The Limitations of Buddhism: A Response to My Critics

Statue representing the portrait of Buddha in meditation. Copy space.

“There’s little point in writing if you can’t annoy somebody.”  

So wrote the late Kingsley Amis, one of the grand old curmudgeons of English letters who, over a long and highly combative literary career, managed to annoy just about everybody.  And while I do not aspire to the same heights of abrasiveness achieved by Mr. Amis, I am nevertheless certain that, from time to time, things I’ve written have managed to annoy somebody.   Indeed, as recently as last week, when a dozen or more incensed readers seized upon a couple of animadversions in a piece I wrote on Buddhism October 2nd.  How eagerly they set about discharging their pistols in the comment section following the essay!

So what did I do to incite such a firestorm?  And why has it taken me so long before attempting even to contain the blaze?  Did I find their arguments secretly compelling and was thus reduced to silence?  In point of fact, I wasn’t even aware of all the thunder and lightning until this week when my editor, John Vella, a very able and nice man, dropped me a line to say what a “clobbering” I was getting among the bloggers.  “It’s a bloodletting and it’s not a pretty sight,” he added.  And I expect he was right but what the hell could I do?  A whole busload of grandchildren having descended the week before to lay siege to my house, I was hardly in a position to compose calm rebuttals.  Their arrival having coincided with the first stirrings of the storm clouds, you might say I’d been blindsided by the Buddha.

OK, so what was the warhead that set off the conflagration?  Was it the fact that I’d taken such an unflattering snapshot of the Buddha?  That in presenting so revered a religious icon as “a plump fatuous fellow, sitting cross-legged upon the floor with eyes closed upon the world,” I had projected a mocking tone that proved belittling in the eyes of true Buddhist believers?  Ex-believers, too, who, despite confessions of having come home to Rome, continue to regard the religion they left behind as something benign and beautiful.  “The central Buddhist virtue is compassion,” insisted one such reader, who complained that I’d misrepresented the faith he’d converted from seven years before.  And then he accused me of “arrogance” for supposing that only Christians had cornered the market on mercy and love.  It was a charge that would be echoed by others, all equally insistent that the straw man I’d constructed was no better than the caricatures one finds in Chesterton who, it turns out, was the first to pronounce on the unopened eyes of the Buddha.  “Next time you write,” concluded one such critic, “write on a topic you’re familiar with.” Or, to quote my all time favorite, “If Regis Martin is a Professor of Theology he should be fired!”

Fair enough.  Although on the matter of losing my job as a result of lampooning the Buddha, it is far likelier to happen at the College of the Holy Cross where the gospel of tolerance scarcely applies to people like me.   Meanwhile, at the Franciscan University of Steubenville where I’m a tenured professor in a department not exactly conspicuous for courses on Buddhism, I’m at liberty to lampoon all the enemies of faith.  And, really, how does one go about telling the truth about Buddhism without appearing unflattering in one’s portrait of the Buddha?  There is simply no way to airbrush away the features that precisely portend the celebrated negations of being, the annihilations of self which strict Buddhist observance invites.  “Everything is brought down to a few very simple truths,” writes Christopher Dawson in his scholarly study of the Mysticisms of the East; “suffering and the cause of suffering; the extinction of suffering and the way to the extinction of suffering.  These are the Four Noble Truths on which the Way is founded.  There is no knowledge beyond these truths and no reality outside this way.  The whole of religion, the whole of philosophy, and the whole of human life are reduced to the interior way of moral and mental discipline, by which the nothingness of existence is realized and the extinction of desire and passion is attained.”

So stands the whole Buddhist system in all its tragic grandeur and simplicity.  Its mysticism, says Henri de Lubac, “is the purest and most coherent there is.” Yet, he concludes, “there is no room for the living God.”  Indeed, the very monism of spirit that abides at the bottom of the Buddhist barrel, absolutely precludes the possibility of a Thou to whom anyone might turn in order simply to love.  “Buddhistic love,” comments Hans Urs von Balthasar, “remains ultimately without an object.  Objects only exist for the uninitiated.  Everything is dreamlike, incompatible with a genuine incarnation….” So radical and systemic a thrust toward an ultimate unreality can only eventuate in the destruction of the human person.  “Only the self-revealing God,” says Balthasar, which means the God of Jesus Christ, “guarantees the eternal worth of the human person.”

Why must we deny that this is what Buddhism is about?  Are we to suppress such bad news because it causes dismay among those whose eyes, like the Buddha’s, remain closed to the truth, to the whole reality of the extra-mental world?   “When God is understood in a completely impersonal way,” writes Joseph Ratzinger in a learned aside on Buddhism, “as sheer negation with respect to everything that appears real to us, then there is no positive relationship between ‘God’ and the world.  Then the world has to be overcome as a source of suffering, but it no longer can be shaped.  Religion then points out ways to overcome the world, to free people from the burden of its semblance, but it offers no standards by which we can live in the world, no forms of societal responsibility within it.”

And if they still persist in the blindness of their belief that the only way to escape suffering is to extinguish desire, and thereby embrace the nothingness of nirvana, are we not obliged to point out the sheer suicide of the self such madness invites?  Why is it arrogance and insensitivity to point out these things?

At the end of the day, when all the dialogue on diversity is done, this is what we need to say.  That up against the Christian idea of God, the God whose most intensely dramatic expression we encounter in the image of the Pierced and Crucified Christ—who, standing wide-eyed before the world, plunges to the very bottom of its brokenness in search of sinners to save—no mysticism of mind can match the sheer range and depth of its solidarity with the world.  Nor the attraction it undeniably offers to those who despite their sufferings still cling to Christ because they know that he alone came to redeem them in the very midst of their suffering and not in denial or flight from it.

How, in other words, does one convey the distinctively Christian solution without leaving everything else in the dust?  That, at any rate, is the point I tried to make in the piece that, I now regret, drove not a few readers positively crackers.

Regis Martin

By

Regis Martin is Professor of Theology and Faculty Associate with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He earned a licentiate and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Martin is the author of a number of books, including Still Point: Loss, Longing, and Our Search for God (2012) and The Beggar's Banquet (Emmaus Road). His most recent book, also published by Emmaus Road, is called Witness to Wonder: The World of Catholic Sacrament. He resides in Steubenville, Ohio, with his wife and ten children.

  • Tradmeister

    Yes, well put.

  • Bob

    You have nothing to apologize for, Regis. I read your article, and my take away is it is a critique of the sad state of Catholic teaching at Jesuit universities, which I agree with you (I am a graduate of a Jesuit college, and it saddens me also.)

    Any teaching at a Catholic university on Buddhism needs to be taught and held up against the Truth and light that Jesus Christ is Lord. The conversation starts with Christ is God and Saviour, and Buddha is not. It must be taught that (at best) Buddha imperfectly points towards the fullness of the Truth, which is the incarnate word of God, Jesus Christ.

    • Ann

      Agreed, there was nothing to apologize for and I very much enjoyed and appreciated the previous article.

      I took it as a critique of teaching at so-called Catholic universities in general. I’m a graduate of a Marianist university, and the same issues are there as at the Jesuit run institutions. Some of us escaped with our faith intact, and some came out with a new-found belief in the Catholic church, but many were led astray. It not only saddens me, it makes me angry!

      All teachings of other religions at Catholic universities need to be held up to the light and compared to the truth of the Catholic faith. Maybe if this were happening, so many of our young people wouldn’t be losing their faith during their college years. Maybe there wouldn’t be so many who think taking “the best” from any and all world religions is OK (all the while downplaying the beauty and truth of our orthodox Catholic traditions).

    • Sygurd Jonfski

      Well, it has been more than two days since I have posted my query to Dr. Martin, asking him to comment on the glaring factual errors in regard to Buddhism in his original article. I am still waiting for his reply. In the meantime, I have been watching in this combox a grotesque parade of vituperative ignorance, pious drivel and self-serving talk about “love” – a truly sad reflection on the intellectual level of many self-proclaimed “Catholics”. Adam Baum has compared me to a swine and I want to thank him for that – I’d rather be that intelligent animal than the poor excuse for a human that he is. Another genius asked why compare dogs with humans and I must say that there really are no reasonable grounds for that – dogs are much better than many humans in almost every respect and they also don’t ask stupid questions. All in all, I can offer you only my deepest contempt. I don’t think I’ll be ever posting again at this site.

