Nature, Value and Choice of Religious Beliefs
By Ven. Dr. K. Sri Dhammanada - From the book "What Buddhist Believe"
The Following Sections are Covered in this Document
Contents Section
Human Beings and Religion 1
- Misconceptions on Religion 1.1
Which is the Proper Religion? 2
Moral and Spiritual Development 3
The God-Idea 4
- The Development of the God-idea 4.1
The God-idea and Creation 5
Human Weakness and the Concept of God 6
Changing a Religious Label before Death 7
Short-cut to Paradise and End of the World 8
Humans are the only living beings in this world who have discovered religion and perform worship and prayer by upholding religious principles.

HUMANS developed religion in order to satisfy their desire to understand the life within them and the world outside them. The earliest religions had animistic origins, and they arose out of their fear of the unknown and their desire to placate the forces which they thought inhabited inanimate objects. Over time these religions underwent changes, being shaped by the geographical, historical, socio-economic, political, and intellectual environment existing at that time.

Many of these religions have become organised and are flourishing to this day, backed by a strong following of devotees.

Many people are drawn to organised religions because of the pomp and ceremony in the rituals, while there are some who prefer to practice their own personal religion, inwardly venerating their religious teachers and applying moral principles in their daily life. Because of the importance of practice, every religion claims to be a way of life, not merely a faith. In view of their various origins and paths of development which religions undergo, it is hardly surprising that the religions of human beings should differ in their approach, the understanding and interpretation of their followers, their goal and how it can be achieved, and their concept of reward and punishment for deeds performed.

In terms of approach, religious practices may be based on faith, fear, rationality or harmlessness: Faith forms the basis of many religious practices which were developed to overcome people's fear and to meet their needs. A religion highlighting miraculous or mystical powers exploits that fear which arises from ignorance and makes promises of material gain based on greed. A religion encouraging devotion is based on emotion and the fear of the supernatural which, it is so believed, can be appeased through rites and rituals. A religion of faith is based on the desire for gaining confidence in the face of the uncertainty of human life and destiny.

Some religious practices grew as a result of the development of human knowledge, experience and wisdom. The rational approach to religion had been adopted in this case, incorporating the principles of human value and natural or universal laws. It is based on humanism and concentrates on the cultivation of humane qualities. A religion of cause and effect or karma is based on the principle of self-help and assumes that the individual alone is responsible for his or her own happiness and suffering as well as salvation. A religion of wisdom is based on the application of reason and seeks to understand life and the reality of worldly conditions through analytical knowledge. Science asks and seeks to explain what the world is while religion asks what mankind and society should become.

The fostering of harmlessness and goodwill are common elements found in religion. A religion of peace is based on the principle of causing no harm to oneself as well as others, and its followers are urged to cultivate a harmonious, liberal and peaceful life. A religion of goodwill or loving-kindness is based on sacrifice and service, for the welfare and happiness of others.

Religions differ according to the understanding capacity of their followers and the interpretations which religious authorities give to religious doctrines and practices. In some religions, authorities have a strong say in enforcing religious laws and moral codes, while in others they only provide advice on the need and the way to follow these codes. Every religion will offer reasons to explain the existing human problems and inequalities and the way to remedy the situation. By way of explanation, some religions claim that they have to face these problems because they are on trial in this world. When such an explanation is given, another may ask, ‘For what purpose? How can human be judged on the basis of just one life when human beings generally differ in their experiences of physical, intellectual, social, economic and environmental factors and conditions?'

Every religion has its own concept of what is regarded to be the goal of spiritual life. For some religions, eternal life in heaven or paradise with the Lord is the final goal. For some the ultimate aim in life is the union of universal consciousness, because it is believed that life is a unit of consciousness and it must return to the same original consciousness. For others, even heavenly bliss or union with Brahman (primal force) is secondary to the uncertainty of existence, no matter what form it takes. And there are even some who believe that the present life itself is more than enough to experience the aim of life.

The medicine which cures one man's sickness can become poison to another man according to the constitution of his body. In the same way one man's concept of what religious way of life is best to follow can become a nuisance to another person depending on his mentality.

