Imagine the Life of Buddha
Do you consider yourself a Buddhist?
No, I don't. What I find among Buddhists now are schisms, schools of thought, often with a lot of rigidity. So I don't consider myself Buddhist because I don't think Buddha himself believed in ideology or dogma. He would say that he was showing us very practical ways to get the same insights ourselves.
You have just finished a book about Jesus. How are the fundamental teachings of Jesus and Buddha similar and different?
They are similar in relation to the golden ruledo unto others as you would have them do unto youand in the total embodiment of nonviolence. You must turn the other cheek and love your enemies. Buddha says when you look deep enough into your enemy, you will see that he is yourself. But what Jesus calls sin, Buddha calls ignorance, lack of awareness. The God question is also very different. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God created the universe, whereas in the Buddhist tradition, God, or the intelligence that is at the source of creation, is not some outside intelligence but is inherent in the consciousness that conceives, governs, and becomes the universe.
Is there a fundamental tension between spirituality and religion?
I think spirituality is a domain of awareness where we all experience our universality and where we experience universal truth. It has very little to do with religious dogma, ideology, or even self-righteous morality. The novel Buddha deals with the experience of a person and I hope shows that this is an experience that is open to all of us.