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Is Buddhism a false religion?

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Please note that I accept everyones right to practice their religion. The purpose of this question is for an essay I'm doing. Other issues involved in the question: 1) ...show more
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I was a Buddhist, now a Christian.

Yes, Buddhism has many many questionable points.

First and foremost is the one about Buddha being worshipped.

Buddhists claim not to worship Buddha, but millions and millions of Buddhists make statues of Buddha, and bow before the statue, praying to him for blessing, fortune etc. buddhists in many countries also generally offer food, and joss sticks and incense to Buddha, as an appeasement offering.

Prince Gautama said that his own teachings might be wrong. Prince Gautama told his believers that A Greater One will come after himself. Prince Gautama told people that he is NOT the way.

Asker's rating & comment

5 out of 5
Buddha certainly lacked confidence didn't he?
Not the way the truth or the life. Only one person said that Christ.
A greater one will come after him. Probably the first time he got anything right. Christ.
Himself says no god and yet people worship his statue.
Thanks all will use info.
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  • HELP THE PLANETLESS answered 7 years ago
    See why nobody opens the door to JW's
    Never done so much scrolling
    Your question.... Right
    Buddhism isn't a Religion nor is it a Philosophy
    It's more of an education which puts the Practitioner in the driving seat
    It may have been in existence in the beginning We are up to Buddha number four out of a total of one thousand
    Yes He did leave His Family A Wife and Son but not in poverty they also benefited in the end His Wife became a Nun His Son a Monk milions of others have benefited too since that time
    People don't worship The Buddha
    It is internal not external Every Sentient Being has Buddha Nature This potential to become Buddhas Themselves in some future time
    Nirvana Ancient Masters The Dhamma Meditation There is clues in many places
    No need to apologize No one could take offense at Your question
    The following may be of some help in Your Research Good Luck

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  • Happy answered 1 year ago
    Wow, really interesting questions and answers, made me registered and would love to say something from China:-)

    I guess, if we need to discuss something, we must discuss on the same definition, right?

    here, what is religion? if religion is something related to god or gods, something has organization of people and money, something that you have special rules like go to somewhere or read some book(s), then I don't think Buddhism is this kinda religion at all. Actually, it's more like Confucianism or Taolism, maybe as someone already said, it is philosophy. But for me, Buddhism is a daily practice for facing life problems easier, for making yourself and people around you happier.

    And for the second question, do anyone here ever wondered 2600 years ago, in a tropic forest, a 29 year young man left his wife and only son, king father, caring mom, palaces and all the fantastic things for what? To escape reality? Later he spent 45 years, with thousands students including his son Rahula and his wife Yasodharā all together. Really, what kind reality he escaped? Maybe, we could spent some time to know this guy and his family more. then we may talk about the other two questions, at least, I need to know your definition on god and Nirvana.

    BTW, I also have questions, who asked these 4 questions? what 's the purpose of this essay? Since I don't think Buddha ever declare truth, what he found\taught\practice is just his discovery based on his experience as a human being. Sure anyone could found his own discovery on their own experience. if it works well, you could help people too!

    A Lotus for you, a Buddha to be,
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  • Anonymous answered 3 months ago
    No. It's not a false religion bacause it's not even a religion. It's more of a mindset, a disclipine, a way of life to handle everyday events. One noticable fact on buddhism is that they are peaceful people - mostly. They never had a history of going into war in the name of their beliefs. I am a christian but i applied the teaching of buddha in daily living.
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  • Joe answered 8 months ago
    Well, you claim about Buddhism to be false right? Buddha said that there will be one after his death, and if you know something about Buddhism there is twenty eight Buddhas! We do not worship him as a god we pray to him as a teacher not a god! He left his good life because he was wise, not like us who wants the best out of life! His father never showed him how people was living, so when he saw religious people die and living a hard life he knew that he must reach for the truth! + the bible is full of evil and contradictions, lets take a look! http://infidels.org/library/modern/jim_m...


    Study Buddhism before you judge it and claim it to be false! Amitofu
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  • Zin answered 1 year ago
    There is a god for other religions,but Buddha never claimed himself as a god because "God" is described as the creator of everything. If you are a Buddhist,you will pray to Buddha,not as a God but a teacher who showed us the way to enlightenment and the meaning of peace (that's why there is no religious war of Buddhism in the history) Buddha never forced anyone to believe in his saying.So,you can call Buddhism,not a religion because a religion cannot be perfect without a god but it is not a false religion.We,Buddhists, are peaceful.We avoid to harm people as much as we can and we always will.
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  • Marvin -Retired- answered 7 years ago
    Buddhism is not a religion. It does not deal with deities and creators, but with humans and the human condition. i.e. suffering. It is a point of philosophy.

    1. The same thing could be said about any religion. Why was Buddhism founded before Christianity, Islam or any other world religion?

    2. Have you ever felt a calling? It wasn't escaping reality, but giving the whole of his self to understanding the nature of that reality. After Buddha attained enlightenment both his son and wife joined his sangha and followed his teachings.

    3. Buddhists do not worship Buddha as god. We look to him for inspiration and guidance. We wish to emulate him and take on the positive attributes that he represents. He was just a man, nothing more-nothing less.

    4. It's a matter of faith. How does one know what happens to anyone after they die?
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  • Primary Format Of Display answered 7 years ago
    First of all, there is no such thing as one true religion.

    Furthermore, Siddhartha Gautama never claimed to be a God and even laughed at his disciples while he was on his deathbed because they thought he was immortal. Buddhism is simply a philosphy of the self and many people who are Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Atheist, etc. can also be Buddhist.
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  • Chee Kwong answered 1 year ago
    I am replying to the SL (The Son who love me)

    First of all, from what you have replied, I truly believe you are a joss stick buddhist follower.

    1) We buddhist never worhsip Buddha, but we learn from Him. The function of the Buddha statue is just like a picture/photo of your family. When you are away, you will keep their photo/picture to remember them better. As such, the statue is used by Buddhist to just remember the goodness of Him.

    2) Offering of food/goods is to teach us to forgo the earthly desire. Do you bear to give something which means a lot to you or the best of your thing to other? Per se, when we do offering, we will give our best. Similar to Christina follower, will not you present your best at church to priase your Lord.

    3) Lord Buddha never say his teaching is wrong. He has told us do not believe in whatever your read or see. You must use your own inteligent and thinking to evaluate what is the truth before believing it blindly.

    Hope the above clarify and I am replying this just to share my little wisdom about Buddhism to everyone.
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  • trueeeblueee! answered 7 years ago
    1)many religions die out not sure what you mean by this
    2) This does not mean Buddhism is a false religion
    3) many religions believe in many gods or no gods at all
    4) how do we know Jesus made it to heaven? how do we know moses really talked to god, see what i mean?