      • Regis Martin

        Dear Sygurd, Please forgive my tardiness in getting back to you. It was certainly not due to indifference. The objections you raise are serious and therefore they ought to be answered. The trouble has been time, of which there is never enough, esp, not when grandchildren descend whose demands are even more importunate than those of enraged readers. Not that I don’t think you are entitled to feel rage; if I were compared to a pig I should be equally incensed. However, the fact that you rather welcome the comparison suggests something of the impasse I feel in trying to answer your questions. Pigs are no doubt very bright and their company perhaps preferable to that of a great many people. But at a the end of the day, they are only pigs, which is to say, creatures devoid of a soul and thus lacking in the dignity we normally ascribe to human beings, yes, even humans who behave badly. The differences, in short, between ourselves and the dumb chums is quite simply incommensurable. On the matter of your other objection, I can only repeat that all the images I’ve seen of the Buddha reveal him as being either blind or with eyes half-closed. What that portends is an inwardness of indifference to the extra-mental world, which is entirely unlike the disposition of Christ and the saints to look on the world that God made and to rejoice in its goodness. Which includes, by the way, all the animals that we are look after and treat with respect even when we are at liberty to eat them for our nourishment and delight.

        • Sygurd Jonfski

          Dear Dr. Martin,

          Even though I have definitely given up my participation in discussions at the Crisis Magazine site, I feel I owe you a reply to this.

          “Please forgive my tardiness in getting back to you.”

          No problem.

          “Not that I don’t think you are entitled to feel rage; if I were compared to a pig I should be equally incensed.”

          I was not enraged by being compared to a pig but by the crude viciousness and sheer stupidity of this comparison. However, it only provides a proof that pigs are really smarter (and better natured) than some people.

          “Pigs are no doubt very bright and their company perhaps preferable to that of a great many people.”

          Quite.

          ” But at a the end of the day, they are only pigs, which is to say, creatures devoid of a soul and thus lacking in the dignity we normally ascribe to human beings, yes, even humans who behave badly.”

          This statement is puzzling on several levels. First, the Catholic theology (of which you are a professor) teaches that animals do have indeed souls, please see http://www.catholic.com/quickquestions/do-animals-have-souls-like-human-beings (a randomly chosen link). Agreed, they don’t have IMMORTAL souls but does that fact really justify taking away the only thing they have, i.e., their lives? Catholicism claims to be “pro-life” but in fact it is “pro-immortal-soul” and that smacks of hypocrisy. Third, I find the talk of the “inherent human dignity” very baffling. Animals don’t booze, don’t do drugs, don’t engage in sexual perversions, don’t post idiocies on the Internet, etc., etc., and yet we are supposed to consider humans more dignified than them? Yes, they certainly do their “bad” (according to human morality) things but this only puts them at par with humanity. Such mental sleights-of-hand make me more and more tired of Catholic philosophizing…

          “The differences, in short, between ourselves and the dumb chums is quite simply incommensurable.”

          I’m sorry, Dr. Martin, but I can describe your condescension here as truly disgusting. Christ Himself gave us “the birds of the air and the beasts of the field” as examples to follow and you dare call them “dumb chumps”? (I won’t yield to the temptation to say who is here the real “dumb chump”…)

          “I can only repeat that all the images I’ve seen of the Buddha reveal him as being either blind or with eyes half-closed.”

          Well, perhaps you should have another look: https://www.google.ca/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1440&bih=743&q=buddha&oq=buddha&gs_l=img.1.0.0l10.1233.2789.0.5126.6.6.0.0.0.0.66.320.6.6.0….0…1ac.1.28.img..0.6.319.JYYso2wAJtA (link generated by typing “buddha” into Google Images). By the way, have you ever heard of the epicanthic fold? An explanation of the meaning of the half-closed eyes, which you are stubbornly ignoring, can be found here: http://www.rkhawaii.org/archivedpres/importanceofhalfclosedeyes.htm (again, a randomly found link).

          Well, enough said. Let me just state that, in light of your unwillingness to admit your clear lack of knowledge about Buddhism, of your continuous obfuscations and casuistry and of your patronizing attitude towards your justified critics, my decision to leave for good this website is only confirmed. I agree with you about Jesuit universities but that’s another story.

      • Pay

        This post of yours reveals much about you. You cannot offer an intelligent defense of your absurd position so you attack your opponents personally. Any philosophy that places dumb animals equal to or above humans is self evidently rubbish.

      • Crisiseditor

        Your comment was not posted immediately because the internet software determined it to be spam and held it for moderation. But in light of the manner of your argumentation and the content of your post, I can see why you have received so much opposition. I generally encourage debate in the comment boxes but, given your attitude, your absence will not be missed.

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  • C

    With our eyes upon Our Lord’s wounds, all other explanations of “how one should live” become pale and fade away upon the approach, like a crayon drawing next to the Pieta.

  • Dick Prudlo

    No need for an apology in the modern sense or historical sense. The argument from the convert from Buddhism is noteworthy only in the way that some carry their baggage in from the outside and it takes sometime to unpack it all. Wonderful article in a defense that was really not necessary.

  • Steven Jonathan

    Good rebuttal Dr. Martin! I thought the first one was sufficient, but this was icing on the cake. Here is one of the Buddhist’s sayings:

    “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

    Any creed that requires that we are our own reference is fatally flawed. The complaints against your first piece were barking mad little gods raging against Truth.

    • guest

      amen

    • Missy

      Exactly!

    • tom

      Yet, the “natural law” posits exactly this advice. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

  • R. K. Ich

    Dr Regis– as a sojourner from the outside ever slowly making his way into the Roman communion, I applaud your (up to about 45 years ago an otherwise unremarkable) stand.

    The saccharine cul-de-sac spirit of “dialogue” to nowhere with everyone from without, so popular among those eager to offend absolutely no one but the faithful, has taken up its uglier incarnation in the virulent catholic-in-naught-else-but-name sub-current of the American church: it’s this spirit that has become irate because it cannot stand to openly give the Triune God alone the glory – clearly a demonic prince of the air if ever there was one. I suggest the blood-letting is due less to your insensitivities than to the sharpness of truth. Really, Atheistic philosophies like Buddhism cannot be saved: they can only be lauded for not being completely mistaken in its accidental observations, but at the end of the day must be undressed to expose their deathly core. You, sir, are a credit to the Christian religion for doing your duty without fear. The detractors will just have to take their bat and ball and go home.

    Finally, it’s people like yourself that make me think American Catholicism has a few good men left that have not gone completely bonkers for UN style religion more fitting for the Starship Enterprise than the noble army of prophets, martyrs, and apostles. Thank you for your constancy.

    • Adam__Baum

      “UN style religion more fitting for the Starship Enterprise”
      Interesting that you would bring this up. As much as I enjoy(ed) Star Trek, its creator Gene Roddenberry was an apostate Baptist, who embraced agnosticism and humanism.
      According to his wikipedia page he saw religion as the cause of wars and suffering. Of course his perspective on religion may have been tinted by his desire to ditch his first wife for Majel Barret (aka Nurse Chapel). Among the many contradictions, his remarriage to Barret was performed in a tradional Shinto ceremony (so I guess, some religions are ok, as long as they are exotic, syncretic, doctrinally incoherent or animistic).
      Then again, despite his pacifism, NCC-1701 engaged the unknown as a fully equipped warship, not an observatory.
      And then there’s the infusion of what Roepke called the “cult of the colossal” and the overt religiousity of the statism inherent in the “United Federation of Planets”.

  • Mario

    I’m a student on systematical philosophy and while I was reading your lines it came to my mind Pilate’s most famous phrase: Ecce Homo. Jesus Christ, true God and true Man shows the whole humanity the perfect way of being a man: to give his live out of love so that others could have life (that of course is just possible if you have had the experience of knowing others).
    And about the tollerance, the meaning has changed, usually we tollerate something bad; but now we hear that tollerance is to say tghat everything is OK (WHICHis a hidden relativism…)

  • Sygurd Jonfski

    In this reply to your critics, Dr. Martin, you don’t comment upon the two most obvious and most often mentioned reasons for the “lambasting” of your article: first, the eyes of the Buddha’s images are seldom closed (contrary to the title of your piece) and when they are, they are so for a sound reason, not because of the erroneously implied blindness; second, Buddhism far exceeds Christianity in its compassion for all sentient beings, not just humans. As one of your “persecutors” (albeit not quoted above), I would like to know your reply to these two objections.

