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Offline Dharmakara

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The Buddhist attitude towards other religions
« on: October 24, 2015, 10:45:44 am »
Publication of the
Buddhist Missionary Society
Buddhist Maha Vihara
123, ]alan Berhala
50470 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysian First Edition 1983

Published for Free Distribution
©1983 by the Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammanada
All rights reserved

Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammanada (18 March 1919 – 31 August 2006) is a household name throughout the Buddhist world. In more than forty two years as incumbent of the Buddhist Maha Vihara, Malaysia, the Venerable has brought the Buddha Word to countless numbers of devotees who otherwise would have has no access to the sublime message of the Enlightened One.

Besides his talks the Venerable has been able to reach an even wider audience through his publications which range from the voluminous "Dhammapada" to little five page pamphlets. He has been able to reached all levels of readers from erudite scholar monks to young school children. His whole approach to the exposition of the Dhamma is governed by his deep concern for giving the ancient teachings a contemporary relevance, to show that the Sublime Message is timeless and has a meaning that cuts across the boundaries of time, space, race, culture and even religious beliefs.


The aim of this booklet is to assist in promoting a better understanding of religion, religious tolerance and its deep underlying meaning from the Buddhist point view and to understand how Buddhism regards other religions.

The deep underlying meaning of religion is to be able to uphold and respect one's own religion without in any way being disrespectful or discourteous towards other religions. To this end, we must establish mutual understanding, mutual co-operation and tolerance amongst all co-religionists in order to achieve religious harmony.

People always talk of religious tolerance and its importance but few, if any, ever pinpoint a practical way in order to achieve this religious tolerance. It is to be hoped that in perusing this booklet, the reader would be enabled to obtain a clearer picture of religious tolerance and would endeavor to promote religious tolerance. We should try to eradicate our so called superiority complex, our mutual suspicion, our religious prejudices and our selfish motives, for the common good and upliftment of our respective religions.

All fellow-religionists are working for the common cause of human emancipation and enlightenment. The search for emancipation and enlightenment is the search for Truth. Unfortunately, in our very midst, there are many ludicrous religious practices and beliefs which are depicted or passed off as the Truth, when in fact they are far from being the Truth. As true religious followers we must have the courage and conviction to admit what is evidently a misconception and try to rectify it to conform to science and reasoning to meet the requirements of Truth. We should be failing in our duty if we try to cling on to something which we know is not the Truth. We are even wrong, if in the practice of our religious tolerance, we tolerate it without pointing out its failings or inadequacies which do not conform to Truth. In seeking Truth we should discard our competitive attitudes and unite to work hand-in-hand to achieve our noble aim of religious harmony for the well-being of mankind.

Although the Buddha pointed out that there was no religious value in many of the practices in India during his time, He had the courtesy to advise his followers to give alms or food to the Brahmins and other monks and to support them irrespective of their religion. The Buddha advised his followers not to hurt or to cause injury to a Sramana (monk) or a Brahmin. Here He has accommodated monks and Brahmins as religious people. Again the Buddha said that when a person deceives a Brahmin or a monk or pauper, by telling a lie, this is a cause of the downfall of the person. Thus in advising his followers in this manner the Buddha has treated all of them without any discrimination.

The aim of Buddhism is to guide everyone to lead a noble life without harming anyone, to cultivate humane qualities in order to maintain human dignity, to radiate all-embracing kindness without any discrimination, and to train the mind to avoid evil and to purify the mind to gain peace and happiness.

Buddhism is a religion which teaches people to "live and let live". In the history of the world, there is no evidence to show that Buddhists have interfered or done any damage to any other religion in any part of the world for the purpose of propagating their religion. Buddhists do not regard the existence of other religions as a hindrance to worldly progress and peace.

The Buddha's message was an invitation to all to join the fold of universal brotherhood to work in strength and harmony for the welfare and happiness of mankind. He had no chosen people, and He did not regard himself as the chosen one.

The Buddha's first missionaries were Arahantas the Perfect and Holy Ones. They were noble human beings who by the sheer effort of their renunciation and mental training had gained Perfection. Before sending out these disciples, He had advised them in the following manner:

"Go ye, 0 Bhikkus and wander forth for the gain of the many, for the welfare of the many, in compassion for the world; for the good, for the gain, for the welfare of gods and men. Proclaim, 0 Bhikkhus, the sublime doctrine, preach ye a life of holiness, perfect and pure."

