LORD BUDDHA’S VIEWS ON RELIGIOUS CONVERSIONS
Posted on June 12th, 2013

BY HERMAN PATHIGE

In an era when religious conversions are carried out by different other faiths it is relevant to highlight Lord Buddha’s views on this sensitive subject.

Conversion to another religion is an unethical process “”…” a dangerous trend ignored by many people. It involves accepting a new conviction, identity and a reference point for one’s identity. The danger of conversion, for example from a religion like Buddhism which is a liberal philosophy to a religion like Catholicism which requires a person to accept the authority of the Pope without overall unquestioning causes a radical change in a person’s psyche.

“ƒ”¹…”COME AND SEE’

Lord Buddha did not expect one to accept a belief as the basic requirement to attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana. He said “ƒ”¹…”ehi passiko’ , the interpretation is “ƒ”¹…”come and see’ and decide from a position of discovery. Lord Buddha expressly discouraged his followers from accepting anything they have heard without testing its validity.

Belief is not a condition to attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana according Lord Buddha. He expected people to learn by their own experience rather than drawing from the contents in books and logical deduction. Lord Buddha did not preach to win converts but to convince and enlighten listeners. In this context an event which needs to be stated here refers to an incident when a follower of a certain religion posed some questions to Lord Buddha who responded by setting out his basic teachings.

Having listened to the discourse and convinced himself he told the Buddha that he wanted to follow his teachings but Buddha advised him not to arrive at a hasty conclusion but to reason out and investigate the veracity of his teachings before finally seeking conversion.

Buddha was adamant that he should not change his religion and asked him thrice whether he really wanted to change his faith and again advised him to investigate as to the truth of his teachings. This event highlights the liberal and rational attitude of the Buddha who cannot be compared with any other religious leader.

BERTRAM RUSSEL

This trait of the Buddha was cited by Bertram Russell , one of the greatest philosophers in the western world in his book “ƒ”¹…”Why I am not a Christian’. In this book he states ” I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Jesus Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history and I should regard Buddha and Socrates above him in those respects.”

Buddhism has never been a persecuting religion whereas Christianity has been distinguished from other religions by its greater readiness for persecution. Buddha did not preach to win converts but to enlighten listeners, nor did he resort to conversion to propagate his teachings.

In contrast to Buddha’s views on conversion and how the Buddhist way of life rejected conversion as a means to impose religion on people it is relevant to mention how Pope Benedict XVI set up “ƒ”¹…”the ordinariate to ease conversion of Anglicans to be accepted as Roman Catholics’.

The Portuguese rule in Ceylon from 1505 to 1658 resorted to conversion and converts enjoyed special privileges.

The significant historical record relate to King Dharmapala of Kotte who ruled Ceylon when the Portuguese invaded the country. He became virtually a vassal of the colonial power. On his conversion to Catholicism he was christened as Don Juan Dharmapala. Another famous conversion was the famous poet of the Sitawaka Court who was baptised as Don Jeronius Alagiyawanna.

Conversion of Uthumankande Saradiel a rebel and murderer who was tried and a death sentence passed is another famous event. Saradiel was converted by Oblate priests. This story is related in a book authored by Father Emmanuel Jesuthasan titled “ƒ”¹…”Gleanings from Oblates Mission Field “ƒ”¹…”‘in being forgiven in the Holy Sacrament of Baptism and was baptised as Joseph before he was executed by hanging.

The Portuguese while pursuing a policy of destruction and plunder of Buddhist temples held d out various inducements for people to convert to Catholicism. Conversion meant a sure means of exemption from taxes payable to the Government. For example people who were converted were exempted from the tax called “ƒ”¹…”Marala’- a death duty. This meant they could leave their properties to their heirs upon death.

This meant “ƒ”¹…”death bed conversions’ became very common to enable one’s relatives to inherit property upon death. This was a privilege granted only to the Catholics. Further, a person who became converted to Catholicism also received preferential judicial treatment. Murderers and thieves upon converting to Catholicism were able to escape penal sentences. In 1618 pursuant to a decree by the Jesuit missionaries, no catholic was to be sentenced to death.

A book authored by Tikiri Abeysingha “ƒ”¹…” Portuguese Rule in Ceylon’ sheds more light on unethical conversions .

The few famous cases of unethical conversions in this article amongst a large number points show how Portuguese missionaries were able to suppress Buddhism since the Buddhists at the time did not rebel against such vile proselytization.
Buddhism has been accepted by intellectuals as a philosophy without being converted. It has not used conversion as a vehicle to propagate its ideals and Lord Buddha did not endorse such methods.
ends

12 Responses to “LORD BUDDHA’S VIEWS ON RELIGIOUS CONVERSIONS”

  1. charithsls Says:

    Buddhism is not a religion for the ‘masses’ but for the intellectuals.
    Please do not address as ‘Lord’ but as The Buddha or SammaSambuddha.

