Curious Evangelicals, Buddhist DJ’s and Boundless Douchebaggery

Kyle at The Reformed Buddhist already properly tore into this post by a conservative Christian’s view of Christianity and Buddhism but some highlights are needed since there was a legitimate question asked…

I am a 19 year old evangelical Christian. My sister, who is 21, is a very liberal Catholic. The other day, we got into an argument. She claims that you can be both a practicing Buddhist and a Christian/Catholic (I have also been told this by a theology teacher at my Catholic school when I was in high school).

I feel that this cannot be true, but I had no real good defenses for my position. The only thing that I could think of was that Christianity and Buddhism have two completely different end goals (Fellowship with God aka Heaven vs. Nirvana), and that no religions with separate end goals could ever be compatible

But while Kyle did a perfectly fine job of tearing apart the response of John “Boundless” Thomas I would prefer to actually address some of the differences between the Christian and Buddhist faith.  But bear in mind “Christian” and “Buddhist” are just labels…lame, stupid, insipid labels.  What is largely at stake is whether you view either religion as inclusive rather than exclusive.  Far and wide, I think Christianity tends towards exclusion (I go to Heaven. You burn in Hell) while Buddhism tends towards inclusion.  I will grant though that this largely depends upon the person.  There are plenty of stodgy Buddhists and accepting Christians.

Anyway, were I to answer an honest question about how Buddhism differs from Christianity….

  1. There is no Omniscient God in Buddhism.  There is no father figure to hand out rewards or punishments (or diplomas) when you die.  This is not to say that there aren’t Buddhas, Bodhisattvas or Deities that may lend some aid to our practice form time to time.  
  2. Buddhists do not owe any allegiance to a supernatural being.  We don’t exist by the “Grace” of God or any other being.  We aren’t saved.  We place our emphasis on self-reliance, self-discipline and personal striving which culminates in our life-long practice.
  3. The Buddha is a guide and teacher.  Not a savior or incarnation of a God.  The Buddha does not “wipe the slate clean”, he provides a path of learning and practice.  He stresses that we objectively test what he says. If it works then roll with it; if not then keep a-searchin.
  4. We all have Buddha Nature and can realize that through striving to cut our delusions.  Labels, deities and God are delusions and keep us from realizing our True Nature.  What is True Nature?  How do you know when you find it? Fuck if I know. 
  5. Heavens (other realms of existence) may exist, who knows?  But one thing is for sure, if they do exist and there is one full of Christians like John “Boundless” Thomas, I would rather take another spin at this one and work towards the Pure Land….just sayin.   A life-time of intensive practice seems a better option than hanging with the Christ.  Either way, we’re really just pissing up a rope.
  6. I may or may not be reborn….this has nothing to do with reincarnation.  That would infer a steady and permanent soul which most Buddhists don’t believe in (I say most since a few Buddhists view Buddha Nature as a soul of sorts…it gets cerebral and wastes my time). *kauf* *kauf* *zennist* *kauf*
  7. A balance of Metta, Wisdom and Compassion are the cornerstones of Buddhism.  If you can get these down, I believe the rest is just icing on the cake.
  8. Suffering happens. Deal with it.  This is not sin.  No sin in Buddhism, original or otherwise.  Moral action does not need commandments or precepts.  It just requires compassion, wisdom and metta. 
  9. No eternal Hell or eternal Heaven.  No eternal anything except what is eternal.  What is eternal? Fuck if I know.

So, I hope this was helpful, young Evangelical Christian. Now that I explained some of my beliefs do me a favor and forget it.  Throw it away.  My practice and beliefs have fuck to do with you or anyone else and are completely worthless.  Take some time to think for yourself and explore your practice.  If it includes Christ and Buddha and leads you on a path of compassion then fantastic.  If it helps you explore a larger picture of God then great.  If it leads you down the “devils” path then lock on some “Metal Horns”, blare some Iron Maiden and “Run to the Hills”!

For me, the myth of an Eternal savior and Creator God does nothing for me.  I threw them out long ago. But the goal of realizing Buddha Nature through compassion, metta and wisdom does not counteract Christian beliefs if you hold those Christian beliefs with compassion, metta and wisdom.  Simple.

Weed your garden, “Young Evangelical Girl”.  John “Boundless” Thomas needs to just burn his.

