30. Answering religious worldviews of immanent moralism -- BUDDHISM
These are worldviews which stress the here and now, that which is close at hand or part of our experience. Buddhism and Confucianism are examples of these.
Buddhism - as taught by the Buddha - was originally an atheistic religion with no place for god, or gods, and which denies the soul (Concise Dictionary of Religion, p. 40). However, there is more than one branch of Buddhism, and the Buddha is actually worshipped as a god in the Mahayana branches of Buddhism. Buddhism is an extremely moralistic belief system. It was founded by Siddhartha Guatama, who grew up in a Hindu environment. He became the Buddha after he had a number of life-changing experiences. Siddhartha lived a life of luxury growing up as the son of a feudal lord in what is Nepal today. He renounced his life of luxury and the world, when he saw a vision of four sights: an old man, a sick man, a dead man and a shaven monk. Seeing these four sights started his plunge into a search for the reason of suffering in this world. He joined a Hindu ascetic cult, practiced self-beating and almost died. It was at this point in life that he was enlightened to the truth of the middle way: what we must do in life is to stay in the middle of two extremes of asceticism and pleasure. Siddhartha claimed that under a fig tree, Mara the evil one, tempted him and Siddhartha overcame his temptation and became enlightened to become the Buddha. Having found enlightenment, he went into rapture for 49 days and afterwards set out to tell everyone of his experience, motivated by the fact that there is a lot of suffering and the need for people to find out why. Having been saved from this suffering, Siddhartha now went out to evangelize the world as the Buddha. When he would teach, he taught in a way that was devoid of authority. He said that the Hindu priests taught poorly and that he taught on the basis of experience. His religion would be devoid of ritual, speculation and tradition. Buddhism is a religion of intense self-effort. One must completely work out one's own salvation and break away from Samsara - the wheel of life. Buddhism got rid of the caste system; it is now possible to go to Nirvana directly. It is (more or less) egalitarian and denies the supernatural (in its Theravada form); Siddhartha said the supernatural is a form of speculation that should be avoided. As such, Buddhism is atheistic (this applies today only to the Theravada branch of Buddhism). It attempts to teach the cause and effect relationship that brings about suffering.
The main problem to be dealt with in Buddhism is the nature of suffering and how we deal with it. It teaches that suffering stems from man’s desires.
It emphasises four noble truths
- 1. Dukkha: life is suffering, both physical and mental2. Samudāya: The cause of suffering is pleasure or desire and ignorance, which lie at the root of suffering. By desire, Buddhists refer to craving pleasure, material goods, and immortality, all of which are wants that can never be satisfied.3. Nirodha: Suffering will cease when desires cease. We must get rid of desire.4. Magga: The cessation of desire comes from perfect detachment.
Magga is achieved through the 8-fold path:
- 1. You need right views to accept the four Noble truths.2. You need right desires – be free from lust, ill will, and cruelty.3. You need right speech – be truthful and don’t engage in idle chatter.4. You need right conduct – be charitable and don’t kill living things.5. You need a right livelihood – you must promote life in what you do.6. You need right effort – stressing the will to overcome evil.7. You need right awareness – think of your body as loathsome. Sin is not your problem, ignorance is.8. You need right meditation – you need to do the rasa yoga, with a mantra.
The eightfold path has 10 “fetters” that get in the way of following the 8-fold path
- 1. Belief in real self2. Doubting what Buddha says3. Confidence in rituals4. Sensual desire5. Ill will6. Lust for material existence7. Lust for immaterial existence8. Conceit9. Restlessness10. Ignorance about the nature of metaphysical reality.
In addition to the four noble truths, the eight-fold path and the ten fetters, the teaching of Buddhism also includes the four stages of enlightenment, the six perfections, the ten stages of Sutra, and other teachings.
With all this rigid structure of a worldview, the first question to ask is “Says who?” Buddhism, being an atheistic worldview, lacks any authority behind what it commands. Why should we listen to the Buddha? Well, because he is the enlightened one, we will be told. Who said he is? The Buddha. Well the Buddha also said we are not supposed to listen to things because they were said by him or because he is reported to have said it (Kalama Sutta)*; rather we are to believe things based solely on our personal experience. So then, we want to know why we should believe Buddha and not Confucius who gave us another moralistic religion, or to any other person for that matter. Who made Buddha an authority? Well he made himself an authority. But he told us not to listen to him! The problem is obvious. Of course a Buddhist has every right to ask us who made Christ our authority. For a believer, the reasons are simple and clear. In our worldview, Christ is the creator of everything; He is the redeemer, and He is the judge of all mankind, so it stands to reason we take him as the ultimate authority. However Buddhism, the Buddha is a man who has no soul, who said he was enlightened but at the same time told us not to believe what we are told and that no-one’s words - including his own - carry any authority.
We may also take the Buddhist idea of Karma - an impersonal cosmic law of retribution. The way you live your life will affect the way you live in the next life. But there is also another doctrine, “Anatta,” which means “no Soul”. So if humans don’t have souls, what exactly gets reincarnated or reborn? If believing in the self is fiction and has no reality - as it’s one of the fetters - it means there is no personal continuity. Well good luck to whoever or whatever gets my Karma then - because according to Buddhist teachings, it won’t be me as I have no soul and my physical body is not reborn.
This is not just sophistry; Buddhism (like any other worldview) opposes itself. We are asked to seek what is good for ourselves by denying ourselves, which is contradictory. We are told we should seek Enlightenment, which is indescribable, incomprehensible, incommunicable. We are taught a doctrine of rebirth yet there is no soul. Reality is ultimately illusory, in which case, there is no reason to believe anything or even to have a discussion with a Buddhist. We are told to find salvation on our own, but on the other hand we are also told that suffering is caused by being individualistic. A Buddhist may be arbitrary in his decision to accept the Buddha's teaching. However, our job is to point out that they are being just that - arbitrary. Apologetically, we can go no further; we have highlighted that without Christ as a foundation, all else is absurd.
We now come to conversations with followers of Biblical Counterfeits. These are religions, which on the surface may seem very similar to Christianity. They have a holy book, a prophet, a belief in a god, and sometimes they even claim it’s the same God. We can divide these religions into three categories: Unitarian, Polytheistic and Pseudo-Messianic. We will take one example from each: