quote:
Originally posted by kresge:
Accessing the historical Buddha is just as much if not a greater challenge than accessing the historical Jesus.

What we have is a history of praxis in Buddhism as well as Christianity where women are subordinated. It is my understanding that a women, no matter their level of enlightenment status are always to be under the authority of a male.


You can blame Confucianism for that, not Buddhism. The misogynistic classes were formed before Confucius, but were codified by him as being necessary for a just and orderly society.

You are confusing Buddhism and Confucianism.

Confucianism was around long before the arrival of Buddhism. By the time Buddhism arrived, Confucian-backed patriarchy was well-established. Buddhism was probably modified to not rattle the cages of this institution.

quote:
On a somewhat related note, I have heard scholars make the case that Buddhism perpetuates the status quo due to it maintaining a quietistic posture. [This has often been the case with Christianity as well. People often succumb to quietism, believing that they will be justified in the Sweet By and By, so they put up with suffering and injustice in the Nasty Now and Now.] It is thus not surprising that revolutionary impulses arrive from other sources.


I could see how that case could be made. But, I would counter-argue that Christianity and Buddhism are revolutionary religions based on questioning authority and creating change.

I'd say that Hinduism and Judaism are more status-quo protecting.
quote:
Originally posted by HeruStar:
We retaliate against a religous system (namely Christianity) and devalue it because of actions committed by PEOPLE. We come to the conclusion that sense these People committed x,y,z acts, then therefore their God is false.
..................
These same people/atheist praise religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, and any other ism that isn't Christian.


For the record, there is a fundamental misunderstanding that Christians seem to make when they speak of Eastern religious systems. I.e., they moreorless assume that they are (as systems of thought) * structurally the same * as Christianity. In other words, the Christian seems to imagine the following equation

JESUS=BUDDHA

and then proceeds to interpret Buddhism as if it had exactly the same themes and emphases as Christianity. If one makes this assumption then it becomes very puzzling why someone would prefer Buddhism to Christianity.

But therein lies the error. What I like about Buddhism is the ways in which it DIFFERS from Christianity as a system of ideas. And NOT just Christianity but Judaism and Islam too. Please note that in what follows I'm putting off to one side the social/political issues that have been discussed so far.

For example, the Buddha never claimed to be Divine. In fact, in classical Buddhism, the concept of 'Divinity' is de-emphasized. There is in Buddhism no equivalent of a 'Creator God'. The question of the origins of the material universe is treated moreorless as irrelevant. The Buddha thought of such questions as a waste of time (since any answer is purely speculative) and irrelevant to the central issues of his thought.

Which leads to another difference. Buddhism, unlike Judaism, Christianity, and islam, is not an historical religion. That is, there is no grand Buddhist historical narrative with a Divine personage acting throughout (I've slightly oversimplified here but not by much).

Buddhism - treated in the abstract - is a * system of thought *. Re Kresge's observation, yes, the historical Buddha is much more difficult to discover BUT the historical Buddha was never as important to Buddhism as the historical Jesus is to Christianity.

If anything the emphasis in Buddhism has been opposite in this respect. Christians tend to de-emphasize the teachings of Christ and emphasize the Person of Christ (if only in practice - just tell a Christian that Jesus is dead and wasn't really the virgin born Son of God and see 'love thy neighbor' in practice). But Buddhism has done the opposite: Emphasizing the teachings and de-emphasizing the person of Buddha - as we all have 'Buddha-nature' anyway (including dogs).

Moreover, Buddhism, as a system of thought, is fairly compact, self-contained, and RELENTLESSLY logical. That is, it really appeals to intellectuals. The Buddha encouraged his followers not to just blindly believe what he said but to test it and if it didn't work disregard it. IMHO, Buddhist thinkers like Nagarjuna, in the depth and brilliance of their thought, put St. Paul to shame.

This leads to yet another difference. Buddhism has a very different relationship to its sacred texts. First, there isn't one Buddhist Sacred text (sutra) but thousands. And which ones get treated as important depends on the particular Buddhist tradition one follows. AND there is a tradition of continuing 'revelation' for lack of a better term. That is, in each generation, Masters often leave a record of their journey and teachings to their students.

As a final observation and application, an important Buddhist idea is that to overcome suffering, one has to overcome one's attachments. But what sort of things can one be attached too?

Money?....Yes

Fame?....Yes

People?...Yes

How about the words of the sutra?....Why yes, you can be attached to sacred texts too!

How about the Buddha????.....Yes, him too!

The Buddha likened his teachings to a finger pointing at the moon. I.e., One shouldn't confuse the teachings with the place the teachings are designed to get you to. To apply the teachings one doesn't have to confess a creed or believe in miracles. You can practice and still be fairly agnostic.

