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As a follow-up to a previous Dune question, Buddhislamic religion always struck me as a somewhat strange concept.

From my limited (but greater than a random westerner) understanding of both, they seem to be two highly incompatible belief systems, both theologically and philosophically.

Is there an in-Universe explanation of how the contradictions between the two source religions are resolved to form Buddhislamism?

An alternate valid answer would be a proper analysis (on here or as a link to external source) showing that my limited understanding of both is completely wrong and they are in fact compatible enough that the notion of Buddhislamism is not that strange of a concept.

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    Incompatible? Like, say, the apparently common combination of Christianity and Objectivism? Methinks that you underestimate the human ability to maintain contradictory viewpoints. – mu is too short Sep 4 '13 at 20:59
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    It would help if you could explain why these two religions are so incompatible in your mind. – Django Reinhardt Sep 6 '13 at 2:06
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    @zipquincy I love how the hexed-out text makes it look like that link goes to a Wikipedia article named “Bah, faith!” – Janus Bahs Jacquet May 19 '15 at 21:16
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I'm sure your understanding of these religions isn't wrong at all, but consider the following:

Sufism is a branch of Islam that emphasizes a direct connection with God. Early Sufis emphasized spiritual practice and rejected luxury. One of their doctrines is "fana," the extinction of consciousness of the self separate from God.

On the Buddhist side, Buddhism seems to reject the concept of a personal creator God, but appears to contain the concept of some kind of Godhead. The Buddha is supposed to have said, "There is, O monks, an Unborn, neither become nor created nor formed . . . Were there not, there would be no deliverance from the formed, the made, the compounded."

What do you think? Closer than you thought?

(All information from Huston Smith's excellent The World's Religions.)

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+500

Let me think of scenarios through which Buddhism and Islam may merge. In today's world, Islam and Buddhism show a lot of variation, but not enough to seem similar.

So let's say that whenever colonization takes place, there is a colony that is populated by Buddhists(majority) and Muslims(minority), being ruled in some form by Muslims. Now a particular ruler wants greater cooperation between the two sides, so he starts making some changes. He orders a "definitive" translation of the Quran in the local language, which conveniently glosses over some aspects of Islam. Buddhism meanwhile has evolved into one of it's forms that recognises gods. Several centuries later, the new Islam has completely rooted out the second. Then along comes a man preaching revolution, who wants to put power into the hands of the people, or so he says. He has a magnetic personality, and people flock to his hill. To unify his sheep, he reveals that Buddhism and Islam are actually the offshoot of the same religion (just look at how similar they are, how can it be otherwise?). And so is born Buddhislam.

NOTE : 'Akbar' is the inspiration for the first ruler, mainly because he was in the situation I described, and he was very concerned about religious divisions and intolerance. (He also started his own religion). 'Gandhi' is mainly the inspiration for the second, mainly because he tried to make the Indian freedom movement as inclusive as possible, and thus he spearheaded several kind of religious reforms. (The cynical overtone is mainly for humorous purposes).

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    @apoorv020 - how do you know that you belon on this web site? Because, on reading the NOTE in the answer, the first association that pops into your head is "Mon Calamari" :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 17 '11 at 14:11
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    @DVK:Ah, I'm not a star-wars fan so I completely missed it. – apoorv020 Mar 17 '11 at 18:07
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    Other than simply postulating that Frank Herbert, simply thought the names ran together nicely, I think this isn't an unreasonable explanation. The timespan between the present day, and the Dune time is vast (several tens of thousands of years), and religions and language would almost certainly have evolved beyond recognition. Perhaps the names are conserved longer than the philosophy? In any case Shinto is a good example of religions forced to merge for the sake of national unity. Such things do in fact happen. – Omega Centauri Mar 18 '11 at 2:35
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    @Omega, @apoorv020 - It is a plausible theory (so +1), but I wonder if this fits with the known - e.g. specifically mentioned in Dune Universe - pieces of Buddhislamism? It seemed to my less-than-expert eye that most of the featurs mentioned jived pretty closedly with modern-day Islam (likely, by Herbert's design). – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 18 '11 at 17:12
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    @DVK - That(being more like Islam) seems more likely because (IMO) Islam is a more 'formal' religion than Buddhism, so it presumely is more resistant to change over time than Buddhism – apoorv020 Mar 18 '11 at 17:18
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Been a long time since I read Dune, and I did not read the whole series, so I don't know if I making any big assumptions here. Buddhislamism, as I understand it, will be a mixture of Buddhism and Islam(or maybe Christianity, according to Dampe's comment).

