A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

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

Postby a modest mouse » Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:18 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:

:smile:

As someone else pointed out, it was a bit condescending, but it seems to come from a good place: "Christianity appears like small child: with very good intentions and a pure heart (the gospel) but without the knowledge of the bigger picture." I was mildly offended, if not amused. And there are plenty of well meaning christians who treat buddhism the same, as the child, and the Gospels as the bigger picture. The 2nd Vatican council uses the label "anonymous christians" for good buddhist, atheist, jews etc...who in this view are christians but just not in name.

I'm sure many buddhist might be slightly offended by Catholics referring to them as "anonymous christians", even though the theologian Karl Rahner who came up with the name, was coming from a good place, to say that even those who don't profess the christian faith, can still be a part of God's community of believers.

There are some problems in comparing Christianity and Buddhism, because the first question comes from what version of Christianity are you referring to? The Christianity of Jurgen Moltmann, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Rene Girard, Karl Barth, Herbert Mccabe, Dostoevsky, or that of Pat Robertson and John Hagee? The christianity of Catholics, or that or Dispensationalist?

I do think it's natural tendency for individuals outside of the christian tradition, to attempt to grasp it from the perspective of naive forms of christianity, because it comes off as the easiest to grasp, just like many individuals outside of buddhism will attempt to grasp it from the perspective of hollywood types.

If you really want to seriously reflect on Christianity from the Buddhist perspective, you should do so on the actual text, the Bible, those original communities, the problems and dilemmas they were dealing with, and what sort of questions the person of Christ answered for the writers of the Gospel.

These text were written from the perspective of oppressed people, constantly on the verge of despair and violence. And this sort of bottom up perspective, makes the judeo-christian perspective unique to other religious traditions. Christianity is a paradoxical religion, that centers itself around the poor and suffering, proclaiming that "God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something (1 Cor 1).

Its emblem, is what the radical marxist atheist philosopher Slavoj Žižek refers to as "The Monstrosity of Christ". The Gospels are a narrative of a heinous and violent tragedy, of a death of a innocent man, made into scape goat.

It's audience is those like the Psalmist who look on that image and writes of his Babylonian captors: "Happy those who seize your children and smash them against a rock.", if you don't relate and have never known such feelings of violent resent, than you are not that audience, and are alien to the perspective here.

The Gospels take this sense of violence and resent and transforms it into a radical sense of love, that proclaims forgiveness and compassion to the tyrants and murders of human history. It proclaims to the oppressed it's not a violent revolt that liberates us, but Love is the only true liberator. In the new testament view, the real light of the world are those oppressed communities that can transform their resentment into a radical form of Love, a love found in a relation with a God, embodied by a mutilated innocent, a God, Jesus calls Father.

I only have a naive understanding of Buddhism, but if you are going to compare these two great religions, you would have to do so from here.
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Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jan 07, 2010 6:41 am

a modest mouse wrote: . . . These text were written from the perspective of oppressed people, constantly on the verge of despair and violence. And this sort of bottom up perspective, makes the judeo-christian perspective unique to other religious traditions. . . .

The Gospels take this sense of violence and resent and transforms it into a radical sense of love, that proclaims forgiveness and compassion to the tyrants and murders of human history. It proclaims to the oppressed it's not a violent revolt that liberates us, but Love is the only true liberator. In the new testament view, the real light of the world are those oppressed communities that can transform their resentment into a radical form of Love, a love found in a relation with a God, embodied by a mutilated innocent, a God, Jesus calls Father.

I only have a naive understanding of Buddhism, but if you are going to compare these two great religions, you would have to do so from here.

Interestingly, there are through out the history of Christianity those who have embodied the virtues you mentioned, but Christian history full of just the opposite. It is stained dark with the blood of those killed in the name of the Prince of Peace, in the name of love and in the name of an all-loving god.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
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Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby a modest mouse » Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:59 am

tiltbillings wrote:Interestingly, there are through out the history of Christianity those who have embodied the virtues you mentioned, but Christian history full of just the opposite. It is stained dark with the blood of those killed in the name of the Prince of Peace, in the name of love and in the name of an all-loving god.


Well, the interesting thing about Christianity, is that it predicts its own failure. And only in this failure, like the failure of the cross, does it truly emerge. In the gospels Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God is something perceived as insignificant. and small like the mustard seed, but once planted and watered, once toiled over and labored, does it grows to be a wild and flourishing harvest.

