Religion Essay, Research Paper
In explaining Buddhism, one must first understand Hinduism from which Buddhism grew. Buddhism is a reaction against Hinduism as protestant is against Catholicism. According to The World s Religions by Houston Smith, there are six aspects of religion that appear so often that a suggestion can be implied that they are seeds that make up humanity. In constructing this paper, first I will outline and explain these six aspects. Then I will attempt to explain why Buddha found them to be obstacles for spiritual development, and why Hinduism and Christianity endorse the importance of these six elements.
The word authority as it pertains to the six elements of religion does not only pertain to God s final authority, but to the authority given to the religious structure. Organized religion is important in that it gives people direction and guidance in their relationship to their God. This authority can be seen in the positions of leadership of any organized religion, where the leadership makes decisions that must be obeyed. Buddha preached his religion with an absence of authority. He attacked this authority on two fronts. First he wanted to end monopolistic hold of the Hindu Brahmins on religious teaching by making the faith accessible to the average person taking away the secrecy of the Brahmins.
Buddha said, there is no such thing as closed-fistedness in the Buddha . (The Worlds Religions pg. 94)
In other words the religious leadership did not hold all control on spiritual enlightenment. This first attack on authority was directed at an institution of Hinduism, most directly at the Brahmin caste. The second front was pointed toward individual people. The majority of the people relied on Brahmins to tell them what to do. Buddha challenged each person to seek his or her own religion. In comparison, true Christianity advocates authority in worship and in deed. For example,
Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe to do it; that it may be well with thee, and that ye may increase mightily, as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee, in the land that floweth with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (The Bible, KJV, Deut 6:3-9)
That one Lord is the final authority and recipient of all worship. All authority in Heaven and in Earth belongs to him. While the Christian Bible places importance on various religious offices such as pastor, evangelist, teacher, apostle, prophet, and many more; it strongly advocates that a true worshiper must work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. Hinduism on the other hand teaches a strict reliance on the Brahmins for spiritual authority. The Caste system in Hinduism causes and elite mentality and gives little incentive to an individual to take responsibility for his spiritual authority.
Buddhism is a religion absent of ritual, while Hinduism is filled with superstition and, rites, to powerless gods. Buddha preached against these practices. He said,
Belief in the efficacy of rites and ceremonies was one of the ten fetters that bind the human spirit. (The Worlds Religions pg. 65)
While Christianity in many of its current forms and denominations seem to be shrouded in ritualism, true Christianity actually disdains ritualism. The early Christians left the written rituals and sacrifices of their temples and lifted them into spiritual application. Instead of a written ritual like sacrifice, they accepted the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and daily laid down their lives as living sacrifices . Jesus Christ many unbelieving Jews angry for breaking ritual.
And, behold, there was a man which had his hand withered. And they asked him, saying, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath days that they might accuse him. And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the Sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out? How much then is a man better than a sheep? (The Bible, KJV, Matt 12:10-12)
While many Christian faiths have built monuments and cathedrals with mysterious liturgies, true Christianity seeks to worship a God that does not dwell in a temple made with hands, but in the hearts of mankind. The Bible teaches that we should avoid vain repetition. The apostle Paul preached that we should beware of the spoilings of tradition and ritual when he said,
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. ( The Bible, KJV, Col 2:8 )
True Christianity teaches us that ceremony does not bring power, but instead power comes from an experience with God. Christianity tells us we should flee ritualism.
Having a form of godliness, ( tradition) but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. (The Bible, KJV, 2 Tim 3:5)
Buddhism seeks to keep its followers from developing views and speculations that can not be explained, instead preferring practical and exact teachings. Buddhism does not attempt to explain by speculation and remains silent on those issues that many other religions seek to understand. While Hinduism speculates on the creation and destruction of the world, the creation of god, Buddha remains silent on the subject. Christianity does not speculate on these matters, but instead states its belief as absolute truth. God is eternal, immortal, and everlasting. In Christianity this is not a speculation but a given.
Buddhism teaches a religion absent of tradition. The Buddhist saw tradition as a hindrance rather than help. Buddha encourages his followers to shake off the bands of tradition. He said,
Do not go by what was handed down nor on the authority of your traditional teachings . (The world s Religions pg. 96)
In Hinduism followers relied on the cycle of birth and rebirth as unending. The Brahmins taught the people that this would take thousands of lifetimes and would eventually work their way into the Brahmin caste and eventually be released. It was to this kind of tradition that Buddha preached against. Buddha taught that you should not even trust in God, but to trust in yourself. Salvation could not be achieved by following tradition and that the idea that the Brahmins could attain enlightenment the Buddha considered absurd. Buddha taught his followers that salvation could be attained in their lifetime. This was a strong contrast to the Hinduism of his day that taught that salvation was an endless journey that could only be reached through many lifetimes. True Christianity also teaches a religion free from tradition. This statement bears explanation. While tradition of men is something that we should shun, the tradition of truth is something we must embrace. While the ideas of men can be called tradition, the tenants of truth are called doctrine. It is to these tenants of truth that Christianity embraces.
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (The Bible, KJV, Acts 2:42)
Christianity teaches that we should walk in the well-trodden paths of truth lest we find ourselves in false doctrine and traditions of men.
