Original Sin vs. Original Perfection

Via William Harryman
on Feb 21, 2010
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Original Sin vs. Original Perfection – This is the choice we face between traditional Christianity and Buddhism. I’ll take original perfection for the win.

This came as a result of this recent article from Evergreen College, in The Daily Evergreen, in Washington State, which was subsequently pciked up by the Huffington Post.

From the article:

Pastor Doug Wilson affectionately called newborns “bundles of sin” during his guest appearance after the showing of “Collision” in the CUB last Wednesday.

* * *

The rationale Wilson used to justify calling infants “bundles of sin” was founded on his personal Christian belief that everyone is born as sinners due to Adam and Eve’s fall from grace. Blame for the mythical fall from grace should not rest on humanity. According to a logical interpretation of this story, the Creator should be responsible for allowing the fall in the first place.

Those who believe in this specific doctrine owe it to themselves to break free from this detrimental system of self-blame. A God worthy of worship would not knowingly create beings programmed to think and do things against God’s own moral system, and then blame the beings for their sin. This is not the act of a loving God, but of a sadistic dictator.

Granted, Wilson’s flavor of Christianity is more fundamental than most other denominations of the religion. However, any belief that claims humans are born as “bundles of sin” due to the uncontrollable variable of creation is a dreadful and unwarranted notion to have to accept.

Observance of this concept paints a picture of life as a constant battle to overcome human nature. It can only result in a confliction with our biologic and mental tendencies. No one deserves to have to believe this design or take it seriously.

The author does a nice job of pointing out the failures in this pastor’s positions. This is a very perspective than we get in Buddhism.

These are from the Basic Buddhism page at BuddhaNet:

17. The idea of sin or original sin has no place in Buddhism. Also, sin should not be equated to suffering.

8. Especially emphasized in Mahayana Buddhism, all sentient beings have Buddha Nature/ Essence. One can become a Buddha (a supreme enlightened being) in due course if one practises diligently and attains purity of mind (ie absolutely no delusions or afflictions).

5. The liberation of self is the responsibility of one’s own self. Buddhism does not call for an unquestionable blind faith by all Buddhist followers. It places heavy emphasis on self-reliance, self discipline and individual striving.

Taken in this order, these points stand as a polar opposite to the fundamentalist Christian view. And it is a view supported by modern neuroscience.

The following quotes comes from the Introduction to Brain and Culture, by Bruce Wexler:

Research in molecular genetics identified mechanisms through which maternal stimulation of infants creates lasting changes in the structure and configuration of DNA that then  influence the level of activity of specific genes throughout the individual’s life. Research on human parenting has documented the remarkable degree to which the mother and her infant become an integrated dyadic unit in which the infant develops. L. S. Vygotsky, writing from Russia as a developmental psychologist, and Sigmund Freud in Vienna as well as subsequent American psychoanalysts arrived at virtually identical conclusions about the role of social interaction in creating internal psychological structures. This wonderful expanse of neurobiological, psychological, and social-psychological knowledge all rests on the deep and extended sensitivity of the human brain to shaping by psychosocial and other sensory inputs.

Two important implications emerge when these bodies of work are considered together. The first is the great increase in functional variability among individuals that results from environmental influences on development of the brain. There is an evolutionary advantage for life forms that reproduce sexually because the mixing of genetic material from parents produces variety in their offspring. Thus, different individuals have different  characteristics, which increases the likelihood that some members of the group will be able to function and reproduce even when the environment in which the group lives changes. In an analogous manner, the distinctive postnatal shaping of each individual’s brain function through interaction with other people, and through his or her own mix of sensory inputs, creates an endless variety of individuals with different functional characteristics. This broadens the range of adaptive and problem-solving capabilities well beyond the variability achieved by sexual reproduction.

The second implication is even more important. In addition to having the longest period during which brain growth is shaped by the environment, human beings alter the environment that shapes their brains to a degree without precedent among animals.

We are not born a blank slate, as some have argued, but we are also not born preprogrammed as human beings. In large part (much larger than most of us would like to admit) we are shaped by our parenting, our physical environment, and our culture. More importantly, those who have preceded us have created much of the environment we experience as children – and some children are raised in fully human-made environments now.

If we equate sin with evil, as many Christians do, we are not evil so much as wounded by the dysfunctions we are exposed to as we develop. In Christianity, those dysfunctions are assumed to be inborn, but in Buddhism they are assumed to be the result of attachment and other cravings of the ego that develops to cope with the physical, emotional, and cultural climate. And if we follow the newest models of consciousness, which suggest even emotion is a culturally embedded experience, than we are always products of our total environment, not of our inborn nature.

