Can a Buddhist look at the scriptures of other religions?

Can a Buddhist look at the scriptures of other religions to promote interreligious understanding and communication? Will it break our Three Refuges? Thanks sadhu :grin:

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If practised it indicates an elementary level, lack of conviction :

"One approach to resolving this problem that is popular today is the eclectic one: to pick and choose from the various traditions whatever seems amenable to our needs, welding together different practices and techniques into a synthetic whole that is personally satisfying. Thus one may combine Buddhist mindfulness meditation with sessions of Hindu mantra recitation, Christian prayer with Sufi dancing, Jewish Kabbala with Tibetan visualization exercises. Eclecticism, however, though sometimes helpful in making a transition from a predominantly worldly and materialistic way of life to one that takes on a spiritual hue, eventually wears thin. While it makes a comfortable halfway house, it is not comfortable as a final vehicle.

There are two interrelated flaws in eclecticism that account for its ultimate inadequacy. One is that eclecticism compromises the very traditions it draws upon. The great spiritual traditions themselves do not propose their disciplines as independent techniques that may be excised from their setting and freely recombined to enhance the felt quality of our lives. They present them, rather, as parts of an integral whole, of a coherent vision regarding the fundamental nature of reality and the final goal of the spiritual quest. A spiritual tradition is not a shallow stream in which one can wet one’s feet and then beat a quick retreat to the shore. It is a mighty, tumultuous river which would rush through the entire landscape of one’s life, and if one truly wishes to travel on it, one must be courageous enough to launch one’s boat and head out for the depths.

Bikkhu Bodhi

Conviction is first attained by reading from an author whose views one finds accord with, and building sutta knowledge based on meaning:

"When, on observing that the monk is purified with regard to qualities based on delusion, he places conviction in him. With the arising of conviction, he visits him & grows close to him. Growing close to him, he lends ear. Lending ear, he hears the Dhamma. Hearing the Dhamma, he remembers it. Remembering it, he penetrates the meaning of those dhammas. Penetrating the meaning, he comes to an agreement through pondering those dhammas. There being an agreement through pondering those dhammas, desire arises. With the arising of desire, he becomes willing. Willing, he contemplates (lit: “weighs,” “compares”). Contemplating, he makes an exertion. Exerting himself, he both realizes the ultimate meaning of the truth with his body and sees by penetrating it with discernment.

“To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is an awakening to the truth. To this extent one awakens to the truth. I describe this as an awakening to the truth. But it is not yet the final attainment of the truth.”

—Majhima Nikaya 95

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Yes.

No.

One of the sometimes overlooked epitets of the Buddha is teacher of gods and humans - e.g. dn3

It’s useful to bear in mind that many of the gods were students of the Buddha, so their understanding and practice has changed a lot in the intervening 2500 or so years as a result his teachings.

Further, many of the gods who had first hand knowledge of his teachings are likely to have not departed from their realm of existence, as in many cases the lifespan of individuals in these realms is extremely long.

So we can assume that there are gods who have heard the teachings of the Buddha first hand still around, and that some of these gods are likely to have quite mature spiritual faculties.

Most other religions seem to be based on gods from other realms. Are these gods now Buddhists? Who knows?

If we look at a sutta such as mn34 we see imagery of us being surrounded by other beings - all on the same path headed by the Buddha; all trying to “safely cross over to the far shore”. So in a very real sense all of us disciples of the Buddha are in this together. To get to know and understand our friends that surround us on the path is a great thing to do. To listen to them and what they have to say is important. But how do we know if we are being urged on in the right direction? “Just like the baby calf who had just been born, but, urged on by its mother’s lowing…”

In an7.83 the Buddha gives us a short teaching so that we know if a teaching by another is heading us in the right direction.

“Upāli, you might know that certain things don’t lead solely to disillusionment, dispassion, cessation, peace, insight, awakening, and extinguishment. You should definitely bear in mind that such things are not the teaching, not the training, and not the Teacher’s instructions.

You might know that certain things do lead solely to disillusionment, dispassion, cessation, peace, insight, awakening, and extinguishment. You should definitely bear in mind that such things are the teaching, the training, and the Teacher’s instructions.”

