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Is it fundamentalism if Buddhists believe Buddha's path is the only path, and that all other spiritual traditions or sects are false? And if so, does it exist much in Buddhism?

By fundamentalism, I mean a person believing that their path is the only path, for them and others who believe like them.

I.e. can a Buddhist see another spiritual tradition as valid, even if it is not Buddhism? Such as an agnostic or a mystic from that tradition?

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – ChrisW Nov 15 '18 at 15:02
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I expect you can find both extremes, and maybe everything in between, for example:

can a Buddhist see another spiritual tradition as valid, even if it is not Buddhism?

I think that's a more difficult question -- maybe it's easier to say that another person isn't bad, but harder to say that another path is valid.

One of the characteristics of the Buddhist Dhamma is that it's something that you're meant to "know for yourself" -- perhaps it is impossible to personally know another spiritual tradition in the same way that you'd know the Buddhist tradition, so maybe you'll always be saying "they're not the same path, they don't lead to the same destination/result" and so on.

On the other hand I think that Buddhism has some definitions of what "good" is -- for example kindness, harmlessness, equanimity, faith, selflessness, strength, non-suffering, liberation, and so on and so on. So I think that to some extent any person with these qualities and any path which promotes these qualities might be seen as admirable or at least beneficial.

That's maybe unlike the stereotypical extreme "fundamentalism" of another religion, which might say something like, "God defined rules X and Y in book Z and anyone who questions or disobeys is therefore wrong".

all other spiritual traditions or sects are false?

If you look into the Buddhist scriptures for justification I think you can easily find passages which support both arguments (i.e. arguments for and against other traditions being "false"):

  • Passages which praise the Buddha as being right, and the Buddhist Dhamma as unexcelled, and so on (which might be taken to imply that, to whatever extent other paths aren't Buddhism, they're less good)
  • Passages which warn against conceit, against sectarianism, even against attaching to specific views
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Let's put it this way - a Buddhist is a person who has taken refuge to the three jewels, follows and walks the path taught by the Buddha. Those who do not, are obviously not Buddhists already, rendering your question un-applicable.

Having said that, Buddhist respect other traditions as long as they do not violate the five precepts, and acknowledges that if other paths do not end "true-suffering", then they are not to be pursued.

  • I don't think my question is un-applicable, fundamentalism exists in all religions, philosophies and worldviews including Buddhism. It's just a stage a person is at in their development. – Brendan Darrer Nov 14 '18 at 6:03
  • As outlined by psychotherapists Dr. Carl G. Jung and Dr. Scott M. Peck. There are 4 stages of spiritual development, as they noticed in their many years of work with patients - 1st: chaotic criminal; 2nd: the fundamentalist, who can only identify with their own group and think they know it all; 3rd: Sceptic Scientist (agnostic/atheist) who questions everything; 4th: the mystic who sees the big picture, is deeply compassionate and sees paradox and the inter-connectedness of everything. – Brendan Darrer Nov 14 '18 at 6:27
  • Addressing your first comment: Un-applicable in a sense that, if someone chose other paths that do not achievement enlightenment, how could that be a Buddhist? You can be a Buddhist today but not tomorrow, depending on what you believe and do, vice versa. Being a Buddhist is not about an identity, if you know what I mean. – Krizalid_13190 Nov 14 '18 at 6:34
  • Addressing your 2nd comment: The sipiritual development stage is but a modern concept for generalization. I'd recommend you hv a look at the 4 four stages of enlightenment, the Sotāpanna, Sakadāgāmi, Anāgāmi, and Arahant. They are very interesting and specific at the same time. – Krizalid_13190 Nov 14 '18 at 6:38
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Yes -- the Dhamma-Vinaya, the Buddha's religion, is fundamentalism (in its real meaning).

And Buddists can be very fundamentalist outside of this religion (like all other -ists in their occupied -isms).

"Fundamental" (i.e. a having firm "foundation" as base) is not only the very attribute of every religion (re-binding), but in case of the Dhamma also the most reasonable. What should be wrong (aside if having the wrong) with fundamental? Yes, it goes against defilements.

However, they, those who know, would have much understanding and empathy if others don't recognise that the Eightfold Path is the only path for going beyond old-age, sickness and death. It's all a matter of strong foundation (upanissaya), fundamentalism, right or wrong.