Whereas Christianity offers Christ as a redemption of our sins (if we confess and turn our lives over to Him), in Buddhism we are given the tools to heal ourselves through the Buddha (the exemplar), the Dharma (the methods of freedom), and the Sangha (those with whom we can find support for the journey and confirm our progress). There is no blind belief in an external power, but rather the knowledge that we can be free of suffering and we can help others to be free of suffering.

Sounds good to me – which is why this former Catholic is a Buddhist.


About William Harryman

I am a writer/editor, fitness trainer, integral coach, and a graduate counseling psychology student. I blog at Integral Options Cafe and The Masculine Heart. I am an occasional contributor to Elephant Journal.


41 Responses to “Original Sin vs. Original Perfection”

  1. Original sin is only one of many ridiculous required beliefs (on the threat of going to hell) that caused me to abandon Catholicism in high school, after being the most devout of little altar boys growing up. So, at first I read your excellent article and said to myself yeah, Bill's right on.

    But then I gave it a little more thought. It feels strange to be be defending Catholicism here. But it seems that your article is a set-up, comparing the most irrational indefensible dogma of Catholicism against the most rational aspects of Buddhism. In reality there are highly rational Catholic writers who can reasonably metaphorize even original sin, and Buddhism has its own set of unlikely dogma, like reincarnation and divine succession of divine lamas, etc.

    If I ever chose to be part of an organized religion again (following deep life experiences with both Catholicism and Judaism) I would probably feel more comfortable with Buddhism than Catholicism. So in that way I'm with you. But if you avoid the easy device of comparing the worst of Catholicism to the best of Buddhism, it's not as cut and dry as you're making it out to be. From what I read, Buddhist temples are not exactly bastions of pure rationality either.

    Furthermore, most of austere life-sucking, desire-suppressing, human-nature denying recommendations of the Dhammapada are identical to those taught to us my the nuns in face-squeezing habits and broad starched-white collars who were my teachers through 8th grade.

    Bob Weisenberg

  2. Hi Bob,

    I appreciate your argument, BUT (ain't there always a but?), the essential premise of Christianity is that Jesus died to salvage us from our sins, especially original sin. No original sin, no need for Jesus. It's the foundation of the whole religion. The other main point is that in Christianity we are inherently flawed, but the opposite is true in Buddhism.

    I agree, though, that there are a lot of irrational beliefs in Buddhism, but none of them are the foundation of the philosophy the Buddha taught. I guess that is the main difference I want to point toward.


  3. I'm not going to feel comfortable for very long as an advocate for Christianity. But I am compelled to be an advocate for logic and truth.

    Bill, many of the Christians I admire focus entirely on the teachings of love thy neighbor in the Gospel of Jesus and they live it vividly and fervently in their day-to-day lives. They either ignore or make rational metaphors out of the stranger aspects of Christian dogma. The Buddhists I admire do the same thing with the stranger aspects of Buddhist thought.

    As for being inherently flawed, that's a mixed picture in both Christianity and Buddhism. There are plenty Christians who choose to focus on another central tenant of Christianity, that "we are made in the image and likeness of God" and revel in that. And I challenge anyone to read the Dhammapada objectively and conclude that it supports a positive picture of our basic human nature. Rather, our human bodies and impulses are something to be struggled with and overcome, just like in Christianity.

    Usually when I talk about the Dhammapada in this way, the response I get is, well that doesn't really represent the best of Buddhism. You need to read such-and-such for clarification. I'm sure this is valid. But this just reinforces my main point that every religion is a mixed bag of often contradictory schools of thought. If you're going to stereotype Christianity, why not choose the love and peace and caring for the downtrodden stereotype? It's almost exactly like what you love in Buddhism.

    Very interesting discussion.

    Bob Weisenberg

  4. integralhack says:


    Because I'm in a Christ/Buddha-like mood, I'd like to understand you better: What are some actual passages in the Dhammapada that you don't like and why?

    Gotta go out for a bit, so it may take me a while to respond (if you want a response).


  5. [Comment from jryg on my Yoga Journal blog:]

    I agree with you, Bob. Not that I would be a great advocate for Catholicism, but the way I see it is that underneath all the doctrine and dogma, it's all the same. You could point to parts of all spiritual pursuits that say the same things, it just becomes a matter of how much dogma goes with it:) They all believe we are the Divine or in God's image, all say love thy neighbor, they all wish you to teach the person to do for themselves. Fun conversation, one I get into trouble with, I have to say!

