Will the Pope get into Heaven if Buddha is running things?

Diogenes, I think problem is that you are describing Buddhism as YOU practice it. As pointed out by gobear, Polycarp, and others, there are some varieties of Buddhism that have supernatural elements that are common in other religions, including a reward in the afterlife. Buddhism as practiced by Westerners tends to be more atheistic, as that appeals to people who want to be into something mystical and new-agey but have problems with believing in supernatural entities as real. There are Buddhists who believe that they are working towards a reward in the afterlife, and that demons and malevolent forces are trying to turn them from the path to paradise, and though not all of that agrees with the original teachings of Buddha it’s still Buddhism, just like Mormons are still Christians.

Not to pick on Diogense, but I found this quote interesting.

Boasting about how much one knows is sort of antithetical to the idea of the extinguishment of self. Concentrate on the moon, not on the finger pointing to the moon.

There is no type of Buddhism which promises a “reward in the afterlife.” There is no “afterlife” in Buddhism at all. There is rebirth and there is Nirvana. Siddhartha Gautma did not even believe in a soul.

gobear, I’m not sure what you’re disagreeing with, exactly. I’m very aware of how diverse Buddhism is, but I still contend that none of it contains anything analogous to a Christian heaven. The closest thing would probably be Pure Land Buddhism in which the Pure land is kind of a halfway point between rebirth and Nirvana. It is supposed to be very pleasant, and in practice, the Pure land often becomes de facto goal of this particular practice (which in Pure land is mostly chanting), but it’s not the same as Heaven. It’s not the endgame.

I wasn’t “boasting” about how much I know, I was just trying defend myself against an accusation of ignorance. I have no ego at all and I’m damn proud of it. :wink:

If the Buddha is running things, everyone gets into heaven eventually, it just depends on how fast they evolve spiritually throughout their earthly incarnations. Once they are finished with heaven, then they graduate to better things.

Not all Christians believe that the afterlife is a big city in the sky you go to where you get to play harps and hang out with Pa, Junior, and the Spook. Mormon beliefs on the afterlife are very different from what you are comparing Buddhism to, and there are some Christians who do not accept the supernatural elements of the religion but simply believe that we should live by the teachings of Jesus, and all the talk of a city in heaven is just a metaphor.

Isn’t there one branch (at least) of Christianity that does prohibit pork and all other meats for that matter? Adventists, maybe?

Monty- Armstrongist & similar “Torah”-oriented groups indeed do prohibit pork. Seventh Day Adventism does, and advises against any meat, tho not as stringently as with pork

While I agree with what Diogenes says for most brands of Buddhism, it is clear that “Buddhism” covers a surprisingly broad range of beliefs , even broader, I think, than “Christianity” does. Christianity covers Roman Catholicism, Greek Orthodoxy, Armenian Catholicism, Ethiopian Christianity, Southern Baptists, Lutherans, Shakers, Quakers, Charismatic groups, Evangelical Christians, and Unitarian Universalists. To say “Christians belive this” with a list of common beliefs would be pretty difficult. It’s just the same with Buddhism (although Colonel Olcott valiantly tried to assemble a Buddhist Catechism). You run from austere Theravada Buddhism, Chan, and Zen to pretty flamboyant forms of Mahayana Buddhism.

It’s my understanding that the “Pure Land” sect has a belief in what seems indistinguishable from Christian Heaven, but I haven’t read very much about it. In a few places Buddhism has gotten heavily mixed with other beliefs that move the philosophy and practice very far from the Buddhism Diogenes apparently practices. Such “pure”, philosophical Buddhism has no gods, but museums I’ve been in are filled with statues of Buddhist “gods”. An interesting and revealing book is Alice Getty’s The Gods of Northern Buddhism.

I know for a fact that three sects of Japanese Buddhism have something else to say. How would you like to sit on a Lotus flower, shining like the sun for all eternity, with your significant other right next to you? You can have that…

I would argue that this is pretty far away from what the Buddha actually taught. There are some unusual strains of Buddhism out there, but I would say that it as least misleading to say that Heaven is the goal of Buddhism.

Would you say that it’s accurate to claim that in Christianity man can become God? Mormons believe it.

In any case, the OP presumed a Christian style Heaven with an authoritative Buddha-God running it. It is not unreasonable to say that this is a very inaccurate perception of Buddhism.

There we agree. What people who are unfamiliar with any relgion apart from their own parochial version of Christianity do not understand is that Buddhism, Hinduism, and other non-Abrahamic religions are not alternate versions of Christianity with Buddha or Brahma in the captain’s chair, but entirely different systems of thought. The Buddha is not a competitor god presiding over some sort of Chinatown version of the Judaeo-Christian heaven, but the first man to achieve liberation from the bonds of desire, whose example can lead all beings to achieve enlightenment and enter the state of nibbana, freed from the karmic wheel and the chains of selfhood and desire.

What can be said of most religions is that certain actions prescribed by the religion lead to some form of reward, in this life, or the next.

Right or wrong?