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@stu I just want to express that I’m glad there is someone else who thinks exactly like me in this regard. Sadhu Sadhu Sadhu! :anjal: :yellow_heart: Thank you for this post! :slight_smile:

It is very important to remember that mystical traditions that emerged after the Buddha can have very deep insights, exactly because the Dhamma has been spread among realms of gods as well.

Further, many of the gods who had first hand knowledge of his teachings are likely to have not departed from their realm of existence, as in many cases the lifespan of individuals in these realms is extremely long.

:pray:

It’s worth adding, that in this context, if we get in contact with these gods through deep samadhi, we can hear the teachings directly from those, who heard them directly from the Buddha.

The Wheel of Dhamma has been rolled forth not just on Earth, but in the world of gods as well, spreading throughout sansara. So the path of deep samadhi will be different for all after that, as long as Buddha-Dhamma is alive in some of those realms as well. Our Buddha is “gone” forever, but Dhamma he revealed is alive in hearts of many beings in many realms.

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Maybe, and maybe not. “Cherry picking” is a crucial element for developing the path in my practice. There are two ways to pick ripe fruits, with one’s mind or heart. The first one is unsure, but the latter can’t go wrong. So, I say that as long as one has a sound and firm footing in the teachings, one should at least try to open up completely and let it all in.

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As long as it’s of Metta and Compassion, it is allowable in Buddhism. We’re not here to seperate anyone from God or their Love.

Khan, this is a great idea, and I think it’s very positive to read the ancient scriptures of other paths in order to promote understanding and communication. Many people within the Abrahamic and other religions draw inspiration, kindness, and compassion from their texts, and it’s just a net positive to become familiar with (rather than averse to) the scriptures of other paths. I’ve spent some time training in chaplaincy, and it’s really quite positive to read and appreciate the texts from other religions, and to appreciate the kindness and common interests of many in these diverse religious communities. I agree generally with Bhikkhu Bodhi’s comments about “eclecticism” but I don’t believe that creating harmony with others on a different religious path is a net negative; as with anything, practiced wisely, there is a net benefit to cultivating understanding and connectivity with others of good ethics and good hearts.

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Although it is good to know what the other religions are all about as a basis for promoting interreligious harmony, why would you do that if you have trully understood what the Buddha has preached.
The Buddha’s teaching is all about the four noble truths. All living beings suffer because they do not unedrstand the 4nts. The solution is letting go off everything so that one awakens from the darkness of ignorance.
Anyone who understands it has only sympathy and compassion for all others. Because they do not know what the Buddha’s disciple knows.
So my question for you is, isn’t the sympathy, love and compassion sufficient to develop understanding and communication among everyone irrespective of their religious affiliation?
With Metta

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I have copies of the Qur’an, Bible, Gnostic texts, Epistles of church fathers, Upanishads, Taoist texts and others so I hope so :smile:

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I remember that, in at least one of his talks, Ajahn Brahm mentioned that the Buddha himself was asked about whether there were enlightened beings in other religions. And it was said in some Sutta (Mahaparanibbana, if I remember correctly the quotation; please correct me if I am wrong) that, wherever the Noble Eightfold Path is found, enlightened beings are also found.

I personally would be very suspicious of a religion which is afraid of someone who would want to learn about others.

So my bookshelf is also filled with books from diverse traditions and religions.

Right View, of course, is very important, but it is not instantly acquired (if at all) and instead kindness, compassion, peace and the other qualities are at the heart of the practice. And that is what the good practitioners of other religions also cultivate.
And here Ajahn Brahm has the beautiful simile of the orchestra: if any good practitioner is like a maestro of a musical instrument, then you can imagine to combine some great performers and make an orchestra with them. What a wonderful music that would be!

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A post was split to a new topic: A Creator God in the suttas?

A post was merged into an existing topic: A Creator God in the suttas?

Look at? I don’t see why reading anything would be a problem. For an inter-religious exchange, I guess it depends on what is being shared, what is being taken, for what reason, and how much time is being spent doing each.