    As with other religions, some Buddhists claim that Buddhism is not a religion. Some say it is a body of philosophies influenced by the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, known as Gautama Buddha- wikipedia
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  • Siva is the King of Yack :-) answered 7 years ago
    Is Buddhism a false religion ? No it is a religion of no religion.

    1) The teachings of Siddhartha Gautama are based on Hinduism which is a religion that goes back before recorded history. Much of what the Buddha taught was meant to reform Hinduism rather than become a new religion.
    Perhaps there were others who gained the same truth as the Buddha, but lacked his compassion to teach others.

    2) Dharma or social duty is important to Hindus, but the Buddha regarded the search for truth as more important. He did not leave his wife and child penniless. He was a prince and thus his wife and child were looked after.
    Also the three temptations of the Buddha were fear(Mara), desire (Kama) and duty (Dharma). So it was because he could over come the temptation to perform his duties (to get married have children, inherit his fathers throne ) that he found enlightenment.
    b) The purpose of Buddhism is to see through Maya(or illusion) and truly perceive reality. So no, he wasn't escaping reality.

    3) Some pay respect to him for showing the way to enlightenment rather than worship him as a god.
    Buddhism was spread in peace mostly, so other older beliefs seeped into Buddhism. As such some do worship the Buddha as a new God to replace the old god.

    4) The Buddha himself said "you must doubt everything, even what I teach to you" so it would not be heretical to question if Siddhartha Gautama even lived let alone found Nirvana.
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  • Is Buddhism a false religion?
    Please note that I accept everyones right to practice their religion. The purpose of this question is for an essay I'm doing.
    Other issues involved in the question:
    1) Siddhartha Gautama was born in 563B.C. If the religion he founded is true, why wasn’t it in existence from the foundation of the world? Why hadn’t someone else discovered his declared truth?
    2) During his late 20’s, Gautama, could no longer bear to live falsely and left his wife and child in order to seek the true nature of reality. Why would a good man leave his wife and child to seek the true nature of reality? Isn't that escaping reality?
    3) If Buddha never claimed to be God, then why do people worship him as a god?
    4) How does anyone know if Buddha achieved Nirvana?
    I apologize in advance for any offense. This is for an essay.
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  • mike answered 1 year ago
    In response to those who have said Jesus had left his family as did buddah. There is a major difference between Jesus and buddah. To those of you who said that buddah left his family in search of whatever he was finding, you failed to realize that buddah's form of leaving was utter abandonment. He abandoned his family. Yes, Jesus did leave to preach the truth, but he NEVER abandoned his family. I recall that Jesus' brother had fallowed him. Even after Jesus ascended into the heavens, Jesus let his followers know that he was going to prepare a place for them. Even after his ascension people of his day could call on him, as we do to this day, so Jesus never abandoned his family.

    Also, to Mr or Mrs. ? you said that buddhist do not worship buddha. well, you are contradicting yourself when you stated that you present offerings to buddah. That is a form of worship, so is bowing down to an idol of him. you may say you are showing your appreciation to him, but there are also people who have perhaps helped you out during times of need and have helped you out in your accomplishments. Do you bow down to those people up and down as many times as you do to buddah? Im sure you don't. You have chose to place buddah above all others when you that, you gave him that special consideration, and that is a common form of worship.
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  • r answered 7 years ago
    Buddhism is not a religion..it is a philosophy. The reason why Buddha never claimed to be God.

    He just wanted to better the Hindu religion because he didn't like some of the practices..
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  • Bearbones the Ursine Terror QMM answered 7 years ago
    it's more of a philosophy than a religion
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  • Path Less Travelled answered 7 years ago
    On a somewhat lighter side of things, I say this. Your disclaimer that you do abide everyone's right to practice their religion does otherwise bias your result, for it leaves all those who respond open to arrows that you otherwise are rendered an immunity to, unless they, too, of course know to make a disclaimer beforehand. Yet since yours will not be essentially a science paper -- or circumstance forbid for sake of time and sanity, a philosophy (good grief?!) paper -- we can well accept wholeheartedly your disclaimer and entreat. With that, I do proceed.

    Prince Gautama Siddhartha was and did develop himself into one of several true vortices in his day through which the extant makes known in dedicated way for those of that part of the world in that time, such that people endemic to that region could meet and understand the higher worlds. Untold billions of others in this and other universes knew well his intents and purposes already, and they did know that the people of his time and geography were entitled to enjoy the same boon, though Buddhism was or is not the name given in these other universes, heavens, planets and worlds. But now had come a time in which a new collective of souls would come to know: so Buddhism is what it came to be known as. And so do bear in mind that Buddha was not Buddhist. This, Buddhism, came later and what became the vortex personified for the first time through the collective consciousness of all who formulated and focused it, and through which the higher powers might manifest for sake of this faction of humankind, did come to be known as Buddhism, unto this very day.

    Do bear in mind that other men of light walked the earth at this time, of equal merit and dedicated to those people of those respective geographies and peculiar psyches and temperaments. The Angelic Principalities and Spiritual Hierarchies knew and know this nature well, for they are the force beneath that very designing in the first place, and not by any happenstance does such occur.

    Second, Gautama Siddhartha sought the true nature of reality as he understood reality and as he was prompted from within and On High, which so many in the outer world had either to accept or dismiss or relish. And this is always and ever the case when the sublime and fine meet with the gross and mundane. Second to this again, his search had little to do with good and could not be thought a mere grounding opposite to what is thought bad, nor was his leaving a wife and child a measure of either in any case. He would have already learned with facility the dichotomy, or that of opposites.

    His was not escaping but rather committing to and approaching life with greater intensity, for how one approaches God is for his calling and his alone -- but again, this as he understands as tailored for his search. We might add -- apart from what was got up regarding Siddhartha, there exists nothing truly that conveys he went off guilelessly in search of Godhood without full knowledge of the gravity of his responsibilities to family. Above all, Gautama Siddhartha was a man, not a god, a man with foibles who became a man of great merit, which is no more or less than can be said of the like of such intent of anyone whose commissioning is to wander to fulfill of certain purposes. We cannot measure his by commonplace standards.

    The same would and does occur today; often would one be thought mad if beheld by others with mundane eyes and hearts. Jesus underwent this same, for indeed till he gathered himself again after 40 days of aligning, he was indeed in the throes of that of a mad man. For the might and power cascading from out of the High Worlds is nothing to trifle. However, like Jesus, Gautama will have undergone tremendous training before selected out to eventually carry his given mission...otherwise the Robes and Orders of the High Worlds will have defeated the whole purpose for which an avatar or savior is sent to assist humankind, and so this is closely cultivated over the course of ages in preparation till such moment as the time is ripe to manifest a newly-minted being of light. Many walk among us today. Though as part of the training, they keep to the realm of Silence and do look and feel to live as any other man or woman. ‘That’ is part of the training.

