1. The Buddha and the Diversity of Spiritual Paths

Buddhist Responses to Religious Diversity - Theravāda and Tibetan Perspectives - Douglas Duckworth

Bhikkhu Bodhi [+-]
Chuang Yen Monastery, New York
Bhikkhu Bodhi is an American Buddhist monk, scholar, and translator of Buddhist texts. He lived in Asia for 24 years, mostly in Sri Lanka, where he was ordained in 1972. He now lives and teaches at Chuang Yen Monastery near Carmel, New York. His publications include The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Majjhima Nikāya, 1995), The Connected Discourses of the Buddha (Saṃyutta Nikāya, 2000), In the Buddha's Words (2005), and The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha (Aṅguttara Nikāya, 2012), all published by Wisdom Publications.

Description

This chapter contends that the historical Buddha is best understood as advocating an exclusivist view of other religions. Contrary to common belief, the Buddha, as represented by the Pali Nikāyas and their parallels, did not subscribe to the view that the ultimate goal of the spiritual life could be attained through diverse spiritual paths but rather that the ultimate goal is accessible solely through the noble eightfold path, the distinctive discovery of the sammā-sambuddhas, those who attain perfect enlightenment. Nevertheless, through the centuries Buddhism has displayed an impressive tolerance in its relationship to other faiths. The chapter explains this apparently paradoxical attitude on the basis of a dual perspective that the Buddha adopts on the diversity of spiritual paths. On the one hand, he asserts that the eightfold path is the sole means to the final goal of the spiritual life, irreversible release from the cycle of repeated birth and death. At the same time the cosmology of Early Buddhism allows a more accommodative stance according to which the provisional goal of the spiritual life, the achievement of a blissful rebirth, is not exclusive to the Buddha’s teaching but can be reached through other faith commitments.

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Citation

Bodhi, Bhikkhu. 1. The Buddha and the Diversity of Spiritual Paths. Buddhist Responses to Religious Diversity - Theravāda and Tibetan Perspectives. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. Jul 2020. ISBN 9781781799055. https://www.equinoxpub.com/home/view-chapter/?id=38389. Date accessed: 18 Oct 2019 doi: 10.1558/equinox.38389. Jul 2020

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