And in the Zen tradition there is the famous saying "If you should meet the Buddha, kill him" - that is we're challenged to always go beyond our present ideas and understanding....

Unlike Christianity, in Buddhism over and over again one is warned not to confuse ideas and concepts with ultimate reality. Eastern religions generally tend to have a MUCH MUCH more sophisticated appreciation for religious symbolism and the difference between a symbol (including words, either written on the page or seen in the mind) and what is symbolized by it.
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quote:
Originally posted by Oshun Auset:
The Chinese revolution was largely an ATHEIST MOVEMENT. Check to see what happened to the Tibetan Buddhist monks and what their response was to the Chinese government's murder/oppression/sacking of their Holy temples... Your post had nothing to do with Buddhism.


Also consider the response of Vietnamese Buddhists to the Vietnam War. Putting principles into practice, the monks and nuns protested by setting * themselves * on fire rather than bring harm to others.
* Before anyone picks a fight, let me say that my point was NOT that Buddhism is perfect (or even better) but that there are reasons to like Buddhism other than the fact that it's not Christianity * Smile

There are genuine differences that appeal more to certain types of minds
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quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
For example, the Buddha never claimed to be Divine. In fact, in classical Buddhism, the concept of 'Divinity' is de-emphasized. There is in Buddhism no equivalent of a 'Creator God'. The question of the origins of the material universe is treated moreorless as irrelevant. The Buddha thought of such questions as a waste of time (since any answer is purely speculative) and irrelevant to the central issues of his thought.


Well....I've talked to many Buddhists, and I'd have to say that you are only half right in this paragraph. Smile

Yes, there is no "Creator God" in Buddhism as presented in Christianity, but the concept of "Creation/Creator" is not TOTALLY absent from Buddhism. Buddhism has many gods, but all of them are simply different forms of life. They are finite beings that are born, die and reincarnate like humans. Gods are simply other beings caught in the samsaric cycle of the universe.

There is a class of gods called "Brahma-class" gods that are very old and very powerful (but still finite and not immortal). Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are in this class of gods in Buddhism.

Brahma is not "creator" in Buddhism the same way he is in Hinduism. He is simply "Brahma-deva", a god that represents creational forces.


There is however, an "impersonal" Creator concept in Buddhism: Dharmakaya. Dharmakaya is an impersonal/transpersonal summation of Cosmic forces that is responsible for all samsaric functions (including Creation, Preservation and Dissolvance).


http://nichirenscoffeehouse.net/Ryuei/ChristianFAQ.html

quote:
Aside from the priority of dealing with actual issues versus cosmological speculation, Buddhism also teaches that all things arise and cease depending on causes and conditions. When we say that everything is "empty," we do not mean that things do not exist. What we mean is that things are always elements in a process of change and interdependence. When we learn to see things as processes and not as isolated finite objects then we will see that to talk of something being "created" or "destroyed" is only true conventionally. The network of causes and conditions that bring any "thing" into existence is actually a never-ending process with no boundaries. So in this sense, Buddhism never speaks of "creation" or "destruction," "birth" or "death," "appearance" or "disappearance," because that way of talking about things misses the infinite open-endedness and inclusivity of the process which is the reality behind the "things" that we perceive and try to grasp. This holds true for chairs, people, planets, or universes.

This is the other reason why Buddhism does not speak of a creation or a Creator, because the reality of life, the universe, and everything defies such concepts.
There is also the inherent contradiction in insisting that there must be a God who caused the universe because everything must have a cause, but then insisting that God is an exception to the rule that everything must have a cause. Either one must insist that everything has a cause, including God, or one must admit that things do not always need causes and therefore you can not insist that the world or the universe must have a cause. This logical dilemma is another reason why Buddhism does not speak of a creation or a Creator.


Part 1b: God the Creator


Having said all this however, there are two ways in which a Creator does appear in Buddhism after all. The first case is as the deity Brahma. Brahma was the all-powerful creator deity of Brahmanism (the religion that today is known as Hinduism). In Buddhism, Brahma appears when the Buddha attains enlightenment and is the one who convinces him to share his profound realization out of compassion for all suffering beings. Brahma is then viewed as the protector of the Dharma (or Truth taught by the Buddha).
Other times however, Brahma is shown to be no better than the Greek Zeus, the chief of the gods but not the actual creator of the universe. Though he tries to make others think that he is omnipotent and omniscient, he is actually just as much a part of the process of life as all other beings and not its originator. However, these less than flattering representations of Brahma are probably directed more towards the pretenses and limited conceptions of Brahma held by the priests of Brahma in the time of the Buddha than they are towards Brahma as an actual being.