    Peace and love


  6. Hi, Matt. In answer to your question above, here are some quick examples I pulled out just by glancing through the Dhammapada (translated by Eknath Easwaran). Let's not phrase it as "passages I dislike" but rather passages that are dead ringers for my the austere nuns of my youth, who, by the way, probably come as close to living the ideals of the Dhammapada as anyone I've ever known:

    "Those who are selfish suffer here and hereafter." (15)

    "Hasten to do good; refrain from evil. If you neglect the good, evil can enter your mind." (116)

    "…Those caught in evil ways go to a state of intense suffering…" (126)

    "If one harms the innocent, suffering will come in these ten ways. They may suffer grief, infirmity, painful accident, serious illness, loss of mind, legal prosecution, fearful accusation, family bereavement, or financial loss; or their house may burn down, and after death they may be thrown into the fire of suffering." (137)

    "Wake up! Don't be lazy. Follow the right path, avoid the wrong. You will be happy here as well as hereafter." (168-9)

    "Kill mother lust and father self-will, kill the kings of carnal passions, and you will be freed from sin." (294)

    "The disciples of Gautama [substitute Jesus] are wide awake and vigilant, with their thoughts focused on the Buddha day and night." (296)

    "Best among men are those who have trained to endure harsh words patiently." (321) [ = turn the other cheek ]

    "When these urges drive us, sorrow spreads like wild grass. Conquer these fierce cravings and sorrow will fall away from your life like drops of water from a Lotus leaf." (335-6)

    "As a tree, though cut down, recovers and grow if its roots are not destroyed, suffering will come to you more and more if these compulsive urges are not extinguished." (338)

    "Wherever the thirty-six streams flow form the mind toward pleasure, the currents will sweep that unfortunate person away. The currents flow everywere. Creepers of passion grow everywhere. Whenever you see one growing in your mind, uproot it with wisdom. " (339-40)

    "Some, if they manage to come out of one forest of cravings, are driven into another. Though free, the run into bondage again." (344)

    "…turn away from the world of sensory pleasure without a glance." (346)

    "Like a spider caught in its own web is a person driven by fierce cravings. Break out of the web, and turn away from the world of sensory pleasure and sorrow." (347)

    "Lust ruins the mind as weeds ruin fields." (357)

    "That one I call a brahmin who is never angry, never causes harm to others even when harmed by them." (389)

    "…No selfish bonds can ensnare such a one, no impure thought pollute the mind." (397)

    "That one I call a brahmin…is free from sorrow, passion, and impurity." (412)

    Bob Weisenberg

  7. integralhack says:


    I'll bite. The Dharma isn't something that is frozen in one text (the Dhammapada). The Dhammapada–while respected–doesn't have the same primacy or purpose that the Bible has in Christianity. Furthermore, the Dhammapada teaches cause and effect (karma) whereas the Bible dictates "commandments." By and large, the Dhammapada is a rational appeal to one's innate wisdom.

    There are references to heaven and hell in the Dhammapada, but these aren't permanent states as they are in Christianity. One can always improve one's lot through merit. Whether you choose to believe in these realms or in reincarnation isn't really all that important–the point is that unbridled craving will result in suffering. Cause and effect.

    Because this text is illuminating the "Dharma Path," it can only relate conventional reasoning and morality to put one on the path. The map is not the territory. As such, it shouldn't be identified as reified Dharma.

  8. Thanks for your very thoughtful and insightful analysis, Matt.

    These are very individual things in the end. The Dhammapada doesn't appeal to my sense of innate wisdom any more than the nuns do. That's not to say they don't both contain a lot of good ideas and advice. But in general I think this sort of "life as a grand struggle of the mind to eradicate the runaway cravings of the senses" is psychologically unsound, at least for me personally. It didn't work when I was in 8th grade and it doesn't work for me now.

    On the other hand, I readily admit that I am a highly moral and ethical person today partly because of the training of those nuns. My grown children still make fun of me because I wouldn't allow them to copy songs from their friends CD's to their cassettes when they were kids. Why? For the same reason I didn't allow them to steal candy bars from Walgreens.

    Bob Weisenberg

  9. integralhack says:


    I can appreciate that the Dhammapada doesn't work for you personally. My wife had a very Catholic upbringing and her "ethical training" seems to have served her well too. Conversely, my wife's mother was raised by Catholic nuns in an Indonesian orphanage during the Japanese occupation during WWII and was terrified of the cruelty of the nuns but had some kindly interaction with Japanese soldiers (presumably Buddhist) who would bring food for the children. Nevertheless, she remained a Catholic until she died. Sometimes we gravitate toward the familiar in spite of reason and our perspectives are clouded by our upbringing.

    I don't mean to disparage Christianity–I just point out that Buddhism and Christianity are very different things. While it may be possible that the original teachings of Jesus–as much as they can be identified–were very Buddhist (as some writers purport), the end practice was something very different than Buddhism.