    • guest

      Not sure of your point? Why compare a dog to a human?

      • Paul

        Sygurd Jonfski, are you here to denigrate others? Where is the basic level of respect that humans should accord to one another? It is an entirely different thing to point out to someone that you don’t believe his beliefs are true, and another entirely to mock him for doing so. What the writer here has done is the latter. It is hardly any different from the caricatures drawn by the Danish cartoonists that caused a furore in the Islamic nations.

        • Paul

          I’m sorry, the last post is directed to the guest and not Sygurd Jonfski.

        • Guest

          I pointed out the obvious. You call it mocking but it is a simple question that goes to the heart of the matter.

        • Guest

          I, also, want to point out another flaw in your post. The author of this essay and his last essay received many unfair critiques. Like your post many seem to attack the author personally and not his arguments. Why? Why cannot we not address the arguments rather than trying to redirect things?

          • Paul

            I assure you that I am not attacking the author personally. However, the crux of the issue here is not whether his arguments are valid but how he has chosen to present it. There are many better ways of presenting an argument without having to resort to attacking the beliefs of another. Surely the writer could have done that and prevented such a mess in the first place? Likewise, is there any need for you to write, “Why compare a dog to a human?”? It could very well be taken to be a very offensive comment. Why not use “Why compare apples with oranges?” instead?

            • Darren Szwajkowski

              Just you bringing up the point that “comparing a dog to a human” is offensive and should not be said shows the upsidedown nature of things that Chesterton would point out. If one were to say that a dog is more imporant than a man (which some people do), I do take offense to this statement. But I don’t take offense is the sense that I would get angry, I take it as offensive because it is ludicrous and would try to point out the error of their ways. Islam takes offense when a Christian proclaims Jesus Christ is the Son of God. I proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Woah! I’ve just offended nearly a billion people. But I should be nice and compassionate. And I would say, how? By renouncing what I believe just because someone else does not believe it. The truth is offensive to some. Jesus did not bring peace but division because there will be those who follow the whim of this world and when they hear the truth they are in denial and proclaim, “now, don’t be judgmental”. I spoke the truth, you just judged yourself.

              • Paul

                You totally miss my point. There is nothing wrong with pointing out the errors of another, but there are various means of doing it. Why is there a need to use the most offensive and blunt measures when there are other equally effective or better measures that can be used instead?

                • Adam__Baum

                  One man’s “offensive and blunt” is another man’s “clear and penetrating”.

                  • Paul

                    The onus is on the person wanting to do the convincing to decipher whether his “clear and penetrating” is not actually “offensive and blunt” to the person he is trying to convince. One does not convince another by insulting them.

                    • slainte

                      God is quite blunt in several books of the Old Testament, and some books of the New Testament. Does God offend by His blunt declarations?

                    • Paul

                      Do you remember that God’s ways are not man’s ways?

                    • slainte

                      I am pleased that God is intelligible to us, and that He has graced us through the Divine Law with the ability to know Him so that we may love Him, and worship Him.
                      And through Him, we may better know ourselves as incarnated immortal beings made in Imago Dei gifted by Him with reason so that we might better understand His Eternal law, and thus, His Divine will.
                      Does his revealed word, when stated unequivocally, give you offense?

                    • Paul

                      I have no objections to the revealed word but that is not the crux of the argument here. It is one thing to point out to someone why you think his religion is false, another entirely to do so in a condescending way. Do you think it is right to degrade another person in order to convert him?

                    • slainte

                      I think speaking the truth about our Catholic faith clearly and succinctly in this era of relativism and nihilism is mandatory, not optional.
                      I am curious whether your overt focus on “civility” might not be a mask to hide your fear of appearing out of place among those who either do not believe or who look with disdain upon Catholics and Catholicism in general. Your comments suggest that you place a heavy emphasis on appearances.
                      Would you stand in front of an abortion clinic and practice your faith and testify to that faith before your agnostic or atheist or protestant brethren?
                      Paul, we are rapidly approaching a time in the U.S when we Catholics must stand for what we believe. I am a woman and I am not afraid to proclaim my faith bluntly, clearly, and plainly. I hope that you and other Catholic men might consider doing the same.

                    • Paul

                      Slainte, there is a very clear distinction between proclaiming our faith and attacking other people for their faiths. Is attacking other people a way of showing others that we love our neighbours? I would hesitate to even call that tough love since surely one does not love another by attacking them?
                      Concerning abortion, it is apt to use the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin” here. Abortion is wrong no doubt, but when confronting the guilty party, do we sometimes end up condemning the sinner instead of the sin? The prodigal son returned to his father because he knew his father would forgive him and welcome him back; are we ready to do the same as the father? If the son knew that his father would attack and condemn him for such a lifestyle, it is highly probably that he would have been too afraid to return.

                    • Facile1

                      I would agree with you generally except for one very important fact. Prof. Regis’ article was published in an explicitly Catholic Blog, where Buddhist readers are NOT likely to be found.

                      If Buddhists are offended, what are they doing reading a Catholic Blog?

                      If you wish to convert Buddhists, what are YOU doing posting in this Catholic Blog?

                    • slainte

                      I have re-read both of Prof. Martin’s pieces and disagree with your inflammatory and false proclamations that Professor Martin attacked people for their faiths. He did no such thing.
                      Prof. Martin identified and called out a dissenting and formerly Catholic University, Holy Cross, for its hypocritcal rejection of its sacred mission to teach Truth to its student body, opting instead to advance a multiplicity of false ideologies in its stead.
                      You who carry the banner of Love and Mercy, Unordered by Truth or wisdom, have no compunction about using the very hammer of self righteousness you claim to despise to bludgeon both Prof. Martin and blog commenters in an effort to advance an agenda whichis best known to yourself.
                      As to abortion vigils…I can only assume that you have not participated in prayer vigils outside abortion clinics where faithful people live their Catholic faith and pray for the well being of both mother and child, and for the intervention of Our Lord to save the lives and souls of both. There is no condemnation of the mother, only compassion for her plight and a sincere effort to help her find peace and unification with Christ, through the Church. You hasten to chide me with no knowledge of who I am or others who counsel the wounded.
                      I find your comments elitist, condemning, and extraordinarily offensive. I can only hope that you are a young person with many years ahead to form a more comprehensive understanding of your Catholic faith and the human condition in general.
                      Pax tecum.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      I’ll bet the money changers in the Temple were offended.

                    • Paul

                      Nice troll, but this has nothing to do with that. The money changers were defiling a place of worship; of course they deserved to be thrown out. However, what have the Buddhists done to deserve such disrespect? They too are seeking God in their own ways; is it their fault if they have not yet found the our God? With people like you, it only makes it harder for them to complete that journey to find our God. If someone is hostile towards you, it’s only natural that a huge dose of scepticism develops.

                    • slainte

                      To whom are you referring when you state “….with people like you…”?

                    • Adam__Baum

                      People that won’t submit to the jurisdiction of self-appointed censors, aka trolls, who toss insult freely while imagining they are above reproach.

                    • Guest

                      I am offended that he was offended.

                    • Paul

                      To Adam_Baum

                    • Adam__Baum

                      There you go again, to borrow a phrase.

                      To disagree with a philosophy is not to scorn adherents. The whole point of the article is that Bhuddism isn’t a religion, but a philosophy, so how are adherents “seeking God in their own way”?

                    • Paul

                      It may not be a religion to you, but to them it is so. While it is true that “To disagree with a philosophy is not to scorn adherents.”, it is however, possible to cross that line if one is not careful. That line most certainly has been crossed this time round.

                    • Guest

                      Claiming insult does not make it so. Unless, you are the center of everything.

                • Guest

                  We live in an effete time. Plain questions now cause “offense”. The real point is there is too much illegitimate offense. That one claims they are offended is not justification for the other to immediately accept such a statement as authentic.