To attain the desired goal, every religion offers a method. Some religions ask their followers to surrender to God or depend on God for everything. Others call for stringent asceticism as the means of purging oneself of all evil through self-mortification. Some others recommend the performance of animal sacrifices and many kinds of rites and rituals as well as the recital of mantras for their purification to gain the final goal. There is yet another which upholds diverse methods and devotions, intellectual realisation of truth, and concentration of the mind through meditation.

Each religion has a different concept of punishment for evil deeds. According to some religions, humans are doomed forever by God for their transgressions in this one life. Some others say that action and reaction (cause and effect) operate due to natural laws and the effect of a deed will only be experienced for a certain period. Some religions maintain that this life is only one of so many, and a person will always have a chance to reform in stages until he or she finally evolves to attain the goal of Supreme Bliss.

Given such a wide variety of approaches, interpretations and goals of different religions adopted by mankind, it is useful for people not to hold dogmatic views about their religion but to be open to and tolerant of other religious views.

The Buddha said: ‘One must not accept my teachings from reverence, but first try them as gold is tried by fire.'

After emphasising the importance of maintaining an open mind towards religious doctrines, it is useful to remember that a religion should be practised for the welfare, freedom and happiness of all living beings. That is, religious principles should be used positively to improve the quality of life of all beings. Yet today, humankind is corrupted and has gone astray from basic religious principles. Immoral and evil practices have become common among many people, and religious-minded people experience difficulties trying to maintain certain religious principles in modern life. At the same time, the standard of basic religious principles is also lowered to pander to the demands of polluted and selfish minds. Humans should not violate universal moral codes to suit their own greed or indulgence; rather they should try to adjust themselves according to the moral codes taught by religion.

Religious precepts have been introduced by enlightened religious teachers who have realised the noble way of life which leads to peace and happiness. Those who violate these precepts transgress the universal laws, which, according to Buddhism will bring bad effects.

This does not mean, on the other hand, that a person should slavishly follow what is found in his or her religion, regardless of its relevance to modern times. Religious laws and precepts should enable people to lead a meaningful life, and are not to be used to bind them to archaic practices and superstitious rituals and beliefs. A person who upholds the basic religious principles should give credit to human intelligence and live respectably with human dignity. There must be some changes in our religious activities to correspond to our education and the nature of our changing society, without at the same time sacrificing the noble universal principles. But it is recognised that making changes to any religious practices is always difficult because many conservative people are opposed to changes, even if they are for the better. Such conservative views are like a stagnant pool of water, while fresh ideas are like the waterfall where the water is constantly being renewed and is, therefore, usable all the time.

Misconceptions on Religion

Despite the value of religion in moral upliftment, it is also true to say that religion is a fertile soil for the development of superstitions and devotional beliefs, wrapped under the cloak of religiosity. Many people use religion to escape from the realities of life and put on the garb of religion and religious symbols with little or no inner development. They may even pray very often in places of worship, yet they are not sincerely religious minded and do not understand what religion stands for. When a religion has been debased by ignorance, greed for power and selfishness, people quickly point an accusing finger and say that religion is irrational. But ‘Religion' (the ritualistic external practice of any teaching) must be distinguished from the teaching itself. Before one criticizes, one must study the original teachings of the founder and see if there is anything intrinsically wrong with it.

Religion advises people to do good and be good, but they are not interested in acting thus. Instead they prefer to cling to the external practices which have few religious values. Had they tried to culture their minds by eradicating jealousy, pride, cruelty and selfishness, at least they would have found the correct way to practise a religion. Unfortunately, they develop jealousy, pride, cruelty and selfishness instead of eradicating them. Many people pretend to be religious, but commit the greatest atrocities in the name of religion. They fight, discriminate and create unrest for the sake of religion, losing sight of its lofty purpose. From the increase in the performance of various so called religious activities, we may get the impression that religion is progressing, but the opposite is really the case since very little mental purity and understanding are actually being practised.

Practising a religion is nothing more than the development of one's inner awareness, goodwill and understanding. Problems would have to be faced squarely by relying on one's spiritual strength. Running away from one's problems in the name of spiritualism is not courageous, much less spiritual. Under today's chaotic condi­tions, men and women are rapidly sliding downhill to their own destruction. The irony is that they imagine they are progressing towards a glorious civilisation that is yet to be realised.