    "Life as a grand struggle of the mind" is one way to look at the conventional Dharma teaching, but this part of the path is really just preparatory. When one gets further along, past the "right view, right thought" and other seemingly parochial concerns about being "right" it is really about "letting go" rather than struggle. It can be a letting go of the small sense of self–the petty wants–the desire to harness and control nature, to "become" a company man and "have" a trophy wife. Let go further still and one can abandon the need for a contingent self altogether and just experience joy in mindfulness.

    In the end it is about awakening–the preparatory path is the route, not the goal. But I can appreciate that it might not be for everyone.

    Matt Helmick

  10. Matt. Yes. Great and subtle insights all. Thanks.

  11. Greg says:

    William misses the boat with his original premise.

    In Buddhism, babies arrive as "little bundles of sin" as well. It is called karma.

    It is found in the karmic imprints that accompany the being who has reincarnated.

    "Sin" in Christianity is the same as "ignorance" in Buddhism.

    Christianity does not start with original sin any more than Buddhism starts with conditioned fabrications.

    Original sin is equivalent to the illusory conditioned fabrications that result from ignorance. (See dependent origination.)

    In Christianity salvation is communion with God – a formless, timeless, unborn Being.

    In Buddhism enlightenment is release from the aggregate self (false self) into a state of formless, timeless, unborn Being known as Buddhahood.

    In Christianity we come to realize our Divine nature; in Buddhism we come to realize our Buddha Nature.

    There is a passage from the Dhammapada that sums up all that goes before in the Dhammapada. It explains what one must know in order to understand the Dhammapada:

    "Whoever knows all his past lives,
    Sees both the happy and unhappy realms,
    Is free from rebirth,
    Has achieved perfect insight,
    And has attained the summit of the higher life.
    Him do I call a Noble One."

    Why? Because there is something in the past life that is of value? No. Because remembering all past lives is a way of removing the karmic imprints (bundles of sin). One is then free to know one true nature.

    Only when one can "pull back" in this manner does one have the perspective of the bodhisattva, the perspective of a Buddha, the perspective of a Christ.

    The Fall is simply different language for Samsara. Both religions recognize the basic role suffering plays in those who have Fallen or become attached to Samsara. In Buddhism one seeks release from attachment to samsara and the aggregate self in Christianity one seeks release from sin/ignorance that obscures one's divine nature and the relationship with the transcendent realm.

    Maybe this is a subject ripe for more explication? Good to William for starting the ball rolling.

  12. Thanks for writing, Candice. Interesting observations.

  13. Hi, Greg. Thanks for the very interesting analysis.

  14. Thanks for your thoughts, Bill.

    I hate to say it, but for me this reply has the same flaw I found in your original article. For the Christian point of view, you quote the most conservative of spokespersons, the Pope, whose authority a large percentage of non-Catholic Christians broke away from hundreds of years ago, and who has beliefs that even vast numbers of Catholics don't subscribe to.

    But when you get to the Buddhist side you give yourself the luxury of dismissing much of one of the central tenants of Buddhism, reincarnation, giving it your own ultra-liberal spin, thereby neatly bypassing all the moral and ethical difficulties posed by a strict belief in reincarnation, which I would argue are at least as severe as the difficulties of original sin.

    My point is, you can't have a fair analysis by taking only the most conservative and dogmatic stance from one side and the most generously flexible and liberal point of view from the other. Why not compare the views of the most liberal Christian theologians to the most dogmatic conservative Buddhists instead? Neither makes any sense if one wants to arrive at the truth.

    Bob Weisenberg

  15. Bill.

    I haven't been a practicing Catholic since I was 15. But to reinforce what I wrote above, liberal Catholic thinkers interpret original sin as simply collective responsibility for all that is wrong with world, which started with Adam and Eve's metaphorical defilement of the perfect Garden of Eden. Humans have been disrespecting the earth and each other ever since, and each of us has a personal responsibility as part of the human race to overcome these past transgressions. Original sin is nothing more that collective responsibility, which compels us to do everything we can as individuals to make the world a better place for everyone, and today that would certainly include saving the planet from destruction.

    Hope this helps explain what I mean by variety of Christian thought.

    Bob Weisenberg

  16. Greg says:

    You are correct in noting that worldview determines how any spiritual path is followed. This fact comes into play in this discussion as well.

    The quotes from the Pope support exactly what I had written earlier. The Fall and the story of Adam and Eve are a story of separation of embodied humans from God or the transcendent ground of being. The point of the story is our breaking away from our spiritual essence, a turning away. The story of Jesus is the turning toward (repentance) that God consciousness. It is the story of a return to awareness of our transcendent, immortal state of being. We begin in a state of goodness (grace), we experience separation from this state, and then, after suffering in the lower condition, we once again return to that grace.

