Grade 12 student Jessica Robinson argues that Islam and Buddhism are more alike than you might think.
SINCE the dawn of mankind, humans have attempted to answer the most complex and confusing questions in the universe through religious beliefs. Questions such as why are we here? How did we come?
Religions around the world have established a set of moral and ethical guidelines for how one should live and interact with the world. This leads to a lot of lessons about peace and conflict, how to behave in times of war and how to avoid it all together.
In today’s world, Islam is considered one of the most violent and warlike religions. However, this is not the case. Many of their ancient scriptures and teachings from the Quran and their prophet Muhammad speak of avoiding violence at all costs.
On the other side of the coin, Buddhism is considered one of the most peaceful religions in the world. By all accounts, it is. The Buddha preached love and kindness and an end to all suffering. However, due to political and religious unrest, many Buddhists have turned to violence and hatred. Buddhist monks now persecute Muslims in Burma.
With Buddhism, the emphasis is on peace and peaceful living, but this comes from a focus on suffering and an end to all suffering. the Four Nobel Truths are the center of Buddhism. These truths center on suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering, and how suffering can be ended. In Buddhism, the emphasis is on inner peace or “enlightenment”. Once you achieve enlightenment, you no longer suffer and your goal is to alleviate the suffering of others by helping them on their journey to enlightenment. The very basis of Buddhist teachings is that of peace.
If you wish to end suffering, the most obvious way to do so is to be peaceful.
To know how Islam fights for peace, you have to look at when it was established and in what political and religious climate. The Prophet Muhammad was born into an extremely violent tribal culture. In his thirties, Muhammad experienced “divine revelations” from God which led to the writing of the Quran. In these teachings, Muhammad said that God, or Allah, wished peace for his people. These teachings also preached patience and kindness. These teachings were foreign to pre-Islamic Arabia.
Muhammad advocated a policy of nonviolent resistance and, like Buddhism, Islamic teachings, at their core, call for peace and patience. The Holy Quran 49:10 states, “Mankind is one brotherhood; therefore make peace with your brothers. The word ‘Islam’ even comes from the world ‘Salam’ meaning ‘peace’.
Today, members and leaders of the Islamic faith actively condemn the acts of violence. They speak out against injustices and work with other Abrahamic faiths in interfaith dialogues to help spread understanding and peace. Muslim communities in Australia are working with federal and state governments to counter the radicalization of young Muslims.
Obviously, the glaring contradiction concerns terrorist organizations such as the Islamic State and Boko Haram. However, these organizations do not work in the name of Allah and in no way embody the teachings of Muhammad. These contradictions result from misunderstanding and misinterpretation of the Islamic text. With any religious text, it must be continually reinterpreted as society evolves.
In reality, the Quran is no more violent than the Christian Bible, it just happens that there are groups of people who insist on taking parts of the Quran out of context to fit their radical agenda.
In the modern world, Buddhism works with many people and religions in an effort towards peace. Organizations such as the Soka Gakkai International are a worldwide movement of people connected by Buddhism. They are trying to bring a “peace revolution” to the world. This organization has roots dating back to the Cold War where they rallied against the use of nuclear weapons. The organization’s president at the time, Josei Toda, called for a complete ban on all nuclear weapons.
The Soka Gakkai organization has always said that an open dialogue between different religions and cultures is the key to peace. They published dialogues with the former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, Indonesian Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid, and Chinese writer Jin Yong.
55th anniversary of President Toda’s declaration against nuclear weapons
Like Islam, there is still the radical sect of Buddhism which insists on interpreting the sacred texts according to its own agenda. This is never more evident than with the persecution of Muslims in Burma at the hands of Buddhist monks. The origin of this violence is vague at best and there are disputed claims as to why and when these persecutions began. The persecution included boycotting Muslim businesses and attacking and killing Muslims.
Some claim that Burma’s Buddhists have become angry at the influx of Muslim migrants into the country. Others say that Buddhist monks became angry with the accumulated wealth of Muslims, effectively blaming them for the poverty of their own people. Whatever their origin, these events show that no religion is immune to violent extremism. But these episodes of violence should in no way overshadow the good done by other Buddhists and Buddhist organizations.
It is safe to say that the goal of every religion is to achieve a state of peace, be it inner peace or world peace. Radical sects of some religions do not speak for those religions as a whole, and the majority of followers of those religions are appalled at things done in the name of, say, Allah and Buddha.
Through the teachings of Muhammad, Muslims are instructed to be patient, to be kind to those of different faiths.
Buddhists have a similar view. They must not cause suffering and must avoid violence. Like Muhammad, they preach nonviolent resistance.
Many people would be shocked to think that Islam and Buddhism are comparable in any way and yet if you look closely at their teachings and efforts towards peace they are more similar than one might suspect.
Jessica Robinson is a Grade 12 student with an interest in world religions. You can follow her on Twitter @Jessica_peta.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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