Some Problems with Buddhism

From The Catholic Encyclopedia,1908, vol. 3, pp. 33-34

It is chiefly the legendary featuresof Buddha?s life, many of which are found for the first time only in worksof later date than the Gospels, that furnish the most striking resemblanceto certain incidents related to Christ in the Gospels, resemblance whichmight with greater show of reason be traced to a common historic origin. If there has been any borrowing here, it is plainly on the side of Buddhism. That Christianity made its way to Northern India in the first two centuriesis not only a matter of respectable tradition, but is supported by weightyarchaeological evidence by scholars of recognized ability, beyond the suspicionof undue bias in favor of Christianity. Weber, Goblet d?Alviela, and othersthink it very likely that the Gospels stories of Christ circulated by theseearly Christian communities in India were utilized by the Buddhists toenrich the Buddha legend, just as the Vishnuites built up the legend ofKrishna on many striking incidents in the life of Christ.

Ignorance of God

A basic defect in primitive Buddhism is its failureto recognize man?s dependence on a supreme God.  By ignoring God andby making salvation rest solely on personal effort, Buddha substitutedfor the Brahmin religion a cold and colorless system of philosophy. It is entirely lacking in those powerful motives of right conduct, particularlythe motive of love, that spring from the sense of dependence on a personalall-loving God.  Hence it is that Buddhist morality is in the lastanalysis a selfish utilitarianism.  There is no sense of duty, asin the religion of Christ, prompted by reverence for a supreme Lawgiver,by love for a merciful Father, by personal allegiance to a Redeemer. Karma, the basis of Buddhist morality, is like any other law of nature,the observance of which is prompted by prudential considerations.

False Pessimism

Another fatal defect of Buddhismis its false pessimism.  A strong and healthy mind revolts againstthe morbid view that life is not worth living, that every form of consciousexistence is an evil.  Buddhism stands condemned by the voice of nature,the dominant tone of which is hope and joy.  It is a protest againstnature for possessing the perfection of rational life.  The highestambition of Buddhism is to destroy that perfection by bringing all livingbeings to the unconscious repose of Nirvana.  Buddhism is thusguilty of a capital crime against nature, and in consequence does injusticeto the individual.  All legitimate desires must be repressed. Innocent recreations are condemned.  The cultivation of music is forbidden. Researches in natural science are discountenanced.  The developmentof the mind is limited to the memorizing of Buddhist texts and the studyof Buddhist metaphysics, only a minimum of which is of any value. The Buddhist ideal on earth is a state of passive indifference to everything.

How different is the teaching ofHim who came that men might have life and have it more abundantly!

Marriage is put down

Again Buddhist pessimism is unjustto the family.  Marriage is held in contempt and even abhorrence asleading to the procreation of life.  In thus branding marriage asa state unworthy of man, Buddhism betrays its inferiority to Christianity,which commends virginity, but at the same time teaches that marriage isa sacred union and a source of sanctification.

Against Manual labor

Buddhist pessimism likewise doesinjustice to society.  It has set the seal of approval on the Brahminprejudice against manual labor.  Since life is not worth living, tolabor for the comforts and refinements of civilized life is a delusion. The perfect man is to subsist not by the labor of his hands, but on thealms of inferior men.  In the religion of Christ, ?the carpenter?sson?, a healthier view prevails.  The dignity of labor is upheld,and every form of industry is encouraged that tends to promote man?s welfare.

Little towards uplifting humanity

Buddhism has accomplished but littlefor the uplifting of humanity in comparison with Christianity.  Oneof its most attractive features, which, unfortunately has become well-nighobsolete, was its practice of benevolence towards the sick and the needy. Between Buddhists and Brahmins there was a commendable rivalry in maintainingdispensaries of food and medicines. But this charity did not, like theChristian form, extend to the prolonged nursing of unfortunate strickenwith contagious and incurable diseases, to the protection of foundlings,to the bringing up of orphans, to the rescue of fallen women, to the careof the aged and insane.  Asylums and hospitals in this sense are unknownto Buddhism. In Sri Lanka, in the last decades, thanks to financial helpfrom Japanese Buddhists, Buddhists have here and there opened some oldpeoples? homes and orphanages.

The consecration of religious menand women to the lifelong service of afflicted humanity is foreign to dreamyBuddhist monasticism.

Again, the wonderful efficacy displayedby the religion of Christ in purifying the morals of pagan Europe has noparallel in Buddhist annals.  Wherever the religion of Buddha hasprevailed, it has proved singularly inefficient to lift society to a highstandard of morality.  It has not weaned the people of Tibet and Mongoliafrom the custom of abandoning the aged, nor the Chinese from the practiceof infanticide.  Outside the establishment of the order of nuns, ithas done next to nothing to raise woman from her state of degradation inOriental lands.  It has shown itself utterly helpless to cope withthe moral plagues of humanity.

Charles F. Aiken