American Buddhism and Christianity?

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by SvgGrdnBeauty, Apr 27, 2007.

  1. SvgGrdnBeauty

    SvgGrdnBeauty only connect

    So, I was wondering if you thought that there is a tendancy in the US (or other parts of the Western world) to try and mesh Buddhism with Christianity and perhaps even transform some form of Buddhism to make it mesh with Christianity? I'm just curious to your thoughts of this... that's all. I remember I read somewhere someone even had said that Jesus had the Buddha Mind. So, I was curious to your thoughts. :)
  2. snake sedrick

    snake sedrick Banned

    There's certainly a growth of interest in Buddhism in Europe -

    From a Buddhist perspective, it's quite easy to see Jesus Christ as a great Bhodisattva, a being working for the liberation of all sentient beings.

    The mode of working of such a being, is generally called, in Mahayana Buddhism, upaya - often translated as 'skillful means'.

    Many spiritually inclined people in western countries feel that the Christian churches have lost such means, and so it is natural to look into other traditions which may posess them.

    Liberal and universalist Christains can cope with Buddhism, but more narrow types of Christians tend to denigrate all but their own tradition. Even Pope Benedict, prior to his election named Buddhism as the 'main enemy' facing the church in Europe in the coming century.

    On a more positive note, there is a deep friendship between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the old anti-apartdied leader from S.Africa - they get along fine - so why not all Christians and Buddhists?
  3. Bhaskar

    Bhaskar Members

    Have you read Thich Nhat Hanh's Going Home - jesus and Buddha as Brothers ?
    Beautiful book.
  4. I think that the issue is a little more along the lines of "is the dharma being altered by this mixing with Christianity?" and I think that it is a little, but at the same time, the exact same thing has happened in Japan, China, Vietnam and Korea.
  5. snake sedrick

    snake sedrick Banned

    Probably in the futue you'll end up with hybrid type groups - The real Dharma of course, can't be altered.
  6. I don't think that's too far off, searching "Christian Zen" on google, etc. brings up a lot of hits.
  7. Beyond that, I was thinking last night, and I'm willing to bet that in Tibet 1100 years ago, a similar train of thought was considered.
  8. snake sedrick

    snake sedrick Banned

    Maybe - but bonism, the previous religion of tibet, wasn't like an organized big religion, more like tribal shamanism.

    Personally, my studies of the history of Christianity lead me to believe that Christians could certainly absorb Buddhist ideas and incorporate them into Chritianity, just as they did in previous ages with teachings form neo-platonism, popular pre-Chriatian paganism, and many other sources. Of course, it is only open minded and truly spiritual Christians who would go this route - I don't think the fundies even know or understand their own religion, let alone seeking to combine it with others.
  9. Possibly, but for a great deal of time in Tibet, Buddhism wasn't organized either, what would bring about this change is a massive dissemination into the minds of the majority, or at least a significant portion of America. Then those people that have synthesised the Dharma and Christianity in their minds would disseminate what they have made.

    Agreed, no fundy would ever willingly come close to Dharma
  10. SvgGrdnBeauty

    SvgGrdnBeauty only connect

    No, but you get an agnostic Christian... or a really liberal one... it happens. I've met quite a few Christian Buddhists in my time... their claims being they are philosophically Buddhist and religiously Christian...this comes mostly from the Protestantization of Buddhism by Col. Olcott...that's why many Americans think Buddhism is this ritual free meditation practice with the 4 noble truths thrown in.

    " ÔYeah, says Japhy. ÒBut I donÕt like all that Jesus stuff sheÕs talking about.Õ

    ÔWhatÕs wrong with Jesus? DidnÕt Jesus speak of Heaven? IsnÕt Heaven BuddhaÕs nirvana?Õ

    ÔAccording to your own interpretation, Smith.Õ

    ÔJaphy, there were things I wanted to tell Rosie and I felt suppressed by this schism we have about separating Buddhism from Christianity, East from West, what the hell difference does it make? WeÕre all in Heaven now, ainÕt we?Õ Ó

    The Dharma Bums- Jack Kerouac
  11. snake sedrick

    snake sedrick Banned

    Good book that. Also in the connection of the Beats, Allen Ginsberg was vey much into Buddhism, and helped found the Naropa Institute in the USA.

    The attitude the Beats had was very open to combining all sorts of stuff from different traditions etc. But usually, without the baggage or even BS associated with some traditions. We await the rest of the world catching up with them.
  12. SvgGrdnBeauty

    SvgGrdnBeauty only connect

    yeah...I just did my final paper on for my Buddhism class on the Dharma Bums and American Buddhism. If you would like to read it...PM me...I'll e-mail it to you (if your email is the same one I have)
  13. MelT

    MelT Member

    I would say that there are people who are trying to mesh the two, primarily in middle america, though now in the UK too. I personally don't feel it's being done with the best will in mind. But that aside I know of a couple of branches of Buddhism in which certain elements are trying to water down Buddhist beliefs in an effort to draw the two together. But at the heart of it we have doctrinal problems that can't be overcome unless we're very liberal with the truth; in Buddhism there is no soul, and neither is there a God.