    Third to this, some people come by the name genius not necessarily because they are, but rather because all others cannot count above thirteen. Now, Buddha's life and mission was what a great number of people of his time and geography needed, and to that end Buddha served his mission well and does go down as one of the giants rightly so in the annals of human history that we have account of. Men and women of light wear the light and sound as accorded them: some call them gods, but theirs, the physical shells, are the grounding points for the powers that come through them, their cores, Soul, from On High. And one who would claim otherwise or asserts that he or she is the origin of it is a fool!

    Buddha well knew that, for ultimately he knew as well that finally all comes down to the individuals' efforts and merits themselves as to attaining Godhood. Men and women of light can and may give compass and bearing, but finally, attainment depends wholly on the person him- or herself. Too many confuse the outer path with that of the inner path. While the two do work in tandem, they are no less markedly remote from each other as well. This is the whole brunt of why avatars are sent to the material planes and worlds, for so easily does anyone lose sight and hearing to the heights amid his or her challenges flung his or her way as part of the testing and training that any soul 'must' undergo in the physical plane. Hence this is why it is a necessity that every so often comes forth a man or woman of light. They, too, each, have undergone the selfsame rigors and know what the long, arduous road is all about and do share compassion with that plight. Yet, whether an avatar serves among us or not, there is always still another especial category of being of staggering might and station that serves as a constant amid the otherwise visitations of avatars and saviors... And this type of being remains in the quietude; it has been commonly of male aspect but does not have to be. But such is another matter altogether... We are never alone, in any case.

    Last, in that same accord as outlined above, true Nirvana is not as remote a feat or attainment or merit as many are led to believe. But -- if one should believe that Buddha was a god, then one had as readily believe nirvana an otherwise exclusive merit, accorded the one or the very few, seldom if ever the many.
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  • Rachel J answered 7 years ago
    I just want to rub his belly before I take a trip.
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  • Grack answered 7 years ago
    i dont think buddah is a true god.
    because it doesnt mention love from him, the enternal love, the sacrifice he made or the one and only feeling.
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  • Sweet <3 answered 7 years ago
    I understand and agree with what your saying, but I don't want to offend anyone so that's all I will say.
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  • John P (I'm only a bug) answered 7 years ago
    Well, it should be an interesting essay. I just hope I am not writing your essay for you (smile).

    No offense is taken to your inquiry. I just hope that some of what I am about to write is equally non-offensive to others who may read it. I am going to apologize for the length of this reply but I am attempting to explain the Buddhist answer to each of your points to the best of my ability in the order they were posed. I also apologize if it appears to be "preachy" -- that is not my intent since Buddhists are not permitted to proselytize but to answer questions to the best of our ability.

    1) Buddhism is a religion (but it isn't); it's a philosophy (but it isn't). It is whatever one wants to make it. I think if you look at all religions (and for the sake of convenience and commonality, lets consider Buddhism to be a religion) they all hold the same basic tenents. One of the teachings of the Buddha in the "The Dhammapada" verse 183 states:

    "To shun all evil.
    To do good.
    To purify one's heart.
    This is the teachings of the Buddhas."

    I doubt if any religious teaching would take offense with that teaching.

    The core teaching of Buddhism is expressed in The Four Noble Truths: that suffering (the term is "dukkha" which some translate as "suffering" but really implies "out of balance") exists in life; that the cause of dukkha is attachment (sometimes referred to as "ignorance" or "desire"); that it is possible to end dukkha; that the end to dukkha is attained by self-improvement by following The Eightfold Path (Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration). I believe all belief systems hold similar views and would be hard pressed to disagree with these beliefs. So, I guess all founders of all belief systems have in fact "...discovered his [the Buddha's] declared truth" in one way or the other.

    In respect to your inquiry, "If the religion he founded is true, why wasn’t it in existence from the foundation of the world?" I guess you argument applies to all belief systems. Christianity did not exist until its founding by Jesus in the 1st Century CE (Common Era). Judaism did not exits until "According to Jewish tradition, Judaism was founded by Abraham, almost 4000 years ago" according to Rabbi Shraga Simmons (see http://judaism.about.com/library/3_askra... ). Islam did not exist until "The prophet Muhammad (circa 570-632 A.D.) introduced Islam in 610...." (see http://www.allaboutreligion.org/origin-o... ). As you can see, there is no extant belief system that has been "...in existence from the foundation of the world" as you stated. So, by your criteria, all religious belief are to be considered false or not true.

    Buddhism is non-theistic. One of the main objections to Buddhism by theistic belief systems is that they consider Buddhists to be atheists. One of the most confusing aspect non-Buddhists have of Buddhism is the misunderstanding that we Buddhists worship the Buddha. We neither worship nor pray to the Buddha as though He is a God. Rather, we venerate and honor Him for His teachings. Yes, most Buddhists have an image of the Buddha in their homes. But look at it in much the same manner that I am sure you have photographs of loved ones in your home. You look at their pictures and remember the good times you had with them and perhaps the things they taught you. It is in the same manner that we Buddhists have representations of the Buddha in our homes.

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama cautions, however, the primary importance for every Buddhist is studying the writings of the Buddha and texts written by teachers.

    "It wouldn't be bad if you didn't have statues, but it has become indispensable to have Buddhist texts which deal with the structured path to train our mind. If you have Buddhist texts, read them for yourselves and to friends who visit. That way you can help others to understand Buddhist ideas....Buddha's image alone will not purify us of karmic obscuration…. It is very important to study the scriptures. They are not to be just stacked up on the altar. They must be cultivated in our mind. …[we] take great interest in having the symbolic representations of Buddha's body, speech and mind. I feel it is more important to acquire and read scriptures, the symbolic representations of his speech. You can pay homage to them, you can make offerings to them; above all, you should study them." (from "Generous Wisdom: Commentaries by H.H. the Dalai Lama XIV on the Jatakamala" translated by Tenzin Dorjee edited by Dexter Roberts).

    The statues in themselves are unimportant—the teachings (the Dharma) is, however, crucial.

    While most Buddhists deny the existence in a supreme being there is no evidence in the sutras stating emphatically there is no universal creator. Buddhism, as opposed to many religions, is what some would consider "agnostic" in its structure. There may be God or there may be no God. That in and of itself doesn't matter. What matters is where we are at the present moment—the Now—that ultimately matters and how we treat other living things. For more information regarding this concept of a universal creator in Buddhism please see http://www.nirvanasutra.org.uk/buddhaand... .

    The concept of a soul and eternalism is one of the Fourteen Unanswered Questions found in Buddhism.

