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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

What's Wrong With Buddhism

Brian over at the Banty Rooster has posted an excellent explanation of what's wrong with Buddhism. Here's a snippet:
If anyone ever asks me what is wrong with Buddhism, I'll tell them: go watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. A life of consistent Buddhism is a life without love. Buddhism, at the end of the day, doesn't believe in relationships, as, in fact, one of the characters says in the movie ("friendship is an illusion"). To be in a relationship is to be attached; to be vulnerable to another; to share oneself with another. It is the ultimate "entanglement." Since Buddhism teaches that the only ultimate reality is a transcendent "one-ness," all forms of relationship, "two-ness," if you will, is an illusion and something to be denied. I love Li Mu Bai's final assessment: "I have wasted my whole life." Life without relationship - nay, the living with the goal of avoiding relationship, is worthless and bankrupt.
Do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing...


At 10:41 AM, October 26, 2006, Blogger Thailand Gal said...

I disagree. Kindly. :) Buddhism's position is that we don't *crave* relationships. We don't *cling* to them. It certainly doesn't mean we don't have them, don't enjoy them and don't value them. My relationships are all very loving. I just don't feel a need to stick my claws in or demand that they last forever.

Different view. That's all.

Interesting blog! I'll be back.


Thailand Gal


At 6:41 PM, October 26, 2006, Blogger Christian said...

Hey Thailand Gal - thanks for taking the time to respond!

I'm curious if you read the entire post that I was referencing too (and whether that additional context clarified anything or not). Do you think that Banty Rooster was fundamentally misrepresenting Buddhism?

Also, I was wondering if you are Buddhist yourself? If so, are you an American Buddhist? Or Asian? (sorry if that sounds crass, but in my experience Americans have this (very American) tendency to "American-ize" other religions, and I'm just wondering where you're coming from.

I'd love to hear more about your perspective...

At 7:58 AM, October 27, 2006, Blogger new.atheist said...

How can anyone think they have the full grasp of a religion from an action movie? That would be like me assuming what Catholicism is like based on Constantine or Stigmata; or Judaism from Fiddler on the Roof. There are many, MANY movies with religious influence, but most do not speak for the religion as a whole. Why not cite someone's commentary on the movie "Little Buddha" instead?

I'd say there are things wrong with Buddhism, just as I find many wrong with Islam, Judaism, or Christianity. There are also many good moral lessons one can take from the teachings of these belief systems as well.

Buddhism is a search to end suffering, the cause of suffering is desire, so to end suffering, one must cease desire. But did not the 10 commandments handed down by the judeo-christian god also prohibit one from coveting? The Buddha uses the word desire in the same manner. To covet or to desire are the same. One can still have hope in life even when we stop coveting, stop desiring, stop expecting things in life.

To cease desire is to love all, unconditionally, without expectations put on those one loves.

I agree Buddhism has become "Americanized" but hasn't also Christianity? Catholicism is the root of all Christianity, would you fault Baptists or Protestants for picking/choosing what they like or didn't like about old-school Catholicism?

At 9:08 AM, October 27, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Buddhism will be Westernized just as it was "Tibetanized" centuries ago. The dharma teachings will be absorbed by different audiences in different ways. So long is this is consistent with the basic precepts of buddhism I don't think it is a huge issue.

At 9:31 PM, October 29, 2006, Blogger Master Aegidius said...


I am not an expert on Buddhism, nor would I make broad sweeping assumptions from viewing an action movie.

whereas I understand Buddhism as prohibiting all desire/covetnous (sic?), in Christianity we are commanded to desire/covet the Lord God alone. This is only possible through the salvation of Christ, as it is in our human nature to desire/covet everything else but God.

At 7:56 AM, October 30, 2006, Blogger new.atheist said...


Buddhism is non-theistic, and treats the idea of a god as non-important:
In the absence of a god, they consider that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their good, happiness, and peace; and to develop wisdom leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth. So, back to the original post, this is obviously not "the living with the goal of avoiding relationship," as was assumed from CT-HD.

If all I knew was that Christians really feel they are commanded to love/desire god-alone (through Jesus), then I would also ask; where in that belief system is there room for personal relationships with others? If belief alone could save, what motivation do I have to be good?

