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Re: Please don't misrepresent Buddhism

Matthew,
Thank you for your response to the dharma2grace website. I'll leave it to you to decide to what extent the site aims at conversion or dialogue. Ultimately, whether we are looking at Christianity or Buddhism, you cannot have one without the other. Buddhism, like Christianity, has been and continues to be a proselytizing religion, first seeking to convert the people of South Asia and, not too much later, at least from the time of King Ashoka, spreading the dharma to other lands. Both of us will benefit greatly by learning about each other's religions, and you may notice that so far most of the site's content is given over to the descriptions of various schools of Buddhism.
We are trying our hardest to make sure that we do not misrepresent what Buddhists actually believe and practice; but that's not always easy, given the many schools and sects of Buddhism. Still, we are emphasizing the many different schools rather than giving an overview of "Buddhism-in-general," which is bound to be wrong. Thus, if you see anything on the site that actually misrepresents the belief content or the practices of certain Buddhists within their context, I would welcome any corrections.
I must say, however, that the particular point you have chosen as an example does not fall into that category. It's not an issue of the nature of Buddhism, but simply a matter of conclusions based on historical sources. Pastor C's contribution is for the most part an interpretive essay, and he bases his conclusion of Christian influence on Pure Land Buddhism on the sources he has studied. These matters must be decided on the basis of evidence; accusing each other of moral turpitude does not take us very far. In fact, Matthew, if you can put together an essay that addresses the topic, based on interaction with the sources rather than on moral censure or polemics, I will gladly add it to the website.
Two other points in that regard: If you look at the first page of my survey of Pure Land Buddhism--which is far from complete--you will notice that I do not share Pastor C's conclusion. Pure Land Buddhism got its start with the anonymous Longer Pure Land Sutra and the commentaries on it by Nagarjuna and Vasubandhu, Even if there there was some exchange of ideas between a few Christians and Buddhists at some time in some place, it seems to me highly questionable that either religion had a lasting impact on the other. Nonetheless, when it comes to the interpretation of historical data, I will not use my own conclusions as the ultimate standard. If one wants to maintain a discussion, one must be willing to allow people of different convictions to express their inferences. Vilifying them or accusing them of deliberately lying only grinds a potentially helpful discussion into the ground.
My second point is that, even if it were the case that Pure Land Buddhism was influenced by Christian thought at certain points, such a scenario would not demean the integrity of Buddhism as a religion. For example, there is no question that Master Chenyen who founded the Tzu Chi Society in Taiwan was influenced by Christian models of mercy and compassion. Still, she is no less a Buddhist for that. The examples of Christian works of mercy inspired her to interpret the benevolence of a bodhisattva in far more tangible ways than many had done before her. The impetus from Christianity was there, but its implementation into a Buddhist framework stemmed from the teachings of a few previous masters, such as Tai Xu and Shinyun, both of whom thoroughly rejected Christianity per se. Shinyun argued that the so-called humanistic Buddhism of the twentieth century is actually a return to the original Buddhism as taught by Shakyamuni. If it took the stimulus of Christian examples to take Buddhism back to its roots, Shinyun acknowledged, this would a good example of "skillful means" (upaya). Perhaps something similar occurred with regard to Christianity and Pure Land; this question must be decided by evidence, not faith.
Matthew, I would enjoy continuing this conversation, and if we can make the exchange less vituperative, all the better. Karl Heinz

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