    This is the same route we find in Buddhism. We exist in a state of Buddhahood. We suffer ignorance which leads to our fall into attachment to the resulting fabrications (lies) and we suffer in samsara until we turn toward enlightenment, follow the steps of the practice and once again realize our true awakened (non-ignorant) state as a Buddha.

    The two religions parallel each other in our origin in a transcendent state of being, in our fall into an ignorant or sinful condition in which there is suffering, in a need to awaken (repent) and return to our state of union with God or a return to Buddhahood.

    Perhaps the worldview clash you experience is the rejection of the core teaching of reincarnation. Perhaps it is not so much that Christianity and Buddhism do not walk parallel paths but rather that western materialism as a worldview has brought about a gutting of both – for example, a rejection of transcendence and reincarnation (which was also accepted in early Christianity – see Origen).

    In the same way that you note Evangelical branches appear to move away from a recognition of the more mystical and transcendent aspects of Christianity, a Buddhism without reincarnation essentially guts Buddhism.

    Unless one understands reincarnation I do not believe one can even come close to Buddhism as taught by the Buddha. It is so integral to the religion that without it one has something else – western pop psychology, I guess. Even in the "conservative" Dhammapada one finds the last verse clearly stating that recall of all past lives is the mark of a Buddhist.

    A fruitful discussion topic that may offer insight would be a look at how western materialism has brought about a worldview that obscures our view of religion of all types. It would look at why reincarnation, a basic and core tenet of Buddhism, is gutted from the religion, leaving it crippled. Likewise, one could look at why the transcendent aspects of Christianity are minimized or trivialized in today's society.

  17. Hi, Greg.

    I have to tell you that's one of the most fascinating things I've read recently. I will never believe in literal reincarnation and the like. So in that sense, we'll never be on the same wave-length. But it's really interesting to follow your carefully thought-out logic.


    Bob Weisenberg

  18. Greg says:

    Thanks for the thumbs up.

  19. Thanks for joining us here, shashi. Your website is fascinating.

    I don't have time to respond at the moment. I need to give it some thought anyway.

  20. clark says:

    original sin is not biblical

  21. Good point, clark.

  22. So, basically, Buddhism at its best is better than Christianity at its worst?

    Wow, this is almost as interesting as the arguments conservative Christians make about how Christianity at its best is better than Buddhism at its worst.

  23. i.e, if you define the teachings of Jesus as "Christianity" and what most Buddhists (i.e. people who practice the religion known as Buddhism in parts of the world where Buddhism is prevalent, i.e. NOT Boulder and other liberal western enclaves) believe as "Buddhism."

  24. via elephant: There's one majjjjor difference between Christianity and Buddhism: in Buddhism, we're regarded as fundamentally aok, awake, basically good. In Christianity, our sin is "original," intrinsic. Reposting this after seeing Duff McDuffee my brother saying the two views of sin or suffering are basically the same. Via William Harryman:

    Andy Roberts
    I prefer to see what the similarities are more than the differences. Comparing differences has just ended up in hatred and misunderstanding throughout the centuries. I think common ground is much more important. Of course it is easy to find differences, but it is much more fruitful to accept one anothers' differences and marvel at how much similarity there is. Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hhan are good examples for me of a Christian Catholic and Buddhist can understand one another.

  25. Lissa Millott
    that's somewhat offensive, as it's like focusing on the worst of the religion and it also disregards the fundamental concept of Christianity that Christ came and died for everyone's sins. it's certainly a point I don't agree with the dogma. not that I consider myself catholic anyway.

    but isn't the capacity for sin intrinsic in the concepts of … See Morechoice and free will? original sin is only a somewhat misleading way of conveying that the potential for evil is inherent in a species with the capacity to understand (or to think they understand) the difference between right and wrong, good and evil.

    *anyway–we are all one*


    Call me Yahweh, for it is my name….
    Call me Allah, for that is my name as well.
    Call me the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit. I am Mary Earth-mother of God.

    Animists see me everywhere.
    Parmenides called me the one.
    Buddhists strive to dissolve the boundaries, to feel the inherent oneness.

    Scientists call me energy and intellectuals call me knowledge.
    Painters and writers call me art.
    Descartes knew that to think is to exist and as he existed, thus do I, for we are all one. Cogito, ergo sum. I think, therefore we are.

    I am change; I am constant. I am eternity; I am now. I exist in a place you cannot imagine though you are here in the midst of it. Spinning into infinity I am the location of the universe-wide web where your pattern is laid. I am limitless; there is no where I am not.

