Interfaith Perspectives

I tend to agree @charlie.

I sense that the mystics have much in common across the different faiths. The theologian Karl Rahner said that ‘Christians of the Future Will either Be Mystics or Cease to Be’

St. Francis was a great nature mystic. And as you mention Sts. Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross we’re deeply mystical in spite of the Spanish Inquisition.

At the same time though I also sense the need for integrity of texts too. A good friend of mine often talks about looking at the moon and not the finger, but IMO many when beginning the journey need the finger, so it has to point in the right direction.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

Thank you @suvira for posting these videos.

1 Like

“Om aham Brahmasmi” (Om I am Brahman/divine).

1 Like

One of the record is from Xuan Zang account of his journey to India. Before he went back, he was invited to meet King Harsha.
The King, impressed with his knowledge, and because Xuan Zang had written a book to refute all non-buddhist doctrine and “hinayana”, organize a grand debate.

In which he invite thousands of buddhists, hindus, jains, etc. The book is recited and anyone can refute it if they want. Xuan Zang won the debate, because the king declared him as winner. Another said that because noone can say anything against it.
(Some said it is because they are afraid of the king who favor Xuan Zang.)

Anyway, so according to Xuan Zang, this debate happen, and he won. Of course this is self reporting, and nobody can give different account.
But if we consider the general trustworthiness of Xuan Zang (his description is so accurate geographically that archaeologist use them to found things), the story involving foreign king, and the report is also to the Chinese king. There is no reason to doubt him

Also, according to the account, his journey home is quite leisurely and safe, because of the supplies and guards he received from King Harsha


Probably you know this but there is no homogenous community of buddhist, just like also not with christians and jews and hindu’s and muslims. There are all kind of different ideas in buddhism, understandings, views, longings, goals, practices, rituals.

I think this is inherent about the spiritual or religious domain. We cannot get a grip upon it. It is like air. It escapes grip. It very much looks like God. Who or what is God. Who knows. Can you really get a grip on God? Everybody fills in according own needs, longings etc. The same with Dhamma.

I also think this is the real power of religion, this unknowingness and inability to get a grip on it. It only frustrates and leads to crises when one want to get a grip on it.

We people want to know, get a grip on everything, and that is the dart the Buddha saw in our hearts, i believe. This longing for grip. Due to it we seek control, we seek happiness, we seek to cure our fears etc. But in the end it leads to nothing but misery.

Especially when we start to see the difficult aspects of life, sickness, pains, sufferings, death, loss, decay we start to long for more and more grip.

While we long for more and more grip it is like it sqeeuzes all qualities from our lives. Like a sponse. The natural water of wisdom, compassion, love, faith that is in us, streams away.

Mystics know there is something very beautiful, a great quality, a goodness, in not-knowing. In not being attached to any kind of knowledge, the undividedness. No ideas about ourselves, no ideas about the goal of life, not attached to views or some kind of understanding. A real blessing to be so unknowing and open. That is really true.

For me buddhism is about honoring that not-knowingness, about that natural pure ulitmately richness. We do not appreciate this not-knowingness enough. We see it as lack of quality but is full of qualities. It is not different from complete detachment. I believe it is our home.

1 Like

Hi Ian, I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a Buddhist, but I do prefer it because I reject the truth claims of … Christianity for instance. I studied OT theology at a protestant missionary college, and I like the prophetic tradition and recognize that faith in God is what motivated the prophets to speak goodness, the truth, despite being attacked by their society. However, from my view what people believed thousands of years ago doesn’t have anything to do with me. I was trained to be empirical in my orientation and what attracts me to Buddhism is that, as far as I can tell, it doesn’t demand faith.


Very true and I think this is an area where Buddhism excels. The texts are both detailed as well as openly available. But of course the texts aren’t the path. I used to make bread. The texts are like recipes and Buddhism has lots of recipes. But at some point we need to knead - put down the recipe and really get to know the dough.

All traditions are at there best when there are living examples available who can bring the teachings to life. Buddhism does well in this respect also.

Are you familiar with this discussion between Ajahn Sona and a Rabbi?

Well, a different kind of faith, in fact, is needed to practice the Path. The Buddha spoke of saddhā , faith, as an important aspect of Dhamma practice, especially in the beginning.

When someone begins this practice they may feel inspired and motivated, but they haven’t yet directly experienced the benefits and fruits of it. So faith, in this sense, is an important factor in keeping a person on the Path.

