CHRISTIANITY AND BUDDHISM
- A transcript from The Hour of Judgment radio series -
Copyright (c) 1995 Kevin Solway & David Quinn
- Dr. Rodney Bucknell - Senior Lecture in Studies in Religion
- Rev. Dr. Apichart Branjerdporn - Uniting Church Minister
David: Welcome again to the only radio program in the world which deals exclusively with Truth, The Hour of Judgment. I'm David Quinn - sage. With me is Kevin Solway - sage. We are sages because we both have a perfect understanding of Reality and a detailed knowledge of the path to Enlightenment. Now some people think, when they meet us and look at our beards and our noble ideas, that we are like ancient philosophers - as if we're some kind of apparition from the pre-Socratic era. But this isn't the case. I mean, we are here, living and breathing in Brisbane, 1995, and every day we are spewing out our poisonous wisdom in all directions. And so I say to all of you out there: watch out! Because some of it might stick . . . Tonight we're going to look at Christianity and Buddhism together. How does Christianity and Buddhism relate to one another? Are Christians and Buddhists on the same path? Or are they going in opposing directions? Both Christianity and Buddhism claim Truth, and they each have millions of followers, but do they have any relation to Truth at all? We'll be exploring these issues tonight and to help us we have Dr. Rod Bucknell, Senior Lecturer in studies of religion, and whose main area of interest is Buddhism. He's from the University of Queensland. And we also have the Reverend Dr. Apichart- Branjerdporn, Minister of the Albert Street Uniting Church. Welcome, the both of you. Now, Dr. Bucknell, what do you do at the University? What's your main interest?
Rod: I'm with the Department of studies in religion, and also with the Department of Asian languages and studies, and my main research area is Buddhism.
David: Right, so what do you mean by "Buddhism"? Do you mean coming to the Buddhist wisdom?
Rod: Well, of course, what I'm doing at the University is approaching it as an academic, although in my own life I have my own personal contact with Buddhism, my own practice. So there's the two sides to it.
David: OK. And Dr. Apichart, you were born in Thailand, is that right?
Apichart: That's right.
David: And brought-up as a Buddhist?
David: And since then you've converted over to Christianity. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Apichart: Yes. I suppose most of the Thai people, when we grow up, one of the things we have to do in order to do the right thing for our parents is to be a good Buddhist. And furthermore, we are allowed to do more than that, and that is we can go to the Buddhist temple to become a Buddhist monk. You can pick from seven days to a month, three months, or six months. And in this case my parents talked me into becoming a Buddhist monk. So I did it, not gladly, but because they gave me some money to do something like this. So I felt that I have to ask them for how long I have to become a Buddhist monk. So I more or less did my best for seven days. [ Laughs ]
David: Seven days . . . ?
Apichart: At that time I think I must have been about sixteen or seventeen, and after that I had an opportunity to finish my education, in the area of commerce and things like this. And through my University years I came into contact with a missionary. They were trying to help me with my English. And I later on discovered that they are not only teaching me English, but they are trying to help me understand John's Gospel, regarding how you and I can have eternal life in Christ Jesus by putting your trust in him.
David: So you had some sort of conversion experience, did you?
Apichart: I think we call it a conversion experience, or else the explanation of truth regarding how we can appropriate something, or enlightenment, from somewhere else besides ourself. And because of my own particular need more or less meeting the other need, which is above myself, by beginning to realize that somehow I can depend on the above power there, that can help me to understand that I need all the help I can get.
David: Do you think Buddhism is too cold and too austere? You know, it's a discipline that depends on the individual himself to strive for this enlightenment. There is no God in Buddhism. So you felt, what, that you were seeking more emotional happiness through your submitting to this Christian God, or what?
Apichart: I think that in the Buddhism in which I'd been brought up with for many years, I discovered that there's a happiness within ourselves, that we don't depend on material things to make us happy. But at the same time, sometimes you feel that you are all by yourself, and sometimes you feel rather lonely. And then I have the experience or encounter with the Christian message, which is that we have a friend - sometimes we say we have a friend in Jesus. And then we have another Trinity we call The Personhood of Christ in the form of the Holy Spirit that can give us that intimate relationship within our own heart. And I felt that's great - it's just like falling in love. So we have that personal relationship, and then we have that other Trinity there, we call God our Heavenly parent, if you like. So in other words, I was beginning to feel that I actually belong to someone called God.
