Buddhism and other Religions

by Dr. Parviz Dehghani​

At the outset it may appear we are embarking on a topic too general. However, a comparison among Religions, even at this level, can also be useful given the critical time we live in. One of the most interesting aspects of this Religion is the absence of a personal God. The term ‘Persona’ in Latin simply means ‘mask’. In Hinduism, ‘Vishnu’ (the preserver), ‘Brahma’ (the creator) and ‘Shiva’ (the destroyer) can be considered the masks of the Ultimate Reality. Of course, the incarnations (Divine descents) of both Vishnu and Shiva like Krishna and Kali (Divine Mother goddess) are no exception here, namely, they are also different masks of that Reality in their own rights. Once we step out into China these personal gods gradually disappear and we see the emergence of the ‘Heaven’ in Chou dynasty and Shangdi in Shang dynasty which was regarded as their highest ancestor. Personal God plays a great role in Western Religions also, that is, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Although these Gods have their own characteristics. Nevertheless, they all point to the God of Abraham who is the father of all these monotheistic Religions. Let us not forget the fact that ‘God’ is only a title. These personal Gods have their own particular names. Philosophically speaking, each and every name limits what is named. Just as we say: “I am”, “the table is”, we also say: “God is”. We use this copula ‘is’ even for God. We have names for our Gods just as we do for everything else. Therefore, these names of Gods limit them. Why? Because, the Ultimate Reality itself is devoid of any name. Even ‘the Ultimate Reality’ should not be used for it. In fact we cannot even use the copula ‘is’ for that Reality which itself is beyond being and non-being. Being is its first manifestation. It is beyond any duality whatsoever. This undifferentiated Reality is the Absolute and is one not in numeric sense like number ‘1’ which is‘-1’ and ‘+1’. The trouble comes when we form our own ideas of these personal Gods. Basically we create them rather in our own images. This is where Buddha warns us of the danger of falling into such a trap. He warns us against idol worshipping which, by the way, was one of Abraham’s main goal throughout his life. Buddha was not an atheist but a non-theist. He taught that instead of wasting so much of precious time in theological debates we should deal first with the immediate needs of man. He argued that we must find out the causes of our suffering and try to eliminate them forever. Let us rely on ourselves rather constantly asking the gods and deities for help. That is why he sat under the pipal tree and was taken away just as a moth is burned by the light of the candle.