Are Buddhists a kind of Pelagians?

are Buddhists a kind of Pelagians?

How so?

I think he means that they seem to believe they can save themselves by their own good works.

The problem is, without a Divine Lawgiiver, their definition of good is totally of their own making. They have no evidence of the ultimate source of their belief in good or evil.

For this reason, they change the argument to one of enlightenment, not knowledge of Good or Evil. But this only make their argument more murky. For what is the reason for this enlightenment to be considered worthy of following? What is the “worhthiness”, the good or evil, of this belief?

peace
steve

Buddhist theology is different enough from Christianity that you can’t really apply such terms. Councils that defined and condemned heresies were always against groups of Christians or quasi-Christians that shared their sacred text and convictions in Christ in some fashion, but deviated from it in some grave manner. For a completely separate religion like Buddhism, original sin / salvation / grace all need to be learned from the bottom up. This is why you had Councils against Arianism or Nestorianism, but didn’t have Councils that were held for the purpose of condemning, say, Greek paganism as “a heresy”. It wasn’t a heresy but rather a completely separate religion from the bottom up.

No: the first two Noble Truths, that all existence is suffering and that suffering is caused by desire, are rather similar ideas to the taint of the Fall, which makes them quite non-Pelagian.

Some forms of Buddhism may appear similar to Pelagianism, e.g., Theravada’s working towards Enlightenment, whereas Mahayana schools have more intervention by bodhisattvas and Amitabha even has salvation by faith.

Exactly! Now, the question is - was the Buddha really on the calendar of saints at one point in time? I’ve heard that he was, but why would Christians put a pre-Christian atheist (who didn’t even believe in the concept of an immortal soul) on the calendar of saints in the first place?

Now, on to the topic of heresies, it appears that the Gospel of John was written, in part, to combat early heresies, such as adoptionism (the heresy that stated that Jesus was born only with a human nature, and became the “Son of God” by His death and resurrection) and Docetism (the heresy that Jesus was a divine being, only appearing to be human, and only appeared to die on the cross - many forms of this heresy have Jesus choosing a substitute to make it look like He died on the cross; meanwhile, Jesus is standing next to the cross, invisible, laughing; Islam actually has its roots in this Christian heresy).

The Gospel of John is emphatic in saying that Jesus was always God (stated throughout the Gospel from the beginning onward) and was really also a real person who really died and really rose from the dead (which is why John mentions the water and blood flowing out of Jesus’s heart - to emphasize that Jesus really died, and the reason why John has Thomas inspect Jesus’s wounds after Jesus rose from the dead - to emphasize that it was really Jesus who died and rose - not some stand-in).

Only in a very vague sense. Buddhism does not have the Fall, sin, God or salvation. Christianity does not have enlightenment or nirvana.

Buddhism says that the world is unsatisfactory. The unsatisfactoriness is caused by our own selfish desires. If we eliminate our selfish desires then the unsatisfactoriness is also eliminated. The method for eliminating our selfish desires is specified. Does that count as Pelagianism?

In the very general sense that our own enlightenment is down to our own efforts, then Buddhism can be seen as vaguely Pelagian. Even then, the Pure Land Buddhists see 99% of the effort coming from the Amida Buddha and 1% of the effort coming from ourselves.

rossum

Good works are necessary, but not sufficient. Good works alone get you a better rebirth. To attain enlightenment you also need meditation.

The problem is, without a Divine Lawgiiver, their definition of good is totally of their own making. They have no evidence of the ultimate source of their belief in good or evil.

All the evidence we need is in the world around us. Karma (moral law) does not need a divine lawgiver, any more than the law of gravity does. Karma is like gravity, it comes built into the universe. Throw a stone up in the air and you will get hit on the head by a falling stone. Actions have consequences:

[The Buddha said:] “Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are bad; these things are blameable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,’ abandon them. … Kalamas, when you yourselves know: ‘These things are good; these things are not blameable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness,’ enter on and abide in them.”

– Kalama sutta, Anguttara Nikaya, 3.65

A shorter version might be, “By their fruits shall you know them.”

For this reason, they change the argument to one of enlightenment, not knowledge of Good or Evil.

Knowledge on its own is useless. I might have the best possible knowledge of how to reach the top of the mountain and the best possible maps of the routes up the mountain, but unless I get up out of my chair and actually walk up the mountain, then all that knowledge is useless.

For what is the reason for this enlightenment to be considered worthy of following?

Do you like dying? Again and again and again and again … ?

[The Buddha said:] “What do you think, monks: Which is greater, the tears you have shed while transmigrating and wandering this long, long time — crying and weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — or the water in the four great oceans?”

“As we understand the Dhamma taught to us by the Blessed One, this is the greater: the tears we have shed while transmigrating and wandering this long, long time — crying and weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — not the water in the four great oceans.”

"Excellent, monks. Excellent. It is excellent that you thus understand the Dhamma taught by me.

“This is the greater: the tears you have shed while transmigrating and wandering this long, long time — crying and weeping from being joined with what is displeasing, being separated from what is pleasing — not the water in the four great oceans.”

– Assu sutta, Samyutta Nikaya, 15.3

The enlightened avoid rebirth, and hence re-death. If you are not enlightened then you will be born again and die again.

rossum

He was, see Barlaam and Josaphat from the Catholic Encyclopedia. Stories of the life of the Buddha travelled west from India through Persia, becoming distorted and Christianised over time. Eventually they became popular and their, by then Christian, protagonists were canonized.

IIRC, the Buddha has now been downgraded to secondary status, like a number of other early semi-legendary saints. A pity. It would be a nice ecumenical gesture to reinstate him. Most Buddhists are happy to consider Jesus as being a Bodhisattva, a status higher than any of the gods.

rossum

Well, you have Maya, which is pretty much Sin+Fall, and Nirvana is salvation from Samsara. For us, either instantaneous conversion-salvation or theosis (the gradual process of sanctification) makes a pretty good analogue for enlightenment: it is the realisation of the Liberating Truth.

As soon as we look at any of the details of those, the analogies are going to founder, but there are some general ideas which are shared.

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