    I have no end and no beginning, but infinite subdivisions. I am a spectrum, not an opposition. Taken without organization I am beyond comprehension. The senses perceive only through contrast. Utter darkness and unrelieved light are blinding. Perception requires contrast and comprehension requires organization.

    Scientific laws are a language for communication. The food chain. The water cycle. Conservation of matter. Nothing is created or destroyed. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

    The perfect cyclical fluidity of the whole. Things in motion tend to stay in motion.

    I am the circle of life worshipped at Stonehenge. When the lion hunts the gazelle, I die that I may live. The heart beats the blood that the body might be nourished.

    Everything you see reflects who we are.

    You try to hold your hand still but it turns with the revolutions of the planet, throbs with a pulse, molecules always in motion. Cells fuse and divide without knowledge or consent. You are never still, yet you never leave. I encompass you but without you I do not exist.

    I emerged from chaos, became heaven and earth, brought forth incarnations. Call me god; call me Gaia. Call me nature; call me evolution.

    Time is a relative thing. What you call a day is a revolution of the earth in relation to the sun. What was a day when I became day and night, earth and sun?

    You are in my image, yet you are also myself. The brain and the heart hold no life without the organs and the senses. Each organism is a sense. I perceive them all. I am the eyes and ears and nose of every living thing. You are my very cells, pulsing with life. As I am sacred, so too are you, so are we all, as we are one.

    I am everything there is and I know all there is to know. I am universal.

    My words are your diary; your thoughts are my own. You are the warring emotions within me; I am the sum of all that you are. I am love and hate, good and bad, terror and mercy.

    I am Elijah, Mohammed, and the terrorists that killed themselves in the offices and planes on September eleventh. I am the silent reverberations as my desperate and uncomprehending self crashed an airplane into me, killing thousands who were immediately freed of the nationalism that warred with itself. One self, divided for survival.

    Gandhi and Hitler are we. There is no escape. Destruction of the fragments is merely rearranging the elements within. Nothing is gained or lost. All good, all evil is internal. There are no outside forces.

    I can never win a war, nor lose one, because I am only fighting myself. Blood flows to the inflamed areas of our body. Internal strife both weakens as well as forces constant conditioning that fights entropy. Without this, we will degrade, fade and disintegrate. Thermodynamics. I encompass you and you are my very being. You are part of the essence of all that there is.

    Call me God, call me self, call me existence.

    This is Being.

    Katy Schiel Downey
    It's kind of difficult to overlook something as basic as worldview.

  26. Look, I love Christianity and Christians…saying that they have the concept of Original Sin and that it's fundamental to their world-view and that it's a fundamentally difference between Christianity and Buddhism isn't pejorative. It's just true. And it is a significant difference.

    When I was in college I met often with a minister and we discussed this point at length. This and the point of God being external, not internal or everywhere, were two points we couldn't seem to get past. And they're intimately connected.

  27. Interesting restart to what was already one of the most interesting blog discussions on Elephant.

  28. Mirci says:

    Hello everybody

    I’ve just read the article and the comments, all of them are very interesting.

    I´m Christian born in a Catholic family in a Catholic country too, but I don’t consider myself as Catholic nor evangelic however I have great respect for Catholics. I also sympathise with Buddhism, so I respect it too, actually I could say that I feel myself closer to Buddhism each day.

    I can say that the Catholic church wasn’t created by Christ and the foundation of the Catholic religion was based on the interpretations (probably wrong) that the first Christians made about the original Christ’s message which I find very similar with the Buddha’s teachings. Also you must distinguish the Christianity and the Catholicism which are different. You can be Christian without belong to any church (Catholic, Protestant, etc).

    You must look at the original message of Christ not the Pope Benedict XVI message nor the evangelic’s message, they are not Christ. Considering that Pope Benedict XVI is part of the Opus Dei which is the most conservative Catholic organization, it’s the same case about the evangelics which in most of the cases have fanatic nuances.

    Finally I find that it’s very dangerous to compare religions making so deeply distinctions between them because you create separation and misunderstandings. We should look for the similarities between us just like the Dalai Lama always proposes however we can aslo make clear distinctions from the people who distort Christ message in order to protect the true values of Christianity and in order to preserve our minds free.

    We can embrace each other, knowing that there are people with a very sensible perspective and people who hasn’t it and also knowing that the original message in all religions is very similar.

    I have to apologise because of my English level. I hope I have expressed myself properly.

    My best wishes to all of you

  29. Greg says:

    You raise a number of good issues. I will take them one at a time over time….

    The first is the idea of original sin and the grace Jesus brings.

    This is pretty straightforward. Original sin is essentially about separation from God. The Adam and Eve story is about that separation. The Christ story is about a reunion or cessation of separation from God. In Christ's teachings we find our goal is to achieve divine union with God.

