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Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions? - Dhamma Wheel

Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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christopher:::
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Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby christopher::: » Thu Jul 30, 2009 11:50 am

Should Buddhists be tolerant and respectful of other religions? I say yes, for myself, but also recognize that to tolerate intolerance may also be important. Tolerance and respect cannot be forced. For those of you who recognize some intolerance in your own views, is there a reason you can point to? I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and have realized it would be hypocritical for me to expect others to be more tolerant when I'm also intolerant of their intolerance, lol. Might be good to talk about though, maybe, to clear the air?

Why are people intolerant? Where is the fine line crossed from critical thought into aversion? Do you ever feel uncomfortable on this forum, with expressions of religious intolerance by others? Is there a danger in being too open minded or should we be doing more to promote open-mindedness and tolerance among ourselves?

Some thoughts from Bikkhu Bodhi, that Mike has shared frequently:

"Buddhist tolerance springs from the recognition that the dispositions and spiritual needs of human beings are too vastly diverse to be encompassed by any single teaching, and thus that these needs will naturally find expression in a wide variety of religious forms. The non-Buddhist systems will not be able to lead their adherents to the final goal of the Buddha's Dhamma, but that they never proposed to do in the first place. For Buddhism, acceptance of the idea of the beginningless round of rebirths implies that it would be utterly unrealistic to expect more than a small number of people to be drawn towards a spiritual path aimed at complete liberation. The overwhelming majority, even of those who seek deliverance from earthly woes, will aim at securing a favorable mode of existence within the round, even while misconceiving this to be the ultimate goal of the religious quest.

To the extent that a religion proposes sound ethical principles and can promote to some degree the development of wholesome qualities such as love, generosity, detachment and compassion, it will merit in this respect the approbation of Buddhists. These principles advocated by outside religious systems will also conduce to rebirth in the realms of bliss -- the heavens and the divine abodes. Buddhism by no means claims to have unique access to these realms, but holds that the paths that lead to them have been articulated, with varying degrees of clarity, in many of the great spiritual traditions of humanity. While the Buddhist will disagree with the belief structures of other religions to the extent that they deviate from the Buddha's Dhamma, he will respect them to the extent that they enjoin virtues and standards of conduct that promote spiritual development and the harmonious integration of human beings with each other and with the world."


Bikkhu Bodhi,
Tolerance & Diversity
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby genkaku » Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:07 pm

"Tolerance" is one of those yummy notions that everyone loves to love. More -- as regards others -- it is a good exercise, even when just faking it.

But on a serious note, I think that if someone invents for themselves something called "religion," they will invariably come to a point where they have to ask, "Why am I tolerating this stuff?" or some similar question. Without a willingness to investigate and find an actualized answer to such questions, "religion" and the "tolerance" it extols remain in the realm of intellectual and emotional Boy Scout-ism.

To reflect back with seriousness is probably better than to extol what may be a pretty good thing.

FWIW.
Smile just one smile




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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jul 30, 2009 1:23 pm

I very rarely see intolerance of other religions on these forums, though perhaps that's because I define tolerance differently than you. To me it is not intolerance to declare one teaching different than another teaching, for example to say Buddhism and Christianity teach different things. Likewise, it is not tolerance to say "all religions teach the same". Tolerance is saying "You follow a different path than I follow and that's OK."
- Peter


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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby Jechbi » Thu Jul 30, 2009 1:31 pm


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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Jul 30, 2009 1:44 pm

There was an excellent book on this topic called " Tolerence " ( appropriately enough :smile: ) by Bhikkhu Kantipalo, now out of print I think. The Bhikku argued that tolerence means that with live peaceably alongside that with which we dont agree, not that we reduce everything to a soup. He pointed out that the Buddha described the Dhamma that he taught as " the only way " to Nibbana. That therefore tolerence in Buddhist terms means recognising whatever merits lay in other religions and philosophies without ever losing sight of the absolutely unique nature of The Buddhadharma. Tolerence of Christianity for example includes allowing its followers to freely practice their belief system without let or hinderance, it can also mean acknowledging that within its ranks and body of belief Christianity has much that is admirable. However Buddhist tolerence also makes it clear that at the heart of Christianity lies a basic error, a block to Enlightenment, to whit, the belief in an objectified God figure.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jul 30, 2009 3:05 pm


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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby Jechbi » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:11 pm

Well, the Buddha was particularly gifted in gearing his message appropriately to his audience. We're not necessarily so gifted. So even if we use the words of the Buddha, if the timing is off, if the circumstances aren't quite right, then it might not be skillful.

