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, Ph.D. said...

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

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Is nothing sacred? Apparently to a Buddhist.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. 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.

Craig 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?

BJS 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.