Christianity has appealed to various people for various reason. It appealed to Clovis I as way to unite the Frankish Tribes to conquer Rome, it has drawn tyrants, and peasants, slaves, and slave owners, those storing their wealth in silos, and those renouncing their prosperity to live with the poor, the humble and the proud, men of war, and men of peace, and yet Paul claims its not the tyrant who holds the truth, but that "God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something."

How it all turns out, well that's anybody guess, but no one can say that Jesus didn't see this sorry state of affairs, the prevision of his message, coming.
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Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:04 am

a modest mouse wrote:."

How it all turns out, well that's anybody guess, but no one can say that Jesus didn't see this sorry state of affairs, the prevision of his message, coming.

Yeah, well, the problem is its god. And as for being a failure, that is ongoing process, at the expense of many, many lives and considerable knowledge.
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: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Jechbi » Thu Jan 07, 2010 4:40 pm

If this thread is going to devolve into a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, then let's at least be clear about which "tail" we're trying to pin on a Christian's practice.

If "the tail" is "its god," then I think it would be worthwhile to make sure everyone is using the term "god" to refer to exactly the same idea.

If "the tail" is the bloody history associated with Christianity over the centuries, then I think it would be worthwhile to ask what relevance that has for a Christian's practice. This is not to suggest that it's necessarily irrelevant. But it seems off-topic to the OP.

More broadly, I think its worthwhile to consider what benefit to oneself or others we expect will accrue as a result of using this Dhamma discussion forum to broadcast our opinions about what's wrong with a Christian's approach to spiritual practice.

And if the argument is that Christianity is no good because there have been Christians who have behaved egregiously, then we can find fault with any religious institution that has ever produced a violent person (such as Devadatta, for example). The proper focus for evaluation is to examine how an approach works here and now, for oneself.
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But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Jan 07, 2010 6:00 pm

Jechbi wrote:If this thread is going to devolve into a game of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, then let's at least be clear about which "tail" we're trying to pin on a Christian's practice.
Or it a matter of whose ox is gored. This is an interesting msg, but not to the point of the OP, which presents material used as a basis for an apologetic in response to Christianity. Some of the texts quoted in their raw form do not work all that well, but the principles within them, when drawn out, are sufficient to form an appropriate critique of Christianity. Again, this thread is about whether the texts referenced are sufficient to form an effective Buddhist response to Christian critiques of Buddhism. Given the highly aggressive evangelical missionizing in Buddhist countries, this is not an unreasonable thing to do.

Certainly mouse’s elegant apologetic defense of Christianity is interesting, but is hardly above an apologetic response, which is what I have given.

If "the tail" is "its god," then I think it would be worthwhile to make sure everyone is using the term "god" to refer to exactly the same idea.
You mean Christians do not believe in an omniscient, permanent, independent, unique cause of the cosmos?

If "the tail" is the bloody history associated with Christianity over the centuries, then I think it would be worthwhile to ask what relevance that has for a Christian's practice. This is not to suggest that it's necessarily irrelevant. But it seems off-topic to the OP.
If the OP is advocating an apologetic response to Christianity, which he/she is, Christian history is on topic.

More broadly, I think its worthwhile to consider what benefit to oneself or others we expect will accrue as a result of using this Dhamma discussion forum to broadcast our opinions about what's wrong with a Christian's approach to spiritual practice.
That is your opinion, but this forum is also a market place of ideas, and it is a place where a Buddhist can ask about a Buddhist critique of Christianity (which is likely in response to the aggressive attempts at evangelizing by Christians in Buddhist countries) and that is appropriate subject to explore.

And if the argument is that Christianity is no good because there have been Christians who have behaved egregiously,
I am not arguing that Christianity is no good. I would simply argue that it does not occupy the moral high ground many Christians like to assume onto themselves in face other religions. Not all of them are that way, but enough in that it becomes something that can be reasonably addressed.

then we can find fault with any religious institution that has ever produced a violent person (such as Devadatta, for example).
Devadatta did not kill brahmins in the name of the Buddha. Certainly Buddhists have acted badly throughout the its history, especially if we take all of Buddhism into consideration, and even so, it is small potatoes compared to what has been wrought in the name of Jesus and the god of the Bible.

The proper focus for evaluation is to examine how an approach works here and now, for oneself.
The proper focus is that the OP is about Buddhist apologetics in response to Christianity. The apologetics offered in the referenced material essentially strips Christianity of its core claims about Jesus and god. You may not like that, but is a reasonable question to explore. On the other hand you can certainly start your own thread, discussing what you see as appropriate action.
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: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby a modest mouse » Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:22 pm

tiltbillings wrote:"Certainly mouse’s elegant apologetic defense of Christianity is interesting, but is hardly above an apologetic response, which is what I have given."


