Buddhism and its critics


My introduction to Buddhism was Walpola Rahula’s What the Buddha Taught. The part that stuck with me the most, about both Buddhism and religion in general is that it does not have to be dogmatic, there does not have to be anything which is “taken as gospel.” I know that is often not how things are in practice in Buddhist circles, but it stuck in my head that Buddha talked about trying what he said out and seeing for ourselves.

Love these whimsical dwarves. And no, I don’t believe Buddha went to Kelaniya. copyright 2015 Denish C

Despite never yet finding a full sangam, I personally have gotten a lot from the little I understand & practice of Buddhism. I see how imperfect Buddhist (and most) institutions are, how destructive many of them can be. I think it helps to have a healthy skepticism of any powers that be. (I’ve likewise gotten a lot from devotees of nonviolence, although it as well can fail when it becomes naive or dogmatic. Fortunately it has devotees who are neither. The nonviolent resistance in Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia has been inspiring. On the flip side I do not begrudge anyone keeping an eye on excesses from “my” side – I live in the USA.)

The best critics of Buddhism I’m aware of are from within Buddhism itself, which has had countless reform movements. I don’t recall enough to say where to start, I got a ~half-hour overview of the religion’s mainline reform movements across South Asia through history from a monk long ago. Each region and tradition has its critics.

Vajra Chandrasekara is an author in Sri Lanka who has both read deeply on Buddhism in general, and is familiar with Sri Lankan Buddhist clergy and institutions. He’s also pointed me to others’ helpful critiques. Here’s a thread of his on being unbuddhist. EDIT: Honestly, he seems far more concerned about the damage from Buddhist violence than Buddhist pacifism.

Someone asked on r/Buddhism about critics of pacifism, I wrote this and decided I wanted it here as well.


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