Of course, this is a different sort of faith compared to placing one’s faith in an all-powerful deity.
In the Dhamma, faith is more like: “I haven’t seen or experienced that aspect of the practice yet, but have faith that it will lead there”.
In Zen, they often say, “The Buddha didn’t lie.” :pray:

1 Like

Oh. I stand corrected.

1 Like

@Green I totally understand what you have written and feel the same way.

I asked how individuals saw things because I also agree that there is no homogenous Buddhists just as there are no homogenous Christians.

All we have are the teachings and the individual responses to these. We have people at different stages of the journey who have their own view of the landscape. And we have people with different starting points carrying different baggage.




I do think that where there are incompatible truth claims, one claim is true and the other false. Or both are partly right, partly false - I don’t believe contradictory truth claims can both be true.

For example, Christianity believes if/when you reach heaven, you are there eternally. Buddhism claims it is temporary. It seems to me one’s stay in heaven is either eternal or temporary (or heaven doesn’t exist at all). But I don’t see how both the Christian claim AND the Buddhist claim can be true–that when we reach heaven we will be there eternally and we will be there temporarily.

As a matter of epistemology, I don’t know which is true. As a matter of practice, I proceed from the choice that the Buddhist description is true. If a Christian said that heaven was eternal, or an atheist said that heaven didn’t exist, I wouldn’t say they were wrong, because I don’t know. But I would say that isn’t the view I base my practice on.

I assume that many religious practices have a path to a good destination. I don’t know for sure what that destination is. (Though again, as a Buddhist I operate from the premise that the Buddhist description is correct. At least until I am confronted with evidence it isn’t. Like dying and Jesus saying, “Welcome to eternal life in heaven!”) I assume some (maybe me) will be surprised when the path they are on leads to something good, but not the destination expected. :wink:

I see Buddhism as the most skillful path for me. (And I see it as a skillful path in general, which I am happy to share if someone specifically asks me.)

I believe - within the religions I am aware of - there are skillful paths. I’m certainly not going to try to tell a Christian living a life of love and charity and good works through their faith in Christ they are on the wrong path. We’d probably sit down and have a conversation - like the one you started with this thread - on where our paths are similar and different. I’ve read the Bible a number of times, and a number of works by Christian writers - that have certainly deepened my understanding of the spiritual life.

Now, I also think there are bad paths out there, within all religions. I believe paths that condone hatred and even violence against other groups are confused and dangerous. So while I am comfortable saying all religions offer a skillful path, I wouldn’t say that all paths offered by religions are skillful.

Within Christianity, I love the writings of Evagrius Ponticus, John Cassian, and the Desert Fathers and Mothers. I think they point to a path I find truly beautiful. I’m less enamored with the writings of John Calvin. I think those writings point to a path I would call confused and misleading. Obviously just my two cents. :wink:

Within Buddhism, you’ll find arguments about whether, say, secular Buddhism is a skillful or confused path.

So finding a skillful path goes beyond finding a religion that works for you - it also requires making choices among a variety of traditions and approaches within that religion.


If we look at the essence of both religions, the spirituality, especially the fact that those knowledges were passed down from the same group of gods, there are enough evidence to infer both religions must share the same destination eventually. Christianity is great. The life of Jesus is a powerful act to embody the historical event in the remote past that a son of god was made sacrifice to upgrade humanity from animal being. the Christian heavenly kingdom in the sensual realm is easy to access from simple practices of faith, hope and charity. There are reasons for its popularity in our human civilization and will continue to be so though the institutional form may evolve. Buddhism is also great. It integrates more tools from both the Bramanical and Samanical traditions to purity the mind, and much deeper understanding of the human condition and the world, this enables possibilities to achieve a higher state of being. Both religions are wonderful ideas into reality. Amazing.

1 Like

Hi @JimInBC Thanks for your reply, very helpful to me.

As a matter of epistemology, I don’t know which is true. As a matter of practice, I proceed from the choice that the Buddhist description is true. If a Christian said that heaven was eternal, or an atheist said that heaven didn’t exist, I wouldn’t say they were wrong, because I don’t know. But I would say that isn’t the view I base my practice on.

I totally agree with this. That is why I find the idea of ‘double belonging’ so hard to grasp - how can you hold two contradictory claims to be true at once?

