Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Sam Vara
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Sam Vara » Tue Nov 12, 2013 10:54 pm

That both sides approach the argument with equal vigor. That is a given. So what is the point?
To see if your claim that
The profundity of the anatta doctrine sweeps past any theistic claims. It is a denial of both creator god and soul.
Was vigour, or something else.

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ancientbuddhism
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by ancientbuddhism » Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:14 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
That both sides approach the argument with equal vigor. That is a given. So what is the point?
To see if your claim that
The profundity of the anatta doctrine sweeps past any theistic claims. It is a denial of both creator god and soul.
Was vigour, or something else.

That statement is made brief for the benefit of an informed group. Would citing all the relevant suttas and Indological background provide the "something else" you mention?
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Mr Man
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Mr Man » Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:37 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:Again, I might personally agree with you, but Christians might be keen to repay the intellectual compliment with regard to anatta and Buddhism.
This circular reasoning is becoming tangential to this discussion, or I am just not seeing where it fits.

Christianity is not on the same intellectual footing as Buddhism. Christian doctrine is an empty claim that at best offers Pascal’s Wager for those with critical thinking enough to doubt.

Empirical examination will not yield any god. It will yield things as they are.
Possibly a Christian would say that faith is not a matter of the intellect and the atheist would say how can you talk reconcile empirical examination with a belief in an afterlife?

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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Nov 12, 2013 11:51 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:
Sam Vara wrote:Again, I might personally agree with you, but Christians might be keen to repay the intellectual compliment with regard to anatta and Buddhism.
This circular reasoning is becoming tangential to this discussion, or I am just not seeing where it fits.

Christianity is not on the same intellectual footing as Buddhism. Christian doctrine is an empty claim that at best offers Pascal’s Wager for those with critical thinking enough to doubt.

Empirical examination will not yield any god. It will yield things as they are.
I don't think I am engaging in any circular reasoning. I'm merely pointing out the possible similarity of arguments on both sides, with equal certainty being claimed by both.
I agree. Unless or until we are enlightened, we don't actually have the empirical evidence.
But, Master Gotama, in what way is there the preservation of truth? How does one preserve truth? We ask Master Gotama about the preservation of truth.”

“If a person has faith, Bhāradvāja, he preserves truth when he says: ‘My faith is thus’; but he does not yet come to the definite conclusion: ‘Only this is true, anything else is wrong.’ In this way, Bhāradvāja, there is the preservation of truth; in this way he preserves truth; in this way we describe the preservation of truth. But as yet there is no discovery of truth.
http://suttacentral.net/mn95/en/
"Excellent, Sariputta. Excellent. Those who have not known, seen, penetrated, realized, or attained it by means of discernment would have to take it on conviction in others that the faculty of conviction... persistence... mindfulness... concentration... discernment, when developed & pursued, gains a footing in the Deathless, has the Deathless as its goal & consummation; ...
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
:anjali:
Mike

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Dan74
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Dan74 » Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:08 am

I agree with Mike and Sam here. Intellectual honesty in my case demands that I admit to being Buddhist because at this point in time this practice makes more sense to me, resonates more with me and appears to lead away from clinging and delusion to liberation, while helping cultivate wholesome qualities. But at the end of the day, I cannot be certain that another practice that is not entirely in line with the Dhamma, could not be even more transformative for me (or anyone else).

Sure, intellectually, it appears to me that the Dhamma takes one further along the spiritual path, but looking at my life and looking at some lives that Christian contemplatives and saints had led, I'd be a fool to consider myself above them, my path superior to theirs, because much of it is in the walking, and perhaps this matters even more that whether the path leads to the peak or the base camp. Because few of us will get to either one of those places.
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by SarathW » Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:22 am

I see Buddhism, Christianity and Atheism are three different ships (rafts) sailing to three different destinations.
Say three ships sailing through Suez Chanel may end up in three different destinations India, China and Australia.