According to this advice, the Buddha wanted to tell the people the difference between good and evil: He wanted to teach man how to lead a happy, peaceful and righteous way of life. He never advised his disciples to convert people from one religion to another. His idea of conversion was to introduce a righteous, noble and religious way of life.

The Buddha did not criticize or condemn any religion other than to enlighten the people by showing them the futility of going into the extremes of self-mortification (or self-torture) and self-indulgence (or sensuality) and to avoid superstitious and meaningless practices in the name of religion.

The True Religion

On the question of what constitutes a true religion the Buddha has given a liberal answer, stating that wherever the teachings of the FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS and theNOBLE EIGHT FOLD PATHS could be found and where one can find genuine followers who have gained spiritual development, therein lies the true religion. He did not say that Buddhism is the only true religion in this world, but exhorted man to accept and respect truth wherever truth was to be found. This means that we need not ignore the reasonable teachings of the other religions. SLICK an attitude clearly shows that the Buddha never had any prejudice towards other religions, nor did he by to monopolize religious truth. He wanted to point out one thing - the TRUTH, and all his teachings are based on the FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS - that of SUFFERING or unsatisfactoriness, its CAUSE, its CESSATION and the WAY leading to its cessation.

Whenever the Buddha advised his disciples to do or keep away from something, He always asked them to do so, not only for their own welfare and happiness, but also for the welfare and happiness of other s. He said, "If it is good for you and others, then do it: on the other hand, if it is bad for you and for others, do not do it."

As a social reformer, the Buddha discovered the deepest roofs of human sorrow - GREED, HATRED and DELUSION, which are deeply rooted in man's mind. Therefore it is only through Man's mind that true reform can be effected. Reforms imposed upon the external world by force can only last for a short while, but those that spring from the transformation of man's inner consciousness are more durable.

The evil tendencies towards GREED, HATRED and DELUSION must eventually be overcome and substituted by the forces of generosity, loving-kindness and wisdom. It is only through such mental purification that peace and happiness can be effectively brought about through religion.

Buddhism became the first missionary religion the world has seen. Nearly two thousand three hundred years ago, through the noble efforts of the Emperor Asoka - whom the historian, H.G. Wells, inspired by the greatness of Asoka, says: "amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarch that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousness and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Asoka shines, and almost alone, a star."

For he, the Emperor who ruled India (168 B.C. - 305 B.C.) at the height of his thirst for worldly power. renounced the sword of violence and devoted much of his time for the upliftment of Buddhism and Buddhist culture. He sent out Buddhist missionaries, including his own son and daughter throughout the length and breadth of the then known world, to convey the peace message of the Buddha. True to the noble tradition of the Buddha, He never forget to advise these missionaries not to condemn or to run down any other religion while they preached Buddhism. This advice was engraved on an Asoka pillar in Brahmin characters - the ruins of which can still be seen today at Sarnath, Benares in India.

The following statements in the Edict says:

"One should not honor only one's own religion and condemn the religions of others, but one should honor others' religion for this or that reason. In so doing, one helps one's own religion to grow and renders service to the religions of others too. In acting otherwise one digs the grave of one's own religion and also does harm to other religions. Whosoever honors his own religions, and condemns other religions, does so indeed through devotion to his own religions, thinking "I will -glorify my own Religion'' But on the contrary. in so doing he injures his own religion more gravely. So concord is good: "Let all listen, and be willing to listen to the doctrines professed by others."

The people of Asia have much cause to be grateful to this great monarch. As a ruler he did his duty to support every existing religion without any discrimination.

Religious Harmony

Religious principles are intended for the whole of mankind. If any particular section of humanity does not follow the great virtues taught by religion -- such as kindness, patience, tolerance and understanding, it would be difficult for others to live peacefully.

