Buddhism and Christianity … again … sigh

At the temple were I sit weekly, there are periodic comparative religion excursions of high school students. I try to help Suco when I can by showing up and answering a few questions. It is good that they get a small first hand experience. Sometimes kids show up to do some research themselves. This is cool.

So, I am wondering if there is some sort of curriculum drive elsewhere that is part of these seeming projects showing up in other places. Like blog posts. Like, hey, I’ve typed out this essay anyway why don’t I post it on my blog?

A comparative religions essays post at The Oracle Magazine  popped up in my tag surfer today. So many of these blogs moderate comments. I responded to this comparative religions essays this morning

Congratulations, because this isn’t really so terribly wrong as some of these comparative essays I’ve seen. There remain some subtle errors.

“Buddhists have tried to adapt their religion to the views of people converted from other religions. The result was that people could believe almost anything and be Buddhist.”

This is opinion rather than a statement of the situation. Out of place in a comparative essay. The same cultural borrowings and adoption occurs in Christianity.

“No matter how you attempt to describe Buddhism, many Buddhists will object because they believe some different variation of Buddhism.”

The underlying assumption of your conclusion shows in this statement above: the problem with Buddhism is that it isn’t fixed and authoritative.

To which The Buddha said in the Kalama Sutra, http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=safari&rls=en-us&q=kalama+sutra&btnG=Search

“Come, Kalamas. Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by consistency with your own views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that ‘these mental qualities are unskillful; these mental qualities are blameworthy; these mental qualities are criticized by the wise; these mental qualities when acted on lead to harm and suffering’ then abandon them. When you know for yourselves that ‘these mental qualities are skillful; these mental qualities are blameless; these mental qualities are praised by the wise; these mental qualities when acted on lead to well-being and happiness’ then keep following them.”

The only real authority is that you can prove for yourself that the ideas work.

“Gautama taught nothing about God. He refused even to deny or affirm God’s existence.”

Reasonably correct. It is not true that he taught nothing about gods. The idea of a mono, singular ‘God’ wasn’t extent in the culture, so yes, He didn’t teach about “God”. He taught that gods or belief in gods wasn’t necessary to the process of liberation, and the gods, in fact, were subject to the same changes, cause, effect, and karma as every other sentient being.

“Original and conservative Buddhism involves neither faith nor worship, neither prayer nor praise nor forgiveness of sins.”

Yes, and your underlying assumption is that these things are necessary to the argument. Once again, being tied to these concepts, these discriminations, these dualities and labels is part of the problem.

“Regarding the spirit of man, conservatives believe man has no spirit or inner part that lives after death. Only the consequences of past deeds (karma) lives from life to life. Liberals believe man has a spirit that continues from life to life.
Many Buddhists believe that, when a man dies, he will return to live as another human on earth. The cycle of birth and rebirth continues indefinitely until one is “released.””

This conflates Hindu and Christian understandings with Buddhism, and confuses the meaning of the words we need to use to transmit the idea with the actual meaning of the concept. More properly the english “soul”, “self”, “spirit” should be spoken as “atman”. The Buddha repudiated ‘atman’ for ‘anatman’.

Hinduism and Christianity believe in atman: soul, self, spirit. The prefix “an” negates, so the actual meaning of anatman is different from soul, self, spirit, and it is – oddly, the anatman which incarnates *NOT* reincarnates,

Yes, the consequence of actions is what incarnates.

“The earthly life is an illusion, but due to ignorance man continues to desire to exist.”

No, our earthly life is not an illusion. It is fact the only thing that there is. What the illusion is, is that there is a self which lives this life. Yes, it is due to ignorance that our perception leads to this illusion of self, so that we are bound to continue to exist.

“Buddhism teaches us to eliminate all natural desires”

No. Desire will always exist. We have this body, its needs and wants and desires will persist as long as we are made of flesh. It is the attachment to these desires which can be eliminated.

“Conservative Buddhists follow the “Eightfold Path””

All Buddhist follow the eightfold path. These are the core essentials.

“Buddhism worships either no god or else false gods.””

Your pre-concluded bias is showing. Gods are irrelevant. They are neither non-existent nor false. They are simply not necessary.

“Many Buddhists believe that man must achieve the solution to his own problems over a period of many lives by human effort.”

“Many” is straw man. No “must”. No “problems”, no solution necessary. It can be done in one lifetime. It can be done right now. ‘Effort’ is one of the problems.


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