A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Samvega » Wed Dec 30, 2009 4:00 pm

A friend of mine, and a true scholar of the Pali Canon, has put together an essay of excepts from the Pali Canon which poses an explanation of the fundamental Christian claims from a Buddhist ontology. It's very interesting stuff. He claims that the ontology outlined in the Pali Canon can in fact explain:


[*]How a being such as Jesus can descend and think himself to be the son of God.
[*]Why Christians believe the things they do regarding the path to God (using parallels from ancient indian schools of thought) and why those beliefs are incorrect
[*]The attaining of union with God through selfless love

You can check it out here: http://christianity.nibbanam.com/

I'd like to know what everyone thinks.
User avatar
Samvega
 
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2009 3:24 pm
Location: Tampa, FL USA

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby poto » Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:10 pm

Interesting read, and might be of some use the next time I get into a debate with Christians. Although, there were a few things that caught my eye.

For this part of the Tevijja Sutta, I think compassion is being mistranslated as pity.

78. 'And he lets his mind pervade one quarter of the world with thoughts of pity [29], ... sympathy [30], equanimity [31], and so the second, and so the third, and so the fourth. And thus the whole wide world, above, below, around, and everywhere, does he continue to pervade with heart of pity. . . . sympathy, . . . equanimity, far-reaching, grown great, and beyond measure.

79. 'Just, Vasettha, as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard -- and that without difficulty -- in all the four directions ; even so of all things that have shape or life, there is not one that he passes by or leaves aside, but regards them all with mind set free, and deep-felt pity, ... sympathy, ... equanimity.


After a brief search I found another translation, which looks better to me:

76. He then pervades the first direction with a heart filled with loving-kindness, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth; so above, below and all around; he pervades the entire world everywhere and equally with a heart filled with loving-kindness, abundant, expansive, limitless, free from enmity and ill will.

Just as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard without difficulty in all four directions; even so, of all things that have shape or life, there is not one that he passes by or leaves aside, but regards them all with a heart set free though deep-felt loving-kindness.

77. He then pervades the first direction with a heart filled with compassion, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth; so above, below and all around; he pervades the entire world everywhere and equally with a heart filled with compassion, abundant, expansive, limitless, free from enmity and ill will.

Just as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard without difficulty in all four directions; even so, of all things that have shape or life, there is not one that he passes by or leaves aside, but regards them all with a heart set free though deep-felt compassion.

78. He then pervades the first direction with a heart filled with empathetic joy, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth; so above, below and all around; he pervades the entire world everywhere and equally with a heart filled with empathetic joy, abundant, expansive, limitless, free from enmity and ill will.

Just as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard without difficulty in all four directions; even so, of all things that have shape or life, there is not one that he passes by or leaves aside, but regards them all with a heart set free though deep-felt empathetic joy.

79. He then pervades the first direction with a heart filled with equanimity, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth; so above, below and all around; he pervades the entire world everywhere and equally with a heart filled with equanimity, abundant, expansive, limitless, free from enmity and ill will.

Just as a mighty trumpeter makes himself heard without difficulty in all four directions; even so, of all things that have shape or life, there is not one that he passes by or leaves aside, but regards them all with a heart set free though deep-felt equanimity.

source: http://www.leighb.com/dn13_bv.htm



Also, this:
such a condition of things can in no wise be!


Would probably read better as, "such a condition of things can in no way be wise!" or "such a condition of things is not wise!"
"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C. S. Lewis
User avatar
poto
 
Posts: 363
Joined: Sat Oct 17, 2009 3:21 am

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Samvega » Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:29 pm

Yes, my friend is not a native English speaker, and translates the suttas himself, so there are mistakes sometimes.

