It Is Good There Are Buddhisms

Depending on your perspective, it can be a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing that there are drastically different canons, doctrines and schools of thought within Buddhism. Some people find it troublesome, but ultimately you could see it as its own manifestation of upaya (skillful means), and right in line with the original Buddhist doctrine. It is worth noting that there is evidence that even after Mahayana had become distinctive there were monasteries where both the Theraveda & Mahayana monks would live side by side.

Unlike Christianity, doctrinal differences generally did not create too many problems. And it is now that we can say it is fortunate for Christians that there is less emphasis on differences in sect and more emphasis on our universal principles.

There are many ways to relieve suffering. There are many ways to conceptualize the world around us. One can make an argument that ‘right view’ is rather narrow, and I’ll even tend to agree with that, but other than upholding the Five Precepts it is hard to be too concerned with people deviating within the general doctrine of Buddhism. Especially on issues of cosmology where we have a rich heritage of deities in some schools, the deification of Buddha in others and a sense of ‘godlessness’ still in some others, there is plenty of room for people to express themselves and practice how they want.

This is the reason that some people can essentially practice Buddhism as a sort of philosophy and others practice it more in the vein of a religion. This is the strength of Buddhism, and is not a weakness.

If we spend too much time trying to narrowly define it or to argue doctrine within it we are missing the very point. The Buddhist and the ecumenical Christian, the academic and the philosopher should rejoice in the plurality of Buddhist thought.

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