Kevin: Can I ask, have you reached any certainty as to whether this God exists? Or do you think it's a matter of probability that God exists?
Apichart: I suppose I believe that, through my studies and through my discoveries for twenty-five years or more in the area of the Bible and Christ, I have felt more and more that there is more reason to believe in God than not to believe in Him.
Kevin: So you're fairly certain, but you're not absolutely certain . . . ?
Apichart: Well, I would say it would be about ninety-nine percent at least.
Apichart: [ Laughs ]
Kevin: And what about yourself, Rod? You're a Buddhist. As far as I know, Buddhism doesn't believe in a God. Certainly, the Buddha never taught of such a thing. Do you believe in the existence of the Christian God?
Rod: Well, frankly - no. I've never been persuaded successfully by anyone that there was good reason to do so. And, in fact, I can remember from the age of about ten or so, I decided, "Well, no, it doesn't make sense to me". And so religion, generally, didn't make sense to me for a long time. I felt it was just talking about alleged realities that I had no evidence for. So I was very skeptical and cynical about religion generally. And then I encountered, in Thailand, Buddhism, particularly Buddhist meditation practice, which was what really interested me in the beginning.
Kevin: That's a coincidence, that it was in Thailand!
Rod: It's a very interesting coincidence. So here we have a Westerner who became a Buddhist and a Thai who became a Christian. But it was precisely because Buddhism did not have this notion of a Supreme Being at the centre of the entire teaching that it was so attractive. Because the idea of self- help, of inner development and so on, was perfectly acceptable to me with my rather scientific turn of mind. But at the same time I had come to realize that there was an aspect of life which material things and science and so on didn't deal with and didn't cover - which was one's inner life. And Buddhism, particularly Buddhist meditation practise, was concerned with this - it made good sense, especially when I tried it out.
Kevin: Now, of the many different kinds of Buddhism - there are probably more different kinds of Buddhism than there are kinds of Christianity - what kind of Buddhism are you most attracted to? There is Tibetan Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism . . .
Rod: Well, basically, Theravada is the one that I would particularly identify with, partly because this was the one which I first encountered. That's the style one encounters in Thailand, and so that was how I was introduced to Buddhism.
Kevin: So do you believe in reincarnation?
Rod: Um . . . no. And I was about to say before that there are some aspects of Buddhist teaching which, like God, I have no evidence for, and no inclination to accept because I have no evidence for it. I have no evidence against it either. These are things which I feel we just, at this stage, at least for myself, have no way of verifying it either way. So I just leave that to one side. It doesn't seem to me to be an essential element of it, anyway.
David: I think we should look at Jesus and the Buddha. I mean, do you, Apichart, think that Jesus and the Buddha were on the same path?
Apichart: I think both of them are very good, and they both have compassion, and at the same time they are both clean and Godly-living.
David: Right, but we had the Buddha who was teaching a very atheistic doctrine, and Jesus who was teaching his "God" doctrine . . .
Kevin: I think Jesus actually said "He who is not with me is against me." So the Buddha would seem to be teaching something which is against what Jesus was teaching . . .
David: And so was an agent of the Devil!
Kevin: It would seem so - if we believe literally what Jesus was supposed to have said.
David: How do you deal with that one, Apichart?
Apichart: Well, I suppose in light of that one has to compare with different data in the Scripture, as far as that fitting together there. So in one portion of the Scripture one cannot make a judgment that it is "this" or "that", because doing that is an injustice to that particular teaching.
David: But still there's the central thing that the Buddha was preaching an atheistic doctrine and Jesus was preaching about "God" - they're totally opposed.
David: Obviously, one of them must be wrong at the very least.
Apichart: That's right. But I think what I can do here is . . . the Scriptures, they're saying that Jesus comes in order to fulfil the law, or the establishment. So in a sense we're not here trying to get rid of "this" and "that" - it's a very inclusive type of thing. I suppose what I received from Buddhism is helping me to live that wholesome life, if you like. But at the same time coming to realize that there is something, as far as the principle of the belief in contrast to the practices, the principle is there - as far as there is Almighty God, the Universal God. So therefore there is someone up above there. Even Buddha himself said that "After me there will be someone greater than me." And for me, to figure out that greater one . . . I figure that it maybe similar to John the Baptist, trying to say that, "After me, Jesus will come along, and he is greater than me".
