Buddhism and Christianity?

What are your thoughts on this faith? It came into existence in India/Nepal about 500 years before Christ based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha).

As I understand it, Buddhism teaches that a fundamental aspect of reality is change (impermanence). But people become attached to things because of our ego, our sense of self or our personality, and we make our attachments a part of who we are. Because of change, we are bound to experience loss and if we don’t learn how to overcome it then we will experience suffering. Thus attachment is the root of all suffering in Buddhism. By following the eightfold path, we learn that our egos are an illusion, and we can finally begin to let go, and upon letting go of our attachments there is complete freedom as there is no longer any worry or desire because we are slaves to nothing anymore, we are Buddhas. Of course for most people it takes many lifetimes for karma to be perfected as we are trapped in a cycle of death and birth (samsara), so we continue to move to higher or lower levels of consciousness (rebirth) until there is full enlightenment and Nirvana where we fully become one with reality (or you could become a Bodhisattva and delay Nirvana in order to help lower level beings achieve Buddhahood). That is my understanding of the religion (please correct me if I got any of that wrong.)

Is there anything valuable we as Christians can take from this? Obviously it cannot be fully reconciled with the Christian faith but I can’t help but to notice a lot of similarities with Christian spirituality.

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There are commendable philosophies that are nice to read and take in. It’s full of rich culture and practices but in my opinion overall There is a lot that can’t be of fundamental value and carryover to our Faith because our faiths foundation is Jesus Christ and the Church’s inception was at Pentecost.

[1 Corinthians 2:5]

That your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

[2 Corinthians 9:8]
And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

[Revelation 22:18-19]

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book

I have a loved one who has practiced Buddhism for decades and it’s a true shame that although she was raised Methodist she is leaning more towards a more “falser” religion that doesn’t even acknowledge Jesus Christ and Lord and savior.

The Roman Catholic faith has an immense ocean of Grace’s and knowledge (not including the Bible) of Tradition, teaching amd the Saints that are wise beyond what we can comprehend because they were given the grace to walk in the doorsteps of Our Lord and received and adored him in the Blessed Sacrament which is the source of all spiritual good and growth

I learn more about humanity and the supernatural reading Thomas Aquinas or Augustine and listening to Fulton Sheen than Buddhism respectfully speaking

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You’re absolutely right in saying that there are a lot of similarities because, indeed, there are. For both faiths, both believe that our “life” doesn’t end on earth, and both fight for truth (but we take two different paths). I think it’s fair enough to say we can certainly jointly learn from one another. Pope Francis seems to get along very well with the Dalai Lama, so the two aren’t in a staunch sort of war.

Rarely would I agree with the Mormons, but they believe that there is some degree of truth in every philosophy to life, and I think as Catholics, we need to be more open to the idea that other religions have good qualities about them. The Eightfold Path/Wheel seems to offer beneficial lessons for everyone. However, while we can learn from Buddhism, it shouldn’t be our guiding principle in life.

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Our faith should rest in the wisdom of God, but we also shouldn’t reject what is good advice from others.

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Yes everyone can give good advice. Ive known a couple of smart atheists that could give good political and street smart advice but so long as you’re careful when it comes to sacred dogma and teaching. I think that’s why its more easier (for me at least) to approach a Buddhist than a Muslim or Scientologist

I don’t know many of the details of the Buddhist philosophy with regards to Reincarnation and Karma but the basic concept can be valuable in forming an understanding of why we are on earth and what were supposed to be doing while here.

