Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Muslim Attack on Buddhism Part 2

Adnan Oktar (aka Farun Yahya)

Present-day Buddhists believe that the more pain they endure, and the more hunger and misery they suffer, the sooner they become enlightened. But this is not enlightenment; it is an inhuman life of self-abuse. A verse of the Qur’an (40:31) says, “God does not want any injustice for his servants.” This perverse practice of Buddhists is totally contrary to Islamic morality.

(Ibid. page 73)


The above quotation from Harun Yahya’s ‘Islam and Buddhism’ is particularly loathsome and inaccurate. It amounts to either gross incompetence when interpreting Buddhism, or a deliberate attempt to smear the religion with beliefs and practices that are simply not part of it. The Buddha taught the Middle Way between the extremes of self-indulgence and asceticism, as every decent student of his teachings would know. The idea that Buddhists believe that an increase in misery and suffering brings them closer to enlightenment is absolutely wide of the mark. That kind of thinking is an example of the very asceticism that the Enlightened One rejected.


Moreover, it seems that the writer(s) of this awful misrepresentation of the Buddhadharma have mixed up the Path to enlightenment with the centrality of suffering in Buddhist teachings. It is not that suffering is to be cultivated as a process of awakening, but that it is to be understood, rather than just avoided and buried in the subconscious. Buddhists aren’t expected to increase their levels of suffering, but to understand how and why it is there in the first place. Unfortunately, ‘Islam and Buddhism’ seems more concerned with defaming Buddhism than giving an accurate description of it. Yahya also displays a certain lack of clarity when focusing on reincarnation:


So many people in throughout the world believe in reincarnation, even though it has no logical basis, because they have no religious faith. Denying the existence of an infinite afterlife, they fear death and cling to the idea of reincarnation as a way to escape their fear. Belief in reincarnation – like belief in karma – is based on the false consolation that death is nothing to be feared, and that anyone will be able to attain his goals in a new birth.

(Ibid. page 88)


The first thing to note here is that the various (and rather different) ideas of reincarnation are lumped together. No distinction is made between the soul-centered theory of reincarnation typical of religions like Hinduism and Jainism, and the impersonal process that forms part of Buddhism’s description of how karma works. This is why it has become prevalent amongst English writers to use the word ‘rebirth’ when referring to the Buddhist theory, and reincarnation when thinking of the soul-based doctrine.


Secondly, Yahya attacks this generalized idea of reincarnation as being illogical, as though it is any less illogical than the superstitious theories of God and creation that he himself promotes. More to the point, does the specifically Buddhist idea that an impersonal process of elements of consciousness transferring from one form to another takes place any more fanciful or lacking in logic than the belief in a personal god, angels, demons, heavens and hells. Throughout the book, the only evidence for Yahya’s Muslim view of the world is that it is written in the Koran. Is this a logical step, to base one’s entire belief system on the particular writings of one particular book, rather than, as the Buddha encouraged his followers to do, test things out for oneself?


Thirdly, is the belief in reincarnation grown entirely from a fear of death, that later in the same paragraph Yahya claims Buddhists do not have due to their false faith in reincarnation? (This seems a somewhat muddled argument.) As it happens, many Buddhists – including this one - do not put faith in ideas such as rebirth just because they are found in the Tripitaka. In line with an approach to the Dharma that goes as far back as any teachings do in Buddhist history, we test out the teachings in our lives, seeing if they are true or not. And, if no proof exists for or against them, retain an open mind. True, this is not the emphatic arrogance of dogmatists such as Yahya, but it is an honest approach that acknowledges, “I don’t know.” Next, ‘Islam and Buddhism’ returns to theme of morality:


Buddhism’s superficial understanding of morality is completely contrary to human natural pattern in many respects. To an extent, it lets people avoid the torments of conscience that comes from having no religion and so, functions as a false source of spirituality. Believers in Buddhism console themselves with the idea that they have attained spiritual mastery by inflicting pain on themselves and denying the needs of the body.

(Ibid. page 110)


Just why Yahya considers Buddhism’s understanding of morality to be “superficial” is not explained in the book, but again it looks like a cheap shot at the religion to make it look bad in the eyes of the reader. Is it “contrary to human natural pattern”? The basic precepts of Buddhism discourage killing, stealing, adultery, lying, and the taking of intoxicants. These are much more stringent guidelines for living than found in many other major faiths of the world, and not that different to some basic morals found in Islam, for that matter.


Does adhering to Buddhist precepts help people to “avoid the torments of conscience”? Well, if practiced well, yes, they do, for if someone refrains from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and getting intoxicated, then they are surely living a pretty decent life that’s likely to encourage contentment rather than a tormented conscience? Again, the false accusation that Buddhism encourages people to inflict pain on themselves is brought up by Yahya, and as this slander has been dealt with earlier, it will be left with a dignified silence this time around. After attacking the morality of Buddhism, Yahya next evaluates the worth of Buddhist meditation:


Buddhist literature proposes meditation as the best way to attain a sense of well-being and avoid daily anxieties. But this is a great deception. Those who meditate to push concerns out of their minds come face to face with the same worries when their meditation ends. Trying to forget worries may afford temporary relief, but does not remove them; temporary tranquilization of the brain is of no use. The only way to true well-being and happiness is submit to the fate that the One and Only and true God has decreed.

(Ibid. page 119)


Some forms of meditation, especially those basic ones that beginners practice, do act as temporary means to let go of anxieties. And, this is no bad thing, for when a clear, peaceful state of mind is established through simple meditation techniques, life’s worries can then be dealt with in a wiser manner than a mind that is caught up in its concerns and cannot think straight. True enough, those worries have not been removed, but the meditator is developing skills that can enable him or her to deal with them in more effective ways in the future.


As to Yahya’s claim that true well-being comes from acceptance of the way things are is true enough from the Buddhist perspective. Ironically, however, it is through the cultivation of meditative techniques and tranquil states of mind that the Buddhist is able to accept the world as it is, rather than abandoning them to some vague belief that one’s life has been preordained by a deity to be the way it is.


