Those who used to be Buddhist

For those who used to follow Buddhism, what made you change to Catholicism?

I have never been Buddhist,but my sister studied it along with transcendental meditation. I am not sure if she still practices that belief system as she was baptised a Catholic and we both had our Confirmation at the same time.

I think sister Agnes Sasagawa of Akita is a former Buddhist .


No one at all used to be a Buddhist and converted to Catholicism?

Hmmmm, I will try to look her up, see if she has written anything about why she switched

actually there was a former buddhist who becma a catholic nun.she was interviewed by marcus grodi,several yrs ago on ewtn.also i read an article of a catholic couple who became buddhists for years and eventually reverted to CC.i read their testimonial on “this rock” mag,few yrs back.

I’ve been a practicing Buddhist (Mahayana) for almost 12 years now and i’m starting RCIA classes next week. I became interested in Christianity (specifically catholicism) after listening to the Dalai Lama answer a girls question “how do i convert to from Christianity to Buddhism”. He asked her "You have a beautiful tradition. Have you ever really studied your own tradition? ". As a Buddhist we don’t normally go after converting people but i found it interesting that it was his answer. The other thing that got the ball rolling was the “Catholic stuff you should know” podcast. I was bored at work and started listening to it and found the church and church history really interesting.

The type of Buddhism i practice is from Nichiren who was a japanese monk in the 1200’s. His teaching was that the Lotus Sutra was the king of all sutras and the chanting of Daimoku (literally ‘Glory to the Sutra of the Lotus of the Supreme Law’) with the eternal Buddha as your object of worship was a practice that could be done by everyone.

In those days you would give offerings to priests and they would perform ceremonies for you. There were also other teaching such as Pure Land which teach being taken to a heaven like realm if you chant the name of Amida Buddha which Nichiren felt was wrong since Buddha Shakyamuni (Siddhartha) should be venerated.

The Lotus Sutra has a lot of interesting parables (including what in the bible is known as the prodigal son) but it’s main point is that it’s divided into two. The first half is the Buddhism of sowing where the Buddha explains that he has always appeared in many forms and given many teachings according to the capacity of the people at the time. The second half is the Buddhism of the harvest where he teaches that now he give the final teaching (The Lotus Sutra) which asks that previous teachings be discarded since the Buddha is going to expound on his eternal life.

There’s really a lot more to it but i’m trying to give the overview. The big thing to take home is that Nichiren believed in an eternal Buddha who transends time and space and comes to humans when it’s time to preach the law. (sound familiar?)

Nichiren was very unique in the way he gave his message. He frequently wrote treatise to the government to adopt the Lotus Sutra and really blasted the priests of other kinds. He frequently challenged them to debates and was pretty aggressive. On the flip-side there are old letters that he wrote to his followers and they really showed his gentler side as he answered questions on matters of practice and other topics.

This kind of brings me back to the early church fathers. I’ve been fascinated at the lives of the early church fathers and how much Nichirens struggles really parallels their own. Given that the earliest fragments of the Lotus Sutra was written from 100 BC and the earliest complete form is around 200 AD it makes me wonder if some of what was expounded in the gospels made it’s way to the Sutra. I used to believe it was the other way around but what is taught in the Lotus Sutra (and mahayana buddhism) is so different then any of the Buddha’s writings.

I pretty much considered myself an athiest but always felt that if the opportunity presented itself i would be willing to accept the truth. Once I was able to accept the idea of the buddha’s eternal life it has made it an easier bridge to accepting that Jesus existed as purely divine and purely human. (Before Abraham was, I am) I used to hang on to the notion that there is not a lot of historical evidence for the existence of Jesus but when you read about the early church fathers such as Peter and James it blows my mind that you do have people who would have walked the earth with Jesus at that time. The other mind blowing thing is that if it was a hoax they could have repented at any time but there was no excuse of power to hold onto in those days for the church and they gladly gave up their lives. At any time they could have walked away and got on with their lives.

A friend of mine sees himself as both Buddhist and non-Roman “Catholic” (which he defines as meaning “any sort of Christian”). He thought about converting to Roman Catholicism, but he realized that his philosophical and cosmological perspective is Buddhist (he believes in rebirth, for instance). Yet, since he grew up Christian, he does think that the Roman Catholic Church is one of the three Churches (the others being Orthodoxy and the Society of Friends) that – if he were solely Christian – he would probably join.