In general, there is nothing wrong with cordiality between Buddhists and those who are not pursuing the teachings of the Buddha, but I don’t think the Dhamma needs to be neutralized or set aside to do so. If we take into account how this was handled in the suttas, we find all manner of polite ways to share what the Buddha had to say, and none include welcoming the authority of another religion.

Good to keep the following in mind:

It is impossible, mendicants, it cannot happen for a person accomplished in view to acknowledge another teacher. But it is possible for an ordinary person to acknowledge another teacher. - AN 1.276

If right view is our aspiration then there should be some caution not spend too much time being receptive to the possibility that another system (for lack of a better word) is capable of teaching right view, which would go against so much of what is found in the suttas, and undermine our own effort if taken too deep to heart. Furthermore, I think we should also avoid trying to incorporate an outside teaching into our pursuit of Dhamma, especially in cases where the likely result is unclear. If there is a legitimate alignment with the values and views of another religion, there is in no need for any incorporation. A shared aspect is no doubt worthy of acknowledgement, but too much additional emphasis induces a redundancy that won’t serve to consolidate effort upon the single goal of gaining freedom from suffering.

This is entirely my opinion on the matter, and even though I think there are many suttas that support this, I am in no way discouraging inter-religious communication. Just encouraging people to do so carefully.

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:anjal:

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The Blessed One said, “In any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold path is not ascertained, no contemplative of the first… second… third… fourth order [stream-winner, once-returner, non-returner, or arahant] is ascertained. But in any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold path is ascertained, contemplatives of the first… second… third… fourth order are ascertained. The noble eightfold path is ascertained in this doctrine & discipline, and right here there are contemplatives of the first… second… third… fourth order. Other teachings are empty of knowledgeable contemplatives. And if the monks dwell rightly, this world will not be empty of arahants.

:anjal:

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The principle of dhamma, i.e. law, the way it is, that which is actual, that which when tested shows itself to be actual, actuality, the way things are, natural Law, is a universal principle that has many different words in many different languages but is pointing to the same principle ‘that which is actual or true’. The Buddhist journey just places a great degree of emphasis on identifying this.

A person discovers what is actual or true through a process of seeking. The Tao Te Ching, for example, ‘Tao’ = way/law, has been helpful when I have been reflecting on it. I have discerned some of the wisdom parables, dhamma segments, Tao segments, as actual and making sense.

Rousing the contemplative mind is key, for it is this mind which takes a person towards realisation of that which is actual. The matter is not to simply accept on the basis of blind faith but to put matters to the test, put what you are being told is ‘true’, to the test and to discover whether it actually is or is not true.

Becoming privvy to the moment of learning, the moment of Zen, I.e. ‘awakening’, and familiarising ourselves with the conditions that lead to that moment, shows us the golden thread of Law that is weaved through out all things.

If one wishes to attain the effect of a flame, one necessitates the effect by conditioning the causes that enable that effect. One grabs the matchbox (cause), takes out a match (cause), and flicks it against the match box (cause), these three conditions necessitate the effect of the flame. If, I take the match and put it under water: the match will not ignite. If I wish for the specific effect, I must follow a very specific process.

When it comes to the Buddha journey, or ones own journey to of coming to knowing, the focus is the identifying of the causes of stress, dissatisfaction, suffering, anguish, and the cessation of those factors through implementing what has been discovered, through practice.

Discerning the truth (of suffering) is what Buddhism yields to. This truth stands above the institution that is Buddhism and is what it revolves around. With this, if you have the contemplative mind and the eye, one can see ‘what is actual and what is not’ when exploring varying texts from different traditions. The Dhamma, that which is actual, the facts, that which is true, is universal and is not owned by ANY particular group of people. Buddhism, and the proponents who adhere and identify as Buddhists, simply place emphasis on dhamma and identifying what the dhamma is.

There are those who follow based on faith,
And then there are those who Know (Buddha’s/Tathagata’s/Arahants/Seers/Knowers). Identifying as X, Y and Z is beside the point, identifying the causes and cessation of suffering and the dhamma principle in its core essence is the sole focus.