In some quarters, Buddhism is seen as a path of high morality, mutual support and self-sacrifice. But the fact that people are living in destitution in Buddhist countries like Nepal, Tibet and Cambodia shows clearly that this mutual support and self-sacrifice is not a reality.

(Ibid. page 145)


When criticizing another’s religion, it’s important to get one’s facts right, isn’t it? So, in relation to the above paragraph, here are a few facts: Nepal is not a Buddhist country. A small minority of its population is Buddhist, but the far mass of Nepalese are Hindu, not Buddhist. And, would not communist Chinese rule over Tibet for the past five decades have something to do with the alleged destitution to be found there, rather than the faith of its people? Again, the current state of Cambodia is the direct results of the diabolical regime of the atheistic Khmer Rouge back in the Seventies. Of course, Muslim countries like Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia might be examined to see just how destitute their people are when compared to the countries mentioned above, but that would be stooping to the level of Yahya and his writers.


Architects of atheism and materialist culture see that their theory is collapsing. To prevent the rapidly growing movement towards revealed religions, they counter it by promoting pagan faiths such as Buddhism. In other words, Buddhism – and other Far Eastern religions like it – are spiritual reinforcements of materialism.

(Ibid. page 157)


Here, ‘Islam and Buddhism’ makes the interesting claim that the popularity of Buddhism in the West is due to materialists and atheist scientists promoting it as preferable alternative to what the book calls ‘revealed religions (i.e. Judaism, Christianity, and, you guessed it, Islam). There is a secret conspiracy going on where evil evolutionists, bent on denying God’s place in Western society, wish to insert the Buddha in his place. Most scientists and materialists I’ve ever met reject Buddhism wholesale, as they do all other religions.


It is true that some of Buddhism’s teachings and practices do seem to have more in common with modern scientific views of the world than most other religions, a subject featured on this blog often. But, are desperate atheists turning to Buddhism? Richard Dawkins, perhaps? No. Stephen Hawking, maybe? Not on your life. The only prominent atheist I know of with sympathies towards Buddhism is Sam Harris, author of ‘The End of Faith.’ And he has called for the killing of the Buddha and the religion of Buddhism, wishing to see the religion’s meditative practices stripped of their Buddhist trappings. When examined, the above claims by Yahya seem nothing more than nonsense, like much else in this book. This attitude towards Buddhism obviously flows from Yahya’s own religious convictions, which see all true religion and morality having their roots in a Islam-style monotheistic religion. Here’s an example:


Buddhist scriptures warn people against stealing, encourages them to be helpful to one another and cleanse themselves of selfishness and worldly ambitions. All this suggests that Buddhism possibly began as a religion founded on God’s revelation, only to become corrupt over the course of time.

(Ibid. page 161)


At last, some of the actual teachings are (briefly) touched upon, only for Yahya to sink back into his all too familiar Muslim bias. So, according to him, the good parts of Buddhism, or at least its better morals, derive from it originally being a ‘revealed religion’ like Islam. Of course! Only Muslims are moral people, according to Yahya’s warped view of things, so any decent aspects to the Buddhadharma must come from the Muslim God! So, this godless religion that is promoted by atheists to thwart God’s plans for humanity began itself as a religion inspired by this very same all-powerful deity. Now things are starting to make sense…not! Here’s some more airy-fairy theories backed up with a healthy dose of disdain:


Buddhism may have been a true religion that was ruined after the development of priesthood. It has certainly degenerated much more than Judaism or Christianity. However much these two religions have been distorted over the course of time, still they are devoted to God’s revelations and found their faiths upon him. Even if the essence of Buddhism actually comes from a true source, it has completely departed from that essence and become smothered in superstitious ritual, with only a few true moral principles left.

(Ibid. page 164)


What do you think, dear reader? Is Buddhism a degenerated religion, much worse even than Judaism and Christianity, with barely any moral element remaining, and secretly promoted by Islam-hating atheists? Throughout ‘Islam and Buddhism’, its attitude has been both condescending and insulting. In much of the western world these days, if it was brought to light that someone had slandered Islam in this way, the culprit would find themselves in court. But, what should the Buddhist response to this work be? Tolerance? Forgiveness? Understanding? Or, should we allow people all over the world to be brainwashed by this sort of trash into viewing Buddhism in a bad light, converting to Islam instead, as the book itself does towards its end?


In this book, we invite Buddhists and all others, for whatever reason, feel sympathy this superstitious religion to understand the truth that there is no god but God; and to accept that God is One and that there is no other.

(Ibid. page 177)


To view a website dedicated to the above anti-Buddhist propaganda, link to this site:
Islam and Buddhism

46 comments:

Dhamma81 said...

Gary-

I can't add anything here. You totally rip this guys arguments and fallacies to shreds. It's very apparent that this guy has no understanding of Buddhism at all. I don't get where he believes Buddhists love pain, torment and self abuse. It's almost laughable if it weren't so serious an accusation. Like i said, I can't really add to anything you said here. I don't know how you read this stuff without losing your cool. I know I would have to restrain myself. Be well now.

G said...

In one sense, Justin, this book of Yahya's is a wonderful gift, albeit an ill-intended one. It can give us the opportunity to practice equanimity when confronted with words that offend our closely-cherished ideals. This is, of course, not the book's intention, but if we approach it as a subject for reflection rather than reaction we can grow from the admittedly unpleasant experience. So...thank you Harun Yahya!

Be well in the Dharma,
G.

Dhamma81 said...

That's a good point Gary. I struggle sometimes with equanimity in certain circumstances but I guess that is what "practice" is all about.

G said...

And reading Harun Yahya's words, Justin, equanimity is probably not something that he ever considers, more concerned with breeding contentiousness. Nevertheless, we can use his words as a source for reflection, if nothing else.

G

Markus Elliot Lacay said...

Just to add to this, Carl Sagan also sympathized with Buddhism as described by his conversations with the Dalai Lama and commented on this in his book - The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle In the Dark.

