Buddhism and Christianity: Rivals and Allies by Ninian Smart

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By Ninian Smart

Examines the kinfolk among Buddhism and Christianity within the context of our rising international civilization. It illuminates the way in which Theravada Buddhism doesn't healthy appropriate theories approximately faith and doesn't fit Christian (or Muslim or Jewish or Hindu) trust in God.

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Alongside Hua-yen and Ch'an it was one of the great creations of Chinese Buddhism. Since I shall be dealing with these last two schools in subsequent chapters, I shall not elaborate on them here, beyond saying that both are related to Taoist trends. The Hua-yen had a positive view of 32 Buddhism and Christianity the concept of dependent origination, or the interelatedness of all events. From much of the Indian viewpoint this was taken negatively: it showed that everything is relative so that nothing has its own svabhiiva or 'own-nature'.

Mao Zedong (1893-1975), 6 however, took a parallel view: the intellectuals and proletariat were also too weak by themselves, and so what was needed was an alliance with the rural masses. The peasants came in to swamp the opposition. The ultimate victory of the Communist Party in 1949 was to be a disaster for traditional religion and, in particular, Buddhism. It was a vulnerable faith, being so substantially based on monasteries, which could be closed or tightly controlled. Moreover the firmly Buddhist nation of Tibet had its traditional values suppressed to a great degree, and the flight of the Dalai Lama and his subsequent impact on the West have been a symbol both of Buddhism's weakness and its vitality.

Again the notion of grace becomes important since the great teachers of the Pure Land tradition came more and more to stress that the faithful only need to call on the name of Amitabha sincerely and they will gain these great blessings. St Francis Xavier complained when he got to Japan that Martin Luther had preceded him. There are strong likenesses between Pure Land Buddhism and the Protestant theological tradition. Such developments were predicated on the thesis that in the later days of Buddhism it is harder and harder to fulfil its teachings through self-help, and so the Buddha in his wisdom has provided for 'other-help', the easy path.

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