Other Religions

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Other Religions

Postby sshai45 » Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:28 am

Hi.

Does Buddhism consider itself to be the one right religion, and all the others wrong, like how most religions approach other religions? I remembered asking a member here a similar question once in a private mail, but I figured it'd be best perhaps to ask it again on the public forum, where everyone can discuss.

To me, it seems there is room in Buddhism for the "I'm right and all you are wrong" idea. Namely, note that there are things called "wrong view" in Buddhism, and many of these may overlap with the doctrines of other religions, i.e. things accepted as doctrinal in other religions are considered as "wrong view" in Buddhism. For example, the view that there exists a soul. It is the norm in the Abrahamic religions, in Hinduism, and many, many other religions. Yet according to Buddhism this is wrong view, self view, "eternalism". If only Buddhism has all the "right views", then doesn't it make sense to say "Buddhism is the one true religion, and all the rest are invalid"? If not, then what would Buddhism believe the result to be of believing in, deliberately and firmly, non-Buddhist religions, including all wrong views therein, and also expounding those views?
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Re: Other Religions

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Jul 03, 2012 4:02 am

Hi, sshai,
There are a lot of questions in your post but most of them are extensions of the first and so don't really need a separate answer.
Q: Does Buddhism consider itself to be the one right religion, and all the others wrong, like how most religions approach other religions?
A (mine, anyway :tongue: ): Not to anywhere near the same extent. Buddhism is internally more pluralistic than most religions and (partly for that reason, I think) externally more tolerant. Buddhists tend to think that good ideas are good ideas regardless of their source, and that most religions have good ideas in them. Consequently ...
Q2: If only Buddhism has all the "right views", then doesn't it make sense to say "Buddhism is the one true religion, and all the rest are invalid"?
A2: No. It makes much more sense to say all the rest are somewhat valid.

As for your last question, this particular Buddhist can't begin to imagine anyone capable of "believing in, deliberately and firmly, non-Buddhist religions, including all wrong views therein, and also expounding those views" because that would involve believing in a hundred conflicting religions at once. :tongue: But if you mean someone simply believing and expounding any one religion, I would probably accept that they are doing the best they can with the knowledge they have been given, but gently discourage them from thinking they had the only right answers and an obligation to convert the rest of us.

:namaste:
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Re: Other Religions

Postby fig tree » Tue Jul 03, 2012 4:34 am

There is a story from the Maha-parinibbana sutta about the Buddha's dying days in which "Subhadda the Wanderer" asks the Buddha a similar question (as translated by Ven. Thanissaro, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.16.5-6.than.html):

Venerable sir, these brahmans & contemplatives, each with his group, each with his community, each the teacher of his group, an honored leader, well-regarded by people at large — i.e., Purana Kassapa, Makkhali Gosala, Ajita Kesakambalin, Pakudha Kaccayana, Sañjaya Belatthaputta, & the Nigantha Nataputta: Do they all have direct knowledge as they themselves claim, or do they all not have direct knowledge, or do some of them have direct knowledge and some of them not?


The Buddha in his answer sets aside the question as stated and answers instead,

In any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold path is not found, no contemplative of the first... second... third... fourth order [stream-winner, once-returner, non-returner, or arahant] is found. But in any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold path is found, contemplatives of the first... second... third... fourth order are found.


It seems like a good idea to reformulate issues that are presented as sectarian in a non-sectarian way, and then to speak to the specifics only to the extent that one's own knowledge allows one to. To me, yes, it looks like Buddhism is the best place to look for support in cultivating the eightfold path, but that path is more important than whether it's practiced under the label of "Buddhism". It might be that some practice it but don't call it that. My grasp of it is weak in many ways. Many people of other religions (who are like me not noble ones) have done better at cultivating many of the individual skillful qualities that are needed on the path. Not pretending that all paths are equally valid, and striving to practice rightly, but being restrained in how we judge others' practices, is just being realistic.

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Re: Other Religions

Postby befriend » Tue Jul 03, 2012 7:46 pm

look for the shorter and longer discourse on the lions roar, it is about why buddhism is the only religion that produces the four kinds of saints.
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Re: Other Religions

Postby daverupa » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:00 pm

befriend wrote:look for the shorter and longer discourse on the lions roar, it is about why buddhism is the only religion that produces the four kinds of saints.


