I received this question via email from a reader. The answer is published here with the questioners permission and encouragement to share the answer with others.
Rev Mugo can I ask you a question? I hope you don't think its, well anyways....can a Buddhist be a Christian, or a Muslim be a Buddhist, what I'm asking I guess can you believe in two or say even three paths?? Thanks
Good question. We talked about it at the group meeting last Wednesday night. All a matter of what one understands by 'being a Buddhist', Christian, Muslim etc. I've had committed Christians come for morning meditation regularly and attended seriously Buddhist ceremonies and that worked for them.
I think one can be open minded to many paths and even walk a ways on several, even at the same time. But as the paths diverge, as they do in quite specific ways, then internal difficulties and confusions can arise. This happens especially as one goes more deeply into meditation/contemplation within a tradition. That's potentially the case with say a committed Christian taking up theme less meditation. Not sure how that all works for a committed Buddhist traveling another path at the same time.
I tend to keep away from deliberately thinking myself as any particular 'ist' although obviously as a Buddhist monk people, including myself, regard me as a Buddhist. Following a specific path these past years has been a great gift for me, one that I keep on re-receiving and realizing what a precious gem I have been given. That's often the difficulty, not fully appreciating the gem one has because it isn't shining at the moment and going around looking for a brighter one. All with the utmost of sincerity in the questing for answers to deep questions about profound matters.
Now I read your question and you are asking about 'believing' and I have talked about practicing. Maybe it is just a matter of word use. However in Buddhism, as I have understood it, I've not felt obliged to 'believe' in anything in order to practice. Well, save for believing that the Buddha rediscovered a universal Truth, that what he found has been passed on through a direct connection of master to disciple and the 'passing on' is happening accurately through living Buddhist teachers. There we go, Refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Hope that goes some way towards answering your question. Sorry it has taken a long time to answer, I've been a bit more involved with 'got to do to-day' things of late.