  2. Senevirath Says:

    JUAN DHARMAPALA MAY BE THE PRESENT JAYANTHA DHANAPALA. THEN HENCHMEN.. NOW HENCHMEN. LICKING BOOTS FOREVER.

    REBIRTH PROVED

  3. Amarasiri Says:

    What is Buddhism? How is it Applicable to Sinhala Buddhism?

    What is Religion? Is God necessary?

    How should Buddhism be practiced? the BBS way?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=LtJo6h901ik&feature=endscreen

    Introducing Buddhism By Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda

  4. Universal Citizen Says:

    So this means that a Cristian can attain Nirvana without becoming a Buddhist..

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    It means a Muslim can attain Nirvana without being a Buddhist.

    I’m sure millions of them already have.

    It is way better than myths like being born with 7 virgins! These MYTHS hinder them from attaining Nirvana. But in this 21st century people shed these myths.

    Good article Herman.

  6. Senevirath Says:

    BERTRAND RUSSEL UNDERSTOOD THAT BUDDHISM IS A GREAT PHILOSOPHY .BUT THAT MERE UNDERSTANDING DID NOT HELP HIM TO ATTAIN NIRVANA BECAUSE HE NEVER FOLLOWED THAT PATH…. HE JUST BECAME AN ATHEIST

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    There is a strong connection between modern day Psychology and Buddhism. Here is an extract from the net :

    “Buddhism and psychology overlap in theory and in practice.

    Over the last century, four strands of interplay have evolved:
    Descriptive phenomenology: Western and Buddhist scholars have found in Buddhist teachings a detailed introspective phenomenological psychology (particularly in the Abhidhamma).

    Psychotherapeutic meaning: Humanistic psychotherapists have found in Buddhism’s non-dualistic approach and enlightenment experiences (such as in Zen kensho) the potential for transformation, healing and finding existential meaning.

    Clinical utility: Contemporary mental-health practitioners increasingly find ancient Buddhist practices (such as the development of mindfulness) of empirically proven therapeutic value.

    Popular psychology & spirituality: Psychology has been popularized, and has become blended with spirituality to form modern spirituality. Buddhist notions form an importantant ingredient of this modern blend”.

    ————-

    Converting anyone to any religion via favors, beliefs, threats, etc. are not true conversions at all. A true Conversion will take place only via ones own life experiences and feelings.

    Questions : Can a person reach Enlightenment without any religion ? Can life experiences become a substitute for religion ?

  8. Senevirath Says:

    religions never helps to enlighten u . they are based on faith .. blind faith without questioning will take u no where. but philosophy shows the path to enlightenment . only wise people go for philosophy and it is not that easy like blind faith. even though RUSSEL was an intelectual who refused blind faith didnt want to follow the correct path . he just enjoyed the life His life experience was not enough……..

  9. Fran Diaz Says:

    Aiming for Self Realisation is the worthiest goal. To reach this goal – that is what the Buddha taught. However difficult and seemingly elusive, there is beauty to be experienced even in the attempts to do so.

    In the Hindu religion, the Four Yogas to reach Self Realisation are : Bhakthi (Devotion), Kriya (Action), Gnana (Knowledge) and Raja Yoga (Meditation). There are similarities between Buddhism and the Four Yogas, especially the Raja Yoga.

  10. Ananda-USA Says:

    Senevirath,

    Ha! Ha! Bloody Good Observation ….. Don Juan Dharmapala, the supine puppet of the Portuguese colonialists, reincarnated as “Don” Jayantha Dhanapala, the puppet of Western neocolonialists mouthing TNA’s propaganda!

    Voila! I have donned a “don” on his piebald pate to further accentuate the similarity!!

  11. wasantha Says:

    There is no question about the connection between Buddhism anf Psychology. Buddism is all about mind and purification of the mind alone. Buddha never waste his words on other silly metaphysical questions like centre of the world, begining of the world, end of the world, or God and so on. He never indulged in any problem other than ending suffering of the terrestrial beings. And he gave the ultimate solution of never changing bliss for all living beings.

  12. Mr. Bernard Wijeyasingha Says:

    Since Sri Lanka is the oldest Buddhist nation outside of India and has an unbroken written history that dates back to 300 BC why not include an amendment that conversions to other faiths are banned for the sake of national integrity but conversions to Buddhism is encouraged.

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