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November 14, 2008; Palm Beach Post; Faith and Values: Buddhism a model for religious ecumenism; by Rabbi Marc Gellman (God Squad).

the reason Buddhism rejects the existence of God is not an atheistic reason - that many things exist but God isn't one ofthem. The Budddhist position is rather a rejection of everything's existence. Budddhists believe that nothing really exists, including God ..

This Buddhist belief in the illuusion of existence is called sunyata in the Pali language. The main idea ,is that nothing has any existence on its own (anatta) because everyything is connected. Everything is dependent on everything else and so has no existence of its own. This is called dependent co-origination (pratityasamutpada). What it all comes down to is that nothing is really real. However, in our illuusions about the world, we think that things are real Sb we get attached tothem (tanha), and then when they die or are gone and we lose them, we suffer (dukka).

All this is very philosophical and psychological but not particularly religious. This is why some people don't consider Buddhism a religion but rather a philosophy. I think Buddhism is indeed a religion beecause it moves beyond its obscure metaphysics to a very practical salvation system characteristic of all religions. Salvation in Buddhism is called enlightenment (bodht), and the state of being enlightened is nirvana (nibana).

The Buddha, a prince named Siddhartha Gotama, taught about a way to end the suffering we

feel in life (having a founding spiritual teacher is also typical of a religion). He taught about a path to enlightenment that includes, as all religions do, both rituals and ethical teachings.

To me, the main difference beetween Buddhism and the Abrahammic faiths is its teachings about how to change the world. All religions

. want to healthe world of its sufferring. (Not all philosophies have such a goal and this is another way to know that Buddhism is a religion.) In the West, we seek to change the world directly, but in Buddhism, the change in the world comes about by first changing ourselves,

then bringing our enlightened, changed souls into the world as examples of peace and harmony.

Buddhism is divided, like Rooman Catholicism, into a priestthood (the sangha) and a laity. The Buddhist priesthood ismade up of Buddhist monks (bikkhu) and nuns (bikkunz). They lead celibate lives and are committed to ascetiicism and long hours of meditation and prayer.

In fact, Buddhism is a good model for the kind of religious ecumenism I've believed in all my life. Here's a religion that never knew of the Bible, yet generated its own ethical teachings identical to those of the Abrahamic faiths. Could this be proof that God speaks to each of us in ways our culture can translate?

The Buddha was mice asked if he was a god and he answered, "I am not a god. I am merely awake." May we all be awake to the many ways compassion sweeps us up into love and hope.

Send your questions for The God Squad c/o Tribune Media Services, 2225 Kenmore Ave., Suite 114, Buffalo, NY 14207, or e-mail them to

I am hesitant to define anything as the moment the process starts, whatever is being defined is limited. Buddhism - not what people consider the religion - is a worldview that includes methods to wake up to our interconnectedness, to be kind, and to stop the cycles that produce and reinforce suffering. That's it.

Three teachings handed down for centuries can amplify the above statement. They are attributed to a man called Shakyamuni Buddha but could have been written by any human who took the time to look for themselves.

  1. The Metta Sutta
    May all beings be happy.
    May they be joyous and live in safety.
    All living beings, whether weak or strong, in high or middle, or low realms of existence, small or great, visible or invisible, near or far, born or to be born,
    May all beings be happy.
    Let none deceive another nor despise any being in any state; let none by anger or hatred wish harm to another.
    Even as a mother at the risk of her life watches over and protects her only child, so with a boundless mind should one cherish all living things, suffusing love over the entire world, above, below, and all around without limit; so let each cultivate an infinite goodwill toward the whole world.

  2. The Kalama Sutta Buddha (Anguttara Nikaya Vol. 1, 188-193 P.T.S. Ed.)

  3. and Meditate - or simply train to return to that which is already here and rest-pause-listen for the silence (not the absence of noise.) I find myself doing this with others who have the shared intention of awakening to and practicing the "content" of the above sutras. We happen to do it in a style handed down for generations by people appreciating, not worshiping, the teacher called Buddha. Hundreds of thousands of others through the ages have had the same realizations and continue to do so to this day.

As a famous Rabbi once said..."all the rest is live kindly."



Mitchell Doshin Cantor, Sensei
The Southern Palm Zen Group, Boca Raton, FL

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