ROTW

If you snoop around the Internet for quotes by famous people, I am sure you have come across this quote attributed to Albert Einstein: “Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and the spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity… If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism.”

The problem: this is more than likely a spurious quote. No one has ever been able to demonstrate that Einstein actually said that. This, however, hasn’t stopped prominent Buddhist websites, including The Buddhist Blog and Progressive Buddhism. I guess that is understandable, just like many Christians grasping for support of the possibility of God, breathed a sigh of relief when they came to the concluding statement in Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time, when he said, “However, if we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason — for then we should know the mind of God.” Except that Stephen Hawking actually did say that. But, on the other hand, he has since then clarified his position and positively said that God didn’t create the world.

So believers and non-believers alike are always looking for support from people with brilliant minds. But Buddhism needs no such re-enforcement. What it offers the post-modern man, if it can deliver, is nothing short of miraculous: a religion without a supreme being and a morality without God. An explanation to the problem of suffering that altogether avoids the possibility of a good God who allows evil in the world. A path for “salvation” that does not ask anyone to look anywhere but inside herself. And to boot a proven formula to help one rid himself of the cravings of the material world.

Who would be crazy to reject such menu of religious non-religious possibilities? But as they say, the devil is in the details.

To begin with, in Asia, the part of the world where Buddhism thrives, people are still plagued by superstition and burdened with the daily tasks of trying to please spirits that are capricious or downright evil.

Then the “explanation” to the problem of evil collapses when the system fails to explain a metaphysical force that determines which acts are good and which are bad in the great Karma math, especially if you don’t start with a being that is moral and suspended from everything also in the universe. An impersonal force making moral decisions about people’s actions — is that really reasonable?

Thirdly, for a system that promises enlightenment, and presents the possibility of a higher plane of living where one can rid himself from suffering, not to concern itself with the ultimate cause of suffering, namely death, seems a little weird at best. And yet Buddhists everywhere extol Buddhism exactly because it is not concerned with such “trivial” matters. I have only one word for that: resurrection. If resurrection is true, reincarnation is unnecessary. If resurrection is how I come back, that means that I am unavailable for recycling. Sorry ants, you will have to look for another body…

Finally, there is a concern I have with any system that places the burden of redemption or “enlightenment” on the individual himself. In other words, I don’t agree with the premise that the answer to our anguish is found within ourselves. I don’t believe man is capable of ridding himself from cravings and desires, no matter how much he applies himself to meditation or concentration. I think the Buddha proved that himself when he tried asceticism and found it wanting.

The Bible says that what we need is not gradual change over eons, as the Buddhists believe, but radical transformation. Paul put it this way, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:7). This does not mean that we are instantaneously perfected, but it means that at the moment we come to Christ with a repentant heart, He changes us radically from inside out. It is a process that starts now and will go on until we see Him face to face. This does not require eons of purging bad acts and accumulating good karma. Buddhists, in my opinion, appear to be in a perpetual 12-Step program to better themselves, only, in their case, it is more like a 12-billion step program.

Sorry. I just can’t buy that. And if you want to know why, please see me Sunday.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

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