Thursday, September 26, 2013

Praying to Buddha

Image source.

So today I went sightseeing at a tourist site with a lot of Buddhism-related stuff. And, you know, most people were just walking around taking pictures of everything, like tourists, but there were also a lot of people praying.

Kneeling down. Burning incense. Swinging their hands, closed in prayer, as they walked by one statue after another. Bowing down with their heads to the ground. Dropping a few coins in the collection box by each statue. Praying out loud.

I just want to know why.

Yeah, I know I'm a bad Christian and would make an even worse missionary. I know the "correct" Christian response is, "Oh this is so SAD! All these people so lost and deceived, praying to Buddha, looking for God here in this empty, false religion. They should be praying to Jesus!"

But how do I know they're lost?

I don't know ANYTHING about Buddhism. I mean, I learned about it in history class in high school, but I don't really remember. I'm not even sure if "praying to Buddha" is an accurate description of what I saw. Is Buddha a god? I think I heard somewhere that Buddhism doesn't really have gods- some Buddhists believe in god(s) and some don't?

So I want to know. I saw all these people praying today, in a country that's officially atheist, and I want to know what it means. What is Buddhism about? What are they praying for? Is it for the same reasons that I pray? What does God think about his Buddhist children? Does he see them differently than his children of other religions? Is it the same God, but they know him by a different name?

I want to find out. I'll have to ask a Chinese friend to tell me all about Buddhism.

I'm not here to judge anybody or change anybody. I'm not here to say, "I don't know anything about your religion, except that it's wrong." Because, seriously? (I'm ashamed to say that's what I would have thought, a few years ago.)

Seeing them praying today, it reminded me to pray too. I prayed to Jesus, that all the people there would be blessed. That's all. No "free them from these lies" or anything like that.

And maybe, just maybe, I sensed God's presence there.


  1. Beautiful. Please, share what you will learn about Buddhism. PS I just dicovered your blog and I really like it! Thanks for writing. I especially appreciate your series about the gospel of Matthew.

  2. Emotions are an integral part of being human. Emotions are triggered by so many things. Music. Dancing. Smiling Faces. Warm sunsets. Laughter. Why is it that because you felt moved by watching these people that it had to be from something outside yourself? Since so many things produce emotions, why do you infer "presence of God" from having a strong feeling? How do you distinguish the happiness from music from the presence of God? Is God music? (as well as love)? Is God just a metaphor for emotion? There's even a word for that -- anthropomorphic personification -- in which emotions are represented as a person or an animal, and stories are told about that being. Okay, it’s two words. As one word, it’s anthropomorphism.

    Buddha, or Siddhartha, realized that these personifications and the stories of them were all fables. Made-up things which tell us about ourselves, not about some actual being named Brahma who created the universe. The he went off to meditate, and seek these emotions, to which he ascribed spiritual causes. Thus was born Buddhism.

    It's the same thing you are doing when you reject the old testament, and say that a God of Love wouldn't want us to stone adulterers and homosexuals factory workers who get assigned the Saturday shift. that a God of Love wouldn't have drowned the entire planet full of people and children and whatever animals didn't fit into the ark. I suggest you consider that when you make things up like that, based on your ephemeral feelings, it is still just made up. Like Buddhism.

  3. I have always wondered why some atheists want to evangelize. I can understand wanting people to stop practicing fundamentalist religions that do actual harm, but since PerfectNumber's beliefs are enriching to her and harm no one, why not just let her be?

  4. FWIW, I think the people you encountered may have been praying to their ancestors and not to Buddha. My understanding of Buddha is that he believed in meditation to free oneself from the trappings of the flesh, and mingle one's consciousness with a great Oversoul which is not self-aware and which encompasses all living things. Buddha is considered one of many enlightened souls who show others the way to contact with this Oversoul. I don't believe they pray to him. One's ancestors, on the other hand, are spirits who are interested in helping their descendants on this earth, and it's my understanding that most Chinese people pray to their ancestors.

    But who knows whether meditating and praying people in other religions may not also be connecting with God? I'm certainly not going to say they can't be.

  5. Oooh good point- I have heard that in Chinese culture, people pray to their ancestors. I should ask some friends and find out more about that.

  6. Well, first off, she has a blog, and permits comments. She is thereby inviting commentary on her beliefs. but why evangelize to her? Because she has asked the first question, "yea hath God said". That is the first step on the path to wisdom. The path to knowledge of good and evil. Most religious people shun that path. She has shown in her writing that she wishes to escape the dogma of any particular denomination, and I find that to be refreshing and wonderful. I want to point out a door along that path which leads to a whole new world of enlightenment.

    Harms no one you say? My wife got into following Sylvia Browne. bought the books. paid big to go see the show. Well, by lying to people about the afterlife Sylvia is hurting people when they are most vulnerable, and stealing from them. So yeah, making up spiritual things can be harmful. When you hang a wreath on your door with the understanding that it's a part of your culture, it's fine, but don't go telling people that it will ward off evil. Don't go saying that prayer, whether by Buddhists, or Christians, or Muslims, or Hindus, has any more benefit than waving one of those plastic Harry Potter replica wands.