                  What if I claim your response to me is offensive? We can go round and round over stupid accusations rather than address the argument at hand. Are we mature people seeking the truth or immature teenage girls in love with ourselves?

                  • Paul

                    Do you really think that no real offence has been caused by the writings? The writer has chosen to mock Buddhism instead of using a more refined and constructive approach. How would you like it if someone of another faith were to insult our God? Obviously you wouldn’t be very pleased.

      • Sygurd Jonfski

        Please note that my posting is directed to Dr. Martin ONLY. I am not interested in other people’s comments.

        • guest

          Other readers are interested in your questions and in my question to you. It was a simple question.

        • Adam__Baum

          “Please note that my posting is directed to Dr. Martin ONLY.”

          Then please note that a forum for public commentary (and rebuttal) is not the place to convey private comments.

      • ncs

        Why not compare a dog to a human? Does a dog feel less pain? Why compare an adult to a fetus?

    • Adam__Baum

      “Buddhism far exceeds Christianity in its compassion for all sentient beings, not just humans.”

      Something about this statement reminds me about throwing pearls before swine.

    • Ann

      Since you seem so sure of Buddhism’s “compassion”, please give us your explanation of the growing Buddhist persecution of Christians in Sri Lanka, Burma, and other Asian countries.

  • JasperBuck

    To
    the Buddhists was given a conception of God of extraordinary intellectual
    purity; but in growing familiar with the featureless splendour, they have lost
    their heads; they babble; they say that everything is nothing and nothing is
    everything, that black is white because white is black. We fancy that the
    frightful universal negatives at which they have at last arrived, are really
    little more than the final mental collapse of men trying always to find an
    abstraction big enough for all things. “I have said what I understood not,
    things too great for me that I know not. I will put my hand upon my mouth.” Job
    was a wise man. Buddhism stands for a simplification of the mind and a reliance
    on the most indestructible ideas; Christianity stands for a simplification of
    the heart and a reliance on the most indestructible sentiments. The greater
    Christian insistence upon personal deity and immortality is not, we fancy, the
    cause so much as the effect of this essential trend towards an ancient passion
    and pathos as the power that most nearly rends the veil from the nature of
    things. Both creeds grope after the same secret sun, but Buddhism dreams of its
    light and Christianity of its heat. Buddhism seeks after God with the largest
    conception it can find, the all-producing and all-absorbing One; Christianity
    seeks after God with the most elementary passion it can find—the craving for a
    father, the hunger that is as old as the hills. It turns the whole cry of a
    lost universe into the cry of a lost child. – G. K. Chesterton (from The Speaker, Nov 17, 1900)

    • Adam__Baum

      You can’t quote that, it’s “blunt and offensive”. (sarc)

    • Facile1

      The TRUTH bears repeating (the following is from ‘Bob’).

      “Nostra Aetate, Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, states that “Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination.” It continues to note that, “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions” and believes that other religions, in certain ways, “often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”

      But, the document insists, the Church “proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself” (par 2). While the Council affirms that Buddhism may contain a “ray of Truth,” it does not endorse appropriation of Buddhist beliefs into Christian practice. Rather, the Council insists that non-Catholic religions can be fulfilled only through the truths held exclusively by the Church.”

      The important part being the final sentence “Rather, the Council insists that non-Catholic religions can be fulfilled only through the truths held exclusively by the Church.”

  • Dan M.

    I suspect the reason Buddhism is so popular in this world is that it is a totally non-demanding philosophy. The world is addicted to sin in it’s many forms, sex, drugs, power, greed. Buddhism really only has one demand, be nice to each other.

    • msmischief

      It has a lot more, actually, but it’s even easier to censor that out than out of Christianity — despite the liberal “Christians” — because you won’t be contradicted by the multitude of Buddhists who surround you.

      • tom

        They do fall prey to totalitarian regimes, don’t they?

    • ncs

      Quite the contrary – Buddhism tends to be far more demanding than Christian religions. Because it is not based in shame or sin…to be a practicing Buddhist requires personal motivation and determination many people find difficult to maintain and there is no creator God in Buddhism to turn your suffering over to. It is up to you.

      • GHM_52

        There is nothing wrong about feeling shame when shame is due. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging sin when there is sin. True Christians do not boast about having strength or determination because they know they have none. They find their strength and determination in the Word of God Who fills them with His strength and determination and perseverance. As you express it so well, in Buddhism everything is “up to you”. I, for one, feel so happy that “everything is not up to me” as I know I would fail…miserably. My hope is in Him Who Is and therefore, can and does supply for my deficiencies.

  • NE-Catholic

    Thank you for your clear rebuttal, now if we could only get a similar note aimed at deflecting the rabid attacks on Catholics/Catholicism as idolators from our Baptist ‘Friends”!

    On a side note, the Fathers at Holy Cross are occasionally invited to stand-in for our Jesuit pastor – their sermons are painful to sit through – not because they are poor speakers (they are actually better than our pastor) but because they are riddled through (or is it rotten with?) the latest in ‘Progressive-Democrat’ talking points. I still remember being urged to ‘not cling to our old ways, hope in the future and look forward to change’ during the election. UGH!

    • tom

      It’s obvious the Holy Cross priests have life long jobs and don’t have to worry about their kids being mugged or their wives raped on the way home. I trust, and pray, the new Pope won’t suffer the same deficiencies in common sense.

  • Paul

    It is one thing to point out to someone that you don’t believe his beliefs are true and why you think so, and another entirely to mock him for doing so. What Mr Regis Martin has done here is the latter. It is hardly any different from the caricatures drawn by the Danish cartoonists that caused a furore in the Islamic nations.

    Remember that in Pope Paul’s document Nostra Aetate, the Blessed Father writes that,

    “The Church reproves, as foreign to the mind of Christ, any discrimination against men or harassment of them because of their race, colour, condition of life, or religion. On the contrary, following in the footsteps of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul, this sacred synod ardently implores the Christian faithful to “maintain good fellowship among the nations” (1 Peter 2:12), and, if possible, to live for their part in peace with all men, so that they may truly be sons of the Father who is in heaven.”
    If Mr Regis Martin would look closer at his offending articles, it would become obvious that he has gone afoul of Nostra Aetate. What he has done is tantamount to harassing and mocking Buddhists for their beliefs which is not nice at all if one is on the receiving end. How different is this from some Protestants bashing Catholics for their Catholic beliefs and practices, such as the devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary etc.?
    There are ways and means of debating religion, but this is not the right way. You do not disprove someone’s beliefs by throwing a brick at him. In fact, doing so is only detrimental as it only serves to harden and solidify the viewpoint that Catholics are nothing but uncivilised slobs and turns them away from the Church. Who then will take responsibility for the loss of his soul if he should in future lead a sinful life? Sure the man himself will bear the most of the brunt, but what about the person who set him off on that path in the first place that led him away from the teachings of the Church?
    In other words, if you want to convert people, do so with open arms and not with a sword brandished in one hand swinging at the other person, telling him that if he gets hurt, it is because he has been under the care of a false and incapable swordmaster.

    • R. K. Ich

      For the love of all that is holy, man, pull up your pants and quit idolizing the bloated self. I tire of this anti-love philosophy that guards against truth telling. Buddhism is the way of death; Jesus is the Way of life. See? That’s loving. I for one don’t give a damn if a pope or angel is offended at the clear pronouncement of truth when it is dyed in the blood of the martyrs and our Lord. We need a serious paradigm shift of what loving dialogue really is. It’s speaking the truth wisely and prophetically, with the good of the other as the goal. Buddhism is spiritual suicide no less than other false religions.

      • Paul

        I can assure you that if you live in the part of the world I live in, you would not have many friends. It is one thing to proclaim the Truth as it is, another to bluntly shove it down someone’s throat. How is it wise to offend the very person you are seeking to convince? Nay, all that achieves is to make them become deaf to your words and is totally counterproductive.

        • R. K. Ich

          I can assure you that my 20+ years of evangelism to atheists, cultists, and Jews (my wife being a convert from Judaism to Nicene Christianity) is not some steamroller approach you vainly imagine traditional Christians engage in.

