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As Buddhism is growing in the west, we see this "conflict" a lot. In Asia I met some Buddhists-Hindus, Buddha, Shiva and Ganesh were equally important to them. Here in the west there are some Christian-Buddhists, people who believe in the Dhamma, but cannot stop Praying to Jesus. Let me add here that according to the Bible if you stop believing in God, you will go to hell no matter what, it is a serious offense for Christians.

I live in an almost 99% Christian country. You only find churches here, you don't find stuppas, temples or monks. It also contributes to the "Christian-Buddhist" phenomena as there is no strong Sangha.

According to the Buddha's teachings you should give up rituals, believe in the Buddha's enlightenment and follow the Dhamma, but on the other hand many people are claiming the Dhamma is more a "way of living" than a religion, so it could be adapted to another friendly religion.

Can a person follow the Dhamma and be a Christian at the same time?

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I'm curious what country you are talking about. Is it by any chance Poland? –  Rabbit Aug 3 '14 at 14:16
Hi, no. Brazil! Our most famous turistic sight is the Christ over the mountain! :) –  konrad01 Aug 3 '14 at 14:57
Well, few years ago Poland built even bigger statue of Jesus! ;) Jokes aside, even in ultra-Christian Poland there are many strong Sanghas and there are even 2 Stupas now. I know there is also one Stupa in Mexico. It seems that Christianity and Buddhism can nicely coexist :] –  Rabbit Aug 3 '14 at 15:16
I'm sure they can coexist! My point here is more about stream-entry I guess –  konrad01 Aug 3 '14 at 15:54
@konrad01, olá. In the sutras, the buddha does not really assert that rituals should be given up. As far as beliefs, these don't have that extra quality of mutually exclusiveness abrahamic religions perpetrated. Also, many lay people adhered to his teachings while keeping their own specific belief during his time, with no reprehension from Buddha. Sometimes, these layman requested to learn how to meet brahma, and arahants taught them how, even though that is not the supreme goal, nirvana (I can't remember right now the sutra where this is described). –  Thiago Silva Aug 3 '14 at 17:41

5 Answers 5

The (not as recently departed as I thought) Leonard Cohen was a very serious Zen practitioner but never renounced his Jewish faith. He's quoted as saying to Allen Ginsberg when challenged on this point

Well, for one thing, in the tradition of Zen that I’ve practiced, there is no prayerful worship and there is no affirmation of a deity. So theologically there is no challenge to any Jewish belief

I appreciate your question focused around Christianity but I think is is instructive to look at how an adherent to Buddhism and another Abrahamic religion justifies (or merely describes) their position. Perhaps more directly relevant, Thích Nhất Hạnh's book Living Buddha Living Christ looks specifically at the intersection Christianity and Buddhism. I don't think it's too much of a plot spoiler to reveal that Thích Nhất Hạnh is very respectful of Christianity and sees a lot of commonality between the two faiths.

Generally my feeling is that there wouldn't be too much of a conflict from the Buddhist side of things but other monotheistic religions might have more of a problem with the spiritual 'dual citizenship'

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Luckily he hasn't departed yet ;) –  Rabbit Aug 3 '14 at 16:56
@Rabbit hahahaha fooled. I was on retreat and someone told me he had died. Can I use that as an excuse for lack of awareness of the outside world? –  Crab Bucket Aug 3 '14 at 18:29
There's an entire Wikipedia page on the Jewish Buddhist and apparently a documentary on the subject too. –  MichaelT Aug 3 '14 at 19:12

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, has stated:

I want to emphasise that it is extremely important for practitioners to sincerely believe in their respective religions. Usually, I say that it is very important to distinguish between "belief in one religion" and "belief in many religions". The former directly contradicts the latter. Therefore, we should resolutely resolve these contradictions. This is possible only by thinking in contextual terms. A contradiction in one context might not be the same in the other. In the context of one person, a single truth is closely associated with a single source of refuge. This is of extreme necessity. However, in the context of society or more than one person it is necessary to have different sources of refuge, religions and truths.

So if I am understanding this correctly, His Holiness is saying that an individual should stick to one "source of refuge" but our society should be hospitable to many religions.

