Saturday, June 10, 2006

On Mahayana Buddhism and The Lotus and the Cross




In 2001, Dr. Ravi Zacharias, a respected Christian scholar, published a book entitled The Lotus and the Cross, a small book with a creative premise—a conversation between Jesus and Buddha over the life of Priya, a dying woman in a spiritual quandary. To Dr. Zacharias's credit, he traveled to several Buddhist countries and interviewed monks to broaden his view of Buddhism as research for this book. Unfortunately, he published a book that was quite inaccurate from a Mahayana Buddhist perspective, reflecting a lack of understanding of Buddhist principles. It would be truly unfortunate if The Lotus and the Cross was a person's only exposure to Buddhism; examining the target audience of Dr. Zacharias's book, this is likely the case in many instances. Therefore, I wrote an essay entitled On Mahayana Buddhism and The Lotus and the Cross. It is my wish to make this essay available to every reader of The Lotus and the Cross, to make them aware of the strengths and limitations of that work, and to give them a more complete understanding of the Buddhist religion, written by a practicing Buddhist.

If you know anyone who has, or plans to, read The Lotus and the Cross, please direct them to this post or the essay.


8 comments:

gautami tripathy said...

I remember reading it. I being an Hindu, know Buddhism lot better...

Great you provided those links to supplement this book!

Don Iannone said...

Mike,

Great one! Thanks. Brings to mind how all of us has the potential for misunderstanding at times.

Blessings!

Don

Mike said...

Hi Gautami and Don: Thanks for the support!

mcgus said...

Although Ravi Zacharias' drama may not tell what the Buddha would say in real life, he does communicate what the Buddha BELIEVES for the purpose of showing the differences between what Jesus tells his disciples and what the Buddha CONVEYS.

mcgus said...

Basically your essay has not proven Buddhism to be much of a difference to what Ravi Zacharias has discovered. Your version of buddhism is virtually the same as the one represented in Zacharias' book being that the power to change is only as good as your ability to keep rules and not form attachments. Jesus' disciples are given power by the Holy Spirit and the authority to heal, bring sight to the blind, freedom for the captive, and to release prisoners of these types of bondages. Only communion with the Father will bring the reality of right being and doing.

mcgus said...

Regarding the essay statement "There is nothing to be
paid for because karma is not a morality system that keeps track of rights and wrongs. There is no
vengeance in karma, no justice, no mercy. Causes and conditions have effects—that is all" wouldn't you say that if you feel a "bad" effect than you must have done something "bad", and if you get a "good" effect" than you must have done something "good". In effect, you are saying there is "good" and "evil" because the results tell you so.

mcgus said...

With regards to karma and anger, you have said that people should respond in a non-natural way to get rid of bad karma. In other words, I would call this self-control. In this way Buddhism has put a load or expectation on one to react in this way and this results in not self control but loss of self. The Holy Spirit, in a different way, will bring about self-control but it will be like a natural response. He does not say that you must not act in anger, but rather says "cast your cares on me, my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Perhaps anger is an appropriate response as it could be a threatening environment and while it doesn't "feel" good, it is necessary to approach people and talk things over. This is about relationship where buddhism would lead you away from relationship and towards self-righteousness (reliance on "self" to be and do good).

Mike said...

Thank you for the comments. I’m at a point in my life where I no longer have any desire to convince others of anything; I know what I know through my own experiences, and if others disagree, they are free to do so. However, if a person truly wants to understand the Buddhist path, even if he or she disagrees with it, I will gladly do my best to foster that understanding.

Let me try to help your understanding of these topics, though my brief responses will not do justice to these topics.

> he does communicate what the Buddha BELIEVES
> for the purpose of showing the differences between
> what Jesus tells his disciples and what the Buddha CONVEYS.

Zacharias’ work does precisely the OPPOSITE of what you claim here, and I spend 19 pages discussing that very point in my essay. Buddhism is solely about RELATIONSHIP: relationship to others, relationship to oneself, relationship to all sentient beings, and relationship to all insentient beings. Zacharias portrays Buddhism as selfish, as self-oriented, and nothing could be further from the truth. Any understanding that does not comprehend this vital aspect of Buddhism is false. Compassion for all others, a love of all others that transcends emotion, is the soul of Buddhism. Do you know how I know that Zacharias fails to portray this fact of Buddhism? Your fourth comment, where you said that "This is about relationship where Buddhism would lead you away from relationship and toward self-righteousness," is my proof. What you "learned" from Zacharias’ work was a total falsehood.


> wouldn't you say that if you feel a "bad" effect than you
> must have done something "bad", and if you get a
> "good" effect" than you must have done something "good".
> In effect, you are saying there is "good" and "evil" because
> the results tell you so.

No, I would not say that at all. Your choice of words presumes “good” and "evil," where I claim that dichotomy is a creation of humans. Buddhism notes that responses are skillful and unskillful. There is no judgement of them, only a noting of the effect. If the effect results in the true happiness of others, bringing them peace and joy and love, then the act was skillful. If the effect results in causing ultimate injury to others, then the act was unskillful. "Good" and "evil" presume judgement, whereas skillful and unskillful are descriptions of the effects without judgement. These are completely different concepts, but don’t feel bad if you don’t initially see the difference. It takes a good deal of contemplation and meditation to come to this understanding.

In response to your fourth comment where you state, "Perhaps anger is an appropriate response as it could be a threatening environment," I direct you to my post titled Exploration of Compassion in a World of Violence. I will not argue your belief that a belief in the Holy Spirit will bring about self-control. Though I will state that your understanding of my points regarding Karma & anger, which you term simply "self-control," is very superficial. Let me point you at my post War, Ethics, and Religion. The main point I’d like you to take from that short essay is encapsulated in the sentence, "We must NOT do so out of anger and hate ... We must defend ourselves out of compassion."

I am glad to carry on further discussions if you truly want to understand what Buddhism is about; even if you disagree with me. But if you solely wish to denigrate my beliefs or push your beliefs, then our conversation will end here.

Take care,

Mike