If we consider possible attitudes of one religion towards another
in the light of history, they seem to be classifiable under three
main headings. The first is that of dominance based on the belief
that one's religion alone contains the full truth and that other religions
are either completely false or contain so few elements of truth that
the sooner they are ousted by whatever means at one's disposal the
better it would be for mankind. The next is the attitude of fulfilment
which draws its strength from the belief that while other religions
contain important elements of truth they find their fullest is the
attitude of co-operation which arises out of a conviction that (a)
all religions contain aspects of truth and a study of all is necessary
to discover the whole truth or (b) that all the higher religions are
equally true and that the ostensible differences are due to differences
in language rather than in content, and that all these religions are
suited to their traditional contexts and (c) that all the higher religions
are equally true but some of these religions have a greater attraction
for certain types of individuals as against other, the cerebratonics
liking a religion with an intellectual appeal, the somatogenics one
that stresses action and the viscerotonics, emotion.
Now what would be the attitude of Buddhism to other religions? Perhaps
the Sandaka Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya seems to supply the answer
to this question. In it Ananda describes four types of false religions
and four types of unsatisfactory religions, and goes on to define
the character of the religion of the Buddha.
Four False Religions
Of the four false religions the first is said to be that of materialism
which holds that man is composed entirely of material elements which
disintegrate at death and as a result denies survival of any sort.
It is worth noting that seven such materialist schools are mentioned
in the Buddhist texts. One of these schools held that consciousness
was a by-product of certain chemicals being mixed in their due proportions.
Though materialism as a philosophy of life is thus condemned it
is necessary to add that neither the world of matter on the mental
life of individuals as well as of society is denied. It is significant
that the Buddha held poverty or "the inequitable distribution
of goods in society" as the root cause of social evil and argued
that the economic factor was as powerful a determinant of social
evolution as the ideological factor.
The second of the false religions is any religion which denies moral
values. Thus all religious cults, which recommend a moral ethic
or immoral practices would be condemned outright.
The third of the false religion is any religion which denies causation
and teaches that "people are miraculously saved" (ahetu
appaccaya satta vissujjanthi). The Buddhist teaching is that all
events in the phenomenal world are subject to causal laws and that
no miracles which go against the operation of such causal laws are
possible. It is said that there are physical laws. The law that
morally good acts results in pleasant consequences and morally evil
acts in unpleasant consequences for the individual is an instance
of moral law. Though causation is thus upheld, it is important to
observe that it is distinguished on the one hand from complete Indeterminism
(sdjicca samuppanna) or Accidentalism and on the other from Strict
Determinism (niyati-vada) or Fatalism. In an indeterminists universe
there would be no correlation between events and as such no causes
The fourth type of false religion is any religion which denies freewill.
Freewill is conceived of as the capacity of the individual (atta-kara)
or the factor of human effort (purisa-kara), which can within limits
control or direct the operative forces of the past and present in
order to make the future different from what it would otherwise
have been. As such freewill is considered to be compatible with
the Buddhist conception of events. All from of determinism whether
of natural determinism (sabhava-vada) which holds that the present
and the future is the mere working out of the past or of Theistic
determinism (issara-nimmana-vada) which holds that everything that
takes place is predetermined by the will or fiat of God, are specifically
mentioned and condemned as false.