Author Topic: Is the following Buddhist text compatible with Orthodox doctrine?  (Read 1320 times)

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Offline Gladius

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Hello ladies and gents,

While my life has objectively quite kind to me in every way recently, I have managed to dig myself into a state of intermittent anxiety and panic attacks, catalyzed by erotic/romantic issues with a woman and resulting attachment as well as fear of abandonment. I understand perfectly well that it is all trifle and I'm perfectly capable of keeping on living, worse things have happened to me before after all, but for whatever reason I am still being pummeled down at times by anxiety to the point that I breathe heavily and have horrible fears about my future. It has affected my faith and my religious practise, since distress makes it hard to pray at all, and I've identified several signs of despair inside me where I feel I really am doomed no matter what.

I brought up these sensations recently to some people asking for help, and a pleasant guy who subscribes to Buddhism sent me the following text, suggesting that I am suffering from what in their doctrine is called 'Samvega', explained here:
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/affirming.html

I'm stunned as to how it perfectly encapsulates the extreme hopelessness that is assaulting me intermittently as of late (not all the time fortunately, and even when happening I'm still functional and can hold myself together mostly ok), encompassing a stark dissapointment with mortal life, an extreme sense of guilt for the sins of my past and specially the realisation that there are some sins that seems I am unable to overcome everytime I'm challenged with them, and specially the sense of urgency outlined there which leads me to having extreme stress bouts where I feel I should be desperately working, or cleaning or talking to people to sort out problems in my life (note, none of them are actually urgent) because otherwise I'll simply lead a sorrowful existence forevermore.

As people who are much better read than me regarding the subtleties of Orthodox theology, and can also hopefully address my pitiful self with a bit of kindness, I'd like to ask you today if the teachings contained in the above document are fully compatible with Orthodoxy (I feel they are, but rather not take any chances), and would also like to ask for any supplementary advice you may spare me.

Thank you so much for your time, and I pray God finds you in a better mental situation that I find myself in.

Offline Jetavan

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Re: Is the following Buddhist text compatible with Orthodox doctrine?
« Reply #1 on: June 02, 2018, 08:36:19 PM »
As people who are much better read than me regarding the subtleties of Orthodox theology, and can also hopefully address my pitiful self with a bit of kindness, I'd like to ask you today if the teachings contained in the above document are fully compatible with Orthodoxy (I feel they are, but rather not take any chances), and would also like to ask for any supplementary advice you may spare me.
There's at least one point in the document that would be critiqued -- if not rejected -- by Orthodoxy:

Quote
So the Buddhist attitude toward life cultivates samvega — a clear acceptance of the meaninglessness of the cycle of birth, aging, and death

Insofar as "meaningless" implies "no worth whatsoever", Christianity in general would reject the idea that birth, aging, and death has no worth whatsoever: it was through this process that God became flesh.

However, saying that the process of birth, aging, and death is "meaningless" can also be understood (from a Buddhist perspective) to mean not that the process has no worth whatsoever, but that the process of birth, aging, and death cannot provide total satisfaction/happiness/joy.

It's this second idea of "meaningless" that inspired the early Christians to incorporate the story of the Buddha into the tradition of Christian literature. There is a Christian story of Barlaam and Josaphat, which discusses how, in India, Josaphat's father, King Abenner, was persecuting Christians and did want his son Josaphat to be Christian. But Josaphat had a sense of "samvega", and his meeting with the Christian hermit named Barlaam convinced him that his feeling of "samvega" was the sign that he (Josaphat) should place his trust and confidence in Christ. Josaphat becomes Christian, and eventually a hermit. Barlaam and Josaphat were viewed as Saints in Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Modern scholarship has shown that the story of Barlaam and Josaphat originated in India, as the story of Siddhartha Gautama (otherwise known as the "Buddha") and his feeling of "samvega" that led him to renounce all his possessions and search for the way out of birth, aging, and death. The story spread from India to western Asia and Africa, and into Europe, becoming Christianized along the way.

The story of Sts. Barlaam and Josphat shows that Indian views of "samvega" have long been an inspiration for Christians throughout history.
« Last Edit: June 02, 2018, 08:41:39 PM by Jetavan »
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Is the following Buddhist text compatible with Orthodox doctrine?
« Reply #2 on: June 02, 2018, 09:55:55 PM »
"Originated as the story of Buddha" seems like an overstatement. "Guy from India who was maybe influenced spiritually by Buddha but nevertheless a Christian and whose hagiography accreted elements of Buddha over the years" makes a little more sense and doesn't imply that it was just some Georgian monk being dense.


