As some of you know, I used to be Catholic. I actually found the website linked in the OP a couple of weeks ago which fueled a lot of doubt on my part because here I am, knowing practically nothing about the Pali Canon, Madhyamaka, Cittamatra, Tantra, etc., in the stages of accepting Buddhism and yet a self-proclaimed Buddhist, who has studied and taught the rich tradition of Buddhism for 2/3 of the years that I've been alive, is accepting a faith and tradition that I formally reject. While I think of myself as a somewhat smart individual, I'm not intelligent by any means, I don't have time to read like professors do, and as I've demonstrated on this forum many times, reasoning and formal logic is not my strong suit. After I read Dr. Williams' conversion story, I panicked -- which explains a good portion of the threads I posted last week expressing so much doubt and hopelessness about Buddhism -- and I imagined that I was going to have to pull out the ol' rosary and Bible and get myself to confession.
I e-mailed Dr. Williams, asking him some of the same questions that I posted here on the forum concerning the hopelessness of Buddhism, the fearlessness of right view, the virtuousness of the brahmaviharas, etc. to see what, if anything, I was missing or wasn’t understanding based on my discussions here on the forum or my private readings. He responded to my e-mail in only a matter of days. I won’t post our correspondence here since it’s not fully mine to share. However, I was shocked by how little Dr. Williams truly understood the spiritual levity of the Dharma and how superficial his knowledge of Christianity/Catholicism is. For those of you who have read any of his books on Buddhist thought, one of the hallmarks of his writing is that he, when he was a practicing Buddhist, would explain difficult philosophical concepts in layman terms with practical significance. In his e-mail to me, it was as if all of those practical explanations were nothing more than academic rote – which perhaps they were. In a timeless tale of samsara, everything he previously proclaimed as true, everything he had explained with precision to others, suddenly became false or impossible or untenable.
He seems to be a man who abandoned Christianity as a rebellious youth without ever truly considering the breadth and depth of its institutions and rich traditions, he latched onto Buddhism as a source of study, confused his knowledge of Buddhism as being actual practice, woke up one day and felt existentialist dread, and used his powers of intellect to finally discover the richness of the Christian/Catholic tradition through the likes of persuasive writers like G.K. Chesterton and Augustine of Hippo. This isn’t a slanderous critique of the man as I’ve walked in his shoes before. Oftentimes, we thinking types confuse intellect with practice and belief. As in my case, the ability to recite sections of the Bible and Catechism of the Catholic Church in addition to theological arguments from Aquinas in defense of the legitimacy of the Catholic Church and the infallibility of the Pope doesn’t always equate with actual faith in those things; rather, you’ve managed to convince yourself that these things must be true in order to reinforce a particular identity which you’re trying to cultivate. Perhaps the same was true for Dr. Williams during his Buddhist phase.
By the time Dr. Williams responded to my e-mail, I had decided for myself that I was a much more peaceful person as a result of practicing the Dharma. His e-mail to me barely questioned the direction I was heading even though it was about three pages long. It was simply a series of indirect ramblings about how he needed to know that he and his family were real, that this life was real, that there was hope, etc. I'm happy he's found that for himself finally - I really am - but it doesn't work for me.