I’ll carry on my musings from last week about the toll on the spirit taken by our rotten economy, and how both Christians and Buddhists address spiritual challenges.

Jesus was not Buddha. But Rose Mattax, Christian psychotherapist from Forest Park, agreed they taught a way of life that was very similar. I think both philosophies are useful to those trying not to lose their souls to the recession.

We forget sometimes that Jesus was born in the Middle East and had to reach people more steeped in mysticism than westerners. That’s why he advocated meditation and prayer. He also simplified the system of religious rules that oppressed the Jews. Buddhists are all about simplifying moral codes. The author I listened to was astonished at the degree of guilt weighing on westerners.

Jesus took the 10 Commandments and boiled them down to two, the second one being a variant of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This Golden Rule is espoused by all the world’s major religions. A recent Tribune article listed variations of it from Confucius, Muhammad and the Hindu tradition. It’s also consistent with Buddhist philosophy.

Love one another as you love yourself is a time-honored principle. But I think it’s easy to forget the “love ourselves” part. Jesus said to turn the other cheek when we’re attacked, but what about when we get down on ourselves – when we can’t forgive ourselves for the extra brownie we ate, the thoughtless remark we made, or 20 bucks we squandered on lunch?

Forgiving ourselves is especially important, when the economy is beating us down. Many are at the mercy of forces they cannot control. If we turn the blame inward, we’ll end up sitting in our basements, rather than reaching out to others.

Buddhists believe that one of the keys to serenity is living in the present. Jesus taught us not to worry about tomorrow because “each day has enough trouble of its own.” Like Buddhists, Jesus didn’t want us to agonize about material things.

I have to admit to losing my serenity during these hard times. For awhile, my sense of well-being was based on whether a check came in the mail. I became very isolated. Thankfully, my attitude changed.

Now I have social activities in the evenings, a circle of friends and a group called the Homeys to lunch with. I have feature stories to write, literary projects to pursue and inspiring people like Rose to talk to.

Jesus taught in parables. The most puzzling for me is the one about the shrewd manager. After he learns his boss is firing him, the manager calls in all the master’s creditors and cuts their bills in half. He’s hoping they’ll return the favor by welcoming him into their homes.

Jesus’ message was that we should be shrewd with worldly wealth, along with the “true riches” of spirituality. Perhaps he was also giving practical advice on what we can do when the boss gives us two weeks’ notice.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.