Source: http://www.dalailama.com/messages/religious-harmony

As Buddhist practitioners, we understand there is no deity that will hurl bolts of lightening at us for believing parts of other religions. But it may simply be a matter of whether it's practical to attempt to reconcile differing viewpoints in one's own mind.

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I truly love this answer, as it perfectly my position. Buddhism has some things that are relatively unique (i.e.anatman) that contradict many other religions. But being tolerable enough to allow it has many benefits to society. –  DirkM Aug 4 '14 at 7:22

In short: no, you can't. Even cursory knowledge of the teachings of the Buddha and the dogmas of Christianity (or any other religion) will prove enough to realize these are irreconcilable. Just to give a quick example, take the Buddhist belief (one of the "Four Seals") that all things/phenomena are empty and devoid of self: this is enough to negate the whole of Christian dogma at once! There is no doubt that the view that Buddhism can be seen as simply a "way of life" stems from a profound ignorance of the teachings and practice of Buddhism, usually based on a feel-good, watered down version of the teachings that doesn't even come close to trying to get to grips with understanding something as essential as impermanence, interdependence, and emptiness.

EDIT: The above comment is not meant in any way to insinuate that non-Buddhists cannot greatly benefit from studying the dharma—far from it, especially when most Western Buddhists come from a (at least vaguely) Christian upbringing. It was only meant to express that truly abiding by the Buddha's teachings entails a worldview that is not fully compatible with that of the major religions.

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I tend to think like that, BUT it is possible to benefit from Dhamma even if you are Christian or from any other religion. Yes, the dogmas will colide, you cant really recocile, Dhamma can only be "adapted" to a certan degree, but it is still a good thing to do, more Dhamma would be good for the world. –  konrad01 Aug 5 '14 at 12:48
Well, that was a pretty inconsiderate answer. You really don't understand Buddhism or people if that is your opinion or belief. Compassion is the basis for Buddhism. Without compassion, wisdom is just junk. Those with compassion as well as wisdom can see that all paths can be useful, when practiced with a good heart and open mind. –  PFS32 Aug 5 '14 at 13:00
I am sorry if I sounded inconsiderate. The basis of Buddhism is an understanding of the cause of suffering, which is attachment to that which is impermanent—a realization that does give way to compassion for all beings trapped in samsara. Compassion is always a good thing, and it can flourish in any religious or non-religious context. But Buddhism is much more than just a philosophy of compassion that may be viewed as a simple add-on. I would never discourage anyone from studying the dharma: quite the opposite. That's all I wanted to express. –  José Porcher Aug 5 '14 at 16:01
@konrad01 By the way, I noticed you mentioned elsewhere that you live in Brazil. You're probably aware, but Brazil is home to a large, thriving Vajrayana sangha, heir to H.E. Chagdud Tulku Rinpoche, and they are present in dozens of Brazilian cities. br.chagdud.org/centros-de-pratica –  José Porcher Aug 5 '14 at 16:12
Hi, thanks, but I go with the Theradava tradition, but I appreciate the comment. –  konrad01 Aug 6 '14 at 0:03

Buddhism revolves around the practice of Morality, Mastery over the Mind and Wisdom. Regardless of what you call your self you can practice buddhism since any religion or belief system worth its name cannot have anything against Morality, Control of your mind and Wisdom.

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But can a person enter the stream following another religion, I'm talkint about eliminating the lower fetters? –  konrad01 Aug 3 '14 at 15:16
See if you have been practicing the Dhamma for many lifes then some trigger can get you to stream entry through in that life you might be following some other religion. There are many instances in the Tripitaka where some one of another religion hearing the words of Buddha gained some stage of sainthood. –  Suminda Sirinath Salpitikorala Aug 3 '14 at 17:39

Following the Dhamma is about treating ourselves and others in a manner that will bring more peace and happiness throughout the world, it's about becoming the light among the darkness!

Jesus said, the most important teaching to understand and follow was, to treat others as we would like to be treated!

I see a perfect coexistence between Buddhism and a deity based religion.


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Agreed. It generally argued that Christianity is based on a being separate from one's self. However, there are Christian monastic orders that use meditation quite like Buddhism (huffingtonpost.com/eden-kozlowski/…) Indeed, meditation is just another word in many Christian churches. (wccm.org/content/what-meditation) Awesome! –  PFS32 Aug 5 '14 at 13:14

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