Friday, September 04, 2009

How Should Buddhists Deal With Aggressive Christians?

There are those who interpret the sixth common tantric root downfall, "deriding one's own or others' tenets," to include deriding the tenets of other faiths. Actually, "others' tenets" refers to the sutras of the shravaka, pratyekabuddha, or bodhisattva vehicles, while "one's own" are the tantras. Thus, while the above interpretation is a useful approach, the breach thereof does not constitute a root downfall -- just a case of the stupids.

Some time ago, I eavesdropped as two stupids traded Jehovah's Witness stories. We have all heard such stories, such as "I cussed 'em out and told 'em I was Buddhist," or the ever popular, "I answered the door buck nekkid and told 'em I was Buddhist." What kind of Buddhism? My Name Is Earl Buddhism?(*)

As I listened, I thought back 40 years ago, to the day when some Jehovah's Witnesses rang my teacher's doorbell. I answered the door, and was about to send them packing, when the lama called for me to invite them in.

He was the soul of cordiality, ushering them to take a seat, and ordered me to serve tea. When tea was served, he sent me back to the kitchen for better trimmings, insisting that I use the various biscuits, jams, and so forth that were usually reserved for visiting dignitaries.

He then spent the next two hours politely listening to everything they had to say, and although they declined the invitation, he earnestly solicited their presence at lunch, offering to send me out for their favorite foods.

When the visit concluded, I asked the lama if he thoroughly understood just how close-minded fundamentalist Christians could be. I asked him why he wasted his time. He looked at me with a mixture of disgust and affection -- the look he reserved for my most overtly stupid remarks -- and replied:

"I will meet many, many Christians in my life, but for them, I may be the only Buddhist they will ever meet. How would you have them remember me?"

I guess the point I am trying to make -- if there is one -- is that Jehovah's Witnesses probably sit around telling Buddhist stories, and we should strive to make sure the stories they tell reflect the values we try to embrace.

(*)"My Name Is Earl" is the name of a popular American television program in the "situation comedy" genre, the premise of which is a redneck peckerwood's(**) experiences with karma. To my knowledge, it is not syndicated overseas, but I could be wrong.

(**)"Redneck peckerwood" defined: an uneducated, congenitally bone-headed denizen of (presumably) southern states, who experiences numerous misfortunes related to domicile, transportation, and domestic partnership. An ignorant, rustic white person.

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7 reader comments:

Fishy said...

'My Name Is Earl' has been on Channel 7/Prime in Australia and Channnel4 in the U.K.

TENPA said...

Well, Fishy, one might think it is just light entertainment, but actually, it is a documentary.

I guess they are broadcasting this wherever beer is sold.

Stephen said...

Your teacher was able to listen to them talk for 2 hours without being influenced. BUT NOT every Buddhist is like your teacher. Far too many Buddhists lost their faith because they were not ready for evangelists. I wonder why you had to present the other option of cursing, being naked, etc. You should have suggested that Buddhists studied their religion well first and foremost. And, if possible, they should add the study of Chritsinaity, too. I wonder why you failed to realise that option.

TENPA said...

Didn't realize I was obligated to thoroughly exhaust every possibility. Will check with you first next time, and get a copy of the script.

mr frodo said...

this was a beautifully written blog as a response towards jehovah's witnesses (or other 'missionary' types).
though far from being as wise as your Lama, i had a similar experience with a chinese Jehovah's witness, when asked what i believed would save the world from its problems, i simply responded- compassion and kindness. she was not impressed with my response, but i did all i could to treat her with as much respect and courtesy as your Lama did and a similar thought ocurred to me afterwards what he told you. she left not making a convert, but nevertheless grateful for my hospitality. thank you, i appreciate this blog.

Bria LaPoint said...

Even though this post is several years old, it still is relevant in this day and age. The further i distance myself from Christians, the more i realize that eventually i will have to learn to tolerate them even if i disagree with their beliefs. Namaste

Chris Anderson said...

Imagine a group of Muslim's going door to door proclaiming Islam as the one true and superior religion. I believe they would be shot at in America. The arrogance and sheer rudeness of going to a stranger's house thinking you are so spiritually evolved that they need your advice is disgusting. Tolerating ignorance is not real compassion. It's giving up.