This leads to the next problem. The conception of Brahma or God taught by the Brahmanist priests was very similar to that taught by most Christians today. But when you really look at the image being taught, it is not much different from the mythological Zeus. God is reduced by unreflective piety to a mere being among beings, even if he is a "Supreme Being." As a being among beings, God is no longer a transcendent reality but just another being caught up in the process. This very primitive and even idolatrous conception of God is what the Buddha was poking fun of at the expense of the priests who claimed to be God's representatives on earth who could decide who will be saved and who will be damned. In the Buddha's teachings, however, other images of Brahma come through which are much more mystical and edifying, this will be covered further on in this FAQ.

The second way in which a Creator appears is as the Dharmakaya Buddha. The Dharmakaya Buddha is the Truth-body or Reality-body of the Buddha. We are no longer speaking about an individualized man or woman, nor are we even talking about a pantheistic concept such as "Nature" or "Being." The Dharmakaya Buddha is the unfathomable mystical reality without which there would be no true nature of reality. In this sense, it is the ground or "creator" of all beings and things. It is the basis of the process of causes and conditions, but it is also beyond the process as well. That is because causes and conditions are merely the phenomenal aspect of the Dharmakaya. In other words, it is the Dharmakaya as experienced by our finite minds and senses. Now the Dharmakaya is not a being or person, but it is not impersonal either. It defies any and all such categories, but one could say that the Dharmakaya becomes personal in and through us and our interactions with each other and the world that we live in. In this way, the Dharmakaya becomes very personal through the manifestation of individuals like Shakyamuni and also as a loving spiritual presence underlying our every experience and especially in our own awakenings and acts of compassion. In Mahayana Buddhism this is discussed in terms of the three bodies of the Buddha. Buddha-nature is another term for the Dharmakaya in terms of its presence in our lives.


Again, the Buddhist tradition did not develop the need to used the term "God" in connection with these ideas (except in the case of Brahma who is a personal deity). Rather, the Buddhist tradition developed in reaction to the misunderstandings, confusion, and even oppression of the masses spread by the Brahmanist priests in the name of God or Brahma. The Buddha was not concerned with denying the reality of the Divine, the Buddha was concerned with liberating people from fear based and superstitious views of Divinity so that they could directly experience the reality that people have labeled as God.



There is a sort of "Creator" in a sense in Buddhism, but it is not a personalized creator deity. Buddhists believe that "creation" is happening now, they believe the universe is created and un-created millions of times every second. I made a thread on "God in Buddhism" in this section. Check it out! Smile


quote:
Which leads to another difference. Buddhism, unlike Judaism, Christianity, and islam, is not an historical religion. That is, there is no grand Buddhist historical narrative with a Divine personage acting throughout (I've slightly oversimplified here but not by much).

Buddhism - treated in the abstract - is a * system of thought *. Re Kresge's observation, yes, the historical Buddha is much more difficult to discover BUT the historical Buddha was never as important to Buddhism as the historical Jesus is to Christianity.

If anything the emphasis in Buddhism has been opposite in this respect. Christians tend to de-emphasize the teachings of Christ and emphasize the Person of Christ (if only in practice - just tell a Christian that Jesus is dead and wasn't really the virgin born Son of God and see 'love thy neighbor' in practice). But Buddhism has done the opposite: Emphasizing the teachings and de-emphasizing the person of Buddha - as we all have 'Buddha-nature' anyway (including dogs).

Moreover, Buddhism, as a system of thought, is fairly compact, self-contained, and RELENTLESSLY logical. That is, it really appeals to intellectuals. The Buddha encouraged his followers not to just blindly believe what he said but to test it and if it didn't work disregard it. IMHO, Buddhist thinkers like Nagarjuna, in the depth and brilliance of their thought, put St. Paul to shame.

This leads to yet another difference. Buddhism has a very different relationship to its sacred texts. First, there isn't one Buddhist Sacred text (sutra) but thousands. And which ones get treated as important depends on the particular Buddhist tradition one follows. AND there is a tradition of continuing 'revelation' for lack of a better term. That is, in each generation, Masters often leave a record of their journey and teachings to their students.

As a final observation and application, an important Buddhist idea is that to overcome suffering, one has to overcome one's attachments. But what sort of things can one be attached too?

Money?....Yes

Fame?....Yes

People?...Yes

How about the words of the sutra?....Why yes, you can be attached to sacred texts too!

How about the Buddha????.....Yes, him too!

The Buddha likened his teachings to a finger pointing at the moon. I.e., One shouldn't confuse the teachings with the place the teachings are designed to get you to. To apply the teachings one doesn't have to confess a creed or believe in miracles. You can practice and still be fairly agnostic.

