Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Muslim Attack on Buddhism Part 1

Not so long ago, I was researching interfaith movements, and wanted to see how followers of Islam and Buddhism might be finding ways to have constructive dialogues with one another to help create a more harmonious world. My searches lead to a promisingly titled book ‘Islam and Buddhism’ by a well-known Turkish Muslim scholar called Harun Yahya. When I opened the e-book and began to read its beautifully illustrated pages, I was thoroughly disappointed, however. For, rather than being a book that explores ways that Islam and Buddhism can work together in the world, it seeks to criticize and discredit both Buddhism and Buddhists. Here’s a typical extract taken from the book’s introduction:

Throughout the world, but especially in America and Europe, some individuals have been intrigued by Buddhism, spurred on mostly by the superstitious, secret, and awesome qualities they perceive in this religion. Generally, those who adopt Buddhism do so not because they believe in the logic of its philosophy, but because they're attracted by its "mystical" atmosphere, drawn to this superstition because it is presented to them as far more different and awesome than any other philosophy they encounter in their normal lives. Books and films about Buddhism depict Buddha as the source of a great mystery. Likewise, Buddhist priests are presented as possessors of secret, arcane knowledge. They fascinate Westerners with their exotic robes, shaved heads, style of worship, elaborate ceremonies, dwelling places, meditation, yoga and other such strange practices.

(‘Islam and Buddhism’, by Harun Yahya)

Perhaps yoga and meditation are ‘strange practices’ to a Turkish Muslim, but who’s to say that they are to be universally considered so? Harun Yahya – or the many writers that he has working on the massive number of books that his organization has published – fills ‘Islam and Buddhism’ with such loaded and arrogant statements. In the above quote, of course, he has focused primarily on Westerners interested or practicing Buddhism, claiming that we are attracted to its superstitious elements and exotic robes! (I don’t know about you, but I have no fetish regarding Buddhist monks’ and nuns’ robes!) One might wonder if he levels similar accusations against Westerners attracted to Islam, particularly those that like to dress up in the exotic garb of the Whirling Dervishes, and spin in what might equally be deemed ‘strange practices’. Yahya goes deeper in his criticism of Buddhism, however, claiming that it is based on ‘deviant doctrines’. Deviant from what, you might ask? Well, we’ll find the answer to this in the following extract, along with another delightful attempt at describing Buddhism:

When we consider Buddhism's appearance, its scriptures, general beliefs, style of worship in the light of the Qur'an, we begin to see that its basic philosophy is founded on very deviant doctrines. Indeed, its worship contains strange practices leading its devotees to worship idols of stone and clay. As a belief, Buddhism is contrary to logic and intelligence. Countries where it has been adopted have mixed it with their own idolatrous ideas, traditions and local customs, joining it with myths and deviant ideas until it has evolved into a totally godless philosophy.

(Ibid. page 16)

Do those of you that are Buddhist, dear readers, “worship idols of stone and clay”? I can’t say that I do, and nor do the millions of Buddhists here in Thailand. True, we bow before statues of the Buddha, paying respect to his memory and humbling our egos in the process, but we don’t worship him as an idol (an embodiment of a deity). Oh, and is Buddhism “contrary to logic and intelligence”? One of the things that originally attracted me to the teachings of the Buddha was its very logical and systematic way of describing reality. Was I, in fact, deluded by what is in fact a superstitious and fundamentally strange philosophy? Like many Western and Eastern Buddhists that I have met, it is the very logical and well thought out teachings that continue to fascinate, not an obsession with ‘deviant doctrines.’ Yahya and his colleagues have a different theory as to why people like myself are attracted to the Buddhadharma – because we are disillusioned by modern materialism:

Those who long to escape from a materialist society's hard, disputatious culture—along with its worries, anxieties, quarrels, pitiless rivalry, selfishness and falsehoods—resort to Buddhism as the way to achieve peace of mind, security, tolerance and a fulfilling life. But Buddhism is not, as it is generally thought to be, a belief that brings contentment. On the contrary, those who are taken into Buddhism are often drawn into a deep pessimism. Even people with a considerable level of education and modern worldview will become individuals who see nothing wrong with begging with their bowls in hand, who believe that in their next lives, human beings may be reborn as mice or cattle, and who expect help from idols carved from stone or cast in bronze. For these people, Buddhism's deviant beliefs inflict serious psychological damage. In countries where Buddhism is widespread, or in regions inhabited by many Buddhist priests, pessimism and gloominess are clearly prominent.

One basic reason for this is the laziness and indolence that Buddhism inculcates in its adherents. Because it lacks any faith in an eternal afterlife, Buddhism does not urge its devotees to be better or develop themselves, to beautify their environment, or to advance culturally.

(Ibid. page 18)

Tell me, reader, have you been drawn into Buddhism’s “deep pessimism”? Have you been psychologically damaged by “Buddhism’s deviant beliefs”? As to countries where Buddhism is widespread being predominately pessimistic and gloomy, I can only write of Thailand. And what is the well-known nickname of this downtrodden Buddhist nation, as this might give us some clue as to its general level of happiness and contentment? Why, it’s “the Land of Smiles” isn’t it?! People in this country are usually courteous, generous, friendly and profoundly…happy. I can’t imagine a brighter or more fun-loving place to live in. Any excuse and the Thais are having a festival, a party, or just a good old-fashioned laugh. In fact, compared to the vision of Islam promoted by Yahya in this book, Thailand is heaven itself!