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I agree. I think the basic concept hits the nail on the head, but since it is a Dharmic religion there are “leftovers” from Hinduism in it that aren’t quite right. However, the Dharmic religions as I understand don’t really have a concept of the fall and so the closest you can come concerning the doctrine of the resurrection of the body, operating under that worldview, is reincarnation. Hindus and Buddhists do have slightly different ideas about what exactly reincarnation is but it’s one of the principle doctrines that unites the Dharmic religions much in the same way the resurrection of the dead at the end of the age unites the Abrahamic faiths. There is truth to be found in every religion, even blatant paganism because at least pagans understand that divinity does exist even if they venerate the wrong things, so even in the doctrine of reincarnation there is a glimmer of the resurrection of the body that God has promised us. Buddhism is an example of a pre Christian religion/philosophy that was able to unlock many mysteries through reason and I count it alongside Zoroastrianism and the Greek philosophical schools as being “Christianity before Christ” as St. Justin Martyr would say. I hold Buddha in the same regard as Zoroaster or Plato, and I have great respect for them all. Not everything they taught was right but we can’t blame them. I’m sure if they had met Jesus Christ in person they would have followed him.

Full disclosure: I am Buddhist.

Correct. What we think of as permanent and unchanging isn’t. We all change through our lives; it is an error to think of ourselves as unchanging – everything changes.

“Impermanent are all compound things.”
When one realises this by wisdom,
then one does not heed ill.
This is the Path of Purity.

– Dhammapada 20:5

Things are not intrinsically sorrowful, they appear sorrowful to us because they change and we imagine them permanent. The sorrow/suffering comes from the mismatch between changing reality and our imagining that things are permanent.

Everything changes: “You can never step in the same river twice because it is not the same river and you are not the same you.”

A very good summary. Congratulations.

Obviously, I come at this question from the opposite side.

Buddhism is less of an orthodoxy and more an orthopraxy, since Right Action is more important than Right Belief. You have to do the work yourself. Some Christians seem to rely on God to do the work for them. In Buddhism, nobody else can attain nirvana for you, you have to do it for yourself. Others can help, but in the end you have to do it. If you are hungry you have to eat that sandwich for yourself, no god or Bodhisattva can eat it for you.

The Buddha divided other religions into “useful” and “not useful”. To be useful a religion has to teach that actions have consequences: “As you sow, so shall you reap.” Some religions, such as extreme Calvinism, are not useful because they say actions do not have consequences. I sometimes think that too much of Christianity is looking to avoid consequences: “God will forgive me.”

Buddhism does not have the concept of sin, so neither does it have the forgiveness of sin. You are responsible for all your actions and you will suffer the consequences, both good and bad. Hence the Buddhist emphasis on mindfulness in all actions: you need to look before you leap.

Neither in the sky nor in mid-ocean,
nor in a cave in the mountains,
is there a place where a man
can escape his evil deed.

– Dhammapada 9:12

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I see Buddhism as mental hygiene. It does not really have many beliefs other than the 4 Noble Truths and the 8 Fold Path.

Four Noble Truths

  1. Suffering exists
  2. Suffering arises from attachment to desires
  3. Suffering ceases when attachment to desire ceases
  4. Freedom from suffering is possible by practicing the Eightfold Path

Eightfold Path
Right View
Right Thought
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Contemplation

Hey,

Can you explain this more?

How can we be more mindful? Is there a technique Buddhists practice (other than meditation)?

Thanks!

You’re correct in that. Many Christians of the Protestant fold see salvation like this. This is why I think Protestantism is a huge misinterpretation of Christianity. For Orthodox (and Catholic) Christians, salvation is a process and something which we as humans directly participate in, God doesn’t do it all, salvation doesn’t happen all at once. Although we don’t take the extreme view (Pelagianism) that we do it all, if that were the case then there would be no need for the cross. Instead we take more of a middle way. We do have to allow God to work in us, and by allowing God to work in us we grow in spiritual development from infants to adults. Part of growing in God’s grace is by doing good works, going to church, praying, and participating in the sacraments/mysteries. We have to make an effort or else God can’t do anything, it’s not like he can force his grace on us like the Calvinists insist. The goal in Orthodox Christianity is Theosis, which is complete union with God’s energies (grace). Theosis is a threefold process and most don’t achieve it in this lifetime, many of the saints first had to pass through an intermediate state after death whereby they could complete their salvation.