    This separation and union story is very similar to Buddhism in which we move away from Buddha Nature into samsara as a result of ignorance and then we find out way back to Buddhahood by healing the separation from our true nature, by achieving Buddhahood.

    Very similar concepts at the level of practice. (Once again it is important to distinguish the iconic aspects of a religion from the practice.)

  30. Greg says:

    Evil, which can simply be translated as that which imposes suffering, does not differ all that much from the Buddhist idea of causes and conditions which bring about suffering. In the case of Buddhism, through ignorance we engage in wrong action, etc. which brings about suffering. In Christianity we exercise our free will and create suffering. Very similar concepts.

  31. Greg says:

    As for karma and reincarnation. One would need to take an expanded view and recognize the human condition, being a human, as a very particular karmic result. In other words, as a spiritual being we find ourselves in a state of being "in the flesh" and that "lower state" results from our separation from Divine union. In Buddhism, we find ourselves in human form as a result of a long karmic chain of events. Very similar concepts.

    Early Christians, such as Origen, accepted reincarnation. The Buddha was very clear that reincarnation was part of his teachings. In fact, Buddhism makes little sense without the context of reincarnation. In both cases, the critical issue is that one is dealing with a spiritual being and not the body. In both faiths, collapsing the being and the body results in misunderstanding and stalled spiritual progress.

  32. Greg says:

    In both Dzogchen and Christianity our true nature is divine. In both there is the recognition that separation, sin, ignorance have moved us away from our true nature. Sin and ignorance do not cancel our true nature, they do not change our true nature, but they result in a state or condition of being separated from our true nature.

    In Dzogchen our perfect nature is not subject to delusion but, nonetheless, our false self is subject to delusion until we come to recognize our true nature. The same concept applies in Christianity where our journey is one of coming to know our true nature.

    Nowhere in Christianity does it say our true nature is flawed. In Christianity our true nature is divine. It is only as a result of the "Fall" that our true nature has become obscured and we have become separated from our true nature.

    You may find the Christian mystics, the monastics, interesting in that they do strive toward this goal. Bonaventure, St. John of the Cross, Bernard of Clairvaux, and many others – as well as contemporaries, such as Merton head in this direction.

    The interesting thing is how similar they are when it comes to the practice.

  33. Roger Wolsey says:

    Integralhack, yes, agreed, "the end practices [of buddhism and christianity]" are "different." And as I have seen it, the differences are ones that lead me to want to be a Christian. On the whole, aside from Shambala Buddhism which is "not the mainstream" of Buddhism – except perhaps in the U.S., Buddhism tends to lead to moral quietude whereas Christianity stimulates moral action. One may not care for all of the moral actions stimulated by Christianity (the Temperance movement comes to mind, but then Buddhists don't drink alcohol right?) but one cannot deny that the Civil Rights Movement was largely motivated and sustained by the best of Christianity. I would argue that Buddhism in the U.S. is Americanized and therefore Christianiized, Buddhism. I say this because most Americans have been steeped in the culture of proactively "loving one's neighbor". It is this proactive aspect of going out of one's way that, as I see it, has been missing from much of the Buddhist tradition, in most of the countries where it has been practiced. One can say that if I knew more about it, I wouldn't say that.
    This could be an instance where my "ignorance" is showing. But, I'm fairly well read and fairly knowledgeable about matters of religion. Moreover, for this Christian, Jesus didn't die for my sins so much as he showed me how to live (my exemplar). Indeed, the "substitutionary model" of the atonement is not an official Christian doctrine (no Church Council has met to establish that) and a high percentage of mainline Protestants subscribe instead to the Exemplary model of the atonement.

  34. integralhack says:


    I think that both Buddhism and Christianity–as mass religions–can lead to moral quietude or moral turpitude. We could argue at length presenting examples of wars, terrorism and other evils committed by Buddhists or Christians. Likewise, we could present examples of positive moral action on behalf of each religion.

    Personally, I'm not interested in these kinds of debates and I hope you aren't either. I find them disingenuous to the original intent of the spiritual teachings of either religion, both of which spur positive moral action.

    That said, I would say some Buddhists and Christians both are guilty of moral turpitude (I sound like a Temperance Movement proselytizer when I use that parochial phrase) and I frequently argue with Buddhists about their moral quietude (or inaction) in particular.

    I respect your Christian practice and I appreciate that you follow Christ's example. In doing so, I hope you can respect my practice as well. What led you here?

  35. integralhack says:

    If you read my comment above, I'm not referring to Original Sin at all. Perhaps you want to comment on the article itself?

