Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Square One

Back to Square One
Happened to see a copy of the Catholic Encyclopedia the other day and naturally turned to see what it says about Buddhism. Quite a shock! And not a very pleasant one. The Encyclopedia is a publication of the Church so presumably it represents the official Catholic position on Buddhism and everything else it covers. Anyway, its nice to know what they really think away from the protestations of mutual respect during inter-religious conferences. Buddhism is, it seems, just one of several similar religious movements that began in India in the 5th cent BCE. “These movements started with the same morbid view that conscious life is a burden and not worth the living, and that true happiness is to be had only in a state like dreamless sleep free from all desires, free from conscious action.” Buddhism is full of contradictions but that is hardly surprising because “Logical consistency is not to be looked for in an Indian mystic.” “The fundamental tenets of Buddhism are marked by grave defects that not only betray its inadequacy to become a religion of enlightened humanity, but also bring into bold relief its inferiority to the religion of Jesus Christ. In the first place, the very foundation on which Buddhism rests—the doctrine of karma with its implied transmigrations…is gratuitous and false. This pretended law of nature…is a huge superstition in flat contradiction to the recognized laws of nature.” “Another basic defect in primitive Buddhism is its failure to recognize man’s dependence on a supreme God. By ignoring God and by making salvation rest solely on personal effort, Buddha substituted for the Brahmin religion a cold and colourless system of philosophy. It is entirely lacking in those powerful motives to right conduct, particularly the motive of love, that spring from the consecration of religious men and women to the dependence on a personal all-loving God.” “Another fatal defect of Buddhism is its false pessimism. A strong and healthy mind revolts against the morbid view that life is not worth living, that every form of conscious existence is an evil. Buddhism stands condemned by the voice of nature the dominant tone of which is hope and joy. It is a protest against nature for possessing the perfection of rational life. The highest ambition of Buddhism is to destroy that perfection by bringing all living beings to the unconscious repose of Nirvana. Buddhism is thus guilty of a capital crime against nature, and in consequence does injustice to the individual.” “The cultivation of music is forbidden. Researches in natural science are discountenanced. The development of the mind is limited to the memorizing of Buddhist texts and the study of Buddhist metaphysics, only a minimum of which is of any value.” “Buddhism has accomplished but little for the uplifting of humanity in comparison with Christianity.” “Wherever the religion of Buddha has prevailed, it has proved singularly inefficient to lift society to a high standard of morality...It has shown itself utterly helpless to cope with the moral plagues of humanity. The consentient testimony of witnesses above the suspicion of prejudice establishes the fact that at the present day Buddhist monks are everywhere strikingly deficient in that moral earnestness and exemplary conduct which distinguished the early followers of Buddha.” The Encyclopedia goes on like this for several pages.
When the present pope was Cardinal Ratzinger he described the Orthodox Church as “a diseased limb of Christianity” and as pope in 2007 he reiterated the Catholic position that Protestant faith communities “are not true churches.” So I suppose these comments about Buddhism are hardly surprising. But they are also rather sad. I often meet Catholics prelates whose openness convince me that the Church’s arrogance, triumphalism and prejudice belong to the past. Then I read things like the Catholic Encyclopedia and its back as square one.


piotr.paweĊ‚ said...


please be aware that this text was published in 1908!


novalis78 said...

Something contemporary:


With a link on how "Buddhism might view Christianity" :-)

Sexy Cute Women said...

It's probably true at 1908, but now maybe you should read the second Vatican Council result about buddhism to see the recent view from chatolics to buddhism.