I love his take on Christianity though, and that's why I shared it. He's know to remark to his Christian friends that he DOES believe in God, and the God himself (Brahma) is a Buddhist. Cracks me up.
User avatar
Samvega
 
Posts: 14
Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2009 3:24 pm
Location: Tampa, FL USA

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Kare » Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:48 pm

Samvega wrote:A friend of mine, and a true scholar of the Pali Canon, has put together an essay of excepts from the Pali Canon which poses an explanation of the fundamental Christian claims from a Buddhist ontology. It's very interesting stuff. He claims that the ontology outlined in the Pali Canon can in fact explain:


[*]How a being such as Jesus can descend and think himself to be the son of God.
[*]Why Christians believe the things they do regarding the path to God (using parallels from ancient indian schools of thought) and why those beliefs are incorrect
[*]The attaining of union with God through selfless love

You can check it out here: http://christianity.nibbanam.com/

I'd like to know what everyone thinks.


Please give your friends my best wishes for the new year, and my recommendation of two books that he may benefit from reading:

Richard Gombrich, "What the Buddha Thought", http://www.amazon.com/Buddha-Thought-BU ... 172&sr=8-1

Noa Ronkin, "Early Buddhist Metaphysics", http://www.amazon.com/Early-Buddhist-Me ... 230&sr=1-1
Mettāya,
Kåre
User avatar
Kare
 
Posts: 682
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2009 10:58 am
Location: Norway

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Dec 30, 2009 10:58 pm

Greetings,

Samvega wrote:He's know to remark to his Christian friends that he DOES believe in God, and the God himself (Brahma) is a Buddhist. Cracks me up.


South Park also claims that God is a Buddhist.

:D

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
User avatar
retrofuturist
Site Admin
 
Posts: 14678
Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2008 9:52 pm
Location: Melbourne, Australia

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Dec 31, 2009 2:57 am

More seriously, I see gaps, discrepancies or mistranslations between 'God' as understood by Christians and 'God' as expounded by the Buddha. The fact that people use the same word doesn't mean they are talking about the same thing.
Similarly, there are gaps between 'attaining ... union with God', 'going to Heaven' as understood by Christians, and 'attaining Nibbana'.

IMO, Buddhism and Christianity match best where they talk about what it is to be a good person. Beyond that, the differences are real, significant and intractable.

:namaste:
Kim
User avatar
Kim OHara
 
Posts: 3088
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jan 01, 2010 9:16 pm

Thanks Samvega,

A nice collection, that expands on this, for example:
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.

Tolerance and Diversity
Bhikkhu Bodhi
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ay_24.html

Metta
Mike
User avatar
mikenz66
 
Posts: 10414
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: New Zealand

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 02, 2010 8:02 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:More seriously, I see gaps, discrepancies or mistranslations between 'God' as understood by Christians and 'God' as expounded by the Buddha. The fact that people use the same word doesn't mean they are talking about the same thing.


That Worshipful Brahma, the Great God, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the Organizer, the Protection, the Creator, the Most Perfect Ruler, the Designer and Orderer, the Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be, He by Whom we were created, He is permanent, Constant, Eternal, Unchanging, and He will remain so for ever and ever." Digha Nikaya 24
Basically, it is the idea of an omniscient, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos that is addressed by the Buddha.
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19620
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Jechbi » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:08 am

Hi Kim,
Kim O'Hara wrote:The fact that people use the same word doesn't mean they are talking about the same thing.

Excellent point.

I think the "Buddha on Christianity" article referenced in the OP is entertaining, but it doesn't reach across the aisle in a manner that speaks to the Christian faithful, for exactly the reasons you state, Kim. For the superficial, stereotypical Christian, maybe this would be a good poke in the eye, but the exposition fails to address the core Christian orientation, which is the relationship between oneself and what Christians label as God.

All of the cosmology about a theoretical "God" person who is omniscient, omnipresent, benevolent, the first cause, etc., is fodder for a classroom philosophical debate, maybe, but it doesn't have much to do with the relational experience that appears to me to underpin the Christian approach to spirituality. This relationship involves an orientation that steps off from a completely different frame of reference from Theravada Buddhism: grace. These are different traditions, stemming from different cultures, using different labels, applying different concepts.

I am not going to defend the Christian approach to spirituality, but I will say that there's more to it than usually gets acknowledged on non-Christian discussion boards. It's easy to oversimplify what we don't understand.

