"Buddhists are more at peace"

Hi everyone,

I have a question about the popular claim that Buddhism is a more peaceful religion than Christianity. I mean that people often tell me that the history of the West is filled with violence, often perpetrated at the hands of Christians, and that many churchgoers are just going through the motions when they attend Mass and aren’t really becoming more spiritual, more loving, more at peace. As a Catholic, naturally I have much to say about those claims, but it’s the second part of the argument that I don’t know how to answer: these people go on to insist that the Buddhists, who have no notion of sin, live more peaceful lives. That the history of Buddhist nations is more peaceful. That Buddhist meditation really does give people a more transcendent experience of unity with God (or with the universe) than sitting in a cold church on your knees can do.

And of course the cliched image of the Buddhist monk living in harmony with nature is so prevalent that we have a hard time imagining Buddhists doing anything wrong, whereas we all know many, many Christians who are less than…well, Christian.

I believe that this vision of things is wrong because of what I know about human nature: sin exists everywhere. So you don’t have to convince me here. But I am curious to know how people might respond to this. Does anyone know the history of East Asia better than I do? Has Buddhism been used as an ideology to justify horrible things in much the same way that Christianity has? Do you know many Buddhists, and do they seem to have something different about them that Christians do not have – inner peace, an easier time doing the good and loving thing, etc.? Have you had experiences with Buddhism that have taught you something valuable? I would especially love to hear from Buddhists, if there are any here!

Peace,
+AMDG+

Many people have told me that I have “a Zen thing going on.”

A man at work loved to talk religion with me,assuming that I was a fellow Protestant. When he asked and I told him that I’m Catholic, he said something like, you’re drinking the kool-aid.

It’s funny how people think that anyone who is friendly and at peace with himself, isn’t Catholic or is showing signs of another religion (the Zen thing). They don’t know what they’re looking at. I smile every time that happens. :slight_smile:

I am a Buddhist. Your question breaks down into two parts: how does Buddhism affect the peacefulness of individuals and how does Buddhism affect the peacefulness of countries.

Buddhist meditation techniques do work to increase the peacefulness of individuals: Buddhists ‘really are happier’ and Meditation may increase empathy, benevolence. From my own personal experience of meditation it does have the effects described. Comparing Buddhism to Christianity the morality is pretty much the same: following the Ten Commandments and loving your neighbour are very close to the Buddhist equivalent. However Christianity does not seem to have anywhere near as much of a tradition of meditation as Buddhism. The closest I have seen is the Jesus Prayer. There are also religiously neutral meditation techniques such as counting breaths. Maybe this is an element which could be emphasised more within Christianity. The techniques do work, but I should warn you that your knees will still hurt in some of the suggested positions. :frowning:

As for Buddhist countries, yes they did have wars, but often those wars were before the arrival of Westerners so the wars did not get into the Western history books. For example the Tibetan Empire was founded about 620 CE and lasted until about 840 CE. It fought many wars of expansion against its neighbours but gets little mention in non-specialist Western histories. Buddhism was introduced into Tibet by one of the first emperors, Songtsän Gampo, from about 630 to 650. China is in part Buddhist and has fought many wars. Similarly Japan is part Buddhist and has fought in many wars. Some Buddhists in those countries supported the wars while others were against them. There are pictures from the Vietnam war of Buddhist monks blessing military aircraft and of Buddhist monks burning themselves to death in protest. Like any large group you will find Buddhists on both sides of many arguments.

Are Buddhist countries more peaceful than non-Buddhist countries? Places like Norway, Switzerland and Belgium are generally peaceful. The UK, the USA, France and Germany have been less so. I suspect that the peacefulness of a country is related to whether or not it sees itself as a “great power” and so feels the need to make its weight felt outside its borders or not. That does not seem to be much related to the religion of the country.

rossum

the history of the far East, for instance Myramar in modern day, does not bear out this claim

I saw a documentary on meditation.The physical (they scanned the brain) effects of meditation are remarkable. If I remember right, they said that it takes a lot of practice to attain that level of – whatever it was they called it. I can’t remember just now. :slight_smile:

Catholics use meditative prayer, and I think that it takes a person a long way toward inner peace.

