Apologetics Resources for Buddhism

I’ve been dialoguing with a so-called Zen Buddhist on another forum. I’m having trouble with some of the claims of Buddhism - the most important one being… if I understand correctly…

…that… literally “nothing” is better than good or evil? :confused:

At least, that seems to be what it boils down to. :confused: Pursuing a detachment from all things - nothingness - seems to be the goal of Buddhism (at least he has described it).

How can I logically reply to such an argument?

You cannot reply logically to that argument. Zen is not rooted in logic. Zen is also entirely compatible with Catholicism.

You should read more about Zen, and the Chan school in general, and try to understand it rather than attack it. It would do you a world of good.

A good place to start might be Father Kennedy’s Morning Star Zendo.

It may be an idea to do some research of your own, I’m writing an essay on buddhism for my degree at the moment and I have noticed that a lot of what I’d been told about buddhism is wrong, including a lot of what my buddhist brother in law says because buddhism is ‘cool’ and theres a lot of people who call themselves buddhists without knowing much about it.

As far as I understand it buddhism aims to dettach you from want, desire, hatred and anger because the only lasting peace comes from enlightenment at which point your energy goes to a higher plane of existance and you can escape the suffering of samsara (which is the cycle of being reborn, ageing dying and then reborn again) The idea isnt so much to detach yourself from good but that it will ultimately be unsatisfying until you achieve enlightenment because happiness is temporary and tainted by doubt about how long it will last.

The endgame goal is freedom from Samsara, or the cycle of suffering. Suffering (Dukkha) in this case is often incompletely translated as simply suffering, but it includes a different range of things than just mental and physical pain, anger, stress, anxiety, and general dissatisfaction. A core belief amongst all the Buddhist traditions is the four noble truths:

  1. Suffering Exists
  2. There is a cause of suffering (Desire)
  3. To end suffering, one must end Desire
  4. To End desire, one must follow the eightfold path.

Again, here’s where an issue in translation causes misunderstanding for Christians and other westerners in general trying to make sense of it. The third noble truth is what reccomends “detachment from desire”, which could be misunderstood as denying the self of emotion and feelings and connections with others, or to tune out the universe and empty the mind completely. – That would actually be nearly the complete opposite of what the right action would be.

Imagine that I gave you a fat slice of extremely delicious and unhealthy cheesecake, and you were eating it happily, and when you had about 50% of it, I went and took it from you mid bite. You’ll probably have one of two reactions: You will A) Get upset in some form or another because you no longer have the cheesecake to eat or B) Realize that it was a tasty cheesecake and you were happy to have the bit you head.

A would be an example of that unhealthy attachment that we’re told to learn to break. You’re lamenting the loss of your cheescake and fighting negative emotions because of it instead of appreciating it. B, expresses an understanding of contentment, and of transience. All things are transient, the things we like, the people we love, and ourselves. Rather than to dwell in the past, or dream of the future, the goal is to live in that moment we are living in and be happy with what we have; and when things go bad, we must keep ourselves centered and go with the flow because that suffering is also transient.

Good and Evil don’t exist in the way that Christians understand evil because Christianity teaches of Absolute alignments personified by Characters (God/Satan). Buddhist perception of Good/Evil is not absolute because the reality of situations can be quite gray. When we think of actions that affect others or the world around us, that is Karma (action). Actions that help us and others are seen as acts of skillful (Good) karma, and acts that we do that we knowingly harm others and the self with are unskillful (Bad) karma. The Buddhist view of Karma is not a cosmic justice system, if we suffer for the things we do, it is because our own actions punish us, not another outside force, much like touching a hot stove with your bare hand. Nobody punished you, you just got the inevitable result of touching a stove.

Also of note is the destruction of the self/ego and form is emptiness and emptiness is form: You, and reality as you know it are delusions --non-existent. Obviously you do exist, and this reality does exist, but what doesn’t truly exist is your perception. The way you see things are not the way things are because you are looking through the universe as you being the center of it. Everything you see is biased by you, just because you exist. You can’t say that an apple is red and be absolutely correct --what if you’re perception of colors is skewed, or what if the friend next to you is colorblind and he sees a completely different color? Who’s to say you’re right and he’s wrong or vice versa?

The ability to recognize this, and not only view the world objectively, but as seeing yourself as part of the universe and all things and not merely just a thinking meatbag occupying a space in that universe is integral, especially when it comes to how we treat others.