Regarding the doctrine of heaven, this is one of those areas where the beliefs of the many are not really consistent with the teaching of the faith. AIUI the concept of heaven, or an eternal disembodied state after death, is an idea which has been adopted from Platonism.

It has become so popular that many in the church go along with the idea because it is less challenging to modern people than the actual teaching, which is that we will first sleep with Christ until we are resurrected to new life at the end of time.

Absolutely. I have even met Christians who believe that God is angry and vengeful. What’s interested me in the replies I’ve received is the breadth of thought and perspectives.

It’s been refreshing to learn that Buddhism, like Christianity, and I assume other faiths, isn’t just an homogenous group but a collection of individuals doing their very best to follow a spiritual path.

It’s also been interesting to see the debates about teaching which you have here…as indeed we do on the Christian board that I belong to. Within reason, it seems a healthy part of learning about our traditions and how to better follow our path…as long as it is just a means to an end and not an end in itself.




Thank you @mudita . Very kind thoughts.

I find it interesting to observe the reactions that come up in the mind in response to interfaith dialogue. Part of me feels compelled to emphasize the overlap between religions for the sake of harmony. At the same time, that feels disingenuous because it’s not representative of how I feel. The truth is, I don’t think all paths lead to the same goal, and I do think there are dangers in following certain paths. I wish I could believe that all paths lead to the same goal because it sounds wholesome. But I can’t because I don’t see any way to justify that belief without stretching the meanings of words far and wide. For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t have to stretch the meaning of “truth” to say that I believe all major religions have something good to offer to the world.

That said, I’m not in a place to argue for or against any path, not having gone to the end of any path myself. The Buddha could refute the views of other ascetics left and right because he knew the truth for himself. And because he had uprooted ill-will, there was no danger of him slipping into emotionally charged argument. I often grapple with how to hold opinions skillfully. I can’t see anything wrong with having faith in one teacher, and not another. But somehow, things go pear-shaped quickly the more I talk about that. It goes from “I don’t have faith in that, personally” to “That’s wrong!” so fast. So I try my best to avoid arguing for or against doctrinal statements.

I’m also very conscious about how I come across to people outside my religion. Like it or not, people tend to take individuals of other religions as somewhat representative of the whole religion. I’m afraid that by being too straightforward, I may lead someone to think that Buddhists are closed-minded and sectarian. By being too diplomatic, I’m not saying anything of substance.

So I leave interfaith dialogue to the experts, and do my best to live in harmony with my strong opinions. Being opinionated is not easy, but being self-aware won’t make it go away either. I can’t just decide not to believe what I believe. All I can do is strive towards harmony with myself and others, without compromising my sense of what is beneficial. It’s not an easy task, and usually the best thing to do is to be quiet.


I think we also must take into account that there is a buddhist tradition also here who does not teach there is a destination in Buddha-Dhamma. This is the school who teaches that parinibbana is a mere cessation without anything remaining. At death one just goes out like a flame. There is nothing that goes to a certain destination. A destination is something you arrive at, another shore, an escaperoute, something like that, but when parinibbana is a mere cessation there is also no destination reached.

I guess that we could perhaps see that ‘our truths’ are only partially true? Or when viewed from a certain position they are true?

In Ud 6.4 we have the parable of the blind men and the elephant.

Yes, i think it is very tempting to hammer out a Dhamma based upon reasoning and logic while studying scriptures. A Dhamma that feels consistent. A nice, seemingly coherent, system of thoughts.

But it is interessanting to see, that even people who do it like this, do make other choices, and do not come to the same understanding. That is how you can see, i believe, that this reasoning and logic , this pure intellectual approach, is also very much rooted in subjective emotiones and feelings.

But such a coherent system of thoughts has a kind of allure. Such coherent systematic thoughts are also sensual pleasures for the mind.

@Green Do you have a spectrum of attitudes towards scripture in Buddhism?

I have a good friend, a follower of Thich Nhat Hanh, who seems to deny the value of any scripture and simply focusses on being present. He seems to think everything else is meaningless. It seems to suit his scientific mind.

Yet, as I understand it, there are many texts in Buddhism. Am I right in thinking that there are the original teachings of the Buddha and then interpretations of these teachings by his followers?

As I’ve said elsewhere, it seems to me that in any faith tradition there needs to be a balance between the intellectual and the spiritual, although I’m sure that others, like my friend, will have their own thoughts.

@turntables I couldn’t have said it better myself. You’ve just about summed up my own experience!

1 Like