Comments relative to the book, Crossing The Threshold of Hope
Subj:	Buddha?
Date:	95-09-11 17:27:32 EDT

As a Buddhist, I would like to comment only on the remarks concerning the Pope's writings on Buddha. It is clear that both the Pope and John Keck have no real understanding of Buddhism and the concept which has usually been translated to "emptiness." In and of itself, this is no great surprise -- I wouldn't expect the Dalai Lama to speak authoritatively on Christianity. The Pope has chosen however to write about Buddhism with such an air of authority, so a response is in order.

I don't pretend to speak for all Buddhists, nor for all schools of Buddhism. These views are my own and from my own experience and under- standing. With that aside, let me dive in.

John Keck said:

I don't know what Mr. Keck means by the first sentence. There are many schools of Buddhism with practices ranging from very elaborate devotional types as in the Theravadan tradition to the most simple Zen practices with no statues, images, etc. To many a Buddhist, the Catholic mass more closely resembles a "pagan" ritual complete with a symbolic ritual sacrifice. Mr. Keck's statement seems one of simple ignorance.

He goes on to say that the "greatest of the enlightened" strive to achieve the knowledge that "everything is nothing." To simply characterize the teachings of Buddhism as boiling down to this one statement is simply incorrect. He then equates, as does the Pope, HIS idea of "nothing or meaninglessness" with the Western existential view of nihilism. Mr. Keck and the Pope both missed the boat big time. The teaching of "emptiness," which, by the way, is only one aspect of Buddhism, is far from nihilism. One can view it more as there not being an individual self separate from the rest of the universe. Thus, we all are inseparably connected with one another and all beings. But this is not all. It also points to the fact that everything is always changing in this universe. Is the John Keck of today the same as the John Keck who was born into this world?

Finally, much more can be said about this, but I'll refrain. I do want to point out that the teachings of Buddhism are meant to be tested by each practioners OWN experience. When it comes right down to it, words can not express it -- this is certainly true for "enlightenment." The Buddha said that we must all investigate this life deeply ourselves. We all have everything we need; we only need to awaken to it, but each of us must find this our for ourselves -- no Pope, no Zen Master, no guru, no teacher can give "it" to us. And, in my Mahayana tradition, it is said that we are on this search, not for ourselves, but only to help ALL beings. This is hardly nihilistic.

- Peter Neuwald