Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Luke » Thu Mar 15, 2012 5:51 pm

Hello, A friend of mine has the outlook that "All religions are different paths to the same goal", "All is one", etc. And when I try to explain to her why Buddhism is actually different from most other religions, she gets offended because I'm ruining her "all is one" bliss and she says that I'm just being "dogmatic."

How can Buddhists deal with such people?

On the one hand, I think that such an accepting outlook is a good thing because it avoids religious conflicts and makes people generally kind and tolerant, but on the other hand, it kind of numbs people into a sort of ignorant, hippie-like bliss which makes them dislike any Buddhist teachings which are clearly different than those of other religions and makes them dislike any degree of precision in religious philosophy.

My feeling is that I should say nothing to such people because they won't listen to anything I say until they've realized that their generic, bliss-fest has some limitations.
User avatar
Luke
 
Posts: 1679
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 9:04 pm

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Josef » Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:07 pm

Typically I no longer "deal" with them at all.

We often want to urgently represent a more accurate point of view with others. We dont really have to.
It is a whole lot easier and effective to just be who we are and do what we do in an authentic manner and if those around us pick up on it over time then we have successfully represented that authentic nature.

There is no need to rush to correct them.
Josef
 
Posts: 1565
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2010 6:44 pm

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Adamantine » Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:22 pm

Well... even the Dalai Lama goes into a skillful-means mode in pubic talks where he says similar things as your friend- -that the goals of all religions are the same, i.e. to help people become better and happier, and kinder, etc. .

So if you could likewise follow that example, and focus on the similarities with your friend, or begin the dialogue from that place, where you agree with her instead of being contrary.. then there is a place to positively organically take the conversation if it ever leads there.. (don't force it).

You could explain, eventually, if it seems appropriate in terms of time and context that they share the same goals, but the methods are often quite different. So you could focus on just the methods being different at first. Then, maybe a long time down the line if they accept that.. if the time is ripe, you could point out some aspects of Buddhist philosophy they may find interesting-- casually -- not in the sense of "Buddhism is not like this other tradition" or Buddhism is superior because.."
Don't push that. But eventually, if it is natural, you could offer some insights about the Dharma that if they remain open and listen to, eventually they will come to the conclusion on their own that things are no exactly the same between religions.

In the esoteric levels of each religion, they actually do begin to look more similar than their outer aspects.. of course, none of them are the same.. but they have potential to lead in a positive direction in general, which is all you need to focus on.
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
User avatar
Adamantine
Former staff member
 
Posts: 2970
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:09 am
Location: Space is the Place

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Indrajala » Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:36 pm

Discuss at length the qualities of suffering and how there is no happiness in samsara.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5964
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:41 pm

http://justbegood.net/

The above is a good website to direct them to. Everyone can get to heaven, but as we Buddhists know, it is still impermanent and there is a higher bliss; the freedom of nirvana.

But for other religions their goal is heaven and for that we can agree with them and say, "just be good" and no problem you will reach there.
User avatar
David N. Snyder
Site Admin
 
Posts: 2039
Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 4:23 pm
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Adamantine » Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:47 pm

Huseng wrote:Discuss at length the qualities of suffering and how there is no happiness in samsara.


This may be a tough sell for someone he has described as blissed-out.. some people don't like you harshing their mellow..
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
User avatar
Adamantine
Former staff member
 
Posts: 2970
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:09 am
Location: Space is the Place

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Josef » Thu Mar 15, 2012 6:49 pm

Adamantine wrote:
Huseng wrote:Discuss at length the qualities of suffering and how there is no happiness in samsara.


This may be a tough sell for someone he has described as blissed-out.. some people don't like you harshing their mellow..

Even a lot of people who consider themselves Buddhists get turned off by the discussion of suffering and impermanence.
These are points easily missed by manny.
Josef
 
Posts: 1565
Joined: Thu Jan 07, 2010 6:44 pm

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Thu Mar 15, 2012 7:46 pm

Nangwa wrote:There is no need to rush to correct them.


This.

Also, are they really that irritating? Frankly speaking, the world would be a much nicer place if people were generally inclined to believe that all religions are fundamentally one. No matter how mistaken and misleading such a view obviously is (is Dharma a religion at all?), it's still much more conducive to peaceful co-existence than any brand of religious fundamentalism.

I am perfectly willing to exchange every single monotheistic fanatic I've ever come across for those hippies of yours. I only hope there'll be enough of the latter . . .
. . . there they saw a rock! But it wasn't a rock . . .
User avatar
treehuggingoctopus
 
Posts: 593
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 6:26 pm
Location: Mudhole? Slimy? My home, this is.

