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Lions Roar : March 2006
allege) that "Buddhism is not a religion;' most Buddhists worldwide practice it as such, in many of the naive, petitionary, and superstitious ways in which all religions are practiced. Needless to say, all non-Buddhists believe Buddhism to be a religion-and, what is more, they are quite certain that it is the wrong religion. To talk about "Buddhism;' therefore, inevitably imparts a false sense of the Buddha's teaching to others. So insofar as we maintain a discourse as "Buddhists," we ensure that the wisdom of the Buddha will do little to inform the development of civilization in the twenty-first century. If the methodology of Buddhism (ethical precepts and meditation) uncovers genuine truths about the mind and the phenomenal world, these truths are not in the least "Buddhist." Worse still, the continued identifica- tion of Buddhists with Buddhism lends tacit support to the religious differences in our world. At this point in history, this is both morally and intellectually inde- fensible-especially among affluent, well- educated Westerners who bear the great- est responsibility for the spread of ideas. It does not seem much of an exaggeration to say that if you are reading this article, you are in a better position to influence the course of history than almost any per- son in history. Given the degree to which religion still inspires human conflict, and impedes genuine inquiry, I believe that merely being a self-described "Buddhist" is to be complicit in the world's violence and ignorance to an unacceptable degree. It is true that many exponents of Bud- dhism, most notably the Dalai Lama, have been remarkably willing to enrich (and even constrain) their view of the world through dialogue with modern science. But the fact that the Dalai Lama regularly meets with Western scientists to discuss the nature of the mind does not mean that Buddhism, or Tibetan Buddhism, or even the Dalai Lama's own lineage, is uncon- taminated by religious dogmatism. Indeed, there are ideas within Buddhism that are so incredible as to render the dogma of the virgin birth plausible by comparison. No one is served by a mode of discourse that treats such pre-literate notions as integral to our evolving discourse about the nature of the human mind. Among Western Bud- dhists, there are college-educated men and women who apparently believe that Guru Rinpoche was actually born from a lotus. This is not the spiritual breakthrough that civilization has been waiting for these many centuries. For the fact is that a person can embrace the Buddhàs teaching, and even become a genuine Buddhist contemplative (and, one must presume, a buddha) without believing anything on insufficient evidence. The same cannot be said of the teachings for faith- based religion. In many respects, Buddhism is very much like science. One starts with the hypothesis that using attention in the pre- scribed way (meditation), and engaging in or avoiding certain behaviors (ethics), will bear the promised result (wisdom and psycho- logical well-being). This spirit of empiricism animates Buddhism to a unique degree. For this reason, the methodology of Buddhism, if shorn of its religious encumbrances, could be one of our greatest resources as we strug- gle to develop our scientific understanding of human subjectivity. THE PROBLEM OF RELIGION Incompatible religious doctrines have bal- kanized our world into separate moral communities, and these divisions have be- come a continuous source of bloodshed. Indeed, religion is as much a living spring of violence today as it has been at any time in the past. The recent conflicts in Palestine (Jews vs. Muslims), the Balkans (Ortho- dox Serbians vs. Catholic Croatians; Or- thodox Serbians vs. Bosnian and Albanian Muslims), Northern Ireland (Protestants vs. Catholics), Kashmir (Muslims vs. Hin- dus), Sudan (Muslims vs. Christians and animists), Nigeria (Muslims vs. Christians), " E veryone should read this wonderful book." -Harville Hendrix Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships Healing the Wound of the Heart John Welwood Learn how to overcome the most fundamental obstacle that keeps you from experiencing love's full flower- ing in your life. "This book takes us on a healing and transformative journey to address the real, underlying cause of our relation- ship problems. John Welwood is one of the most brilliant and important teach- ers of our time." -Debbie Ford "Full of practical wisdom and divinely inspired insight. A marvelous guide for any seeker choosing to walk on love's path." -bell hooks Trumpeter Books An imprint of Shambhala Publications if SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2006 75