What is the Buddhist Perspective on Religions?
According to Venerable Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda in “Buddhist Attitude Towards Other Religions” (Pages 2-6): “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 did not criticise or condemn any religion other than to enlighten the people by showing them the futility of going into the extremes of self-mortification and self-indulgence and to avoid superstitious and meaningless practices in the name of religion.”
“According to the Buddha, men are divided amongst themselves because of their strong sense of ego. When this is subdued by seeing the essential emptiness of a being, healthy human relationships will develop. The search for peace and a harmonious way of life therefore begins from within and not from the outside.”
“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.”
“The deep underlying meaning of religion is to be able to uphold and respect one’s own religion without in anyway 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.”
How can Buddhists develop deeper compassion and respect for people of different religions?
According to Venerable Sheng Yen in “Establishing Global Ethics” (Pages 36-37): “As of today, there are still a few groups whose leaders, in their fervent love for their own group and in their desire to maintain their groups’ interests and to attain more, greater, and better benefits, have developed antagonistic, hostile relations with other groups. Such groups may attack or plunder one another, or even regard the opposing groups as demonic, to be conquered and exterminated. This is caused by human delusion, which then leads to revenge, bloody feuds, and an endless cycle of collective violence!”
“The so-called ‘human delusion’ mainly refers to two blind spots people have in their thinking:
1. When considering, observing or dealing with a problem, people only take into account their personal, selfish and subjective standpoints. Rarely do they try to understand, feel or have sympathy for the other party’s ideas, explanations, ways of doing things, or needs based on circumstances. This often results in antagonism and hostility, which then leads to conflict and war.
2. In facing all manner of complicated situations and problems, people uniformly judge things in simplistic, dichotomous ways. People always think they stand on the side of the true, just and sacred, and that whoever or whatever disagrees with their faith and ideas is false, evil and demonic. They perceive two sharply divided sides, and see no room for compromise and coexistence. So great feuds and animosity arise, and mutual slaughter continues endlessly. As soon as humanity can free itself from these two blind spots, lasting peace and happiness will be close at hand.”
What can we do when people criticise Buddhism?
According to Venerable Thubten Chodron in “Q&A: Working with Anger”: “That’s their opinion. They’re entitled to have it. Of course, we don’t agree with it. Sometimes we may succeed in correcting another’s misconceptions, but sometimes people are very closed-minded and don’t want to change their views. That’s their business. Just leave it.
We don’t need others’ approval to practise the Dharma. But we do need to be convinced in our hearts that what we do is right. If we are, then others’ opinions aren’t important. Others’ criticisms don’t hurt the Dharma or the Buddha. The path to enlightenment exists whether others recognise it as such or not. We don’t need to be defensive.
In fact, if we become agitated when others criticise Buddhism, it indicates we’re attached to our beliefs – that our ego is involved and so we feel compelled to prove our beliefs are right. When we’re secure in what we believe, others’ criticisms don’t disturb our peace of mind. Why should it? Criticism doesn’t mean we are stupid or bad. It’s simply another’s opinion, that’s all.”