In the midst of this confusion, imaginary and plastic religious concepts are propagated to create more temptation and confusion in the human mind. Religion is being misused for personal gain and political power. Certain immoral practices, such as free sex, have been encouraged by some irresponsible religious groups to introduce their religion among youths. By arousing lustful feelings, these groups hope to seduce boys and girls into following their religion. Today religion has degenerated into a cheap commodity in the religious market giving scant regard to moral values and what they stand for. Some missionaries claim that the practice of morals, ethics and precepts are not important as long as they have faith and pray to God, which is believed to be sufficient to grant their salvation. Having witnessed how some religious authorities have misled and blindfolded their followers in Europe , Karl Marx made a caustic remark: ‘Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feelings of a heartless world, just as it is the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.'

We need a religion not for the reason of giving us a dream for our next life or providing us with some dogmatic ideas to follow, in such a way that we surrender our human intelligence and become a nuisance to our fellow beings. A religion should be a reliable and reasonable method for people to live ‘here and now' as cultured, understanding beings, while setting a good example for others to follow. Many religions turn our thoughts away from ourselves towards a supreme being, but Buddhism directs our search for peace inwards to the potentialities that lie hidden within ourselves. Buddhism respects and encourages our intelligence. The Buddha pointed out the mind's great potential and how to develop it. Therefore, true religion, which is Dharma, is not something outside us that we acquire, but the cultivation and realisation of wisdom, compassion and purity that we develop within ourselves.

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If any religion has the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, then it can be regarded as a proper religion.

IT is very difficult for people to discover why there are so many different religions, and which religion is the true one. Followers of every religion are trying to show the superiority of their religion. Diversity has given rise to some forms of development, but in matters of religion, people look upon each other with jealousy, hatred and disdain. The most respected religious practices in one religion are deemed ridiculous to others. To introduce their divine and peaceful messages some people have resorted to weapons and wars. Have they not polluted the good name of religion? It seems that certain religions are responsible for dividing instead of uniting mankind. Today we have more than enough religions which encourage their followers to hate another religion, but not enough religions which encourage respect for another religion. Every religion teaches about love but one religion cannot love another religion.

To find a true and proper religion, we must weigh with an unbiased mind what exactly is a false religion. False religions or philosophies include: materialism which denies survival after death; amoralism which denies good and evil; any religion which asserts that man is miraculously saved or doomed; theistic evolution which holds that everything is preordained and everyone is destined to attain eventual salvation through mere faith.

Buddhism is free from unsatisfactory and uncertain foundations. Buddhism is realistic and verifiable. Its Truths have been verified by the Buddha, verified by His disciples, and always remain open to be verified by anyone who wishes to do so. And today, the Teachings of the Buddha are being verified by the most severe methods of scientific investigation.

The Buddha advises that any form of religion is proper if it contains the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. This clearly shows that the Buddha did not want to form a particular religion. What He wanted was to reveal the Ultimate Truth of our life and the world. Although the Buddha expounded the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path, this method is not the property of Buddhists alone. This is a universal Truth and is open to anyone who wishes to understand the human condition and attain happiness.

Most people find it necessary to put forth arguments to ‘prove' the validity of the religion that they are following. Some claim that their religion is the oldest and therefore contains the truth. Others claim that their religion is the latest or newest and therefore contains the truth. Some claim that their religion has the most followers and therefore contains the truth. Yet none of these arguments are valid to establish the truth of a religion. One can judge the value of a religion by using only common sense and understanding.

Some religious traditions require people to be subservient to a greater power than them, a power that determines and controls their creation, actions and their final deliverance. The Buddha did not accept such powers. Rather, He assigned that very power to themselves by asserting that each person is his or her own creator, responsible for their salvation. That is why it is said that ‘There is none so godless as the Buddha and yet none so godlike'. The religion of the Buddhists gives humanity a great sense of dignity; at the same time it also gives them great responsibility. Buddhists cannot put the blame on an external power when evil befalls them. But they can face misfortune with equanimity because they know that they have the power to extricate themselves from all misery.