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Acchantika » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:06 pm

Luke wrote:Hello, A friend of mine has the outlook that "All religions are different paths to the same goal", "All is one", etc. And when I try to explain to her why Buddhism is actually different from most other religions, she gets offended because I'm ruining her "all is one" bliss and she says that I'm just being "dogmatic."

How can Buddhists deal with such people?


All religions are different paths to the same goal, the cessation of suffering, including non-Buddhist ones. "All is one" is a simplistic way of saying that everything that exists does so in an interdependent unity without intrinsic boundaries, which is also correct. So maybe the best way to deal with your friend is to agree with her.
...
Acchantika
 
Posts: 292
Joined: Sat Jul 30, 2011 5:04 am

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby AdmiralJim » Thu Mar 15, 2012 9:11 pm

Just agree to disagree, I think the buddha said that when one encounters views of another sect don't criticise just maintain faith in the teachings, no need to make a big deal out of it.
I don't know where we are going but it will be nice when we get there
User avatar
AdmiralJim
 
Posts: 162
Joined: Mon Aug 22, 2011 6:11 pm
Location: Aberdeen, Scotland

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Kilaya. » Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:00 pm

Luke wrote: And when I try to explain to her why Buddhism is actually different from most other religions, she gets offended because I'm ruining her "all is one" bliss and she says that I'm just being "dogmatic."


The reason I chose Buddhism as my spiritual path was the lack of conversion and missionary activity, so I never have any problems with people believing whatever they want to believe. I don't think you need to prove anyone that Buddhism is "different" or "better" than their "all is one" concept. It might be a total waste of time. Let us suppose she eventually accepts that Buddhism is different. Then what? Will she or you or anyone be happier?
User avatar
Kilaya.
 
Posts: 80
Joined: Sat Feb 04, 2012 6:51 pm
Location: Budapest, Hungary

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:06 pm

Adamantine wrote:
Huseng wrote:Discuss at length the qualities of suffering and how there is no happiness in samsara.


This may be a tough sell for someone he has described as blissed-out.. some people don't like you harshing their mellow..


Clearly their bliss is fragile if mere discussion of suffering disrupts their bliss.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5964
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:09 pm

Nangwa wrote:
Adamantine wrote:
Huseng wrote:Discuss at length the qualities of suffering and how there is no happiness in samsara.


This may be a tough sell for someone he has described as blissed-out.. some people don't like you harshing their mellow..

Even a lot of people who consider themselves Buddhists get turned off by the discussion of suffering and impermanence.
These are points easily missed by manny.


Indeed.

I've noticed in modern Chinese Buddhism a tendency to encourage people to relax, but seldom the suggestion that death and suffering should be contemplated. Any meaningful discussion of death and suffering is thought to lead people to unease, which would inhibit their calmness, mindfulness and/or focus. This isn't the rule, but just the expectation.

This is why I think some tantrikas showing up eating hot and sour soup out of human skulls might do some good.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
 
Posts: 5964
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: Japan

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Luke » Fri Mar 16, 2012 12:15 pm

Nangwa wrote:Typically I no longer "deal" with them at all.

We often want to urgently represent a more accurate point of view with others. We dont really have to.
It is a whole lot easier and effective to just be who we are and do what we do in an authentic manner and if those around us pick up on it over time then we have successfully represented that authentic nature.

There is no need to rush to correct them.

Yes, I think you're right. My friend has already become interested in a few Buddhist ideas because of me, and maybe that's enough for the moment. There's no need for me to try and force the whole thing down her throat. I guess I should reflect on the importance of patience.

Buddhism doesn't yet have a very long history in the west, so I guess we western Buddhists just need to be patient with other people and try to represent Buddhism in a positive way and support our Buddhist teachers. Our Buddhist teachers and sanghas can accomplish things which we never could on our own.
User avatar
Luke
 
Posts: 1679
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 9:04 pm

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Anders » Fri Mar 16, 2012 1:34 pm

No need to press the issue imo. And at any rate, I think the such ecumenicality is often of trivial importance to one's practise anyway.

For example, I think Zen Buddhism and Daoism are different entities in some pretty important areas. But that's based on what Zen Buddhists say about Buddhism and what Daoists say about Daoism. A lay Zen Buddhist with a decent foundation in Buddhism and an open mind reading the Dao De Jing or Zhuangzi is probably gonna read those texts with Zen Buddhists goggles and gloss over the things that don't harmonise. It'd be easy to conclude for such a person 'Zen Buddhism and Daoism are really the same thing'. There are enough similarities to make such interpretations very easy to do, though it would likely be a rather different reading from what a Daoist would make of these texts. Is there any fault involved? Only in the sense of not doing proper justice to the Daoists texts as Daoists texts really. I'll give an example. A number of years ago, I was doing just that myself and had a chat few a few Daoists (one of them, a scholar and translator of Daoists texts) about this passage:

Heaven and Earth are not humane,
And regard the people as straw dogs.
The sage is not humane,
And regards all things as straw dogs.

