Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
shjohnk
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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by shjohnk » Fri Jul 31, 2009 12:43 am

I think we (Buddhists) should be tolerant of their BELIEFS, but certain actions should be condemned/opposed. I am most concerned with the activities of Christian missionaries who exploit the tolerance of traditional Buddhist countries to conduct flagrant missionary activities. One example that bugged me in particular was in Myanmar, where a group of Christians went to a monastery and volunteered to teach the monks English, which the abbot assented to. They used the 'classes' as a cover for preaching to the monks, using the Bible as their 'textbook' and showing one of those hammily acted, badly shot movies about the life of jesus that they make in the bible belt. The abbot there continued to allow this even after discovering their methods. This kind of activity should be opposed, in my opinion. It's funny that they don't do this kind of thing in Saudi arabia, do they? Of course, i'm not advocating violence towards these people, but they should be discovered and deported for such activities, and i think Buddhist organisations need to be more proactive in combatting this kind of activity. Apparently this kind of stuff is having a big impact in Sri Lanka too. If we're not careful, traditional Buddhist culture could really be threatened by this activity: Buddhists shouldn't be so tolerant they allow themselves to be targetted.

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kc2dpt
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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by kc2dpt » Fri Jul 31, 2009 2:31 am

Dan, good post.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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christopher:::
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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by christopher::: » Fri Jul 31, 2009 2:46 am

Thanks everyone, for your responses.

I think i'm probably oversensitive to this issue because of my circumstances. No one in my family is Buddhist, in the United States. Not one of my closest friends is Buddhist. Most are Jewish. My wife's family is Buddhist, but its not something that we talk about, the dharma.

My parents are Unitarian Universalists, and that's how I was raised. Tolerance is probably one of the most important things for UUs. I teach at a Baptist Christian University in Japan. About half the faculty is Christian, half Buddhist. Most of our students are Buddhists, but don't practice or study the dharma that deeply. The atmosphere at our University is very tolerant, the Christians are respectful of the Buddhists, and visa versa. Religion isn't really a topic of discussion, actually. I guess that's a form of tolerance, in some ways. We just treat one another as people, fellow human beings. Religion doesn't come up as something to discuss.

While I've been drawn strongly to the dharma since the early 1980s I've also gone to Hindu and Taoist texts/writing at times, for inspiration and guidance. Native American Indian wisdom, as well. I'm not attracted to Christianity, Judaism or Islam, but I have close friends who practice, who seem to benefit in their lives from their faith. I find it all fascinating, the spiritual quest of humanity. The various paths are not all the same, but when people meet the world with an open heart and open mind, I don't really notice any differences. Like a guy who loves classical music hugging his friend who's into punk rock, the music is not primary, its simply part of the background. It's their connecting as two friends, as humans, that matters.

For me, a person's spiritual beliefs are something personal, that I respect, without judgment. And when others say critical things I tend to defend other faiths. I've noticed that this gets me into debates at times, and makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, sometimes, in discussions with fellow Buddhists, where other faiths are mentioned and criticized.

Maybe I need to simply steer clear of the conversations that deal critically with other religions?

:thinking:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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Dan74
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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by Dan74 » Fri Jul 31, 2009 6:38 am

What gave me a measure of peace in this regard was realizing that it's a lot more about the practitioner than the path.

Most religions have plenty of inspiration and wisdom in them. A good practitioner will benefit, a poor one can study with enlightened masters and gain next to nothing.

