The Dilemma of the Christian Buddhist

Pax Christi, everybody!

I’m not quite sure what conjured this memory and possessed me to write this post, but I feel like it’s important. I recall a certain tutoring session I had with a student whose topic really struck me as interesting: she wished to talked about her experience as a Catholic Buddhist. While this tantalizing topic was never fully expanded upon in further drafts, decided to ponder this further and see if such a thing was really possible.

I am immediately reminded of that Trappist monk Thomas Merton (and the obnoxious hit-piece Catholic Answers did on him), as well as my father, who always possessed a fascination with the East and a deep respect for Buddhism. I believe I’ve had some similar conversations with him about this sort of thing, and doing some digging myself: of rituals, non-violence, spiritual orders, overcoming vice, and saintly veneration. But ultimately, I am not sure that one could call himself both a Buddhist and a Christian (equally), and it is simply because Buddhism is a religion of detachment and Christianity passion. I don’t mean this disparagingly toward Buddhism or Siddhartha; the way he founded is a rejection of the material world in its entirety and a means to escape from suffering, which from my understanding can be derived from even “good” relationships one might find in other people and deities (which too are prisoners of this mortal coil if you choose to believe in them), whereas The Way of Christus is that of suffering and engaging with the material world, which is not seen as an evil to be escaped from. That being said, it is easy to draw parallels.

What do you guys think?


Depends on what they mean as being a Buddhist. Buddhist is treated very differently depending on the person. If they mean they are a Buddhist in the sense that reincarnation is real and welcome back again and again and we all started off as mini gods of light consuming this magical blue plant in a garden and over time sun has lead us to being animals and some even demons and since then some ofnus have became humans and will become gods while others become hungry ghosts wit their throats tied in knots wandering around checking on ash then I don’t see it as really compatible.

But if by Buddhist they just mean a vegetarian who is detaching themselves from worldly passions and seeking to develop good karma in the next life by being good now and it’s a really watered down version where we take wisdom from the various tales on how to treat others and so on sure.

To me it’s like yoga. For some it’s a form of worshipping a god through rituals and for another it’s a exercise routine. One is compatible and one not so much. At least not in the traditional senses.


It be worth talking about it and working out exactly what she is talking about because of course theologically it doesn’t make sense.
For example, not only we don’t believe in reincarnation but it also make Jesus death at the cross redundant which is a fairly important event for Christians.

On the other hand their are philosophies that are common to both religions but which Christianity doesn’t promote as much. Whilst Christianity doesn’t encourage to remove all detachments like Buddhism does, it does encourage to detach your self from those that bring you in particular spiritual harm.

You also hear people go somewhere away from distraction to renew themselves spiritually. This is very close to the zen movement which comes from Buddhism.

She might also simply like the Asian ceremonial style and esthetic. And as long as you don’t put to much attachement and importance to such things, I think its fine.

The theology is incompatible but their are elements that work fine. The thing is if you remove the theology can it really be called Christian or Buddhism but this is semantics and besides the point.


This is question that is very relevant to my own journey. Buddhism is probably the religion I took most seriously other than Christianity. There are many different ways of comparing the two, but the way I found which gives the most credit to both of them is in terms of the definition of evil which I adopted: the pursuit of desires at the expense to the well being of others. In terms of that definition, Buddhism fights evil more by denying and fighting desire, while Christianity fights evil more by magnifying our sense/perception of the values of others. Of course this is only a relative difference and there is quite a bit crossover. Buddhism also teaches the value of love and Christianity also teaches us some suspicion for human desire (ie. the human heart) because of sin.

Other ways of comparing them do not favor Buddhism all that much, at least not for me. Atheistic rather than theistic, and seeing life as an evil illusion to escape rather than to seek more of. But on these other people are likely to come to different conclusions.


Often Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and Judaism are spoken of as cultural worldviews, and other times they are spoken of as religious systems. A person is encultured into a worldview by their family and community, but religions are practiced and a person can be anywhere on a spectrum of nominal to devout. (Many times the people on the more nominal end don’t see much difference between the cultural worldview and the religion). All this to say, some people are encultured into a religious worldview but go on as an adult to practice a different religion. They might not completely “covert” all of their ways of seeing the world that they have inherited from the religious worldview of their upbringing (it’s very difficult, since so many facets are subconscious), but if they are going to be devout, they will need to pick between mutually exclusive truth claims of the different religions.

When I hear someone say they are a Buddhist Christian or a Jewish Christian or a Muslim Christian, my first assumption would be they grew up in a different religious community and they still maintain ties and cultural practices with that community, but they have converted to believing Christian truth claims. If someone said they were a Christian Buddhist, I would assume things went the other direction, that they grew up culturally Christian but came to accept teachings from Buddhism even though they maintain some of their cultural Christianity. But I guess you never really know what people mean by the labels they give themselves unless you ask.


There are a few religions that try or claim that they combine these major religions and Hinduism is already pretty much a free for all in terms of beliefs – or at least, that is how they think of themselves.

Buddhist Christians? It is hard to see how Buddhism and Christianity can be combined without seriously disregarding some of the beliefs of one or the other. On the other hand there are different branches of Buddhism… I think the only way to make sense of this is to ask the person claiming to be Buddhist Christian what they believe.


@Christy and @mitchellmckain are right about needing to ask more questions about what a person means. Definitions are key, because terms are used differently. Ask for explanations about who/what Jesus, God or the Holy Spirit are, for example, you will learn that they are vastly different concepts with the same label,
@MarkD and @Mervin_Bitikofer have been discussing a book called Holy Envy (also in the new Bibliography thread) that might give you some perspective on things that can be valued from other faiths, which can be compatible with Christianity. I haven’t read the book, but you might find it fruitful to talk with them about it.


From what I understand God is not a part of Buddhism. It neither looks for God nor dismisses God It is God neutral. So if someone adopts God into their Buddhism it is just a variation, like Catholic or Methodist.


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I was reading this discussion with Paul Knitter author of “Without Buddha I Could Not Be a Christian.”

I have been thinking of one way to address the atheistic or as Knitter would say “non-theistic” aspect of Buddhism. When you read about Buddha Siddhartha’s rejection of theism, I think the main point was the rejection of this notion of appeasement, which can not only be found in Christianity, but is something which I particularly embrace.

I don’t think appeasement is either possible or what God seeks from us, pretty much equating this idea with the anathema of indulgences. I reject the notion that forgiveness is the prize of some magical human sacrifice, citing all the times Jesus freely says, “your sins are forgiven, so go and sin no more.” So instead, I think the objective is in the latter part of what Jesus says, getting rid of the self-destructive habits of sin.

Thus in combination with some of what Knitter observes, that Buddhism sees God more in terms of an ultimate reality than a person, I can see how this difference (theistic versus non-theistic) can be somewhat overcome. The obstacle to seeing myself as a Buddhist Christian would be my very strong insistence on seeing God as a person, and my negative reactions to such as Tillich which seek to describe God as the “ground of being” or “being itself.” Though as I read about Tillich, that is a whole other discussion which which may be quite interesting…

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I do know I have met dozens and dozens of Christian’s who also say they are Buddhist. Many Buddhist claims it is compatible with any faith.

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So you reject the whole principle of Christianity. Fine.

Do you reject the existence of God in any actual shape or form? IOW is God only a conception to you?

Virtually every religion in existence works on the principle of trying to appease God’s wrath or align yourself with God’s ideals and desires.
Rituals, rules, codes, they are all based on ideals. But these ideals are human not from any god?

There is no need for God? Because God does not supply anything to enhance or help society? (He cannot interfere with what is set iin motion)

QPD My God is a figment of my imagination and any reinforcement I may have perceived or identified is also my imagination? Likewise, anything miraculous or attributed to God has a rational and human explanation?

Thanks a bunch.


So that is the whole principle of your Christianity. Good to know.

No and no.

God is real because spiritual things are real. They may not be part of the space-time mathematical structure of the physical universe but this structure has not always existed. The spiritual is the greater and more authentic reality, and it is the physical universe which is the artificial construct. The entire purpose of the physical universe was to support the self-organizing process of life to give rise to the existence of beings apart from God making their own choices, and thus with whom God could have a relationship. But as Paul explained in 1 Cor 15, the perishable physical gives rise to an imperishable spiritual existence growing from it like a plant from a seed and brought to life in the resurrection.

Yes that is definitely the what the old pagan religions did.