The commonality of these three ships are only when they are in the Suez Chanel.
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Sekha » Wed Nov 13, 2013 12:40 am

a Buddhist "ship" may go to hell, a Christian one may be headed for a paradise and an atheist one for Nibbana... it all depends on who is the captain.
Where knowledge ends, religion begins. - B. Disraeli

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manas
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by manas » Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:29 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:The profundity of the anatta doctrine sweeps past any theistic claims. It is a denial of both creator god and soul.
Hi ancientbuddhism

Thanissaro Bhikkhu argues very convincingly, imo, that anatta isn't a doctrine as such, it's a useful strategy for gaining liberation. For example:
'The Not-self Strategy' by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Books on Buddhism often state that the Buddha's most basic metaphysical tenet is that there is no soul or self. However, a survey of the discourses in the Pali canon — the earliest extant record of the Buddha's teachings — suggests that the Buddha taught the anatta or not-self doctrine, not as a metaphysical assertion, but as a strategy for gaining release from suffering: If one uses the concept of not-self to dis-identify oneself from all phenomena, one goes beyond the reach of all suffering & stress. As for what lies beyond suffering & stress, the Canon states that although it may be experienced, it lies beyond the range of description, and thus such descriptions as "self" or "not-self" would not apply.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tself.html
As I understand the teachings, to cling to the view "I have no self" is also not free from self-view. It is described as a wrong view, just as "I have a self" is a wrong view; it is very clearly stated in a certain sutta, which I cannot locate at present. I can, however, recall this:
"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by (takes as its object) a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one.

"By & large, Kaccayana, this world is in bondage to attachments, clingings (sustenances), & biases. But one such as this does not get involved with or cling to these attachments, clingings, fixations of awareness, biases, or obsessions; nor is he resolved on 'my self.' He has no uncertainty or doubt that just stress, when arising, is arising; stress, when passing away, is passing away. In this, his knowledge is independent of others. It's to this extent, Kaccayana, that there is right view.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
I think the idea here is that, what is really important is where to place our attention and energy, ie, on gaining release from stress. Existence vs non-existence both miss the point. We are supposed to see how stress arises, and how it can cease, by the forward and reverse applications of Dependent Origination. Not to cling to the idea of whether we exist or not.

I'm not sure if I'm able to convey what I'm trying to get at clearly enough, but Thanissaro Bhikkhu explains it at length in many places.

:anjali:
Last edited by manas on Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
without laying claim.

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daverupa
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by daverupa » Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:34 am

Sam Vara wrote:in the absence of saccanubodha it remains a view. I subscribe to it because I like it, it sounds rational, is traditional, etc., but unless I have knowledge that the personal certainties of Christians (etc.) are misplaced, then I think we are still dealing with a clash of two opposing views.
Perhaps this deserves a thread, if you're inclined to discuss comparative convictions, but on a comparative level with respect to the OP, we have here an example from the Dhamma (preservation of truth, etc.) of analysis which is of an altogether different order than e.g. Xian proscription.

Atheism, of course, isn't a view, but strictly the lack of a particular sort of view, and categorically stands apart from these.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Kamran
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Kamran » Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:46 am

The goal of buddhism, Christianity and Islam for that matter, is to purify yourself.

The focus on ridding yourself of greed, lust, anger is not only Buddhist. And not only Buddhists use meditation to battle the defilements. Atheists do not focus on purifying themselves as far as I know.

If interested you could google below by Ayatollah Khomeini for a non Buddhist example

The Greatest Jihad: Combat against the self.
Last edited by Kamran on Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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manas
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by manas » Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:48 am

daverupa wrote:
Atheism, of course, isn't a view, but strictly the lack of a particular sort of view, and categorically stands apart from these.
Hi Dave,

actually in my experience, this is not the case; it is the agnostic who has no particular view one way or the other. Atheists actually deny the existence of a supreme God, lesser gods, and often any kind of supernatural phenomena at all. I see them as clinging to a particular point of view just as religiously as the Theists do.

kind regards
manas
Knowing this body is like a clay jar,
securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
without laying claim.

- Dhp 40

SarathW
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by SarathW » Wed Nov 13, 2013 1:54 am

Sekha wrote:a Buddhist "ship" may go to hell, a Christian one may be headed for a paradise and an atheist one for Nibbana... it all depends on who is the captain.
Hi Sekha
I assume that the captain of the Buddhist ship has Nirvana as its (goal) destination etc.
:meditate:
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by whynotme » Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:33 am

Feathers wrote:Technically, atheism just means not believing in gods, it's just that recent atheists have gathered a lot of other images and meanings, not all of them terribly positive. That said, I do think The God Delusion is a book everyone should read, regardless of belief (or lack thereof). It probably won't be most people's cup of tea, but it raises some major issues and questions that rarely get raised.

