Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Final comments about Buddhism

As I said before, there are many schools of thought within Buddhism, so not everything I say will apply to all Buddhists. I mainly want to say a few things about my teacher's point of view, which I can only assume is representative of Mayahana Buddhism. I just want to mention a few more problems with his point of view. I'm going to try to wrap up my comments about Buddhism in this blog.

First, he denies (as I think most Buddhist do) that there are any substances or things. So not only are there no selves, but there are no things, either. Everything is interconnected. That means that there's no distinction between self and other. Those of us who perceive such a distinction are just living in ignorance.

If you ever run into a person who denies that there's a distinction between self and other, here's a little thought experiment you can use on them:

Sam: Think of a number between 1 and 10, but don't tell me what it is.

Steve: Okay.

Sam: Do you have it?

Steve: Yes.

Sam: Do you know what number you're thinking of?

Steve: Yes.

Sam: Do you know what number I'm thinking of?

Steve: No.

Sam: Well if there's no distinction between self and other, how is it that you know your number, but you don't know mine?

Another question you might ask them is this: "If there's no distinction between self and other, why is it that some people reach Nirvana and other's don't? Why aren't the merits of one person's behavior credited to the other person?" You have to be careful here, because not all Buddhists agree. Theraveda Buddhists believe each individual reaches Nirvana on his own, but Mayahana Buddhists take the Bodhisattava vows. That's where they vow not to enter Nirvana until every blade of grass is enlightened. So it isn't the case with Mahayana Buddhists that some reach Nirvana while other's don't. A better question to ask a Mayahana Buddist is why some people become enlightened while other's don't.

My teacher is also a big Nietzsche fan, and Nietzsche wrote this book called Beyond Good and Evil. One day, my teacher said that Buddhists are beyond good and evil--an opinion I doubt most Buddhist share. I asked him, "If Buddhists are beyond good and evil, how can there be an eight fold path? How can there be such a thing as right action?" You see, the eight fold path is essentially moral in nature. There's right intentions, right speech, right behavior, etc. He thought about it for a while and finally said, "That's a good question." Then he changed the subject. Being beyond good and evil also renders karma incoherent. Karma is based on morality.

Finally, Buddhist claim their religion is empirical. It's based on observation. But in reality, Buddhists deny everything that's obvious. They deny that there are particular things, they deny there's any distinction between self and other, they deny that the self endures through change, they often deny the basic laws of logic, and they deny that time is real. Buddhists think everything in our ordinary observations are just illusions. They think the ordinary person is living in ignorance, and that they have to become enlightened. The only sense in which Buddhism is based on observation is in the fact that they observe the world in order to know what they should deny.

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