If I remember right, though, Buddhist meditation is differnent from what most Catholics do. (Some orders of monks might come a lot closer to it than most lay Catholics.)

We sometimes “empty ourselves” and sit quietly to listen to God instead of talk to Him. But more often, at least for me, we say a memorized prayer, petition for something we or someone else needs (help bearing a tragedy, for example), or we meditate on something. The Rosary is probably the best known meditative prayer. As we say the prayers, we meditate on a set of mysteries. I’m not really that good at it, so I usually say one or two decades at a time. Other thoughts creep in, and before I know what’s happening, I’m planning my day instead of meditating on the mystery.

Would you mind giving me a brief summary of Buddhist meditation? (Process & goal) If I remember right, you don’t (or don’t usually) think about something. Is the goal to clear your mind completely of thoughts, or did I just get that really wrong? :blush:

Thanks in advance.

Thank you for these excellent responses!
I know what you mean, Kalt. I often get the same reaction!

I guess I ask the question because here in France (where Buddhism is becoming very popular and Catholicism, which of course has a much longer history in the country, is not doing too well) I get this kind of thing all the time…suggestions that if Christians ever studied Buddhism they’d see they were missing out on so much. I have been to a Buddhist monastery and read some books, but that is about it. It’s funny, too, that if I tell someone that I am going to Mass on a weekday, they look at me as though I have two heads. "Oh. Why are you going there? Isn’t that only on Sundays? Why would you want to sit through it multiple times per week? " Yet once I was hanging out with a bunch of the same people and one newcomer mentioned she had joined a meditation group and that they meet every day at 6am. Everyone was sooo enthusiastic! “Oh, wow, that’s great, inner peace, finding your true self, hooray.” haha. I know that doesn’t prove anything but their own ignorance about what Mass could mean for me (and, undoubtedly, their idea that Christianity is just about mind-control and that spirituality is more about the absence of “rules” and dogma), but it does make me curious to understand Buddhism and certain other religions and tradition a bit better.

I will say one thing…one of my best friends in the world is a German Hindu, so we have many of these types of conversations…and we often go to this place called Taize, which is a Christian ecumenical monastery in rural France which every week hosts thousands of young people who share in the life of the monastery…Bible studies, etc. Well, there are three daily prayers which consist of ten-minute silences and periods of singing – songs which repeat the same phrase over and over again. It’s very…“centering,” I guess. And it truly is peaceful, and it’s amazing to see young people actually rushing to church. Where I come from parents have to drag their kids by the ear to get them to go to Mass.

And so all of this does make me think – not necessarily that Christianity needs a turn towards Buddhist philosophy, because I haven’t seen any of that, but that we could learn a lot on the liturgical / practical front.

Everything you said, Rossum, is quite interesting, and thank you for those links…

Peace,
+AMDG+

A dead body illustrates peace.

But the feverlessness of a corpse and the peace that Christ alone can give are two vastly different things.

Used correctly it can indeed be very effective.

If I remember right, though, Buddhist meditation is differnent from what most Catholics do. (Some orders of monks might come a lot closer to it than most lay Catholics.)

Some practices are common between the two religions, others differ. The theory/theology behind them is very different of course.

We sometimes “empty ourselves” and sit quietly to listen to God instead of talk to Him.

Congratulations, that is also a Zen meditation practice - “Just Sitting”.

But more often, at least for me, we say a memorized prayer, petition for something we or someone else needs (help bearing a tragedy, for example), or we meditate on something. The Rosary is probably the best known meditative prayer. As we say the prayers, we meditate on a set of mysteries. I’m not really that good at it, so I usually say one or two decades at a time. Other thoughts creep in, and before I know what’s happening, I’m planning my day instead of meditating on the mystery.

Buddhists use mantras; we have a great many of them. Repetition seems to be one of the common techniques across many religions. The Jesus Prayer is another example from the Christian tradition.

Would you mind giving me a brief summary of Buddhist meditation? (Process & goal) If I remember right, you don’t (or don’t usually) think about something. Is the goal to clear your mind completely of thoughts, or did I just get that really wrong?