In the end though you can't compare Christianity, Buddhism and atheism in anything but the vaguest terms, there are so many different flavours of all three.

One interesting thing I read ages ago by a Christian theologian discussing how quite a lot of doubting Christians head for Buddhism, and why he came back: The Buddhist Phase
The writer reflects on how his exploration of Buddhism has enriched his Christianity, and why he stuck with Christianity in the end.

For me, the metaphysics the writer alludes to are just too much to swallow, so here I am, an atheist with a developing Buddhist practice, with no inclination whatsoever to go back to Christianity. The thing I do miss though is my original (pre-Buddhist) understanding of compassion - not sympathy, not detached loving-kindness, but suffering-with.
There is a sutta in Nikaya (hope that some on here can comfirm) the Buddha stated that the one inclined to body gets liberation easier than the one inclined to mind because the rising and death of body (matter) are easier to realize than the rising and death of minds (very fast and change frequently). So IMO, a wise atheist who is inclined to matter is much more easier to get the ideas of Buddhism than metaphysicist or Christian, although in suttas there were many Brahmins who believe in god get liberation.

Actually, my experience with Christians, especially those think they are smart also confirming this fact (or not???). The more they inclined to minds (souls, metaphysics, invisible things, unknown things) the more they inclined to supernatural things, god, creator,.. While this faith in god or creator is not much important because some of them actually very good in person, many of them created a denial view which denies Buddhism (and sometimes includes hatred toward it)
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Samma
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by Samma » Wed Nov 13, 2013 4:42 am

I agree whynotme
"It would be better for the uninstructed run-of-the-mill person to hold to the body composed of the four great elements, rather than the mind, as the self. Why is that? Because this body composed of the four great elements is seen standing for a year, two years, three, four, five, ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, a hundred years or more. But what's called 'mind,' 'intellect,' or 'consciousness' by day and by night arises as one thing and ceases as another. Just as a monkey, swinging through a forest wilderness, grabs a branch. Letting go of it, it grabs another branch. Letting go of that, it grabs another one. Letting go of that, it grabs another one. In the same way, what's called 'mind,' 'intellect,' or 'consciousness' by day and by night arises as one thing and ceases as another.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

rohana
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Re: Is Buddhism closer to Christianity than atheism?

Post by rohana » Wed Nov 13, 2013 4:45 am

Sam Vara wrote:Again, I don't disagree, but some Christians say something very similar. Knowledge of God is no mere view, it is based on empirical knowledge, and is presented in writings etc. with the aim of examining the relevance etc., with similar accompanying remarks concerning other faiths or none.
While avoiding the OPs question (first you'd have to define how to measure 'closer' and 'farther' between religions) - on this particular issue of anattā Buddhism may have the upper hand.
  • The Blessed One said, "What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. [1] Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range."
    Sabba Sutta
The Buddhist is simply claiming that one cannot see anything worth granting the status of attā among what is directly experienced - because that, according to the Buddha is the 'All'(sabba). So if the Christian claims that the self/soul is found among the six since bases, then the onus is on them to show where it is since you can't disprove a negative. If they are claiming it is outside the six sense bases then by definition they're claiming something unprovable and even subjectively unverifiable.

This doesn't mean that Buddhism is a purely rational path. But in any case, Buddhism only deals with subjective experiences and subjective proofs. So Stephen Jay Gould's argument that science and religion are non-overlapping magisteria would seem to apply to Buddhism more fully than most religions. So any 'turf-war' between the Abrahamic religions and science, Buddhism can side-step by pointing out that in the texts we have the Buddha directly pointing out that the Dhamma is only interested about what is experienced, not what is 'out there'.
"Delighting in existence, O monks, are gods and men; they are attached to existence, they revel in existence. When the Dhamma for the cessation of existence is being preached to them, their minds do not leap towards it, do not get pleased with it, do not get settled in it, do not find confidence in it. That is how, monks, some lag behind."
- It. p 43

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