Value of interfaith studies

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Will
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Value of interfaith studies

Post by Will » Mon Sep 11, 2017 12:54 pm

The value of comparative study is unmistakable. Every sincere seeker after Truth recognizes the great stimulus it exerts over the mind, and welcomes with joyous heart every revelation that is sustained and verified by many sources both old and new. The dogmatist, on the other hand, in order to safeguard his chosen creed, sits with doors closed to both past and present.

We forget that Truth is self-sufficient and self-sustaining and does not require human hand to protect it. Why should a precept of the New Testament be less valuable if it is found in the Old Testament, or again in the Jewish Kabala, or in the Egyptian sacred codes, in the Zend Avesta of the Parsees, in the great Chinese classics, or in the Indo-Aryan Vedic revelation? Not only is the value of such a saying not decreased, it is reinforced a thousandfold and its utility is expanded. It is only when we settle down to religious morbidity that we are fearful of anything out of our usual custom or habit.
Swami Paramananda in Emerson and Vedanta.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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cappuccino
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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by cappuccino » Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:23 pm

Advaita or Zen leads to a purer self, yet Buddhism leads to total purity.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:53 pm

Good topic, Will. The Swami is right, but I have known a lot of people who are desperate to uncover some kind of universal spirituality or philosophia perennis, and then decontextualise and distort the meaning of different texts and traditions in order to make them fit. Our motives will condition what we find in our studies.

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Will
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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by Will » Mon Sep 11, 2017 3:21 pm

Sam Vara wrote:Good topic, Will. The Swami is right, but I have known a lot of people who are desperate to uncover some kind of universal spirituality or philosophia perennis, and then decontextualise and distort the meaning of different texts and traditions in order to make them fit. Our motives will condition what we find in our studies.
True enough Sam, yet any bright intellect can 'desperately' analyze distinctions into differences and thus produce islands of views, schools and paths. Perhaps that is why Buddha praised non-attachment so much. A truly impartial motivation toward truth is possible.

The last couple of chapters in the Suttanipata make that pretty clear.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by chownah » Mon Sep 11, 2017 3:31 pm

It sort of reminds me of hedging one's bets.
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Caodemarte
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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by Caodemarte » Mon Sep 11, 2017 4:09 pm

cappuccino wrote:Advaita or Zen leads to a purer self, yet Buddhism leads to total purity.
This is the kind of comment that shows the value of interfaith studies as well as studies of the religion one is trying to practice.
Otherwise we are at the mercy of our ill-informed assumptions and ignorance. For myself, I discovered that I was ignorant of my own religion and by comparative study was able to suddenly understand "Oh, that's what they were trying to say!" Scientists correctly say that you can't understand the planet you are standing on unless you compare it to other planets.
Last edited by Caodemarte on Mon Sep 11, 2017 6:39 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Sep 11, 2017 5:20 pm

Will wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:Good topic, Will. The Swami is right, but I have known a lot of people who are desperate to uncover some kind of universal spirituality or philosophia perennis, and then decontextualise and distort the meaning of different texts and traditions in order to make them fit. Our motives will condition what we find in our studies.
True enough Sam, yet any bright intellect can 'desperately' analyze distinctions into differences and thus produce islands of views, schools and paths. Perhaps that is why Buddha praised non-attachment so much. A truly impartial motivation toward truth is possible.

The last couple of chapters in the Suttanipata make that pretty clear.
Yes, I agree. There are probably different pitfalls for different defilements, and at least those who look for similarities are motivated by the desire to build bridges, and their endeavours usually end in less conflict.

I'll check out the Suttanipata reference later this evening - thanks!

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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by Leeuwenhoek2 » Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:27 pm

Will wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2017 12:54 pm
The value of comparative study is unmistakable. ...
-- Swami Paramananda in Emerson and Vedanta.
The Buddha's work was informed by his own comparative study. This is how he arrived at a "middle way". His dialogs as they come down to us show a thinker who is well versed in several philosophies. His explanations often anticipate the reasoning or ideas of other philosophies.
Thus we might present the Buddha as a student of interfaith studies.
Will wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2017 12:54 pm
We forget that Truth is self-sufficient and self-sustaining and does not require human hand to protect it.
That idea is familiar to minds steeped in western traditions. I'm curious what Buddhist texts have to say, if anything, about that idea.

Is even Truth subject to the principle of interdependence? On the other hand it might be self-sufficient and self-sustaining in the sense that a wild plant or tree is. Thinking here of a tended plant in a garden and a wild plant.