In the above quotation, Yahya displays real contempt for the Thai people, and any other nation that traditionally practices Buddhism. It is claimed that Buddhist devotees are not urged to better themselves. Is this true? What are the moral precepts for if not to better ourselves? Buddhists are encouraged to be kind, generous, charitable, friendly, and non-violent. We are discouraged from killing any living being, stealing, committing sexual misconduct, lying, or taking alcohol and drugs. Buddhists are taught how to meditate to develop more peaceful and contented minds. Are these not ways to better and develop ourselves? And, as to a beautiful environment, Thailand is full of gorgeous temples and parks, people decorate their homes and themselves in the brightest colors. Flowers abound wherever people reside. And, as far as I can see, this Buddhist country is in continual debate as to how it can advance culturally, looking for ways to improve on traditional modes of behavior that seem outdated or no longer relevant.

The word Buddha means "the awakened, or enlightened one," signifying the spiritual heights that Siddhartha Gautama is supposed to have attained. Those Buddhist teachings and texts that have come down to us do not date from the period in which he lived, but were written down between 300 and 400 years after his death. In the following pages of this book, we will examine these texts in detail and we will see that they contain false beliefs, practices that go beyond all logic and present Buddha perversely as an idol to be worshipped.

(Ibid. page 28)

Here, the book gives a reasonable translation of the word Buddha, but then inserts one word, “supposed”, that seems intended to cast doubt on the realization of the Buddha. Again, it is true that the teachings ascribed to him were not written down for several hundred years after his death, but then as those very texts encourage Buddhists to examine them with intelligence rather than blind faith, they are not to be believed without examination, anyhow. This is in stark contrast to the Koran, which Yahya promotes as the infallible (and therefore unquestionable) word of God, never to be contradicted. And despite promising a detailed examination of Buddhist texts in subsequent pages, the remaining thirty-five pages of the chapter from which the above extract comes, do nothing of the sort, instead mixing luxurious illustrations with numerous quotations from the Koran, which contain absolute statements that extol that religion above all others.

Today's Buddhist priests regard these texts as holy; they worship and organize their lives according to them. They portray Buddha as an actual god (God is surely beyond that!), and for this reason, modern Buddhists bow before his statues, place before them offerings of food and flowers, and expect help from them.

(Ibid. page 69)

Do you expect help from statues of the Buddha when you bow before them? And, do you consider the Buddha to be a god, as Yahya suggests we Buddhists do? No doubt, some Buddhists do appeal to certain beings and powers for assistance, much like a Roman catholic might ask one of the saints for help. Religions evolve over time. But, surely ‘Islam and Buddhism’ is dead wrong when it claims that Buddhist scriptures make the claim that the Buddha is a god? Certainly in Theravada Buddhist countries like Thailand, the Buddha is recognized as an enlightened man, not a deity, and this is based on the teachings to be found in the Buddhist scriptures.

So, what do you make of Harun Yahya’s take on Buddhism, dear readers? Is it a mere fad amongst us Westerners, due to a fascination with bald heads and robes? Is Buddhism inherently weird or strange, and by what criteria would one make such a judgment? Do you worship images of the Buddha in the hope of gaining assistance from him? Are its teachings on impermanence, suffering, and not self “deviant doctrines” in your opinion? Are you overly pessimistic or psychologically damaged by practicing Buddhism as yahya suggests you are? Do you consider Buddhist texts holy, as Yahya considers the Koran, no doubt, and do you think of the Buddha as a god? If ‘Islam and Buddhism’ is a Muslim attempt at understanding Buddhism, then there’s a long way to go for the two religions to find common ground! If, on the other hand, it is as it appears, an attack on Buddhists and their way of life, what should the Buddhist response be?

If you wish to read 'Islam and Buddhism' for yourself, please click this link: Islam and Buddhism (PDF)


JD said...

I think it's commendable that you would bring this sort of thing out into the open Gary. It shows what conservatives like myself have seen for years, that certain cultures and traditions are NOT the same and that dialogue is not always something people want. The claims he makes are probably perfectly logical from a Muslim perspective but do not hold true for a Buddhist such as the pessimism idea he brings out.

True, some people might be pessimistic by looking at the Buddha's teachings but to do so is seeing the dhamma with wrong view. The reason the Buddha pointed out the suffering in samsara was simply so we can contemplate and see the truth of it and then decide whether or not we wish to aim for the promise of enlightenment he taught was possible through human effort. Just the idea that the Four Noble Truths point to a way out of stress and pain is already far from pessimistic, but I can see why a Muslim whose whole worldview is wrapped up in the theism of Islam would fall into wrong view since he is NOT a Buddhist nor has much(if any) Buddhist understanding.