If I may quote an extended section of the following:

The Lion's Roar: Two Discourses of the Buddha by Bhikkhu Ñanamoli, edited and revised by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

Section 2. The Buddha opens the discourse by disclosing the content of this roar. He tells his monks that they can boldly declare that "only here" (idh'eva) — i.e., in the Dispensation of the Enlightened One — is it possible to find true recluses of the first, second, third and fourth degrees. The expression "recluse" (samana) here refers elliptically to the four grades of noble disciples who have reached the stages of realization at which final deliverance from suffering is irrevocably assured: the stream-enterer, the once-returner, the non-returner and the arahant. The "doctrines of others" (parappavada), the Buddha says, are devoid of true recluses, of those who stand on these elevated planes. In order to understand this statement properly, it is important to distinguish exactly what the words imply and what they do not imply. The words do not mean that other religions are destitute of persons of saintly stature. Such religions may well engender individuals who have attained to a high degree of spiritual purity — beings of noble character, lofty virtue, deep contemplative experience, and rich endowment with love and compassion. These religions, however, would not be capable of giving rise to ariyan individuals, those equipped with the penetrative wisdom that can cut through the bonds that fetter living beings to samsara, the round of repeated birth and death. For such wisdom can only be engendered on a basis of right view — the view of the three characteristics of all conditioned phenomena, of dependent arising, and of the Four Noble Truths — and that view is promulgated exclusively in the fold of the Buddha's Dispensation.

Admittedly, this claim poses an unmistakable challenge to eclectic and universalist approaches to understanding the diversity of humankind's religious beliefs, but it in no way implies a lack of tolerance or good will. During the time of the Buddha himself, in the Ganges Valley, there thrived a whole panoply of religious teachings, all of which proposed, with a dazzling diversity of doctrines and practices, to show seekers of truth the path to liberating knowledge and to spiritual perfection. In his frequent meetings with uncommitted inquirers and with convinced followers of other creeds, the Buddha displayed the most complete tolerance and gracious cordiality. But though he was always ready to allow each individual to form his or her own convictions without the least constraint or coercion, he clearly did not subscribe to the universalist thesis that all religions teach essentially the same message, nor did he allow that the attainment of final release from suffering, Nibbana, was accessible to those who stood outside the fold of his own Dispensation. While this position may seem narrow and parochial to many today, when reaction against the presumptions of dogmatic religion has become so prevalent, it is not maintained by the Buddha as a hidebound dogma or from motives of self-exalting pride, but from a clear and accurate discernment of the precise conditions required for the attainment of deliverance.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Other Religions

Postby cooran » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:35 pm

Hello sshai45, all,

These articles may be of interest:

BUDDHIST PERSPECTIVES ON TRUTH IN OTHER RELIGIONS: PAST AND PRESENT by JOHN MAKRANSKY
http://www.ts.mu.edu/content/64/64.2/64.2.5.pdf

A Buddhist perspective Do all religions say the same thing? from Bhikkhu Blog
http://bhikkhu.wordpress.com/2006/08/27 ... ame-thing/

with metta
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Re: Other Religions

Postby JBG » Tue Jul 03, 2012 8:49 pm

sshai45 wrote:If not, then what would Buddhism believe the result to be of believing in, deliberately and firmly, non-Buddhist religions, including all wrong views therein, and also expounding those views?

I don't know about the results of just believing in something, but whatever their religion is (or isn't), if people act with good morality and love, compassion etc towards other beings, I believe that they have a good chance of going to heaven and staying there for a long, long time.
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Re: Other Religions

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Jul 03, 2012 9:21 pm

AIM WebsitePāli FontsIn This Very LifeBuddhist ChroniclesSoftware (Upasampadā: 24th June, 1979)
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Re: Other Religions

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:10 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Take a look at the Tittha Sutta — Various Sectarians

Thank you, bhante. I have known that parable since I was a little child but I never knew it was in the suttas. :smile:

:namaste:
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Re: Other Religions