    " When the Buddha refused to be drawn into the net of these dogmatic views of existence and nonexistence, he had two things in mind: the ethical consequences of these two views, and the fact that the views of absolute existence and nonexistence do not correspond to the way things really are. The eternalists view this self as permanent and unchanging. When the body dies, this self will not die because the self is by nature unchanging. If that is the case, it does not matter what this body does: actions of the body will not affect the destiny of the self. This view is incompatible with moral responsibility because if the self is eternal and unchanging, it will not be affected by wholesome and unwholesome actions. Similarly, if the self were identical with the body and the self dies along with the body, then it does not matter what the body does. If you believe that existence ends at death, there will be no constraint upon action. But in a situation where things exist through interdependent origination, absolute existence and nonexistence are impossible.

    " Another example drawn from the fourteen unanswerable questions also shows that the propositions do not correspond to the way things really are. Take the example of the world. According to Buddhist teaching, the world does not exist absolutely or does not exist absolutely in time. The world exists dependent on causes and conditions-- ignorance, craving, and clinging. When ignorance, craving, and clinging are present, the world exists; when they are not present, the world ceases to exist. Hence the question of the absolute existence or nonexistence of the world is unanswerable. Existence and nonexistence, taken as absolute ideas, do not apply to things as they really are. This is why the Buddha refused to agree to absolute statements about the nature of things. He saw that the absolute categories of metaphysics do not apply to things as they really are." (
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourteen_unanswerable_questions )

    You may also want to refer to the following websites for an interesting read on the topic.



    2) Yes, you are correct that Siddhartha Gautama left his wife and child in his search for enlightenment. They were left in the care of his royal family (remember Siddhartha Gautama was a prince). In a similar manner Jesus left his mother without a spouse (according to the new Testament Joseph had died) in order to preach his teachings. Mohammed "...would retreat for days, taking provisions along with him, and would return to his family for more provisions" (see http://www.islamreligion.com/articles/183/ ). If the Buddha was "escaping reality" as you indicate it would appear the other religious founders were doing the same. So, we can see it was not uncommon for a seeker to leave the responsibilities of loved ones and families in order to seek what we may term "spiritual" enlightenment.

    3) This is a popular misconception of the part of many Westerners, i.e., that the Buddha is worshipped as a god. I will respond by reposting my answer to a similar question previously asked.

    I can understand the confused view of many non-Buddhists that the Buddha is worshipped since there is usually at least one representation of the Buddha in a Buddhist home; one prostrates before the image of the Buddha; and offering bowls are placed before the Buddha each morning and removed at night (with a distinct meaning of each depending on the tradition followed). The image of the Buddha is to remind us of His teachings, we prostrate before the image to offer respect to His teachings and to instill humility within us, and the offerings are presented as a representation of what we should offer to other living beings. Obviously, it would be foolish on a Buddhist's part that these are for the benefit of a statue.

    Do some misinformed Buddhists believe they are praying to the Buddha as though He was a God? Obviously such is the case. But every belief system (Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, etc., be they secular, political, or religious) has misguided practitioners who misconstrue the teachings presented within their belief system and even use them for violent personal gain. That is unfortunate but true--we see the consequences both in history and in present day events.

    There is a teaching that after Siddhartha Gautama obtained enlightenment and became the Buddha, He was recognized by an individual as being exceptional. "Legend has it that a wandering ascetic encountered the Buddha shortly after his enlightenment and, seeing the how profoundly serene and contented the Buddha appeared to be, the ascetic asked him: 'Are you a God?' The Buddha replied 'No.' Then the ascetic asked him: 'Are you a man?' The Buddha replied 'No.' Finally the ascetic said, 'Well, if you're not a God, and you're not a man, what are you?' and the Buddha answered 'I am awake.'" (from http://www.hsuyun.org/Dharma/zbohy/Literature/essays/ydsA/desirefire.html ). The Buddha denied deification and cautioned His followers from making Him one.

    4) How does anyone know if Buddha achieved Nirvana? Well, this is where faith comes into play, doesn't it? Each belief system relies on the faith of the practitioner in certain aspects.

    May all be at peace.



    As cited in the body of the response.
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  • Jehovah's Witness answered 7 years ago
    yes it is a false religion.
    Chapter 6

    Buddhism—A Search for Enlightenment Without God

    SCARCELY known outside Asia at the turn of the 20th century, Buddhism today has assumed the role of a world religion. In fact, many people in the West are quite surprised to find Buddhism thriving right in their own neighborhood. Much of this has come about as a result of the international refugee movement. Sizable Asian communities have established themselves in Western Europe, North America, Australia, and other places. As more and more immigrants put down roots in their new land, they also bring along their religion. At the same time, more of the people in the West are coming face-to-face with Buddhism for the first time. This, along with the permissiveness and spiritual decline in the traditional churches, has caused some people to become converts to the “new” religion.—2 Timothy 3:1, 5.

    2 Thus, according to the 1989 Britannica Book of the Year, Buddhism claims a worldwide membership of some 300 million, with about 200,000 each in Western Europe and, North America, 500,000 in Latin America, and 300,000 in the Soviet Union. Most of Buddhism’s adherents, however, are still found in Asian countries, such as Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Japan, Korea, and China. Who, though, was the Buddha? How did this religion get started? What are the teachings and practices of Buddhism?

    A Question of Reliable Source

    3 “What is known of the Buddha’s life is based mainly on the evidence of the canonical texts, the most extensive and comprehensive of which are those written in Pali, a language of ancient India,” says the book World Religions—From Ancient History to the Present. What this means is that there is no source material of his time to tell us anything about Siddhārtha Gautama, the founder of this religion, who lived in northern India in the sixth century B.C.E. That, of course, presents a problem. However, more serious is the question of when and how the “canonical texts” were produced.

    4 Buddhist tradition holds that soon after the death of Gautama, a council of 500 monks was convened to decide what was the authentic teaching of the Master. Whether such a council actually did take place is a subject of much debate among Buddhist scholars and historians. The important point we should note, however, is that even Buddhist texts acknowledge that the authentic teaching decided upon was not committed to writing but memorized by the disciples. Actual writing of the sacred texts had to wait for a considerable time.

    5 According to Sri Lankan chronicles of the fourth and sixth centuries C.E., the earliest of these Pali “canonical texts” were put in writing during the reign of King Vattagamani Abhaya in the first century B.C.E. Other accounts of the Buddha’s life did not appear in writing until perhaps the first or even the fifth century C.E., nearly a thousand years after his time.

    6 Thus, observes the Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions, “The ‘biographies’ are both late in origin and replete with legendary and mythical material, and the oldest canonical texts are the products of a long process of oral transmission that evidently included some revision and much addition.” One scholar even “contended that not a single word of the recorded teaching can be ascribed with unqualified certainty to Gautama himself.” Are such criticisms justified?