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Will
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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by Will » Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:41 pm

Cannot recall where in the canon this notion is exactly, but Truth or Reality or Dhamma cannot change or disappear whether a Buddha is here to teach about it, or not.
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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Sam Vara
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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by Sam Vara » Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:59 pm

Will wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:41 pm
Cannot recall where in the canon this notion is exactly, but Truth or Reality or Dhamma cannot change or disappear whether a Buddha is here to teach about it, or not.
The Dhamma-Niyama Sutta?
"Monks, whether or not there is the arising of Tathagatas, this property stands — this steadfastness of the Dhamma, this orderliness of the Dhamma..."
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... than.html

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Will
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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by Will » Sun Dec 17, 2017 9:25 pm

Thanks Sam, there may be another place, but this reference of AN 3:134 will do!
Wholesome virtuous behavior progressively leads to the foremost. -- AN 10.1

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DooDoot
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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by DooDoot » Sat Dec 23, 2017 1:22 am

Swami wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2017 12:54 pm
Why should a precept of the New Testament be less valuable if it is found in the Old Testament, or again in the Jewish Kabala, or in the Egyptian sacred codes, in the Zend Avesta of the Parsees, in the great Chinese classics, or in the Indo-Aryan Vedic revelation?
The above appears to refer to moral truth, which is generally universal among all genuine religions. However, what are considered to be the higher truths of religions (such as 'anatta') may differ.
Leeuwenhoek2 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:27 pm
The Buddha's work was informed by his own comparative study. This is how he arrived at a "middle way".
The Middle-Way is quoted below & appeared to be not related to any interfaith dialogues because it was something the Buddha said he had never heard before:
Bhikkhus, these two extremes should not be followed by one who has gone forth into homelessness. What two? The pursuit of sensual happiness in sensual pleasures, which is low, vulgar, the way of worldlings, ignoble, unbeneficial; and the pursuit of self-mortification, which is painful, ignoble, unbeneficial. Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathagata has awakened to the middle way, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.

“And what, bhikkhus, is that middle way awakened to by the Tathagata, which gives rise to vision … which leads to Nibbāna? It is this Noble Eightfold Path; that is, right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. This, bhikkhus, is that middle way awakened to by the Tathagata, which gives rise to vision, which gives rise to knowledge, which leads to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbāna.

This is the noble truth of the way leading to the cessation of suffering’: thus, bhikkhus, in regard to things unheard before, there arose in me vision, knowledge, wisdom, true knowledge, and light.

https://suttacentral.net/en/sn56.11
:alien:
Leeuwenhoek2 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:27 pm
His dialogs as they come down to us show a thinker who is well versed in several philosophies. His explanations often anticipate the reasoning or ideas of other philosophies.
Such as? Please provide some examples? Thanks
Leeuwenhoek2 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:27 pm
That idea is familiar to minds steeped in western traditions. I'm curious what Buddhist texts have to say, if anything, about that idea.
If it was previously said: "His dialogs as they come down to us"; I imagine it would be known what the Buddhist texts have to say.
Leeuwenhoek2 wrote:
Sun Dec 17, 2017 7:27 pm
Is even Truth subject to the principle of interdependence? On the other hand it might be self-sufficient and self-sustaining in the sense that a wild plant or tree is. Thinking here of a tended plant in a garden and a wild plant.
The Pali suttas appear to say the Truth exists independent of human cognition if it. Here: https://suttacentral.net/en/an3.136 & here: https://suttacentral.net/en/sn12.20 . However, the specific Truths mentioned at the links were discovered & revealed by the Buddha, according to Buddhism & according to a comparative study of other religions.
... whether there is an arising of Tathagatas or no arising of Tathagatas, that element still persists, the stableness of the Dhamma, the fixed course (lawfulness) of the Dhamma...

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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by SarathW » Sat Dec 23, 2017 2:06 am

I think the interfaith study is something very important.
At least we can be some responsible citizens when we have some appreciation for others beliefs.
Does interfaith study include Buddhism and atheism?

The following video series gives you a birds-eye view of various religions.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by Pseudobabble » Sat Dec 23, 2017 7:03 pm

Comparative study is how I reached Buddhism. Once you realise there is only one truth, it simply becomes a matter of who elucidates it the most clearly, avoiding subtle errors and so forth.
"Does Master Gotama have any position at all?"

"A 'position,' Vaccha, is something that a Tathagata has done away with. What a Tathagata sees is this: 'Such is form, such its origination, such its disappearance; such is feeling, such its origination, such its disappearance; such is perception...such are fabrications...such is consciousness, such its origination, such its disappearance.'" - Aggi-Vacchagotta Sutta


'Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return.' - Genesis 3:19

'Some fart freely, some try to hide and silence it. Which one is correct?' - Saegnapha

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Re: Value of interfaith studies

Post by Annatar » Sun Dec 24, 2017 11:39 am

Caodemarte wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2017 4:09 pm
I discovered that I was ignorant of my own religion and by comparative study was able to suddenly understand "Oh, that's what they were trying to say!"
Yes, other faiths can sometimes shine light from a different direction on the Truth and this can be quite insightful.

If only we could focus more on what we have in common with people of other faiths rather than on where we differ, the world would surely be a more peaceful place.

It seems to me that dwelling on our differences tends to "solidify" our sense of being separate selves. Focusing on what we have in common tends to diminish our sense of being separate selves.

May all beings be well and happy,
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