          • Paul

            I very well hope so. Perhaps your method might be more suited to where you live, but it is surely not a one size fits all approach? If you live in a place where Christians, or Catholics for that matter, do not form the majority, it is suicide, metaphorically and literally, to not use a more tactful approach. Now becoming a martyr is good and all, but doing so in vain is not exactly the best way to promote the faith.

        • Adam__Baum

          “I can assure you that if you live in the part of the world I live in, you would not have many friends.”

          Really, where is that capital of effitism? Perhaps it’s not such a desirable place, where the only discourse is bland, milquestoast.

          Too many times the wine and brie crowd mistake superficial comity for authentic peace.

          • Paul

            I sense a large dose of sarcasm here, which is totally uncalled for. Might I perhaps remind you that not everyone lives in the same vicinity as you? If you come here with that attitude of yours, I guarantee that you will be quickly ostracised. Moreover, when that happens, any chance of effectively promoting the Truth will be essentially zero.

            • Adam__Baum

              No. you don’t sense “sarcasm”, but a full-blown dispute.

              “Might I perhaps remind you that not everyone lives in the same vicinity as you?”

              You were the one who wrote “I can assure you that if you live in the part of the world I live in, you would not have many friends” as if wherever you live is the normal situation. An environment of mandatory indifferent cosmopolitanism isn’t even tolderable, let alone desireable.

              “If you come here with that attitude of yours, I guarantee that you will be quickly ostracised.”

              Likewise, I assure you, unless you go to Seattle or some of the other nihilist swamps we need to drain, you’ll huddle in a Tarbucks.

              • Paul

                Perhaps if you actually treated those who disagreed with you a whole lot better, you would find that you would be taken seriously much more often. It does not reflect kindly of you when you attempt to put down others in an effort to advance your position. If anything, such an attitude only serves to drive people away from the faith. Advance the Truth, but refrain from bullying.

                • Adam__Baum

                  “Perhaps if you actually treated those who disagreed with you a whole lot better, you would find that you would be taken seriously much more often.”
                  I’m taken plenty seriously where it matters.

                  You might look in the mirror before levelling those charges. You still can’t seem to even imagine that “I can assure you that if you live in the part of the world I live in, you would not have many friends” is obnoxious and condescending.

                  As for gravamen, it sounds a little like the decision process of my “‘tweener” niece, but then again she’s supposed to have an exaggerated external locus of identity.

                  • Paul

                    Excuse me, but let me just remind you that your opinion towards people of other faiths comes close to becoming Religious Harassment.

                • slainte

                  Philosophy professor in New York City?

                • R. K. Ich

                  Paul, who is bullying? I hope you are not projecting some past frustrations or encounters on the rest of us who are as unabashedly and zealously pro-Christ as the “progressives” are anti-Christ, anti-church, anti-hierarchy, anti-patriarchal, anti-tradition.

                  • Paul

                    Mr R. K. Ich, pardon the language, but it has become increasingly clear to me that Adam_Baum has some sort of agenda against me. How can anyone discuss anything when any response given is replied to with a snide reply?

                    I can assure you that I am not projecting anything here. Moreover, there are no “progressive” or “conservative” Catholics; those are just political terms, but only Orthodox and dissenting Catholics.
                    However, I am of the opinion that there are better ways of projecting the faith. Do you remember Fr Matteo Ricci, S.J., the missionary sent to China to preach and who subsequently managed to convert a large number of them? Did you think he achieved it by going up to the emperor and telling him directly in his face that the emperor’s god was false? I doubt that would have done much but gotten him executed. My point being is that being pro-Christ doesn’t necessarily mean that one shouldn’t be tactful in how he preaches Christ.

                    • WSquared

                      But the difference between Matteo Ricci and many Catholics who gush romantically and uncritically about other religions while barely understanding them is that Ricci knew his own tradition.

                      Sharing Christ with others demands that we know Who He truly Is– amid our larger culture’s “Jesus blather,” we presume to know. But do we really? If we did, Ross Douthat wouldn’t have had to waste paper and ink talking about “bad religion,” and Brad Gregory wouldn’t have wasted his time talking about the theological, philosophical, and historical peril awaiting our “Kingdom of Whatever.” If our catechesis is so bad that large swaths of us don’t even know what the Real Presence is, then we presume to “dialogue” and be ecumenical with nothing, because without Him we can do nothing.

                      Moreover, to know that Catholicism can recognize truth in other traditions is to know Christ and to know what it means to have the fullness of the Truth. Why Catholicism is able to engage is that Catholic orthodoxy is just bigger in terms of breadth and depth when it comes to what it actually means to be. When God became Man, He did not stop being God; did not stop being truly Himself. Paraphrasing Cardinal Ratzinger, Catholics do need to meet others where they are, but they cannot do so at the expense of being themselves, at the expense of their Catholicity.

                      Professor Martin rightly questions what we might as well call a kind of spiritual consumerism and the mess that it produces.

                      In order to make the Catholic tradition translatable to others, one must first know and understand one’s own tradition as well as the other tradition soberly, and without any illusions. This isn’t just about mere tact, but rather that actual respect and caritas require truth, humility, and sobriety to recognize genuine differences and what they mean, not reducing “other cultures” and “diversity” to one’s sentimentalist consumer prejudices as often happens here in the West, and indeed in much of higher education.

    • Bob

      But you did not include this from Nosyra Aetate on Buddhism (quoted from the above referenced Olsen article):

      “Nostra Aetate, Vatican II’s Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, states that “Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination.” It continues to note that, “The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions” and believes that other religions, in certain ways, “often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”

      But, the document insists, the Church “proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself” (par 2). While the Council affirms that Buddhism may contain a “ray of Truth,” it does not endorse appropriation of Buddhist beliefs into Christian practice. Rather, the Council insists that non-Catholic religions can be fulfilled only through the truths held exclusively by the Church.”

      The important part being the final sentence “Rather, the Council insists that non-Catholic religions can be fulfilled only through the truths held exclusively by the Church.”

      • Paul

        Bob, I am by no means saying that the teachings of the Church regarding Buddhism is false. However, I take issue with how some people, knowing that the Church holds the Truth, use it to denigrate and belittle others. There are many ways of converting people, so why is there a need to resort to such harsh tactics?

        • Bob

          OK….agreed….

        • Facile1

          Actually, Mr. Regis was criticizing the Religious Studies Program of an elite New England Jesuit college, that clearly could not discern a human invention from the TRUTH, the dissemination of which was its mission.

          I don’t believe Mr. Regis intended any offense towards Buddhism, members of which don’t usually read explicitly Catholic blogs.

          What surprises is how very few Catholics were offended.

          • Paul

            Perhaps Mr Regis deserves the benefit of the doubt, but it is still noteworthy that he has chosen to use Buddhism as a straw man in order to make his point known. Mr Regis deserves praise for advocating the faith, but the manner in which it was done leaves much to be desired.

            • Facile1

              God’s mercy and redemptive love are meaningless to the unrepentant and self-righteous.

            • Bob

              He’s not using Buddhism as a strawman. You’re actually tangenting too much Paul, and missing the main point of the article. My takeaway is that Regis was speaking with a poorly catechized young Catholic man at a top Catholic university that was gushing about Buddhism, as If it were an acceptable alternative or option to Catholicism. That Holy Cross was once a bulwark of Catholicism, and a true refuge in the bark of Peter. And now it is not.

  • Jean-Francois Orsini

    Buddhism is another non-revealed “religion” which sadly failed to treat properly “the problem of evil”. Catholicism is the only religion that does treat the problem thoroughly with the mystery of creation, the mystery or incarnation and the redemptive power of the Passion to which every believer needs to cooperate. Buddhism takes on only a subjective approach to the problem of evil: suffering. This is a philosophical cope out to limit a problem to a narrow angle which translate into a thundering flop. Buddha was born in India and he didn’t manage to convert many of his neighbors.

  • Matteo

    Buddhism is a very nice and non-threatening practice. Buddhist neighbors will hardly cause you any trouble. But for the practitioner, it delivers just what it promises: Nothing.

  • Nick_Palmer3

    Buddhism, especially in the West, appeals to the lazy, self-absorbed post-modern gnostics. Christianity, Judaism, Islam? Too demanding in terms of my BEHAVIOR. Buddhism, really cool, “counter-cultural” (really?), seemingly enigmatic (when, as Chesterton and others point out, actually quite silly and trivial).

