Friday, January 13, 2006

Buddhism and Nonbeing

While paging through Dostoyevsky's "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man," which I read a ridiculously long time ago, I happened upon this description of Buddhism, although it is not specifically named. Despite all the rosey descriptions of Buddhism to the contrary (and despite the beautiful photographs in the American Buddhist magazines), Dostoyevsky is dead on in his assessment of a deadening religion:

"Religions appeared worshipping the nonbeing and self-annihilation for the sake of an eternal repose in nothing ness."

Christianity: In the beginning was the Word. John, chapter one, verse one.

Buddhism: In the beginning was the Void.


Sergio Méndez said...

That is why Buddism is more credible than christianity...

Douglas Groothuis said...

Offering nothing for everyone is more credible than God offering himself for you in Christ?

J.L. Hinman said...

Is nothing sacred? Apparently to a Buddhist.

John Stockwell said...

The practice of Buddhism is about personal awareness of one's own mental state and a practice of life to modify that mental state. The end is to eliminate the hindrences that tie us to the traps of the world that prevent us from being compassionate beings.

Our hungers and desires are like a fire igniting fires in others, through a chain of cause and effect. The practice of Buddhism is to cultivate a life that does not ignite those fires.

Buddhism is not nihilism.

Douglas Groothuis said...

All Buddhist practices aim at ultimately reaching Nirvana: nothingness, inhumanness, depersonalization. Buddhism has no doctrine of creation. Existence is suffering in an impersonal sense. One must eliminate human desires to "extinguish the flame" (the literal meaning of "nirvana.")

Christ came to restore creation, not to annul it.

Fletcher said...

Most people contend that we cannot have true knowledge in the areas of religion. In fact, religion has become a customizeable consumer product. We can stroll up and down the aisles picking and choosing what "works for us" and what doesn't "cramp our style". However, today's Hollywood Buddhist are a far cry from REAL Buddhism (denying possessions, etc.). Christianity is verifiable in linear history, should one make the effort to look into it. The evidence for the cornerstones of the Christian faith (such as the resurrection of Jesus, the historical reliability of New Testament texts to name a couple) is extremely compelling if given a chance. Given the high stakes of the Christian message, it's a least worth looking in to isn't it? We ought to at least allow it into our pool of intellectual possibilities - especially if we are to embrace Buddhism?

You'll be hard pressed to find any such lines of evidence to support Buddhism. For instance, Buddhists believe that there is no beginning to the universe and that all things are illusory. Taken to their logical conclusions, these premises should seem absurd to the thinking person. People often cite the fact that the New Testament accounts of Jesus' life weren't written for 15-20 years after his death. Does anyone ever critique the fact that the teachings of Buddha were not recorded for some 500 years after his death though?That's the problem, people don't usually think their way through their worldviews; they don't hold themselves intellectually accountable. It's just "this works for me and I don't want to explain why I beleive it because it's personal and I don't have to." Where else in life are we this way with such major topics? Nowhere.

It's odd that many who are not willing to embrace Christianity do so on the basis of "intellectual roadblocks". Then you have these same people clinging to Buddhism without even questioning it. It seems that Buddhism is just a bit more "cool" to embrace.

We thinking humans can do better than that, can't we?

BJ the Tornado said...

Have you ever seen the Bill Murray classic film "Groundhog Day?" I've mentioned this before to Dr. G, but in many ways it gives us a great picture of (real) Budhism. In the movie, Murray's character is trapped in an endless cycle of Groundhog days. As soon as the novelty wears off, it becomes a horrible thing for Bill. He eventually even tries to kill himself to free himself from the torture of the endless cycle. This is essentially how Budhism interprets reality: we are all trapped on an endless cycle of re-birth. Reincarnation is not a good thing: it is horrible because life is suffering. Life is the enemy to escape. The goal is to get off this hellish wheel of never-ending reincarnation.

In the film, eventually Bill turns from his suicidal tendancies and tries to start to learn new things, eventually discovering/learning deep insights about himself (self-awareness, the buddhist might say) and how he (mis)treats other people. This ephiphany somehow breaks him free from the cycle and he awakes to a new day (finally).
That's a pretty good explanation for the Buddhist way: attain self-awareness and you'll eventually break free from the cycle. Only one problem: in Groundhog day, breaking free from the cycle was to get on to the rest of LIFE and the next day. In Budhism, breaking free from the cycle is to get OUT of life and into eternal non-existence. Nirvana can be roughly translated as "blowing the candle out." And it makes sense that this is goal, given what Budhism believes about life. If life is inherently suffering, then the only rational goal is to end this hellish cycle of life after life after life that the Budhist believes he/she is going through.

Compare that view of life with the complete antithesis found in Christ: life is good, life is to be sought, Christ came to defeat the end of life (death) and give us eternal life.

John Stockwell said...

There is nothing in the practice of Buddhism that involves concentrating on ultimate ends, only on living the moment in a better way.

One need not abandon his or her own birth religion to practice Buddhism. Indeed, the Buddha is said to have encouraged his followers to continue practicing their own religion, and admonished them against speaking againt the religion of the religion of others.

Older not wiser ... said...

It is easy to mistake Buddhism for a religion.

In actual fact, it is nothing more than a description of the natural universe, and an outline of a path of mental development to free one's mind from the fetters of hatred, greed and ignrance.

If we truly look at our own minds, then we will see that we are driven by desire in so many minutiae of variation.

Since the first basis of eliminating hatred, greed and delusion from the mind is a calm clear mind, the initial focus is on the development of virtue - respect for all life, and indeed, all existence.

From this basis, the development of a calm clear mind is furthered through the development of meditation (quite similar in technique to structured prayer).

Finally, there is the development of wisdom - the wisdom to let things go that will only bring pain.

The practice of Loving Kindness and Compassion is a large part of devloping respect and veneration for all creatures.

Surely God himself would not reject or deny a person who has spent his life following such ideals. Indeed, the Buddha stated that there are 4 mental states that God has in perfection, and that we should try to develop in ourselves : Loving Kindness, Compassion, Altruistic Joy and Equal-mindedness.

To my way of understandign being a 'Buddhist' (if such a thing actually exists) is completely compatible with being a Christian simultaneously.