Einstein pitching religion?

Albert Einstein once did PR for a religion and it was not for Scientology. He is attributed as saying that he was not a religious man, but if he were, he would be a Buddhist. One of the versions of the famous quote goes: “Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and the spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.”

Whether he did really say that or not is questionable, but though I am no Einstein, if I was trying to make up a quote for Einstein, I would probably have said something like that! No matter. For the next several days I will be writing about Buddhism here. Today I deal with why Buddhism is so attractive to people in the West and over the next several days I will deal with the top 7 reasons why I am not a Buddhist. Tell me what you think. By the way, you can leave comments here even if you are not on Facebook (this is for Bob Mitchell. :)).

Buddhism is attractive to people in the West for many reasons. First, there is the lure of a “religion” without a God. In fact, many people say that Buddhism is not even a religion, it is a way of life. You can bring a god, no god, or multiple gods and simply add the Buddhist teachings to the menu. For people who are looking for a religion with no accountability to anything other than self and community, Buddhism is the ticket.

Secondly, Buddhism offers an explanation to the problem of suffering and evil in the world that is compelling to people looking for “scientific” type of answers. Basically, Buddhism is “pay it forward” perfected. If you are good, you progress; if you are bad, you regress. Suffering today is the direct result of having been bad in some previous life. This supposedly avoids the problem of a good and loving God that allows suffering in the world. In Buddhism, “karma” and not God, rules, and you only have yourself to fool.

Thirdly, there is a fresh and all-pervasive emphasis in Buddhism on compassion. Not just to your fellow human being but to the whole universe and all beings that have feelings. Most people aspire to be compassionate and loving and Buddhism offers them a hope of achieving that.

Fourthly, Buddhism in the West, and especially Zen-Buddhism, puts a great deal of emphasis on self-mastery. The ability to control one’s emotions and reactions; the dream of a mind that is at ease no matter what. I mean just look at Phil Jackson, the former Lakers coach, before he retired. As a practicing Zen Buddhist, you never saw him yelling and screaming at his players. He was a picture of serenity. For those who are old enough to remember, don’t you think Bobby Knight could have added some Zen-Buddhism to his sideline manners?

Finally, Buddhism, as it is practiced in the West, looks at this life as the  only game there is. There is no heaven and hell. Like a friend of mine says, “Our life is like the light of a candle whose wick burns until it is no more. Once the flickering flame is extinguished, you also go off into a state of non-existence.” Believe it or not, in an age when people don’t want to deal with personal accountability, this possibility can be very attractive.

So, my question to you: Are any of these Buddhist traits attractive to you? Why? Please post your comments and we will relay them to Mr. Einstein, that is, if he didn’t reincarnate into some bug or mosquito, as a punishment for bringing to light the theory of relativity, where everything is  relative and there are no absolutes. Oh wait, that’s not what the Theory of Relativity is!

Ivanildo C. Trindade