G said...

Thanks for the links, Marcus.

I've been a fan of Carl Sagan's ever since I saw his TV series Cosmos as a child; I have a copy of 'The Demon Haunted World 'but haven't read it all yet - I'll be interested in what he wrote about Buddhism. Which chapter does he comment on Buddhism, by the way?

Interesting piece by Sagan's widow, also, Marcus. The Dalai Lama has done much to promote dialogue between Buddhism & science - a true interchange, unlike Harun Yahya's attack on Buddhism!

Be well,
G.

puthujjana said...

Gary, I'm wondering if you were you ever able to find if there are followers of Islam and Buddhism who are finding ways to have constructive dialogues with one another to help create a more harmonious world.

G said...

I did find some constructive dialogues, Kris, often initiated by academics, but UNESCO has been involved in promoting such events as well. The following websites have relevant material:

Global Family for Love and Peace:
http://www.gflp.org/Buddhist-Muslim_Paris.html

The Buddhist Archives of Dr. Alexander Berzin:
http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/archives/study/islam/general/islamic_buddhist_dialog.html

The Buddhist Channel:
http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=52,2459,0,0,1,0

At 'ground level' - ordinary life, as opposed to academic or political initiatives - there are examples of people just getting on with life peacefully. This was the case in southern Thailand, where there is a large Muslim population until relatively recently, but things are pretty bad down there nowadays, with Buddhists - including teachers & monks - being murdered by Muslim terrorists, and the Thai authorities being heavy-handed in its dealings with Muslims, sometimes involving mysterious deaths. In such a situation, books like 'Islam and Buddhism' can only make the situation worse, which is one reason for bringing this issue to light, Kris.

Be well in the Dharma,
G.

Mike D. said...

Gary, everything you wrote is spot on. Are they're any Buddhist criques like this of Abrahamic religions? I hope not.

What always gets me is the common misconception that sitting in meditation is an escape from the world. Facing our own greed, hatred, and delusion and working towards cutting them off at the root has never seemed like much of an escape to me. The real escape is having faith that our salvation will be taken care of by some external source or being. All the good things in the world require hard work and effort. How could spiritual wellbeing be any different?

Couldn't one argue that there is a fine line between theistic prayer rituals and meditation anyway? Couldn't "God" be the synonymous with the "unborn, undying, unchanging, uncreated"? There is so much common ground when we strip away all the conventions and get to the heart of it. Most followers of organized theistic religions will always miss the point if you ask me. They’ll always be gazing at the finger and not the moon, right?

When practicing spreading metta to teachers, family, friends, neutral people, adversaries, etc., people like Yahya are the only ones I can come up with when thinking of adversaries. So I’m with you in thinking books like this are a gift in some way.

G said...

You make excellent points here, Mike.
Confronting the three poisons is certainly not a form of escapism, that's for sure!

There are so many parallels between Buddhism and the more meditative traditions within theistic religions, Mike. Whether or not they lead to exactly the same realizations as in Buddhism is a question I am unable to answer, but they are definitely sources of positive dialogue between Buddhism and other religions.

Using Harun Yahya as a subject for metta meditation is an extremely wise way to approach this situation. Well said!

Be well in the Dharma,
G.

Purple said...

This was very painful to read. While I try to hold on very loosely to my spiritual identity, things like this are difficult to deal with. I'm seldom offended as a Buddhist, even by things that are directly offensive. I don't believe that "profanity" exists in regards to Buddhism. Generally, I'm indifferent to attacks. Not because I'm particularly equanimous, but because I don't think Buddhism is holy, therefore it can't be soiled.

However, to see this rational, down-to-earth philosophy attacked with such zealous glee was disconcerting. The reason I began practicing Buddhism was because of its pragmatism and empirical nature. I was invited to explore the teachings and verify their truth for myself. Though I hesitate to call Buddhism a religion, what other path do you know of that so strongly advocates this kind of investigation?

I realize I'm preaching to the choir here but I had to vent a bit.

My main problem with this heinous book is the notion that people will take it as gospel without doing their own research. In America, people tend to view Buddhism as mystical, superstitious and exotic. It's an uphill battle for those of us who wish it to be seen as it really is: practical, sensible, and not at all mysterious.

The idea that people who only have half-formed, esoteric ideas about Buddhism may read this and believe it makes me shudder in horror. Buddhism has it hard enough as it is.

It's shocking to me that anyone could possibly take advice from the world's most violent, intolerant, fundamentalist belief system. I can't remember who left the comment but they mentioned that if someone had written this book attacking Islam instead of Buddhism that they'd probably end up in court. I think it's more likely they'd wind up dead.

The Dharma does need defending and we are its defenders. By continuing our practice and struggling to be exemplars of these compassionate teachings, we can spread the benefits to the rest of the world. Head-to-head debate with Buddhism's detractors will never change anyone's mind. They must change from within, not without.

G said...

Like yourself, Purple, I was (and still am) attracted to Buddhism's empirical & pragmatic nature.

As mentioned in earlier comments, as individuals we can utilize a figure like Harun Yahya in our cultivation of goodwill & positive qualities. This is a wise way to turn such a negative situation into an experience to grow.

But what should our response be as a world community of Buddhists? I agree that debate isn't the answer...but what of dialogue? This is something that requires reflection & selflessness if Buddhism is to respond in ways that increase peace & understanding between Buddhists & non-Buddhists alike.

Thanks for the comments, Purple;
G.

Dhamma81 said...

Purple hit the nail on the head with the comment "It's shocking to me that anyone could possibly take advice from the world's most violent, intolerant, fundamentalist belief system."


I don't think enough people realize that despite the propaganda put out by liberal elitists and multiculturalists Islam is not, never has been and never will be a religion of peace to anyone oustide it's walls.

It's a way of life that shows zero tolerance for anyone or anything outside it's followers. Sure, there might be a handful of Muslims out there that are peaceful, but by and large Muslim societies are not. I think Mark Steyns book "America Alone" stated that 4 out of five of the worlds worst and most unfree nations in the world were Muslim.