I always had a difficult time reconciling rebirth in that sense. This is especially true because the Buddha taught that there was no soul and that what we perceive as “I” or our soul is mental formations. So if there is no “I” then how am “I” reborn? Not to mention if a person is reborn how is it that the population continues to grow? :slight_smile: I guess if you believe that bugs could have the karma to be reborn as animals who can be reborn as humans or whatever it could be possible but I never bought into that.

One thing that you have to understand is that a lot of Buddhism could be compatible with just about any belief system, especially when you think about the 4 noble truths, the 8 fold path, cause and effect, etc. But there are parts of it that are no such as the belief in no-soul and reincarnation. Buddhism is very attractive (and it was to me) because it doesnt give you a lot of “dont do this and dont do that” so people are able to easily shoe-horn in their personal beliefs. You have some Buddhist who believe you should only eat vegetables and then you have some that say meat eating is alright. The Buddha did admonish people for sexual misconduct but there’s a lot of room to wiggle on what exactly that conduct is. This is what makes it attractive for so many people especially moral relativists.

I might be mistaken, but I don’t recall the Buddha saying “There is no soul.” He did speak a lot about the absence of a unchanging, permanent “thing” that one could call “me” or “mine”, but the absence of such an entity would be different from the absence of a “soul.” A “soul” is commonly defined as being “life, spirit, consciousness” – all of which are constantly changing and impermanent. I do indeed have “soul”: I have life, spirit, and consciousness – all of them changing moment by moment. Yet, when I look closely, I still find that there is nothing unchanging, permanent, that I can claim to be “me”.

Not to mention if a person is reborn how is it that the population continues to grow? :slight_smile:

Persons in other, non-physical realms can take birth into this physical realm: that’s one way to increase the human population on earth. There might be millions, or even billions more persons waiting to be born here.

I find your story fascinating! And I do have a true respect for Buddhism-they just seem like such sensible people to me. If I may ask, have you read the Gospels and encountered Christ’s person in it? How does he strike you? I really like the Buddha as a person, have great respect for him-plus he really reminds me of st. Francis of Assisi! I’m just curious about how Christ strikes you as a person, from the perspective of someone coming into Christianity and Catholicism from outside.

Thanks, and God’s peace and blessings to you in your journey. :slight_smile:

Here are the Precepts common to all forms of Buddhism.

I undertake to refrain from killing any sentient being.
I undertake to refrain from taking what is not freely given.
I undertake to refrain from unskillful speech.
I undertake to refrain from sexual misconduct.
I undertake to refrain from any intoxicating substance.

The teaching on Right Speech is extremely strict as is the teaching on killing. Sexual misconduct consists of refraining from sex with anyone who is not independent of parents or guardians; refraining from sex with anyone who is committed to another. I think this pretty well covers premarital sex and adultery. Please tell me why you think these precepts are attractive to moral relativists.

Agni has already covered the subject of no soul. The Buddha never taught it.

The thread on Ask the Buddhist cover what is reborn in detail. One is not required to believe in rebirth based on blind faith. It is something that comes through realization/meditation. Ananda, the Buddha’s chief attendant, didn’t believe in rebirth until he was in the first stages of awakening.

I don’t think that would fit in the Christian definition of a soul. The notion of the soul is tied to the person, after all it is the person who commits acts and generates karma right? I think the soul and how it maps to the person is a little too foreign for the definition that you’re giving. Not that i’m saying it’s incorrect as a buddhist understanding but that it doesnt fit the Christian framework.

I should be more clear, i was mainly referring to homosexual acts. There are differing opinions but if people don’t see it in black and white they can choose to ignore it if they’d like.

This is surely irrelevant to the topic but the fact that Buddhists believe in reincarnation was always a head scratcher to me. If they can get multiple chances to be a better person…why even bother with religion for your first couple of lives?

I had an ex girlfriend who was Buddhist. I never was.