I’m not making any judgements, here. They called themselves Buddhist and had a philosohy that was the direct descendant of the known teachings of Buddha. They also believed in a very different form of Buddhism from what others were declaring was the “only” Buddhist sect. As far as I know, the philosohy of Buddha was the only neccessary component of Buddhism, and his remarks about Gods or souls of heaven were not required material.

No arguments here, gobear. I think I had a semantic objection to the word “Heaven” more than anything else. Your Chinatown analogy is exactly what I was objecting to. Are you a Buddhist? You sound pretty knowledgable. I like that you used the Pali word “nibbana” rather than the Sanskrit “nirvana.” That shows more than a superficial exploration of Buddhism.

Randy Spears,
I’m not sure that “reward” is an accurate term for the goals of Eastern religions. It is more like escaping from something, or liberating yourself from suffering. It’s not a payoff for good behavior, and it’s not always clear (in some types of Hinduism and Buddhism) that there is any sort of surviving consciousness after enlightenment is attained. The goal is basically self-annhilation, but the “self” is just an illusion anyway.

Smiling Bandit, I have to confess that I don’t know much about contemporary Japanese Buddhism (except for Zen), I studied mostly Thervada, Tibetan and a little bit of Pure Land before I settled on Zen. One of my Eastern religion profs once said (shortly after the Aum Shinri Kyo sarin gas incident) that Japan had a number of sects and cults that were difficult to classify, but that were often designated as “Buddhist” by the government for the sake of convenience. I realize the sects you are referring to self-identify as Budddhist, but if they believe in an eternal Heaven as a reward for good behavior, I would say that they represent a decidedly minority view in Buddhism.

Oh, and all Buddhist sects claim to be heirs to the “true” teachings of the Buddha (just like all Christian sects claim to have the real scoop on Jesus).

Siddhartha Gautma, himself, refused to answer any questions about an afterlife and also made some very ambiguous statements about reincarnation.

Thank you, Diogenes. I have a strong interest in Buddhism, which stems from my studies of Asian languages and cultures, but because I don’t do the work and am deeply enmeshed in the snares of the flesh (mostly beer and sex), I can’t call myself a Buddhist. There’s always the Tantric school, of course, but that involves way too much concentration for me.


I meant “reward” in the lose sense of “something that is desireable and provided under certain conditions”. And liberating yourself from suffering / life / rebirth is indeed desireable for a buddhist.

What I was getting at was no less than the Greatest Common Denominator of Religion so to speak.

Well, you are using “reward” in such a loose sense that the word is really inappropriate in the Buddhist context. Buddhists are not tryng to earn anything for which they might be rewarded; they are trying to get rid of the illusions of selfhood, of being caught in the trap of desire.

And when you think about it, the term “reward” is also inappropriate in the Christian context. Salvation through the atonement of Jesus on the cross cannot be earned and thus cannot be a reward. It is a free gift, offered in love to His suffering, sinful creation.


I didn’t mean it to be an appropriate definition for neither a Buddhist explaining Buddhism nor a Christian explaining Christianity.

But any believer would promote the uniqueness of the concepts of his religion in relation to those of every other religion.

I maintain that my quasi-psychological term is adequate to describe an aspect of both the Christian hoping to reach the heaven of afterlife, and the Buddhist hoping to escape the “hell” of present life.

Surely you don’t dispute that there are similarities between different religions?

Randy, the academic term for what your talking about (as I learned it anyway) is 'compensator." All religions have compensators which can be either worldly or otherworldly, and which require some degree of commitment to attain. Heaven is an otherworldly compensator for some religions. The compensator for (most) kinds of Buddhism is escape from suffering, which is caused by desire, and the transcendence of the ego-self which is an illusion. This state of mind can be worldly (you don’t have to die to attain satori).

The problem with calling it a “reward” is that it implies a desire for a reward. It is a paradox for Buddhist practice in that the ego cannot kill the ego. You can’t get enlightened if you want to get enlightened or by any kind of effort by the ego.

I think gobear is right that a similar paradox exists in Christianity. If you’re being good just so you can go to Heaven, you’re still a selfish person.

You’re right, in a general sense, that all religions contain some sort of compensator, but I think that Buddhist enlightenment is significantly different enough from Christian Heaven, that the scenario posited in the OP doesn’t really hold water.

IOW, if you go to Buddhist “Heaven,” then you have achieved Nirvana. You are a Buddha and there’s nothing to get kicked out of.

Maybe a better question for the OP would have been, "what if I go to Heaven and the Muslims are right?

(yeesh, what if all those suicide terrorists are really up there banging 72 virgins? How much would that suck?)

Thanks, Diogenes! From now on i’ll make “compensator” part of my daily vocabulary :wink:

I agree then, that “reward” is no ideal term for the paradoxes of Buddhism.

I’m not quite sure on this one though: would the christian god send me to hell for being good for the wrong reasons? According to the Bible i’d certainly go to hell for believing in the “wrong” god no matter how good my intentions. Then I suppose the Bible opens up to all kinds of interpretations on this?