Thursday, March 22, 2012

No Apostasy and Blasphemy in Buddhism

Dear fellow Buddhists,
Buddhism respects lives. It places lives as more important than religion. Yes, a single life is more valuable than what you and I would commonly call "Buddhism". Non-Buddhists can go ahead to ridicule the Buddha but Buddhists are not going to threaten them in any way as they would if we were to ridicule theirs. But of course, Buddhists will not do any such thing. Generally Buddhists do not go spreading their "word", hence Buddhists do not need to convert others by saying negative things about their religion, especially to say that their religion is wrong. Their religions are not wrong. For Buddhists, we believe that every religion has a role to play and it fits into somebody's conditions and inner character. But conditions and character changes over time. So when they do change, what suits you then, may not be appropriate for you anymore in the future. Then your faith changes and your spiritual direction also changes. That's how spiritual practice evolves over time until one achieves enlightenment. At least this is what I believe Buddhism is about. Hence it is certainly not right if Buddhists say that Buddhism is more important or more right than other religions or more important than other lives. Buddhists should not and cannot kill another life in the name of Buddhism nor the Buddha. We don't do such things, at least it is not our philosophy. Committing acts of terrorism to promote religion is not what Buddhists believe in. Thank goodness I am already on this peaceful path and I am not leaving it for any others. Yet if any Buddhist feel other religions are better for them, and can make them better persons, by all means they can embrace the other religions. In Buddhism, there is no apostasy. Anyone can leave Buddhism at any time. Yeah! Buddhism is not a religion where you become fanatical about...until we need to control adherents from leaving it. We also do not need to condemn those who leave it. Yet, that does not mean that if we see a situation where Buddhists are being taken advantaged of, we do nothing. If this happens, we should protect the sanctity of the dharma in the wisest manner. Being compassionated does not mean allowing ourselves to be bullied by others. On the contrary, we can use the situation as best we could to point to the dharma and saving ourselves as well as others. This is because Buddhism is a journey of having compassion for lives, and ensuring our inner peace is fused with outer conditions. Being a Buddhist is living our lives with wisdom and compassion, in a way that is not possible by following any fixed dogma or religious texts. In other words, if you breathe compassion and wisdom on your everyday life, no matter what is your religious label, then you are no different from being a Buddhist. And if you label yourself a Buddhist but do not have compassion or wisdom, and react angrily when others talk badly about the Buddha, or draw cartoon caricatures of the Buddha, then you are not acting as a true Buddhist. There is no blasphemy in Buddhism. There is only incurring good or bad karma for oneself. Unlike some other religions, Buddhists will not be punished in hell or regarded as "soldiers of the devil" if you speak badly of the Buddha. Karma is not imposed by the Buddha. It is not a law created by him. It is self-operative. It happens naturally. So when the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed, generally Buddhists do not threaten the lives of anyone who did the destruction. We behave properly as Buddhists should. And that is a shining example of what Buddhism and the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha stand for. If the number of Buddhist adherents decline in the future, it must never be because of compromising on our principles. If other religious adherents wants to bully us, let us be called cowards, but still we must never let our principles of wisdom and compassion be compromised. It is such a shame that there are other religions who think it is okay to kill other lives in the name of God and religion. If one needs to kill anyone for the glory of God, then Buddhists would rather perish than to kill someone else. The case of Tibetans killed in self-immolation is a great example of self-sacrifice and non-harming of others, even though human life is indeed precious! Let this be known! Hence generally Buddhists do not idolize the Buddha by dedicating everything to the glory of the Buddha, whereas other religions idolize their God. Therefore it is most incorrect for other religions to criticize Buddhists for idolizing the Buddha. We don't even worship the Buddha in this sense. This is something non-Buddhists find it difficult to understand. They think we are worshipping the Buddha in the same way as they worship their God. Actually it is not the same. So they continue their own deluded thinking about Buddhism (nothing much we can do if they refuse to understand) and we continue our own way, wishing them all the best. We bear no ill-will on them. In fact, we need to have lots of patience with them and all sentient beings. For how else can enlightenment or liberation be gained without patience - a key virtue consisting of both wisdom and compassion?

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