4 thoughts on “NPR series: “New Believers – a religious revolution in China””

  1. As someone who has been angaged in Buddhist activities in a number of countries for some 30 years I know that Chinese Buddhists have been very active in regard to charity work not only in China but throughout Southeast Asia and Australia. They are also more active in Britain, the US and Canada than many people realise but they keep a very low profile. However, Buddhist chariety groups shun noteriety and thanks as it is against the precepts of Buddhism to take credit for helping others. It’s the same reason Budhhists don’t really engage in missionary activities. To attempt to convert someone is interruping their karma and leaving yourself exposed to the consequences. I believe ultimately, that the Chinese Government will reconcile itself with the Tibetan Buddhism and, possibly, the D@li L@ma as there are many large Chinese donours that are financing, not only the D@li L@ma, but the other Tibetan Buddhist schools. The Yushu earthquake provided a platform for the PLA and Tibetan Lamas to work side-by-side in saving lives and restoring houses and Buddhist temples. Party officials, the PLA and the Lamas found it surprisingly easier to work together for a common cause.

    There are other reasons why the government will find it increasingly easy to work with Buddhists. The social doctrine of Buddhism has many similiarites with Communism which helps explain why Marxism and Communism have had more influence in Asia than it did in Europe.

  2. One thing I don’t understand is how attempting to convert someone interrupts their karma but doing charity work for them (for example, relieving some of their suffering) doesn’t.

    I’ve heard different things. In one instance I was told that some forms of Buddhism shun charity work because it messes up people’s karma. I’ve also witnessed the activities of Buddhist missionaries in my hometown and read some of their tracts and discussions (specifically about how the pioneering Buddhist missionaries to North America shaped their presentation of Buddhism to make it more appealing to Westerners). I suppose it all just depends on which kind of Buddhist one is?

  3. Generally speaking and, I can’t speak for everyone that claims to be a follower of the teachings of the Buddha, the value of charity work is in the act of compassion by those willing to carry out charity work and helping others irrespective of their beliefs and not those who receive the benefits or otherwise, of a charitable act. Also, attempting to convert someone has far greater karmic reprocussions as it is an attempt to instill or change someone’s beliefs/mind. From a Buddhist perspective people are Muslims, Christians and Buddhists etc. due to their karma. There’s nothing explicitly wrong with any religion but I’m not sure that Buddhism can be classed as a religion as the more advanced practioners recognise Buddha as both an example and a teacher rather than a God. Of course, most Chinese Buddhists treat Buddha, Mi Lo Fu and Guan Yin as Gods and so Chinese Buddhism has some features of Christianity. This is a difficult subject because spirtitually advanced Christians like Miester Eckhart, St Bernard, Teresa of Avrilla and other Christian saints employ language to describe God, Heaven etc. that has strong parralells with Buddhism. I have met spititually advanced Jews and Sufi Muslims in North Africa that think a similiar way and use similar language. My view is similiar to that of a number of Tibetan Lamas and Thai Forest Monks in that the name of the religion doesn’t matter. It’s whether it can help you remove suffering (in general)and achieve enlightenment. At the street level the ordinary person only sees the differences but those at a higher level see the similiarities in terms of goal, path and purpose. To conclude is to say a genuine charitable act is similar to an act of love: we give without expecting a reward. If that charitable act leads to them wanting to friends with us and it inspires them to believe what we believe without any real attempt at conversion on our part than that’s fine. One list thing, Karma cannot be pinned down to a mechanistic principle although many try. The Buddha recommended that only those people follow him were those who realized the truth of his teachings through practicing them. The Buddhist path is only visible to those who practice what he taught. Buddhism cannot be reduced to a set of beliefs about the world but a set of practices that, in the beginning, have the effect of reducing suffering, first of yourself and gradually, others around you and, if your compassion is big enough, the entire sentient (human/animal) world (This also explains why Buddhist generally avoid meat).

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