Is Buddhism Fundamentally Flawed?

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I don’t always agree with self-declared “ex-Buddhist” Eisel Mazard, nevertheless I do count him among the people who have assisted my own developing understanding of the religion. While giving a very brief description of the “fundamental flaw” Mazard sees in Buddhism I also recommend watching the embedded video to hear it straight from the horses mouth…

 

 


 

IS BUDDHISM FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED?

I don’t always agree with self-declared “ex-Buddhist” Eisel Mazard, nevertheless I do count him among the people who have assisted my own developing understanding of the religion. While giving a very brief description of the “fundamental flaw” Mazard sees in Buddhism I also recommend watching the embedded video at the bottom of this page to hear it straight from the horses mouth.

One of the positives that Mazard sees in Buddhist doctrine is a willingness to tolerate criticism. Within the Pali Canon, for example, are real philosophical debates which not only illustrate how the religion differed from its rivals on matters of metaphysics and psychology but also highlight serious disagreements between the Buddha and his ordained and lay followers. For Mazard, Buddhism’s willingness to include dissenting views within its scriptures makes it a more genuine philosophical religion than, say, the Abrahamic faiths, which are clearly less tolerant on matters of faith and doctrine.

Nevertheless, Buddhism’s apparent openness only goes so far. According to Mazard, the main purpose of the debates within Buddhist scriptures is to convince people to try and attain the jhanas so that they’ll have unwavering faith in the Buddha’s claims for Nirvana –

“The purpose of all the debates is merely to get you to believe enough… to convince you up to a certain point that you should try this Buddhist method of meditation, that you should try experiencing the jhanas. And then once you have experienced the jhanas that are on the road to Nirvana itself then you’re convinced that this whole religion is completely true, that the Buddha’s teaching is the most important thing in the world, and in a sense you have no more questions… of this fundamental type.”[1]

Mazard continues by asserting that Buddhism from its very beginning embraced the experience of “hallucination” (i.e. Jhana) as a real and important source of data. I’m inclined to agree when he says this is problematic – not just because I regard human sense perceptions as questionable [2] but because I see also that rational enquiry can potentially be frustrated when one’s own personal experience is accepted as the only truth ultimately worth knowing. The Buddhist doctrine of unshakeable faith in the ‘Triple Gem’ of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, can be seen as “self-serving” in as much as the historical institutionalisation and spread of the religion worldwide has depended very much upon the unstinting loyalty and generosity of many followers.

Moreover, despite an abundance of doctrinal material reflecting and discussing the political and social problems of ancient India, the Buddhist religion appears less interested than modern western philosophy in offering worldly solutions. So while Mazard sees ancient Buddhism as more progressive than medieval Christianity, for example, and contemporary Buddhist countries like Thailand as preferable to contemporary Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia, he’s still left wondering what Buddhism can actually contribute to the modern world –

“In a sense we are reading this stuff [Buddhist scripture] because it has the right questions. But in those pages you will not find the right answers.” [3]

Hmmm… Personally I’d say that Buddhism’s potential to restrain individuals’ impulsive emotional behaviour (anger, fear, greed, etc.) was and remains a valuable contribution to the world. Thoughts anyone?

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Notes

[1] ‘Buddhist Philosophy, The Fundamental Flaw’ by Eisel Mazard. YouTube. 15 Nov 2016.

[2] ‘The Problem of Perception’ by Tim Crane and Craig French in Edward N. Zalta (ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Spring 2017 Edition.

[3] ‘Buddhist Philosophy, The Fundamental Flaw’ by Eisel Mazard.

 

 

 

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