(The Buddha is in no way responsible of what people do and think under the label of "Buddhism" -- and yes, he has no problem, it is no problem, if the eightfold path is included and taught within another label: so no label-truth , but skilful action fundamentalism.)

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No matter what label you give this, the Buddha made it clear that holding wrong views will not lead to a permanent end of suffering.

Hence, if any religion preaches what the Buddha considered to be wrong views, such a religion will not lead to a permanent end of suffering. It may lead to a temporary stay in heavenly realms, but it will not lead to a permanent end of suffering.

You can find a number of wrong views listed in DN 1.

From MN 126:

For any brahmans or contemplatives endowed with wrong view, wrong resolve, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, & wrong concentration: If they follow the holy life even when having made a wish [for results], they are incapable of obtaining results. If they follow the holy life even when having made no wish, they are incapable of obtaining results. If they follow the holy life even when both having made a wish and having made no wish, they are incapable of obtaining results. If they follow the holy life even when neither having made a wish nor having made no wish, they are incapable of obtaining results. Why is that? Because it is an inappropriate way of obtaining results.

"Suppose a man in need of fire, looking for fire, wandering in search of fire, would take a fire stick and rub it into a wet, sappy piece of wood. If he were to take a fire stick and rub it into a wet, sappy piece of wood even when having made a wish [for results]... having made no wish... both having made a wish and having made no wish... neither having made a wish nor having made no wish, he would be incapable of obtaining results. Why is that? Because it is an inappropriate way of obtaining results.

"In the same way, any brahmans or contemplatives endowed with wrong view, wrong resolve, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness, & wrong concentration: If they follow the holy life even when having made a wish [for results]... having made no wish... both having made a wish and having made no wish... neither having made a wish nor having made no wish, they are incapable of obtaining results. Why is that? Because it is an inappropriate way of obtaining results.

  • Can you explain what you mean by labelling in this context? – Brendan Darrer Nov 18 '18 at 0:20
  • @BrendanDarrer You defined "fundamentalism" as "believing that their path is the only path." So, this is the label that I meant. I think this is a non-standard definition of the term. The Oxford dictionary defines "fundamentalism" as "a form of a religion, that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture" or "strict adherence to the basic principles of any subject or discipline." We could also ask if there are forms or schools of Buddhism that is fundamentalist according to the Oxford definition. That would be another question. – ruben2020 Nov 18 '18 at 3:17
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This question is addressed in two Sutta's

"If a person has conviction, his statement, 'This is my conviction,' safeguards the truth. But he doesn't yet come to the definite conclusion that 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless.' To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is the safeguarding of the truth. To this extent one safeguards the truth. I describe this as the safeguarding of the truth. But it is not yet an awakening to the truth.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.095x.than.html

The Buddha then shows how wrong views can arise from only partial understanding of truth. One can see the stages of this: (1) a mystic "sees" in vision an evil-doer suffering in hell, (2) this confirms what he had heard about moral causality, (3) so he says, "evil-doers always go to hell," and (4) dogma hardens and becomes rigid when he says (with the dogmatists of all ages and places), "Only this is true; anything else is wrong." The stages of this process are repeated for each of the four "persons," after which the Buddha proceeds to analyze these views grounded in partial experience and points out which portions are true (because verifiable by trial and experience) and which are dogmatic superstructure which is unjustified. Finally, the Buddha explains his Great Exposition of Kamma in which he shows that notions of invariability like "the evildoer goes to hell" are much too simple. The minds of people are complex and they make many different kinds of kamma even in one lifetime, some of which may influence the last moment when kamma is made before death, which in turn is the basis for the next life.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.136.nymo.html

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I sense that we can learn a lot from other traditions, e.g. Taoism, Sufism, Kabbalah, Humanism and Self-inquiry. Buddhism is a path, for obtaining the ultimate goal of freedom from suffering. However, like all traditions members of them, can be small minded at times and think that they know it all. No one knows it all! So they should try and correct this. There are many different paths, and we must choose the one that suites us best, but also respect different truths (paradox), and be open to change our view when it becomes outmoded. Ultimately the goal is non-suffering and freedom. For example Buddhism is very different from Sufism, but similar in ways to Taoism. But union with the source or pure freedom is achievable by either. I prefer to be open to new knowledge, and be prepared to change when my map of reality becomes out dated or inaccurate. I am certainly not enlightened and have some way to go yet, like most of us.

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