    Of course, to some extent we can draw Christianity and Buddhism together on the basis of them both being moral religions preaching good. But the common ground pretty much ends there. Kind of...:)

    Everything has buddha mind, BTW:) Some things are equipped to be aware of it (people, fish, apes) - others aren't (rocks, etc:). If you mean was Jesus enlightened, I'd now say yes, he seemed to certainly have an experience of realisation on his baptism. But, there are degrees of that experience and it's hard to say how deeply he went.

    If you read the Gnostic Christian teachings, you'll see that on the one hand we've got what we all think of today as Jesus gospel. Parables and morality. But, he was also teaching his disciples what he beleived in, what he thought of as the nature of reality. The things that he said were taken in some part from an early form of Jewish Kaballah, some early Hindu ideas about reality, and even bits of Buddhism too. So, in essence - if you accept everything I've said just for the sake of argument as being true - christianity and Buddhism DO share some aspects of belief. Those aspects will never be made much of I don't think, because those Hindu/Buddhist aspects of Jesus' teachings concerned the nature of reality, a reality where god and soul in the christian sense doesn't exist, and nor does reality itself.

    It's a very complex and interesting subject. If anybody wants to have an afternoon reading texts from the Dead Sea Scrolls collection on line you'll be very surprised what you can find. Very thought provoking.

  14. snake sedrick

    snake sedrick Banned

    Perhaps the problem here is more a linguistic one. Maybe it could be resolved to some extent by a re-definition of terms like 'soul' and 'god', which actually, are pretty woolly concepts to most christians anyway. If you ask a christian to define soul, you don't get a very precise answer.
    Certainly, they don't think of it in anything like the way the Hindus think of atman, which seems to be what the Buddha said doesn't exist.
    Where more educated christians have some definite ideas concerning the soul, it's mostly based on medieval philosophy, such as that of Thomas Aquinas, which in turn is based on aristotle.
    So maybe christians could understand the soul differently according to a different philosophical basis.
    Perhaps, just perhaps, for example 'soul' could be seen as 'Buddha Nature', or something lke that.

    If the Buddha Dharma is ultimately beyond words, then surely terms and so on can be flexible.

    If Buddhism tries to plant itself in the west without adapting to conditions, such as the western mind set, then it hasn't got much chance of wide success.
  15. Bhaskar

    Bhaskar Members

  16. mandell

    mandell Banned

    Buddha never said there is no God. He never said there is either.
    Can someone cite a sutra wherein Buddha himself explicitly states the existence or non-existence of God?

    Using our limited mind, to grasp the unlimited, we can only be partially correct.:)
    Perhaps, we shouldn't rely too much on the mind.

    It is like a fish trying to comprehend the ocean.
  17. MelT

    MelT Member

    Very interesting discussion.

    I know what you're trying to say and, as raised earlier, we may simply have a problem with terms, but it's actually deeper than that. Whilst Buddha did not say there is no god he DID say what the ultiate nature of reality was, and it isn't very god-like. At the core of this is what's called 'view' - our understanding of the nature of reality - in 'higher' Buddhism (like Mahamudra and Dzogchen), suchness and it's nature/non-nature are discussed at length and in detail as they form the basis of practice rather than traditional meditation. Mahayana tends to stay with morality, although it does echo and begin to explain all the later practices - but Mahamudra and beyond are solely about the ultimate nature of reality. Understanding reality is a very rapid way to progress, and the students of these forms reach at least some realisation quite quickly.

    It's expressly said in the View that, whilst the ultimate nature (though still empty) is consciousness, it isn't an awareness that belongs to a being that is involved in controlling day to day life, and doesn't have a good/bad bias. As in this View time itself doesn't exist, and our reality is shown to be in a state beyond being anything more than loosely relative, reality and its inhabitants have never arisen to be controlled by a god-like being in this way in the first place. In this view 'god' is all there is.

    I don't want this to sound as though View strays towards nihilism, it's something you have to read before you realise that it is a perfect middle point of understanding about ultimate nature.

    A good book detailing the view end of Mahayana and Dzogchen is the 'Supreme Source' whcih is all about the definition of and some teachings concerning the ultimate nature. In it you'll find things that of course you can say are god like, it's infinite, consciousness, beyond time, etc, but it's never described as having a hand in the workings of the Universe and, within this view there are really no people to have souls. There are good reasons why Buddha left some things unsaid and would refuse to comment - until you get the whole pricture about reality, explaining just one part performs no useful function.

    I think that it's worth exploring the higher forms of Buddhism, no matter what tradition people might currently be attached to, just to see how practice changes and the ideas about reality are firmed up. It's a highly complex issue and I'm a bit reticent to just slap passages down here ad hoc in the hope that they might be understood, it's all strongly interlinked in such a way that it's hard to undertstand one part in isolation from the rest.