This is why I'm wary of dialogue with Muslims. I have heard that because it is such an intolerant and violent religion even evangelists get nowhere in their societies. I think Muslims are better off living in their own countries away from everyone else since Islam is pretty much a way of life that doesn't lend itself well to a separation of church and state.


I don't want to be in conflict with Muslims but I think the best way for that to happen is for Muslims to stay out of the West and for me to stay out of their societies. I risk much criticism for these views but like Steyn, I'm not going to be silent when the end of the West could be only decades away without people like me who have a jaundiced eye towards Islam and multiculturalism.


I'm just glad you(Gary) don't live in Southern Thailand after this post or you might be practicing the "Headless Way" for real. If I'm over the top here I apologize, but this whole Islam/West/Buddhism thing is something I feel fairly strongly about.

G said...

No need to apologize, Justin, and thanks for the concern, as well. I am happy that you see 'Buddha Space' as somewhere where you can share your thoughts on these matters, my friend. So often, we suppress our views or pretend we don't have any, particularly those views that we think others might judge in a negative light.

Your wariness of Islam is understandable, given the bad press that it often receives in the West; sure it is a more politically-motivated and socially assertive religion than most, but there are millions of moderate Muslims in the world. It is these people that might be persuaded to accept the extremists views of the West, science, Buddhism, Christianity, America and anything else that the zealots despise. And, it is these people that I believe we need to engage in constructive dialogue with, in the hope of avoiding further problems in the future. This is why I brought up the subject of Yahya's 'Islam and Buddhism' in the first place: how should we as Buddhists in a global society respond to such a work?

Your idea of a segregated world seems somewhat out of date, to be honest, Justin. Many societies in the world are already mixtures of different cultures & faiths, our homelands of America & Britain being obvious examples. Over two million people in the UK are Muslim, out of a total population of sixty million. That's a sizable minority. One sixth or more of the world's populace is Muslim. We need to get on with one another in a neighborly fashion!

There is a certain parallel between your rather negative view of Muslims and that of the American atheist writer Sam Harris, who I've written about on 'Buddha Space' before. His solution differs, however, and seems to be an appeal to Muslims (and all other religious peoples) to abandon their chosen creeds and then unite in a global atheistic society: this seems pie in the sky to me, to be honest. But, it is also no less likely than Muslims and non-Muslims dividing the world into separate parts, and living apart from one another.

What to do, then? This is what we need to reflect on - and the answers may take some time. Hopefully we will have enough time to sort things out...

Be well in the Dharma,
G.

Purple said...

Gentlemen,

I must admit, I struggled for many years with my virulent dislike of Islam. I didn't think I could be a good Buddhist while being so strongly opposed to another system.

The more I examined my opinions, however, the more I came to see them in a new light. I am wholesale opposed to anything that furthers ignorance, greed and aggresion. The vast majority of the Islamic world is dedicated to at least one of these three, often two, as knowledge is strictly guarded.

I see my opposition as no different from my stance against groups like the Aryan Nation. They have a detailed philosophy, which makes them a belief system. However, their beliefs cause pain, suffering and terror and are therefore invalid. Just as in Islam, there are good points as well. A deep sense of community, strong bonds of fellowship and a devotion to something bigger than themselves.

To my mind, Islam is just another hate group bent on spreading its creed by any means. The notion that there are "moderate" Muslims is comforting, but ultimately pointless. The Qu'ran is quite clear - for the infidel there are only three choices: slavery under Islamic rule, conversion, or death. The book is full of violence and hatred, and moderate Muslims are guilty of cherry-picking their way to an uneasy compromise.

One of my good friends is Muslim and I love him dearly. It's obvious, however, that he is a Muslim in title only. He smokes, drinks and he married a white, Protestant infidel. He BELIEVES in the spirit of the Qu'ran but he doesn't PRACTICE its philosophies. These are the peaceful Muslims; the ones furthest from their faith.

Any way you look at it we come back to Gary's original question: how do we as a global community of Buddhists deal with this? Islam is unrelenting. It will never calm down or entertain any views or ideas that would adulterate the prophet's messge.

So what do we do? We've agreed that debate would be fruitless. I agree with the sentiment that "seperate but equal" is an anachronism. I'm not certain what an ongoing dialogue would do but I'd be willing to support it. Any path that physically exposes other people to practicing Buddhists I'm a big fan of. Proselytizing is useless. People need to see and feel the benefits this path can provide. The Dalai Lama would refuse to try to convert a nonbeliever but there's no denying that his presence is powerful and calming.

We must also be ready to argue our case logically and dispassionately in much the same way Western science presents its evidence in the hyserical face of fundamentalist Christianity. Those who keep their heads and present evidence based on empirical experience are more likely to be believed next to the apoplexy that zealots incite in themselves.

Also, I have to agree with the big-name athiests Dawkins and Harris here in their opinion that religious beliefs should not enjoy their sacred status. Why is it you can deride anyone for their parentage, politics, socio-economic status or homeland but the moment you touch on their religion you've crossed a line? This is an absurd double standard. Considering how powerful and influencial religion is in this world, it should not enjoy unlimited protection. It should have to be defended just like any other belief. The fact that your system may preach oppresion, hatred, violence, slavery and murder should not guarantee its existence merely by being labeled a "religion."

Of course, the best thing we can do is wake up. One buddha in the world is of infinite value.

Practice hard!

Dhamma81 said...

Gary-


Perhaps both my idea and the idea of Sam Harris are outdated as you say. I still think that Islam as a whole is incompatible with Western society and that Europe will learn a severe lesson for it's too lenient immigration policies and lack of national and cultural pride.

If there really are moderate Muslims out there then you are correct in that they are the ones that need to be pursuaded to stand against the zealots in their own faith. I just remember the video footage of the familes and kids parading in the streets with grins and excitement in the middle east when they saw the twin towers fall and i wonder if there really is such a thing as a moderate Muslim. Reagan once said "Trust but verify" but I turn that around and say verify first, then trust." I will not trust or have faith in Muslims capacity for nonviolence and peace until I see serious evidence for it which has yet to materialize in almost any corner of the globe.

