Usually I discuss Protestantism in these posts. It isn’t due to any dislike for Protestants themselves. It is because I recognize the differences between Catholicism and Protestantism, and I love my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I wish to see them reunited in the Church founded by Our Lord. In this post, however, I will give the Protestants a break.
As different as we may be from Protestants the fact is, Protestants are still Christians. They share many essential views with Catholicism. One religion that has almost no similarities to Christianity is Buddhism.
Without going into all the specifics of Buddhism, and all the different types of Buddhism, I wish to juxtapose the overall view of Buddhism with the Christian view.
The primary point of Buddhism is that they believe that all things are, and all humans are created ignorant of this fact. There is no me. There is no you. There is no blog. There is no wind. There is no Internet. All things are one. Individuals do not exist in Buddhism.
This is where “enlightenment” comes in. Buddhists believe that ultimate goal of life is to realize the oneness of all things. That there is nothing. We (and I’m not sure how we can even speak of a “we”, or who “we” even is if all things are one and there are no individuals) achieve nirvana (nothingness) when we realize this, and reincarnation ceases for us. Enlightenment and the achievement of nirvana are the ultimate goals of Buddhism.
This could not be further from the Christian belief in individual souls whose ultimate goal is to share the Beatific Vision (while retaining our individuality) with God, the angels, and saints in heaven. We do not believe in reincarnation or nirvana.
The two views of Buddhism and Christianity are almost polar opposites. That isn’t to say there is not some kernel of truth to the Buddhist view. For instance, we believe that, while we are ontologically separate, we are united insofar as we all have our source in the same God.
The primary problem I have with Buddhism comes in their denial of the existence of anything. This idea simply doesn’t makes sense. It is an idea that was disproved by Rene Descartes.
Rene Descartes is the sixteenth century philosopher who wrote the phrase, “Cogito, ergo sum.” That is, “I think, therefore, I am.”
The very fact that a Buddhist can conceive of “enlightenment”, “nirvana”, or “reincarnation” proves that the Buddhist himself exists. For someone to even be capable of thinking or conceiving, they must exist. If nothing exists; if all there is is nothingness; then there is nothing to become “enlightened”, or “reincarnated”.
You might say here that some Buddhists don’t deny the existence of anything. There are those Buddhists who believe when nirvana is achieved, we are “absorbed”, as it were, into the Great Buddha; or some other such “being”. So proving some things exist doesn’t disprove Buddhism.
This is true. To really disprove Buddhism, we must prove that individuals exist. This is easier than it may seem. One can simply look to experience.
We do not all come into existence at the exact same time. Our experiences in life are different, as are our feelings and reactions to any given situation. The very fact that each person “achieves enlightenment” at their own pace proves individuals exist.
If individuals didn’t exist we would all come into existence at the same time. We would all experience the exact same thing, and our reactions would all be the same. There would be no need for each of us to achieve enlightenment, because when one achieved it, we all would. We would be a collective. Like the Borg from Star Trek: The Next Generation.
The Buddhist might counter by saying that all these seeming differences between us all-out experiences and reactions-are just illusions. We are all one and the same. That is what enlightenment is about. Realizing that everything is an illusion.
This objection, however, doesn’t really prove the point. If everything is an illusion, then how does the Buddhist know that Buddhism itself (and all of its conceptions and beliefs) aren’t illusions? How does the Buddhist know that there such a thing as enlightenment, reincarnation, or nirvana?
Again, Buddhists may argue that that is exactly what they’re saying! All “things”-even Buddhism itself-is an illusion. There is nothing. Nothing exists. Everything is one and the same.
This explanation, however, amounts to nonsense. If there is nothing, then why even worry about enlightenment, reincarnation, or nirvana? There is nothing to even achieve nothingness. In fact, nothingness itself wouldn’t even be able to be conceived of.
Our very existence and diverse experiences prove, not only that we exist, but that we exist as distinct individuals. To deny this fact gets us nowhere, and attempts to make sense out of nonsense.
I could go into a discussion about God here. I could prove His existence, and then explain why this means we must exist, and we can trust the evidence of our senses. But this is a different discussion for a different day. The point in this post was to prove the Buddhist view is nonsense. Even an atheist (which most Buddhists could be classified as) can see that we exist, and we exist as individuals.
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity