Skillful Scenes

Do Buddhists believe in God? It seems that they do!

I read in your recent report on religious leaders’ opposition to the patenting of animals [“In the News,” Fall 1995], that four well known Buddhist leaders: Robert Aitken Roshi, Jack Kornfield, Tenshin Reb Anderson and Stephanie Kaza had signed a statement: “We believe that humans and animals are creations of God, not humans, and as such should not be patented as human inventions.”

Clearly we have to wonder if they really did sign the document or, if they did, were they in some way tricked into endorsing a statement which so obviously goes against basic Buddhist teachings? At meetings of “religious leaders” one frequently finds that seemingly knowledgeable and kindly Christian and Jewish participants insist, in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that Buddhists too, in their own way, believe in the same God, creator of the universe.

Perhaps these four Buddhist leaders agreed to sign the statement as a sort of skillful means. But what kind of message does this give to the general public and newcomers to Buddhism? Millions of people in the West have rejected theistic religions—for very good reasons—and find themselves without a spiritual tradition. Buddhism is a fundamentally different and effective path to spiritual liberation. To equate it with the religious views of the theistic religions can bring nothing but confusion. Being clear about what is and what is not the Buddha’s teaching is the most skillful means.

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