Anyways, Islam and Christainity are Abrahamic religions, while Buddhism would properly be called an off-shoot/sibling of Hinduism. The most major difference between the two groups of religion is that in Abrahamic religion, there is a single omnipotent (and as I understand it) kind God (with a capital G). In Hinduism, gods are secondary beings, powerful but mentally not that different from humans and in Buddhism, the existence of God is left to the imagination of the readers (Buddha is said to have declined to go into metaphysics, saying that he does not what happens after death).

Islam/Christainity also have authorative books (though their content is open to interpretation) and associated with several forms of rituals, while Buddhism is not so formal. There's no authorative book and rituals associated with Buddhism (though some branches of Buddhism have moved away from this). Buddhism is more a philosophy of life, which can be paraphrased in the sentence - "Suffering is caused by desire, hence let go of it."

So you could perhaps merge Buddhism and Islam/Christianity by having a god and changing the books to reflect Buddhist philosophy by adding austerity, non-violence etc. as ideals

EDIT1: PS: Not being a Christian/Muslim/Buddhist, I wouldn't know how compatible the philosophies are, but it was Muller (I think) who said that "Christ must have been a Buddhist" or something similar, so I guess Buddhism and Christianity may not be as irreconcilable as people think.

  • Could you merge your two hours together? Into something coherenant (not saying they aren't now, but raming them together willy-nilly might now work) I think you cover some good ground between them. – AncientSwordRage Sep 8 '13 at 20:31
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Historically, both the Muslims and the Buddhists (and here let’s limit ourselves to the Indo-Tibetan forms of Buddhism), have adopted an inclusivist approach. The Muslims, for example, included Buddhists as People of the Book, the same as Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians.

Historical approach of the Buddhists toward Islam. The singular Buddhist textual tradition that mentions any Islamic customs or beliefs is the Sanskrit Kalachakra Tantra literature, which emerged in the late tenth and early eleventh centuries CE, most likely in the area of southeastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan. At that time, the Buddhists in this area were facing the threat of a possible invasion by the rulers of Multan, in central Pakistan. The Multan rulers followed an eastern form of Ismaili Shia, a subsect of Islam. Multan, in alliance with the Fatimid Caliphs in Egypt, was the rival of the Arab Abbasids for gaining control of the Muslim world. The Buddhists and Hindus in southeastern Afghanistan and northern Pakistan were caught in the middle of this rivalry.

Both the Buddhists and the Muslims follow an inclusivist approach concerning this question about revelation. For example, the Kalachakra commentary Stainless Light explains, “Concerning the invaders, Muhammad was an avatar of Rahman. The indicator of the invaders’ teachings, he was the guru and master of the invader Tayis.” In Hinduism, an avatar is an incarnation of the soul of a god into another form. Thus, Muhammad being an avatar of Rahman parallels the Hindu assertion of Krishna as an avatar of the god Vishnu. In Buddhist terms, this analogy would be equivalent to asserting that Muhammad was a Nirmanakaya emanation of Allah.

The following website shows in a short bullet form some similarities and differences between Buddhism and Islam.

