3. Paths of Liberation? Theravāda Buddhist Approaches to Religious Diversity
Perry Schmidt-Leuikel [+]
University of Münster
Distinguishing between “tolerance” and “appreciation”, this chapter asks to what extent Theravādins are able to appreciate other religious traditions as means or paths of liberation/salvation. After clarifying the conditions of enlightenment as taught in classical Theravāda, and the three types of enlightened persons that Theravāda admits, the chapter presents and discusses exclusivist, inclusivist and pluralist stances as they are taken from a Theravāda background. It argues that the doctrinal presuppositions of classical Theravāda (especially the idea of only one Buddha and saṅgha at a time) have a strong tendency toward exclusivism which was apparently the dominant position of the past. Further, the chapter looks at the arguments of some Theravādins who, in the twentieth century, moved toward an inclusivist understanding of non-Buddhist religions, and finally presents the position of Buddhadāsa as an example of a Theravāda pluralist.