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Buddhism in the News


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

No Thanks I'll Stick with Buddhism.

Interesting article on proselytizing Buddhists in Asia titled, "No Thanks I'll Stick with Buddhism." I don't have much comment about this article except that it raises some good points but it also is something that we shouldn't get too worked up over. I'm more concerned about my own weaknesses right now. However, that being said I do think that some missionaries of other faiths are very disrespectful and not helping ease tensions between different religions.

By Zyrius, The Buddhist Channel, July 3, 2008

Singapore -- I read with interest the article "Planning the Demise of Buddhism" (,6724,0,0,1,0), which mentioned the book below.

Here is a critical analysis (written in 2007) of a highly erroneous excerpt from "Peoples of the Buddhist World: A Christian Prayer Diary" by Paul Hattaway, the international director of Asia Harvest. In case you think this is about harvesting crops or sheep, we are talking about people here - Buddhists in this case. Here is the passage:

"... let us commit ourselves to pray: to pray for the Dalai Lama himself, that he would meet the risen Lord Jesus and be confronted with ultimate truth, and for those who have embraced his erroneous 'gospel'... To the present generation of Westerners, who reject moral absolutes and despise any claim to spiritual exclusivity, it is no wonder the Dalai Lama is so popular. I've heard the Dalai Lama say, with a casual wave of his hand, 'If you think my message is nonsense, then forget it.' Thanks, I think I might, and I'll stick with Jesus, the true incarnation of God."

James: I have selected a few of the counter-points from the editorial to post but I urge you to read the rest of them from the full article.

4. The phrase "his erroneous 'gospel'" is itself erroneous in multiple ways. Firstly, out of respect for Buddhists, it should be written as "his 'erroneous' gospel" - since Buddhists do not believe the Buddhist teachings to be erroneous, even if Hattaway does. Ultimately, Buddhists too would see Christianity as "erroneous" in certain ways. (Note the respectful use of quotation marks in the previous sentence.) Secondly, the Dalai Lama teaches no "gospel", unless it is meant as "teaching" in general, instead of specifically Christian gospel. Thirdly, the teachings of the Dalai Lama are largely not his, but as passed down from the enlightened Buddha.

5. To insinuate that the Dalai Lama attracts those who are alluded to be immoral ("who reject moral absolutes") is itself immoral - because the Dalai Lama does not advocate the unimportance of morals. Well known for his great compassion, he is perhaps one of the most moral humans alive. He even wrote the best-selling book "Ethics for the New Millennium". How ethically unsound can he be? Buddhism also teaches very high moral standards - which even encompasses how animals and the environment should be treated.

6. Buddhism also does not "despise any claim to spiritual exclusivity". The excerpt hints that Christianity claims spiritual exclusivity. While it is alright to do so as a declaration of one's faith, it is not right to disrespect Buddhism just because it does not advocate spiritual exclusivity. Then again, does Buddhism really not advocate spiritual exclusivity? Buddhism respects other religions and philosophies in the sense that they might be part of the long journey to enlightenment. However, the Buddha did teach that any teaching that contains the Noble Eightfold Path can be considered the right path to liberation. It is interesting to note that no other religion meets this criteria fully yet. In this sense, Buddhism is spiritually exclusive too - though with great respect for all worthy faiths, including Christianity.

10. In summary, to openly ask Christians to pray for the Dalai Lama to see the error of his ways is loosely equivalent to asking Buddhists to pray for the best known living Christian leader to see the error of his ways. Imagine the outrage this would spark off on both sides. Of course, Buddhists are not openly claiming any religious leader to be erroneous. As analysed, this book should be banned - for it is an appalling insult to the ideal of different religions co-existing in harmony in today's religiously sensitive global village that is the world. The passage is an insult to the Dalai Lama, millions of non-Buddhists and Buddhists who follow his teachings, and the Buddhist community on the whole.

I shudder to imagine what other rude shocks fellow Buddhists might discover when they see the rest of the book. It was mentioned in Hattaway's preface - “Does it break God's heart today that hundreds of millions of Buddhists are marching to hell with little or no gospel witness? Does it break the Savior's heart that millions worship lifeless idols instead of the true, glorious Heavenly Father?” For Hattaway and company, who try so hard to impress their missionary efforts on Buddhists and those who are uninterested in converting to their faith, I have this quote to share from Annie Dillard -

Somewhere, and I can't find where,
I read about an Eskimo hunter who asked the local missionary priest,
“If I didn't know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”
“No,” said the priest, “not if you did not know.”
“Then why,” asked the Eskimo earnestly, “did you tell me?”

If her logic is watertight, perhaps the original sin is to preach about God to non-believers?

~Peace to all beings~

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Terri said...

This really got me thinking about my own experience with some of my friends. I explain to them my beliefs, and then they turn up their nose and tell me that God is a man in the clouds and can be nothing else. I'm glad that I can discuss religion with my friends, but I wish that they could open their minds just a little more.

Josh said...

The counter points were carefully thought out and logically sound; it's too bad that Paul Hattaway will most likely never read them. All too often religious zealots (of any religion, not just Christianity) will proclaim their beliefs as valid and absolute, and never listen to any response that does not echo said proclamation. I wonder what Jesus himself would say if he were to take the place of someone like Hattaway: "Yes that's right, you have sinned and are going to Hell because you don't like me." Many religions are, in fact, religions of peace.. Unfortunately, many practitioners of those same religions are not.

Jackson said...

I grew up as a Christian, so I have a pretty good idea about the heart-place that this was written from. My initial impulse is to be angry - which I am, if I'm honest. But the Buddhist way, as taught by precious people like Thich Nhat Hanh and His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, would be to see that the anger that arises is preceded by feelings of hurt, anger or loss. Seeing this will hopefully inspire us to respond to such statements (and the people who make them) with love and compassion. Such statements stem from ignorance - and I mean that in a respectful way. We all speak and act out of ignorance at times, and we all deserve a compassionate response.

I guess I could sum all of this up by a quote by Gandhi, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

They call him James Ure said...

Great discussion everyone. Terri unfortunately there are many who don't respect other religions--Buddhists too.

Josh: Yes unfortunately he won't read them. It's easy to make claims and insults form a distance.


I use to be a Christian too and know many who are wonderful people and would never condemn Buddhists in this way.

Fox2858 said...

Buddhist way is logic, i agree we must pray, but after that we must do somethng to make it happend.

luck meet opportunity meet unprepare is useless, but luck met opportunity with prepare is perfect

My Regards,

Eiric Bachtiar

Brian said...

The philosophical incoherence of Christianity compared with Buddhism.

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