Alright guys, so I am writing a report for a world religions class on Buddhism vs Catholicism. A little about our core beliefs, but mostly about the practice of meditation vs prayer. What do you guys think about similarities and differences between the two? Any insight from Buddhists, Catholics, or just anyone who is a religious scholar is free to respond!
To me the biggest obstacle for taking Buddhism seriously is pantheism. While many practitioners of Buddhism have an issue with any mention of theism in the context of Buddhism, this religion was clearly influenced by Hinduism, which is pantheistic, in its birth.
To me this is not a minor matter since religion is not about “feel good” or “technical aspects of how I lead a virtuous life”. Religion is about a holistic answer to why we are here and how our lives fit the grand scheme of things. So to me the grand scheme of things matters and I find the pantheistic view quite unsatisfactory.
To be simple as much as possible, prayer is the “requesting” from God to enable us to find inner strength, patience, love, courtesy, detachment from worldy vices, etc. I often pray also to thank God for all He has done for me, to praise God, to exclaim my love for Him, to express my gratitude for His guidance and mercy and forgiveness.
Meditation is not asking God for anything really. It is a spiritual condition one puts oneself into as a means to “reflect” on spiritual matters, to reflect on the Word of God and to open the channels of understanding to our hearts.
Through prayer we ask and receive…
Through meditation we learn, grow and discern the realities of existence.
Both tools are IMPERATIVE for a chaste and holy life.
Right, but the Buddha himself cared little about the many gods of his birth faith. Though concepts such as the cycle of life and reincarnation are retained, the goals of both Hinduism and Buddhism are, in my view, different. In fact, I believe Buddha taught that to follow his dharma (teaching) would lead to enlightenment, not worship. Hinduism seeks to escape Samsara by living a life with good Karma, lest you are reincarnated as a lesser form. Once you do so, you attain Moksha, or the annhilation of the soul. Buddhism, on the other hand, seeks to avoid Karma. Through meditation, the Buddhist seeks to pinpoint all desires in his life. Since unfulfilled desires are the root of all suffering, the Buddhist realizes that these desires are all transient. If desires are transient, then the ego is not permanent, therefore, the ego doesn’t exist. If you realize you don’t really exist, then Karma has nothing to attach itself to, which allows you to bypass samsara and reach nirvana.
That is a good way to put it! I am not sure how the Catholic faith views meditation vs prayer. In my experience, they are often used interchangeably. For example, I might be told to “meditate on the Word of God, when you find something in that meditation, take it to Jesus in prayer.”
Meditation, in the Catholic tradition, I believe is an expression of prayer. It falls under the mental category of expression, just like song falls under the vocal category of expression.
Buddhist meditation, as far as I know, is different in it’s goal. You may be quieting your mind with similar techniques, but the Buddhist’s aim is to find clarity through self introspection. The Buddhist is seeking ultimate detachment from desires, which would get them on a faster track to Buddhahood. The Christian’s goal is to find clarity in their life with the helping hand of God, or to really dive deeper into the Bible story they may be meditating on. The Christian often will try to meet their suffering head on rather than avoid it, and they’ll meet this suffering with the help of Christ Jesus, who suffered for us. In my experience, meditation as an expression of prayer has essentially been quieting my mind and heart, and allowing God to reveal to me whatever it is he is trying to reveal to me, since being Christian means to have a personal relationship with Christ.
If I am misrepresenting the views of Buddhism or even the views of the Christian/Catholic faith, let me know! This is a really interesting topic!