He comes from a religion and a culture that considers any kind of religious art depicting a master or deity as blasphemous. Perhaps he does not understand that bowing to a Buddha Rupa is merely a symbolic act and not at all wrapped up in idolatry.

Personally i have little interest in dialogue with Islam or anyone else. I think by and large we are separate religions and separate cultures that should remain apart for our own good. I like Separate but equal ideal where there is no forced integration and false platitudes to the failed experiment of multiculturalism and religious universalism but rather a turning towards our own traditions and cultures while respecting others from a distance.

We ought to understand our own
religions and cultures before we go on babbling about the cultures and religions of others. I think this guy is grossly misinformed about Buddhism probably in the same way I'd be misinformed about Islam if I tried to write a book discrediting his beliefs thjrough passges pulled out of the Pali Canon.

The way I see it, this guy is false from a Buddhist perspective but probably makes a lot of sense to Muslims since they view the world in such different terms. As for me, I wish no harm upon Muslims the world over but at the same time I do not believe or subscribe to their religion at all and am quite happy with Buddhism. I have no business among Muslims and if the have they same feeling towards Buddhists as the author of this book do they have no business amongst Buddhists either. See, separate but equal.

I think Buddhists ought to practice the Dhamma according to the Dhamma and forget about responding to this guy or to Islam in general.

We are out to put an end to suffering in our own hearts and if Muslims resonate with that they will either convert to Buddhism or find something in their own religion that can help them do that rather then go and make false claims about someone elses beliefs.

In the end, the criticism of someone is still just the worldy winds blowing. The Buddha was criticised by followers of other sects so what makes us different? As Ajahn Maha Boowa has said, "It's just the wind from someone elses mouth blowing in our direction." Practice the Dhamma and see the Dhamma and then no matter what worldy winds come your way you'll deal with them in an appropriate manner.

puthujjana said...

What you discovered comes as no real surprise, Gary. I don't get too wrapped up with what others may think about Buddhism, nor do I have much interest in other religions. It's all I can do just to maintain my own practice.


Handsome B. Wonderful said...

Great post. This books sounds like nothing but trash--a waste of time and space. I wouldn't doubt that this guy knows the truth about Buddhism but purposely trashes it to advance his own selfish views.

He certainly has an agenda to try and convert people to Islam. I know better than to say that all Muslims are disrespectful to all Buddhists. Or that Islam is a worthless faith. It's not.

However, Islam has had some problems over the years and often creates more hatred and suffering than relieves.

G said...

Dear Justin, Kris, & 'Handsome,' thanks for the comments.

First off, you all seem to be advising against identifying too much with being Buddhist and taking offense at this book; this is sound counsel. Buddhism does not teach us to view the world as 'us & them', which brings me to my second and main point.

Surely, in a global society and in multicultural societies as exist in many, many countries now, we shouldn't be looking to segregate Buddhists and non-Buddhists apart somehow, physically or psychologically. To suggest that, as Justin & Kris appear to, we Buddhists should keep away, and not be concerned with, Muslims doesn't seem particularly wise or compassionate. But perhaps I am misunderstanding your words.

Also, as Buddhists, do we have a responsibility to protect the Dharma from misrepresentation by others? Anyone who knows zilch about the Buddhdharma and then reads this book will probably be turned off for life. Is this good? Not everyone can be Buddhist, of course, and I have respect for Islam on the whole, but do we Buddhists have a duty to defend the Buddhist teachings?

The heart of what all of your comments is that we should make the practice of the teachings our priority, and I couldn't agree more. But, interacting with the global society we live in today, and correcting its misunderstandings of Buddhism, is part of that practice, isn't it?

Be well in the Dharma,

JD said...

Thoughtful reply Gary. I don't think that historically Islam has been as tolerant a faith towards anyone outside it's own despite the liberal Western views put out by the media and academia that suggest otherwise. And it's not just Islam that has shown strains of intolerance but other religions as well, although Islam is far more brutal and violent in it's intolerance then any other faith on the planet and the evidence to support that is hard to ignore.

Is it our duty to explain or defend Buddhism to others? I think that is a tough one for me. If you do it in a way that clarifys what Buddhism is without trying to convert or belittle someone else that is a good thing, but when dealing with religious beliefs there are so many easy ways for someone to take it the wrong way.

Islam is the only religion around today that I know of that doesn't really do much to prevent it's followers from feeling justified in killing others for perceived offenses so I don't know how far dialogue with Muslims would be if you were outnumbered.

When I spoke of "keeping away" I didn't mean it in a non compassionate way. I'm not asking for some sort of legal segragation but I think both Muslims and Buddhists should look at whether or not they can really get along and go from there. I mean an honest look and not just a cursory glance wth nods to multiculturalism.

I think most people really like to be with people who are like them. Multiculturalism goes against those feelings people have and so conflict grows from it.

The challenge we face is multiculturalism is like a religion these days and it has spread so far and wide we can't totally ignore the others our liberal social engineers have forced us to live with. The challenge is how can we all maintain a level of respect for each other while maintaining our very distinct and separate identities. We are not all one on the conventional level and to pretend that we are is dangerous. But what can be done?