    And, I would have a hard time caring less about the danged Buddha’s eyes — open, shut, or sexily fluttering. Professor Martin’s thesis still stand without the metaphor.

    • As I’ve said, the real religion of most Westerners is Political Correctness and the spurious glitter of Eastern mysticism is just smeared on like a cheap veneer to give it respectability. It’s like a virus however. It looks like Christianity, but is actually a satanic parody of it that inverts the great commandments into Loathe God with all your heart mind and soul (hence the zeal for scrubbing the mere mention of God from all public spheres) and Loathe thy neighbor as you loathe yourself. (Abortion, euthanasia, deviant sexual practices, etc.)

  • Harry

    The problem with your previous article is that you showed very little actual knowledge of what you were criticizing. Yours was not a critique but a quite lazy swipe – a misrepresentation – and you’ve compounded your original error by presenting yourself as a kind of persecuted truth-teller, rather than simply owning up to the fact that you got it wrong.
    Tell the truth about the Faith by all means, but can you do it in such a way as to not make its apologists look incredibly ill-informed?

    • Paul

      I second that. Telling the truth is good, but one shouldn’t disparage another in the process.

      • Facile1

        Telling the truth will hurt. A call to repentance always does. Buddhism is idolatry and a sin against GOD.

        • Paul

          Of course the Truth hurts, but is there a need to rub it in? Preaching the Gospel does not mean having to carry a hammer all the time to put down those who object or refuse to listen.

          • Facile1

            There maybe repentant Buddhists. But how does one convert the Jesuits?

            • tom

              Simple: Take away their Maker’s Mark and Johnny Walker.

              • slainte

                Cruel and inhuman punishment. 🙂

    • Facile1

      Actually, Mr. Regis was taking a swipe at a the Religious Studies Program of an elite New England Jesuit college, that clearly could not discern a human invention from the TRUTH, the dissemination of which was its mission.

      I don’t believe Mr. Regis intended any offense towards Buddhism, of which (he made clear) he knows very little.

      What surprises is how very few Catholics were offended.

  • GaudeteMan

    The Christian would fight to the death to defend his mother who is being ravaged by a mob. The Buddhist would close his eyes, draw in his antenna and ‘cease to exist.’

    • Paul

      With all due respect, surely a well-informed person like you knows that that’s just stereotyping?

      • Adam__Baum

        No, not really.

        • Paul

          Nice try, but I don’t buy it at all.

          • Adam__Baum

            Then you don’t know what a stereotype is

            • Paul

              Can you prove that all Buddhists are like that? Even a general glance would tell you otherwise, unless of course you refuse to see it that Buddhists and generally people of other faiths can be as courageous or even more so than some Christians.

              • Adam__Baum

                No, but that’s not what was asserted by Gaudete man.

                He clearly was using a construct as a rhetorical device, with some hyperbole. That’s not a stereotype and it’s disingenuous to malinterpret it the manner you have so as to contrive an unmerited indignity.

                • Paul

                  It does not matter what device he actually used. It is clear to all that Gaudete man was intending to belittle Buddhists for their faith. That alone is unacceptable.

      • Facile1

        Actually, the comment of GaudeteMan is NOT unthinkable in Buddhism. China has the largest Buddhist population in the world. The murder of female live births is also NOT unthinkable in China.

        Refer to “Women in Buddhism” – Wikipedia

        “According to Bernard Faure, ‘Like most clerical discourses, Buddhism is indeed relentlessly misogynist, but as far as misogynist discourses go, it is one of the most flexible and open to multiplicity and contradiction.'”[

        “Although early Buddhist texts such as the Cullavagga section of the Vinaya Pitaka of the Pali Canon contain statements from Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, speaking to the fact that a woman can attain enlightenment,[15] it is also clearly stated in the Bahudhātuka-sutta that there could never be a female Buddha.”

        • Paul

          Certain Catholics also do go for abortion and use contraceptives; does that mean all Catholics are murderers and hypocritical in that they don’t follow the teachings of their Church? If we do not subscribe to such a notion that Catholics are all bad, why is it plausible to believe that all Buddhists, or people of other faiths for that matter, are all bad? Which religion does not have its own black sheep? Even Jesus had the traitor Judas amongst His circle of apostles. Does that make the apostles unreliable in any way? Of course not.

          • Facile1

            I believe women who choose abortion are suicidal to begin with; and so should be treated with the same care and compassion as the seriously depressed.

            As a parish volunteer who was trained to deal with ‘people suffering from depression’, we were first trained to assess the subject’s potential towards suicide. One should always remember, the ‘suicidal’ are ‘homicidal’. One cannot love one’s neighbor better than one loves one’s self.

            I urge women who had abortions to seek repentance. Our sins are not news to God. God loved us first and has forgiven. God cannot love us any less for our choices. God loves us always.

            Making abortion legal does not help a ‘suicidal’/’homicidal’ woman. Making abortion legal merely allows authorities (the doctors, the police, the priests etc.) to ignore the very real suffering of the woman.

            The LAW with regard to abortion has to change. In the meantime, let us not pretend it serves the homicidal/suicidal woman.

  • Dan

    Last Sunday at my parish in Los Angeles the celebrant was a visiting Salesian priest. During part of his homily he said “Today we are going to be Buddhists!” He proceeded to instruct us in a brief mindfulness meditation in which we breathed in an out focusing on Jesus. All well and good, but no, I am not a Buddhist. I will now begin attending the Tridentine Mass offered at St. Therese of Lisieux in Alhambra.

    • Adam__Baum

      I think he needed a little “fraternal correction”. I was sat through a post 9/11 sermon where the Pastor (a real kumbaya type, unless somebody crossed him) referred to God as “Allah”, in what I can only guess was a fit of syncretism.

      • Paul

        If you are not aware, “Allah” is just the word for God in the Arabic tongue. It is used by Christians in some parts of the world where English may not necessarily be their first language. There is absolutely nothing wrong with calling God “Allah”.

        • Facile1

          Except that Muslims object to Christians using the word “Allah” to refer to our triune GOD.

          Google the news on why Malaysians asked the Vatican to recall its envoy, Archbishop Joseph Marino, last July.

          • Paul

            Actually, if I am not wrong, that objection only exists in Malaysia and the Muslims elsewhere have no objection to its use by Christians. Besides, the main point is that Christians do use the term “Allah” to refer to God, and the news only makes it clear that there are no objections from the Vatican for Christians who do use the term “Allah” instead of “Tuhan” which means “Lord” or the English word “God”.

            • Facile1

              And my point is this:

              Language is a human invention. The TRUTH is NOT.

              And the TRUTH is there are three Persons in ONE GOD.

              Catholics believe in a triune GOD.

              Muslims do NOT believe in the same GOD, whether the word they use to refer to HIM is ‘Allah’ or not.

              Buddhists do NOT believe in the same GOD, whether the word they use to refer to HIM exists or not.

              And Jesuits should know better.

        • Cornelis Stok

          There is no good reason to use an Arabic term in an English homily, unless a) you’re explaining what it means, or b) it’s a technical term.

  • John

    Well done, Regis. Beautifully written and spot on.

  • CadaveraVeroInnumero

    Have you read “Christ the Tao” by (Eastern Orthodox) Monk Damascene, Abbot of St. Herman of Alaska Monastery (Platina, CA)? Would be interested in your commentary. Found at AMAZON or on the monastery’s web site.

  • Bob

    Interesting article below from Carl Olsen comparing Catholicism/Buddhism.

    Seems one of many things Buddhism lacks is a cogent answer to suffering. The Buddhist tries to avoid suffering, where the Catholic embraces the cross and makes it redemptive:

    http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2005/clarkolson_cathbuddh_feb05.asp

  • Elaine

    I’ve always considered myself a feminist. I haven’t said that in a long time because
    the word feminist was hijacked long ago by a band of screeching harpies, mostly
    within NOW, which is firmly entrenched in the Establishment. I have always enjoyed being female, was happy to have children, and never believed for a second those things should keep me from being educated, happy and productive outside the home.