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jul 03, 2012 10:20 pm

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Other Religions

Postby sshai45 » Wed Jul 04, 2012 11:27 pm

I just discovered this, which seems like it might add more fuel to the argument that a case can be made for Buddhism considering itself to be "the one right religion, and all the others as wrong" -- in this case, certain beliefs of those religions are not said merely to be false, but invariably outright destructive, with an apparent implication that if you follow them, you're going to be a bad person(!). The belief, in question, is theism:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... didea.html

In Buddhist literature, the belief in a creator god (issara-nimmana-vada) is frequently mentioned and rejected, along with other causes wrongly adduced to explain the origin of the world; as, for instance, world-soul, time, nature, etc. God-belief, however, is placed in the same category as those morally destructive wrong views which deny the kammic results of action, assume a fortuitous origin of man and nature, or teach absolute determinism. These views are said to be altogether pernicious, having definite bad results due to their effect on ethical conduct.


But I'm not 100% sure about it, since it then goes on with:

Theism, however, is regarded as a kind of kamma-teaching in so far as it upholds the moral efficacy of actions. Hence a theist who leads a moral life may, like anyone else doing so, expect a favorable rebirth. He may possibly even be reborn in a heavenly world that resembles his own conception of it, though it will not be of eternal duration as he may have expected. If, however, fanaticism induces him to persecute those who do not share his beliefs, this will have grave consequences for his future destiny. For fanatical attitudes, intolerance, and violence against others create unwholesome kamma leading to moral degeneration and to an unhappy rebirth.


Which, while still considering theistic belief false, nonetheless seems to conflict with the first paragraph, because that paragraph seems to say that not only is the theistic belief false but that if you follow this belief, you're gonna be a bad person, and this says that such might not be the case (the "bad person" bit). Though it then also mentions fanaticism as being a problem, which makes sense, but the first paragraph makes no such distinction. So I'm not 100% sure if it fuels the "I'm right and all else is bad" argument or it doesn't. What to make of this?
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Re: Other Religions

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Jul 05, 2012 12:02 am

sshai45 wrote:I just discovered this, which seems like it might add more fuel to the argument that a case can be made for Buddhism considering itself to be "the one right religion, and all the others as wrong" -- in this case, certain beliefs of those religions are not said merely to be false, but invariably outright destructive, with an apparent implication that if you follow them, you're going to be a bad person(!). The belief, in question, is theism:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... didea.html

In Buddhist literature, the belief in a creator god (issara-nimmana-vada) is frequently mentioned and rejected, along with other causes wrongly adduced to explain the origin of the world; as, for instance, world-soul, time, nature, etc. God-belief, however, is placed in the same category as those morally destructive wrong views which deny the kammic results of action, assume a fortuitous origin of man and nature, or teach absolute determinism. These views are said to be altogether pernicious, having definite bad results due to their effect on ethical conduct.


But I'm not 100% sure about it, since it then goes on with:

Theism, however, is regarded as a kind of kamma-teaching in so far as it upholds the moral efficacy of actions. Hence a theist who leads a moral life may, like anyone else doing so, expect a favorable rebirth. He may possibly even be reborn in a heavenly world that resembles his own conception of it, though it will not be of eternal duration as he may have expected. If, however, fanaticism induces him to persecute those who do not share his beliefs, this will have grave consequences for his future destiny. For fanatical attitudes, intolerance, and violence against others create unwholesome kamma leading to moral degeneration and to an unhappy rebirth.


Which, while still considering theistic belief false, nonetheless seems to conflict with the first paragraph, because that paragraph seems to say that not only is the theistic belief false but that if you follow this belief, you're gonna be a bad person, and this says that such might not be the case (the "bad person" bit). Though it then also mentions fanaticism as being a problem, which makes sense, but the first paragraph makes no such distinction. So I'm not 100% sure if it fuels the "I'm right and all else is bad" argument or it doesn't. What to make of this?

According to all this, theism as such is not evil although it may lead to bad actions such as "fanatical attitudes, intolerance, and violence against others." The quotes still do not say theism will make you a "bad person". That phrase is entirely your own, sshai - it doesn't appear in your quotes.
In fact, the quotes you present in this post align nearly 100% with my first response to you. I am beginning to think you are unwilling to look at the answers we have given you but want to find answers that fit your preconceptions. That's not helpful to you or to us.