There is no single goal to Buddhist meditation, your goals will depend on the sort of person you are - different meditations are prescribed for different people. Also there are two branches of meditation within Buddhism - shamatha (calming) and vipashyana (insight). The first is common across all the Indian religions, the second is specific to Buddhism. Both start with basic mindfulness which is where most meditators will start.

For Christians I ususally suggest two possible mindfulness practices: the Jesus Prayer or Counting Breaths.

The Jesus Prayer is similar to Buddhist mantras, but using a Christian text:Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God; (while breathing in)
have mercy on me a sinner. (while breathing out)
See Saying the Jesus Prayer for a good introduction.

Counting breaths involves counting to ten and breating. Sit comfortably, with your back straight and your arms relaxed. As you breathe in count “one” and again “one” as you breathe out. Continue until you reach ten and then start again at one. Do not count beyond ten as then you will tend to count the counting rather then counting breaths. If you lose count, start again at one. If your mind wanders (it will) then start again at one.

For both of these practices please heed Bishop Ware’s advice:But those who have no personal contact with starets [teacher] may still practice the Prayer without any fear, so long as they do so only for limited periods - initially, for no more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time - and so long as they make no attempt to interfere with the body’s natural rhythms.

rossum

It is worth observing that inner peace is the GOAL of Buddhism. It is not necessarily the goal of Catholicism.

People naturally think that Jesus came to bring peace to the world, but this is a modern misconception. Early Christians who were fed to the lions didn’t think their religion would bring them peace. Paul abandoned his life in Israel to travel the world preaching the Gospel. It wasn’t easy, and I doubt he was always at peace.

Even Jesus was not always at peace. Certainly not on the Cross. Nor in the Garden of Gethsemane. But if you delve deeper, you see that Jesus was frequently troubled, as when he took up the whip to drive the merchants from the Temple. When Jesus raised Lazarus, he wept at the tomb. Even when Mary Magdelen poured oil on his head, she did so to soothe Jesus, because he was weary and troubled.

It’s not that inner peace is a bad thing. It’s just that Catholicism teaches us to go out and face the world, to feed the flock, and to bring justice to the poor. This is a mission that will bring sorrow. But it is an act of love, and of obedience to the Lord, and that satisfies the soul and brings us to salvation.

Salvation is the goal, and that may or may not bring us peace – at least not in this world… As a Catholic, I can live with that.

“Inner peace” is a temporary and fleeting thing!

**The Love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may bring us trials in this life, but will reward us with Eternal Inner Peace!
**
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!

mark

I think that’s true, although in the first place we could do a lot of unlearning (of our frenzied Enlightenment ways) and relearning (of our own ancient traditions).

The attitude you describe seems to be very common in Britain. My dad’s cousin converted to Sufi Islam (she was Methodist; her husband, who led her into Sufism from what I can gather, was Catholic). Clearly she has found something there that she didn’t find in the small Methodist church in which she grew up (I’ve gone there with her mother, my great-aunt–it’s a charming little chapel full of nice elderly ladies, but I can see why a spiritually hungry young person would find something missing).

Edwin

This is a claim that Buddhists make, in part I believe because they look at the overly legalistic understanding of sin that is common among many Western Christians. In practice, it seems to me that they have something very close–they certainly have an understanding of wrongdoing and of selfish cravings that pull people away from compassion and enlightenment. I recognize that there are very different metaphysical assumptions behind the Buddhist doctrines of tanha and “unskillful actions.” But traditional Buddhism clearly doesn’t think that people are just fine and only need to relax and accept themselves (even Zen seems a bit edgier than that). They do have an understanding that radical change is needed, including practices of spiritual discipline that will result in inner transformation. (Yes, I know that in Mahayana this is about realizing what is already there, and that perhaps what I’ve said applies better to Theravada.)

live more peaceful lives. That the history of Buddhist nations is more peaceful.

As rossum says, I think this is more about Western ignorance of Asian history than anything else.

That Buddhist meditation really does give people a more transcendent experience of unity with God (or with the universe) than sitting in a cold church on your knees can do.

Well, there are some problems with modern Western Christian practice in that regard–pews were a bad idea from the start, in my opinion. The Orthodox have a much better approach, and one that is much more similar to medieval Western Christianity. But praying in a medieval church can be a powerful spiritual experience. You Europeans don’t know what you have! (Well, I’m actually a citizen of an EU member nation myself, but I’ve lived in the U.S. since I was six.)

