What Buddhists think about other religions
I am very concerned over my recent discussions with some people considering themselves Buddhists and, I would say, an often seen tendency among the western Buddhists to initiate a Holy Wars against other religions,
other views or the concept of god or mysticism. It appears like some people think if they don’t like or don’t understand something what they have been told about gods or other religions, or may be they hate them or may be are afraid, they would turn to be Buddhists. Oh, it’s not that easy!
The person I was talking to stated to me he “is questioning the existence of gods (or God)”. To what I had to answer – “The only things you are able to question, according to Buddhist philosophy, the view of Buddhism and a philosophy as a discipline, are your own reason, deliberation, understanding and motivation”.
Buddhism recognizes 2 sources of knowledge:
1. Sense data
2. Theoretical inquiry or deliberation or contemplation.
In other words, all we can possibly know is all phenomena of our consciousness and data our consciousness gathers from our senses. We can never know or tell, is there anything really existing behind the scope of our perception and comprehension or not. There have been many philosophical treatises and discussions on the subject of reality of data of our senses and mind. But in fact even Buddha himself refused to answer what is behind our empirical experience. The oldest Buddhist philosophical tradition Sautrantika considered there is some unknowable substrate behind our empirical experience that manifests itself in our empirical world as flashes in form of dharma-elements. The other tradition, Yogacara, considers them all as an inseparable part of our mind, which manifests themselves according to the imprints in our consciousness, our karma.
As a side note here I would like to mention the widely recognized in Buddhism notion of Nirvana or Emptiness. It was picked up by the great scholar and teacher of Hinduism in 9th century, the founder of Advaita Vedanta tradition, Shankara-acharya and elaborated as a notion of the God in Hinduism. Since then the gods like Shiva, and his many forms, are recognized in their absolute all-encompassing form and Devi, or Mother Kali – as a goddess who turns the absolute reality into motion, the energy or “a Time” if literally.
There are many religions in the world that are using different descriptions of the same reality and the same empirical data. Some of them use a notion of “God” or “gods” as a part of their description. So we have a notion of god. I believe, to know if there is some “real” god or not is behind our scope of comprehension. If we speak about “god”, of course we are meaning “a notion of god”. And we have to admit, it exists. It is widely used in many methods of spiritual advancement and as our experience shows, it is bringing quite good results, if researched, understood and practiced accordingly.
As to the notion of “gods” in Buddhism, Buddhism never denied the existence of gods. There are too many evidences in the Buddhist Sutras regarding the gods and heavenly beings who were attending Buddha speeches and teachings; we have the sutra telling us about the ascension of Buddha to the Tushita Heaven to bring Dharma to the heavenly beings. In Buddhism gods are described as heavenly beings living in the heavenly realms, with a long life span, happy life and too many perfections, merits and mystical powers to count, except the Buddha state itself.
When we approach other religions with a notion of god we have two options. We can view them from a hard-line Buddhist viewpoint only, with a certain prejudices, determined by our past karma, to bring there some of our fears or hatred, our feeling of our separation and supremacy; to come with a closed mind.
Or we can go and learn about other possible methods of spiritual practice, the other approaches to the training of a mind, the other concepts and notions of describing the reality, why it is done or named there exactly the way it is and how it is expected to be understood.
And if we do, we can may be realize, that applying stiff Buddhist notions to the other methods of training of the mind will not bring the expected results or would be similar to approaching Buddhism with a stiff concepts of Christianity. It would easily bring just misunderstanding and hatred. If I cannot bear the close-mindedness in Christianity or some other religions, why would I bear it at home, in Buddhism?! As far I know, Buddhism is called “the middle way” and is usually teaching to refrain from extremes, wrong actions, words and deliberation. In regards to other religions or concepts there are no exclusions.
If question me, I have already told in my other posts, I have studied and practiced many different philosophies, religions and methods of spiritual practice. I do believe that all methods of spiritual practice are a practice of good heart, understanding and wisdom. Buddhism teaches in course of innumerable lifetimes we have been in all forms of existence and beings, adepts of many teachings and religions, both genders, etc. and we should respect and treat each being and their views as our mother in some of our former lives. When I go to Hinduists, I use their notions and concepts and methodology of spiritual practice and religious experience, when I visit a Christians I am using theirs and when I come to Buddhism I am using those understood by Buddhists. We should understand that Buddha-Mind is not limited to some concept or notion. It is usually described as an infinite compassion and intuitive wisdom.
And if you wish to do some kind of “philosophy of religions” – you have to know them and optionally have to have experience in it. Whatever you are talking about, if you have no experience in it, you are missing a point. It is true in most fields of average life and not much different in philosophy. Please, do a philosophy, explaining the used concepts in different religions, the meaning of notions in different religions according to themselves. Tell people what does mean dharma or god in Hinduism and what in Buddhism, what in Christianity, what in may be atheism, what are meditation in each one of methodologies, how their mantras or meditations or prayers work and what qualities they bring, what energy channels are used in that or another religion. Give a free choice of mind and a good understanding regarding each religion. Please, do some real questioning if you are up to, or keep silent if you are not.