David: And so Jesus was a greater Buddhist exponent than the Buddha!
Kevin: Well, David, that must mean we're greater than Jesus!
David: Yes, that's right. It all comes down to what is meant by the word "God". Now I would argue that what Jesus meant by the word "God" and what Buddha meant by the word "Reality" are exactly the same. Both these words mean the Infinite, the Infinite Reality of which we're a part. And when you look at their lives . . . say, take the life of Jesus. I see at least two Jesus's in the New Testament. I see the wise Jesus, which makes up about ten percent of the Gospels - this is when he's imploring us to give up our attachments, to give up everything we hold dear for the sake of Truth. And there's about ninety percent of the New Testament which I regard as a load of codswallop - the miracles and the basic herd morality, the common morality. So I think that I, as an aspiring sage, have to discriminate. We all have to make these discriminations. We have to decide what is the wise part of the New Testament - or indeed what is the wise part of anything - and reject the rest. So how does that fit-in with what you're on about, Apichart? Do you make discriminations in this way? Do you think everything that was written in the New Testament is the word of God and there perfect, or are there parts which are no good?
Apichart: I suppose there's a progressive belief there. Sometimes we have to believe something that we can see, just like a step-by-step type of thing. There are many things in the Scripture talking about a Jesus who is a liberator. That is to say, he comes not only to save those who are lost, but also people who are poor. He has the compassion to help them. But at the same time there are many parts in the Scriptures talking about miracles, whereby when we have that intimate relationship with Him - just like any other relationship - when the two of them get together so well anything can happen. So there is that kind of ultimate relationship where there is a miracle - things can happen. I'm still learning as far as getting in touch with all those wonderful portions of God's Word whereby one can experience the phenomena of atmosphere whereby we can feel the supernatural intervention in our life. But those passages . . . I might not be able to experience it yet, but it doesn't mean that they're no good.
David: I find it interesting that the Buddha actually counselled against miracles, whereas the central tenet of Christianity is that of Jesus being raised from the dead after three days. Now to me this is proof that Jesus was not a wise man.
Kevin: Or, at least, his followers weren't wise.
David: Yes, but assume that Jesus is capable of rising from the dead.
Kevin: Oh yes . . . I didn't think of that possibility.
David: Just assume that these miracles are possible - so I'm not arguing here against miracles per se - just that if they are possible a wise man would never perform them. This is because it would encourage delusions in the minds of his followers - the delusion of personal preservation, preservation of the ego and so on. This is why the Buddha counselled against miracles.
Kevin: Let's look at this question of ego, because I think this is a fundamental difference between Buddhism and Christianity . . . well, maybe not so different when you actually look at the Buddhism and Christianity of today. Rod, what do you think about emotional attachments from your understanding of Buddhism? From my readings of the Buddhist Scriptures, the Buddha counselled against emotional attachment. Someone who is wise doesn't get emotionally attached to things; he doesn't feel emotional love towards women or any object in the world - they're detached. It doesn't mean they're not understanding and caring about reality, but they're just not emotionally attached. What's your understanding of this?
Rod: Well, the Buddha certainly teaches that attachment is the cause of suffering. If we're attached to something, then although there may appear to be pleasure and joy in the relationship with that object, there will also be sorrow in it, and it is taught that, ultimately, the suffering and the sorrow outweighs the joys and so on. Now this may sound as if we'd be better off being totally cold and uninvolved in everything, but the reality is, of course, we're not like that. We do have attachments, and it's simply unrealistic to say, "Oh well, I won't have any attachments", because I do have attachments. We all do. And what the Buddha advises us to do is to simply observe what goes on. To observe the whole process when we find ourselves becoming attached to something, whatever it may be. To observe the whole process and note that in fact it does generate suffering. And seeing this is all that's needed to convince us of the dangers in attachment.
Kevin: And when you see the dangers of attachment, then you become unattached? Is that what you're saying?