I don't have any answers Gary. I just think maybe all religious people the world over ought to practice their own beliefs and keep religion out of public discourse or business affairs.

That idea raises new questions since for some religions, Buddhism included, one cannot totally separate religious values from the public sphere the way many secular westerners do. There is another challenge for us.

I enjoy discussions like this even though in my life outside blogging I keep my values and my religion to myself. As always, thought provoking. Hope I clriyied anything Gary. Be well now.

puthujjana said...

Gary – I wasn't suggesting any form of segregation, sorry if it came out that way. I've always been quite comfortable with people of other cultures and beliefs. My father was in the military so I was exposed to a wide variety at a very early age. We're all pretty much the same when you get right down to the nitty gritty. That's been my experience anyway.

I certainly don't have blinders on, but I don't go looking for problems or differences in people. I tend to focus on what is shared. I don't go searching for things that will stir me, or others, up. I spent enough years doing that!

You said in your post that this man was a “well known scholar of Islam”. What popped into my mind was well known to who? I don't travel in scholarly circles, or keep track of them. Heck, I don't even keep up with Buddhist scholars.

As to defending Buddhism, how would one do that in a case such as this? I feel that my duty, my responsibility, is to live this life in accordance with the Buddha's teachings to the best of my abilities. To live by the precepts, to be committed to this practice. To recognize that I too am still living with delusion. What more?


G said...

Kris & Justin - thanks for more stimulating thoughts.

Explaining the Buddhadharma to others without trying to convert them is a fine approach to this situation, Justin. It's sharing the Dharma. otherwise, if we practice only for our own sake and don't expose others to even just a little of the Dharma, we might be acting pretty selfishly, mightn't we?

Perhaps I'm an oddity, Justin, as I don't really prefer to hang around with people like myself, so much as associate with good & thoughtful people, irrespective of their belief systems or lack thereof. (Ah, perhaps that IS hanging around with people like myself!!)

As to Harun Yahya, Kris, he is a household name in Turkey (and something of a controversial figure for reasons I won't go into right now). He also has a big presence on the Internet, and many, many Muslims consider him a great propagator of Islam, which includes his attacks on other religions and science. He seems to have a big influence on lots of people.

Your approach to your personal awakening is admirable, Kris, and one that I very much share. More generally I defend the right of people to practice in isolation, whether it be in a Himalayan cave or in an American suburb. But, what of the Buddhist community as a whole - what do we think its response should be to misunderstandings & misrepresentations of it in the larger global society? Dignified silence? Indifference? They are genuine options, of course, but so is a concerted effort to present the Buddhadharma in all its glory. What do you think?

puthujjana said...

I don't feel that I'm practicing in isolation. On the contrary, conditions force me to practice right in the middle of it all – if you know what I mean. A cave somewhere is starting to sound pretty good. :-)

I share the Buddhadhamma as clearly as I am able when the opportunity presents itself. The Buddha's teachings are available and accessible if one is interested. I managed to find them and I wasn't even looking.

I'm curious as to what a concerted effort by the global Buddhist community to set the record straight on misunderstandings and misrepresentations might look like?


JD said...

I've read some of Mr. Yahya's stuff on evolution and I sort of liked it.Because I'm not a big science guy I thought some of his conclusions about science were pretty good minus the theistic stance he naturally takes by being a Muslim. I don't hate the guy, I kind of like his sense about things and his support of his faith, I just don't think his claims about Buddhism are valid.

G said...

Good responses as ever!

I wasn't suggesting you practice in isolation, Kris, but making a more general point, hence the words "More generally..." As stated, your description of your practice sounds much like my own. I was asking broader questions about how Buddhism should respond to misrepresentations of it & Buddhists. Like myself, you have questions rather than answers on this one! What would it look like, indeed? Perhaps it looks like this!

As to Harun Yahya, Justin, his detractors claim that he attacks any religion or science that doesn't concur exactly with his interpretation of the Koran. Reading his work seems to confirm this view of his work. Prominent scientists have picked big holes in his anti-evolution writings as they contain many, many scientific inaccuracies and mistakes. In one book, sent to scientists & education institutions all over the world, many of the photographs of animals & fossils are apparently wrongly labeled. I see nothing admirable in his work - a Buddhist equivalent would be to judge everything in light of the Pali Canon and criticize and misrepresent anything that contradicts the Tripitaka. What a nightmare!

Be well,

JD said...

It certainly would be a nightmare Gary. It just shows how I can sometimes get sucked into something when it appears to confirm what I want to hear about science.

G said...

I imagine that sucking people into his way of thinking is exactly what Harun Yahya has in mind!

From time to time we all get caught up in our enthusiasm for the Dharma & then fall short of living wisdom, don't we, Justin? It's a natural expression of being dedicated to the Way, and does no real harm as long as we're able to recognize & rectify it at some point. You seem very good at recognizing your inner states of mind & motivations. :)

Be well in the Dharma,

JD said...

Sometimes that ability of mine seems like a curse. Be well now.

G said...

Ha ha!

Thanks for making me chuckle, Justin.

G ;)

Casual Bud said...