The rejection of this is one of the commonalities I see between Christianity and Buddhism. In Christianity it is the gospel of salvation by the grace of God, and the rejection of the ideas of the pagans where you pay for your salvation, and a rejection of the idea of the Gnostics where you earn your salvation with special knowledge. Though of course, there are Christian cults who have defied the teachings of Jesus and Paul by transforming their version of Christianity back into pagan Gnosticism to teach in salvation by obedience and correct doctrine, often with the blood magic of necromancy as well. A religion like that is after all much more suitable as a tool of power.

The teaching of Christianity is that there is no way to earn your salvation but you must have the help of God for this to happen. That is where the old pagan notion of appeasement has been rejected. It is what this Christian idea of faith was all about – believing and doing even though it doesn’t entitle you to anything.

But there is no need for any mediator between God and man other than Jesus who is God Himself. It kind of pulls the rug out from the use of religion as a means to power.

Is that what you believe? That would fit well with your notion of God as a great watchmaker. But the teaching of Christianity is that God supplies everything and constantly interferes as a shepherd deeply involved in our affairs.

QPD? An internets search reveals nothing about this.

I see… My God is the creator of the universe, the author of the Bible, and an active participant in my life.

A scientific explanation can be found in the sense that they are not contrary to the laws of nature. It doesn’t mean these can explain WHY they happened because there is no way for science to trace the causality to God. So a skeptic scientific approach is likely to conclude these are just coincidence and happenstance. But the reality is that life is filled with miraculous events and they did not stop happening in some mythical past as if God died when man woke up to reason and science.

Sorry that was QED Quad errot demonsdrandum (or something like that.)

No it is the classic aethistic view of what I believe.

Yeah,we have been here before and I would rather not go there again.

I am sorry but that does not come across in your posts. And I would dispute the part I put in bold.

I clearly have not sussed you out. You seem to come up with some stuff that is classic doctrine and other that could be classed as heresy


So you do not believe God is the author of the Bible?

The cults and other religions are constantly declaring that Christian teachings are heresy. Islam often calls us polytheist pagans because of the doctrine of the Trinity.

It think it is more this persistent habit of ignoring what people actually write and say to replace it with what you have decided they believe. My guess is that It comes from the employment of rigid categories often referred to as black and white thinking – saying that everyone is either A or B and you force them to fit one or the other whether they actually do or not.

And here is an example of what I am talking about – where you have pushed me into the category of an atheist.

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I do not feel the need to put people (or God) into little boxes but it helps to understand where people may be coming from.
I really do not care whether you are or are not a specific brand of Christianity. I just want to understand what you believe at all.


PS if you really want to discuss authorship of the bible either pm me or find a suitable thread

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Sometimes we have habits which are difficult for us to be aware of. In my experience this is especially the case when these are inherited from our parents. But I think it can also be so when it has been a part of our life for a very long time.

One of mine like that is a supercilious tone in what I say. As much as I despised this in my father. People often hear the same in what I say.

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Hey, I have a tendency towards irony and cynicism. I don’t think it does me any favours.


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The eastern religions generally view the world as a place of suffering. Western religions affirm the world as good place. Everybody has and will live in the world of their culture. In that sense, we are prisoners of our culture. I have only a cursive understanding of Buddhism, but have read the narratives of the life and spiritual struggles of the Buddha. This I am certain, if the God of the Christian faith is, the Buddha has everlasting life. If all Christians could be so committed to the spiritual world as the Buddha, we would all be post millennialist

The search for the truth is on everybody’s lips.
Deuteronomy 30:11-20

11 “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it far off . 12 It is not in heaven , that you should say, ‘Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 13 Nor is it beyond the sea , that you should say, ‘Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?’ 14 But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it. 15 “See, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil; 16 in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. 17 But if your heart turns away and you will not obey but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death , the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your seed, 20 by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for that is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”

Translation is NASB edited to include some textual footnotes…

The Apostle Paul has just drawn attention to the idol to the unknown god at Mars Hill. He then proclaims what is good news for all who have never heard the gospel message.
Acts 17.24-27 God is not far from US

Acts 17:24-27 English Standard Version (ESV)

24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us,

God is on everybody’s lips! Even unbelievers for that cannot stay off Christina forms and blogs.

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