Monday, October 15, 2018

The view from the prison cell

Clearly in a sense Buddhism is atheistic. There is no creator God who set everything in motion, and there is no providential God who hovers over his creation and who is prepared to intervene when things go drastically wrong. For the Buddhist, there is no ultimate meaning to life in this sort of way. Life just is, always has been, always will be. That is the nature of things…Buddhism is certainly not unique in basically accepting the universe as it is and going from there. M. Ruse, Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford 2015), 182,184.

To my knowledge, that's an accurate summary of the Buddhist outlook. Since, according to Buddhism, reality is grim and you can't change reality, the best thing you can do is to change your attitude towards reality. Come to terms with grim reality. Lower your expectations. Learn to cope with despair. Make a mental adjustment to your hopeless situation, like a life sentence to life. Have a potted plant on the barred window sill of your prison cell. Logically, when exposed to the Gospel, Buddhists should jump at the chance to exit their prison cell. 


  1. My understanding is that's true of Theravada Buddhism which is original and quite arguably the truest form of Buddhism. Mahayana Buddhism is the other main and more popular form of Buddhism, a form of Buddhism where buddhas are worshiped and revered like gods, but I suspect Mahayana largely developed because people couldn't cope with Buddhism in its truest form. It was too bleak for the human soul to come to grips with. People needed something more, something transcendent, something to worship.

    1. I was thoroughly confused at the Tokyo National Museum today, because it had a section on Buddhism, and it talked about a Buddhist heaven, a Buddhist hell, and a bunch of gods taken from Hinduism (that part I kind of knew), and I had read about Buddhism. But it probably wasn't Mahayana Buddhism. Especially confusing was the point of Buddhism 1.0 is to cease to be, yet the first Buddha and other Buddhas are basically gods, yet if they had reached enlightenment, shouldn't they have ceased to be? I really wonder what a practicing Buddhist would say about newer Buddhisms retconning Buddhism basically.