"... The way of Buddhism is to honor each being around us, learning those lessons that individuality has to teach - but also ultimately to transcend those voluntary, illusory constraints, and attain to the realization that all consciousness is one."
- picking up from Pt.1
Now, I don't buy that for a second. It sounds like a crock of shit from where I stand! But if it's easy to conceive of the Buddhist one light of infinite consciousness, wriggling out into the material world as so many little wiggling fingers so as to be able to feel and to have experience of what separateness is like - then surely, it can't be hard to conceive of God's infinite self extending out as one BIG finger, in the person of Christ Jesus! Easy peasy.
So while I'm kidding about it being a crock of shit, it's a nice point to begin a comparison. From the Christian perspective, we talk of God's light in us, of God breathing God's life into us. We all start from the same place - that radiating one light of God's life animating us all. From that beginning, the classic Christian stance places a great emphasis on the importance and reality of identity, on the being being created as an individual, to learn and grow and become more and more one's own self. A self self-chosen, through our every thought and action, and with free will.
The views are not so far apart to start, but they do become so. Where this Buddhist friend of mine conceived of each of us "As God," it was a case of God playing a game of sublime hide-and-seek with God's self, putting forth consciousness into darkened skulls to learn and see through pinprick eyes - and eventually, to be enlightened. Perhaps to the highest consciousness, the feeling of infinitely repeated enlightenment is pleasurable? But upon death (or upon the eventual enlightened death of one's consciousness), having learned whatever lessons were the point of becoming individual, the individual dissolves: purpose complete. Usefulness outlived. Dissolved utterly, and absorbed back into the light. Nirvana: blissful nonexistence.
My Buddhist friend looked at the difference between his conception and mine as essentially, semantics, but to me the difference is a fundamental one. The crux of the question is: does the individual matter at all?
I believe God did not create this world as a place to play hide and seek with God's self through so many disposable finger-puppets of false (illusory) consciousness. I believe God created this world because God wanted to come to know us, and this world was the way. God created us because God wanted to give us a chance to be and to love. A chance to grow, to learn in a natural environment where the presence of God was non-coercive, and can quite plausibly be denied. Only so can we create a self freely, only so can we make free choices and take free actions, determine who we are and what we think, and whether and what to love. Only so could we to come to know God. And only so - if we choose - can we create ourselves as a gift we freely give back to God. In this conception, that self is a gift God would keep.
Only if the self matters does selflessness - one's decision to let something matter more than one's self - have any real tooth to it.
I believe you, yourself, have worth - and are not simply an empty experiment in consciousness. I believe God could not look at you and fail to find you as beautiful as I do.
See, each of us is beautiful and enduring, and of worth. You are not a thing to be cast away at the end of life's day. The person you are is not a meaningless means to an end, a step to a lesson learned and then discard the learner. The individual is - you are - the desired end to God's plan of creation. You, specifically you, are the joy of God's desiring. Each of us is what God wanted to get out of this world. Each of us is a thing of infinite worth. God created the world in the hope of gathering us in.
Always and only if we'd want that! Some perfectly decent people do hate God, or say they do. And others less decent, as well. In any case, I can't imagine God would force eternity in God's company on anybody who doesn't want it! That would be kind of a "dick move."