I read this passage as talking about equanimity, not getting involved in partiality and such. And was a bit surprised to learn that Daoists read this rather differently. For them, in keeping with the anarchist ideals of Daoism, it had a rather more literal meaning: The sage, in harmonising with the way of all things, isn't burdened by compassion either. Which is of course, antithetical to Mahayana Buddhism (or any kind of Buddhism really). But that notion didn't even occur to me when reading it beforehand because of what I carried with me in my own reading of the text.

And you can do that with a number of texts and traditions. I think there is often a kind of platonic fallacy involved when making such distinctions as if the texts carried some inherently factual message that forever distinguishes one set of texts from another outside the hermeneutic circle, when the truth is texts are what we make of them to a large degree.

The important thing is understanding Buddhism and Buddhist practise to an adequate degree. If someone wants to think all religions fundamentally point to this thing (or do not) from there then it's not big deal to my mind as long as said person doesn't do a book tour to talk about it (ie Ray Grigg, what were you thinking).

At any rate, the moral of all this is that imo, the onus in all this should fall on having a proper and dedicated understanding of Buddhism (or failing that, a desire for it anyway). Tertiary matters like other religions' sameness or difference with this will sort itself out quite naturally once you have that.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
User avatar
Anders
 
Posts: 752
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:39 pm

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby Berry » Fri Mar 16, 2012 7:43 pm

Luke wrote:Hello, A friend of mine has the outlook that "All religions are different paths to the same goal", "All is one", etc. And when I try to explain to her why Buddhism is actually different from most other religions, she gets offended because I'm ruining her "all is one" bliss and she says that I'm just being "dogmatic."

How can Buddhists deal with such people?

On the one hand, I think that such an accepting outlook is a good thing because it avoids religious conflicts and makes people generally kind and tolerant, but on the other hand, it kind of numbs people into a sort of ignorant, hippie-like bliss which makes them dislike any Buddhist teachings which are clearly different than those of other religions and makes them dislike any degree of precision in religious philosophy.

My feeling is that I should say nothing to such people because they won't listen to anything I say until they've realized that their generic, bliss-fest has some limitations.


Hello Luke,

I recall the late Kalu Rinpoche saying in an offline teaching that all religions are paths to the same goal.

My opinion is that it is best for me not to take any notice of what other people say in general about their religious beliefs, to say as little as possible myself, and regard them with goodwill and equanimity .


Best wishes to you,

Berry
.
"Don’t burden others with your expectations. Understanding their limitations can inspire compassion instead of disappointment " ~ Chagdud Tulku
User avatar
Berry
 
Posts: 164
Joined: Tue Jan 03, 2012 8:19 am

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby rory » Sat Mar 17, 2012 4:58 am

As a lesbian woman I would tell your friend that other religions don't treat me the same.


You also might tell her to investigate B Ambedkar and the conversion of the Dalits "untouchables" in India to Buddhism. There is a nice comparison table as to how the Buddhist dalits have prospered as opposed to the Hindu Dalits.
http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php ... 75,0,0,1,0
http://www.buddhistnow.blogspot.com/200 ... sm-en.html

Dalit women are far better off as Buddhists
gassho
Rory
Dharani of Amoghapasa Avalokitesvara:

Om amogha-padma-pasa-krodhakarsaya praveshaya maha-pashupati-yama-varuna-kuvera
brahma-vesa-dhara padma-kula-samayan hum hum

heart mantra: Om amogha vijaya hum phat
User avatar
rory
 
Posts: 714
Joined: Mon May 16, 2011 8:08 am
Location: SouthEast USA

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Mar 17, 2012 1:49 pm

I think, actually, the problem is framed backwards.

The statement,"all religions are the same" assumes that first something definable exists which is, by itself, "religion"
and then only after establishing that assumption, says "this is religion, that is not religion" and so forth, and then "because these two things share an outward appearance, and one of them is 'religion' then both of them are 'religion' and therefore the same".

But what is "religion?" if we say that it is a search for peace of mind, or for happiness, then all sorts of things can be called 'religion'. Everything we do, going to a job, going to war, from the Buddhist understanding, is ultimately a quest for happiness and peace of mind. Most paths don't get us there, but the goal is the same. So, politics becomes 'religion'. Health care becomes 'religion' and so forth.

