Religion is a waste of time

"When iron birds fly through the air"

journalist : Mr. Schumann, hardly any other religion in Western countries currently appeals to as many people as Buddhism. What makes the Buddha's teaching so attractive, why is it particularly fascinating today?

Schumann : "When iron birds fly through the air, Buddhism will migrate west and come to the most distant lands," said the great monk Padmasambhava in Tibet over 1200 years ago.

Of course, neither a fulfilled forecast nor the international air traffic or the exoticism of the East explain this phenomenon. The reasons for this go deeper. There is obviously a spiritual desire among the materially satiated people of the West. That these seekers are particularly addressed by Buddhism is due, among other things, to the gentleness and tolerance of this religion. No war was waged in their name, no people thrown at the stake, no books burned.

All religions have high ethical standards, and that's what they have in common. However, this must not blur their opposites, according to the motto that many currently pass off as tolerant thinking: at their core, all religions are identical.

I think that's nonsense! In terms of dogma, it's not the same: Buddhism and Christianity, for example, are fundamentally incompatible. Tell a Christian to do without God. The Buddha viewed metaphysical speculations as to who might have created the world and why, as a complete waste of time, even as an obstacle to the pursuit of salvation. Even gods are subject to the laws of nature and cannot help man; he must try to free himself from ignorance and suffering. And the Buddha denies something else that is fundamental to every Christian: the existence of an immortal soul.

The goal of Buddhism is salvation from rebirth and suffering. In science we differentiate between prophetic religions that are turned outwards and change the world, want to educate people - Judaism, Christianity, Islam - and on the other hand mystical religions. The mystics, including the Buddhists, assume that the world is subject to a mechanism that cannot be influenced, natural laws. The mystic knows that if he is to cope with the world he must adapt, work on himself, resist the temptations of the world. He looks inward and sometimes turns his back on the injustices of the world - I admit that.

The insight that the world as a whole cannot be changed causes many to turn inward. But the Buddha never wanted a completely remote religion, even if it amounts to that for many of today's fashion Buddhists. The starting point of Buddhist thought is the knowledge that nothing is permanent. Being in the world means having to experience suffering: through aging, illness, the pain of separation. This does not end with death - in the cycle of rebirths we encounter suffering in ever new forms. It is consoling that rebirths follow a transparent mechanism: Those who have done predominantly good can hope for a more pleasant way of life after death, as a person in a better social position or as a god - which, however, does not mean salvation from suffering. Good intentions alone affect rebirth qualitatively.


© 2001, Francopolis. Tous droits réservés.