I really hope that moderates in the faith can stand against the more radical ones but I am as skeptical of that as Sam Harris is skeptical of religion. I appreciate your non judgement of me even though I'm quite to the right on this and many issues. You're a true friend in the Dhamma.

puthujjana said...

Thanks for the links, Gary. It's good to know that there are efforts underway in this area.

As I see it, the dicey part of defending Buddhism is to ensure that the very teachings we wish to defend are not abandoned in the process. In the blink of an eye mindfulness can be replaced by fear, hate, anger...righteous indignation. It is then, I think, that the defense of Buddhism (or anything else really) devolves in to the defense of “me and mine”. Nothing surprising there of course. It's a human thing.

The skills of both heart and mind necessary to properly address attacks and misrepresentations, such as those found in this book, are significant. Discussions like this can surely help us as we develop these skills.

Kris

G said...

Kris, you make such a crucial, above. Mindfulness is the key to awakening, and if we drop the key, the door remains locked. Well written!

Recognizing that others are breeding greed, hatred, and delusion has its uses, but it is the recognition & letting go of these three poisons in one's own heart that leads to emancipation from suffering.

Throughout Islamic history there have been long periods of peace, just as there has in the West and elsewhere. It's not all doom & gloom. Today, there are Muslim communities & countries where violence is extremely rare, but it's the violent and extremist Muslims that make the news headlines, unfortunately. (Sufism is a thriving peaceful mystical path found all over the Muslim world, for instance.) Islam in general is a very politicized faith, which is the opposite to most forms of Buddhism, but should we as Buddhists judge this to be wrong simply because it's different to 'our way?'

As Purple writes, awakening to our innate Buddha nature is the answer.

G

jack said...

Interesting couple of posts and series of comments about Yahya's book.

I don't see the basis for either outrage or a defense of Buddhism that seems to be reflected in some of the comments, though. The attacks are relatively mild, though misguided, and certainly no more outrageous than the current Pope's comment that Buddhism was "mental masturbation." And they don't rise to a legitimate intellectual critique that is likely to be influential. They will make the "true believers" in Islam comfortable in the superiority of their faith just as most religious literature is designed to support and reinforce its adherents.

It might make some Muslims more virulent in their animosity toward Buddhism such that they might feel more inclined to persecute Buddhists. But I doubt that effect in a significant way.

The more I've traveled the Buddhist path, the less convinced I am that it is about all those beliefs anyhow. Getting the beliefs straight is only important to the extent that it helps one stay on the path in the same way that a reliable map helps. What others say about the map is of little consequence in its application as long as what they say does not deter one from the clear, honest pursuit of truth along a well traveled route.

Interesting to know the book is out there, though. And thanks for the effort to review it.

G said...

Fascinating comments, Jack.

I particularly like the quote you cite of the Pope's regarding Buddhism as "mental masturbation" - I'll be searching for that one! (Any idea where I can view them?) Actually, much of Buddhism does seem to descend into thought proliferation, with numerous "mental masturbators" giving their philosophical opinions on what Buddhism actually is or isn't. ;)

As to the book, Jack, if it is capable of inciting one Muslim to persecute Buddhists, as you suggest it is, then it's something that should be exposed for what it is - a shameful attack on Buddhism & Buddhists.

The book doesn't just attack Buddhist beliefs, Jack; it attacks every aspect of Buddhism, including its morality, meditative practices, and traditionally Buddhist societies. So, whilst I agree that Buddhist teachings are a set of tools to assist us in letting go of greed, hatred, and delusion, and are not to be clung to in the long run, it isn't merely beliefs that are being attacked by Mr Yahya et al.

This isn't so much to do with whether you, I, or any other Buddhist feels individually slighted by this work, it's that Buddhism as a whole is being misrepresented to the thousands and thousands of Muslims (and others) that read it. (I've read online messages from Muslims praising Harun Yahya for his promotion of Islam and criticism of alternative ways of living.)

Of course, it isn't worth getting hot under the collar over this, but with cool & wise minds we Buddhists can approach such issues with the purpose of representing Buddhism as it really is (for us), rather than as it is misrepresented in this book. If the book deters one person from walking the Path, or encourages one person to persecute Buddhists, then the damage has already been done; out of compassion for the suffering beings of this world, we Buddhists can at least attempt to put things straight.

Having said all that, it's good to read of your journey along the Way, and the sharing of such experiences can be the antidote to the sick lies found in books like Mr Yahya's. Islam has a wonderful history of mystics, i.e. the Sufis, whose practices and experiences have some parallels in Buddhism. These apparently peaceful & peace-promoting Muslims are perhaps the people that Buddhists can reach out to, if we wish to bridge the gap between the delusion of 'us and them.'

Thanks for your reflections, Jack.
Be well in the Dharma,
G.

Dhamma81 said...

The Sufis are perhaps the only branch of Islam that I believe might be approachable since they seem to deal with more of the mental and meditative component of religious practice. I always loved Rumi even though I never really wanted to practice the Sufi way.


The biggest problem with Islam as a whole is that violence and muder are literally written into the Koran and some of the others texts that Muslims find scared. There is a prominent Muslim scholar that says the "moderates" within Islam don't understand their own faith since if they did they would either be disgusted enough to leave or follow it to the letter and spread their faith through conquest and violence.

G said...

Hi Justin.

If we look at another monotheistic religion - Christianity - we see that in its 'holy book' there are numerous incitements to violence. Most of these occur in the Old Testament, a Jewish work, but throughout history there are plenty of examples of Christians willing to use any part of the Bible they could to justify war, oppression, slavery, sexism, animal cruelty etc.

Today, on the whole, moderates dominate Christendom, with even the Catholic Church ostensibly a peace-loving organization. (And, this, after a history of crusades & inquisitions.) Islam, also, can develop in the same direction: all things change, including religion. Look at how diverse the Buddhist traditions are, due to this law of change.

