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Buddhist Attitude To Other Religions (contd)

By Professor K. N. Jayatilleke PhD. (Lond)
Courtesy Vesak Lipi

It would appear from the above four types of religion condemned as false that Buddhism upholds survival, asserts moral values, teaches causation without implying Strict Determinism and maintains the freedom of the will in the sense defined.
Now the first of the four religions, condemned as unsatisfactory, but not necessarily false is a religion which claims omniscience for its teacher or in other words deifies its teacher. It is argued that what is unsatisfactory about this type of religion is that the lack of omniscience on the part of such a teacher would be evident from a historical account of his life and teaching.

The second such unsatisfactory religion is any religion based on a revolutionary tradition. It is said that such supposed revelations may be true or false. It is evident that in the face of mutually contradictory claims to revelation on the part of different religions that all such claims cannot be true. The validity of a claim to revelation has to be tested in the light of verifiable facts before such a claim can be established. But if so, verification would take the place of revelation as the criterion of the truth of a revelations claim. It is interesting to note that of a predominance the priority of revelationed claims when it says that the validity of such claims can be established only when they are validity of such claims can be established only when they are borne out by observable facts. "When a prophet speaks the in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; thou shalt not be afraid of him" (Deuteronomy).

The third type of unsatisfactory religion which is not necessarily false is any religion based on mere "logical reasoning and metaphysical speculation (takka-pariya-hatam vimamsanu caritam)" on the grounds that such reasoning may be true or false. Logic, as we now know, can only help metaphysics or mathematics to construct self-consistent systems. It does not by any means guarantee that any such system had applicability to the real world and is therefore true, a fact which can only be established independently of logic by seeing which system can best explain and account for verifiable facts.

The fourth such unsatisfactory religion is any religion which is inconsistent. This is unsatisfactory for the obvious reason that truth must be self-consistent and not self-contradictory, though this does not mean that any self-consistent system of belief is necessarily true for it may have the defects of the third type.
In contrast to the above types of false and unsatisfactory religions Buddhism is stated in the from of a verifiable scientific theory, whose truth is said to have been verified by the Buddha and hundreds of his disciples and can be personally verified by anyone who adopts it. As such its truth is independent of the founder who like a scientist merely discovers it and proclaims it for the guidance of others; and it is left to others to test its validity and worth.

It should be clear from the above that the Buddhist attitude to other religions cannot be classified as one of dominance, fulfillment or cooperation. The attitude would depend on the nature of the religion dealt with. Buddhism would in the light of the facts of existence condemn some religions as false, uphold others as partially true and would not rule out the possibility of another religion being entirely true, since truth need not be the monopoly of any particular individual or religion. But this condemnation or appraisal would not be done with the intention of abusing or flattering others but in the hope that in the process of mutual inquiry and criticism people would acquire a better vision of the truth. And it is of the nature of truth that it need not be and cannot be forced down the throats of others by exploiting their poverty, ignorance, or weak state of health or by using threats or claiming powers from above over the lives of others. It is also of the nature of truth that it brings people together but it is a unity that has to be achieved by a common quest flowering in a common vision.<<Back

Introducing The Writer
Professor K. N. Jayatilleke PhD. (Lond) Born 1 Nov. 1920 Educated at the Royal College Colombo. University of Ceylon, and at Christ College Cambridge (1946-49) Prof, of Western and Eastern Philosophy. University of Ceylon. Read papers at Oxford, Harvard (USA) Published: Early Buddhist Theory of knowledge. Died 23 July 1970.


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