In yesterday’s post, I described my brush with Buddhism-Hinduism in college. Paul Little admits that the college student is most likely to encounter new faiths in the university atmosphere [unless they go to a strict church-based school]. New faiths are ok but they can make one question their Christian church upbringing.
One of the most common misconceptions about other faiths is the statement that I made in college that “all faiths are the same and we are worshipping the same god anyhow”.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Today, I will try to explain the basics of Buddhism and Hinduism [not very thoroughly, but I will scratch the surface]. Tomorrow I will discuss Islam and the following day I will explain in simple terms my understanding of Judaism.
Maybe the easiest way to explain these faiths is to begin with a discussion about God [since I refer to my God also I use the capital G]. For the Buddhist, God is wrapped up in the character Buddha, a man who taught his practice of the “middle way” [he tried to avoid extremes] sometime between the 4th and 6th century BCE. As I referred to the character Siddhartha in yesterday’s post, Buddha taught that the proper life path was not in sensual indulgence extreme and not in severe asceticism extreme [asceticism is the avoidance of fulfilling anything but basic life needs]. The best life was someplace in between those extremes. Buddha never claimed to be god. In fact, he was agnostic about the concept of deity.
Paul Little states this about Buddha, “if God existed, the Buddha taught emphatically, he could not help an individual achieve enlightenment. Each person must work that out for himself.”
This I found to be true. Buddhism is what I would call a “works” religion. You have to work at it to achieve a higher level of spiritual consciousness. I have also found that it is a demanding religion. You might think this strange but when the famous golfer Tiger Woods was caught having multiple marital affairs in 2010, I wondered what his path back to a better life would be. Buddhism teaches of the pitfall of the sensuous life but there is scant mention of forgiveness when a person “sins”. Look at the statement Woods made on the day he made his public apology for his indiscretions. “Buddhism teaches that a craving of things outside ourselves causes an unhappy and pointless search for security.” He continued, “It teaches me to stop following every impulse and to learn restraint. Obviously, I lost track of what I was taught” [CNN Website, 2010]. I always wondered where he found the way to admit his frail humanity, where he found the way to forgive himself and where he found his way to cleanse his soul. I just don’t see it.
For the Hindu, the concept of god is very different. The idea of god is a force that resides in everything, from me, to my laptop, to the table that the laptop sits on. Life is an endless transition as the god-force that resides in all things is in the process of change.
The focus is on process.
Nothing stays the same. A person is in a constant state of change as he or she matures. Life is a path of good and evil and as humans we are to try to live the best life we can. What is our reward at the time of death? If life has been good, the reward is to graduate to a higher life form. If life has been evil, the punishment is to be demoted to a lesser life form [reincarnation].
Paul Little says the “ultimate goal is for man to be reunited with the God in nirvana.”
Obviously, man wants to be reunited with the Hindu god and that is the incentive for living a better life. As I said above, the focus of life is on process because there is recognition that all life and all that is in life is transitory. In essence the material world is an illusion, so why worry about anything but the god force that is in everything. The Hindu is only concerned about Maya or the reality of the spiritual world.
I am going to stop here and ask this…
Do these conceptions of god, sound like the Christian God?
I don’t presume to say that they are wrong and our Christian God is better but I have to admit that as I scratch the surface of Buddhism and Hinduism, I don’t find much that I can relate to.
All faiths are the same and we are worshipping the same god anyhow.
My God and Buddhism… not the same.
My God and Hinduism… not the same.