I think most Christians reading the "Buddha on Christianity" article would dismiss it as completely missing the point.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
User avatar
Jechbi
 
Posts: 1268
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:38 am

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:18 am

Jechbi wrote:
I think most Christians reading the "Buddha on Christianity" article would dismiss it as completely missing the point.

There is more than enough within the Buddha's teachings that can reasonably be used, drawing out the implications and principles from the suttas (and many of those quoted above), that can be used effectively to address and adequately critrique the Christian concept of a god, not just a bearded guy in the sky, but a god that is an omniscient, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos that intervenes in history, that is supposedly love, beyond measure, etc..
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19620
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Jechbi » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:25 am

tiltbillings wrote:There is more than enough within the Buddha's teachings ... that can be used effectively to address and adequately critrique the Christian concept of a god, not just a bearded guy in the sky, but a god that is an omniscient, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos that intervenes in history, that is supposedly love, beyond measure, etc..
Yes, I have no doubt that you're correct. The philosophical God concept is easy to criticize (the question of evil, etc.). But these philosophical debates don't touch on the relational experience that seems to underpin Christian spirituality. All that philosophical stuff doesn't seem to make a lick of difference to many Christians. It's not the important part.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
User avatar
Jechbi
 
Posts: 1268
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:38 am

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:43 am

Jechbi wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:There is more than enough within the Buddha's teachings ... that can be used effectively to address and adequately critrique the Christian concept of a god, not just a bearded guy in the sky, but a god that is an omniscient, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos that intervenes in history, that is supposedly love, beyond measure, etc..
Yes, I have no doubt that you're correct. The philosophical God concept is easy to criticize (the question of evil, etc.). But these philosophical debates don't touch on the relational experience that seems to underpin Christian spirituality. All that philosophical stuff doesn't seem to make a lick of difference to many Christians. It's not the important part.

And with what are these Christians having a relationship?

As for addressing Christians, it depends upon what one is trying to do and to whom one is talking. If one is trying to answer a Christian polemical/apologetic critique of Buddhism for having no god, then clearly the "philosophical god concept " is be appropriate. There is no point in going out of one's way to try to convince anyone that their cherished believe is a bit of a problem, but it may be important to know how to address the issue of a supposed omniscient, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos if the situation requires it. Also, it is not a bad thing to get a handle on it for dealing with ideas of god that many of us have had to deal with in our Xtian lives from early childhood onwards before finding the Dhamma, an unhealthy relational experience with an all-knowing loving god who demands our love and fear, that lingers and causes guilt and consternation and false sense of security among other things.
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19620
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Jechbi » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:50 am

tiltbillings wrote:And with what are these Christians having a relationship?
I'm not going to be able to provide you with an answer.

tiltbillings wrote:As for addressing Christians, it depends upon what one is trying to do and to whom one is talking. If one is trying to answer a Christian polemical/apologetic critique of Buddhism for having no god, then clearly the "philosophical god concept " is be appropriate. There is no point in going out of one's way to try to convince anyone that their cherished believe is a bit of a problem, but it may be important to know how to address the issue of a supposed omniscient, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos if the situation requires it. Also, it is not a bad thing to get a handle on it for dealing with ideas of god that many of us have had to deal with in our Xtian lives from early childhood onwards before finding the Dhamma, an unhealthy relational experience with an all-knowing loving god who demands our love and fear, that lingers and causes guilt and consternation and false sense of security among other things.
Well, sure, it can have its uses. There are lots of different possible scenarios out there.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
User avatar
Jechbi
 
Posts: 1268
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:38 am

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:00 am

Jechbi wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:And with what are these Christians having a relationship?
I'm not going to be able to provide you with an answer.
"The assumption that a God is the cause (of the world, etc.) is based on the false belief in the eternal self (atman); but that belief has to be abandoned, if one has clearly understood that everything is impermanent and subject to suffering." Abhidharmakosha 5, 8 vol IV, p 1
We want - in the most elemental way - to be comforted by our protective parent.