Trying to put this answer more towards the question this time around :)

I think I should focus on Zensunni faith since this part of Buddhislamic faith was the most common. And to explain what Zensunni is, one cannot help themselves but to say:

"ZENSUNNI: followers of a schismatic sect that broke away from the teachings of Maometh (the so-called "Third Muhammed") about 1381 B.G. The Zensunni religion is noted chiefly for its emphasis on the mystical and a reversion to "the ways of the fathers." Most scholars name Ali Ben Ohashi as leader of the original schism but there is some evidence that Ohashi may have been merely the male spokesman for his second wife, Nisai." Terminology of the Imperium

EDIT: I understand that Islamic scholars differ on whether Hindus are People of the Book but Muslims however had at one point accorded them the status of "people of the Book", and Al-Biruni wrote of Buddha as the prophet "burxan". taken out of wikipedia

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    @Darius - could you please provide a cite for "The Muslims included Buddhists as People of the Book"? This is completely contrary to what I'm aware of. Also, please elaborate on "inclusivist approach" of Islam? (other than indicating that the Allah is the same god that Christians ans Jews pray to, which is by design and not for reasons of religious tolerance and inclusion)? – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 16 '11 at 21:15
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    @Darius Being a Muslim myself I can assure you that Buddhists are not considered "People of the Book" by any of the reigning schools of thought. Zoroastrians aren't included either. – System Down Mar 16 '11 at 21:21
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    @System Down - Also quick look at Wikipedia page gave me the insight that many Muslim rulers and scholars have also included other religions such as Zoroastrianism[2][3] and Hinduism.[4][5] – Darius Mar 16 '11 at 21:29
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    @Darius - "People of the Book" is a very specific term used to describe Abrahamic faiths. Muslims believe that they are only the latest in a long lineage of religions. Judaism and Christianity are recognized as "previous but obsolete versions" of Islam (to use a computing metaphor). Abraham, Isaac, Moses and Jesus are all recognized as holy men by Islam. Buddhism and Hinduism on the other hand do not have that same recognition. There may be a few fringe scholars who claim otherwise, but they remain in the minority. – System Down Mar 17 '11 at 15:32
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    @system down: If you take a strictly non supernatural (i.e. no god, only human psychology) view of the development of religion, then Islam was to large extent a resynthesis of the religious philosophical ideas found in 7th century Arabia. And those religious ideas were heavily influenced by Judaism, and Christianity. – Omega Centauri Mar 18 '11 at 2:28
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In fact there is an existing community in the Middle East who observe a syncretic religion combining aspects of Islam and Buddhism: the Druze. The Druze believe in a single God (they're monotheists) and believe in the principle of reincarnation. Perhaps Frank Herbert was inspired by the Druze when he invented the Buddhislamic religion.

According to the Wikipedia article:

The Druze faith incorporates elements of Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Pythagoreanism, Ismailism, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism and other philosophies and beliefs, creating a distinct and secretive theology known to esoterically interpret religious scriptures and to highlight the role of the mind and truthfulness. The Druze follow theopany, which is the belief that God manifests himself in a human form and in reincarnation or the transmigration of the soul. At the end of the cycle of rebirth, which is achieved through successive reincarnations, the soul is united with the Cosmic Mind (Al Aaqal Al Kulli).

While it's certainly false to state the Druze religion was explicitly created as a hybrid of Islam (Ismailism) and Buddhism, it's feasible that living at the crossroads of East and West the Druze ancestors may have been exposed to a range of philosophies and religions, including Buddhism.

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Religions take strange turns.

Consider what we hear from the Middle east. There are variations on Islam that are violently opposed to any non-Muslim religion to the point of beating or killing those who are not among the faithful. (I got this from various news articles about recent events in Syria.) But there are other followers of the Prophet who stress it as a religion of peace and who cooperate with Christian and Hindu adherents happily.