Does anyone know the history of East Asia better than I do? Has Buddhism been used as an ideology to justify horrible things in much the same way that Christianity has?

The most glaring example of this is the use of Zen by the Japanese during WWII, which was preceded by centuries of links between Zen and the warrior ethos of the samurai. There are plenty of scandals in Buddhist countries if you pay attention. Not that I think listing the scandals of other religions is a good idea, but they are certainly there.

The bigger issue is that Buddhism coexists more comfortably than Christianity with cultural patterns that violate Buddhist teaching. Christianity has certainly compromised its ideals many times. But there has always been a good deal of discomfort with this. Because of the Buddhist understanding of rebirth and karma, it’s accepted that it may take people many lives to become enlightened. So in countries like Burma, which have been Buddhist for centuries, monarchs might do plenty of violent things and make up for it by building monasteries and donating to them lavishly (much like medieval Christian monarchs). People who engaged in such violent acts would be acquiring bad karma, but they could make up for it to some extent by supporting monks, and while they wouldn’t become enlightened right away they have plenty of lives to work on it.

Mahayana Buddhism holds out more hope of immediate enlightenment, which means that it may affect the lives of laypeople more directly. But for some reason Mahayana has rarely taken over a country entirely (Tibet is an exception if you consider Tibetan Buddhism Mahayana–it’s actually a somewhat different variant with heavy Tantric influence). In most Mahayana countries (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam), Buddhism coexists with other traditions (Confucianism, Taoism, Shinto, etc.) and is generally seen as giving people hope for the afterlife rather than providing a comprehensive guide to daily life.

In other words, you can’t argue directly from Buddhist ideals to the behavior of lay Buddhists or Buddhist governments. There is at least as huge a gap there as in Christianity, and it seems to me that by and large Buddhists are less worried about this than Christians are. The positive side of our belief that we only have one life to get things right (which is arguably responsible in part for our greater hurry and worry) is that we are more disturbed by our failure to live up to our ideals.

At least, so it seems to me. I’m no expert on Buddhism.

Edwin

Buddhists are more at peace

Not at peace with God of the Bible…outside of Christ, Buddhists are at enmity with the Father (like anyone outside of Christ), which he will deal with on judgment day…:eek: although they do appear to be peaceful don’t they

Do you have any idea how completely repulsive statements like this (or the earlier one about the peace of a corpse) seem to people who don’t share all your theological commitments?

God doesn’t have arbitrary “enmity” against people for not following the right rules. I know that that’s probably not what you mean to say (I say “probably” because I know Christians who do think this way). But that’s how it sounds to anyone who doesn’t share (or at least know and understand) your theological premises.

Edwin

But what about the absolute truth of Jesus (John 14), there is no access to the Father outside of Christ, and the truth is,however unpleasant, that

Romans 8:7 “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God…”

The carnal mind is opposed to being spiritually minded, ie walking after the biblical Holy Spirit of God.

I didn’t write scripture

…I can see how this probably sounds offensive, but I’d rather be offended and know the truth. The way of the cross **is **offensive to those outside of Christ. Also this isn’t meant to sound unloving to Buddhists, to the contrary. Plus this is a Christian forum, shouldn’t this be where someone like a Buddhist can come to learn things about Christ/Christianity?

Peace

I consider Buddhism a much more peaceful religion, and, in my opinoin (if you don’t like it, don’t reply to it, or at least be respectful) rational religion. That can be argued, which is exactly why I don’t care to argue it, cause religion starts fights, even if they all preach peace. I hope Buddhism grows in size, cause I believe it is a great religion for people to join, and live by.

Very true. No one is disputing that. If Buddhists are ever going to be united with God the Father, it is going to be through faith in Jesus. But of course Buddhists aren’t even claiming access to God the Father.

and the truth is,however unpleasant, that

Romans 8:7 “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God…”

Right. But it’s also true that, as Romans 2 puts it, people may live according to the law of God written in their heart. Such people should not be rashly judged to be only carnal. God’s prevenient grace is clearly working in them.