I don't know about the text, but I have a similar struggle with despondency right now. So I know how you feel, Gladius :(
« Last Edit: June 02, 2018, 09:56:40 PM by Volnutt »
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Offline Justin Kolodziej

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Re: Is the following Buddhist text compatible with Orthodox doctrine?
« Reply #3 on: June 02, 2018, 11:41:27 PM »
This seems more even handed than just the "St. Josaphat is Buddha!!!" nonsense quoted elsewhere, but I'm still having a hard time with Budahsaf becoming Iodasaph.

Anyway, back to the text...it's really not Orthodox, as the "solution" is all wrong, that is extinguishing all desire by your own efforts. Also, sin and death are the root problems, not desire. Though of course some passions are sinful, but not the ones desiring to do the will of God.

Perhaps (again, to contradict the article) it's not just your own guilt but a spiritual attack from the devil -- there is a whole thread about incidents other catechumens had.

Finally another side note: In my opinion, it's a massive error for the GOAA not to always pray the prayers for the catechumens (at least we remember at Presanctified Liturgies!), because there are always catechumens somewhere in the world and they always need our prayers, as this post is proving. Indeed, we are not saved by our own efforts, but by Christ through the intercessions of the Church, the Theotokos first among all the saints. But we do have to cooperate and not give up hope.

I need prayers too because I've gotten lazy and fallen into many sins myself. Lord have mercy!

Offline Hawkeye

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Re: Is the following Buddhist text compatible with Orthodox doctrine?
« Reply #4 on: June 02, 2018, 11:48:10 PM »
"Originated as the story of Buddha" seems like an overstatement. "Guy from India who was maybe influenced spiritually by Buddha but nevertheless a Christian and whose hagiography accreted elements of Buddha over the years" makes a little more sense and doesn't imply that it was just some Georgian monk being dense.

Honestly, I wouldn't have expected you to take that position. I've never given it much thought myself.
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Is the following Buddhist text compatible with Orthodox doctrine?
« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2018, 02:02:48 AM »
"Originated as the story of Buddha" seems like an overstatement. "Guy from India who was maybe influenced spiritually by Buddha but nevertheless a Christian and whose hagiography accreted elements of Buddha over the years" makes a little more sense and doesn't imply that it was just some Georgian monk being dense.

Honestly, I wouldn't have expected you to take that position. I've never given it much thought myself.

It's something that used to bother me so I thought about it a lot. Now I don't actually care that much either way, I just try to avoid sensationalism.
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Offline Volnutt

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Re: Is the following Buddhist text compatible with Orthodox doctrine?
« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2018, 03:06:45 AM »
It seems to me that samvega begins from a position of skepticism about the afterlife/restoration of all things (which makes sense as it seems like Buddhism itself began as a rebellion against the Proto-Hinduism of the Brahmans). If one doesn't believe that death and suffering is going to be the final word, and especially when one has a concept of theosis as neverending renewal and refreshment, then there's less need for it.

Now, there's still discontent with life connected with the soul's longing for God and the vanity of worldly pursuits. But I'm not sure that's exactly the same thing as samvega (though there's likely a bit of overlap).
« Last Edit: June 03, 2018, 03:10:04 AM by Volnutt »
Christ my God, set my heart on fire with love in You, that in its flame I may love You with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my soul and with all my strength, and my neighbor as myself, so that by keeping Your commandments I may glorify You the Giver of every good and perfect gift. Amen.

Offline recent convert

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Re: Is the following Buddhist text compatible with Orthodox doctrine?
« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2018, 12:51:50 PM »
While the sense of renunciation of the world seems ok, there does not seem to be the sense of merciful sacrifice that Christ expects of us. This seems more of inward wisdom than prayer, charity, & fasting which we are supposed to give back to the world as we work out our salvation.
« Last Edit: June 03, 2018, 12:52:34 PM by recent convert »
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Offline NicholasMyra

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Re: Is the following Buddhist text compatible with Orthodox doctrine?
« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2018, 01:25:36 PM »
...I'm still functional and can hold myself together mostly ok
So it's not stopping you from living your daily life, or it is?
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Offline WPM

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Re: Is the following Buddhist text compatible with Orthodox doctrine?
« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2018, 11:18:23 PM »
I've been reading the Buddhist Forum called Dharma wheel for years and still believe in Christ and Orthodox. (Also explored Atheism)
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