Consider the LDS religion (Mormons) and the Christian Scientists who would be considered offshoots of Christianity but differ in significant aspects in what they teach. I would say the latter is significantly metaphysical in their outlook while the former has a heavenly mother who lives with heavenly father, asks their teenagers not to pray together on a date and considers planting gardens a religious responsibility. Now compare to the Christian religious right who reject all these things (except the gardens which are ok but nothing to do with what God wants of them).

Consider the wide variations between Catholic and Protestant Christians and conflicts I have heard about the authority of the Pope, praying to Mary, inclusiveness and just who goes to heaven and who does not. (Not to mention the David Koresh or Jim Jones variations of Christianity with strict controls in every aspect of the worshipper's lives, even to the point of dying. What about the guys that died waiting for the spaceship to arrive?)

Then think about Buddhism or the Sikh religion, both considered offshoots historically from Hinduism, but holding to wide variations in how or what one is to do to improve their eternal lot or how to do it.

These are just examples of how religions swerve and reverse direction. To imagine a group ending up with merger of a hodge-podge of Buddhist and Islamic beliefs that constitute a whole consistent enough to constitute a "new" religion ... that is far from unbelievable.

I haven't shown how a combination of current day beliefs could end up with Dune's fictional religion. What I'm trying to show is that predicting this chaotic process is impossible and Buddhislam is probably more reasonable than actual existing religions, some with millions of adherents.

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Most religions can be reconciled with sufficient esotericism. I personally practice something sort of like 'Buddhislam.' Let's start with the common ground and then go through a few problematic cases.

1. Suffering

Buddhism's main philosophical goal is the cessation of suffering, which it does in two main ways. The 'sutric' method, the method practiced by mainstream Theravada and Mahayana Buddhists, involves relinquishing attachments through asceticism and gradual realization of the temporary and unsatisfactory nature of all experiences. This is usually accompanied by something called metta practice, or lovingkindness meditation, the idea being that you are replacing your discriminatory passions with something positive: pure unconditional love and compassion. The purpose is to reach equanimity essentially by starving the kleshas of opportunities to take root in oneself. The second method is the tantric: instead of denying the kleshas opportunity to arise, you embrace all aspects of experience without regard to any distinctions between good, bad, liked, disliked. The tantrika, by unconditionally accepting all experiences without aversion or discrimination, may thereby learn to see life as both the pure land and the charnel ground.

Islam does not have much to say about this theory one way or the other. The closest analogue would be tasawwuf (purification of the heart), from which we get the term 'Sufism'. I don't see anything incompatible here.

2. Self and the Ultimate

Central to all forms of Buddhism but much debated is the doctrine of anatta, or 'no self'. Usually this is taken to mean that what we call the self or ego is just a collection of constantly changing mental aggregates, influenced by experiences in our current and past lives, with no irreducibly basic component which we can identify as an eternal, unchanging 'I.' And yet paradoxically, Nirvana or Buddha-Nature is often described as being the 'true self'; as being luminous as well as empty.

There is actually a similar ambivalence about the nature of Ultimate Realization in the Sufi tradition, called fana. At times it seems the Sufis almost identify their 'true self' with God, but generally they are careful to qualify this as an annihilation of their own self in the divine essence. A quotation from Bāyazīd is illustrative:

“Then I became a bird, whose body was of Oneness and whose wings were of Everlastingness, and I continued to fly in the air of the Absolute, until I passed into the sphere of Purification, and gazed upon the field of Eternity and beheld there the tree of Oneness. When I looked, I myself was all those. I cried: ‘O Lord, with my egoism I cannot attain to thee and I cannot escape from my selfhood. What am I to do?’ God spoke: ‘O Abū Yazīd, thou must win release from thy ‘thouness’ by following my Beloved. Smear thine eyes with the dust of his feet and follow him continually.”

More information can be found here.

This identification of enlightenment with annihilation of the self in the Truth of Allah seems to offer a promising avenue for reconciling Islamic monotheism with Buddhism, viz. by an identification of Nirvana or Buddha-Nature with the God (but this identification also poses some difficulties, addressed below).

