Buddhist Theology: Spiritual Cultural Competency Essay

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Buddhist Theology

As a Buddhist, I believe that I should be compassionate towards people of other faiths and recognize them as suffering beings first, before seeing them as people of other faiths. Second, I believe I should learn as much as possible from the doctrine and practice of other faiths as a cultivation of my own faith. Third, I believe I should be an ambassador of the Buddhist faith, explain fundamental Buddhist beliefs to people of other faiths. It is especially important for me to explain to other people what Buddhism is and what it isn't. I believe that there are too many misunderstandings about Buddhism and I do not think we can go there can be a peaceful co-existence until there is true understanding.

Fundamental Precepts of Buddhism

The fundamentals beliefs of Buddhism start with the Four Noble Truths: Life is suffering; Suffering is caused by attachment; There is an end to suffering; There is a path to the end of suffering.

The path referred to by the Four Noble Truths is the Noble Eightfold Path: Right Views; Right Intention; Right Speech; Right Action; Right Livelihood; Right Effort; Right Mindfulness; Right Concentration.

This core proposition of Buddhism is that one can end one's suffering by following this path. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is Nirvana; the ending of suffering through the extinction of the self.

That is, to recognize that there is no distinction between oneself and the universe.

The Elements of Buddhism Compatible with Other Religions

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Essay on Buddhist Theology: Spiritual Cultural Competency Assignment

Unlike some people, I do not interpret Buddhism as asserting that God does not exist. The Buddha never actually spoke on the existence of God. Nor does the Buddha make any assertions about the metaphysical nature or origin of the universe. In this sense, it is not incompatible with the Religions of the Book, which all assert the existence of a God. Also, it is important to note that the notion of God is changing. Not everyone imagines God as an old bearded man in the sky anymore. Some people consider that God might be something a little more abstract than that, like a life-force which animates everything in the universe. These more abstract notions could be compatible with the Buddhist conception of the oneness of the universe.

The Buddha was pragmatic, he did not believe that knowing the origin or nature of the universe was important for the purpose of freeing oneself from attachment. The life story of the Buddha, e.g. his experience with Asceticism, shows see that the Buddha was really concerned with finding the right technique. In other words, he was concerned with the "how" of salvation. All of the correct beliefs in the world will get you nowhere without the actual training to improve yourself.

I believe Buddhism is most compatible with Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in its emphasis on the control of one's ego and desires. Buddhism calls this the liberation from attachment through not craving or grasping at things. I notice that self-control is one area in which people improve a lot after practicing a religion in earnest.

Although the challenges facing religious pluralism are great, there is evidence that it can be successful. As the many varieties of Buddhism in the world right now prove, Buddhism is open to growth, interpretation, and assimilation.

Theravada Buddhism posits that people have to become part of the Sangha, the priestly community, in order reach enlightenment.

The countries in which Theravada has spread, such as Thailand and Sri Lanka have developed huge Sangha communities which play a huge role in society.

They are active and engaged, and have been able to coexist with religious minorities until the recent Muslim Fundamentalist revival.

Mayahana Buddhism believes that laypeople as well as people in the Sangha can become enlightened. This has allowed Mayahana Buddhism to thrive in larger, more rigidly structured societies like China and Japan. It allowed people to fulfill their maintain a largely normal way of life while still providing a guiding effect and a source of community through its temples.

The development of Zen Buddhism in Japan is the most fascinating example of Buddhism's potential for integration. The principles of Zen Buddhism, commitment, non-duality, no second-thought, have permeated almost all aspects of Japanese life, including gardening and swordsmanship.

It has imbued Japanese culture with an intense appreciation for the effortless perfection of nature.

Instances of Successful Religious Dialogue

Buddhism seems to lend itself to integration, as demonstrated by its integration with Taoism and Confucianism in China and Shintoism in Japan. In China, Buddhism could not even be understood when it first arrived. The Chinese had no words to express Nirvana and non-attachment, which was translated with the Taoist concept of "effortless effort."

At first, Buddhism was rejected in China because of the dominance of Confucianism and its rigid emphasis on participation in this world.

However, Chinese leaders then realized that Buddhism was not subversive to Confucianism, that it was really speaking at different issues.

When evaluated against the Religions of the Book, Buddhism seems to be speaking at different issues yet again. Its focus on the individual's liberation from attachment, when compared to the focus on the will of God among the Religions of the Book, really seem like apples and oranges. The sooner this is understood, the sooner we can move to a true religious pluralism.

The Challenge: Religious Authoritarianism

The challenges themselves will determine the approach we will have to take to effect a healthy religious pluralism in the world. Religious fundamentalism is the biggest threat to religious pluralism and perhaps to human civilization right now. The recent Jihad being waged by Islamic fundamentalists threatens the security of many nations, including the U.S. The Christian Fundamentalist movement in the United States is growing stronger as a reaction to this Muslim threat. In a worst case scenario, Islamic and Christian Fundamentalists would wage a holy war that engulfs whole countries and incites violence against all people of all faiths.

I believe that most of the negative feelings coming from religious fundamentalists come from either the fear that others want to harm them and/or the belief that God wishes for them to harm other people. The first comes out of ignorance. The second comes out of delusion. As Buddhism teaches, both fear and delusion are natural conditions for human beings and can be corrected through the Noble Eightfold Path. The first step on the Noble Eightfold Path is Right View.

The Approach: Communication Based on Compassion

Thus, the first part of any solution to religious strife is cultivation of Right View and this can only be done through effective communication. Considering the long history of religious conflict between Muslim, Jewish, and Christian nations, it is more important than ever to show people that disagreements are not necessarily put-downs. Disagreements are inevitable when there is more than one source of authority involved. Thus, to reduce the pain of disagreements, communication has to function outside of authority.

Communication cannot be authority-based. Authority-based communication is when you are trying to advocate a certain view and bring other people over to your view. It involves telling people how it really is. This is how we communicate in most of their daily lives and it is necessary to some extent. Otherwise, we would not be able to communicate facts. However,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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