I understand many Christians seek salvation through belief in Jesus & his teachings, and Buddhists seek Nirvana (the end of suffering) through the teachings of the Buddha. Jesus was celibate, as was the Buddha (when he began his spiritual quest), yet both preached love & compassion for the world. Some believers choose to follow their example of celibacy and yet their lives are full of love for the world. Some Christians feel that their belief in Jesus is of prime importance, others feel it is their actions towards others in this world that god will judge them by, and Buddhists believe that thoughts & actions are both equally important in achieving Nirvana.

In the end, I can't agree that human nature is to desire everything but god, I believe just the opposite. I believe that the idea of god(s) & religion was conceived within the mind of man out of a desire to attribute greater meaning to our lives.

At 1:15 PM, October 30, 2006, Blogger Christian said...

Hi new.atheist! I appreciate you taking the time to respond, and would love to ask a few followup questions, not so much to try and change your mind about anything, but at least to better understand where you are coming from.

1. you mentioned a "purpose of life" and an "ultimate truth" - I'd be very curious a) how you know there is such a thing, and b) how you know what that purpose is? If there is no God, if stuff just "is", then who are you to say that there's a purpose to it, or that there is ultimate truth, etc? It sounds a little presumptuous to say that you just "figure this out on your own"...

(now in fairness, I realize Christianity affirms both these things, but it's based precisely on the premise that there IS a God - that he is the one who provides us with a purpose, who tells us what the truth is. In other words, for the Christian, truth and purpose is grounded in something objective, outside herself. Regardless of whether we agree on that one, it seems we ought to at least be able to admit that Christianity and Buddhism are fundamentally very different in this regard...)

2. You stated that "Buddhism is a search to end suffering, the cause of suffering is desire, so to end suffering, one must cease desire." - but as Master Aegidius pointed out, Christianity is not about ending desire, but rather about desiring something better (God, rather than our own ends). As C.S. Lewis said, our problem is not that our desires are too strong, but rather that they are too weak, that we settle for things that are fleeting, rather than things which are eternal. Kind of like trading masturbation for real sex with the woman who will never leave you. For the Christian, the solution is not to "stop desiring bad things" but rather to "start desiring (more strongly) good things." Once again, the Buddhist may disagree with that, but surely Buddhism is not saying the same thing here as Christianity?

3. Assuming that Buddhism is not talking about "ceasing desire altogether" but just "ceasing to lust, covet, etc" (something which I'm not actually sure an Asian Buddhist would agree w/) - in other words, assuming that Christianity and Buddhism are similar in their goal of getting people to stop lusting, how do you actually go about doing it? In other words, let's say you lust for alchohol, or sex, or money, or whatever... how do you actually change your heart? For the Christian, the answer is "I can't" - the solution lies in another. I need Christ. HE takes my bent heart (and all the punishment that I deserve as a self-serving rebel), and he gives me HIS heart (and obedience instead). In other words, Christianity is fundamentally a great exchange, where God reaches down and saves those who are incapable of saving themselves - he gives them a new heart, so that they actually desire HIM more than they desire THEMSELVES.

How does Buddhism solve the problem of a heart that is bent on itself? It seems to me that if Buddhism is a godless system, then all you can say is "you must be your own savior, you must learn to change your own heart." But the thing I see most in people (and this was the whole point of the movie) is that people can't stop desiring things on their own, whether good or bad - they might be able to change their external behavior for a while, but they can't fundamentally get their heart to stop desiring things that are wrong.

Once again, doesn't that seem like a very significant difference between Christianity and Buddhism?

Look forward to hearing your thoughts on this.

At 8:26 PM, October 30, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In answer to banty rooster's 'what is wrong with buddhism'....well the truth is there is no wrong - except we make it so in our mind.
The concept of 'wrong' comes from the egoic desire to be right, and unfortunately to be right, something (or someone) has to be wrong....and so conflict is born.
Wanting to be right comes from our self cherishing - our 'I' that we believe exists seperate from everything else -even from our own body and mind, and that we cherish above all else.
Being 'wrong' threatens the existence of our 'I' and it will defend its existence by 'being right'- even if it leads to your physical annihilation!

