Thursday, May 12, 2005

Of Buddhism and Gods, Part 1


Many a first-time blogger feels compelled to write a welcome message in his first post. I however, will try my best not to succumb to cliches and get straight down to business.

After work today, my colleagues and I decided to have dinner at a Muslim Chinese restaurant near our workplace. Some would say that it was a perfect venue for a theological discourse. Perhaps they were right, for as soon as after our orders were taken, we were already in full swing discussing Buddhism.

Contrary to what many Malays believe, Buddhism does not advocate the existence of a supernatural and supreme being, i.e. God. That struck me as mightily strange, since the majority of Malaysian Chinese subscribe to both Buddhism and Taoism, with the followers of the latter worshipping the most number of gods in comparison to followers of other polytheistic religions. Not only that, but the number of gods that Taoists worship keeps increasing every day.

Therefore I would say that the confusion was justified, for how could two religions that have very different views on God be compatible with each other? Despite the notion that Buddhist and Taoist philosophies heavily influence each other, the fact remains that they are two very different religions, for I view the belief in God as the most basic tenet that serves as the foundation of any religion.

Putting me out of my misery, one of my colleagues finally explained that being a very flexible and extensible belief system, Taoism has no problem assimilating its values and beliefs with those of Buddhism, but not the other way around. In other words, the relationship is unidirectional. Therefore if one is originally a Taoist, he will have no problem being a Buddhist as well. But for a Buddhist to subscribe to Taoism is outrageous, or a road least travelled at best. This however, begs another important chicken-and-egg question; are Malaysian Chinese Taoists first and Buddhists second, or is it the other way around?

1 comment:

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