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
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
(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:
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