And in the Zen tradition there is the famous saying "If you should meet the Buddha, kill him" - that is we're challenged to always go beyond our present ideas and understanding....

Unlike Christianity, in Buddhism over and over again one is warned not to confuse ideas and concepts with ultimate reality. Eastern religions generally tend to have a MUCH MUCH more sophisticated appreciation for religious symbolism and the difference between a symbol (including words, either written on the page or seen in the mind) and what is symbolized by it.


Ditto on everything else! tfro
Perhaps I should have said there is no concept of a "Creator God" that receives the same weight and emphasis as in Christianity. In X-tianity, the Creator is central. Not so in Buddhism.

I must say that in my post I glossed over a lot trying to make a broad statement that was moreorless true across the spectrum of Buddhist thought.
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
Perhaps I should have said there is no concept of a "Creator God" that receives the same weight and emphasis as in Christianity. In X-tianity, the Creator is central. Not so in Buddhism.

I must say that in my post I glossed over a lot trying to make a broad statement that was moreorless true across the spectrum of Buddhist thought.


That's okay, I used to do the same thing when I was a Fundie when I described Buddhism. Smile I accused it of being "atheistic" (although it really isn't). Buddhism is non-theistic in and of itself, and is broad enough to accomadate both atheists and theists. At a popular folk level, Buddhism is a VERY theistic religion (just as much so as Christianity or Islam). There are all sorts of elaborate ritual worship ceremonies for different Buddhist gods, sages and bodhisattvas.

At a philosophical level, Buddhism has a non-theistic attitude towards a "Creator" and is polytheistic towards Hindu gods, but views them as inconsequential (not worth extensive contemplation over).


Many Westerners can only see religions through the two very narrow, tinted cultural lenses of Western society: metaphysically dualistic/pluralistic theism, and scientistic (not "scientific") materialistic atheism. If a religion does not comfortably fit in either, it is generally force-fitted to one or the other by Western scholars. Buddhism does not fit in either category, but for its lack of emphasis on a Creator, is force-fitted (wrongfully) to the "atheistic" category (the same with Daoism, Confucianism and Jainism). Hinduism, for its emphasis on Brahman, is wrongly force-fitted to the "theistic" category; although really Hinduism is ultimately non-theistic and at most is theo-monistic ("Brahman" is not "God" in the same concept the mainstream God of Abraham is). The only category of Hinduism that is "theistic" is Dvaita Vendanta (Dualistic Theism) which views Brahman as wholly non-material and totally alien to Self. The mainstay Hindu philosophy of Advaita Vendata (Non-Dualistic "Theism") is monistic and views Brahman more as "Ultimate Reality" and the universal Superself.

In Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, the concept of "Creator" is only one aspect of God: Brahma/Sarasvati. In Daoism, the concept of "Creator" is in the Dao in the form of Yin/Yang.
quote:
Originally posted by HonestBrother:
Unlike Christianity, in Buddhism over and over again one is warned not to confuse ideas and concepts with ultimate reality. Eastern religions generally tend to have a MUCH MUCH more sophisticated appreciation for religious symbolism and the difference between a symbol (including words, either written on the page or seen in the mind) and what is symbolized by it.


As an example, a popular Buddhist icon is that of the thousand-armed Bodhisattva ("enlightened being") Avalokitesvara. This being is the great "Buddha of Compassion". And is also known as simply Avalokita or Kuanon. The Dalai Lama is thought to be an 'incarnation' of Avalokita.

Christians see the thousand armed figure and see some terrible 'demonic' icon as if it were meant to depict a LITERAL being. But, in the 25th chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Avalokita is also described as the Buddha "Wonderful Sound" because he hears the cries of ALL creatures and helps them by appearing to them in a form that they can understand or relate to. So sometimes he appears as Brahma, sometimes a king, or a rich man, or a nun, or even a housewife. EVEN as an animal. Etc.

The first time a read this, I was completely mystified. If you read it literally, it makes NO sense at all. I mean: Could he appear to several different people at the SAME times in several different forms for example??? Then I realized it was not intended to be read literally (the symbolism of the Lotus Sutra is pretty dense, after all) ...

Why is Avalokita sometimes depicted with a thousand (or even a million) arms??

THE MORE ARMS YOU HAVE THE BETTER ABLE YOU ARE TO REACH OUT AND AID THOSE WHO NEED HELP Smile

And the passage in the Lotus Sutra runs with this idea and gives us an image of 'divinity'/Buddha-hood/Compassion that permeates everything and everyone and is always there to help. I.e., the thousand-armed Avalokita is a wonderfully rich symbol if you know how to understand it.

I think of this whenever I'm in a difficult situation. Even a terrible person who is giving you a hard time can be "seen" as Avalokita Smile - as one of those thousand arms.
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