If a man is out on the street begging for food, and we give him a dollar because “we” feel bad, or “we” are in a better position than him so we should throw him some change, is the wrong view. This is Pity, and considered a near enemy of the true virtue of compassion. Putting a small Christian spin on it, Pity is the wrong view because we are incorrectly seeing ourselves as seperate for that suffering man. And we’re not. We are all children of God, he should not be a stranger to us simply because we don’t know his face. We would hopefully feed our hungry brother because we love him and do not want to see him hungry --because if he suffers, so do we.

That is the point of destroying the ego, and nothingness, because when you erase the lines that seperate you from the universe, you can connect with anyone, and the more love you have the better for all sentient beings. So I don’t think it’s something you really want to refute, but rather something you hopefully will take some time to dig deeper and understand. It’s just a different perspective of meeting a similar end.

If you want to read more about the interesting interplay between Zen and Christianity, you should check out Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh

good but that it will ultimately be unsatisfying until you achieve enlightenment because happiness is temporary and tainted by doubt about how long it will last.http://www.interbankforex.info/g.gif

http://www.interbankforex.info/g.gifand try to understand it rather than attack it. It would do you a world of good.

Well I would say that makes some sense, but I believe true devotion to Christ can lead one to that state just as well as Buddhism. We can learn some of the principles from zen, but we should not think that the world or physical plane is “bad”. That would be gnosticism. Detachment doesn’t necessarily mean being a gnostic though.

Take his wallet and see if he gets mad. :stuck_out_tongue:

I disagree with a poster above who says that Zen and Catholicism are compatible. They walk side by side for a long time, but diverge. Zen has many beautiful and valuable teachings, but it’s ultimate end is different than in Catholicism.

As for apologetics resources, you might want to google Paul Williams. He has a book, but it’s difficult to get hold of. It’s just his personal story, not really something that would convert anyone.

Here’s an article about him.

EWTN has an audio recording for their program, The Journey Home, on their website. You can search on their website for “buddhist” and “Paul Williams.”

there was also an article from "this rock " journal ,wherin a catholic couple,became buddhists ,then returned to catholicism.i read their story,about 5 yrs ago.may be it still available here on this site.

That is how I see it too, a goal towards the annihilation of oneself.

Christians most certainly seek attachment, to Jesus Christ.

But the biggest difference, as already noticed, is the end goal. Enlightenment appearing to me as a form of self-salvation, when you finally get it, or let go of it, you’ve become, or realize, what you really are. For Christians, we cannot save ourselves. We are reliant on Jesus Christ.

We know who we are, which is not an illusion but truth. If you step out in front of a car tomorrow, you could die. What more evidence do you need of the reality of the car, motion, colliding objects, etc?

Experience seems to me, to be denied in Buddhism (or at least ignored), which makes it similar to nihilism.

There seems to be a misconception here about the nature of reality in Buddhism as viewed by us in the West. Blavatsky explains this very well in a way that is accessible to a western mind. Hopefully this will help:

[quote=H. P. Blavatsky]The idea of Eternal Non-Being, which is the One Being, will appear a paradox to anyone who does not remember that we limit our ideas of being to our present consciousness of existence; making it a specific, instead of a generic term. An unborn infant, could it think in our acceptation of that term, would necessarily limit its conception of being, in a similar manner, to the intra-uterine life which alone it knows; and were it to endeavour to express to its consciousness the idea of life after birth (death to it), it would, in the absence of data to go upon, and of faculties to comprehend such data, probably express that life as “Non-Being which is Real Being.” In our case the One Being is the noumenon of all the noumena which we know must underlie phenomena, and give them whatever shadow of reality they possess, but which we have not the senses or the intellect to cognize at present. The impalpable atoms of gold scattered through the substance of a ton of auriferous quartz may be imperceptible to the naked eye of the miner, yet he knows that they are not only present there but that they alone give his quartz any appreciable value; and this relation of the gold to the quartz may faintly shadow forth that of the noumenon to the phenomenon. But the miner knows what the gold will look like when extracted from the quartz, whereas the common mortal can form no conception of the reality of things separated from the Maya which veils them, and in which they are hidden. Alone the Initiate, rich with the lore acquired by numberless generations of his predecessors, directs the “Eye of Dangma” toward the essence of things in which no Maya can have any influence. It is here that the teachings of esoteric philosophy in relation to the Nidanas and the Four Truths become of the greatest importance; but they are secret.

So Buddhism is not denying the reality of our experience. However, the world that we experience is a conditional reality. It is a relative, rather than an absolute, truth.

This concept is known as the Two Truths. While I hesitate to post a wikipedia page, since I’ve found they often contain misinformation, I’ll direct you to it just to make you aware that it exists: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_truths_doctrine

I hope that was somewhat helpful, both to you and the OP, in understanding what the “nothing” in Buddhism really is.

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