    There are a lot of good books on both Mahamudra and Dzogchen, and I'd actually recommend going for the more complex ones first. Anything by Longchen Rabjam, and certainly anything concerning Emptiness (Nagarjuna, etc) - although note that hindu and buddhist descriptions and use of emptiness/sunyata does differ.

    Anyone reading the above works will go through stages of thinking about ultimate nature as both godly and un-godly, and it's an interesting thing to experience if you're an atheist, or a christian. Both will say 'Yes!' in agreement with the texts so many times. Very much worth exploring.

  18. mandell

    mandell Banned

    Yes, very interesting discussion indeed. Thanks for the excellent post MeIT.
    I hope we can all continue to share our views regarding this subject in the spirit of goodwill and peace.

    Allow me to add that perhaps, Buddha did not explicitly say he is god, because Buddha is G-O-D.

    If one knows his true nature, is there a difference between the dream and the dreamer?
    It is like taking water out of water.

    The Lord Buddha is my Ishta — my God. He preached no theory about Godhead — he was himself God, I fully believe it. But no one has the power to put a limit to God's infinite glory. No, not even God Himself has the power to make Himself limited.

    - Swami Vivekananda

    But to go back to the topic of this thread, personally, I have no trouble with both Hinduism and Buddhism, even Christianity. Many Easterners do not have an issue with incorporating Buddhism with any other religion. As a popular saying goes, "If one religion is good, two is better." [​IMG]

    Also, Guru Nanak of the Sikh religion, declared, "There is no Hindu, no Muslim." suggesting that religious labels are unhelpful.

    As to incorportating beliefs, ideas from other traditions, those who cling to a more rigid fundamentalist mindset have a much more difficult task.
  19. MelT

    MelT Member

    Precisely. There is no buddha, no buddha nature even, if we're going to talk View literally. Nobody can be separated from their true nature. 'Self' as an independent being from the rest of co-dependent reality does not exist. So yes, absolutely, Buddha was 'god'. However, both Buddha and I:) prefer not to use the word 'god' if it's at all possible, as the word comes with a number of assumptions about His apparent nature. Thousands of them in fact. Buddha knew himself to already be reality itself yes, however, even upon knowing that, and fully understanding it's nature, he still refused to call himself or what he knew he was, 'god', because he knew that term to be inadequate.

    >>>Also, Guru Nanak of the Sikh religion, declared, "There is no Hindu, no Muslim." suggesting that religious labels are unhelpful.

    I would agree again. Unhelpful, but unfortunately to some degree necessary. It would be nice if we all said that at the heart of it all our ideas of ultimate reality are the same, but they aren't. For example, Christianity is a mass of divisions (3,500+ forms exist at present), that even refuse to accept each others ideas of god, let alone those of other faiths.

    I have no problem thinking that God is Thatness for example, but I have many problems believing that 'It' has a divine plan for humanity, or that 'It' created the Universe. We can reach many points of agreement, and in an ideal world we should consider the possibility that we all believe in the same thing, but if nobody can agree on a common definition of god, least of all those who do believe in Him, then that will be very hard to do.

    >>>As to incorportating beliefs, ideas from other traditions, those who cling to a more rigid fundamentalist mindset have a much more difficult task.

    Again, absolutely true. We have fundamentalist Buddhists too who would make the joining of christianity and buddhism nigh on impossible.

    Personally I don't think the two are at all compatible at heart, but that isn't to say that efforts can not be made so that each understands the other better. But as for combining the two, I feel that it's not something that should be done. I see branches of my own tradition being sold (I use the word literally) in the US to a christian middle america - not as it seems on the surface, to encourage understanding, but to open up book sales and lecture tours. Meditation and religion are money. The Buddhist ideal is purposely watered down and misinterpreted so that it will seem relevant to the believers of just about any faith at all, purely to get more followers.

    If we speak very vaguely then it's easy to get two religions to sound similar - in fact few are so similar to Christianity as Islam, but, Islam is not the flavour of the month, Buddhism is, and many are jumping on the buddist bandwagon to pull in younger people who might be disillusioned with Christianity. Winning hearts and minds is what it's about today, for all the wrong reasons I'm sad to say. Sadly, I'm in a position where I can actually see it taking place and actually know some of the teachers doing it.

    Unfortunately, many traditions are being turned into money making machines, and I think we have to consider that things might not be taking place here or there with our best interests at heart.

  20. SvgGrdnBeauty

    SvgGrdnBeauty only connect

    Mmm probably the idea that Buddhism has no God is from that good ol' Protestanization of Singhalese Buddhism by Col. Olcott. He pretty much stripped Buddhism of all its ritual and "mythology" ...leaving Westerners with a stripped down version... like just the 4 Noble Truths..and not even the real story of Buddha's birth or anything... when you consider this as opposed to perhaps Buddhism in situ in the countries that practice can see why many think there is no God in Buddhism.

    That is also why you find many Christian Buddhists...b/c many think its a godless philosophy ...there for they are not worshiping any other god (a la 10 commandments)... therefore they can feel not guilty to add this philosophy to their religion.

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