Jechbi wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:As for addressing Christians, it depends upon what one is trying to do and to whom one is talking. If one is trying to answer a Christian polemical/apologetic critique of Buddhism for having no god, then clearly the "philosophical god concept " is be appropriate. There is no point in going out of one's way to try to convince anyone that their cherished believe is a bit of a problem, but it may be important to know how to address the issue of a supposed omniscient, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos if the situation requires it. Also, it is not a bad thing to get a handle on it for dealing with ideas of god that many of us have had to deal with in our Xtian lives from early childhood onwards before finding the Dhamma, an unhealthy relational experience with an all-knowing loving god who demands our love and fear, that lingers and causes guilt and consternation and false sense of security among other things.
Well, sure, it can have its uses. There are lots of different possible scenarios out there.
Also, letting go of a god is letting go of something that blinds us to paticcasamuppada.
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19620
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Jechbi » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:03 am

Thanks for your thoughts, Tilt. I'm not going to disagree with you.

My post was in resonse to this, from the OP:
Samvega wrote:I'd like to know what everyone thinks.

I understand that you disagree with my perspective, and I respect your point of view.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
User avatar
Jechbi
 
Posts: 1268
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:38 am

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Dan74 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:09 am

I would agree with Jechbi's point that such philosophical critiques are largely irrelevant to a serious practicing modern Christian. Besides if they feel so inclined, they will answer them on their ground, starting as they do from a different set of assumptions.

But again, experientially they miss the point, I agree.

Besides why is it important for Buddhist to feel superior to their old faith or some other faith? (rhetorical question, perhaps..)

On the other hand, having read the page, the material is interesting and though it is pretty patronizing of Christians, it does show just how much common ground for respect and understanding there is.

_/|\_
_/|\_
User avatar
Dan74
 
Posts: 2647
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 02, 2010 10:29 am

Dan74 wrote:I would agree with Jechbi's point that such philosophical critiques are largely irrelevant to a serious practicing modern Christian. Besides if they feel so inclined, they will answer them on their ground, starting as they do from a different set of assumptions.
Maybe, but no one is advocating knocking on doors to tell those benighted Xtians what is the truly true truth, but there is no reason a Buddhist cannot or should not be able, from their own perspective, respond to the Xtian notion of a god as it used as a basis to critique the Dhamma. It is a time honored thing that took place in India as Buddhists from the Buddha onward confronted the idea of an omniscient, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos and those who held such an idea.

Besides why is it important for Buddhist to feel superior to their old faith or some other faith? (rhetorical question, perhaps..)
Why does this have anything to do with feeling superior?

On the other hand, having read the page, the material is interesting and though it is pretty patronizing of Christians, it does show just how much common ground for respect and understanding there is.

There are Christians who have made serious attempts at understanding the Dhamma while remaining true to their vision of things. Good for them, but then there are those at the other end of the bell-curve who see it as war with anything that is not them. In the West, especially the USA which is god saturated, god is an important question for those who come to the Dhamma.
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19620
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Dan74 » Sat Jan 02, 2010 11:09 am

Yes, fair enough. For me practice is something personal and I don't feel very much inclined to defend it as much as such activities could prove intellectually stimulating and even interesting in some respects. But others might.

Of course it doesn't have to, but it tends to.

I understand. And I hope that eventually even as people deepen and establish themselves in practice, an appreciation and respect for the beautiful and spiritually nurturing aspects of Christianity may develop.

_/|\_
_/|\_
User avatar
Dan74
 
Posts: 2647
Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 11:12 pm

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Jan 02, 2010 4:24 pm

Dan74 wrote:
I understand. And I hope that eventually even as people deepen and establish themselves in practice, an appreciation and respect for the beautiful and spiritually nurturing aspects of Christianity may develop.

Where it can be found, but there would be a recognition of the unwholesome aspects arising from the god notion grounded in the self.
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
User avatar
tiltbillings
 
Posts: 19620
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2008 9:25 am

Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Jechbi » Sat Jan 02, 2010 5:30 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Where it can be found, but there would be a recognition of the unwholesome aspects arising from the god notion grounded in the self.
Where it can be found.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
User avatar
Jechbi
 
Posts: 1268
Joined: Thu Jan 01, 2009 3:38 am

Next

Return to Open Dhamma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: EmptyShadow and 3 guests