Thank you G for posting this discussion.

I have seen a video by Yahya made to degrade Buddhism on YouTube. The video portrays Buddhists as selfish, poor, suffering from inferiority complex and unintelligible, and in every way an inferior religion.

What Yahya fails to understand is that Buddhism is conservational. Buddhism embraces diversity and preserves the cultures of the community that embraces the belief.

To say that Buddhism is superstitious in nature is not true either. In fact, a few prominent scientists have quoted Buddhism is probably the only organized belief system that coexists with science.

Hence, the deliberate attempt of glorifying Islam by derogating ancient (nevertheless harmless)
cultural practices by predominantly Buddhist society is regrettable. Such an attempt, if made against any Islamic element, will trigger a chain reaction of Moslem anger and call for jihad.

The claim that Buddhists do not care about the present is totally groundless. The karmic system requieres the understanding of the past causes that creates the present condition and the present decsion that is going to affect the outcome in the future. It's a prerequisite to care for the present.

Buddhists see ourselves as as one of the variables in the equation that leads to the harmony and peace of the society that we live in. We stick to good values that make us better and functional to the society. We practice moderation, tolerance, patience and loving kindness to others. As a Buddhist myself, I always make conscious attempts to be a better person, setting good examples
(hopefully) and help spreading the universal teaching of love and kindness.

I have interacted with many Moslems. Whilst a few Moslems are liberal and forward thinking, there are many who hold the opinion that living the moment is temporary and it is more worth to
"fight in the path of Islam" for rewards in an eternal afterlife. If only there are more liberal
Moslems ...

I agree with G on our responsibility to help others see the true teaching of Buddhism especially in context with our modern lifestyle. We can't do much if Yahya or anyone alike continues to attack Buddhism or any other religion (it's fine for them to do so from their viewpoint anyway), but we can play our role to clear these misconceptions.

G said...

Casual Bud, thank you for your thoughtful comments on this issue. I agree with pretty much everything you write, and the information about an anti-Buddhist video on YouTube is an interesting addition to this discussion. How many people have seen that video and been swayed by its arguments? I'll go check it out...

Reflecting on the many inaccurate descriptions of Buddhism given by Yahya & his accomplices, the thought passes through this mind as to whether he actually believes the stuff he puts out or not. Not sure which is scarier; Yahya is deliberately spreading misinformation about the Buddhadharma, or he's promoting ill-informed & misleading stuff through ignorance. Either way, there's not a lot to be positive about here.

In discussing these issues on a public-access blog, I guess we're doing something already to counteract Yahya's attacks, and if we continue to represent Buddhism in a truer light, then we're doing something that's worthwhile, Casual Bud.

Be well in the Dharma,

Kwelos said...

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

Anonymous said...

Upasaka Gary;

Thank you so much for the well written article!
There is a store or two that carry this book that i know of, they shall be visited by me again soon. i was looking it it the other day and considered weather i should buy it just to show others the type of lying mallice exists. i might still do so. Any way, thanks!

Om Namah Dhamma Gotama!
Bhikkhu aggacitto

G said...

Thank you for the kind comments regarding the article, Bhikkhu Aggacitto. I trust that you won't be cultivating any negative mind states if you do buy the book and use it as an example of "lying mallice!" (For then, you might have to adopt the moniker Bhikkhu Agitator!)

Be well in the Buddhadharma,

bodhitan said...

Frankly, I have lambasted Harun Yahya previously for his distorted views on Buddhism.
While he may qualify as a Muslim scholars, his understanding of Buddhist teachings are uncertainly very superficial. The intention of his book is very clear - to debase Buddhism; there is no dialogue to start off with in the first place.

Buddhist folks, please reflect whether we need to have dialogue with Muslims or Christians. Monotheism and Buddhism don't mix in the deeper levels like karma, rebirth, sunyata, etc.
Mutual respect and tolerance - yes, but acceptance - no. Inter-faith dialogues will hardly create any better understanding and a waste of time if it is intended beyond mutual tolerance.

G said...

Thanks for your observations regarding Harun Yahya, Bodhi1. His views of Buddhism are indeed distorted and seemingly aimed at discrediting it in the eyes of his readers.

As to dialogue with non-Buddhists, this can always be a beneficial process if we approach it with wisdom & compassion, irrespective of the other peoples' attitudes towards us. For, even if their intent is to belittle Buddhists, we can show the true fruits of practice by being calm & wise in our responses. Then all will see who is more worthy of respect & attention.

Anonymous said...

I am a practising buddhist and have practised Insight (Vipassana) Meditation as well as well observing the five precepts taught by the Buddha.

Vipassana meditation had showed me how our mind works and how wise mind and ignorant mind interact with each other.

Harun Yahya's criticism of the Buddha teaching showed how litte he knows about the Buddha's dhamma and not much he knew.

Inwardly, I think his ignorant mind is laughing at him for his stupidy rather than intelligence.

We have read in the Buddha's analogy:

A man seated on a raft floating in a stream moving towards a rapid should not laugh and condemn one who knows and advised about the danger ahead.

Harun Yahya's little wisdom will arise when he reaches the rapid.

