Friday, February 10, 2006

buddhism

This description in the Missionsfest program attracted me to an hour-long seminar on Buddhism a couple of weeks ago:



The Dalai Lama is known to be “against conversion of people, community or an individual, from one religion to another.” This seminar will deal with the myths and truths about Buddhism. It will challenge your understanding about the Buddhist world and how Buddhists can be reached.

Presenter Tom Tan, a former Buddhist himself, began the hour by telling us his story. He came to Canada in 1974 from Malaysia as a Buddhist tentmaker. (“That’s right - a tentmaker,” he said to us. “And you thought ‘tentmaking’ was a Christian concept!”) His intention was to get a job and in his spare time gain a following for Buddhism.

So he worked in a bank during the day and held meetings and seminars about the Buddhism at night and on weekends. He was also an active participant in one of Richmond’s Buddhist temples.

During the time he taught about enlightenment, however, he personally got involved in fraud. He was caught, tried and sentenced to jail. While in prison he read the Gideon Bible and C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity in his cell and over time gave his life to Jesus.

Tan’s personal experience with Buddhism made all of us pay close attention as he outlined its main elements. Here are points, taken from his handout:


General:
- Buddhism is a missionary force. It is the first of the great world religions to become international.

- It is strong in Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Sri Lanka, Nepal, Tibet, Korea, Japan, India, China, Taiwan, Kampuchea, Laos, Vietnam and spreading to Europe (5 million) and North America (3 million)

- Buddhism has more than 860 million followers today. It is a strong influence in the New Age Movement and Hollywood.

(And I would add, among writers. In almost every how-to book on writing I’ve read recently I have found mention of some aspect of Buddhism: Eastern meditation, the practice of yoga, chanting koans or mantras etc., not to mention actual quotes from Buddhist holy men. This substantiates another aspect of Buddhism Tan pointed out: its syncretism. Buddhism easily adapts to the culture, taking aspects of any particular culture and incorporating them into the Buddhism of that country – thus the inclusion of things like yoga which, I believe, was originally a Hindu practice)

- Buddhists claim that Buddhism is not a religion but a way of life. There is no personal relationship with Buddha.

There are many different strains of Buddhism – understandable, because of the way it adapts itself to cultures, above. The Buddhism which is gaining popularity in North America is primarily Tibetan Buddhism (how popular evidenced by the reception to the Dalai Lama when he came to visit Canada in 2004)


Tibetan Buddhism:
The following are some of the things Tan listed, that have formed and influenced the North American brand of Tibetan Buddhism.

- “Bon” is the native religion of Tibet. It was largely magical, with many rites of redemption from demonic forces with animal and human sacrifices and many superstitions, divinations and occult.

- Tantrism - the word tantra relates to weaving. Thus the theme of tantrism is the interwovenness, interdependence and oneness of all things. Tantrism is a mystical belief system that incorporates magical procedures (by chanting mantras, meditation and the visual aid of the mandala) in the attainment of paranormal power in the quest for Enlightenment. The basic tenet of Tantrism was that woman possesses more spiritual energy than man; therefore the man could achieve realization of the divinity through sexual and emotional union with a women.

- Mahayana Buddhism - a more inclusive and syncretistic school of Buddhism that accepts all native customs and practices, and the occult.


Buddhist Worldviews:
- No absolute moral right and wrong
- Inclusiveness and tolerance
- No concept of a personal or creator God
- No concept of sin as the result of the fall of Adam and Eve
- No concept of forgiveness* offered by Christ on the cross

*Rather, and this is my understanding of how he explained it, sins or failures are dealt with by karma, and if the bad things one does are not cancelled out by doing enough good things, the result is reincarnation in a lower life form)

Keys to Reaching North American Buddhists for Christ:
1. Prayer
2. Personal preparation - spiritually and culturally
3. Paul’s method (Acts 17:22-31)
4. Present the love of Christ
5. Patience

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