Scott from The Buddha is my DJ put it well when he said…

Just like we can’t point to one of the Five Skandhas and say “that’s the essence of ‘me'”, we can’t point to one brand of Buddhism, one part of the vast library of the Buddha’s teachings, and say “that’s the essence of Buddhism.” It is only when looked at collectively can we describe them in their entirety as “Buddhism.”

Dharma doors really are boundless, and for a good reason. If you haven’t found one that works for you, try another.

On of the best things about my Buddhist practice is that my sangha consists of atheists, Christians, Pagans and Buddhists.  Not too many other religions can brag that fact.  Dharma gates are indeed truly Boundless.

Smilin’ from Buddhist Hell,

John

Update!

HappiForever and the Hungry Ghosts (could be such and awesome band name.) have a nice explanation of melding beliefs here.

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30 thoughts on “Curious Evangelicals, Buddhist DJ’s and Boundless Douchebaggery

  1. Excellent post John. When I get home from work I will write a new post referring to this one, as I really need a new post to get those two about warfare off the top of my list. But your post is very clear and helpful.

    It’s helpful particularly for my intended primary audience – gays seeking a faith system that encourages Right living, but one that they don’t have to jump through mental and theological hoops to justify and rationalize their being.

    Thanks again.

  2. Hi,

    The danger with lists like yours is that a hundred examples could be found for each point from both the Buddhist side and the Christian side of how they are just not so.

    Just take point number one for example. The vast majority of Buddhists through history, all those millions of Chinese Buddhists that have ever lived, consider that the souls of the dead are judged by ten underground kings that place the balance of your karma in the scales and despatch you to your next destination. Certain Bodhisattvas can be appealed to to intervene, but sure enough you will get judged.

    Many Christians, certainly the majority I’ve met in my life, don’t see God as a judge at all, but as a loving father. That was, after all, the very message of Jesus. And do it is up to you whether to go live with God in his embrace or to decide not to accept the life and love He offers.

    And I can go all the way down the list with similar contradictions from both sides.

    Much much better is to draw up a list of how these two beautiful religions agree.

    But I don’t need a list. No one does. You just need to lower yourself and allow in that Light that is always there.

    I sit in church and am embraced, overwhelmed sometimes, by God’s Love.

    I sit in the temple and am embraced, overwhelmed sometimes, by the Buddha’s Love.

    Buddha, Christ, Amida, Jesus, the Bodhisattvas, The Holy Spirit, Buddha-nature, the ground of all being, Infinite Love, Boundless Life. My practice is to let go to it, entrust everything to it, and live in its light, moving ever deeper towards it, as much as I can.

    With palms together,

    Marcus

    • Thank you Marcus that is exactly my point. We place labels on ourselves and act as if they are a “blessing” when in reality it is just another delusion placed on us. I gave as basic a primer to this lady as I could (I freaking hate apologetics) and then told her to throw it away.

      We all need to explore. There is no reason why someone can’t practice aspects of both these faiths. The problem with Evengelical Christians is that they lump all religions together in the Not Jesus category. They generally show a lack of prajna, metta and karuna. You are lucky that the Evengelical movement hasn’t hit your neck of the woods yet.

      Cheers,
      John

  3. Well put John! Thank you, that was an excellent retort. I would wish that girl would actually read our two posts….ok, yours not mine.

    Why do I always get the feeling I’m tearing down and your building up? LOL May I suggest a small portion of Rinzai in your Zen diet sir! 🙂 DESTROY!!!!

  4. Man, leave the boy alone. Wait until he grows a few hairs on his balls and then rip him a new asshole. But with compassion.

    Just kidding, great post. I really hope this guy leaves his small community at some point and gets some life experience. Strange how meeting people who don’t feel exactly like you can change your world view. Guy needs to go to college way far away from home (and not some christian “college”).

    Keep postin’, sweepin’ and pushin’

  5. I love Iron Maiden and i love “Run to the Hills”. I am a metalhead! Proud of it as well.
    Ultimately though most of your posts teach me a lot of things and i thank you for that.

  6. I’ll move out of my lurking mode this a.m. and say Thank You!
    that post was awesome….I dont know why but I feel alot better after reading it, it sort of gave me a kick in the ass…..

  7. “Acts which are essentially dishonourable must not be done; they would be justified only by calm contemplation of their correctness in abstract cases.”