3. Afterlife and Rebirth

Traditional Buddhism says that, while there is no eternal unchanging 'self' (except perhaps in Buddha-Nature), nevertheless a chain of mental causation exists which could be crudely termed 'reincarnation'. This has sometimes been described as a stream of thought; prior mental habits and attachments exercising an influence on subsequent minds even beyond death, despite the lack of any material substrate to connect the previous 'life' with the next 'life.'

The Qur'an seems to give rather a different picture of the state of a person after death. Surah 23:99-103:

"Until, when death comes to one of them, he says, ‘My Lord, send me back,that I may do righteous deeds in the life that I have left.’ Never, it is but a word that he utters. And behind them is a barrier until the day when they shall be raised again. And when the trumpet is blown, there will be no ties of relationship between them that day, nor will they ask after one another. Then those whose good works are heavy — these will be prosperous; but those whose good works are light — these are they who ruin their souls; in Hell will they abide."

Since Buddhislam as a movement doesn't actually exist, at this point I am going to have to give my own understanding of these passages, which I believe comports with Buddhism.

First, it is clear that this passage is specifically about the wicked. Generally it is only middle-of-the-road people who are reborn back on the physical earth; the truly wicked incarnate in the infernal planes, while the good incarnate in heaven until their 'credit' runs out. The saint, or bodhisattva, or arhat, has achieved immortality and may choose to incarnate anywhere they desire.

The 'final judgment' of which the Qur'an speaks thus has a dual application: an individual who has reached immortality has been raised from the dead; a wicked person goes to the Fire, which either purifies them until they can again enter the physical world, or forcibly reintegrates their seed of consciousness with reality. The second application is to a historical spiritual age in which the residents of the infernal planes are prevented from incarnating on earth.

Basically, we all return to Allah, but we either do it the easy way or the hard way. Qur'an 101:8-9: "But as for him whose scales are light [who has no good deeds], Hell will be his [nursing] mother."

Rumi writes,

I died as a mineral and became a plant,

I died as plant and rose to animal,

I died as animal and I was Man.

Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?

Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar

With angels blest; but even from angelhood

I must pass on: all except God doth perish.

When I have sacrificed my angel-soul,

I shall become what no mind e'er conceived.

Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence

Proclaims in organ tones, 'To Him we shall return.'

4. Creator or No Creator?

The Qur'an strongly asserts that Allah is the creator of all things. This seems to directly contradict the Buddhist belief that there is no ultimate creator.

Buddhists often appeal to the Mulapariyaya Sutta in defense of this doctrine:

"He [the enlightened Buddha] directly knows Unbinding as Unbinding. Directly knowing Unbinding as Unbinding, he does not conceive things about Unbinding, does not conceive things in Unbinding, does not conceive things coming out of Unbinding, does not conceive Unbinding as 'mine,' does not delight in Unbinding. Why is that? Because he has known that delight is the root of suffering & stress, that from coming-into-being there is birth, and that for what has come into being there is aging & death."

The 'Unbinding' refers to Nibbana, the root of existence. At first glance this seems to flatly deny that the Ultimate Reality produces anything from itself, but I think we can get around this by deploying the Mahayana doctrine of two truths.

These two truths are the conventional and the ultimate. On the conventional level, we perceive reality as being made up of separate objects, which arise and pass away. To the conventional level belongs all of our everyday experiences. On the ultimate level, it is impossible to make distinctions between objects or to talk of arising and passing away.

I would argue that perceiving Allah as a separate 'creator' also belongs to the conventional. Sufi mystics often interpret Tawhid (the divine Unity) as meaning that Allah is the only existent, the only truth. The creation is thus to some extent illusory. It seems to have a real existence, but it doesn't. So when the Qur'an speaks about the creation, it (arguably) does so from the point of conventional reality, whereas the ultimate is more in line with Surah Al-Baqarah (2:115):

To Allah belong the East and the West; so withersoever you turn, there will be the face of Allah. Surely, Allah is Bountiful, All- Knowing.

