I’ve studied Buddhism for about five years, and although there are obvious benefits to Buddhism, I want to make some criticisms of it simply for the intellectual benefit, after all the Buddha himself tells us to investigate everything, including what he tells us.
1. although the Buddha was just a man, many of the Buddhist texts display him as a type of god-man. This is interesting since Buddhism is supposed to be against the God centered religions like Christianity, and yet Buddha is the all-wise, all-knowing sage, essentially, a God. And so even if you achieve or at least understand his enlightenment, you still will never reach Buddhahood. In official Buddhism, the next Buddha is Maitreya, so although Buddhism is supposed to bring you closer to enlightenment, you basically can never reach the true goal of Buddhism, that is, being Buddha. While some scholars of Buddhism will argue that enlightenment is all that is necessary, and to be a Buddha is just a useless mythological status, it still remains that many Buddhists have a hard enough time finding enlightenment, and are guaranteed to never receive the full privilege of being the Buddha or the next Buddha.
2. Buddhism’s first truth is “To live is to suffer” and it’s second truth is “Suffering is caused by desire.” This tells us right away that Buddhism does not view life as essentially a good, amazing, or wonderful journey, but essentially hell on earth. Desire, the cause of life and everything we know, is shunned by Buddhism as part of the second Noble Truth. So although it is a good idea not to desire too much, Buddhism tells us to not desire at all. Not only is this impossible, since we would have to desire to end desire, a blatant contradiction since desire would still remain, Buddhism is also self contradictory because the Buddha’s “middle path” otherwise called the “path of moderation” must be abandoned since the only way to reach nirvana is by completely destroying desire, which is an extreme view and thus not one of moderation. Moderation would involve desiring little, whereas Buddhism’s metaphysical philosophy would force us to give up desire completely and absolutely (an impossibility).
3. although Buddhism upholds many fine ideals, such as not stealing or not killing, the rules of being a monk are so rigorous that they also go against the way of moderation. It doesn’t seem very enlightening to essentially deny one’s self or one’s very life.
4. Metaphysically, although Buddhism has a good scientific basis since it believes that all things are relative and arise from a relative dependence on each other, the Buddhist idea of nirvana is essentially a “nothingness” by which all desire, life, and any concept of soul is wiped out so that nothing remains. Many Buddhist scholars will deny this type of Nihilism, assuming that there is such a thing as an immortal soul that is freed of suffering, they still can not prove that such a soul actually exists. This soul is also a contradiction to other points of Buddhism, which is why many Buddhists believe in the “no self theory” of Buddhism, because even if there were an immortal soul, it would have to have some type of life and desire, and thus some type of suffering. Plus, any one who says there is no self is making an absurd statement, after all, who is the one that says “there is no self?”
I can probably think of more, but that is enough for now. Any Buddhists or critical thinkers have any rebuttals to that line of reasoning?
I have been a practicing Buddhist for many years and I have to say that I admire the amount of effort that you put into this, as well as the intelligent answers you have placed here. Normally when my faith is criticized, it is by uneducated people who just want to attack for the purpose of attacking so I appreciate your approach. In addition to that, I can say that I agree with a lot of your points – however, this does not rattle my faith at all. I could write for hours on how I agree with your points and add my own faith into that but I will try to keep it simple for the purpose of this posting. Although, I would certainly not disagree to a future conversation about this if you are interested.
Buddha said: “Believe nothing, whether you hear it from Me or anyone else unless you know it to be true.” My perception of this statement is what keeps my faith in spite of all the difficulties and human error that have encircled the faith. I know that a lot of things contradict each other and the reason is obvious – If you take a faith and spread it around to different cultures it will develop into something that closely resembles the culture that has taken it. Even I am guilty of this but I feel that it is necessary for my basic understanding. You can’t change what we are and what we are is human. Human’s seem to have an innate need for a “god” figure and even though it is against the Buddha’s ideals, he has become a “god” in a sense. Still, I refute this belief as an educated person does the best they can to do what is right and that is the basic principal of faith in general. If we split straws on what people have done, the good in Buddha’s words may never inspire people. Inspiration is the key but still human error has warped a lot of things. This is true in every faith, Judaism, Taoism, Hindu, Christianity and Islam. I think the great Messiah’s, Profits, and “gods” are more interested in making our hearts pure and being good but I understand the difficulties of blind faith and thoughts of Nihilism. So, I will end my debate with a quote from the Dali Lama, he said that the faith is good but it is not for everyone. You should be true to you and if that means being other than Buddhism, please do that because the point is to find your happiness.