From a Buddhist (as well as Hindu) perspective, every life-time is important, because you don’t know if your “next” life will be as conducive to improvement as the life you have now. (And if you’re reading this message on a computer, then your life is comparatively good compared to that of many other humans: why waste this life, when you have little idea if your next life will be as open to betterment?) Why not be a better person, right now, when you have the chance to do so? Why continue to suffer even one more second, let alone one more lifetime, if you don’t have to? The Buddhist would say that one’s next life might be in a hellish after-life realm, and might last eons; the smart thing to do, then, would be to do what it takes, right now, in this human body, to follow the Dharma.

I was a Buddhist for 5 years, connected to the Soto Zen Buddhism based at Throssel Hole Abbey in Northern England.

I found I was going nowhere in Buddhism although I thank God he led me there and helped me be introduced to meditation, which led, in turn, to me researching about Christian meditation.

There are too many things I didn’t like about Buddhism, it would take too long to list them, I’ve probably forgotten most of them and I don’t want to come across as hating Buddhism as I think it a wonderful and beautiful religion.

Things such a reincarnation make no sense (despite mental gymnastics) and Nirvana (no one could explain why permanent nothingness is better than a temporary mixture of happiness and sadness).
I also found Western converts to Buddhism quite cold, as if they loved Buddhism because it isolated them from others rather than brought them closer to them. Then there are the Western leaders that bastardise Buddhism into something it is not (an atheist moral system).

I recommend The Unexpected Way by Professor Paul Williams. He was a Anglican convert to Buddhism and taught Buddhist studies for 20 years at Bristol University before converting to Catholicism.

A basic book that talks clearly about Buddhism is Karen Armstrong’s work, “Buddha”. It is fairly short and like all her books on religion, well written and interesting.

Another book which is an excellent overview is “What the Buddha Taught” by Walpola Rahula. The best thing about this book, other than its accuracy, is that it’s free online. Here is the link.

I have read some of Williams work and what he taught in his class on Buddhist studies is a form of Buddhism called Mahayana. The differences between Mahayana Buddhism that Professor Williams taught and Theravada which is the oldest form of Buddhism is well covered in the thread “Ask a Buddhist”.

Just a few comments: how is rebirth/reincarnation any less sensical than any idea of after-life existence? (Actually, that’s a rhetorical question: no need to comment back on that.)

But I found your nirvana comment very puzzling, as if nirvana were a “permanent nothingness,” no different from the “non-existence” of the materialists.

I also found Western converts to Buddhism quite cold, as if they loved Buddhism because it isolated them from others rather than brought them closer to them.

I think this is in large part due to the fact that more devotional/warm forms of Buddhism, once they come to America, find that the niche of “devotional/warm” religion to be already occupied: by Christianity. Some of those Americans who might take a more “cold”/intellectual approach to their spirituality might find certain forms of Buddhism more compatible with their psycho-spiritual personality. Surely, even “cold” people need not change their personality in order to transcend lust, hatred, and delusion?

You also have to consider a sociological trend.

Namely, that those who become Buddhists, at least in my experience, do so for some rather very different reasons aside from the main cause of enlightenment.

Let me pull a historical example, so as to avoid any recent flare-ups.

“Buddhism,” as digested by the West circa late 1890s was being consumed by two groups of people who were quite enthusiastic about it.

On the one hand, you have the group of folks i’d like to call the Proto-Rationalists and probably the progenitors of that stream that likes accepting Buddhism as a philosophy but sheared off of what they would consider to be “cultural buildup.” Many of these were academically minded people who pretty much were looking for a cultural/ethical system that didn’t happen to mention the words Jesus or Christ. They also generally accepted the paradigm offered up by the scientific method.

This is Buddhism as Psychology - where the adherent gets to interpret all the mystical philosophical leanings (reincarnation) in an allegorical or psychological mode.

On the other end of the spectrum: Theosophists - those zany group of mystics/occultists/etc. that went in the opposite direction. They wholeheartedly embraced the Buddha - but as part of a set of “teachers” who also offered up mystical experiences including Jesus and Krishna. This is the “All Religions are the Same” bit.

For such people, the reality of reincarnation was as plain clear as the sky is blue.

Since that time, “Western” Buddhism has run along both rails…not quite making up its mind as to what it wants to be at the end of the day.

There is another rail; one can call it the Middle Way. This is the rail of people who actually read the suttas and practice the teachings in an effort to realized awakening. This group is the one that is actually growing in the west.

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