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Saturday, January 07, 2006


little gidding

Buddhism has a more than two-millennium history of doctrinal development and often-acute controversy. By no means have all Buddhists agreed in their own assessments about what Buddhism is, even on the core of what is most important. Sure, there is a kind of family similarity among Buddhist sects regarding their doctrines, but these have certainly not been seen by Buddhists themselves as mere "nuances." The easy-going monistic "Buddhism" that your correspondents are enamored of is a twentieth-century Western invention.

Thomas Crescenzi

I don't see how Christianity and Buddhism could be anymore _different_!

* Life means suffering.
* Suffering is caused by attachment.
* Suffering can cease.
* The way to end suffering is through the dharma of the Buddha.

* The origin of the universe is God. (This is important to mention because unless we believe that we are the creation of God and that God intended to have communion with us his creation, nothing that follows has any real meaning whatsoever.)
* We suffer because we are divorced from God (due to our disobedience and faithlessness to God).
* God himself suffered so that we could be reconciled to him and be free from suffering.
* In order to obtain freedom from suffering, we must be faithful to him. He tells us that we _will_ suffer for his sake if we are faithful to him.

I'm no theologian, but it seems to me that Christianity and Buddhism are radically opposed to one another. And the points I cited about Buddhism are agreed upoon by all Buddhists. They are the "four noble truths" which form the foundation of all sects of Buddhism. They could not be further from a Christian view of life and suffering. All of Christianity hinges on the idea of a personal God who created the universe and loves his creation. Buddhism completely negates that notion, either by denying that any God originated the universe or has any right to be worshipped (per Theravada) or by supplanting a personal creator God with a "Universal Mind" or "Supreme Buddha" that is the only true existence and making our goal to stop any being apart from this pseudo-god and be absorbed into it such that self no longer exists (the Zen view), or by making gods of historical and imagined buddhas and bodhisattvas and performing devotions or reciting mantras to them to gain favor in reincarnation (the rest of the Mahayana tradition).

These are radical, fundamental differences that cannot just be swept under the rug. I don't know where this idea of "all religions basically teach the same thing and are all fundamentally good" comes from. Is this what they're teaching in Catholic seminaries these days? I sure hope not! It puzzles me to think of how these people who advocate such a position would view Aztec or Thuggee religion. Will we see a resurgence in human sacrifice?

Dale Price

Speaking of Sheed & Ward and truth in advertizing (I know bupkis about Buddhism and won't touch that one):

What happened to S&W is nothing short of tragic. S&W hasn't published anything orthodox since the early 70s, and has been in a downward spiral since the wake of the Council. It's long since been the boutique imprint of fringe progressives, which is a shame. It used to be owned by the same company that owns the National Catholic Reporter, and they sold it to some other progs. They publish little of note, and sell a paltry number of books per year--quelle suprise. But the real tragedy is that the current owners are squatting on the rights to the entire S&W catalogue, and have rebuffed efforts by orthodox Catholic publishers to acquire the rights to genuine S&W classics. Sheer pique.

O Canada

Wait, wait. Don't let boorish cranks like Mr. Price convince you. The fellow has a permanent jones for the Inquisition. Consider instead this question: "Since the Catholic Church has been given the fullness of truth by its establishment through the Incarnation, shouldn't every manifestation of the Incarnation offer some truth to the faithful?" In other words, we take from Buddhism what is useful, and praise Canadian nuns who offer us such gems? These Buddhists are, after all, made in the image of God, and undoubtedly came up with a good idea or two over the years...centuries...milennia...

Patrick Coulton

O Canada, you have never looked more lovely
than in your non sequitur gown.

Dale Price


Dale Price


If you're the anonymous commenter at my blog, let me know. My inquisitorial self thinks there's an interesting point in your comment there.

Boorish Crank

Columbo moment:

Oh, and another thing. Even though I expressly steered clear of the Buddhist thing due to lack of knowledge (my search for kindling takes up significant amounts of time), I agree that that which is truly good within other religions is worthy of respect and study.

Sorry to disappoint, OC.

Carl Olson

O Canada confuses (purposely?) the issue. My comments aren't about disparaging Buddhists or saying that there isn't any truth in Buddhism. After all, the THIS ROCK article that I co-authored with Dr. Anthony Clark (professor of Asian history at U of Alabama) states:

Vatican II’s Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions) says, "Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination." It continues, noting that "the Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions" and believes that other religions, in certain ways, "often reflect a ray of that Truth that enlightens all men."

But the document also insists that the Church "proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to himself" (NA 2). While the Council noted that Buddhism may contain a "ray of Truth," it did not endorse appropriation of Buddhist beliefs into Christian practice. Rather, the Council insisted that non-Catholic religions can be fulfilled only through the truths held exclusively by the Catholic faith.