Rod: Yes. Of course, one can sort of intellectually say, "Oh yes, attachment causes suffering and therefore I won't be attached". But it's only through actually seeing how it works and how it actually does generate suffering--
Kevin: Yes, the attachment originally comes from a wrong understanding of reality.
Rod: Exactly. It's simply when we fail to see things as they really are that we become attached. And when we do see things as they really are, particularly when we see how attachment operates and what it does to us, then it just falls away. We don't have to say, "I must not be attached." All we have to do is see how it all works, see the process operating, and that's effective.
Kevin: This seems to me to be a major difference between Christianity and Buddhism. You never, ever hear Christian ministers telling their followers that attachments are dangerous. Love itself, human love, is a very, very strong attachment. The love between a husband and wife is a very strong attachment and is the cause of an awful lot of pain. When the wife dies, or when the husband dies, or when one of them is unfaithful, there is pain. Yet you never, today, hear Christians talking about non-attachment. This is another very large difference between Christianity and Buddhism.
David: Even though Jesus himself spoke against attachments! He counselled giving up everything you hold dear for the sake of Truth. And he said somewhere along the line: "Whoever does not hate his mother and father, brothers and sisters, wife, his children, even himself, cannot be my disciple." He said elsewhere: "Whatever is most valued amongst men is detestable in God's sight." So here is a total agreement with the Buddha. It is the root of spirituality, and yet it's what Buddhists and Christians, everywhere I meet, totally ignore - the actual spiritual teaching.
Apichart: I suppose one has to come to an understanding of the meaning of attachment or love. We Christians talk about four different types of love. That is to say, if we talk in terms of the physical love we talk about the eros. And then we talk about friendship, where we're really fair-dinkum about each other, where there's comradeship. Then we have another type of love concerning family love which is just within our own system, our own blood and life, where no matter whether we like or dislike we're still going to dip-in and help for any friend. But the last one, Agape - just like you've been saying, Kevin - that Agape just happens to be the same relationship that is used concerning the husband and wife relationship. So that love there is not detachment. That love there, we are not going to possess it. That love means a ministry or service.
Kevin: OK, so with true selfless love, there would never be any pain involved, because one is not investing anything in the love. It's infinite. It's an infinite form of love, or understanding . . .
Apichart: It's a giving love, rather than getting. So when we express that love we ask ourselves to whose benefit it is. And if it's for my concern then somehow that kind of love is a possessiveness, rather than a service or ministry.
Kevin: So, in the case of a wife dying and the husband feeling grief, this is a sign that his love was not true Agape love.
Apichart: That's right. I suppose in one way we think that we release whoever it was who died to the Lord, and hopefully that somehow it's for their own good. But the sadness is those who are left behind. In a sense, we're missing them so much. But if we have that Agape love there . . .
Kevin: You wouldn't miss them at all!
Apichart: It's not a detachment. Somehow, it's a release.
Kevin: Hmm, sounds interesting . . .
David: Yes, I don't understand what you're going on about there, Apichart. I don't understand this term "giving love". What does it mean? To me, if you're going to really love someone else then you have to provide them with the greatest gift in the Universe. And the greatest gift in the Universe is wisdom. Wisdom is the understanding of Reality. That to me is the greatest gift. So the act of giving love, the greatest act of love, is actually being a good teacher.
Kevin: I think the Buddha once said: "The greatest miracle is to know the Truth and to make it known to others." So true love is actually opening the minds of other people to the nature of Reality, to wisdom.
Apichart: That exactly.
Kevin: And you never find this between husband and wife.
Apichart: We yet have to learn the real meaning of Agape love, that God- given love. When we love someone I suppose we try to help them as much as we can to come to the realization of what love is all about. So we are not trying to control them. We allow them to have their own freedom. But we are not going to take the second best because that love there is about wanting them to have the very best, not the second best.
David: Concerning this Agape love, this unconditional love . . . . why would anyone get married? Because marriage is precisely possession. It is actually sanctified by law that you're possessing each other, that you're having exclusive rights to one another, that you're getting mutual pleasure from one another. It's incredibly selfish. So how does this spiritual love come into play there? Like you were saying before, Kevin: "You're either for me or against me." You can't dilute. You're either totally selfless or you're totally selfish. So how can there be spiritual love within a marriage?