    The Buddha’s Conception and Birth

    7 Consider the following excerpts from Jataka, part of the Pali canon, and Buddha-charita, a second-century C.E. Sanskrit text on the life of the Buddha. First, the account of how the Buddha’s mother, Queen Maha-Maya, came to conceive him in a dream.

    “The four guardian angels came and lifted her up, together with her couch, and took her away to the Himalaya Mountains. . . . Then came the wives of these guardian angels, and conducted her to Anotatta Lake, and bathed her, to remove every human stain. . . . Not far off was Silver Hill, and in it a golden mansion. There they spread a divine couch with its head towards the east, and laid her down upon it. Now the future Buddha had become a superb white elephant . . . He ascended Silver Hill, and . . . three times he walked round his mother’s couch, with his right side towards it, and striking her on her right side, he seemed to enter her womb. Thus the conception took place in the midsummer festival.”

    8 When the queen told the dream to her husband, the king, he summoned 64 eminent Hindu priests, fed and clothed them, and asked for an interpretation. This was their answer:

    “Be not anxious, great king! . . . You will have a son. And he, if he continue to live the household life, will become a universal monarch; but if he leave the household life and retire from the world, he will become a Buddha, and roll back the clouds of sin and folly of this world.”

    9 Thereafter, 32 miracles were said to have occurred:

    “All the ten thousand worlds suddenly quaked, quivered, and shook. . . . The fires went out in all the hells; . . . diseases ceased among men; . . . all musical instruments gave forth their notes without being played upon; . . . in the mighty ocean the water became sweet; . . . the whole ten thousand worlds became one mass of garlands of the utmost possible magnificence.”

    10 Then came the unusual birth of the Buddha in a garden of sal trees called Lumbini Grove. When the queen wanted to take hold of a branch of the tallest sal tree in the grove, the tree obliged by bending down to within her reach. Holding on to the branch and standing, she gave birth.

    “He issued from his mother’s womb like a preacher descending from his preaching-seat, or a man coming down a stair, stretching out both hands and both feet, unsmeared by any impurity from his mother’s womb. . . . ”

    “As soon as he is born, the [future Buddha] firmly plants both feet flat on the ground, takes seven strides to the north, with a white canopy carried above his head, and surveys each quarter of the world, exclaiming in peerless tones: In all the world I am chief, best and foremost; this is my last birth; I shall never be born again.”

    11 There are also equally elaborate stories regarding his childhood, his encounters with young female admirers, his wanderings, and just about every event in his life. Not surprisingly, perhaps, most scholars dismiss all these accounts as legends and myths. A British Museum official even suggests that because of the “great body of legend and miracle, . . . a historical life of the Buddha is beyond recovery.”

    12 In spite of these myths, a traditional account of the Buddha’s life is widely circulated. A modern text, A Manual of Buddhism, published in Colombo, Sri Lanka, gives the following simplified account.

    “On the full-moon day of May in the year 623 B.C. there was born in the district of Nepal an Indian Sakyan Prince, by name Siddhattha Gotama. King Suddhodana was his father, and Queen Mahā Māyā was his mother. She died a few days after the birth of the child and Mahā Pajāpati Gotamī became his foster-mother.

    “At the age of sixteen he married his cousin, the beautiful Princess Yasodharā.

    “For nearly thirteen years after his happy marriage he led a luxurious life, blissfully ignorant of the vicissitudes of life outside the palace gates.

    “With the march of time, truth gradually dawned upon him. In his 29th year, which witnessed the turning point of his career, his son Rāhula was born. He regarded his offspring as an impediment, for he realized that all without exception were subject to birth, disease, and death. Comprehending thus the universality of sorrow, he decided to find out a panacea for this universal sickness of humanity.

    “So renouncing his royal pleasures, he left home one night . . . cutting his hair, donned the simple garb of an ascetic, and wandered forth as a Seeker of Truth.”

    13 Clearly these few biographical details are in stark contrast to the fantastic accounts found in the “canonical texts.” And except for the year of his birth, they are commonly accepted.

    The Enlightenment—How It Happened

    14 What was the aforementioned “turning point of his career”? It was when, for the first time in his life, he saw a sick man, an old man, and a dead man. This experience caused him to agonize over the meaning of life—Why were men born, only to suffer, grow old, and die? Then, it was said that he saw a holy man, one who had renounced the world in pursuit of truth. This impelled Gautama to give up his family, his possessions, and his princely name and spend the next six years seeking the answer from Hindu teachers and gurus, but without success. The accounts tell us that he pursued a course of meditation, fasting, Yoga, and extreme self-denial, yet he found no spiritual peace or enlightenment.

    15 Eventually he came to realize that his extreme course of self-denial was as useless as the life of self-indulgence that he had led before. He now adopted what he called the Middle Way, avoiding the extremes of the life-styles that he had been following. Deciding that the answer was to be found in his own consciousness, he sat in meditation under a pipal, or Indian fig tree. Resisting attacks and temptations by the devil Mara, he continued steadfast in his meditation for four weeks (some say seven weeks) until he supposedly transcended all knowledge and understanding and reached enlightenment.

    16 By this process, in Buddhist terminology, Gautama became the Buddha—the Awakened, or Enlightened, One. He had attained the ultimate goal, Nirvana, the state of perfect peace and enlightenment, freed from desire and suffering. He has also become known as Sakyamuni (sage of the Sakya tribe), and he often addressed himself as Tathagata (one who thus came [to teach]). Different Buddhist sects, however, hold different views on this subject. Some view him strictly as a human who found the path to enlightenment for himself and taught it to his followers. Others view him as the final one of a series of Buddhas to have come into the world to preach or revive the dharma (Pali, Dhamma), the teaching or way of the Buddha. Still others view him as a bodhisattva, one who had attained enlightenment but postponed entering Nirvana in order to help others in their pursuit of enlightenment. Whatever it is, this event, the Enlightenment, is of central importance to all schools of Buddhism.

    The Enlightenment—What Is It?

    17 Having attained enlightenment, and after overcoming some initial hesitation, the Buddha set forth to teach his newfound truth, his dharma, to others. His first and probably most important sermon was given in the city of Benares, in a deer park, to five bhikkus—disciples or monks. In it, he taught that to be saved, one must avoid both the course of sensual indulgence and that of asceticism and follow the Middle Way. Then, one must understand and follow the Four Noble Truths (see box, opposite page), which can briefly be summarized as follows:

    (1) All existence is suffering.

    (2) Suffering arises from desire or craving.

    (3) Cessation of desire means the end of suffering.

    (4) Cessation of desire is achieved by following the Eightfold Path, controlling one’s conduct, thinking, and belief.

