truth for ourselves! Examine it in the light of our minds, hearts, consciences, and personal experience. I deeply feel that religious institutions, especially the Christian church, should be some of the most unregulated bodies in our society. They should always call us to the high adventure of exploring a fuller humanity and spiritual life. Humanity first!
“On this adventure, I remain a lifelong learner, carrying on something my grandmother taught me long ago. ‘Go beyond what educational systems teach you,’ she said.
“Take on the world. Tacitly hold it, experience it, live it and understand it!”