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You commented that you believed the "MAIN point" of the Abrahamic faiths is their monotheism, but when I look at Buddhism and compare it with most monotheistic religions, I see the differences as mainly in semantics.

Pretty much all monotheistic religions recognize a pantheon of supernatural/divine creatures, even though most churches/sects believe in a strict hierarchy and establish a single entity to worship as the creator god or god king. But you still have angels (Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones, etc.), saints, the holy trinity (which can be viewed as avatars), demons, apostles, messiahs, and other venerated figures.

In Buddhism (and even Hellenistic or Nordic faiths), you have a similar hierarchy: Gautama Buddha up top, the Bodhisattvas, the Maitreyas, demons, etc. Sure, the other deities/supernatural beings are mentioned in texts, but the focus has always been the teachings of Gautama Buddha. And many Buddhist sects are much more monotheistic in practice than certain Catholic sects that regularly pray to the Virgin Mary and/or the thousands of named saints.

Now, some people will argue that the key issue is that Abrahamic religions only apply the word "god" to a single entity, but the rest of the religious pantheon still has supernatural powers, often including immortality, and stand somewhere in the spiritual hierarchy between humans and "God", and they are venerated roughly in the same manner. In fact, when people point out the Christian overtones of having "In God We Trust" as our national motto or adding "One Nation Under God" to the Pledge of Allegiance, the typical response from Christians is that "God" will simply refer to Buddha/Brahman/Odin/Zeus/etc. if the person reading/reciting it isn't Christian/Jewish/Muslim. This suggests that even monotheists view the semantic differences as minimal.

Both faiths also believe in heaven and hell, and the veneration of Buddha is so fanatical that even a split second of negative thoughts towards the Buddha is believed to result in aeons of suffering in hell. Also, reincarnation has been an element of some Christian teachings in the past and continues to be believed in by some Muslim sects.

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    -1 since this is wholly wrong. Gautama Buddha was a human sage, NOT a main and only god the way I AM is in Abrahamic religions. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 6 '13 at 1:44
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    I'm pretty sure that neither the Abrahamic religions nor Buddhism are in internal agreement about their pantheons, or even their sizes. For example, the whole Seraphim/Cherubim/Thrones/etc. thing is primarily a Catholic doctrine, and there are numerous Protestant denominations that reject it and any other fancying-up of the supernatural. Moreover, last time I checked, Muslims consider it a sin to pray to anyone other than Allah, so a pantheon of divine intercessors wouldn't go over too well with them. – jwodder Sep 6 '13 at 2:25
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    @jwodder: The hierarchy of angels are defined in Jewish/Christian scripture, so they're definitely not just a Catholic thing. Islam at the very least still has most of the main angels, like Rafael, Michael, Azrael, Gabriel, etc. And, as I said, there are many Buddhist sects that pray exclusively to the Buddha. So in practice, the difference between their polytheism and Abrahamic monotheism is superficial. – Lèse majesté Sep 6 '13 at 4:04
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    @Lèsemajesté That's actually a fairly narrow (and, imo, inaccurate) generalization of Buddhists. Buddha is seen as a guide and role model, rather than a deity to be prayed to, and getting upset about 'blasphemy' could easily be considered counter to the fundamental tenets of Buddhism (in particular, the Right Mindfulness portion of the Eightfold Path calls for a suspension of judgement). Also, note that Buddhists generally treat "prayer to Buddha" very differently than members of Abrahamic religions (i.e. prayer is a sign of respect and meditation, not an appeal for intervention or worship). – Beofett Sep 6 '13 at 12:43
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    "...even a split second of negative thoughts towards the Buddha is believed to result in aeons of suffering in hell." I will take your word on this being true for some sect, but it is much contrary to what I understand of most of Buddhism. – Adamant Apr 11 '17 at 17:15

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