Apichart: To be a Christian love there, we have to come to an understanding of that highest, unconditional love. So when we have that love there, we're not going to possess anyone. What we're trying to do is be of service. We are not going to go halfway but are going to love them one hundred percent, no matter whether we are going to be loved in return or not. And hopefully we are going to win that love from our spouse. So when we have that love there, certainly it's not going to take possession of anything at all. Rather, we are going to give.
David: It's interesting that Jesus was single all his life and he actually preached leaving your marriage for the sake of the spiritual life. So I find it interesting that Christians are living the complete opposite of this, the opposite of their own leader. It's extremely humorous to me. What do you think about that, Rod?
Rod: Well, I mean, people are human . . .
Apichart: [ Laughs ]
Rod: And it's fine for us to talk about pure love in the Agape style, but most of us are a mixture of all sorts of things.
David: Well, no. If you're going to call yourself a Christian . . . a Christian means a follower of Christ. Okay, we may be weak, but what I'm talking about is something different. What Christians do is they not only marry, but they get God to bless this marriage! So they're actually creating this great evil - the complete opposite of what Jesus was teaching.
Kevin: And people who don't get married they think there's something wrong with them.
David: That's right. This is actually turning the whole of Jesus's teachings upside down. So we're not really talking about weakness here - we're talking about something completely different.
Rod: I think that in any of the religious traditions there's a smaller number of practitioners who are really dedicated to the path of practice that they've adopted. And the vast majority of followers take the teachings as a general guide, but they're not one hundred percent committed. So that's why not every Christian becomes a monk and goes and lives in a monastery. And not every Buddhist does that either.
David: How do you mean a "general guide"? Jesus says do not marry - be as who I am, and do not marry - and Christians take it as a general guide and get married!
Apichart: Well, I think the truth of the record of the Scripture is that Jesus never mentioned that you should never get married. In fact, marriage is a sacred - I hate to use the word - institution. It's a sacred practice. In the Scripture, St. Paul said that if you have that burning desire, better not stay single - better to marry.
David: "Better to marry than burn".
Apichart: So in a sense the permission is still there. And at the same time the encouragement is still there that married life is sanctified by God.
David: Well, actually, it was Paul who said that, and not Jesus, wasn't it? Now I think that Paul had no understanding of Jesus in the slightest degree. And in fact the Christian Church evolved out of Paul's ideas, not Jesus's ideas. I can honestly say, that except for probably Kierkegaard, I haven't come upon any Christian, ever, whether living or in history, who actually understands Jesus, their own leader.
Apichart: Would you say, David, that Paul has maybe been influenced by Jesus?
David: No. Well, only in a very indirect sense. He had no conception of what Jesus was and what he stood for. He was just a very ordinary man, a common fundamentalist that you would meet on the street - a Jehovah's witness or something. He just fostered people's delusions. He encouraged people's delusions, like marriage.
Kevin: He made compromises where they should never have been made. Paul said, "Preferably you should remain single. How I wish you could remain single like me. But if the burning is too great, if the suffering is too great, then you should marry, because it's better to marry than to burn." In other words, it's better to marry than commit suicide or go completely mad! It probably is better to get married than to go out and shoot people with machine-guns. But that's different from living a Christian life. It's probably better to take drugs . . . it's probably better to take heroin than to go out into the street and shoot people with a machine-gun - and marriage is just like this.
Apichart: But I think the consequence of getting married, you have a family. And the outcome of that is that you have the full circle, the unit of the family. So one can have that appreciation from the love that we can share with the family. So I don't think it's just the burning desire, but so we can have that coming together as a family.
Kevin: Well, I think we'll just have a little bit of music. And when we come back we'll talk about the importance of understanding - the understanding that is necessary to know what love is.