    Like most people going through a crisis in faith, I explored any and all faith traditions outside the one I was rejecting,Christianity. Buddhists monks are capable of some physical feats that seem nearly miraculous, so I hoped to findthe truth in their discipline. Two thingsstopped me dead in my tracks. First, wealthy disciples wished to fund the Buddha’s travels and preaching. He was horrified because they were
    women. Here I am paraphrasing, “if womenbegin to study the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Way, everything will be ruined!” He did relent however and accept
    their funds.

    How astounding that the Enlightened One had only found enlightenment for half the human race! How could hisphilosophy be truly enlightened?

    Second, I read of two Buddhist convents being attacked andransacked by Buddhists monks. Those pacifist monks so skilled in self-defense and deflection had actually been
    moved to attack something. They just didn’t like nuns.

    It took several years for me to come back to Christianity,
    and even longer before I realized that Jesus Christ has been for 2000 years the
    only hope and refuge of the half of the human race I belong to.

    • That was an interesting read. Thanks for sharing your experience, and welcome back.

  • ralph+

    “There’s little point in writing if you can’t annoy somebody.”

    Wrong – Try ‘Right Ho, Jeeves’ by P.G. Wodehouse

    Elaine – Please read ‘Why I Am a Feminist’ by Cormac Burke in the current issue of New Oxford Review.

    OMT – I am NOT Ralph. I started out as ‘Uuncle Max’ (a dog I had for 7+ years) once upon a time but due to some error not of my making and which I have no possible chance of understanding I now post as Ralph.

    We MUST not lose our sense of humor – without it we are LOST.

  • GHM_52

    Excellent article. Truthful exposition of what Buddhism is: an exaltation of…nothingness!

    • ncs

      You mistake emptiness for nothingness. But empriness is the opposite of nothingness. It is more akin to unlimited potential. Perhaps Buddhism is an exhaltation of unlimited potential!

      • GHM_52

        There is no unlimited potential except in Christ.

  • Gautama Buddha never told his followers to worship him. He never said any words like Jesus did, that He was the Way. Jesus didn’t mince words when He said He’s God, by proclaiming that those who saw Him saw the Father.

    In Buddhism, there’s no central God. There may be a Universe or Force which actually is the amalgamation of all the souls of people, animals and even trees. There’s no such thing as a non-created being that brought everything in existence. The New Age guys take it a step further by saying that this Collective Force created everything – meaning we all created ourselves!

    Buddhism and even to a certain extent Hindusim, you reach Nirvana by detaching yourself from the world.

  • Hohepa

    dr Regis,
    I am sure the Buddhist converts to Catholicism “deep down” take on your article was not so much a reaction to your description of Buddhism but a reaction to the culture that surrounds Buddhism and as such I respect their irritation. However , as a Catholic, I appreciated your wife’s narrow observation regarding the “sleepy Buddha”…that’s what we see in the west. I have almost come to the conclusion that Perth western Australia is a try hard bhuddist city as all the interior designers and garden architects seem to include a sleepy bhudda in their designs especially on the new home market. It would be radical to place a Christ statue in the garden in this place.
    I enjoyed your response…humble and respectful to the offended but obviously staunch in your Catholicism.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Buddhism is the only religion that even comes close to competing with Catholicism in the subjective reason.

    But compassion is not love, and never will be.

  • Perhaps it’s me, but Buddhism makes no sense to me. If the world is all an illusion, then it’s an illusion created by who? A diety that doesn’t exist? And what’s the point of compassion if it’s all an illusion? At the heart of Buddhism seems to be nothing, an everlasting “no.” That’s the opposite of Christianity.

  • tom

    Why so many “Catholic” institutions teach Buddhism escapes me.

    Is it “diversity” or “perversity” at the now-meaningless university.

  • JRH

    Dear Paul et al.,

    It does not seem credible to say that the author was attempting to “convince” Buddhists in these two articles. He was not speaking to Buddhists, but to Catholics, who have a duty to protect Catholic children from misunderstanding Buddhism to the detriment of heaven. Surely it would be crippling to restrict our expression in such discussions among Catholics to the delicacies which might be “polite” or “politic” when speaking directly to a actual believer in any form of Buddhism.

    The assertion that the complaint is against the “manner of presentation” rather than the substance of the points made is not immediately credible. What is this “other way of putting it?” If such a rephrasing does not amount to a logical equivalent of the points made “too harshly” by the author, then it is not a rephrasing but a retreat from the author’s points. If it is logically equivalent, then is it not a condescension demeaning to a Buddhist to act as though he would not recognize the equivalence?

    It seems to me that the greatest inconvenience in these matters is the assumption (Protestant in origins perhaps) that the person who is wrong on a given point is the “judge” of the arguments made about that point. By being in error he is prima facie a questionable judge of the topic. Sculpting the argument to appeal to his judgment is to bend it from the right view of the matter to fit in with a bad judge’s schema. Surely this is not the way to proceed respectfully, either with regard to the person in question or in regard to the Lord Who is Truth Himself.

  • Tony

    If I were going to be a Buddhist, I’d be a Cicero or an Epictetus or even the gray sad dutiful Marcus Aurelius. That is, I’d be a man and embrace duty and suffering, rather than check out, meditating upon the wheel of suffering that I’d gotten down from. If I had to embrace a stoicism — which is what Buddhism is — I’d be a Roman stoic, not an Indian Buddhist.

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  • lehnne

    When Buddhists seek to convince me, I say that they are welcome to live in the world made possible by the patents, innovations and discoveries, etc. made extant by Buddhists, not Western converts, and get back to me. This is not to slander Buddhists but to illustrate the downstream consequences of any given religious belief.

  • Carolina

    Regret nothing! You were doing God’s work.

  • Dan Riecker

    “There
    is simply no way to airbrush away the features that precisely portend the
    celebrated negations of being, the annihilations of self which strict Buddhist
    observance invites…

    How,
    in other words, does one convey the distinctively Christian solution without
    leaving everything else in the dust? That, at any rate, is the point I
    tried to make in the piece that, I now regret, drove not a few readers
    positively crackers.”

    So concludes
    the author. Let me suggest that one begins not by leaving the adherents of
    another religion in the dust as enemies, but evangelizes them by teaching how,
    precisely, Christ exceeds what their own religion teaches. It begins by telling
    the truth about that other religion. And to do this one must first know what
    their religion actually teaches, what parts of it are true, which are not, and
    what of their own nature can be fulfilled only by Christ who can, in turn, be
    known only by revelation, a truth, even The Truth, not discoverable by any man.
    Why would a Buddhist, who sincerely searches for the Truth and holds that in
    such Truth countless beings will be saved, believe a witness to revelation when
    the witness seems to have no concern for the actuality of Buddhist teaching?
    Why would he perceive in that witness a passion for Truth? He would not see a person
    who seeks the Truth, but a person deeply attached to his own wrong views. The
    author states that Buddhism teaches the annihilation of the self, a sort of
    spiritual suicide. This is contradicted by the Buddha himself in the Pali Canon
    where the annihilation of the self is explicitly denounced as a wrong view. If
    a witness cannot get even this basic teaching right, why should the Buddhist
    believe his witness to revelation? Is this a failure of the Buddhist or the
    witness? Again, why should a witness be believed when an entire world religion
    is characterized by a culturally conditioned comparison of iconography whose
    terms of interpretation are imposed by the witness and have no basis in the
    other culture. One need only look to the stupas of Nepal with its wide open
    eyes looking in the cardinal directions, and not merely with a pair of eyes for
    each direction but a third, divine eye as well, to discern the narrowness of
    this caricature. There are no Christian saints who look simultaneously in all
    directions of the world. Are we to conclude from this that the Christian saint
    is narrow of vision and his love can only go in one direction at a time? Of
    course not. Or take Avalokiteśvara, a bodhisattva whose compassion for the
    world splits his head into eleven pieces and to whom the Buddha Amitabha gives
    eleven heads and a thousand arms to respond to the sufferings of the countless
    beings of the world (by the way, de Lubac’s study of Buddhism was limited to
    the Pure Land School which he named “Amidism”, a study further limited by his
    reliance on secondary, Western commentaries from the Musée Guimet, not original sources. See The Far Eastern
    Quarterly, vol 15 no 2, Feb 1956, Aspects du Bouddhisme). Should we conclude
    from this that the saint has a paltry love for the world because no saint has
    eleven heads and a thousand arms? Of course not. To reduce the experience and
    thought of a 2500 year old religion to the rhetorical conclusions of a single
    author far removed from an adequate understanding of what he is looking at is
    just plain arrogance and does nothing, in this instance, to provide a witness
    to Christ. One may be given the gift of salvation and
    remain parochial regarding the rest of the world, but this would seem to be a
    failure of love, running the risk of a churlish concern for our own eternal
    life. History demonstrates this as an ongoing hazard for all Christians and all
    men regardless of practice or creed. The Buddhist can simply point to the arrogance
    of the Franciscan friars in Asia who “… wanted to erase the native
    culture and impose a European one, a technique that had proved successful in
    the Americas.” (Keating, K. (1999). Nothing
    but the Truth: Essays in Apologetics (p. 154). San Diego, CA: Catholic
    Answers.). Apparently the high culture of Japan and China was an enemy.