It should be noted that I don't do apologetics. I have no desire to win anyone admiration, or souls to Christianity. I'm not providing you a defense of Christianity, for the same reason if someone were interpreting themes and elements of a Dostoevsky novel isn't providing a defense. If I were to study Buddhism, its various texts, and founders, I'm sure I would be fairly decent at explaining it without actually being a Buddhist myself, and without my reading of it, being an apologetic.

I am a christian, and my presence in this forum, is to learn about buddhism, so that my understanding of it isn't naive, or bought on the sly. I could just go ahead and label buddhism as this sort of hollywood new age religion, appealing to wealthy western folks, and say that I agree with the atheist Slavoj Zizek, that western buddhism is just a setup to be "perfect consumers in a contemporary capitalism."

But I'd realize that I was settling for a caricature, and even though such buddhism is the sort one encounters in the many Americans one finds peddling it in the open, it doesn't seem to be the authentic buddhism advocated Guatama Buddha.

So most of what I expect to find here is not an apologetic for Buddhism, but rather a confronting and correcting of my naive assumptions about it. And individuals here should realize that I am only doing the same with Christianity. As a christian, I spend a great deal of time studying the text, it's history, and development, it's context, the surrounding and religious views that influenced the development, as well as experiences that shaped it, and gave it perspective.

But claiming that Jerry Fallwell doesn't hold such views is as meaningless to me as saying, J. Lo doesn't hold such views on buddhism, would be meaningless to you.

The views that matter to me here, are the views that if I were to delve a bit more into buddhism, and explore the text, and the person behind it all, that I would reach the same conclusions too.

"I am not arguing that Christianity is no good. I would simply argue that it does not occupy the moral high ground many Christians like to assume onto themselves in face other religions. Not all of them are that way, but enough in that it becomes something that can be reasonably addressed."


Well, many Buddhist and Christians possess the same sort of arrogance about their religion, the link in the OP is evident of that, as it labels christianity a small child. And I'm sure many christians and buddhist who don't announce this in public, feel this way about their respective beliefs regardless. I'm not offended by it, because I can respect a person who feels this way, and has no qualms admitting it. And my curiosity would have do with more of why an individual feels that way, than it would with being angered by the fact that he does.

Certainly Buddhists have acted badly throughout the its history, especially if we take all of Buddhism into consideration, and even so, it is small potatoes compared to what has been wrought in the name of Jesus and the god of the Bible.


And let's not forget that Buddhism has about 350 million people with about 280 million of them in China alone, while Christianity has about 2 billion, and that Christianity has a wide gamut of cultures and people under it's umbrella.

....

I do think they're are many parallels between Christianity and Buddhism, and that this is brought on by similar experiences, and concerns of both Jesus and the Buddha, and where these individuals differ is a result of experiences and concerns unique to each other. While the Buddha as a wealthy man that renounced his prosperity, upon being an onlooker at the sick, the aged, and the suffering, Jesus is the suffering victim, he's not the onlooker as he is the one we stare at.

The Buddha perspective is from the top down, the Gospels are from the bottom up. The Gospels concern is the resentment and violence, and the scapegoating of suffering people, it's a text for a community in the midst of war and oppression, and this is where much of the distinction between the two religions lay.
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Re: A Buddhist Ontology of Christian Claims Using the Pali Canon

Postby Calahand » Thu Jan 14, 2010 12:55 pm

a modest mouse wrote:The Buddha perspective is from the top down, the Gospels are from the bottom up. The Gospels concern is the resentment and violence, and the scapegoating of suffering people, it's a text for a community in the midst of war and oppression, and this is where much of the distinction between the two religions lay.


I agree, things were relatively peaceful and stable in that part of the world that buddha came about in, and not as violent as the environment where christ was born, and most of the basic needs and necessities of life were met for most of the people during buddha's time, (housing , food, clothing) etc.. but people were still not happy and this led to the contemplative schools about the nature of the self, the universe etc. they understood that people suffered, despite having so many Gods, so many theories, and so many "Christian" type of religions where there is a messiah and they need to "surrender" their "soul" to him to be happy. I think this was one of buddha's driving factors, why he left his comfortable life in his palaces, because he realized the ignorance of it all, life is meant to be lived skillfully, buddha saw the fundamental flaw in the brahminical traditions of his time (which were very similar to christianity where you surrender to your beloved God).
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