    18 This sermon on the Middle Way and on the Four Noble Truths embodies the essence of the Enlightenment and is considered the epitome of all the Buddha’s teaching. (In contrast, compare Matthew 6:25-34; 1 Timothy 6:17-19; James 4:1-3; 1 John 2:15-17.) Gautama claimed no divine inspiration for this sermon but credited himself with the words “discovered by the Tathagata.” It is said that on his deathbed, the Buddha told his disciples: “Seek salvation alone in the truth; look not for assistance to anyone besides yourself.” Thus, according to the Buddha, enlightenment comes, not from God, but from personal effort in developing right thinking and good deeds.

    19 It is not hard to see why this teaching was welcomed in the Indian society of the time. It condemned the greedy and corrupt religious practices promoted by the Hindu Brahmans, or priestly caste, on the one hand, and the austere asceticism of the Jains and other mystic cults on the other. It also did away with the sacrifices and rituals, the myriads of gods and goddesses, and the burdensome caste system that dominated and enslaved every aspect of the people’s life. In short, it promised liberation to everyone who was willing to follow the Buddha’s way.

    Buddhism Spreading Its Influence

    20 When the five bhikkus accepted the Buddha’s teaching, they became the first sangha, or order of monks. So the “Three Jewels” (Triratna) of Buddhism were completed, namely, the Buddha, the dharma, and the sangha, which were supposed to help people get on the way to enlightenment. Thus prepared, Gautama the Buddha went preaching through the length and breadth of the Ganges Valley. People from every social rank and status came to hear him, and they became his disciples. By the time of his death at age 80, he had become well-known and well respected. It was reported that his last words to his disciples were: “Decay is inherent in all component things. Work out your own salvation with diligence.”

    21 In the third century B.C.E., about 200 years after the Buddha’s death, appeared Buddhism’s greatest champion, Emperor Aśoka, who brought most of India under his rule. Saddened by the slaughter and upheaval caused by his conquests, he embraced Buddhism and gave it State support. He erected religious monuments, convened councils, and exhorted the people to live by the precepts of the Buddha. Aśoka also sent Buddhist missionaries to all parts of India and to Sri Lanka, Syria, Egypt, and Greece. Principally by Aśoka’s efforts, Buddhism grew from being an Indian sect to a world religion. Justifiably, he has been regarded by some as the second founder of Buddhism.

    22 From Sri Lanka, Buddhism spread eastward into Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, and other parts of Indochina. To the north, Buddhism spread to Kashmir and central Asia. From those areas, and as early as the first century C.E., Buddhist monks traveled across the forbidding mountains and deserts and took their religion into China. From China, it was a short step for Buddhism to spread to Korea and Japan. Buddhism was also introduced into Tibet, India’s northern neighbor. Mixed with local beliefs, it emerged as Lamaism, which dominated both the religious and the political life there. By the sixth or seventh century C.E., Buddhism had become well established in all of Southeast Asia and the Far East. But what was happening in India?

    23 While Buddhism was spreading its influence in other lands, it was gradually declining back in India. Deeply involved in philosophical and metaphysical pursuits, the monks began to lose touch with their lay followers. In addition, the loss of royal patronage and the adoption of Hindu ideas and practices all hastened the demise of Buddhism in India. Even Buddhist holy places, such as Lumbini, where Gautama was born, and Buddh Gaya, where he experienced “enlightenment,” fell into ruin. By the 13th century, Buddhism had virtually disappeared from India, the land of its origin.

    24 During the 20th century, Buddhism underwent another change of face. Political upheaval in China, Mongolia, Tibet, and countries in Southeast Asia dealt it a devastating blow. Thousands of monasteries and temples were destroyed and hundreds of thousands of monks and nuns were driven away, imprisoned, or even killed. Nonetheless, Buddhism’s influence is still strongly felt in the thinking and habits of the people of these lands.

    25 In Europe and North America, Buddhism’s idea of seeking “truth” within the individual self seems to have a wide appeal, and its practice of meditation provides an escape from the hubbub of Western life. Interestingly, in the foreword to the book Living Buddhism, Tenzin Gyatso, the exiled Dalai Lama of Tibet, wrote: “Perhaps today Buddhism may have a part to play in reminding western people of the spiritual dimension of their lives.”

    Buddhism’s Diverse Ways

    26 Although it is customary to speak of Buddhism as one religion, in reality it is divided into several schools of thought. Based on different interpretations of the nature of the Buddha and his teachings, each has its own doctrines, practices, and scriptures. These schools are further divided into numerous groups and sects, many of which are heavily influenced by local cultures and traditions.

    27 The Theravada (Way of the Elders), or Hinayana (Lesser Vehicle), school of Buddhism flourishes in Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Kampuchea (Cambodia), and Laos. Some consider this to be the conservative school. It emphasizes gaining wisdom and working out one’s own salvation by renouncing the world and living the life of a monk, devoting oneself to meditation and study in a monastery.

    28 It is a common sight in some of these lands to see groups of young men with shaved heads, in saffron robes and bare feet, carrying their alms bowls to receive their daily provision from the lay believers whose role it is to support them. It is customary for men to spend at least some part of their life in a monastery. The ultimate goal of the monastic life is to become an arhat, that is, one who has reached spiritual perfection and liberation from the pain and suffering in the cycles of rebirth. The Buddha has shown the way; it is up to each one to follow it.

    29 The Mahayana (Greater Vehicle) school of Buddhism is commonly found in China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. It is so named because it emphasizes the Buddha’s teaching that “truth and the way of salvation is for everyone whether one lives in a cave, a monastery, or a house . . . It is not just for those who give up the world.” The basic Mahayana concept is that the love and compassion of the Buddha are so great that he would not withhold salvation from anyone. It teaches that because the Buddha-nature is in all of us, everyone is capable of becoming a Buddha, an enlightened one, or a bodhisattva. Enlightenment comes, not by strenuous self-discipline, but by faith in the Buddha and compassion for all living things. This clearly has greater appeal to the practical-minded masses. Because of this more liberal attitude, however, numerous groups and cults have developed.

    30 Among the many Mahayana sects that have developed in China and Japan are the Pure Land and Zen schools of Buddhism. The former centers its belief around faith in the saving power of Amida Buddha, who promised his followers a rebirth in the Pure Land, or Western Paradise, a land of joy and delight inhabited by gods and humans. From there, it is an easy step to Nirvana. By repeating the prayer “I place my faith in Amida Buddha,” sometimes thousands of times a day, the devotee purifies himself in order to attain enlightenment or to gain rebirth in the Western Paradise.