  36. elephantjournal says:

    via http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal

    Peter William Lount How about neither sin nor perfect? How about just a bundle of humanity? How about a new life full of potential? Why bring horrifying concepts of sin or perfection into a babies life? Seriously grow up people.

    Peter William Lount
    The notion of original sin is just as pernicious as the notion of perfection, in fact original sin drives one to seek perfection! It's not only that that makes perfection a horrifying concept it's other things that drive people to want to b…e perfect. Whatever is driving ones sense of "perfection" it's still horrifying to impose that upon a new life or even a fully grown human. For a human life can be consumed avoiding or pursuing sin. For a human life can be consumed avoiding or pursuing perfection. Get real people. Live life.
    elephantjournal.com Peter, did you read the article? The Buddhist notion of fundamental or basic goodness is not perfection…"original perfection" refers to…well, just read the article…we can comment there.

    Peter William Lount I read the article. Perfection is a stupid idea.

    ‎"Original Sin vs. Original Perfection – This is the choice we face between traditional Christianity and Buddhism. I’ll take original perfection for the win."

    How stupid is that? Very!!! Original Perfection is a driver of original sin. Both …are pernicious mind viruses best obliterated from one's mind using hard rational logic validated by the facts of life in the objective reality of Nature.

    "If we equate sin with evil, as many Christians do, we are not evil so much as wounded by the dysfunctions we are exposed to as we develop. "

    Nonsense. Utter mind garbage nonsense.

    What a torture to put onto a new life. How horrifying.

    ‎"… in Buddhism they are assumed to be the result of attachment and other cravings of the ego that develops to cope with the physical, emotional, and cultural climate."

    What utter nonsense. Just belief stricken mind goo best left in the dust of history.

    Craving for life is evil eh?

    Craving to be the best you can be is attachment eh?

    That type of thinking takes the best of humanity and stain it with "ego" and horrifying judgments rather than lifting people up.

    ‎"And if we follow the newest models of consciousness, which suggest even emotion is a culturally embedded experience, than we are always products of our total environment, not of our inborn nature."

    Meaningless mind slosh that horrifically …dis-empowers people.

    ‎"… in Buddhism we are given the tools to heal ourselves through the Buddha '…"

    You don't need another to heal yourself. It's a false need. It's just an invitation to a cult that can control you. You're blind to it.

    You can heal on your own, or if needed via modern medicine.

    You do not need a guru such as Buddha to heal yourself. If you do then you're on the wrong path especially if you can't escape from such a monster.

    ‎"There is no blind belief in an external power, but rather the knowledge that we can be free of suffering and we can help others to be free of suffering."

    What utter nonsense. This is real life not some fantasy. Suffering is part of real li…fe when it occurs. You're attempting to avoid the negative aspects of life when they occur. That's stupid. Life has moments. Some moments we "evaluate" as positive and some as "negative". They are all moments.

    Clearly you've lost your path William Harryman.

    Or are being led down one by an excellent con man.

    If you don't live the "negative moments" of life you're not living. If you avoid the "negative moments" of life you miss out on a huge par of your life. Suffering is best embraced not avoided for when avoided it tends to persist longer than… it actually does.

    You've fallen for the false bull shit of Buddhism William Harryman. I have pity for you. You can extract yourself from it's brain mush but it'll take work thinking rationally and using critical thinking skills that you may have yet to develop. Good luck to you in deprogramming yourself from your current cult.

    Emily Kelly An infant who confuses night and day for an extended period much to the dismay of parents is often referred to as a bundle of sin… just not usually in those words.

  37. Roger Wolsey says:

    Integralhack, in this instance, I intended to comment about a possible implication of your comment. I intended to establish clarity and to prevent confusion.

  38. Roger Wolsey says:

    but that said, your article is indeed about Original Sin.

  39. Roger Wolsey says:

    Agreed, I don't intend to engage in a tit for tat debate as to the merits and problems of buddhism and christianity, merely to state my truth, what I think, and why I think it.
    re: "what led me here?" I am a fellow writer for Elephant (they invited me awhile back). I saw the notice on Facebook about this article. I read it. And responded.

  40. […] Padmasambhava, or Padmakara (which literally means lotus-born in Sanskrit) was that rare individual unstained by previous karma. Thus “lotus born” indicates that he only appeared to need a path in order to demonstrate to others that there was a way to liberation, and to learn the skills to tame and bring others onto that path. Being born on a white lotus symbolizes inherent purity–the view that we are all basically good. This is not meant in a dualistic way of good versus bad, for the lotus is actually nurtured by the mud of the lake bottom. This inner view is a far cry from original sin. […]

  41. […] the same stigmas and sexism that afflict other religions that maintain an old world mentality. The Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches come to mind when I think of an oppressive regime that remains in power long after it has […]