I didn’t write scripture

No, but you interpret and apply it.

…I can see how this probably sounds offensive, but I’d rather be offended and know the truth. The way of the cross **is **offensive to those outside of Christ. Also this isn’t meant to sound unloving to Buddhists, to the contrary. Plus this is a Christian forum, shouldn’t this be where someone like a Buddhist can come to learn things about Christ/Christianity?

I’m worried about what they will learn, or think they learn.

The fact that what you say is offensive does not mean that you shouldn’t say it. It means that you shouldn’t say it unless necessary, and even then you should qualify it as thoroughly as possible. There is no virtue in saying something that sounds boorish when you could explain the theological premises in a more nuanced and courteous way.

Edwin

Hello BareKnuckler. I come not to condemn but learn from you or Rossum. I see no point in condemning here in the non-Catholic forum but wish to learn.

A common thread that I’ve just been responding to in the Catholic forum is the meaning of suffering and how we as Christians explain its meaning and purpose through the Cross.

From the Buddhist perspective, and I will take an extreme example on purpose which we’ve done on the Catholic forums, how does a Buddhist explain the reason behind the suffering of a poverty-stricken, famished, mentally ill man lying on a sidestreet in New York or Mumbai. Is that person suffering because of the, forgive the term, bad karma that soul or spirit has committed in a past life or is there another reason for the suffering?

Also, on the transmigration of souls, do you personally accept with calmness that you may come back in a future incarnation as a knat, donkey, or whatever, you get my drift and I don’t want to sound insulting at all. But I am led to understand that one may return as any creature, or even as an inanimate object. Do you hold this to be true with emotional equanimity?

I do hope I have not offended, but the scenarios we postulate on suffering in the Catholic section are pretty extreme so I guess nothing is off the books and I would very much like to learn.

God Bless!

You might wana read about the 4 Noble Truths, and the Eightfold Path. Here they are, from a website I found, but I do believe they are all correct:

The Buddhist religion teaches that people always suffer and it provides a way to help those who are suffering. Buddhism is formed by four basic rules.
They are:

  1. Everybody’s life is filled with suffering from birth to death:
  2. Suffering is caused by people wanting worldly things;
  3. By controlling wants suffering will end;
  4. The EightFold Path teaches us how to control these wants.

The Eightfold Paths are:

  1. The true understanding of the Four Noble Truths;
  2. The true thought-having friendly thoughts about people and all forms of life;
  3. The true speech- speak nicely and honestly and avoid harsh words against anyone or anything;
  4. The true action- act from your heart and do not be vain and avoid \ violence;
  5. The true work-work in a profession that will not hurt another;
  6. The true effort- work to improve yourself;
  7. The true mindfulness- be compassionate and think before you act, and;
  8. The right concentration- Focus and concentrate on religious meditation.

Yes, thank you for the answer. I know that everyone suffers and that this may be caused by wanting worldly things. But that homeless man in New York wants water, food, love.
I perfectly understand these Buddhist Noble Truths but my question was more directed to the Why. Why did he have to suffer in this way and not the selfish immoral millionaire downtown.

O.K. Let’s try it this way. A baby is born with cancer, lives and struggles for 3 months and dies. Why did this innocent have to suffer like this in a Buddhist world? Surely, the Buddhist explanation can possibly be because of the bad deeds the baby did in a past life? Is this not what Buddhism teaches: karma? I’m pretty sure on this. Is there a relationship between how a person lives his or her life here and now on this planet, what good or bad they’ve done, and what they can expect in their next life. Isn’t reincarnation ultimately a way to explain this inexplicable suffering.

Well, they must have done something bad in a past life. I believe Buddhism teaches this. I’m trying for you to make the connection between reincarnation and what type of suffering one endures as their souls attempt to reach nirvana in the many cycles of death and birth. Does a person suffer if and because they have done incredibly horrendous deeds, murder, etc. in a past life?

And do you accept as a Buddhist that you may come back in a future incarnation as a monkey, or cat, with emotional equanimity? I do not think we are speaking beyond each other and I think you understand my wanting to know WHY this person (the little baby) suffered the way she did? Is it possibly because of what wrong she did in a past life?

God Bless!

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