    Several responses to this article
    make the claim that the author has accomplished a rebuttal and that nothing
    further needs to be said, or that can even be said. However, a rebuttal is to
    prove something false by using arguments or evidence. Neither has been provided
    in the author’s response. What we have is a rhetorical denial that his
    supporters erroneously claim is a rebuttal. This is evident by his appeal to
    authority. Now, this would not necessarily be a problem if the authorities
    referred to were actual authorities on Buddhism. For the appeal to authority to
    have validity the person appealed to must be an authority in the specific
    subject. The only person the author appeals to that may be considered as an
    authority on Buddhism might be de Lebuc. However, writing three books on
    Buddhism with limited secondary sources does not automatically make one an
    authority on Buddhism. If being published in a subject were sufficient for
    authority, then there would be many authorities on Catholicism who nevertheless
    teach falsehoods. Even those who are considered authorities in a subject do not
    necessarily get to the truth of the subject. In other words, the authority can
    be wrong. The history of Buddhology is replete with examples of those
    considered as authorities by the West getting it wrong (see The Cult of Nothingness for a treatment
    of this.) The idea that Buddhism teaches annihilation is a prejudice whose
    scholarship is about 200 years out of date. This prejudice, present in writers
    such as Hegel, is carried through in the work of Balthasar, who uses Buddhism
    more as a symbol for his own theological system than treating it on its own
    terms, if Raymond Gawronski is to be believed (Word and Silence). Of course, the author is in good company in not
    referring to a single original source of Buddhism and then drawing his conclusions
    on that basis. But, why bother with the actual schools of Buddhism when Western
    commentators are so much more competent to tell Buddhists what they believe and
    teach. Why listen to what they say about themselves? Even de Lubac believed Buddhism
    is grounded in an “expression of religious feeling whose value could remain
    unacknowledged only by a theology that is excessively severe and hardly in
    conformity with Catholic Tradition. It is a religious feeling that Christian
    education, far from destroying, must deepen and lead to its perfection.” (http://www.research.ed.ac.uk/portal/files/9267297/GRUMET_2012_De_Lubac_pure_land_Buddhism_and_Roman_Catholicism.pdf)

    The closest statement I could
    find on the subject of Nirvana as annihilation from the writings of Ratzinger
    is from Truth and Tolerance, p.226:
    “The way of enlightenment is the way out of the thirst for being into what
    seems to us to be nonbeing, Nirvana. That means that in the world itself there
    is no truth. Truth comes by leaving the world.” Even here the Cardinal wisely
    refrains from insisting this is the outcome of Buddhist teaching and refers his
    statement to our own Western understanding of Buddhism. And nowhere does he
    give a scholarly treatment of the subject. If he did, he would most likely
    refer to the Pali Canon, or the writings of Nagarjuna and his Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (considered as a foundational text for all schools of Mahayana Buddhism), the doctrine of the Two Truths, the
    relationship between samsara and nirvana, all of which point to truth in the
    world. Nagarjuna’s verses on the Middle Way of Buddhism brilliantly argues
    between the two extremes of eternalism and annihilation. And yet, the author
    insists, Buddhism teaches annihilation of the self. Or perhaps, K.N.
    Jayatilleke, “The Buddha approves the use of the following language to
    describe the nature of individual existence on one occassion: “I did exist
    in the past, not that I did not , I will exist in the future, not that I will
    not and I do exist in the present, not thay I do not” (D.I. 200)” [sic]. But the author insists on
    annihilation. Neither does the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy define
    Nirvana as annihilation:

    The Madhyamaka school of Buddhism, the followers
    of which are called Mādhyamikas, was one of the two principal schools of
    Mahāyāna Buddhism in India, the other school being the Yogācāra. The name of
    the school is a reference to the claim made of Buddhism in general that it is a
    middle path (madhyamā pratipad) that avoids the two extremes of
    eternalism—the doctrine that all things exist because of an eternal essence—and
    annihilationism—the doctrine that things have essences while they exist but
    that these essences are annihilated just when the things themselves go out of
    existence. The conviction of the Madhyamaka school, which can be called the
    Centrist school in English, is that this middle path is best achieved by a
    denial that things have any inherent natures at all. All things are, in other
    words, empty of inherent natures. This doctrine of universal emptiness of
    inherent natures (svabhāva-śūnyatā) is the hallmark of the school, which
    places the school solidly in the tradition associated with the Perfection of
    Wisdom (prajñāpāramitā) literature of Mahāyāna Buddhism.

    But, the author insists on
    annihilation.

    In 1997 the Cardinal Ratzinger was
    criticized for a comment in an interview characterizing Buddhism as “spiritual auto-eroticism.”
    Soon after, the Cardinal stated he was misinterpreted and that he was referring
    the Western fascination with Buddhism and that this was not intended to
    characterize the “real thing”. Certainly,
    we Catholics would be justified in objecting to a Buddhist authority claiming
    to tell us what the Church teaches regardless of what her teaching authority
    states. We would rightly claim that such a position is both ignorant and
    arrogant. Ignorance, a condition from which we all suffer to one degree or
    another, between two parties can be remedied by people of good will and a
    desire for the Truth. Arrogance is a condition much more difficult to
    eliminate, perhaps especially so by those whose faith gives them the Truth. In
    a world of relativism and cultural decline, arrogance can easily assert itself
    as a defense. There is certainly a profound difference between Catholicism and
    Buddhism and there is no reason to rely on outdated concepts and false images.
    According to Sayadaw U Dhammapiya, in his book Nibbana in Theravada Perspective, “No Buddhist tradition draws a
    definite conclusion for the meaning of nibbana.” How can a non-Buddhist draw a
    definite conclusion concerning the nature of nibbana when the tradition itself
    refused to do so without drawing the accusation of arrogance?

    “The
    great German Catholic theologian, Romano Guardini, wrote a profoundly
    insightful and orthodox meditation on the life of Christ entitled The Lord. In it, he noted that
    no man in history ever came closer to rivaling the enormity of Christ’s claim
    to transform human nature itself, at its roots, than did Buddha (though in a
    radically different way).” (http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics-more/religions_buddhism.htm)
    To understand the nature of this
    challenge, and also the enormity of Christ, means getting the teachings of
    Buddhism right. It also means acknowledging the truths found there and not
    annihilating them.

  • Dan Riecker

    Why is it that Catholics insist on the harmony of faith and reason and then ignore reason altogether in such a rabid fashion?

  • ncs

    I’m not offended by anyone’s critique or praise of a faith. I do find the need for anyone to do so pretty humorous. At their essence, Buddhism and Christianity are remarkably similar – if not the same. I suspect that Jesus is a Buddha – but so new that we do not yet understand his teachings. When you try to put words to faith – to explain what cannot be explained – and to translate ancient texts – misunderstandings happen. For example – emptiness is not nothingness. And no one know the reason why anyone created statues of Buddha with eyes open or closed – or why artists portrayed painted the image of Jesus as they have. In the end – it doesn’t matter. What matters is what we learn from the stories on how to live this life in the best way we can, and use the metaphors we find as helpful tools for contemplation and meditation. And from those – we get the same message – regardless of the denomination or its traditions. The religion we choose has more to do with which stories we like, what community feels most comfortable to us. Beyond that – honest religions are all one faith.

  • Zeus

    You are all off your tits.

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