    ~Aleister Crowley

  8. Mumon had a great post on this where he states:

    3. Liberty Requires Vigilance
    PZ Myers, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, the ACLU, the Human Rights Campaign, Larry Flynt, the guys at talk2action, the folks who brought talkorigns.org to life, Stanton Peele and lawyers acting on the basis of his work, the internet infidels, and countless others and contributors, and demonstrators and political activists pushed the religious right to its current state. But by no means is it permanently rendered harmless. Impermance will dictate, of course, but the only way to prevent a disaster of our negligence and laziness later is to be aware and dilligent now and in the future.

    Yes. Agreed. I get some (just alittle) crap for defending “militant” atheists but they do much in turning the tide of intolerance. Mind you there is a fine line between turning the tide and become a tidal wave yourself.

    Cheers,

    John

  9. This is a gret post, John. You can really look at this as a question of non-duality. Assigning arbitrary labels like Christian or Buddhists to people is inherenently dualistic and creates delusion in the mind. There is no Christianity anymore than there is a Buddhism. All Dharmic Paths are as they are and trying fit the volkswagon into the Crown Royal bag isn’t going to get you anywhere but pissed off.

  10. Your post sounds a bit like “my religion is better than yours”. John Thomas is a really conservative christian, but I can follow his argument. A lot of christians define their faith in terms of Jesus-as-Savior. It’s then ‘logical’ to deny saving properties to other religions: the thing to be saved from is the wrath of God, and God grants exclusive grace through Jesus. I personally think the Bible can inspire a richer faith, but ok, people believe things.

    The ‘right’ argument against Thomas’ view is that I don’t believe Buddhism would get in the way between you and Jesus. I see problems combining his extreme form of believing with Islam or Judeanism, but Buddhism for me is a loose set of obvious truths and the invitation to take the time and quiet to see things as they are. Off you go! You decide what to do/be. No saving necessarily involved. I think that even people who see Jesus as their Sole Savior could practise buddhisty meditation. I think it’s not untrue to see the quiet of meditation like coming into the presence of God. And you could even see that as grace.

    I don’t think there are any particularly right/wrong/stupid/clear headed sides here. I know I’m cloudy and stupid often. And right as well :P. Like John Thomas.

    • Your post sounds a bit like “my religion is better than yours”.

      Shit. I didn’t mean it too sound like that. For me, any religion is better than the Christian conservatives. But Buddhism can fall into the exact same trap as Christian conservatives on the whole “my way is better” train.

      The ‘right’ argument against Thomas’ view is that I don’t believe Buddhism would get in the way between you and Jesus.

      Which is what I said at the end….I think. Personally, (and you will get alot of personal views in my posts) I think Christianity or Christian beliefs can lend itself to a richer Buddhist practice in the same way as Buddhism or Buddhist beliefs can lead to a richer Christian practice. Jesus and Buddha are not at polar ends of the same spectrum. They do differ on some points but I think they can be complementary.

      For me, I completely threw out Christianity in my practice. My personal choice from my personal experiences. I in no way say that my way is the only or the “best” way.

      Buddhism for me is a loose set of obvious truths and the invitation to take the time and quiet to see things as they are. Off you go! You decide what to do/be. No saving necessarily involved

      I could not agree more! I wish more Christians would say the same thing about Christianity! Many bows!

      Cheers,

      John

  11. I’m still too fucking blissed out from this Holosync CD to care about apologetics. The directions say I’ll encounter a major hangover in the next couple of days. I’ve heard that the best cure involves some type of sweat lodge cleansing or something. I dunno.

    But if I weren’t all fucking blissed out, I’d probably say something like “It seems as if this Thomas duechebag has about the same level of understanding regarding Buddhism that Brit Hume does. And unfortunately, there are way too many people that will listen to what these people say about Buddhism, and form opinions based on these little snippits of ignorance. It’s too bad that all of the information they offer their followers has to so damn skewed. I suppose they fear what would happen if they told them the truth about other religions and beliefs?”

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  13. There is no ‘judgement’ in Buddhism, the ’10 Judges’ thing in China is simply syncretism, in the same way that Jesuits can (and do) practice Zen, or Tibetan Vajrayana owes much of its structure to Bonpo rather than Gautama. Hell, Theravada relies on Helenic imagery, for it’s ‘signs of a Buddha’
    IMO – anything reliant on the supernatural as a core – like the theist’s view- rather than adiaphora, should be regarded as an atavism. Something of a vestige of a more superstitous time.