    31 Zen Buddhism (Ch’an school in China) derived its name from the practice of meditation. The words ch’an (Chinese) and zen (Japanese) are variations of the Sanskrit word dhyāna, meaning “meditation.” This discipline teaches that study, good works, and rituals are of little merit. One can attain enlightenment simply by contemplating such imponderable riddles as, ‘What is the sound of one hand clapping?’ and, ‘What do we find where there is nothing?’ The mystical nature of Zen Buddhism has found expression in the refined arts of flower arrangement, calligraphy, ink painting, poetry, gardening, and so on, and these have been favorably received in the West. Today, Zen meditation centers are found in many Western countries.

    32 Finally, there is Tibetan Buddhism, or Lamaism. This form of Buddhism is sometimes called Mantrayana (Mantra Vehicle) because of the prominent use of mantras, a series of syllables with or without meaning, in long recitals. Instead of emphasizing wisdom or compassion, this form of Buddhism emphasizes the use of rituals, prayers, magic, and spiritism in worship. Prayers are repeated thousands of times a day with the aid of prayer beads and prayer wheels. The complicated rituals can be learned only under oral instruction by lamas, or monastic leaders, among whom the best known are the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. After the death of a lama, a search is made for a child in whom the lama is said to have been reincarnated to be the next spiritual leader. The term, however, is also generally applied to all monks, who, by one estimate, at one time numbered about one fifth of the entire population of Tibet. Lamas also served as teachers, doctors, landowners, and political figures.

    33 These principal divisions of Buddhism are in turn subdivided into many groups, or sects. Some are devoted to a particular leader, such as Nichiren in Japan, who taught that only the Mahayanan Lotus Sutra contains the definitive teachings of the Buddha, and Nun Ch’in-Hai in Taiwan, who has a mass following. In this respect, Buddhism is not very different from Christendom with its many denominations and sects. In fact it is common to see people who claim to be Buddhists engage in practices of Taoism, Shinto, ancestor worship, and even those of Christendom. All these Buddhist sects claim to base their beliefs and practices on the teachings of the Buddha.

    The Three Baskets and Other Buddhist Scriptures

    34 Teachings attributed to the Buddha were passed on by word of mouth and only began to be put down in writing centuries after he had passed off the scene. Thus, at best, they represent what his followers in later generations thought he said and did. This is further complicated by the fact that, by then, Buddhism had already splintered into many schools. Thus, different texts present quite different versions of Buddhism.

    35 The earliest of the Buddhist texts were written in Pali, said to be related to the Buddha’s native tongue, in about the first century B.C.E. They are accepted by the Theravada school as the authentic texts. They consist of 31 books organized into three collections called Tipitaka (Sanskrit, Tripitaka), meaning “Three Baskets,” or “Three Collections.” The Vinaya Pitaka (Basket of Discipline) deals mainly with rules and regulations for monks and nuns. The Sutta Pitaka (Basket of Discourses) contains the sermons, parables, and proverbs delivered by the Buddha and his leading disciples. Finally, the Abhidhamma Pitaka (Basket of Ultimate Doctrine) consists of commentaries on Buddhist doctrines.

    36 On the other hand, the writings of the Mahayana school are mostly in Sanskrit, Chinese, and Tibetan, and they are voluminous. The Chinese texts alone consist of over 5,000 volumes. They contain many ideas that were not in the earlier writings, such as accounts of Buddhas as numerous as the sands of the Ganges, who are said to have lived for countless millions of years, each presiding over his own Buddha world. It is no exaggeration when one writer observes that these texts are “characterized by diversity, extravagant imagination, colorful personalities, and inordinate repetitions.”

    37 Needless to say, few people are able to comprehend these highly abstract treatises. As a result, these later developments have taken Buddhism far away from what the Buddha intended originally. According to the Vinaya Pitaka, the Buddha wanted his teachings to be understood not only by the educated class but by every sort of people. To this end, he insisted that his ideas be taught in the language of the common people, not the sacred dead language of Hinduism. Thus, to the Theravada Buddhists’ objection that these books were noncanonical, the Mahayana followers’ reply is that Gautama the Buddha first taught the simple and ignorant, but to the learned and wise he revealed the teachings written later in the Mahayana books.

    The Cycle of Karma and Samsara

    38 Although Buddhism freed the people from the shackles of Hinduism to a certain extent, its fundamental ideas are still a legacy of the Hindu teachings of Karma and samsara. Buddhism, as it was originally taught by the Buddha, differs from Hinduism in that it denies the existence of an immortal soul but speaks of the individual as “a combination of physical and mental forces or energies.” Nonetheless, its teachings are still centered on the ideas that all humanity is wandering from life to life through countless rebirths (samsara) and suffering the consequences of actions past and present (Karma). Even though its message of enlightenment and liberation from this cycle may appear attractive, some ask: How sound is the foundation? What proof is there that all sufferings are the result of one’s actions in a previous life? And, in fact, what evidence is there that there is any past life?

    39 One explanation about the law of Karma says:

    “Kamma [Pali equivalent of Karma] is a law in itself. But it does not follow that there should be a lawgiver. Ordinary laws of nature, like gravitation, need no lawgiver. The law of Kamma too demands no lawgiver. It operates in its own field without the intervention of an external, independent ruling agency.”—A Manual of Buddhism.

    40 Is this sound reasoning? Do laws of nature really need no lawgiver? Rocket expert Dr. Wernher von Braun once stated: “The natural laws of the universe are so precise that we have no difficulty building a spaceship to fly to the moon and can time the flight with the precision of a fraction of a second. These laws must have been set by somebody.” The Bible also speaks about the law of cause and effect. It tells us, “God is not one to be mocked. For whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.” (Galatians 6:7) Instead of saying this law needs no lawgiver, it points out that “God is not one to be mocked,” indicating that this law was set in motion by its Maker, Jehovah.

    41 In addition, the Bible tells us that “the wages sin pays is death,” and “he who has died has been acquitted from his sin.” Even courts of justice recognize that no one is to suffer double jeopardy for any crime. Why, then, should a person who has already paid for his sins by dying be reborn only to suffer anew the consequences of his past acts? Furthermore, without knowing what past acts one is being punished for, how can one repent and improve? Could this be considered justice? Is it consistent with mercy, which is said to be the Buddha’s most outstanding quality? In contrast, the Bible, after stating that “the wages sin pays is death,” goes on to say: “But the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.” Yes, it promises that God will do away with all corruption, sin, and death and will bring freedom and perfection for all mankind.—Romans 6:7, 23; 8:21; Isaiah 25:8.

    42 As for rebirth, here is an explanation by the Buddhist scholar Dr. Walpola Rahula:

    “A being is nothing but a combination of physical and mental forces or energies. What we call death is the total non-functioning of the physical body. Do all these forces and energies stop altogether with the non-functioning of the body? Buddhism says ‘No.’ Will, volition, desire, thirst to exist, to continue, to become more and more, is a tremendous force that moves whole lives, whole existences, that even moves the whole world. This is the greatest force, the greatest energy in the world. According to Buddhism, this force does not stop with the non-functioning of the body, which is death; but it continues manifesting itself in another form, producing re-existence which is called rebirth.”