[ MUSIC BREAK ]
Kevin: Well, after that Church music by Johann Sebastian Bach, we're going to talk about Agape love, or selfless love. Now before the music I was saying that we should start to talk about the topic of understanding. Now selfless love presupposes that we understand what selflessness is. If we understand what selflessness is, it means we understand what the self is. So now we're starting to get philosophical. What is the self? What is selflessness? Now from the Buddhist point of view, the understanding of Ultimate Reality is regarded as the most important thing. The philosophical understanding and the consciousness of Ultimate Reality is the essence of the whole of Buddhism. You don't see it practiced very often in the world today, but nonetheless that is what is taught. And this understanding of what the self is, and what the self isn't, is a basis upon which one can live one's life. And it's basically about realizing that you are not separate to anything else. When you try to find where you are, or exactly what this person is, it becomes impossible to find. Now this is an understanding that Christians do not have, this philosophical understanding of what the self is, and what is consciousness and so on. You'll never, ever hear about it being taught in Churches. So I would say that it's impossible for any Christian, at any time, whether it be by chance or not, to practice selflessness, because a Christian has no understanding, through no fault of their own, of what selflessness is. What do you think about this idea of understanding, Apichart?
Apichart: Well, I suppose, thinking through the whole idea of the ego, the self, the whole idea of "me", there's one particular Scripture that stands out vividly to me. It's the teaching of St. Paul in Galatians Chapter 2, verse 22 . . . no, verse 20, rather. It says: "It is no longer that I live, but Christ liveth in me." So in a sense he reduced himself into nothing. But I think you are right there. It is there in the Scripture, but maybe, as a Christian minister, we may need to say more in this area, concerning how we have to be daily dying to sin and self. And that's a big issue there.
David: I think Kevin was saying that understanding what the self is, and therefore understanding what selflessness is, is the prerequisite before we can actually practice selflessness, and that Christianity doesn't even encourage this process of understanding. It encourages people, rather, to submit to a book and a set of beliefs, and it encourages people to become more emotional, to seek emotional refuges. Nowhere in Christianity are people encouraged towards the actual understanding of the self--
Kevin: Or the understanding of God.
David: Same thing, at bottom.
Kevin: They're not encouraged to the logical understanding of what God is, of what Reality is. There's no investigation, even amongst theologians - it's not really there.
David: So how can a Christian be selfless, given this?
Apichart: I suppose in one way I take it that we may need to do more. Or in the past we haven't done good enough a job so far as convincing people to come to this analysis about who we are. So as a result we know that somehow, as a human being, we have to come to that realization that we have to die to self, so that another person - that is, God or the Spirit - can live in us. So as a result we don't have to have this struggle; we don't have to have this conflict by ourselves. We can have a helper, which is God the Holy Spirit. So the whole idea of self there, of this poor me, that somehow has to come to this submission, that I can't live by myself, that if I try to live by myself I'll fall flat on my face.
Kevin: Well, actually, I can't even see how the Christian God - the God that modern Christians believe in - I don't see how this God, God Himself, could be selfless. You see, there's two possibilities for God: either God is a finite thing, like a cup, or God is infinite, which means that there is no limit to Him - in other words, everything that we can see and conceive of is God. Some people would call this pantheism - the whole of Nature, and all of existence, is God. So God can only be one of those two, either finite or infinite. Now I've never met a Christian who believes that God is everything. I've met pantheists who do; I've met Buddhists who do; but I've never met a Christian who does. So that means that all Christians believe that God is finite, that God is not everything. God, in other words, has a self - he is something.
David: He is "Other" - that is how Christians describe it.
Kevin: Nonetheless, He also has a self - He has an "other" self. And if He has a self, then He's not selfless. The only thing that can be selfless is that which has no self, which is the totality, the Infinite.
Apichart: I think you are right there, Kevin. What I can say there is to put back into the relationship. I think getting to know someone, and the limit of getting to know someone, is that relationship. And if that person cannot deliver the kind of things that I expect from them, that would be finite of that person. But I think the whole idea that we're trying to have that relationship is not just only to know that person, but if I really want to know what love is all about, I have to explore in such a way, and say, "Well, that person may only give me that much, so it is finite, but I am getting to want to know more about that person. I want to know love". So love is infinite in the sense that it can go on and on and on. So the same thing with God. I can only know God when I allow Him to enter into my particular area of life.
Kevin: So you actually believe God is a finite thing? You don't believe God is everything?
Apichart: I believe God is both. God can come in when we allow Him. And if we put a stop there, He can go no further. But if we allow Him to enter deeper, wider, or more meaningful, I think the sky is the limit.
David: Well, if God is infinite then He cannot enter anywhere. He cannot leave or enter. It's just not possible. So we never, ever leave God, and God never ever leaves us, ever, in the slightest degree . . .
