Buddhism and Belief in God
by Michael Bell
(Atlata, GA, USA)
I was reading your Facts about Buddhism and your 10th Fact is one that I have been hung up on since developing myself into the Buddhist way of living.
I always was under the impression that you could not follow the God of Abraham and be a Buddhist. My own feelings and inner peace is that you can which I have been doing. However you are the first Buddhist that I have met that has made the statement you made.
Did I mistake what your intention was in the statement or is that what you were saying?
Thank you Micheal for your question. The question of Buddhism being a religion or just a philosophy is often asked a lot, especially by Christian believers.
Being Christian or of any other faith and strongly believing in it doesn’t usually sit well with accepting other gods or tenets as most religions are exclusive. The answer to your question is both easy and complex, this sounds like a Koan but unlike the Zen masters, I will explain it.
Buddhism, at its core, as the Buddha taught it, leaves out anything about a Creator God. It is a moral discipline. In the words of Steve Hagen, author of Buddhism Plain and Simple,
“Buddhism…is about relying on the immediate experience of this present moment. It’s not about belief, doctrine, formula, or tradition. It’s about freedom of mind. The Buddha learned to see directly into the nature of experience. As a result of his teaching, a new religion arose and spread throughout the world. In the process, like all religions, Buddhism accumulated (and generated) a variety of beliefs, rituals, ceremonies, and practices. As it spread …it accumulated …trappings: special clothes, hats, statues, incense, gongs, bells, whistles. Rituals, ceremonies, prayers and special outfits are inevitable but they do not express the heart of what the Buddha taught.”
In other words, like many religions, men have built-up a cult around someone’s teaching and have dietified him in some instances. In Mahayana Buddhism, the principal form of Japanese Buddhism, Buddha is considered an omni-potent and omniscient being. This is not, however what he taught himself. he taught that he was just a man, and the only thing that made him any different than most is that he was awake.
He also taught us a path that, if followed properly, will ensure you to awaken also and allow you to join the ranks of Buddhas.
It is my opinion and the opinion of many others, including some Catholic priests that the core principles of buddhism can be followed, practiced and one’s faith can be preserved except that it will probably be enhanced in compassion and awareness, which can never hurt when trying to be closer to God.
I recommend the following two books on the subject if you want more information by people wiser than me.