A: Essentially it is this: Buddhists do not
believe in a personal creator God. The idea that a supreme being
made everything which consequently makes us mere puppets of his
will is rejected by the Buddha.
Q: But how did the universe originate?
A: How does a thought originate? How does
a thought perish? How does a mental conception of God arise? How
is this mental image, in essence, different from the mental conception
of a house cat? This is what should interest us. Asking questions
about how the universe originated leads to nothing but more unanswered
questions. Speculation like this is the pastime of those addicted
to mentally constructed images who have never gone beyond them and
who are still espoused to imaginary thinking.
Q: But there had to be something that created
A: There may well be a cause as to why certain
things come into existence and perish, but that this is the workings
of Zeus is a little farfetched. By the way, that is an astonishing
leap in logic. For example, I can attribute the cause of water becoming
hot to the action of fire. But to say that a fire god is responsible
for heating my tea water is just plain silly.
Q: Did the Buddha believe in any kind of
A: He didnt just believehe realized
there were gods. When asked by a Brahmin youth if there were gods,
the Buddha said in the affirmative that he knew there were gods.
Let me also say that the Buddha never denied the existence of morally
perfect gods such as Brahma or a hierarchy of Brahmas. But as to
their being omniscient and omnipotent, the Buddha didnt buy
Q: Did the Buddha acknowledge a heaven?
A: Yes, the Buddha acknowledged heavens which
were far better than human existence. He also acknowledged hells
in which there was no good life nor righteous living, as the stronger
preyed on the weaker.
Q: Concerning the teachings of the Buddha
and Jesus, dont you see both of their teachings as being basically
A: Not really. In certain areas there might
be parallels. But to see them as equal is to gloss over some key
differences. For one thing, in Buddhism we have to work out our
own salvation. We dont expect a savior to do it for us.
With regard to karma, as I understand it, Christians
dont believe that every volitional action has a consequence.
Instead, they ask for forgiveness so as to erase the previous error.
This, as I see it, can lead to immorality as there are no actual
consequences for inappropriate actions.
Q: But dont you want to give people
A: In Buddhism everyone has another chancein
fact many lifetimes of other chances. But with karma, at some future
point, everyone will still have to pay for their mistakes. No free
lunches here. You goof, you pay.
Q: What are some of the other differences
between Christianity and Buddhism?
A: As I see it, to be frank, Christianity
has no system of virtues and wisdom whereby one learns how to become
detached from the sensuous world and thereby realize ones
fundamental nature. Nor, have I met any Christians who really know
how to deal with their ignorance, desire, and hatred except to pray
when they are in a jam. Where is meditation?
Where is practice? Where is the Eight Fold Path?
Q: But I see Christians trying to be wise
and virtuous; making real efforts to know who they are.
A: Such actions seem to be inconsistent with
Christianity. For, if Jesus had rid the world of sin, declaring
in effect, that sin has no power over us, then what more is there
to be done, except wait to die hoping eventually to go to heaven?
I think at some level that most Christians dont buy this.
Looking at our daily life, to get any place requires hard work.
Why should religion be any easier?
Q: Do you accept Jesus as your teacher in
A: Of course not. The Buddha is my teacher.
Accepting Jesus, on the other hand, is accepting a hodgepodge of
contradictory Christologies; many of which make little or no sense
to me. In one Christology, we are to believe that when we drop dead
we shall have to wait in our graves for Jesus to comeback who will
then judge us according to how obedient we were to the Church when
we were alive.
Q: But how can you accept the Buddha as being
the teacher if Jesus had a miraculous birth?
A: The Buddha himself had a divine birth;
much more divine than Jesus. The baby Buddha was unsoiled by the
impurities of womb birth. I dont recall the birth of Jesus
being anything more than an ordinary exit from his mothers
womb. Our baby Buddha was not an ordinary baby. He was like shining
gold, shining like the sun. After he was born, he took seven steps
and declared himself to be master of the cosmos. And then he laughed
the loudest laugh, knowing this was to be his last birth on earth.
Now that to me is much more divine than the birth of Jesus which
is not even mentioned in two of the four Gospels! Be honestdont
you think that Christians borrowed the idea of a divine birth from
Buddhists since the Buddha was born over five hundred years before
Q: Well that is possiblebut not likely.
What do you think about people who worship both the Buddha and Jesus
and try to combine both religions?
A: I would say that they are possibly confused.
How can you combine fish with ice cream? What is the point when
Buddhism offers 84,000 Dharma gates by which anyone can reach the
summit of wisdom? Buddhism has something for every religious disposition.
Q: But since the United States is a Christian
nation, shouldnt you attempt to be a little bit more Christian
in your thinking?
A: The last I read, George Washington and
the Senate declared in the Treaty with Tripoli, that the United
States was not a Christian nation. The early Presidents were, in
fact, Deists rather than Christians. They believed in God, but not
in Jesus. So no, I dont feel I have to be more Christian in
my thinking. As I tolerate Christians, so must they tolerate Buddhists.
Q: What is your impression of Christian Gnostics
A: I think it is a much better form of Christianity
than fundamentalism which I have been more or less addressing in
my remarks. But I dont really know that much about it. It
is Christian mysticism is it not?
Q: Yes, I believe so. By the way, what is
your definition of "mysticism"?
A: Well, consistent with mysticism is the
radical transcendence of the world and self. This formula certainly
rings with Buddhism. If Christian Gnosticism chimes with this, it
is fine with me.
Q: Do Buddhists try to actively convert people
to their religion?
A: No. The Buddha didnt wish to knock
over other peoples religions, hoping to gain converts. However,
he did disagree with various religious attitudes. But I think overall
he saw the big picture and realized that eventually most people
would come to Buddhism. In a way, Buddhism is like a Rolls Royce.
You dont have to advertise a good thing.
Q: How can we learn to get along if we cant
share the same religion?
A: The same way we learn how not to wipe
out our fellow human beings who like Mexican food, or Chinese foodfoods
which we, ourselves, might dislike. Personally, I feel that one
doesnt have to look for deep causes as to why people of different
religions dont get along. If you see a man in Buddhist robes
or see a Rabbi in his attire, leave them alone. They are having
a divine meal. Let them eat in peace.