Kevin: If God is infinite.
David: That's right - which He is. So it's just false thinking that God can enter anywhere. It's egotistical. It's selfish that we even conceive that God can enter into us.
Apichart: God is a very, very gracious God. He is not going to be on a high-horse in such a way as to break into our particular domain. If we are not inviting Him, He is not going to come in. But if we allow Him, we can have a vital, intimate relationship, just like any relationship. So I think the ball is in our court. And if we want to play that game we have to pass the ball.
Kevin: You obviously believe in free-will.
Kevin: What about yourself, Rod? What are your thoughts on the subject of free- will and determinism? You've obviously thought about karma, or cause and effect . . .
Rod: Yes, that's a tricky one. We certainly appear to have free-will. But sometimes when we look a little more closely we can discover that we're not acting as freely as we imagined. If we examine all the elements of our decision making, very often we can find that we're just acting blindly, as if we are just some kind of machine. We find that what we're being driven by is our habits, our emotions, and all sorts of things like that. There's no actual deciding whether to do this or to do that - we just do it. We may say, "I'm doing this because I wish to do it--"
Kevin: But there's a reason why you wish to do it.
Rod: Very often, when we really look into it, we can see that there's one of these quite mechanical sort of processes going on in our mind which is causing us to wish to do that. Now I think that free choice only really comes when we have full, clear vision into what the total situation is, when we're able to see all the factors that are there and when there is a full understanding and insight into the situation.
Kevin: And we'll only have that if we're caused to have it. We only have choices if we're caused to have choices. So there's actually nothing that doesn't have a cause, and in that sense nothing is truly free.
David: Well, if we understand that God is infinite, then how can there be any type of will at all? Because it's God that does everything.
Kevin: Yes, everything that we choose to do is God's will. When I talk about God now, I'm not talking about the common Christian God. I'm speaking about God as meaning everything, the totality, or in Buddhist terms, emptiness, the nature of Reality, the thing that is all there is - there is nothing other than what I'm calling God now. Everything that happens is the action of God. If I choose to live a totally ignorant life, I'm doing it because I'm caused to do it, and those causes come from the Universe, from God. So it's selfish of a person to think that he can do something which is not God's will.
David: Or even that he has a will, that he actually exists! If God is infinite, how can anybody or anything exist?
Kevin: This is the question I think no Christians actually consider - whether God is finite or infinite.
Rod: Well, I think those sorts of questions one could probably go on speculating and theorizing about infinitely, and I wonder whether we'd ever come up with an answer. Of course, theologians--
Kevin: Well, we have! David and I have the answer.
Rod: Yes, of course.
David: This is interesting. Did the Buddha come up with an answer, Rod?
Rod: Well, the Buddha says the way to find the answer is simply to observe what we can observe. And if we start off with the premise that God exists, or that God does not exist, then what we arrive at is going to be right or wrong depending on whether we started off with the right premise. But the only way to be sure of not getting trapped in speculation and so on is simply through observing what is there before us. And what is there before us is the content of our consciousness and all the stuff that's going through our mind, all the experiences we have in life and so on. And that is the raw material that we have to work with.
David: I'm not so sure that this is what the Buddha taught. I think it's more that the modern commentators teach this.
Kevin: That's right. The only way you can "observe" is if there is a self which is capable of observing. And there has to be a consciousness to be observed. But if both the consciousness and the self are not really there, then it's not possible to observe anything. So I think it's only the modern, false Buddhist teachers who say that we should sit and observe.
Rod: But how do we know that the self is not really there?
Kevin: Through analysis.
Kevin: Well, this is interesting. You know, in Christianity, faith in God is supposed to be very important. Now my understanding of this is, again, completely different to modern Christianity. Reason tells me that Reality is Infinite, and that I am part of It. This is what I call God. But it's difficult to believe in it, because we see ourselves here, and we feel emotions occasionally, and we have habits - so it's difficult to believe that I am Infinite, and that I don't have free-will, and that everything that happens in the Universe is part of me, and that I am doing everything that happens in the Universe - it's difficult to believe. So it requires faith. That's not to mean that it's irrational. It means that you require faith in what you know, what you know to be true, after having reasoned about it. So when I reason about my own self, I know that it can't be found anywhere. And the reason it can't be found is because there are no boundaries which delineate myself from anything else. That's the reason I don't have a self. Similarly with consciousness. When I try to find where consciousness begins and ends, it disappears, the boundaries disappear.
