The sweet ingredients in Buddhism

No wars have ever been started in the name of Buddhism. That statement has been enough to drive people toward the Buddhist way of life. And who could argue against the principles behind the eight-fold path of Buddhism? Elsewhere here I have written about the idea of “Right Speech,” one of elements of the eight-fold path. Anyone can benefit from applying the principles of “Right Speech” to their daily lives.

Contrary to popular belief, Buddhism does have something to say about what a person should NOT do. This falls under the category of “Right Action,” which includes: a. Harming any sentient being (this the worst a person can do, therefore, many Buddhists are vegetarians); b. Stealing (includes all forms of robbery, theft, deceit and fraud); c. Sexual misconduct (not engaging in sexual behavior that harms others either physically or emotionally). I don’t know too many people who take issue with any of these, except maybe the likes of French actress Catherine Deneuve, who says it’s nobody’s business if she wants to wear a fur coat. And yes, I have to confess: I hate flies and my son is always asking me to kill spiders around our house!

“Right Livelihood” is another great thing in Buddhism. Even though some say Buddhism is not a religion, it does regulate which professions are good and which are to be avoided. And here is the list of majors to avoid in college: a. Trading in weapons; b. Trading in living beings, including slavery, prostitution and raising animals for slaughter; c. Butchery and meat processing; d. Trading in drugs and poisons, including alcohol and recreational drugs; e) trading your vote on raising the debt ceiling (just kidding about the last one!).

To summarize: no drug dealing, no weapons contraband, and about that favorite neighborhood gourmet meat shop of yours? Gone! And no more pimps and madams. And to boot: the end of the sex trade industry in Thailand, which, ironically, by the way, is 97% Buddhist. I mean who can argue against that? I can’t, except for the little detail about meat. If you’ve had Brazilian barbecue, you know why it would be hard to convert to vegetarianism… but that’s not even among the reasons why I am not a Buddhist. (You will start reading about that tomorrow).

As you can see, then, Buddhism has a lot going for it, so it is no wonder people the world over have a favorable opinion of it. On the face of it, it looks like the icing on the cake of whatever beliefs you already have going for you. And it does help when you also see that kind of sweetness stamped all over the face of the Dalai Lama whenever you see him on T.V. But is this all there is? How does one practice these noble things without the aid of a supernatural being?

That is the rub and we will start unraveling it tomorrow. We will see that while there are some wonderful truths embedded in Buddhism (and all truth is God’s truth), and some striking points of convergence with Christianity, there are some sharp contrasts as well, which will automatically eliminate the possibility of simply coating the beliefs of Buddhism on top of a Christianity cake that is already baked. Ingredients will clash and the twain shall not meet. Indigestion is sure to follow.

Ivanildo C. Trindade