_/|\_
_/|\_

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by Sanghamitta » Fri Jul 31, 2009 7:14 am

There is an English expression, " Jack of all trades, master of none ". It referred originally to people who can turn their hand to a number of tasks , but had not served an apprenticeship.
There are many people who are open hearted, who have a real interest in a number of spiritual paths but have never done the apprenticeship. Of course the analogy is only partial because most of us in this life will always be apprentices, but apprenticeship for Buddhists is practising and doing the concommitant sutta study , its going for Refuge, with the implication that you will not take refuge in speculative beliefs or "gods". Its receiving instruction from the Sangha and/or a teacher. In other words if the apprenticeship is properly undertaken it leads to a focus on the Dhamma and away from comparitive religion as a kind of hobby interest.
The Dhamma is a complete path, which calls for a complete commitment.
:anjali:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by Pannapetar » Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:08 am

Christopher,

For me this question is a bit of a 'no-brainer', because it can only be answered with 'yes' for precisely the reasons that Bikkhu Bodhi mentioned in the very first sentence you quoted. I would go even further than Bikkhu Bodhi and acknowledge that other religions, particularly the dharmic religions, can propel their adherents towards nibbana and thus have the very same end as Buddhism. To say that only Buddhism can achieve this strikes me as snobbish.

"Truth is a pathless land," said Krishnamurti.

Cheers, Thomas

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by Sanghamitta » Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:31 am

Well personally I tend to take a point of view which quotes Krishnamurti with a very large pinch of salt.. :smile:
And " snobbish" is a term which refers to social position, the dismissal of a person or views because of a perceived social inferiority. It is not applicable in this context. It was the Buddha who described his Dhamma as the one ("ek" ) Way to Nibbana. It is axiomatic to the Buddhadhamma that no other path has the same end result as does it. Religions can and do contribute in various ways to society, but they do not lead to Nibbana as described by the Buddha.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Ben
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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by Ben » Fri Jul 31, 2009 9:33 am

Sanghamitta wrote:The Dhamma is a complete path, which calls for a complete commitment.
:anjali:
Sadhu!
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

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cooran
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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by cooran » Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:07 am

Hello all,

Yes - Buddhists should be tolerant of other Religions.

Respect for other teachers
From Buddhist point of view, one should never ridicule a great teacher, merely because he was not a Buddhist. There were great teachers like Zoraster, Confutze, Lao-tze, noble Jesus and many others. A Buddhist should never insult them. To do so is against Buddha's teachings. This freedom of investigation and accepting is encouraged in Buddhist teachings.

This broad-minded approach is seen in the account of Upali's meeting with the Buddha. Upali was a follower of Jainism. He came to the Buddha with a view to argue on some points of Buddha's teachings. But at the close of discussion he was convinced and expressed he wanted to become a Buddha's follower and that he would stop his support to Jain monks who until now he had highly regarded. But the Buddha said: "Consider further! Don't be in a hurry to follow me. Never stop supporting those Jain monks whom you have respectfully treated for so long."

There is another account of certain wandering recluse who had a discussion with Buddha concerning the difference between the doctrines of the both, at which the Buddha said, "Well, my friend, though we discuss our views and practices, don't think that I am trying to convert you to my side. I don't want to do so. You may go on your way, but let us see whether you or we that practice as you and we teach."

Thus there is full freedom of thinking and full freedom of speaking in the teachings of the Buddha. You can even be critical of the Buddha or his teachings and this freedom is extended to all people. So you should not get angry when others say things that you do not agree with. Listen to them and judge impartially, whether they are right or not right. That is the Buddha's way
http://www.purifymind.com/BuddhaHisWay.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

One of my good friends is a woman who is a practising Muslim - wears the hijab (since the invasion of Iraq by the U.S.). We have wonderful conversations about religion - I'll say "The Buddha taught ....." and she will say "Did he?! Well, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said a similar thing .....". Neither of us tries to convert the other - just enjoy our different and similar understandings.

metta
Chris

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by Pannapetar » Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:29 am

Sanghamitta wrote:It was the Buddha who described his Dhamma as the one ("ek" ) Way to Nibbana. It is axiomatic to the Buddhadhamma that no other path has the same end result as does it. Religions can and do contribute in various ways to society, but they do not lead to Nibbana as described by the Buddha.
"Snobbish" is just a nice way of saying "exclusionist". :smile:

It is also necessary to distinguish Buddhism from the Buddhadharma. While Buddhism is not the only way to the nibbana, the spiritual realisation of the truths described by the Buddhadharma may very well be. But it is only exclusive in the sense that we are dealing with isomorphisms that relate to the same truths, which are (1) expressed differently and (2) may even entail different methodologies.

