Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What Does it Mean to be a Buddhist?


How different is Buddhism from the Abrahamic religions?   What does it mean to be a Buddhist?  What about reincarnation?  And what is the Buddhist doctrine regarding the nature of reality?

These are some of the questions that  Professor Jay L. Garfield answers in an interview with Gary Cutting, a philosophy professor at the University of Notre Dame. The interview is part of  a series of interviews about religion that Professor Cutting conducted for the New York Times column, The Stone.

Although Buddhism does not believe in a supreme being, Professor Garfield still sees Buddhism as a religion. He says that "this simply ignores the fact that many religions are not theistic in this sense. Chess is a game, despite the fact that it is not played with a ball, after all."

Garfield tells us that that to be a Buddhist is to take refuge in the three Buddhist refuge objects (often called “the three jewels”): the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. To take refuge is to see human existence as fundamentally unsatisfactory and to see the three jewels as the only solution to this predicament."

As for reincarnation, Garfield prefers the term "rebirth" because it "makes more sense in a Buddhist context. That is because we must understand this doctrine in relation to the central doctrine in all Buddhist schools: that there is no self or soul."

This might be an interesting interview for students to read as part of the unit on Buddhism.

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