Obviously, at this point in history there are problems with Muslim extremists - but it won't, it can't last, because all things and processes are impermanent. In the meantime, as Buddhists we can cultivate peace & tolerance, but without compromising on the truth.

Keep up the good reflections, Justin.
G

Dhamma81 said...

I tell you Gary, I honestly struggle with the whole Islam thing. I can see what you are saying there about how things change.

I have heard that the call to violence is so clear cut within the Koran and the other Muslim religious literature attributed to Muhammed that one would pretty much have to deny Muhammeds words or pretend that the bad parts don't exist in order to act otherwise. Somehow the sufis have managed to eschew violence which should be an encouraging thing.



I guess I could consider that I am just a product of my time and that Islam is, unfortunately, in a virulent stage right now. As a Buddhist I've been trying my best to not hold ill will towards Mulsims but it's a real struggle for me.


On the one hand, a Buddhist is to show loving kindness to everyone, but the question I always think about is this; what about a nation state? Should a nation state always be non violent and peaceful even when history shows that wars and fighting to keep your nation and culture around are necessary? It's a question I haven't really figured out yet even though I know as a Buddhist I need to keep the politics out of it and let others deal in those things since the Buddha abhorred violence and cautioned against any kind of warlike conflict.


The way i see it, if Obama keeps apologizing for the USA and buying into the lies of every third world thug and Muslim theocrat then we are lost as a nation. Historically we cannot turn the tide around and save our nation buy pretending no one is out to harm us and that negotiation is the way to solve all problems.

The unenlightened heart is privy to all sorts of defilements and the unenlightened heart is what moves most of the world. So what to do as a Buddhist? Or should I or others in my predicament do or say anything at all?


I struggle with these type of thoughts very often. At heart I don't really believe in world peace as a possibility unless the majority of people are enlightened or at the very least streamwinners. Considering the narrative of history I don't see much hope outside of personal practice and acting kindly to those around you. Still, these things obsess me at times because it seems like to even entertain some of the thoughts I do makes me less of a Buddhist then the standards I read about in the Canon. What do you think Gary?

G said...

As mentioned previously, Justin, the call to violence is found in the Old Testament. There, too, the 'chosen people' are encouraged to attack & kill non-believers, and take their land, property, and wives! Other religious works probably contain similar admonishments. Thank God (!) we're Buddhists! ;-)

One thing I find worrying in your words, Justin, is that you write that you're struggling not to harbor hate towards Muslims, rather than Muslim extremists. Really, we should be careful not to lump all these people together - they are not all the same! Perhaps it's just your phrasing. (Also, when was the last time you projected metta towards President Obama?)

One thing I've found is that when someone really gets up my nose, a bit of metta-bhavana goes a long way. I did metta meditation for the Burmese generals, as well as their victims. Did it improve the situation in Burma? Probably not. Did it improve my outlook on the people focused on? Most definitely yes.

There can be no hate figures in Buddhism - not if we're serious about cultivating a pure heart. One of the most moving things I've ever seen is a father in Northern Ireland whose son was killed by terrorists there. Rather than indulging in his pain and criticizing his son's killers, this amazing man talked to the press about peace and the hope that 'the troubles,' as they were euphemistically called, would come to an end soon. Many reporters commented about this man's apparently genuine behavior & sentiments. I think he was a Christian, which illustrates perfectly how non-Buddhists can also be our teachers. (I'm absolutely sure that there are such people amongst the suffering Palestinians & Israelis, and the Singhalese & Tamils in troubled Sri Lanka.)

Buddhist or Muslim, Republican or Democrat, black or white - we all have the capacity for greed, hatred, and delusion. We also have the ability to transcend them. It would be somewhat presumptuous of us to assume that only Buddhism can lead to spiritual emancipation, wouldn't it? What of (some) Sufis, Daoists, Hindus, and Christian mystics, etc? If we believe that the Buddhadharma is superior to other spiritual paths we've fallen into the trap that Mr Yahya & the Islamists have. Personally, not having practiced any of these paths, I keep the 'don't know' attitude towards them, never presuming that they are devoid of enlightening factors.

Viewing our opinions about politics and other worldly issues through the contemplative practices of Buddhism can help us to transcend our egoistic tendencies on such topics. After all, right now, where is President Obama, Harun Yahya, and all the others? In our minds! We take these figures & related issues and turn them into mental objects to obsess over, losing our mindfulness & serenity. Meditating on them, by using techniques like metta-bhavana and awareness of space around thoughts, can liberate the mind from its self-made sufferings.

Be well in the Dharma, Justin.
G

Dhamma81 said...

Gary-

I really don't harbor hatred towards Muslims nor am I considering it. I guess what I mean is that I struggle with my worldview and the view of the Buddha.


I can't lie to you, I am very skeptical and wary of Islam and see no reason why we in the West should open our doors to them and trust them when there are mountains of historical evidence to support the folly of doing that.

I'm trying to start where I am and work with what I have. True, all those things that I and others can obsess about are just mental objects in the mind right now,just one of the 5 khandas in the language of classical Buddhism. It's helpful to think about that in those terms and I'm appreciative of that reminder.


You are probably right in saying that there are probably people in all religions that exhibit the peace and calm of that gentleman in the North of Ireland.


I struggle a lot with certain things Gary, but as you say, if I'm serious about the Buddha's way I have to try to see things in line with the Dhamma and all the challenges that looking at the world like that entails. Thanks for all the comments and the discussion and may you be well.

G said...

We've already "opened our doors" to 'them', Justin; 'they' are 'us.' There are over two million American Muslims, another two million plus British people, over four million French Muslims, over three million German Muslims, and about a million Canadian Muslims, etc. The West is, in part, Muslim. Indeed, many countries, Britain, France, and Germany for instance, have more Muslims than Buddhists in their populations. Not only is it too late to talk of not opening 'our' doors to 'them', it's also too late to consider closing the door on 'them.'

