"You Don't Really Understand Buddhism"

I read your article on Buddhism. Interesting.

I am always glad to see one of a specific faith take the time to look into the historical and mythical backgrounds of another faith. It is heartening that men and women of learning still lend their efforts to religion.

I have no specific faith, so I am not "countering" your arguments. However, you say that Buddhism and Christianity "...are so different, they cannot both be right at the same time, nor can the two be blended together. "

Truly? Or can they not be tied together on dogma? Dogma, the rules of law which "make" a religion what it is, that is, what is distinct and different from another, are often the chains which bind its followers to religious stagnation.

I have studied many religious faiths. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Shinto, and a smattering of Judaism. Dogmas differ, the underlying quest for peace and self-knowledge are not.

You say, "When witnessing to a Buddhist, ask him this: 'Do you have tangible proof of what occurs after death?'"

I will ask you a question, as in a way I am witnessing you: "If Buddha and Jesus had met, would they not have been the best and longest of friends?"

Religion has become another camp within which we hide. Go make a Buddhist friend. You might be greatly surprised what you will find there. Someone who looks much like you.

Thank you for your reply. I enjoy interacting with those who are honestly seeking to discover spiritual turths for their lives.

Allow me to address some of your challenges. You stated, "Go make a Buddhist friend. You might greatly be surprised what you will find there. Someone who looks much like you." The Lotus Sutra states, "Whatever words are uttered should be chosen with care. The words we speak should always be words of sympathy and wisdom." The Bible states in the book of Proverbs, "The one who answers before listening--that is his folly and his shame." Let us therefore not have many words of false presumptions pass between us. I come from an island that is 80% Buddhist. My entire family clan has held to Buddhist teachings for hundreds of years. My parents and cousins remain in the Buddhist faith. I grew up under the teachings of the Buddhist temples near my house. I have been a member of the Young Buddhist Association. Therefore, i have many Buddhist friends including my own family members. I realize they look a lot like me, thank you very much. I am not driven to argue with them, only to share with them the greatest truth given by God to mankind.

I am not sure what Buddhist tradition you are familiar with. You are correct that Christianity and Buddhism differ on dogma. What exactly you mean and how you are using the term dogma I am not sure. If you look at the two theologies, they both cannot be right at the same time since they are contradictiory on the very basics. Most schools of Theraveda Buddhism teach there is no God. Christianity is based totally on a relationship with God. According to Aristotle's law of non-contradiction, two opposites cannot be true in a relationship with one another at the same time. You cannot have a God and not have a God and say both are true. That is absurd. So the theologies go much farther than terms and definitions. In Mahayana Buddhism, there are hundreds of Buddha incarnations. The ultimate reality is impersonal, non-feeling, and non-beng. In Christianity, the ultimate is a personal being. Once again applying Aristotle's law of non-contradiction, the two in a relationship cannot be true at the same time.

Yes, both religions claim peace as a product. However, even in this they are very different. In Buddhism peace is the ultimate goal. It comes as the result of eliminating all desires. In Christianity, peace is one of the fruits but not the ultimate goal. The Christian's goal is a relationship with the God of the universe who loves and cares for his creation and He has reached out to us to make this possible. The Buddhist quest for peace is self focused. One attains peace through meditation, good works, and pure knowledge. In Buddhism we are driven to discipline ourselves to think correctly, behave correctly, etc... with the ultimate goal to rid ourselves of all desires. Although Buddhism teaches to not harm others and do good, salvation is found by the individual as he focuses on himself and one's attaining enlightenment and elimination of all desire. In Christianity, one focuses on Jesus Christ, being filled and empowered by His Spirit. Yes, we do work of self discipline, and becoming a godly person, but it comes as a result of a personal relationship with God and a desire to honor God. Christianity never seeks to eliminate all desire, the ultimate goal in Buddhism; Christianity seeks to build within each believer, pure desires that honor God. So even in our understanding of peace we differ in the definition and the quest for peace in significant ways.

Thank you for your response. I look forward to hearing from you.

Patrick Zukeran
Probe Ministries

An excellent answer.

I am not a man to stand on my own ego. Too shaky a ground for my tastes. You reply well. I congratulate you. No being "needs" to be congratulated for his talents, however. He or she (or it) knows their respective talents. I think that sometimes it is important to tell others, especially others we do not know, that we are impressed. And I am.

Aristotle. Buddha. Jesus. God. This conversation does share good company, wouldn't you say?

I was born of the Christian faith, and rejected its teachings early on. Not because I thought it was wrong (what does a child know about God and the Devil and Holy Spirits? I certainly knew nothing, and so was not willing to say one way or another.), or that I wasn't interested. But what I saw was something I could not lay my finger on until right now. I saw boredom.

I saw a lack of excitement in something I saw as being the greatest thing any being could think about, the Divine.

So, I abandoned Christianity, and in passing years to puberty and Gen X college life, I grew bitter over religion. I called it a sham, a lie. So much nonsense to placate the masses. And then I discovered the Buddha.

I read everything I could. I looked into all the words, all the teachings, and again, this horrible, deep-seated feeling struck me. The more sutras I read (don't get me wrong. Many are moving and powerful), the more doctrines I digested, again from my belly rose that sickening feeling of boredom. Buddhism was for me exotic, not only in its origins but in its perspective, so very different from Christian philosophy. It appealed to me, and I was very much enamored of the good and peaceful meanings it had to teach me.

But the boredom, the perpetual books, the endless discussion, refinement after refinement after refinement. And then it struck me.

Christianity was very much the same.

Words are good for many. They are often good for me. They give us comfort, meaning, something to focus in on asides from our nagging fears and guilts, our evil deeds committed and not yet contrived. The images and statues, and monuments, both built and written, give our religion (not to mention our cultures) solidity, they flesh it out. For many people, it gives meaning and clarity in a very confusing, painful world. The structure, the teachings, they heal so many. But not all.

The Hebrew Priests, the Brahman Priests. Men of great learning. Knowing of long-passed traditions, of rituals, and ancient texts which had sustained their religious beliefs and cultures for thousands of years. For most, this was enough, more than enough. But for a few, only discontentment.

I understand your meaning. I agree with you. The religions are very different, diametrically opposed. There can't be both a God and not a God. Can there?

I realize that for me, the boredom I saw in so many faces, the deep boredom and lack of interest I feel and have always felt in Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, all of the religions I have delved into, has always arisen at the level when I no longer feel a personal connection to the origins.

When I was a child, I was dazzled by the beautiful words of the life of Jesus. And again, as an adult, to hear the life of Buddha, to walk in his footsteps, if only vicariously, gave me deep joy. With every passing intellectual extrapolation on the subject, I am afraid, I could not help but feel a little detached from the source of my joy.

No, on strictly rule-based bounds, they are very different religions. But the people, the living breathing people who once were, to know that such people existed, that they breathed as I breathe, that their hearts pumped blood, that they struggled and felt as I feel. That is how they can never be different. That is the bridge where they meet.

Jesus suffering on the cross, lost and forgotten to all but a scared handful powerless to save him, giving himself to God for all mankind. Buddha, at the base of a tree, as the final remnants of illusion fell away. Lao Tzu looking from a bamboo grove, watching the moon in the sky and knowing in his heart of the Tao.

Beyond words, before dissertation, before the barriers.

The person, the living being going to the place where others always feared to tread.

So sorry to imply you don't have Buddhist friends. I must shame-facedly admit you must have more than your fair share, certainly even more than I.

In response to Aristotle, I reply with Shuzan: Shuzan held out his short staff and said, "If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?"

I too look forward to your response, and I thank you for your reply.