Trained in science, monastic discipline and scholarship in Buddhist thought, Dr. B. Alan Wallace has long opposed the false dogmatism of materialism.
In this lecture, he will address the themes of theism and non-theism specifically with reference to Christianity and Buddhism. Just as there are many branches of Christianity, so is this true of Buddhism.
Theravada Buddhism is widely regarded as non-theistic, for, while it affirms the existence of many “gods,” they are regarded simply as higher life-forms, but are not worshipped as the Creator of the Universe. Mahayana Buddhism similarly refutes the existence of such a Creator, but it adopts a quasi-theistic view that affirms the existence of a divine, omnipresent, omniscient consciousness that manifests in our world in myriad ways, who is worshipped and to whom prayers of supplication are offered.
Within Vajrayana Buddhism, the meditative tradition of the Great Perfection, regarded by many Tibetan Buddhists as the culmination of Buddhism, asserts that this divine consciousness is the ultimate ground of being, from which all phenomena arise as its creative expressions. This view is akin to panentheism and bears a strong resemblance to the Catholic Neoplatonic Christian tradition tracing from John Scotus Eriugena (815-877) through Nicholas of Cusa (1401-1464), and this may be where the theism of Christianity and the non-theism of Buddhism converge.
He says that if we read the biblical account of Creation as a starting point of theism and the Buddhist presentation of samsara as generated by the karma of its inhabitants as showing the non-theism of a Buddhist worldview, a fundamental incompatibility between them seems obvious. But in the Christian doctrine of the Trinity and the Mahayana Buddhist doctrine of the omnipresent, divine consciousness of the Dharmakaya pervading the mind-streams of all sentient beings, then the opposition between Christian theism and Buddhist nontheism begins to fade.
Finally, when we encounter God ,as understood in Christian mysticism, and the Primordial Buddha, seen as the ultimate ground of being in the Great Perfection school of Tibetan Buddhism, we may discover a common ground that encompasses both traditions while still honoring their differences.
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