Because our minds are impure and degenerate (called original sin in the bible) we cannot see the true nature of ourselves or other phenomenon and in our ignorance we grasp at our 'I' as being truly existent. This self-grasping ignorance and is the root of ALL our problems.

The main two ways our 'I' validates and strengthens its own existence is through 'wanting' things and 'having' things -or craving and attachment, and it identifies and defines itself through these objects to strengthen its existence.
When we get what we crave we experience temporary reduction of suffering (we feel happy for a while) and when we are denied what we want or lose the things we have i.e. that we are attached to, we experience suffering (become unhappy).

Buddha said that craving is the cause of suffering. By eliminating our cravings and overcoming our self grasping we will be happy ALL the time, regardless of our external circumstances.

Self grasping can be overcome to a certain degree by cherishing others (jesus sais love thy neighbour as thyself) and trying to see no fault in others (he also said 'why notice the speck in your brothers eye but not see the plank in your own') we can develop loving kindness to all beings - a pure love not motivated by 'what am i getting out of it'

In crouching tiger hidden dragon their desirous attachment for one another was recognised as just that. And if you believe in reincarnation (which incidently early christianity DID for the first 300 years of its existence until the council of Nicea formalised the Dogma)its certain that they would have been each others Mother in a past life!
Reason enough to give them pause!!



At 10:46 AM, October 31, 2006, Blogger new.atheist said...

No problem! I enjoy "spirited" conversation.

First, I didn't say I believe there is a purpose to life. I was only trying to explain the belief's Buddhists. I've done a lot of research into many different religions on my quest for my personal spirituality, while I can't speak for any individual believer, I just feel the need to defend every one's beliefs, educate myself about them, and still question them.

1.) Buddhist's dogma dictates their "purpose in life" just as Christian or Muslim dogma would. They believe there is a purpose & that that purpose is "to develop compassion for all living beings..." because that is what the Buddha told them, just as Christians believe "Love the lord your god above all; love your neighbor as yourself," because that's what Jesus told them.

Who is Buddha or Jesus or Plato or Mohamed to tell us our purpose in life? (I understand Christians believe Jesus is god, but from the other side he's just another guy who had a lot of wise things to say.)

Yes, fundamentally Buddhism and Christianity are different in Christianity is (supposedly) handed down by god, Buddhism is handed down from Buddha (just another wise-guy). Buddhism is not just turning inward & changing one's self (thou they actually don't believe in the self, it is also helping others to change; Christianity is giving yourself to god to change you. Buddhism is a path towards the end of suffering, Christianity is a path to god. (But if god is good, & suffering is evil, I might see them as paths in the same ultimate direction. If you want to quote C.S. Lewis, I recall in the last book of Narnia it did not matter to Aslan in what name one did good works, if one does good works in the name of Tash, the works serve Aslan.)

2) I was just pointing out that the judeo-christian god commanded his people to stop coveting & Buddha said we should cease desire. I still don't think it's all that different, but I cannot say how far any individual may interpret these things. I hate getting into semantics; it's just so difficult to know what definition the original writer/speaker intended. I desire to pee, to eat, to drink, or is it I need to do these things, not just desire them? I would then say we need to love just as much as we need to eat & drink; it is not just a desire, babies can die without love. I'm not a Buddhist, so I can't say if they all feel love is a need or desire. If love is a need, then we need to love the world, not just that we should desire to love the world. (And I dunno why you brought up masturbation, I don't think sex & masturbation are mutually exclusive, nor do I feel either are "bad" in/of themselves. It's not as simple as that. I don't believe anything is eternal, but I also don't think that personal physical desire should trump emotional needs of loved ones.)

3) Buddhism solves the problem of a heart bent in on it's self through that lack of desire for things for oneself while seeking a way of peace for all. If there is no god, we must help one another here on earth. We are our brother's keeper. We must lead each other towards goodness.

I do see the turning to god vs. tuning inwardly to examine ourselves as fundamental differences. Not all Christians feel god is running their lives, some feel god helps those who help themselves. And I see Christian doing good things for the world; homeless shelters, charities, etc. Jesus said to love your neighbor. This is people helping people, not just leaving god to do it for them. All the prayer in the world will not magically feed the hungry; we must actually get off our butt's and help each other.