Part of Buddhist practice is to see beyond labels and religions, to see that all human beings are suffering, whether Muslim, Buddhist, or whatever. Yahya Harun is suffering, and, by the looks of things, doing his best to increase the amount of suffering in the world, probably in ignorance. In this regard, even if we consider his views of Buddhism highly distorted and misleading, he is worthy of our goodwill (metta).

Buddhism, unlike Christianity & Islam, does not view the world as a battle between good and evil, between 'us' and 'them.' It shows the interconnectedness of us all. This doesn't mean that we allow the Dharma to be misrepresented, but it also does not mean that we can dismiss Muslims or any other group of individuals as being unworthy of our friendship, compassion, and kindness.

Reflecting on the suffering of all human beings reveals the causes of their behavior, colored by cultural, religious, political, and other factors. It's a complicated web of interdependent elements, much as we are as individuals. How would the Buddha have responded to Islamist terrorists? Well, how did he respond to the warmongering of the ancient rulers that inhabited Northern India, as described n the Tripitaka? With wisdom, compassion, patience, kindness, and serenity. We can learn a great deal from his example.

As many commentators have written, the best thing we can possibly do in this current climate, as at any other time in history for that matter, is practice. Cultivate mindfulness, awareness, goodwill, compassion, equanimity, and sympathy. And, extend these qualities in all directions to all suffering beings. Not easy, sometimes, but definitely worth the effort.

Be well in the Dharma,
G.

Dhamma81 said...

It's certainly a challenge Gary, but it's most likely what the Buddha would do. I have work to do in metta practice but that is something I've realized lately and have been trying to attend to it.

G said...

Yes, it's an ongoing challenge for us all that still have defilements, Justin.

Being aware of what's going on in the mind and not following negative trains of thought, instead focusing on feelings of goodwill & compassion is a wise course of action.

Be well in your practice, Justin,
G.

Kwelos said...

For the historical background to this attack see links under 'Buddhists - attacks on' at the Religion of Peace™ Subject Index.

G said...

Thank you Kwelos for the link.

To be truthful, I found the references to pedophilia more distressing than the accounts of attacks on Buddhism; particularly the story of the Prophet's apparently pedophiliac relationship with his child bride Aisha. (Here in predominately Buddhist Thailand, pedophile activity appears to be rife, and the main culprits are not foreign 'sex tourists' as so often reported in the news, but native, presumably Buddhist, men. The difference with Islam is that Buddhism does not promote marriage with children, however; these men are acting in such ways despite the influence of the Buddhadharma on Thai society.)

As to the descriptions of historical attacks on Buddhists by Muslims, Buddhists can at least be thankful that Mr Yahya is not (apparently) advocating violence against us. Also, despite what is written in many of the articles linked to on the site you've referenced, most Muslims are ordinary, peace-loving people, surely? Is replacing the previous cold war with the Soviet Union with a much hotter one with Muslims going to make the world a more peaceful and happy place? How we respond to those that we perceive as doing harmful things is better motivated by trying to encourage the moderate majority rather than driving them into the arms of extremists, isn't it?

You have given us much food for thought, Kwelos.

Be well,
G.

Anonymous said...

Hello G,
As a Muslim I just want to tell you that Harun Yahya should not be taken seriously. He is conspiracy theorists and in no way represents majority muslims at all, if any. In fact as of last year he is in jail for some crimes he has committed.
Majority Muslims have no such views of Buddhism and in fact many Muslims (including my self) use Buddhist philosophies in daily life.

G said...

Thank you, 'Anonymous' for your encouraging comments. It's great to read the words of a moderate Muslim that has a positive attitude towards Buddhism. Something to reflect on for all those that think Islam is inherently anti-Buddhist.

Anonymous said...

I forgot to mention that many Muslims also believe the Siddhartha Gautama Buddha was also a prophet. Also, Islamic mysticism (Sufism) has many similarities to Buddhism.
Any way, I am studying some Buddhism (and other south and east Asian philosophies) and am trying to apply them to my daily life. I am glad that I found this site and am sure it will help me. :) Keep up the good work.

G said...

Yes, as a Buddhist Sufism has left a positive impression on me, too. It's good that some people have the humility to learn from traditions other than their own, isn't it?
Be well, G.

Anonymous said...

It's a wonderful thing!
I believe that all philosophers, prophets, messengers, and teachers came and taught for a reason and we should listen to all of them. It goes back to the Taoist philosophy of balance; though I chose Islam (specifically Sufism) as my main "path," I use and revere other religions and philosophies for my spiritual and philosophical growth as well. Everything from West to East. Unlike extremism which chooses one path and one path only, staying blind to others, religious pluralism brings balance and harmony. We can see in this past decade and past century what extremism has wrought. I saw that there was something wrong with that. I saw that extremism, who ever and whatever it was, brought pain and suffering and I didn't like nor wanted that. On the other hand, I saw that balance brought peace, harmony, and justice. There are villages in India where for hundreds of years Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. lived and still are together in peace, prosperity, and love. Why is that? Because of balance and respect! I wanted that. That made me happy and I chose that way.
Anyway, sorry for writing so much. Peace and love to you! :)

G said...

It is indeed, Anonymous.

Lovely to read of your expanding awareness of the different paths & the wisdom to utilize them in your own practice. Be well, G.

Abdul Iblis said...

I'm from Malaysia. There're growing islamization going on since the mid-70's. Younger generations of muslims here are getting moe intolerant towards non-islamic religions especially non-abrahamic. Hindu and Buddhist temples were demolished these days. The ustazs (islamic teachers) in schools demonized Hindus and Buddhists as Idol worshippers (Mushrikeen) or false religion followers.

G said...

This sounds an awful situation, Abdul. Reacting with compassion and friendship with these intolerant people may well not appeal to their better natures necessarily, but it may well influence wider society to be more tolerant and friendly to minority faiths. Let's hope so.

Anonymous said...