His eyes and mouth will open wide, hairs stand on end and balls shrink
- but its too late.

I wish him good luck.


G said...

Nice analogy, Swan.
From the traditional Buddhist perspective, there's always hope for Harun Yahya in that even if in this life he doesn't 'get it', he will have plenty of future lies to awaken to the-way-things-are (the Dharma). Good to read that you practice vipassana meditation and keep the five precepts, Swan. Perhaps Harun Yahya could learn a thing or two from You - and then resize his balls!

Anonymous said...

As a fellow Buddhist I cannot help but to think that this writer is totally blind to the world around him. I have been following the development of many anti-Buddhism sentiments around the world and indeed alarm with its development. I think these blind people need to really examine their minds and hearts before making such accusations and claims.

In my opinion it is vital for them to evaluate why they are in their religion. It is by birth, by marriage or other reasons for that. I may be born as a Buddhist but my parents did not force me to be a Buddhist, instead they encourage me to evaluate all religion around me before making a choice which is either to follow their them or not.

For my experience so far, Islam has so far does not gives their practitioners the freedom nor the chance to evaluate their own religion whether it suits them or not. It stress that what is written in its teaching is absolute and challenging it is a sin. It is the critical trait which makes it pessimist. Christianity and Catholic also share the same trait with Islam as well, putting them in the same page though each has their own version of teachings.

To summarize, it is best they evaluate their own religion before evaluating other religion. What the writer of that book is doing now is glorifying his own religion while condemning other religion now as we can see. What is written is all nonsense and it is best ignored by all Buddhist. To end this I would like to say "Buddha is not a god as all Buddhist knows, he is just human like us who cultivate to cease suffering. Being enlighten is the fruits of his cultivation and his teachings is here to help us to cease suffering through cultivation." That is all I have for now.

G said...

Yes, Anonymous, it is well for all of us, religious or not, to examine our beliefs and presumptions about life. It is also a valuable experience to reflect upon our opinions regarding other religions and belief systems, as this can reveal aspects to our psyche that require transcending.

Of course, not all Muslims are like Harun Yahya, just as all Buddhists are not like the Dalai Lama. (What a difference between these two 'religious' men!) As contemplative Buddhists, we will benefit from not lumping all Muslims together, just as we do not want to be lumped together with 'idol-worshiping heathens'!

Anonymous said...

Buddhism as a pessimistic religion? When I hear the dhamma, my heart sings. Buddhism has been instrumental in bringing much optimism and joy into my life.

As for Yahya and his ilk, many people criticise Buddhism without understanding it, especially Christians and Muslims.

Gary, Dhamma81 & putthujana:
There's no dialoguing with Muslims. Islam, by its very nature, doesn't believe in interfaith. For them it's their way or the highway.

Quran 8.39
fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion should be only for Allah...

Am I taking the quote out of context? There's many more like it in the Quran obviously I can't list them all. Here's a link to an online Quran. Read it and judge for yourself.

To understand where Yahya is coming from, you have to understand that Islam is the most unyielding of the exclusivist religions, many times more than Christianity. I know most Buddhist don't know much about Islam. It would do us good to learn more about it. Islam's goal is to subjugate the whole world under Allah. It's the impetus for the countless jihads we see today and the creeping Sharia being experienced in the West. I know I sound like a bigot but this is from personal experience as well as from reading the Quran. If you have the time, please read, a website run by ex-Muslims.

G said...

Upon reflection, Anonymous, I do understand where Harun Yahya is coming from - the ego. Whether we attach to Islamic viewpoints, Buddhist viewpoints or whatever, we are acting from personality and its various motives to self-propagate through identifying with a specific set of opinions.

The ultimate joy in Buddhism is to let go of everything - even Buddhism - and live from the empty heart of existence. This is easier said than done, however, and most of the time most of us prefer to live from the (illusory) sense of being a solid somebody with certain set views. These views can be in line with the actual way things are and yet still be a cause for the unenlightened state. For example, believing in the Buddhist teaching of not self (anatta) is not the same as actually seeing it and living from it.

The Noble Way of the Buddha guides us to see beyond these self-created selves and dive into the heart of existence - the Void. May we gain the wisdom to do so, and therefrom display the compassion that comes from such awakening with all sentient beings, no matter how much they cling to their egoistic viewpoints.

Anonymous said...



G said...

Thanks for your opinions, Anonymous. But please be clear on this - your view on these issues is your view on them, just as mine are mine, and Harun Yahya's are his. And ultimately, Buddhism is about letting go of our views and opinions and seeing the emptiness that lies at the heart of all phenomena, allied with the fact that all beings that don't see this are suffering. May all suffering beings - including Muslims - be well and happy!

Abdul Iblis said...

Look what happened to Buddhist countries that turned islamic Like Afganistan and Indonesia. Fights and quarrells are the order of the day. Muslims in these countries will start a riot over a minor disagreement in opinions in Islam.

G said...

This may be true, Abdul, but then look at the recent history of countries like Sri Lanka, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, and the Koreas - not exactly peace-loving and without conflict! And, yet, Buddhism has continued to have a big influence in these states to one extent or another. Institutionalized religions are not the best examples of any religion when investigated.