    43 At the moment of conception, a person inherits 50 percent of his genes from each parent. Therefore there is no way by which he can be 100 percent like someone in a previous existence. Indeed, the process of rebirth cannot be supported by any known principle of science. Frequently, those who believe in the doctrine of rebirth cite as proof the experience of people who claim to recollect faces, events, and places that they have not formerly known. Is this logical? To say that a person who can recount things in bygone times must have lived in that era, one would also have to say that a person who can foretell the future—and there are many who claim to do so—must have lived in the future. That, obviously, is not the case.

    44 More than 400 years before the Buddha, the Bible spoke of a life-force. Describing what happens at a person’s death, it says: “Then the dust returns to the earth just as it happened to be and the spirit itself returns to the true God who gave it.” (Ecclesiastes 12:7) The word “spirit” is translated from the Hebrew word ru′ach, meaning the life-force that animates all living creatures, human and animal. (Ecclesiastes 3:18-22) However, the important difference is that ru′ach is an impersonal force; it does not have a will of its own or retain the personality or any of the characteristics of the deceased individual. It does not go from one person to another at death but “returns to the true God who gave it.” In other words, the person’s future life prospects—the hope of a resurrection—are entirely in God’s hands.—John 5:28, 29; Acts 17:31.

    Nirvana—Attaining the Unattainable?

    45 This brings us to the Buddha’s teaching on enlightenment and salvation. In Buddhist terms, the basic idea of salvation is liberation from the laws of Karma and samsara, as well as the attaining of Nirvana. And what is Nirvana? Buddhist texts say that it is impossible to describe or explain but can only be experienced. It is not a heaven where one goes after death but an attainment that is within the reach of all, here and now. The word itself is said to mean “blowing out, extinguishing.” Thus, some define Nirvana as cessation of all passion and desire; an existence free from all sensory feelings, such as pain, fear, want, love, or hate; a state of eternal peace, rest, and changelessness. Essentially, it is said to be the cessation of individual existence.

    46 The Buddha taught that enlightenment and salvation—the perfection of Nirvana—come, not from any God or external force, but from within a person by his own effort in good deeds and right thoughts. This raises the question: Can something perfect come out of something imperfect? Does not our common experience tell us, as the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah did, that “to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step”? (Jeremiah 10:23) If no one is able to have total control of his actions even in simple day-to-day matters, is it logical to think that anyone can work out his eternal salvation all by himself?—Psalm 146:3, 4.

    47 Just as a man mired in quicksand is not likely to free himself from it on his own, likewise all mankind is entrapped in sin and death, and no one is capable of extricating himself from this entanglement. (Romans 5:12) Yet, the Buddha taught that salvation depends solely on one’s own effort. His parting exhortation to his disciples was to “rely on yourselves and do not rely on external help; hold fast to the truth as a lamp; seek salvation alone in the truth; look not for assistance to anyone besides yourself.”

    Enlightenment or Disillusionment?

    48 What is the effect of such a doctrine? Does it inspire its believers to true faith and devotion? The book Living Buddhism reports that in some Buddhist countries, even “monks give little thought to the sublimities of their religion. The attainment of Nirvāna is widely thought to be a hopelessly unrealistic ambition, and meditation is seldom practised. Apart from desultory study of the Tipitaka, they devote themselves to being a benevolent and harmonious influence in society.” Similarly, World Encyclopedia (Japanese), in commenting on the recent resurgence of interest in Buddhist teachings, observes: “The more the study of Buddhism becomes specialized, the more it departs from its original purpose—to guide the people. From this point of view, the recent trend in the rigorous study of Buddhism does not necessarily mean the revival of a living faith. Rather, it must be observed that when a religion becomes the object of complicated metaphysical scholarship, its real life as a faith is losing its power.”

    49 The fundamental concept of Buddhism is that knowledge and understanding lead to enlightenment and salvation. But the complicated doctrines of the various schools of Buddhism have only produced the above-mentioned “hopelessly unrealistic” situation, beyond the grasp of most believers. For them, Buddhism has been reduced to doing good and following a few rituals and simple precepts. It does not come to grips with life’s perplexing questions, such as: Where do we come from? Why are we here? And what is the future for man and the earth?

    50 Some sincere Buddhists have recognized the confusion and disillusionment that arise from the complicated doctrines and burdensome rituals of Buddhism as it is practiced today. The humanitarian efforts of Buddhist groups and associations in some countries may have brought relief from pain and suffering to many. But as a source of true enlightenment and liberation for all, has Buddhism lived up to its promise?

    Enlightenment Without God?

    51 Accounts of the life of the Buddha relate that on one occasion he and his disciples were in a forest. He picked up a handful of leaves and said to his disciples: “What I have taught you is comparable to the leaves in my hand, what I have not taught you is comparable to the amount of leaves in the forest.” The implication, of course, was that the Buddha had taught only a fraction of what he knew. However, there is one important omission—Gautama the Buddha had next to nothing to say about God; neither did he ever claim to be God. In fact, it is said that he told his disciples, “If there is a God, it is inconceivable that He would be concerned about my day-to-day affairs,” and “there are no gods who can or will help man.”

    52 In this sense, Buddhism’s role in mankind’s search for the true God is minimal. The Encyclopedia of World Faiths observes that “early Buddhism appears to have taken no account of the question of God, and certainly did not teach or require belief in God.” In its emphasis on each person’s seeking salvation on his own, turning inward to his own mind or consciousness for enlightenment, Buddhism is really agnostic, if not atheistic. (See box, page 145.) In trying to throw off Hinduism’s shackles of superstition and its bewildering array of mythical gods, Buddhism has swung to the other extreme. It ignored the fundamental concept of a Supreme Being, by whose will everything exists and operates.—Acts 17:24, 25.

    53 Because of this self-centered and independent way of thinking, the result is a veritable labyrinth of legends, traditions, complex doctrines, and interpretations generated by the many schools and sects over the centuries. What was meant to bring a simple solution to the complicated problems of life has resulted in a religious and philosophical system that is beyond the comprehension of most people. Instead, the average follower of Buddhism is simply preoccupied with worshiping idols and relics, gods and demons, spirits and ancestors, and performing many other rituals and practices that have little to do with what Gautama the Buddha taught. Clearly, seeking enlightenment without God does not work.

    54 At about the same time that Gautama the Buddha was searching for the way to enlightenment, in another part of the continent of Asia there lived two philosophers whose ideas came to influence millions of people. They were Lao-tzu and Confucius, the two sages venerated by generations of Chinese and others


    Mankind Search For God
    Published By:Jehovah's Witnesses
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