Jim Hicks

I am a "revert" from Zen Buddhism to Catholicism. A cradle Catholic I left the Church in 1971. During the 70's I was a committed Marxist-Leninist. By the end of the 70's I was a disillusoned to the point of nihilism. In the I dabbled in Eastern religion but really was not committed to any sect in particular. It was in the 90's that I made a serious committment to Zen. I joined a Zen Center, participated in the liturgical rites, and sat in retreats. What drew me into Zen was its emphasis on reverence, humility, and gratitude. As a former altar boy I appreciated the precision of the silent rituals. The chanting of the prayers reminded me of the Gregorian chant that I learned in the choir. What compelled me to leave Zen and return to Holy Mother Church was the fact that there is no God in Zen. If there is no God then there is no love. If there is no love then what is the the point to living at all. I came to realize that love comes from God and his ultimate manifestation of love was the death of his son Jesus Christ on the Cross. There is no way that one can reconcile that act with the Buddhist worldview. I also believe that the Buddhism pacticed in the West is an attenuated form of Buddhism. It is one that appropriates the rhetoric and ritual of Buddhisim and couples it with the relativism of the post-modern West. You can be a Roman Catholic, a Greek Catholic, or a Melkite but ther aint no such thing as a Zen Catholic.

Cristina A. Montes

"I also believe that the Buddhism pacticed in the West is an attenuated form of Buddhism."

Perhaps this explains something I've been wondering about for quite some time: how come people can find the moral demands of Catholicism too difficult, and at the same time be willing to follow a path that demands strict vegetarianism (if what I know of Buddhism is correct) and the obliteration of all feelings and desire?

little gidding

Even more striking (and I don't exempt myself from this statement)--how come young Catholics who left the Church in the 60s and 70s because it was too "hung up" on "irrelevant" old rituals, rites, devotions, practices--in general, all the historical particularities it comprises--often wound up in complicated and exacting and truly outlandish or exotic practices of other religions that had absolutely no previous cultural connection to them or their family? I have lately come to believe that, without discounting the primary responsibility of those who lapsed in their Faith, it was because the reformers in the Church at the time suddenly no longer seemed to attach any importance to such particularities that many people went to look elsewhere for specificity and ritual, even while not comprehending that that was their motivation.

little gidding


It just occurred to me that there might be quite a few Catholic reverts from Buddhism. Many of them are probably laying low, more or less, not knowing that there are many others out there. This would be a more interesting story than the now-oft-reported one of people "growing out" of Catholicism into Buddhism, as was featured in the newspaper story that began this thread, and which now seems very 60s-ish.


Buddhism in the USA today is like Protestantism. Let a thousand denominations bloom. Want to be Buddhist and Gay? You will find somewhere to go. Want to be Buddhist and uber-feminist? You will find that to.

I will never forget when a group of very liberal students badgered their Taoist Tai Chi teacher about morals and such. what he said was right out of the catechism! No adultery, no masturbation (can't have that spilling of the chi - you only have so much), no homosexuality, no abortion. They didn't like that much at all.

I still describe myself as a "Rinzai Catholic" (SMACK!!!)

Jim Hicks

Most American Budhhists that I have met are people of good will. But they want the trappings of a religous tradition combined with moral relativism.They also do not necessarily follow the tenets of Buddhism that strictly. Most are not vegetarians in fact Tibetan Buddhists have little tradition of vegetarianism. Western Buddhists were shocked to find that the Dalai Lama loves steak and prime rib.
Western Buddhism is rife with sexual scandals. The Zen Center that I belonged to went through a major crisis when it revealed that our local"Zen Master" had committed adultery with a female member of the group. The "Zen Master" had a day job as a college professor. So I wondered how he was bringing his college students to Nirvana.
Little Gidding is on to something important. Human beings yearn for coherence in their lives. In my own history part of the reason that I left the Chuch in 1970-71 was that it had become to some degree incoherent. Many of us were swept up in the rebellious Zeitgeist of that era. I turned to Marxism to find coherence. It was a dead end, a real big dead end. Then I became a semi-punk rocker quasi-Buddhist dilletante. Another road to nowhere. Then I became a Buddhist in earnest which was interesting but in the end empty. Finaly the Holy Spirit nudged, prodded, and shoved me back into the Catholic Church. The coherence that I sought for years had been waiting for me in the Mystical Body of Christ. It was there all along but it was not always apparent to me. Partly due to my own pride and partly due to numerous problems that afflicted the Church in the 60's and 70's. Today I am much more humble and I am grateful to John Paul II and Benedict XVI for leading us on the path to Christ. Pax Vobiscum.


Interesting posts- too bad no one will read this one.

None of the posters showed any awareness of the mystical traditions of the Church, Roman and Eastern, particularly Eastern. A few reads of the Desert Fathers and Mothers should cure anyone of not seeing Zen and those early monks as kindred.

The good nun need not speak of her Catholicism- she's a Roman Catholic nun.

CK Raju

Buddha, Jesus and Mohammed, all had one thing in common - and that was their total commitment in demolishing all known forms of religions that existed in their times.
To me, they indulged themselves in negating all grand narratives and theories .

If this constitutes blasphemy - then they all did exactly this.

If you are a true follower of these great people, and are ready to tread their path of sacrifice and learning, please do what they did - reject all known forms of religions (don't create new ones if threatened like Nabi did, that's a bigger mistake).

Ron Csillag

I must sheepishly admit that I know just enough of Catholicism and Zen to piss off those who know much more about both. But I'm glad to have supplied the raw material for a "spirited" debate.

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