Behind all the smoke, one is seeking ‘what works’, ‘that which is actual’, ‘that which leads to understanding, comprehension and knowing’, ‘the intention, that leads to the process/actions, that lead to the result’. The Buddhadhamma places emphasis on the transformation of ignorance, attachment, aversion (various other deiflements), and that gives rise to the blossoming of wisdom, concentration and ethical noble conduct. The Dhammachakkapavattana Sutta and the varying precepts/restraints/ethical focuses set the tone of the journey a noble aspirant undertakes.

That which is actual stands independent of all religious institutions, sects and traditions. They may act as gateways to help facilitate a person in realising that but the truth is independent of the tradition. It is like this. Sometimes I hear people call the four noble truths ‘buddhist’.

When inspected, the 4NT turn out to be actual and corresponds to the way things are when tested against my own experience, and for that of others. The 4NT, in actuality, are just facts of existence and being alive. The word ‘Buddhist/buddhism’ to the curious mind is an invitation to explore what surrounds that word. It is a process of learning and discovery.

Many people come into contact with the 4NT through this gateway, but to an earnest striver on the way, can able to be realised if there is a need to do so in that situational happenstance without ever coming into contact with what people call ‘Buddhism’. Facts are the facts, that which is actual is actual, and they are not owned by ANY particular person, group or institution.

Traditions are like a wisdom vein that people who have benefitted from, return and build on - tending to the flame of that tradition. Yet, even this word ‘tradition’ is a bit misleading and doesnt encompass the scope of what is happening, individuals living and learning, forest monks living by total intention and principle, and others are ‘doing life as is fit to them’ at that present moment in time.

In this modern age, in the Year 2023, the principle of dhamma is alive in other ways, shapes and forms of people seeking the way for themselves. Freedom and liberation from suffering: universal and able to be realised by any earnest seeker of the way. Already thus far, the dhamma has gone through varying transformation periods up to the present age. Realising this common thread frees oneself. The earnest seeker is exploring and dips their toes into what all these varying terms point towards & learns as they go, if they are open minded. Then, there are those who are holding the torch for others and this is why we see such a beautiful diversity of what people call traditions and faiths. By large, human beings are seeking understanding, peace, safety, happiness and joy yet get caught up on superficial fickle differences.

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I don’t find that comparisons between Buddhism and other religions are very helpful, and I especially don’t find the suggestions of “common ground” between Buddhism and Catholicism noted above are very well thought out.

There are however some very rich parallels between Buddhism and some of western philosophy, particularly Kant and Marcus Aurelius. The Buddha was after all a samano, not a brahmano.

I do find the comparison helpful but I might have a different view than the practioners of other religions have of their own religion.

For instance I both reject mainstream christianity and Catholicism (powerful and wealthy with an awful history) and I also reject Gnosticism (a ”secret” teaching only for initiates) But the Bible does have some great messages in it.

I’m not too keen about powerful mainstream Islamic sects and I can’t say I like the ”mystic” Sufis with their initiations either.
But the Quran has plenty of great messages.

Judaism has the same thing, a later teaching Talmud and a secret ”mystic” one Kabbalah. Just like Dhamma, Torah means ”The Law”.

Buddhism of course also has a more mainstream popular version and a ”secret” one.

This strange pattern found in all religions says a great deal about human nature and ignorance. Some can’t obviously live after the real message from the founders and either makes a more popular version ”for everybody” with commentaries and explanations where they start adding stuff or a so called ”secret teaching”, only for the few (who see themselves as ”elite”) where they diverge a lot from the founder’s original message.

I’d also like to add, without actually going into political stuff, the following:
To be a conservative and right-wing ”christian” is probably the greatest religious anomaly of all time. I doubt they’ve ever read what is in the bible.
It makes as much sense being a ”right-wing christian” as it does following everything in the awful vedic caste system etc. but calling oneself a ”left-wing brahmin”…

I’m not saying religious people are ”left-wingers” but that ALL real religious practioners have no pride, greed, hatred etc. and all put a heavy emphasis on generousity, sharing, compassion, equality etc.

So regardless of the label, if we had real religious leaders, we’d live in a utopian pacifist society with plenty of socialist ideas implemented.
Probably not as good as having a Wheel Turning Monarch, but very close! :wink: