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Buddhism And The "Good" Idea

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Posted by A. Souza on June 11, 2003 13:25:59 UTC

As someone with close ties to Japan and its culture, I am a great admirer of Buddhist wisdom and have deep respect for its traditions, myths, and particularly its sense of aesthetics. I think the world is a better place for Buddhism, and I really wish Christians could learn a thing or two from it.

That said, as a foundation for finding meaning in life, I personally think Buddhism simply fails to deliver. And I attribute that failure to Buddhism's reluctance to accept the existence of God. Now I'm not saying that as a fundamentalist or even a religious person, for I am neither; my mentioning of God can be taken to mean as little as the acknowledgment that the universe is as alive as we are. For if 'life' were not a property of the universe, we could not possibly have it ourselves.

I have it with me that only fools dispute the fact that God exists. As a species, we have figured that out long before we dared step out of our caves. The past ten thousand years or so of recorded history only show our attempts to understand what God is, not to prove or disprove his existence. So, to my ears, someone arguing against the existence of God is, philosophically, at least 10,000 years behind our age, perhaps still fearing to step out of the cave.

The simple fact that atheists and agnostics don't seem to understand, is that there can be no Good without a God. Perhaps you don't need God to explain why flowers bloom, what makes the sun rise every morning, or where children come from. I say 'perhaps' because even the natural explanations for those things can be disputed. But the more important point is, without a God flowers may still bloom, but nobody would care. The sun may still rise every morning, but its light would be as cold and meaningless as total darkness. And even though children may not come from heaven, there would be no point in being born if you could not long to return to it.

So if you believe in Good you necessarily believe in God, for no explanation of why everything matters is possible without explaining to whom it matters. And that is why, being an admirer of Buddhist philosophy, I still remain loyal to my Christian upbringing, for the simple fact that I find Christianity more consistent. While Buddha says "be compassionate" but can only offer self-enlightenment as the only justification for compassionate behaviour, Christ says "be compassionate" because compassion is part of God's nature. According to Buddha, compassion is a tool to avoid one's suffering rather than alleviate someone else's. According to Christ, because God is compassionate, and because reality is God, you can only partake in reality if you become like God yourself.

Even if you think you can dispute the truth of the two doctrines, it's hard to avoid the fact that theism in general, and Christianity in particular, are far more consistent, both with themselves and with known facts about the world.

As a sidenote, I think it's interesting that most Japanese are not only Buddhists but also Shintoists, both at the same time! Shinto, a pantheistic religion, provides them with the element of divinity that is missing in Buddhism. It's really hard to look at the world and not see that it is as alive as we are.

It's nice to see refreshing ideas on the forum.

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