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Reconciling Religious Views

Q: Do you see any conflicts in the various schools of Buddhism and the western religions of Christianity or Judaism?  I find myself attracted to Buddhism, but do not want to abandon my Judaic-Christian roots.  How can I balance myself and be consistent with both traditions?

A: I believe that the conflicts that arise between Buddhism and the Abrahamic traditions are conflicts of form and not of essence.  To me, all religions are pointing at the same ultimate reality but differ as to the means of expressing and realizing that reality.  To many Abrahamics this is not the case, but a growing number of them are starting to enjoy and benefit from the wisdom of the Buddhist tradition and are finding that it really doesn't conflict with their chosen faiths.

The Buddhist attitude is this: if there's anything in our tradition that you can use to assist your spiritual path, please take it.  Buddhism does not seek converts, nor does it think of itself as the "only true faith."  Many people practice Buddhist meditation and study Buddhist teachings while remaining in their chosen faith tradition.  I often tell people that the practice of meditation can be of invaluable assistance for those who pray because it calms and focuses the mind, therefore serving as sort of a "prayer amplifier" if you will.  The ethical teachings of Buddhism are, I believe, in perfect agreement with the ethical teachings of the Abrahmic traditions.

The largest difference, of course, is that the Abrahamic traditions hold to the existence of a creator-deity while Buddhism does not; but even this can be seen as simply a difference of viewpoint and not essence.  Abrahamics personify the infinite while Buddhists see the infinite as themselves as well.  In either case there's an infinite.....we just look at it in different ways.

I think that any "conflicts" between Abrahamics and Buddhists come from people and not from the essential teachings of the respective traditions.  So if you wish to benefit from the wisdom of the Buddhist tradition and use that wisdom to augment your Abrahamic heritage, that wish is a most reasonable thing.

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