Fr. Aristotle C. Dy, S.J.: “Is it possible to be a Buddhist Christian?”

Is it possible to be a Buddhist Christian?
A talk by Fr. Aristotle C. Dy, SJ
Thursday, September 3, 4:30-6:00pm
Conference Room 1, Ricardo and Dr. Rosita Leong Hall, Loyola Heights Campus
Organized by the Loyola Schools Chinese Studies Program
For reservations, call Ritch at (63-2) 426-6001 local 5280 or Lally at local 5208

Note: I was not able to attend this talk.  If there is someone who has slides or transcript for Fr. Dy’s talk, I would be happy to get a copy.  But here is a comparison of Buddhism and Christianity from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Buddhism vs Christianity

The fundamental tenets of Buddhism are marked by grave defects that not only betray its inadequacy to become a religion of enlightened humanity, but also bring into bold relief its inferiority to the religion of Jesus Christ. In the first place, the very foundation on which Buddhism rests—the doctrine of karma with its implied transmigrations—is gratuitous and false. This pretended law of nature, by which the myriads of gods, demons, men, and animals are but the transient forms of rational beings essentially the same, but forced to this diversity in consequence of varying degrees of merit and demerit in former lives, is a huge superstition in flat contradiction to the recognized laws of nature, and hence ignored by men of science. Another basic defect in primitive Buddhism is its failure to recognize man’s dependence on a supreme God. By ignoring God and by making salvation rest solely on personal effort, Buddha substituted for the Brahmin religion a cold and colourless system of philosophy. It is entirely lacking in those powerful motives to right conduct, particularly the motive of love, that spring from the consecration of religious men and women to the dependence on a personal all-loving God. Hence it is that Buddhist morality is in the last analysis a selfish utilitarianism. There is no sense of duty, as in the religion of Christ, prompted by reverence for a supreme Lawgiver, by love for a merciful Father, by personal allegiance to a Redeemer. Karma, the basis of Buddhist morality, is like any other law of nature, the observance of which is prompted by prudential considerations. Not infrequently one meets the assertion that Buddha surpassed Jesus in holding out to struggling humanity an end utterly unselfish. This is a mistake. Not to speak of the popular Swarga, or heaven, with its positive, even sensual delights the fact that Nirvana is a negative ideal of bliss does not make it the less an object of interested desire. Far from being an unselfish end, Nirvana is based wholly on the motive of self-love. It thus stands on a much lower level than the Christian ideal, which, being primarily and essentially a union of friendship with God in heaven, appeals to motives of disinterested as well as interested love.

Another fatal defect of Buddhism is its false pessimism. A strong and healthy mind revolts against the morbid view that life is not worth living, that every form of conscious existence is an evil. Buddhism stands condemned by the voice of nature the dominant tone of which is hope and joy. It is a protest against nature for possessing the perfection of rational life. The highest ambition of Buddhism is to destroy that perfection by bringing all living beings to the unconscious repose of Nirvana. Buddhism is thus guilty of a capital crime against nature, and in consequence does injustice to the individual. All legitimate desires must be repressed. Innocent recreations are condemned. The cultivation of music is forbidden. Researches in natural science are discountenanced. The development of the mind is limited to the memorizing of Buddhist texts and the study of Buddhist metaphysics, only a minimum of which is of any value. The Buddhist ideal on earth is a state of passive indifference to everything. How different is the teaching of Him who came that men might have life and have it more abundantly. Again Buddhist pessimism is unjust to the family. Marriage is held in contempt and even abhorrence as leading to the procreation of life. In thus branding marriage as a state unworthy of man, Buddhism betrays its inferiority to Christianity, which recommends virginity but at the same time teaches that marriage is a sacred union and a source of sanctification. Buddhist pessimism likewise does injustice to society. It has set the seal of approval on the Brahmin prejudice against manual labor. Since life is not worth living, to labour for the comforts and refinements of civilized life is a delusion. The perfect man is to subsist not by the labour of his hands but on the alms of inferior men. In the religion of Christ, “the carpenter’s son”, a healthier view prevails. The dignity of labour is upheld, and every form of industry is encouraged that tends to promote man’s welfare.

Buddhism has accomplished but little for the uplifting of humanity in comparison with Christianity. One of its most attractive features, which, unfortunately, has become wellnigh obsolete, was its practice of benevolence towards the sick and needy. Between Buddhists and Brahmins there was a commendable rivalry in maintaining dispensaries of food and medicine. But this charity did not, like the Christian form, extend to the prolonged nursing of unfortunates stricken with contagious and incurable diseases, to the protection of foundlings, to the bringing up of orphans, to the rescue of fallen women, to the care of the aged and insane. Asylums and hospitals in this sense are unknown to Buddhism. The consecration of religious men and women to the lifelong service of afflicted humanity is foreign to dreamy Buddhist monasticism. Again, the wonderful efficacy displayed by the religion of Christ in purifying the morals of pagan Europe has no parallel in Buddhist annals. Wherever the religion of Buddha has prevailed, it has proved singularly inefficient to lift society to a high standard of morality. It has not weaned the people of Tibet and Mongolia from the custom of abandoning the aged, nor the Chinese from the practice of infanticide. Outside the establishment of the order of nuns, it has done next to nothing to raise woman from her state of degradation in Oriental lands. It has shown itself utterly helpless to cope with the moral plagues of humanity. The consentient testimony of witnesses above the suspicion of prejudice establishes the fact that at the present day Buddhist monks are everywhere strikingly deficient in that moral earnestness and exemplary conduct which distinguished the early followers of Buddha. In short, Buddhism is all but dead. In its huge organism the faint pulsations of life are still discernible, but its power of activity is gone. The spread of European civilization over the East will inevitably bring about its extinction.

Aiken, Charles Francis. Buddhism.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 3. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 7 Sept. 2009 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03028b.htm&gt;.

(Note: The converse may be true: the present spread of Buddhism in Christian West is a symptom of the West’s abandonment of its Christian foundation.)

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

3 Responses to Fr. Aristotle C. Dy, S.J.: “Is it possible to be a Buddhist Christian?”

  1. I thank you very much for this post, because even though Buddhism is ‘all but dead,’ it is retained by the worst elements as window dressing for their godless behavior (I’m afraid I’m speaking of members of my own family). I tweeted on it recently:

    Buddhism, no plurals, just the One. No joy, no sadness. The Peace of Disappearing atom by atom into the Void.The temptation to suicide. Duh.

    But of course I didn’t address the issue as well as this post.

  2. I forgot to say, Buddhists have the second highest suicide rate, bested only by the atheists.

  3. laycarmelite says:

    This was also the assessment of an article written in “Carmel in the World”. Its high time that the writings of the Carmelite doctors of the church be made widely known.

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