Belief : Truth & Goodness

Beliefs of a ‘Non-Believer’,7674,0,0,1,0

I watched the live telecast of Obama’s inaugural presidential speech last night. It was largely a speech on inclusion; not exclusion, though one part seems to accidentally segregate instead of integrate. In his words –

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.’ (From

In his list of religions, I was expecting him to include ‘Buddhists’, especially since it is the fastest growing religion in the States. But instead, they were conveniently ‘lumped’, so it seems, with the ‘leftovers’ as ‘nonbelievers’. The term ‘nonbelievers’ definitely has a more derogatory feel than a neutral or even respectful one. A poor choice of word. Semantics aside and to be fair, the paragraph above does show his zeal for embracing harmony in diversity. Incidentally, not many serious God-believers listed by Obama see that they all believe in the same God – which is an ongoing cause for segregation since ages ago. I do look forward to the day though, when a ‘nonbeliever’ becomes President of the most powerful nation in the world, in that land of equal opportunity. Of course, such a ‘nonbeliever’ must still believe in universal truth and goodness. Wait! That sounds like a Buddhist! (Buddhists seek to realise the ultimate truth while practising goodness to all beings – including the non-human; e.g. animals).

In the general sense of the word ‘nonbelievers’, what do Buddhists not believe in? Buddhists do not believe in the existence of an almighty God. If there was such a God, who created all perfectly, who loves all perfectly, there would be no ‘bitter swill of civil [and international] war and segregation’ in the first place; the world would not be in its present state; the world would not need to pin so much hopes upon Obama. So what do Buddhists believe in? We believe that all beings, despite our differences in beliefs, have the potential to be Buddhas with perfect compassion and wisdom, who can create perfect worlds (Pure Lands) for equally leading all beings towards the blissful liberation of Buddhahood. We believe that the greatest goal possible is not just to be with a supreme being, but to be supreme beings (Buddhas) ourselves. The American constitution is one that emphasises equal opportunity, as Obama reminds us. Interestingly, such an invaluable value was already deeply embedded in the Buddhist teachings – way before the States became united.

2 thoughts on “Belief : Truth & Goodness

  1. this is a good post, especially with the driving point from Buddhism’s perspective. nevertheless as this is still a Buddhism blog.

    if we could take a second look, arent we hving certain form of attachment. it is just another paradigm of attachment where we are lamenting the teaching of Buddhism so patriotic. I am not trying to say that it is not good. But, the only absolute meaning of learning is where we can unlearn what we have learnt and practice it without reciting the laws of truth. to draw essence of creativity in parallel, an individual needs to learn from everyone – from the right one only -, follows no one (not reciting), looks for pattern (learning yourself all over again) and work like hell (being very diligence) ; Beethoven was only able to produce good pieces after learning the basic of music.

    what i m trying to drive is that there is only incremental evolution in the peace between religious if all of us is able to not hold any forms of attachement. the crux of religiou is to guide us how to do good and be good. if not, all will become traditions and rituals segregating all of us away. somehow i wishes that it can happen and that probably singapore is a good place to leverage on this.

    *just sharing

  2. When the Buddha shared the Dharma, did he have attachment to his teachings? Don’t think so. He just shared what he thinks he should, that he thinks is beneficial. Likewise, when Buddhists share Buddhism, it need not be with attachment.

    If the right things have been learnt, there is no need to unlearn them. There is just no need to be attached to truths and labels if they are already internalised. If Dharma terms are not used in the spread of the Dharma at all, the Dharma cannot spread well. Say you learnt truth A. If you don’t know A is from Buddhism, you will not know where to go to for more related truths. We can realise the Dharma from many non-Buddhist places without Buddhist labels – but only if we are sharp enough. Even the Buddha used specialised terms to teach.

    For inter-religious harmony, we just need to acknowledge the importance of universal values such as the golden rule (at least at the human level). It is not possible to seek similarities all the way because they are after all different religions with different core beliefs. For example, a good Christian can never agree that there is no God. If we insist faith in God is due to attachment, this can lead to disharmony.

    There is a need to agree to disagree at times. While religions are supposed to teach all to be good, different religions have different scopes of what is good. For example, many God-centred religions teach that animals are created for consumption, while Buddhism disagrees. The differences in religions are thus not just due to different traditions and rituals.

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