One of the reasons why Buddhism appeals to intellectuals and those with a good education, is that the Buddha expressly discouraged His followers from accepting anything they heard without first testing its validity. The teachings of the Buddha have remained and survived precisely because many intellectuals have challenged every aspect of the teachings and have concluded that the Buddha had always spoken the undeniable Truth. While other religionists are trying to reassess their founders' teachings in the light of modern knowledge about the Universe, the Buddha's teachings are being verified by scientists.

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Without a spiritual background humans have no moral responsibility: humans without moral responsibility pose a danger to society

BUDDHISM has been an admirable lighthouse for guiding many human beings to salvation from the suffering in Samsara. Buddhism is especially needed in the world today which is riddled with racial, economic and ideological misunder­standings. These misunderstandings can never be effectively cleared until the spirit of benevolent tolerance is extended towards others. This spirit can be best cultivated under the guidance of Buddhism which inculcates ethical-moral co-operation for universal good.

We know that it is easy to learn vice without a master, whereas virtue requires a tutor. There is a very great need for the teaching of virtue by precepts and examples.

Without a spiritual background, we have no moral responsibility: human life without moral responsibility poses danger to society.

In the Buddha's Teaching, it is said that the spiritual development of humans is more important than the development of material welfare. History has taught us that it is unreasonable to expect to gain both worldly happiness and everlasting Happiness at the same time. The lives of most people are generally regulated by spiritual values and moral principles which only religion can effectively provide. Governmental interference in the lives of people can be made comparatively unnecessary if men and women can be made to realise the value of self discipline and are able to practise the ideals of truth, justice and service.

Virtue is necessary to attain salvation, but virtue alone is not enough. Virtue must be combined with wisdom. Virtue and wisdom are like the pair of wings of a bird. Wisdom can also be compared to the eyes of a person; virtue, to the feet. Virtue can be likened to a vehicle that brings people up to the gate of salvation. But wisdom is the actual key that opens the gate. Virtue is a part of the technique of skilful and noble living. Without any ethical discipline, there cannot be a purification of the defilements of sentient existence.

Buddhism is not mere mumbo-jumbo, a myth told to entertain the human mind or to satisfy the human emotion, but a liberal and noble method for those who sincerely want to understand and experience the reality of life.

There are four ways by which humanity tries to realize the aim of life: 1. Material or physical level (wealth). 2. Emotional level— likes or dislikes; or pleasant or unpleasant feelings. 3. Intellectual level—studying or reasoning. 4. Spiritual level—sympathetic understanding based on justice, purity and fair dealing.

The last one is the realistic and lasting method which never creates disappointment.

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The reality or validity of belief in God is based on our understanding capacity and the maturity of the mind.

The Development of the God-idea

TO trace the origin and development of the god-idea, one must go back to the time when civilisation was still in its infancy and modern science was still unknown. Primitive people, out of fear of and admiration for natural phenomena, had believed in different spirits and gods. They used their belief in spirits and gods to form religions peculiar to the area they lived in. According to their respective circumstances and understanding capacity different people worshipped different gods and founded different faiths.

At the beginning of the god-idea, people worshipped many gods— gods of trees, streams, lightning, storm, winds, the sun and all other terrestrial phenomena. These gods were related to various manifestations of nature. Then gradually human beings began to attribute to these gods, sex and form as well as the physical and mental attributes of their own nature: love, hate, jealousy, fear, pride, envy and other emotions found among human beings. From all these gods, there slowly grew a realisation that the phenomena of the universe were not many but One. This understanding gave rise to the monotheistic god of comparatively recent ages.

In the process of development, the god-idea was moulded through a variety of changing social and intellectual climates. It was regarded by different people in different ways. Some idealised god as the King of Heaven and Earth; they had a conception of god as a person. Others thought of god as an abstract principle. Some raised the ideal of Supreme deity to the highest heaven, while others brought it down to the lowest depths of the earth. Some pictured god in a paradise, while others made an idol and worshipped it. Some went so far as to say that there is no salvation without god—no matter how much good you do, you will not receive the fruits of your actions unless you act out of a faith in that particular god and no other. The Atheists said, ‘No' and went on to affirm that god did not really exist at all. The Sceptics or Agnostics said, ‘We do not or we cannot know.' ‘The Positivists said that the god-idea was a meaningless problem since the idea of the term god ‘was not clear'. Thus there grew a variety of ideas and beliefs and names for the god-idea: pantheism, idolatory, belief in a formless god, and belief in many gods and goddesses.

