by Johan Trisanjaya
From the Buddha to Christ—A Young Man’s Journey to the Ancient Christian Church My name is Johan Trisanjaya. I am of Javanese ethnicity in Indonesia. I was born in 1982 in the village of Prigi in Central Java. I was raised in a Buddhist family; my father is a government servant and my mother is a house wife. Most people in our village are Muslim, but many adhere to Buddhism. As a Buddhist, I was so active that I was appointed as the President of the Buddhist Youth Association.
The essence of Buddhist teaching is “to love without limit”, where the law of deeds (“karma”) is emphasized, in which all our deeds in this life will bear fruit in our next re-incar- nation. The love is not limited to only humans either, but in loving plants and animals too, since they could have formerly been human. When you die with a good karma you will be born in the next body in a high state of being. When you die with bad karma, you will be born either in a lower status of life in society, or even as an animal or in the demonic realm.
As I was about to start high school my cousin, Fr Alexios, came to my village and told me to go with him to Solo and to go to school there. He had been a Buddhist before becoming an Orthodox priest. I agreed. I felt that it was okay to be exposed to Christianity only for three years, because it would help to widen my horizon. I had always attended Church worship and gatherings, but I always sat at the back row since I felt guilty about being a Buddhist but praying as a Christian.
Finally, out of my confusion, I left Fr. Alexios’s house and returned back home for two weeks without even a leave of absence from school. During these two weeks, I lost all direction in my life and felt confused. I began to act in a mindless way. I started to do things that I have never done before to the surprise and embarrassment of my father since he is considered a pillar in society.
One day I felt as though someone whispered to me and commanded me to go back to Fr Alexios in Solo, so I went back. After some days in Solo, I began to learn about Orthodoxy again. I felt the urge to be baptized, and Fr. Alexios agreed. I was surprised that even though I did not go to school for two weeks I was not even reprimanded or punished by the school, as would be expected. After I was baptized with the baptismal name of “Johanes” (John), I have been helping the ministry of Fr. Alexios. In the year 2006, I was elevated by Metropolitan HILARION to “Reader.”
What I found liberating in Christianity is that Christ had defeated the power of death through His resurrection so that there are no more endless cycles of birth and death in re-incarnation, and it is no longer the law of karma that has power over you, but the power of grace though Christ’s victory over sin, death and the devil. The Buddhists are so frightened by karma, because they are frightened by the prospect of re-incarnation into a lower realm, but there is no fear of God, since God does not exist. But in order to achieve good karma there are so many difficult regulations and requirements to be achieved; it is as if there was no grace of God.
Having understood the beauty of the teaching of Orthodoxy, I now have a very strong desire to serve Christ, either as a priest or as a layperson. I am preparing myself to go to seminary either in Russia or in the United States in order to realize this dream. I have been spending time with Fr. Daniel during his last visit, driving him across Java and up to Bali. Please pray for me. Thank you.