I guess that's what emoticons are for ...

:spy:

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby Individual » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:14 pm

The best things in life aren't things.


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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:21 pm

I feel that other religions should be tolerated and respected (in most cases, unless they cause harm).
However, I don't think that means that we have to agree with them or proclaim that they are true.

:anjali:


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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:40 pm

The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby Tex » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:58 pm

I feel it's important to be respectful of other religions, as all religions have noble and worthy goals.

But religion is just a tool, it's like a hammer -- depending on the user, a hammer can be used to build a homeless shelter or to bludgeon someone to death.

So while all religions are worthy of respect in and of themselves, I don't think tolerance of all religious beliefs is skillful -- religious extremism is quite possibly the biggest danger to this planet and should be regarded as such, not tolerated.
"To reach beyond fear and danger we must sharpen and widen our vision. We have to pierce through the deceptions that lull us into a comfortable complacency, to take a straight look down into the depths of our existence, without turning away uneasily or running after distractions." -- Bhikkhu Bodhi

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." -- Heraclitus

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:36 pm

Yes

but there are several things going through this question


He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:53 pm

Depends what religious belief it is and the kind of belief it is, actually for any belief



The Roman Catholic religious belief that contraception is evil is a belief that needs to be heavily criticised because of the death and suffering its inflicting in aids ridden africa


The extremist who wants to bomb people or hang homosexuals because of his belief, that needs to be heavily criticised


The old lady who goes to mass because of the joy and comfort it gives in her twilight years is something that should be respected, tolerated and not criticised at all

So you see, IMO, there are different times and situations when tolerance should be practiced and when it shouldnt

Intolerance isnt always a bad thing, on a social level


If you believe in God, thats fine with me. However if you post your views on a discussion forum, then i will discuss them.

metta
Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Jul 31, 2009 12:18 am

I think the responses above are quite spot on.

I will just add that syncretism and perennial philosophy ie the belief that all religions point to the same essential truth, is something that should be approached with caution, in my opinion. Not because it's wrong but because it is often premature and harmful for one's spiritual development.

When Thich Nhat Hahn talks about the parallels between Buddhism and Christianity, we should remember that he has a better part of a century's worth of hardcore daily Buddhist practice under his belt. He is speaking from a deep recognition, rather than professing pleasant intellectual platitudes.

These "truths" are easy to believe but difficult to really experience. How can one maintain that all religions point to the same thing when one doesn't even know what one religion points to?

I, for one, struggle with basic things like living responsibly every minute. I procrastinate, make excuses, I am lazy and lose temper sometimes. So personally I don't feel I have the right to even touch certain things anymore until I've got the basics down pat.

So while I've seen posters here displaying quite a bit of resistance to syncretism and perennial philosophy, I wouldn't equate that with intolerance. Sure, building bridges and showing appreciation for diversity and richness of the world's spiritual traditions and their methods is a very important thing. This is the "political" aspect. As far as personal practice is concerned it is quite different. Each are sincere aspects of our functioning, but practice to get to the root needs to be focused and disciplined and mere appreciation of a wide range of approaches is not enough. In fact it can harmful. Rather what I feel is needed is a 100% commitment to a particular practice.

Sorry a bit off topic...