Dear brothers and sisters.

i am muslim form malaysia.i believe in islam's teachings. and one of them is to respect the faith of others.most of my friends are hindhus.and i get along very well with them.

but one thing stood out in harun yahya's book.The fact that whatever created in this world is for us(man) to benefit from for pleasure.We have been blessed with many things in this world.and we should be thankful to God for all of it and use what is gifted to us wisely.

From a budhist aspect, the believe that desires cause suffering.when in actual fact, desires also cause happiness.Desire is a human trait.and as long as we look at the positivity behind what we desire; to be a good father or mother, to gain certain wealth and success, to look for knowledge and so on..how is that suffering? in fact if we do not desire anything, if we all lived like budhist, you probably wont be able to have this sort of discussions on the internet.

secondly, in malaysia there are pretty much chinese budhist everywhere.they do not behave like budhist at all.in fact, all they do is look for wealth.how is that a budhist trait.it shows that the religion is flawed.it does not teach balance in living life on earth.How do we as humans, disregard the fact that all that is in this world is for us to utilize in a proper way..which is by means of moderation.

there are also so called budhist monks selling bracelets or begging for money walking around restaurants.is that budhism? i do not mean any disrespect.but its a fact.

also, i dont think by being a budhist you can contribute to society in any good way possible.

What happens if this whole universe collapses on itself? what being would they incarnate to? if its the right way of iiving, and other religions are wrong, where do we go? we as the created are limited to this WORLD(universe) we cannot reincarnate to something that does not exist if this world does not exist anymore.

it is flawed.the fruits of life is for us to enjoy with a positive mind and to be taken as part and parcel of life.by disregarding it, it means that they do not want to have a anything to do with living.

it is sad really..pain is suffering is just part of life that makes us grateful for what we already have.and its a blessing in disguise.

G said...

Hello Anonymous Muslim: Thank you for your comments.

You make a good point about suffering and desire...from a conventional and worldly point of view. Buddhism does not teach that desire only creates suffering, however, but that suffering is caused by human desire. So, you are right that desire can lead to what you call positive results. However, even these results of desire must come to an end, and in their impermanence is more suffering, for we humans cling to what we like, fearing its loss. Allt his is not to be believed, however, but experienced, especially with a calm, wise mind that comes of meditation. It seems unlikely that you are a regular meditator from your comments, so it's understandable that you wouldn't hold this point of view.

Your second point that certain behaviour of Malaysian Buddhists shows that Buddhism is flawed I would agree with, Anonymous, because all religions are thus flawed. Nothing is perfect, including Islam. (Your argument that misbehaving Buddhists illustrate the flawed nature of Buddhism also stands for misbehaving Muslims - they show the imperfect nature of Islam!) Perfection does not lie in Buddhism, Islam, or any other conditioned phenomena, but in that which is unconditioned. In Buddhism, this is often called nirvana, and in Islamic Sufism, it is known as fana. To read up a (very) basic definition of this term, please copy and paste the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fana_%28Sufism%29

The following statement that you wrote is astounding, however, and it doesn't really derserve any response: "also, i dont think by being a budhist you can contribute to society in any good way possible." How could you write such a thing, Anonymous, when you began your comment by saying that "i am muslim form malaysia.i believe in islam's teachings. and one of them is to respect the faith of others." On this evidence, perhaps you yourself are an example of the flawed nature of Islam and Muslims! ;-)

Buddhism doesn't teach that we must not enjoy the fruits of our endeavors, Anonymous, as you claim, but that we should do so with wisdom if we wish to transcend suffering and help others to do so. If we understand the nature of the mind, not from philosophy or books, but from direct experience, we will see the fallacy of the self - this is what the great Sufi masters have known for centuries. Then, we will achieve fana, or nirvana, and we will truly be able to help others to a happy life.

Peace be with you, Anonymous Muslim,
G (and all 'true' Buddhists).

Anonymous said...

When one proposes to criticise an unknown area, one needs to have a profound konwledge and understanding of it. Did Buddha show us something out of the ordinary as suffering or evanesence? He simply expostulated on the common relaities of beings - as birth, life and death of not only men but also of all things. Why did not many other persons see this fundamental truth of all worldly substances and beings ? ( Of course many philosohers and wise have admitted this phenominon). My feeling is that this truth can never be negated. To practise suffering is just opposed to buddhist sayings. It was another belief that prevailed in India at the time of Birth of Buddha.( "Attakilamatanuyoga"), the other extreme being enjoying this life to the utmost ( "Kamasulallikanuyoga") It is the Middle path that He preached. He has extensively preached on how to be a rich, happy, contented person who will have a comfortable life now and in the next birth. Mr. Yahiya needs to study the real scriptures of "Therawada" buddhism to comprehend its reality before cricising it. As a person who has done a liittle comparative study of many a promonent faith I respect these faiths as means of promoting good human values and emotions. Yet all religions have corrupt versions which must not be accepted as the genuine. By concentraing on these, we will not see the absolute truth I practise "metta" on adversaries of all faiths and will never dare to criticise a faith to hurt the feelings of its followers.

G said...

Thank you for your well-considered comments, Anonymous Buddhist. You make many valid points, and display a wisdom that Mr Yahya clearly lacks.

Shaun said...

This man is clearly spouting biased lies to promote his own ideas. It should also be noted that he is a holocaust denier and anti-semite. He is obviously filled with much hate and probably many insecurities. I hope one day he can find peace. Metta.

G said...

Yes, Shaun, let's hope he finds peace - and that he then shares this peace with others, instead of spreading misinformation & negativity.

Be well Shaun,
G.

Ain said...

"In this book, we invite Buddhists and all others, for whatever reason, feel sympathy this superstitious religion to understand the truth that there is no god but God; and to accept that God is One and that there is no other.
(Ibid. page 177)"

This shows how close-minded Yahya and his religion is (in oppose to Buddha who encouraged his followers to examine what he said rather than blindly believing it. So, which one is superstitious!?

G said...

Good point, Ain. Investigation is surely superior to blind faith, and tolerance better than condemnation. May Mr Yahya discover the qualities of honest investigation & tolerance!