It is quite natural for cunning and cruel people to take advantage of any kind of virtue, but, let us - the religionists of today, bear in mind, that those who fight and shed blood in the name of religion, do not follow religious principles and do not serve the cause of humanity. They fight for their own personal gain or power by using the name of a religion. Those who truly practice a religion have no grounds to fight, they should settle their problems in a peaceful manner. A true religion never encourages any form of violence under any circumstances. At the same time, racial discrimination should not arise when we practice our respective religions. Buddhists can live and work with other religionists without any discrimination. Not only that, Buddhists had never shed blood amongst their different denominations or with other religions.
Today because of the atrocities that have been done and are still continuing (to some extent) in the name of' religion, many people have become disillusioned at the mention of the very word, "religion". Materialism, hypocrisy and fanaticism masquerading under the guise of religion have caused the greatest catastrophies in the history of mankind. The true religious values are rapidly disappearing from the minds of men as they run in search of the occult and the mystical. The established great religions of the world are breaking into myriads of forms-, and some people are even going all out to ridicule religion. The time has come for religionists of today to get together to introduce religious values in its proper perspective, instead of merely arguing and quarrelling over the differences of religious ideologies and mythologies.

Religion should not be confined to worshipping and praying only. Religion is not a means for lip service only but a practical medium for man to act harmlessly, to be of service to mankind, to be good and to gain liberation, peace and real happiness.

Different religions may have different beliefs and views regarding the beginning and the end of life, as well as different interpretations regarding the ultimate salvation. But we should not bring forward such discordant issues to create conflict, confrontation, clashes, hatred and misunderstanding.

There are more than enough common virtues for religionists to introduce in theory and practice in the name of religion, so that people may lead a righteous, peaceful and cultured way of life.

There is no need for us to belittle and castigate one another. If we do so, we would only pave the way for the anti-religious groups who are waiting to ridicule and condemn all religions. We should not behave in such a way as to show our hostile attitude to our co-religionists. If we do so, people will say that religions encourage mankind to be divided.

Buddhists are not forbidden to give due respect to other religious teachers, nor are they restricted to visiting places of worship and attending religious services, other than Buddhism. They can show their full co-operation while maintaining their basic Buddhist principles.

Buddhism encourages co-operation and understanding amongst the various religious denominations. From the Buddhist point of view, religious labels are not the most important aspect for people to be considered religious, but a person leading a respectable and harmless way of life can be regarded as religious.

Those who find faults and criticize Buddhism can only do so at a very superficial level. They may criticize the traditional practices, the manners and customs, but not the Teachings as established by the Buddha; as these principles are good for all times. They can be tried out by any one who wishes to test them.

The methods used to introduce the teachings of the Buddha are rational and reasonable. The Buddha made his appeal through reason and experience. The teachiwere presented with clear and impressive simplicity, and yet kept free from religious and national narrowness and fanaticism. They have produced clear and sober-minded people. This method of presentation cleared doubts and removed superstitious beliefs. Thus did the teachings of the Buddha convinced the hearts and minds of the earnest seekers of truth. The Buddhist attitude of tolerance and understanding convinced many greatthinkers, philosophers, rationalists, free-thinkers and even agnostics to appreciate Buddhism as a peaceful way of life.

According to the Buddha, men are divided among themselves because of their strong egoism. When this is subdued, healthy human relationships will develop. The search for peace and a harmonious way of life, therefore begins from within and not from the outside.

If we, the religionists of today cannot get together to work in harmony without discrimination or hostility towards one another, the peace that we talk of would only remain as a dream.

As sincere and true co -religionists, let us join hands to consolidate our efforts to eradicate all that which are controversial and discriminatory in our teachings and do our utmost to introduce spiritual values which are common in our respective religions for the good and well-being of all mankind, irrespective of race or creed. We should all remember that religion exists for the good of mankind and that it should not be misused fanatically in any way for personal gain or self-glorification.

Unite Together

Let all religionists unite not to use religious militarism. Let them unite to stop all the brutality and man-slaughter in the name of war. Let them unite to give freedom to man to find a religion according to his own conviction. Let them unite to give up religious monopoly. Let them unite not to use religion in the market place to convert others by adopting questionable methods.

Let them unite to respect the other man's religious beliefs and practices as long as these beliefs and practices are harmless and do not mislead the public. Let them unite to wipe out the challenging attitude of unhealthy religious competition, let all religionists unite to eliminate the various vices and immoral practices that are common in our modern society. Let them also unite to introduce the moderate way of life amongst their followers and advise them not to go to extremes.

Dr. L.M. Joshi of Punjab University says: "The unity among the religions of mankind, if and when achieved, will be one of the greatest blessings on this earth. Certainly we cannot bring about this unity by mystifying or misinterpreting their differences in orand doctrines. We can perhaps contribute towards achieving harmony among the followers of different faiths by impartially and respectfully studying their dobeliefs and practices."