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Jul 31, 2009 12:29 am


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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby shjohnk » Fri Jul 31, 2009 12:43 am

I think we (Buddhists) should be tolerant of their BELIEFS, but certain actions should be condemned/opposed. I am most concerned with the activities of Christian missionaries who exploit the tolerance of traditional Buddhist countries to conduct flagrant missionary activities. One example that bugged me in particular was in Myanmar, where a group of Christians went to a monastery and volunteered to teach the monks English, which the abbot assented to. They used the 'classes' as a cover for preaching to the monks, using the Bible as their 'textbook' and showing one of those hammily acted, badly shot movies about the life of jesus that they make in the bible belt. The abbot there continued to allow this even after discovering their methods. This kind of activity should be opposed, in my opinion. It's funny that they don't do this kind of thing in Saudi arabia, do they? Of course, i'm not advocating violence towards these people, but they should be discovered and deported for such activities, and i think Buddhist organisations need to be more proactive in combatting this kind of activity. Apparently this kind of stuff is having a big impact in Sri Lanka too. If we're not careful, traditional Buddhist culture could really be threatened by this activity: Buddhists shouldn't be so tolerant they allow themselves to be targetted.

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby kc2dpt » Fri Jul 31, 2009 2:31 am

Dan, good post.
- Peter


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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby christopher::: » Fri Jul 31, 2009 2:46 am

Thanks everyone, for your responses.

I think i'm probably oversensitive to this issue because of my circumstances. No one in my family is Buddhist, in the United States. Not one of my closest friends is Buddhist. Most are Jewish. My wife's family is Buddhist, but its not something that we talk about, the dharma.

My parents are Unitarian Universalists, and that's how I was raised. Tolerance is probably one of the most important things for UUs. I teach at a Baptist Christian University in Japan. About half the faculty is Christian, half Buddhist. Most of our students are Buddhists, but don't practice or study the dharma that deeply. The atmosphere at our University is very tolerant, the Christians are respectful of the Buddhists, and visa versa. Religion isn't really a topic of discussion, actually. I guess that's a form of tolerance, in some ways. We just treat one another as people, fellow human beings. Religion doesn't come up as something to discuss.

While I've been drawn strongly to the dharma since the early 1980s I've also gone to Hindu and Taoist texts/writing at times, for inspiration and guidance. Native American Indian wisdom, as well. I'm not attracted to Christianity, Judaism or Islam, but I have close friends who practice, who seem to benefit in their lives from their faith. I find it all fascinating, the spiritual quest of humanity. The various paths are not all the same, but when people meet the world with an open heart and open mind, I don't really notice any differences. Like a guy who loves classical music hugging his friend who's into punk rock, the music is not primary, its simply part of the background. It's their connecting as two friends, as humans, that matters.

For me, a person's spiritual beliefs are something personal, that I respect, without judgment. And when others say critical things I tend to defend other faiths. I've noticed that this gets me into debates at times, and makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, sometimes, in discussions with fellow Buddhists, where other faiths are mentioned and criticized.

Maybe I need to simply steer clear of the conversations that deal critically with other religions?

:thinking:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby Dan74 » Fri Jul 31, 2009 6:38 am

What gave me a measure of peace in this regard was realizing that it's a lot more about the practitioner than the path.

Most religions have plenty of inspiration and wisdom in them. A good practitioner will benefit, a poor one can study with enlightened masters and gain next to nothing.

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Jul 31, 2009 7:14 am

There is an English expression, " Jack of all trades, master of none ". It referred originally to people who can turn their hand to a number of tasks , but had not served an apprenticeship.
There are many people who are open hearted, who have a real interest in a number of spiritual paths but have never done the apprenticeship. Of course the analogy is only partial because most of us in this life will always be apprentices, but apprenticeship for Buddhists is practising and doing the concommitant sutta study , its going for Refuge, with the implication that you will not take refuge in speculative beliefs or "gods". Its receiving instruction from the Sangha and/or a teacher. In other words if the apprenticeship is properly undertaken it leads to a focus on the Dhamma and away from comparitive religion as a kind of hobby interest.
The Dhamma is a complete path, which calls for a complete commitment.
:anjali:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.


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