:thinking:
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Re: Other Religions

Postby sshai45 » Thu Jul 05, 2012 1:09 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:According to all this, theism as such is not evil although it may lead to bad actions such as "fanatical attitudes, intolerance, and violence against others." The quotes still do not say theism will make you a "bad person". That phrase is entirely your own, sshai - it doesn't appear in your quotes.


The phrase does not appear, no, but the first quoted text seemed to say that "theism" had "definite bad results". Definite. Not "maybe". Definitely. And no, it doesn't say "a bad person" -- you're right about that -- but what would you call someone whose ethics are shot?

Kim O'Hara wrote:In fact, the quotes you present in this post align nearly 100% with my first response to you. I am beginning to think you are unwilling to look at the answers we have given you but want to find answers that fit your preconceptions. That's not helpful to you or to us.

:thinking:
Kim


It's not a question of "willingness" -- otherwise I wouldn't be asking for answers. What happens is I see these kind of statements, and then I can't help but the first thing that comes to my mind is "this is putting down other religions, this is suggesting that the other religions will make you bad". As to me it's very simple: I see a belief called "morally destructive" and what else is supposed to come to mind when thinking about what that is saying about the other religion that holds that belief?
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Re: Other Religions

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Jul 05, 2012 1:31 am

sshai45 wrote:It's not a question of "willingness" -- otherwise I wouldn't be asking for answers. What happens is I see these kind of statements, and then I can't help but the first thing that comes to my mind is "this is putting down other religions, this is suggesting that the other religions will make you bad". As to me it's very simple: I see a belief called "morally destructive" and what else is supposed to come to [my] mind when thinking about what that is saying about the other religion that holds that belief?

Okay, I can see the problem a bit more clearly but I do still think it's mainly your own self-created problem. I have bolded parts of your response to highlight just how much of it comes from your own perceptions and knee-jerk responses.
One distinction that you might find useful in sorting it out is the difference between evil, malicious or blasphemous on the one hand and merely unhelpful, misguided or ignorant on the other. They are both "bad" but in quite different senses, and Buddhism has very little interest in the first sense. We tend to say that actions have consequences (that's kamma) and it's better, smarter, to choose actions and beliefs with good consequences.

:namaste:
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Re: Other Religions

Postby sshai45 » Thu Jul 05, 2012 2:03 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
sshai45 wrote:It's not a question of "willingness" -- otherwise I wouldn't be asking for answers. What happens is I see these kind of statements, and then I can't help but the first thing that comes to my mind is "this is putting down other religions, this is suggesting that the other religions will make you bad". As to me it's very simple: I see a belief called "morally destructive" and what else is supposed to come to [my] mind when thinking about what that is saying about the other religion that holds that belief?

Okay, I can see the problem a bit more clearly but I do still think it's mainly your own self-created problem. I have bolded parts of your response to highlight just how much of it comes from your own perceptions and knee-jerk responses.
One distinction that you might find useful in sorting it out is the difference between evil, malicious or blasphemous on the one hand and merely unhelpful, misguided or ignorant on the other. They are both "bad" but in quite different senses, and Buddhism has very little interest in the first sense. We tend to say that actions have consequences (that's kamma) and it's better, smarter, to choose actions and beliefs with good consequences.

:namaste:
Kim


So then you're saying that belief in other religions has bad consequences, right? In what way does holding such a "pernicious", "morally destructive" view affect whether you are a "bad person"? As if what seems obvious to me is in fact wrong, then what is the truth?
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Re: Other Religions

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Jul 05, 2012 2:48 am

sshai45 wrote:So then you're saying that belief in other religions has bad consequences, right?

Not quite. More that belief in other religions can have bad consequences
sshai45 wrote:In what way does holding such a "pernicious", "morally destructive" view affect whether you are a "bad person"? As if what seems obvious to me is in fact wrong, then what is the truth?

Again, there is a difference between evil and misguided. 'Holding a "pernicious", "morally destructive" view' can lead to bad consequences without the holder of those views being evil and (to return to the OP) Buddhism accepts that that there are a lot of sincere believers in other religions who are good people - although not everything they do is good and not everything they believe is correct.

