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Modern Koans – Some Legitimate Gripes With Buddhism?

By Andrew Furst @a_furst
CosmologyModern Koans is an ongoing series that recognizes that good questions are often more important then their answers.

The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man. ― G.K. Chesterton


Some Legitimate Gripes With Buddhism?

If you’ve read my blog before, you know that I have a rebellious streak when it comes to Buddhism.  I think holding up doubts about your religious faith in the light is healthy.  It’s one of the reasons I came to Buddhism. I could not reconcile my doubts about Christianity, so I left.

Here is my blacklist of Buddhist concepts:

Reincarnation – Its an answer to a question that we cannot know the answer to.  It smells like unsubstantiated dogma.  I’m inclined to assign it to the category of Asian cultural baggage that really has no business in the business of Buddhism.  Here’s why I think that –

Reincarnation doesn’t appear to support or bolster the teachings of the Four Noble Truths. I might even suggest that it could contradict, or at least complicate the understanding of impermanence.

It doesn’t seem to be called for in the Eightfold Path.  One might expect it to fall under Right View.  While Karma is pointed out here, reincarnation doesn’t seem to be identified as relevant.

Some Interpretations of Karma – I’m good with the idea that actions have their consequences.  I’m even able to grant that the moral consequences of your actions can come back and bite you. But I think that some extensions of this idea are absurd.  Prescribing that you will be reborn as an ant, because of your actions in this life is speculative dogma that carries the same stench as Christian fire and brimstone preaching.

Buddhist Mythology – There is a long list of stories about the Buddha which I feel need to be treated as mythology. They seem to contradict, to the modern reader, Buddhism’s empirical bent. For instance:

  • When the Buddha was born his mother stood holding the branch of a tree with her right hand while the gods Brahma and Indra took the child painlessly from her side. – interesting.
  • The infant stood, and took seven steps, and proclaimed “I alone am the World-Honored One!” – to me this is on par with the virgin birth mythology of Christianity.  Which I struggle with immensely. 
  • When he was twenty-nine years old, the prince had a vision in which all the Buddhas of the ten directions appeared to him and spoke in unison saying, Previously you resolved to become a Conqueror Buddha so that you could help all living beings trapped in the cycle of suffering. Now is the time for you to accomplish this. – I hear Pat Robertson say something like this every month.  I don’t pay attention to him either.

What do you think? What are you’re gripes with Buddhism?  What’s your response?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.

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