I'd definitely recommend go pick up a Buddhism book or two over at Amazon, that might answer your questions better than I really can, or watching "Little Buddha," or "Seven Years in Tibet," both are a bit romanticized, but definitely more accurate in portraying Buddhism than CT/HD.

Jewels had a lot of good to say on the subject as well.

At 9:15 AM, November 07, 2006, Blogger Rooster said...

If I read 3Jewels right, my take on Buddhism - for which an action movie was hardly my basis, but, rather, an illustration - is vindicated. There IS no "I" and there IS no "you." Buddhism teaches that all things are ontologically ONE - the goal is enlightenment unto the transcendent oneness of all things - an ineffable recognition of universal mind. The state of nirvana, more popularly speaking.

Buddhism is ultimately, (ontologically, epistemologically and ethically-speaking), monologue; Christianity is dialogue - or, as I put it in my post, covenant.

Good discussion,

At 11:47 AM, November 07, 2006, Blogger new.atheist said...

I thought rooster's view was: "A life of consistent Buddhism is a life without love. Buddhism, at the end of the day, doesn't believe in relationships..."

So that's just what I wanted to contradict. I read just the opposite out of Buddhism; if everything is "one" then we all have a relationship with everything/everyone else. It's not monologue; it's a conversation that includes everybody & everything.

I see conversations with god as monologue, since god never talks back. Also dialogue wouldn't work to describe Christianity because dialogue implies discussion, and many Christians believe they should just agree with what the bible says. I'd agree with Christianity being a covenant; mutual agreement.

At 3:44 PM, November 07, 2006, Blogger new.atheist said...

I've taken the time to do more research on the subject, since I am unsure of how to best put the Buddhist position. Here are 2 good sites with explanations. The first, the fundamentals of Buddhist Morality, has quite a bit to say about personal relationships;

and you will note that it does not say one should avoid relationships.

The second is on Buddhism & God:

At 8:42 PM, February 16, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The premise in Christianity that I would like seen taken into into consideration is the one which states the Bible is the infallible word of God. Ironically, this premise is self contradicting, because how could a fallible human being, who has the responsibility of interpreting the Bible have any hope of being able to interpret the infallible word of God? I believe it was Christian that stated it the position of Buddhism that it is up to the individual to transcend to Ultimate Reality. How is this any different from Christianity? If it wasn't up to the individual, then there would be no free will, and God would make the choice for every single individual.

Another point to make. I think the oneness of things is a subtle understanding. Sure things are one, but they are also not one. This is the paradoxical truth of Ultimate Reality, as stated in the Heart Sutra, Form is Emptiness and Emptiness is Form.

I will leave you with four lines from the Diamond Sutra:

Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world,
A star at dawn, a Bubble in a Stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

P.S. I would be interested in reading a response to the book "Jesus and the Lost Goddess".

P.P.S. Buddhism isn't entirely against the concept of a God, it just depends on how you define The Word.

At 2:36 PM, April 13, 2009, Blogger Peter said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 10:31 AM, September 13, 2009, Blogger Mory Kilroy said...

Hi there, I just wanted to thank Peter for his thoughtful and detailed comments. It is interesting to hear from someone who has been through and come out the other side. I have had many unpleasant conversations with people who call themselves buddhist but found myself unable to espouse why I found their ideas saddening. Thanks for clearing it up.

At 3:45 PM, September 13, 2009, Blogger Peter said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 12:25 PM, December 08, 2009, Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok judging buddhism by an action movie is wrong as so little is most movies when buddhism is expressed the monks are either always doing karate or meditating and explaining wised riddles to his fellow student...thats almost always how it is expressed.
there is so muc more to buddhism and so it can be pretty confusing coz theres so much to learn but the bit about relationships....?
thats just stupid coz buddhist do go into relaationships and do find love...even very strong buddhist and i so as a srilankan buddhist who has been one for all ther life. action movies pick ot bits that they think are appropriate and ant for a movie sometimes not quite the truth...
this is just from my point of view.

great blog though:)


At 3:15 PM, October 23, 2010, Anonymous Purpose in life essay said...

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