:namaste:
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Re: Other Religions

Postby Doshin » Fri Jul 06, 2012 8:26 am

sshai45 wrote:Hi.

Does Buddhism consider itself to be the one right religion, and all the others wrong, like how most religions approach other religions? I remembered asking a member here a similar question once in a private mail, but I figured it'd be best perhaps to ask it again on the public forum, where everyone can discuss.

To me, it seems there is room in Buddhism for the "I'm right and all you are wrong" idea.


Buddhism states that I should avoid killing other beings; Buddhism is right, and all others are wrong; so if religion X states that killing should be avoided, it is wrong ?

sshai45 wrote:Namely, note that there are things called "wrong view" in Buddhism, and many of these may overlap with the doctrines of other religions, ...


So if some part of a religion is wrong, everything that this religion states, is wrong ?

Personally I think, that everyone has his/her set of glasses, that makes each view of the world different; depending on the view, we all see different truth's.

My truth is the truth to me, and not necessarily the truth for you.
Knowing about dhamma, does not imply knowing dhamma
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Re: Other Religions

Postby sshai45 » Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:19 am

So if I get this right, it seems that Buddhism may not believe in "I'm right and all the rest are wrong" in its strict, literal sense -- meaning "Buddhism is TOTAL truth" and "all other religions are TOTAL falsehood", or in the sense that, say, fundie Christianity likes to use ("if you don't follow me, you're wicked/a child of Satan/whatever!"). But, on the other hand, it does appear to believe that it's "right" and the others are "wrong" in the sense that "right" means "this will lead to the final end of suffering (Nibbana)" and "wrong" meaning "this will not lead to that". Or "right" means "contains the WHOLE path to the end of suffering", "wrong" means "contains only part of it, mixed with things that actually hinder instead of helping". I.e. only through Buddhism (or something resembling it very greatly, at least, e.g. Noble Truths, Anatta, etc.) will you gain Nibbana. You may get reborn into the heaven realms if you live a saintly life true to the teachings of one of the other religions, but you're not going to get Nibbana, the final release, since the other religions promote views and things that are not conducive to Nibbana but hindrances to it (like the belief in soul, etc. -- a form of "eternalism").

And so perhaps maybe instead of saying "Buddhism is the one true religion and all others are wrong", as that carries the implication of "totally false", one should instead say "Buddhism believes it is the truest religion, the only one capable of achieving permanent freedom from death and suffering, and all the others are not equipped to do that, and are at least in part wrong".
Last edited by sshai45 on Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Other Religions

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jul 18, 2012 5:30 am

sshai45 wrote:So if I get this right, it seems that Buddhism may not believe in "I'm right and all the rest are wrong" in its strict, literal sense -- meaning "Buddhism is TOTAL truth" and "all other religions are TOTAL falsehood", or in the sense that, say, fundie Christianity likes to use ("if you don't follow me, you're wicked/a child of Satan/whatever!"). But, on the other hand, it does appear to believe that it's "right" and the others are "wrong" in the sense that "right" means "this will lead to the final end of suffering (Nibbana)" and "wrong" meaning "this will not lead to that". Or "right" means "contains the WHOLE path to the end of suffering", "wrong" means "contains only part of it, mixed with things that actually hinder instead of helping". I.e. only through Buddhism (or something resembling it very greatly, at least, e.g. Noble Truths, Anatta, etc.) will you gain Nibbana. You may get reborn into the heaven realms if you live a saintly life true to the teachings of one of the other religions, but you're not going to get Nibbana, the final release, since the other religions promote views and things that are not conducive to Nibbana but hindrances to it (like the belief in soul, etc. -- a form of "eternalism").
More or less that is so, but I wonder if you have come across any religion that does not do this.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Other Religions

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jul 18, 2012 6:02 am

sshai45 wrote:
And so perhaps maybe instead of saying "Buddhism is the one true religion and all others are wrong", as that carries the implication of "totally false", one should instead say "Buddhism believes it is the truest religion, the only one capable of achieving permanent freedom from death and suffering, and all the others are not equipped to do that, and are at least in part wrong".
Interesting addendum, and probably closer to the truth than the original paragraph. And my question still stands: any other religion out there that does not see itself as being the, more or less, correct way and the others missing something?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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