The Question (ID Number 100)...
...and the response:First, it must be understood that Buddhism has had to be substantially reconfigured for the Western market, just as Christianity has had to be sub- stantially reconfigured for the New Age market. In other words, Buddhism as it's known in North America is not Buddhism as it's known in the rest of the world. The North American version of Buddhism is in fact a virtually newborn sect with fewer than a million adherents. The Buddhism I'm referring to in THE STORY OF B is an ancient major religion of the Far East to which many billions have belonged. This Buddhism has as its foundation four "noble truths" received from Prince Gautama, the Buddha. Here's how J.N.D. Anderson describes these noble truths in THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS: "The first is the truth of suffering . . . suffering is omnipresent and involved in the very nature of life. All forms of existence are subject to it. It is inextricably bound up with individual existence. The second truth deals with the cause of suffering. This Gautama felt to be desire, desire for posses- sion and selfish enjoyment of every kind . . . . The third truth states that suffering ceases when desire ceases, when this selfish craving, this lust for life, has been renounced and destroyed. Lastly comes the truth of the path that leads to the cess- ation of suffering. This path is eightfold . . ." Mainstream Buddhism's preoccupation with suffering is absent from the American version of Buddhism, just as mainstream Christianity's preoccupation with sin is absent from the New Age version of Christianity. When I talk about Christianity and Buddhism in THE STORY OF B, I'm talking about these religions as they've been understood by billions of people for two millennia, not as they've been understood by a relative handful of Americans for three or four decades.
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