Anonymous said...

"The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism." (Albert Einstein)

G said...

This appears to be spurious, spread on the Net (and in a book by Lama Surya Das) but without any corresponding words in books, articles & lectures by Albert Einstein himself. Copy, paste & go to this link for more:

The 'quote' itself is nice, though, and many modern-minded Buddhists will find it appealing.

Anonymous said...

Pro-UMNO MCA Is Anti Buddhist !
Contributed by Anak Mami

Ven. Phra Piya Thammo,
Rumah Pangsa
Blk A-7-9- Jln Padang Tembak,
11400 Pulau Pinang,

Dear Devotees,

Before I commence of my letter-writing toward. All of you, I would like to inform all of you that I am not satisfy with the lawyer, Dato YIP KUM FOOK due to his bad inspirit impressions because he sent an inspector to come to our Buddhist Temple to arrest me without any good reason, moreover, the lawyer, YIP KUM FOOK is not satisfy with Chief monk.

When the Chief monk had me to go to his Temple already and he went away and left me alone to take care until Chief monk come back to the Temple first and he also told me not to leave the Temple if any committees or the chairman want to chase me out, you don’t leave the Temple at all understand? Then I said, alright? To the chief monk! On the second Day, YIP KUM FOOK came to our Temple and talk to me. He tired to make some inquiry from me and he asked me, where I come from? I told him that I came from Penang.

Then, I told to the lawyer (YIP KUM FOOK, MCA Man) that the chief monk came to Penang and fetch me and invited me to accompany him to go to his temple in K.L. I am not aware that YIP KUM FOOK is not in a good terms with the chief monk, chief monk already in this way, YIP KUM FOOK try to create trouble with me unnecessary. That is why, the lawyer want to chase me out of the Temple. Then I asked the lawyer, why you want to chase me out of the temple? Moreover, the Temple is not belonging to you, UNDERSATAND? Then, I asked him, who are you? I don’t know you at all, you have no right to chase me or control me at all, UNDERSTAND? You are just like a layman only. Do you know the regulations that any the chairman or committee cannot control the monks and the Nuns at all, also UNDERSTAND?

I scolded him like that. Then the lawyer (YIP KUM FOOK) is not satisfy with me and he told me that he will called the police to come to the Temple and arrest me. I told him to go ahead and called the police to come and arrest me. I won’t run away, I said to him like that. I have done nothing wrong toward you, why you want to arrest me? He said, he doesn’t like me to stay here. I asked him, why? Again. After this he got very angry with me, then he phoned up to the police and the police came to the Temple and told me to leave the Temple.

I told to the inspector of the again, 1 am sorry, I won’t leave the Temple because the chief monk had instructed me not to leave the Temple without his consent, UNDERSTAND? Then the inspector told me to leave, again. I told him I cannot leave the Temple because the Chief Monk hasn’t come back yet. This time, the inspector got very angry with me and he took out his handcuff and try to threaten me, then I immediately show off my hands for him to lock me up but he scare, then again, the inspector told me leave the Temple again but I still don’t want to leave the Temple.

Then I phoned up to the chief monk again and I told him that the inspector insisted want to arrest me, you better come back to settle the case for me. After this incident, Chief Monk came back to the Temple and take me to go to another temple and stay their. That’s all about this incidents! Last of all, I would like to inform all of you, that no committees or the chairman can control all the monks and Nuns at all also UNDERSTAND? “They are higher than the King,” also! So how can the laymen, the committees and the chairman to control them: – EVEN THE KING ALSO RESPECTED THE MONKS AND NUNS. Why the chairman doesn’t respect the monks and nuns? They will carry the sins later on, UNDERSTAND?

Yours in Dhamma

Ven. Phra Piya Thammo
Penang, Malaysia
Tel: 04-8272710

Anonymous said...

A lengthy response to Harun Yahya's "Islam and Buddhism" has been written by Bodhidas. The response is meant to educate Muslims on Buddhism and is meant more for a Muslim audience. Many Muslims could also benefit from the teachings of the Buddha and may benefit from reading this. The address is:

G said...

Thanks for the link, Anonymous. I hope that the post by Bodhidas is read by many Muslims so that they are aware of the errors in Harun Yahya's book. Much obliged to you.

Josh said...

Hi Gary

I am a Mahayana Buddhist. Anyone can say any opinion he or she wants, including Harun Yahya. And if their opinions are arrogantly said and one-sided, it will just reflect the true intention of the author.

I've read some of his books and seen some of his videos. Especially the scientific ones. He presents really logical points and I like those very much. Then as he ventures more and more into religion, it will feel more and more like he is telling everyone "Islam is the only true religion. The others are rubbish. Come join Islam!". I've seen this type of Islamic campaign before, and he is just one of them that is very good at campaigning. The attacks on Buddhism are mostly based on beliefs and not based on logical thinking or evidence, unlike his scientific works. Most arguments to support his claims are quoted verses from the Quran and from my digging, I found that many Muslims around the world stated that his quotes are incorrect.