It is almost illogical to say that the Buddhadharma "as expressed by the Buddha" (as if we could know...) is the only way to nibbana, because this raises the immediate question: which Buddhadharma? The one in the Pali canon? The one in the Mahayana canon? The one in the commentaries? You cannot avoid the conclusion that there are multiple ways of expressing the same truth, even within Buddhism, and that therefore there exists no ultimate Buddhadharma, at least not in language.

There are plenty of enlightened masters in other religions whose mere existence is evidence for the fact that Buddhism has no exclusive access to enlightenment.

Cheers, Thomas

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by Sanghamitta » Fri Jul 31, 2009 10:45 am

Well, to keep it simple, the "one in the Pali Canon ".
You are producing a circular arguement. I dont accept the existence of " masters in other religions " whose " enlightenment" equates to that described by, and attained by, The Buddha. So it looks as though you and I might have reached an impasse Thomas.

with metta,

:anjali:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by Pannapetar » Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:03 am

Sanghamitta wrote:I dont accept the existence of " masters in other religions " whose " enlightenment" equates to that described by, and attained by, The Buddha.
That's alright. We all do what serves us best. I once held this point of view as well.

Once you realise that there are different ways to truth and enlightenment this puts you in the predicament that you need to make up your mind anew about which one to practice, since haphazard eclecticism is likely to fail. I think the choice of religion is a bit like the choice of an instrument. They all make music. But they are very different in their characteristics and they entail quite different learning paths. For example, the technique of a trumpeter is quite different from the technique of a saxophonist. Why do people chose different instruments? Because of different personal histories, inclinations, and talents. - Same thing with religion.

Cheers, Thomas

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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by Sanghamitta » Fri Jul 31, 2009 11:16 am

As it happens Thomas, I once held your view...It became increasingly clear that the nature of the Buddhadhamma was unique, and that its end result was similarly unique.

But it might not be now, or in this lifetime, accessable to all, for kammic reasons.
This is not exclusivist. Or if it is , it is exclusive only in the sense that our kamma and its result are exclusive to our mind stream.

The op was to do with tolerence. Tolerence is of the essence of the Buddhadhamma. As is a clear insight into what distinguishes the Buddhadhamma from speculative views.

:anjali:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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kc2dpt
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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by kc2dpt » Fri Jul 31, 2009 2:02 pm

christopher::: wrote:when others say critical things I tend to defend other faiths. I've noticed that this gets me into debates at times, and makes me feel a bit uncomfortable, sometimes, in discussions with fellow Buddhists, where other faiths are mentioned and criticized.
Why?

Why do you feel the need to defend?
Why does it make you feel uncomfortable?

Thinking about this might help you understand what would be best for you to do.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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christopher:::
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Re: Should Buddhists be Tolerant of Other Religions?

Post by christopher::: » Fri Jul 31, 2009 4:18 pm

Hi Peter.

I don't feel a desire to defend in all cases. If someone starts to criticize Islamic fundamentalism, Catholic pedophile priests, Israeli militarism or something like that (which violates the common values of most religions) i tend to think such criticism is valid.

I find myself defending other paths when the path itself, or the core beliefs, are put down as being meaningless or inferior... such as some recent posts here at dhamma wheel where belief in God was described this way... In my view people who believe in God are going to refuge in that faith, so its something sacred for them, like the 3 jewels are for Buddhists, worthy of respectful speech- even though most Buddhists do not believe in God themselves...

Another thing that surprised me, to be honest, when I first started communicating on Buddhist forums (about 5 years ago) was that when I raised the perspective of HHDL that "his true religion is kindness" and the most essential thing is not one's religion but to develop a good heart, the response of many Buddhist to that was "oh he just says that, because his holiness plays a political role."

I think Buddhists are missing something if they don't reflect on such simple ideas, deeply.

Just my view.

:heart:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009

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