Buddhist salvation is a salvation of self-effort. It was a salvation that could be attained. The Hinduism of his day with its unending cycle of birth and rebirth discouraged the average follower. To the Hindu it would seem as if the nightmare never ended. Buddhism offered a way out. Buddha said here is a path to the end of suffering. He taught that every person must walk this path by himself or herself. Christianity teaches that in man there is nothing that can bring about personal salvation except for the grace of God. Because of the sin of one man, the whole world must seek salvation. By the grace of one man, Jesus Christ, the whole world can receive salvation.
And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified. (The Bible, KJV, Acts 20:32)
Salvation to the Christian is not by works, but by inheritance. Obedience to and faith in the word of God brings a person into inheritance of the gift of salvation.
Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by grace without the deeds of the law. ( The Bible, KJV, Rom 3:27-28)
Buddha preached a religion that had no supernatural experience. He looked down upon the divine and considered it beneath him. While he believed that there were powers beyond human reasoning, he forbid his followers from seeking after such things. Buddha said,
“By this you should know that man is not my disciple, that he tries to work a miracle. ( The World s Religions pg. 97)
This fear of things supernatural is a direct opposite of true Christianity. Christianity is based on one principle thought, in the beginning was God, and this God is in always supernatural.
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. ( The Bible, KJV I timothy 3:16 )
It is to this supernatural event that Christianity finds its hope for eternal life.
It would be my contention that Buddha s attack on traditional religion is flawed and unstable. It is obvious to me from a simple reading that it is based upon his disdain for Hinduism and a reaction to its lack of spiritual hope. The six elements discussed in this paper do have value for spiritual development when applied properly and in context. Authority posses both negative and positive traits. A world devoid of authority is a world of anarchy and confusion. The same goes for the spiritual world. True Christianity teaches that God created this world and set it into motion. This universe does not function devoid of law and authority. For example, the moon does not randomly orbit the earth but it follows a set pattern. The same is true of the earth and the other planets. The absence of this authority would mean the end of life, as we know it. Why should a God who creates a world with such authority expect anything less from those who inhabit it? Jesus many times used the natural laws of this world to show their value to spiritual development. While man often abuses ritual, there is merit in its basic principle. Jesus said,
Eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. ( The Bible, KJV, 1 Cor 11:24.)
The ritual of communion brings us into a personal relationship with the death and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Traditions of men maybe something that hold little value, but traditions of truth can be mileposts and landmarks for a person on a journey for salvation. The Christian knows that he must obey the doctrines of Christ. Jesus said he that believes on me as the scripture has said out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. In other words there is a life that is gained from obedience to the traditions of God.
The very heart and soul of Christianity is founded upon the grace of God. Man who within posses nothing good can find forgiveness simply because God is good. If nature teaches one thing it teaches that man is not perfect. Man cannot earn his salvation because man can never be good enough. It is but for the grace of God that man is not left to continually walk in darkness. Grace is not a weakness, nor is it an excuse for failure. Grace is a gift from a God who so loved the world that He came himself to redeem it. To say that a God of love who condemns those to hell is a contradiction is to totally misunderstand grace. Grace gives us the opportunity to find eternal life. That same grace gives us the choice whether or not to choose eternal life. A religion absent of grace is a religion absent of hope. If man could simply trust in himself to find salvation, then man would not have the need for salvation in the first place.
The importance of mystery and supernatural power in spiritual growth can never be underestimated. A God cannot be a God unless he is supernatural. To trust that in our weakest moments we could reach out to a supernatural hand gives the Christian peace and assurance that though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I should fear no evil. Such confidence can only be achieved by something other than our own abilities. Down through history man has proved time and time again his own frailty while man is capable of great and marvelous achievements man is nothing more than an earthen vessel, and from dust he came and from dust he shall return. God is eternal in the mystery of his power and can never be measured by man. I may not understand God s power, I may not be able to measure God s power, I may not be able to explain God s power, but I know His power changes lives and hearts of men and women. That is supernatural the value of which cannot be measured. While the Buddha attacks religion with these 6 factors, he failed to see them in the context of truth. God is God because of these elements. Why does Christianity offer me the answer as opposed to Buddhism and Hinduism? Because it takes these elements in the context or truth. Many people today worship the Buddha, but the Buddha is dead to them and with out the supernatural. I worship Jesus Christ because He is alive to me, and it is supernatural. While Buddha attacks the supernatural, he points out the weakness of his belief. Christianity is built on a supernatural experience with a powerful God, whose grace allows us to follow the traditions of His word. That word says that while Buddha is dead, to the Christian Jesus is not.
To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God (The Bible, KJV Acts 1:3)
1. The Worlds Religions, Huston Smith, pg. 94
2. The Bible, KJV, Deut. 6:3-9
3. The Worlds Religions, Huston Smith, pg. 65
4. The Bible, KJV, Matt. 12:10-12
5. Ibid., Col. 2:8
6. Ibid., 2 Tim. 3:5
7. The Worlds Religions, Huston Smith, pg. 96
8. The Bible, KJV, Acts 2:42
9. Ibid., Acts 20:32
10. Ibid., Romans 3:27-28
11. The Worlds Religions, Huston Smith, pg. 97
12. The Bible, KJV, 1 Tim. 3:16
13. Ibid., 1 Cor. 11:24
14. Ibid., Acts 1:3