He also says Karma and reincarnation and superstitious beliefs are bullshit. But right here in my hometown, there is a powerful Buddhist master who does practice rituals. Whenever some people don't believe in the stuff he advices like Karma, spirits, offering food to Buddhas/Deities/Spirits, he will laugh and tell you it's ok and then say "You are free to ignore all this at your own risk". And then those people will often get what they deserve when they feel it for themselves. And they will come running back to him, saying "You are right..."

Harun Yahya is just some scholar or professor or something. But the master here is regarded as a "living Buddha" and still stays humble about it. From meditation, he can do a lot of things that ordinary people cannot comprehend. And so can other spiritual leaders like those in India. They can open up their minds and see into the future and into the past. So it's the word of Harun Yahya against Gautama Buddha and those great masters.

Anyways, I suppose we can still read his stuff but not let them leave a mark in our heads.

G said...

Nicely put, Josh. Thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

We would like inform to all committees of SAMNAK SAMBODHI BUDDHIST TEMPLE, No: 19 Jalan 38 Taman Desa Jaya, Kepong, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. There are so many Myanmar condemnations about when anyone wants to become the monks, who chief monk requests them to pay about RM400.00 per head.

This is one of crushing shame and exploitation because may be that cost high for Myanmar, also this is one kind of business system in Buddhist, all of us must think in correctly, Buddha went to became a monk with free of charge and he practiced to attain Enlightenment without any cent of dollar to spend, sometimes needed to referred from the Buddha times.

Buddhist Temple in Malaysia 100% supported by public. The committees of Temple, they worked as voluntary and take care of Temple with organized but in Temple not allowed to played politic because in Temple must be clean and welcome all everyone.

Recently, do bad and good must careful because everything’s huge complaint in Internet, about Buddhist teaching a lot of at Internet, sometimes we can’t tell lie to the others one.

We must help Myanmar people as they came to Malaysia to work, earn money and save money for their family at home.

We are Malaysia Buddhist must help Myanmar Buddhist, not to cheated them because they came to our country to work, we must show our good quality and our good Buddhist. Not like some committees members cheated money Myanmar monks; this is very bad Malaysia Buddhist.

Hope YIP KUM FOOK (MCA GOMBAK) realizes himself, now many people know in what he done for Buddhist, Buddhist Kamma will attack to everyone, if they do bad or good.

Ah Lee
Bukit Desa, Kepong…..

G said...

Corruption is indeed a problem in many Buddhist institutions, as it is elsewhere. It is a testament to the generosity of human beings that monasteries are still supported by laity. Merit to all! Metta to all!

Ishmael said...

I am an orthodox Muslim, and I think after reading one of his poems, that Islam and Buddhism have more in common than atheism and Buddhism. Why does he say this if he does not believe in God: Dull repetition is the impurity of prayers? He believes in an Afterlife, asceticism, condemns lust and alcohol, all like Islam. For atheists lust and pleasure is a human right like gay rights and secularism is an ideal while Buddha is condemning worldliness here. Also the concept of Mara tells that female seduction is demonic which is against sexual perversion atheism teaches.

G said...

Hello, Ishmael. I think you're right - or at least half right! Yes, Buddhism shares many things with Islam, as you rightly point out. This, however, does not mean that Buddha believed in an all-powerful creator god such as Allah. The three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity & Islam) have much more in common in their theological beliefs than any of them do with Buddhism, whereas Buddha's view of the universe & our place in it has much in common with the modern scientific understanding, which by extension includes atheism.

Being atheist does not mean that someone lacks morals or an ethical structure to their life. This is a common misunderstanding (and misrepresentation) of atheists by theists. Being kind & honest, not stealing, raping or attacking others are common ethical standards of religious & non-religious people. Finding the common values & modes of behaviour that we all share, whether Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, humanist, etc. is what's really beneficial to us all. May we all live in peace & mutual respect.

Anonymous said...

Saudara-saudara dan Saudari-saudari yang di hormati
Untuk keadilan dan martabat Buddhist, (Maruah Sami Buddhist dan Kuil SAMNAK SAMBODHI) Kami Ahli Parti Keadilan Rakyat tetap akan memberi segala pertolongan bagi mempertahankan, sekiranya Peguam Yip Kum Fook, MCA Pengerusi Gombak terus kacau Sami Buddha atau cuba memusnahkan kebudayaan Buddhist dengan kurang ajar

Ladies and gentlemen are in respect
For justice and values Buddhist, (dignity of monks and the Buddhist Temple of SAMNAK SAMBODHI) We the People's Justice Parti Keadilan Rakyat will continue to give all help to preserve, suppose that lawyer Yip Kum Fook, MCA Gombak Chairman continues to disturbs Buddhist monks or try to destroy Buddhist culture with disrespectful

为了正义和佛教的尊严,(佛教僧侣和佛寺的荣誉SAMNAK SAMBODHI),我们人民公正党将提供一切帮助保卫,如果马华公会鸱唛区主席叶金福律师(Yip Kum Fook, MCA Gombak) 继续无耻的凌乱僧侣或试图摧毁佛教的文化