Rod: You said before: "If there's no self, how can there be any observing?" But you just said then that you can reason things out. So if there's no self, how can there be reasoning? Just as it's hard to believe in an Infinite God, it's also hard to believe there could be no self. It seems as if there must be - I mean, obviously, I'm here. And so rather than trying to persuade myself that there's no self, or trying to reason it through and come to the conclusion that there's no self, I would rather examine what is in there. I would rather examine what it is I call myself, and just see, "Can I find it?" And on the basis of that I would be prepared to accept that there is a self or there isn't a self.
David: Well, it's funny, just as I was criticizing the Christians before, now I have to criticize the Buddhists.
Rod: Go ahead!
David: Because they're doing the opposite of what the Buddha taught. Now the Buddha, the original Buddha, talked about cause and effect--
David: --and no self, and the giving up of attachments. Attachments, you see, are based on the self. This was the kernel of his teachings - cause and effect. So it's not speculation. Understanding that everything has a cause leads to the conclusion that there is no self. It's iron-clad reasoning here.
Kevin: Of course, there is always an appearance of self. Maybe this is what you were suggesting, Rod. We certainly have the appearance of self, but just as a mirage . . . when you try to find this thing which appears to be real you find that it's not real.
Rod: That's right, and if you find that it's not there, that's fine. But just because the Buddha says there's no self, I'm not going to just accept it - just because it's in the books.
David: Fair enough, but--
Rod: One of the Buddha's fundamental principles which we should be following is: "Don't believe it just because I said so."
David: Okay, but at the basis of all Buddhism is the reasoning about finite and infinite. Now everything that exists is finite - it has a beginning and an end in some sense. So if we understand what "finite" is, then we understand everything. The whole of Buddhist analysis centres on this idea of "finite": What is it? Does it really exist?
Kevin: There is a saying: "There is no infinite apart from finite things." So if we want to understand what is infinite, which is God, we have to understand finite things, which are ordinary things in the world - which means understanding cause and effect. In Buddhism, they have something called "The Graduated Path to Enlightenment" - in Tibetan Buddhism they do, anyway - and the first step on this path, which nobody ever practices, is the understanding of cause and effect. With an understanding of cause and effect, it's understood that there's no real free-will. At the same time as understanding there's no real free-will, there is the understanding that there's no self. At the same time as understanding that there's no self, there is the understanding that one's own self is the entirety of the Universe, which is omnipotent and omniscient. So all of this comes through a reasoning process, through an understanding. And also, with an understanding that there is no self, there's an understanding that other people are a part, literally a part, of one's own self - this infinite self that has no boundaries. So when Jesus says that you should love your neighbour as yourself, it doesn't mean that you should love your neighbour as much as you love yourself. It means that your neighbour is literally your own self. So if you don't love your neighbour as your own self, literally, then there's no understanding of God. There's no faith. Understanding has to come before faith.
Apichart: I suppose that comes from the word of understanding. I suppose that before we can love other people we've got to know how to love ourselves. That is to say that if we don't know how to love ourself I think any relationship will suffer. As a human being we have to come to an understanding that we are human, and there is limitation, and that limitation is finite. And if we're trying to come to understanding of God, who is infinite, we will try so hard to reach there, but somehow we are not going to think the way that God is thinking, because our thought is not God's thought. Our way is not His way. So there's a limitation there, which we call finite. Whereas God is infinite, is infinite in such a way that He is transcendent beyond and above what we can think or imagine.
David: Well, what I find both in Christianity and Buddhism is that they are identical. You know how they talk about interfaith dialogue . . . well, both religions are identical in that they both encourage a total mindlessness. They don't encourage reason. So these basic reasonings that the Buddha taught - you don't see it in Buddhism. They recite the Scriptures and they study the Scriptures but they don't actually think and reason it out. So these two religions are identical in that they promote mindlessness. It's very few people who actually love to reason and to understand Truth.
Kevin: Well, that's The Hour of Judgment and we're going to have to close it up there. Sorry we can't even give you a last word tonight - we've run out of time. Thank you.