Like the bee gathering honey from different flowers, the wise one sees only the good in all religions and accepts the essence of the different teachings. For example:

Buddhism says. "Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."

The Taoist says, `Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain, and your nloss as your own loss."

The Christian says, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."

The Muslim says, "Do unto all men as you would they should do unto you, and reject for others what you would reject for yourself."

The Hindu says, "Let no one do to others what he would not have done to himself."

The founders of each religion had as their basic aim the unity of mankind -- to foster harmony, goodwill and understanding among all the people of the world.

Following in their footsteps various religious leaders have also sought to develop deep respect for the beliefs of other people. Unfortunately, however, certain follevery religion, for their own selfish reasons and due to their intolerance and narrow-mindedness, have gone against the real essence of Religion and have created chaos, suspicion, discrimination and intolerance.

We earnestly hope that by realizing these facts mankind will one day unite as religious brothers to work for the well-being of all. In the final analysis, respect for the religion of' another person springs from the confidence one has in the intrinsic strength of' his own religion.

« Last Edit: October 24, 2015, 10:53:12 am by Dharmakara, Reason: punctuation »

Offline ECS

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Re: The Buddhist attitude towards other religions
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2016, 06:13:20 pm »
Perhaps as one awaken to Buddhism , one realized each moment he is in this natural process back into the original state before existence and as he awaken to this , he realize he is alone .. and he hold no mind of other as he realize there is no other except emotion that causes his existence.

Offline Lotusmile

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Re: The Buddhist attitude towards other religions
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2018, 03:14:30 am »
Perhaps as one awaken to Buddhism , one realized each moment he is in this natural process back into the original state before existence and as he awaken to this , he realize he is alone .. and he hold no mind of other as he realize there is no other except emotion that causes his existence.

All living beings and non living beings such as holy statues are inherently buddha (of and also beyond) past, present and future. In diamond sutra, the issue of buddhists emerges when they are developing ignorance arises from attachment and simultaneously discrimination over form(s). Buddhists cannot or need not have to challenge other religions or non religions people or group, unless buddhists are being earnestly sought to feedback on the nature of reality of forms, non forms, cycle of six realms and enlightenment, even as such, it has to be impartially presented, which means a realised buddhists will not etch or stigmatised with partiality. Because nothing existed in purity, buddhism existed due to desire of living beings to be enlightened. Besides, if the buddhists are not yet enlightened, it is to the best interest of themselves to reside or rejoice in finest  buddhaness among one another for greater height, and also for opportune affinity to liberate the desired enlightenment

Offline whatisthis

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Re: The Buddhist attitude towards other religions
« Reply #3 on: September 01, 2018, 04:26:26 pm »
I remember reading somewhere that meditation played a greater role in Christianity in the past
« Last Edit: September 01, 2018, 11:23:11 pm by whatisthis »

Offline RossB

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Re: The Buddhist attitude towards other religions
« Reply #4 on: July 01, 2019, 09:50:14 am »
« Last Edit: July 08, 2019, 12:12:11 pm by RossB »

Offline RossB

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Re: The Buddhist attitude towards other religions
« Reply #5 on: July 01, 2019, 09:56:57 am »
« Last Edit: July 08, 2019, 12:12:24 pm by RossB »

Offline RossB

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Re: The Buddhist attitude towards other religions
« Reply #6 on: July 01, 2019, 09:21:22 pm »
« Last Edit: July 08, 2019, 12:12:36 pm by RossB »

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: The Buddhist attitude towards other religions
« Reply #7 on: July 05, 2019, 02:50:22 am »
Christianity in medieval times saw a lot of experimenting with meditation, but this was later frowned upon, presumably because it encouraged independent thinking about what arisies during meditation. Even Thomas Aquinas acknowledged that what he had written was ‘so much straw in the light of direct experience of God’. For him, God was found within rather than arising from rational argument. St Isaac of Ninevah put it rather nicely when he said ‘Dive into yourself and in your soul you will discover the stairs by which to ascend.’ The real mystic when it came to meditation was St John of the Cross, famous for ‘The Ascent of Mount Carmel’ and ‘The Dark Night of the Soul’. For St John it is important to live the life of a contemplative, to ‘eradicate within himself all that is not God’.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka


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