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Mindfulness is a form of meditation, see Vipassana meditation. The most common other form is Samatha meditation, though both usually start off in the same way: counting breaths (which is a lot more difficult than it first appears). The mind very easily flits away to something else.

Controlling that flitting is the first step to mindfulness; always paying attention to here and now, not about what happened last week or what might happen next week.

All those phone-zombies are not being mindful of here and now.

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The Buddha was a smart man, in my view. He believed that most attachments are destructive and I agree with him on that. Where I would have my strongest disagreements with buddhists is in the category on God(s). From what I have heard, buddhists basically believe that it is irrelevant as to whether a God exists or not. I, on the other hand, believe that it’s tremendously important. Another disagreement is on reincarnation; I don’t believe in it, but buddhists do. I partially agree with karma [cause and effect] because I believe that God interacts with us based on our actions. He saves those who draw near to Him and He will judge our souls on Judgment Day.

I have read the Dhammapada and I loved it. The Dhammapada is kind of like the book of Proverbs in the Bible. Both of those books consist of short verses that often contain a lot of wisdom. I respect various teachings in Buddhism, like renouncing unnecessary anger, helping people who are needy and meditating. However, I ultimately I believe that Buddhism leads to spiritual darkness because it, in essence, pushes God to the side. We have to live a God-centred life if we are to be saved and that’s what buddhists need to hear.

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@rossum, I’ve studied Buddhism, especially Zen for quite a while.

Here’s the problem I’ve always had with Buddhism:

If there’s No Self, what’s experiencing everything and what’s reincarnating?

Walpola Rahula Thero (1907–1997): “The person who dies here and is reborn elsewhere is neither the same person, nor another”. [Theravada Buddhism]

@Vico,

That doesn’t make any sense.

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Think of a chain. A chain is one thing, but it is a compound made of parts: the links. Each link is attached to other links, but no single link extends the whole length of the chain. That is our series of lives: each life is attached to a previous life, and to a subsequent life, but all three lives are different.

Even within a single life the same can be observed. Are you the same now as you were two hours after you were born? In a day’s time you will be different again because you will have memories of the things you have not yet done today.

One of the common errors that lead to suffering is the idea of a Self. Capitalising a word like that is very often a sign of reification: taking something that is an immaterial mental concept and trying to make it into something real. Trying to make something appear as what it is not is one of the causes of suffering, yet another mismatch between your internal mental world and the real world external to ourselves.

Our self (small ‘s’) is a convenient short label for a particular changing collection of parts. Our Self (capital ‘S’) has all sorts of extraneous baggage attached to it, which only gets in the way.

I would say no. I think that on the surface Buddhism can be appealing and seem to point to a kinder, gentler existence. However at its core, I think Buddhism is amoral. In Buddhism I believe it is about karma, not morality, with the individual trying to avoid bad karma on themselves.

I was told once by a Buddhist monk that when dealing with an incident of pest infestation you should avoid killing the pests yourself, but if you employ someone else to do it, in terms of karma, the bad karma from killing the animals would not be attached to you, but to the person doing the killing. So from this it would seem that essentially is not about the effect on the animals, but avoidance of karma.

In terms of removing attachment, this would seem to be consistent. If we remove all attachments from things of this world then it ultimately points to a position where we do not care about these things or what happens to them, and it seems that this ultimately will mean everything, even our fellow man. Then, I think it becomes about ourselves (before, presumably, we ulimately lose attachment to our self).

First of all, there are many kinds of Buddhism.
I would say this: Catholics should be Catholics and not Buddhist. What is lacking in Catholicism that Budddhism can offer???

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Yes but they don’t mention sin and repentance.
This is why Buddhism is problematic.
It is for people who want to be religious without a God. Even Buddhist want a God. This is why they have deities.

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