Ugly Buddhism

Safe Buddhims

IMG_4640Western Buddhism is significantly different from the Buddhism on-the-ground in Asia.  If you want detailed examples of the differences, read McMahan’s book “The Making of Buddhist Modernism” for details.

Buddhism in the Orient is full of superstitions, fears and manipulative abuse — much like Christianity can be in the West. To the right is the cover of a Japanese children’s book I picked up when I lived in Japan. It is entitled, “Hell & Heaven”.

So for fun, below I have taken some edifying pictures from the book which are meant to scare children into obeying the teachings of the Buddha (read, their parents and those in authority).

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S.A.  I am thankful for escaping traditions that threaten children with hell.

Buddhist Hell 1

Buddhist Hell 2

Buddhist Hell 3




Filed under Philosophy & Religion

12 responses to “Ugly Buddhism

  1. Earnest

    An eye-opening post. We are more similar than some would like to admit.

  2. @ Earnest,
    Exactly. That insight is what started my movement out of my Christianity many years ago.

  3. Nice one. Could we then, perhaps, speculate that when a religion is fresh it is less ugly than when it’s old? (And, here, I’m talking about religion in the conventional sense, not in my sense [which includes state religion, etc.])

    If the above is true, then, perhaps, Christianity in Korea is milder than Christianity in Alabama, say, just as Buddhism is milder in California than, say, in Nepal. Don’t take this as me having proved or read about this. It’s just a hypothesis.

    By the way (and perhaps we discussed this in the past), is there “hell” in Buddhism? What’s up with those boiling or burning in hot oil or the devilish creature sawing a man in two?

    The kind man does something,
    yet something remains undone.
    The just man does something,
    and leaves many things to be done.
    The moral man does something,
    and when no one responds
    he rolls up his sleeves and uses force.

  4. Earnest

    @ Takis I think your data is provocative but not strong enough to be predictive. We need prospective longitudinal data to be certain.

    Are cults of personality examples of very young religions? Some are just odd, or vaguely beneficial, but others get malignant quickly, ending in the deaths of millions.

  5. Earnest

    Interesting that hell tends to be fiery near the equator but cold (Jotenheim) in Norse mythology.

  6. @Earnest: Yes, I think you’re right. I didn’t think of the “cults of personality” examples. This brings to mind other kind of catastrophic “young” religions, like the Jim Jones cult.

  7. @Earnest: I live in Sweden (at latitude 60 degrees). I know what hell is: it’s not just cold, it’s primarily (these days) dark, dark, dark. We’ve had a total of 3 hours of sunlight during the month of November. I live in Hell. 🙂

  8. CRL

    These remind me quite strongly of chick tracts , in both format and message. Probably, there’s no relationship. I guess this goes to show that hellfire comics are more universal than we’d like?

  9. @ Takis
    You wondered if more recent religions are safer than old ones. Well, I don’t think so. If a religion is born in an area of high instability, it can be dangerous — think of the forms of Islam causing violence, or the African witch killings nowadays.

    So what matters is not *when* a religion evolves, but the circumstances *in which* it evolves.

    I think Earnest gives some good examples also.

    @ CRL
    Yeah, I agree. Good example of how we all do the same silly things.

  10. Great post. I’m not as familiar with Buddhism as I am with Hinduisim. There’re similarities with Modern/Westernized Buddhism and Hindusim.

    Modern (Western) Yoga is significantly different from the actual on-the-ground beliefs about yoga in South Asia. Parents threaten their children if they don’t brush their teeth a yogi will come and take them away. Yogis are considered sinister and synonymous with bodily possession of another. Spooky stuff that doesn’t get packaged for Western consumption (since we have enough superstitious sin, death, and destruction in our Western gospels already).

  11. @Sabio: Fair enough, like I said, I didn’t think or investigate before my hypothesis. 🙂

    @CRL: What the hell are these chick tracts? They’re very funny. I read a couple, and, if seen from a cartoon point of view, one can laugh at the “shabby chic”, tasteless, humor they convey. Thanks for pointing them out. There is an entry on them on wikipedia (informative). There is also this image linked in the article.

  12. CRL

    So far as I can tell, some Christian groups buy them to distribute. I’ve run into a few of the more innocuous ones stuck to lampposts, etc.

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