If we say that it is a journey of the soul or the spirit or whatever, then you have to define all those terms.
If 'religion' is rules and rituals, then again, any set of rules is 'religion'. Putting candles on a cake is a birthday ritual. But most people would not call that 'religion' even though candles and birth observances are often associated with 'religion'.

Then, you have to ask, "why do you call Buddhism a 'religion'? Is it because books on Buddhism are usually found in the 'religion' section of the bookstore or library? Is it because we have always heard "Buddhism: one of the world's great religions"? Buddhism doesn't assert the existence of a God, or of sins, or anything like that. Somebody may have called it a 'religion' but whoever that was, it wasn't the Buddha.

What The Buddha realized that despite people having religion or not, regardless of what people believed, whether they thought about gods or sacred rivers or demons or whatever, everyone was always striving for peace of mind, to be free from suffering and the causes of suffering, and to have happiness and the causes of happiness. If a person followed a religion or not, was to him really beside the point.

For that reason, Buddhism is not is competition with religion, and does not need to be put into the category of religion. You could certainly put it into the same category as "institutions in which people wear robes and chant with beads" but then again you could just as easily put it into the same category as "institutions which construct large and elaborate buildings" along with hospitals and automobile companies. But all these identifiers would really be irrelevant.

It is important not to confuse the teachings (Dharma) with the institutions which have preserved the teachings over so many centuries. You could say that the Dharma teachings have been preserved in institutions which to the western observer greatly resemble the religious institutions that arose in Europe. We use words such as "holy" and "sacred" and maybe even "prayer", but these are English language words used as simple translations for a variety of concepts.

Making such comparisons only happens if you already have some concept of a western church to compare it to. If you had never seen a Catholic monk praying with a rosary, it would never occur to you that a Buddhist monk with a mala looks similar.

So, a person may follow a religion or be an atheist, and still practice meditation, compassion, and many of the other things that are associated with Buddhism. It is only when one gets to the finer points, such as no-soul, rebirth, karma, and so forth, that these dharma principles might be in conflict with what a person's 'religion' teaches them. But Science often conflicts with 'religion' as well. Does this mean that Buddhism should be grouped together with science?
Would one then say, "all science is the same"? Probably not.

Many years ago, a friend of mine, a visitor to the United States from Taiwan, who had been doing some sight-seeing, asked me why, out of all the presidents, Abraham Lincoln was the only one who had a temple devoted to him. At first, I didn't understand, but my friend was referring to the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C, where he saw people coming there (pilgrimage?), talking to the statue, even praying! And if you compare the Lincoln Memorial to some temples in Taiwan, then indeed, Lincoln resembles a large seated Buddha. In fact, the whole structure was designed to resemble an ancient Greek temple.

So, from this person's point of view, this landmark looked like 'religion'.

So, you might ask your friend whether the Lincoln Memorial (or perhaps a similar monument where you live)
is a temple or not, and why or why not.
It is quite likely that, only because of the outward appearance of things,
your friend says 'all religions are the same' (which may be true in some respects)
and from these outward appearances, Buddhism is the same as 'religion'.

But the problem, I think, starts with establishing an abstract category, "religion" and then deciding what constitutes its component features.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2845
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Sat Mar 17, 2012 4:09 pm

:good:
. . . there they saw a rock! But it wasn't a rock . . .
User avatar
treehuggingoctopus
 
Posts: 593
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 6:26 pm
Location: Mudhole? Slimy? My home, this is.

Re: Dealing with people who think all religions are the same

Postby KeithBC » Sun Mar 18, 2012 6:44 pm

It is pointless to argue about religions, and that includes New Age syncretism. So, for the most part, it is sufficient to tell them that you disagree and leave it at that. Sometimes, even that is pointless.

However, I think that New Age syncretism is the biggest threat to the Dharma today. Its ahderents are convinced that what they practise is Buddhism (or "based on Buddhism, which is the same thing", they will say). The danger is that others will accept all the stuff that is contrary to the Buddha's teachings as genuine Buddhism and will miss out on the stuff that has been conveniently omitted from his teachings. While those adherents themselves are probably lost causes, it is important to speak up for the benefit of the uncommitted who are still seeking answers, to tell them that Buddhism is something different from that.

Om mani padme hum
Keith
User avatar
KeithBC
 
Posts: 414
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 5:22 pm
Location: East Coast of Canada

Next

Return to Personal Experience

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests

>