  14. Believing that Christianity and Buddhism are basically talking about the same thing is a legitimate religious position. But it’s neither Christianity nor Buddhism.

    • Its not making them the same thing. Its saying that one can complement the other rather than be opposed to each other.

      Cheers,

      John

      • Maybe – the ethical principles have a lot in common. But will meditation save your soul and guarantee your place in Heaven? Will taking communion help you see that the self is impermanent? I don’t see how.

        I think what you mean is that it’s possible to interpret the Christian idea of heaven as a metaphor for (non-metaphorical) Buddhist nirvana. But no Christian believes this because it implies Buddhism is the greater truth.

        As a Buddhist, would you accept the idea that the Buddha actually discovered Jesus under the bodhi tree? He just misunderstood it a bit.

        • No, not at all. I think you a putting too much stock in the labels. Most of my sitting group are Christians there for various reasons. They respect the teachings of the Buddha as it helps them in some way.

          Why would I accept the idea that Buddha found Jesus? I’m not saying that Buddha was a Christian.

          You place far too emphasis on “greater” truths. Who cares? Is heaven actually nirvana? Who cares? Can a Christian think for themselves and explore their path? Yeah sure. Can a Buddhist learn from the teachings of Christ? Sure why not.

          Its all just tools to help us, not a club.

          Cheers,

          John

  15. The question was specifically whether it is possible to be a Christian and also a practicing Buddhist, not whether it is possible for Christians to meditate.

    • It sounds like you have that question already answered for yourself. Sounds like its time for those that practice both to make their own decisions.

      As far as I am concerned, one is able to practice both unless they insist on “drinking the kool-aid” to a point where it narrows their views. An unfortunate side-effect of religion.

      Cheers,

      John

      • How can you be a Buddhist or a Christian if you aren’t going to drink the Kool-aid? I agree we should think for ourselves, but I’m sure you are aware of dokusan in Zen, where the master corrects the understanding of the student – the corrective tools may include mockery or even beatings. Zen is an extremely hierarchical religion that doesn’t seem to encourage free-thought, making up your own mind or exploring other ideas at all.

        Western Buddhists have a made a lot of changes to make it a better fit with American values — that’s great. But it’s a totally different thing to deny that that’s what’s going on, and say that Buddhism has always been taught that way.

        • Doku-wha?

          All I said was that individuals can make their own choices. I have absolutely no time for people beating me or for sit-downs with teachers.

          I’m not denying anything. My practice is mine and yours is yours. Good luck with it.

          Hope the Kool-Aid went down nice. Didn’t realize I had to drink it. Don’t plan on it anytime soon.

          If an individual can align those two belief patterns in some way that makes their experience more meaningful then it is neither for you or for me to tell them they are wrong. If it makes Buddhism less exclusive then so be it. I honestly don’t care. I couldn’t align Christian beliefs and Buddhist but I had no reason to. However, I won’t push my own growth on others since it was mine and unique to me.

          Thank you for the engaging conversation. I wish I had more energy to pursue it but alas I don’t. Many bows.

          Cheers,

          John

    • Maybe I will find the energy to read it but I am burnt out for now. Perhaps a different venue for rants against intolerance? Hmmm….

  16. Seeing as both Christian and Buddhist are just labels can’t you just defy the labels and just learn from whatever feels right to you? That’s what I attempt anyways. Great post. I’ve never commented before because I’m always busy at my blog but thought I’d leave one for once.

    • Yes, you certainly can. I try to do that but still find myself getting stuck on the labels. I think we attach to the labels and rituals of our religions rather than letting our actions define us.

      I may say I’m a good Christian because I go to mass and take communion. Same thing with being a Buddhist, I may meditate and chant and bow but those actions do not make me a Christian or a Buddhists (let alone a good one). Our actions define us and not our beliefs.

      Great doubt, for me, equals great enlightenment. Our to question and not know is a state of inquiry. If we can honestly inquire without attaching a framework of religious belief then we have reduced our delusions by a small amount.

      Thisis not to say that our (anyone’s) belief is false but that we can function without attaching to it.

      Thanks for commenting and I hope that you feel so motivated to comment in the future. My inquiry and and practice is heightened when people throw their opinions on this page!

      Cheers and many bows,

      John

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