Even the monotheistic God of recent times has gone through a variety of changes as it passed through different nations and people. The Hindu god is quite different from the Christian god. The Christian god is again different from gods of other faiths. Thus numerous religions came into existence; each differed greatly from the other in the end, although each claims that ‘ God is One'.

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AS each religion came into existence and developed around the god-idea, different religions developed their own particular explanations of creation. Thus the god-idea became associated with various myths. People used the god-idea as a vehicle for their explanations of the existence of humans and the nature of the universe.

Today, intelligent people, who have carefully reviewed all the available facts, have come to the conclusion that, like the god-idea, the creation of myths must be regarded as an evolution of the human imagination which began with the misunderstanding of natural phenomena. These misunderstandings were rooted in the fear and ignorance of primitive people. Even today, some people still retain their primitive interpretations of creation. In the light of recent, scientific thinking, the theological definition of god is vague and hence has no place in the contemporary creation theories.

If humans were created by an external source, then they must belong to that source and not to themselves. According to Buddhism, humans are responsible for everything they do. Thus Buddhists have no reason to believe that beings came into existence in human form through any external sources. We believe that we are here today because of our own craving, attachment and karmic actions. We are neither punished nor rewarded by anyone but by ourselves according to our own good and bad action. In the process of evolution, the human being came into existence. There are no Buddha-words to support the belief that the world was created by anybody. However, the scientific discovery of gradual development of the world-system conforms with the Buddha's Teachings.

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BOTH the concept of God and its associated creation myths have been protected and defended by believers who need these ideas to justify their existence and usefulness to human society. All the believers claim to have received their respective scriptures as Revelation; in other words, they all profess to come directly from one God. Each god-religion claims that it stands for Universal Peace and Universal Brotherhood and other such high ideals.

However great the ideals of the religions might be, the history of the world shows that some religions at least up to the present day have also helped in spreading superstitions. Some have stood against science and the advancement of knowledge, leading to ill-feelings, murders and wars. In this respect, the god-religions have failed in their attempt to enlighten mankind. For example, in certain countries when people pray for mercy, their hands are stained with the blood of the morbid sacrifices of innocent animals and sometimes, even fellow human beings. Poor and helpless creatures are slaughtered at the desecrated altars of imaginary and imperceptible gods. It has taken a long time for people to understand the futility of such cruel practices in the name of religion. The time has come for them to realise that the path of real purification is through love and understanding.

Dr. G. Dharmasiri in his book ‘BUDDHIST CRITIQUE OF THE CHRISTIAN CONCEPT OF GOD' has mentioned,

‘I see that though the notion of God contains sublime moral strands, it also has certain implications that are extremely dangerous to humans as well as to the other beings on this planet.'

‘One major threat to humanity is the blindfold called “authority” imposed on humans by the concept of God. All theistic religions consider authority as ultimate and sacred. It was this danger that the Buddha was pointing at in the Kalama Sutra. At the moment, human individuality and freedom are seriously threatened by various forms of authorities. Various “authorities” have been trying to make “you” a follower. On top of all our “traditional” authorities, a new form of authority has emerged in the name of ‘science ‘. And lately, the mushrooming new religions and the menace of the Gurus have become live threats to the individual's human freedom and dignity. The Buddha's eternal plea is for you to become a Buddha, and He showed, in a clearly rational way, that each and every one of us has the perfect potentiality and capacity to attain that ideal.'

God-religions offer no salvation without God. Thus a person might conceivably have climbed to the highest pinnacle of virtue, and he or she might have led a righteous way of life, and might even have climbed to the highest level of holiness, yet that person is to be condemned to eternal hell just because he or she did not believe in the existence of the God of a particular group. On the other hand, a person might have sinned deeply and yet, having made a late repentance, that person can be forgiven and therefore ‘saved'. From the Buddhist point of view, there is no justification in this kind of teaching.

Despite the apparent contradictions of the god-religions, however it is not deemed advisable to preach a godless doctrine since the belief in god has also done a tremendous service to mankind, especially among less spiritually developed people to whom the god concept is desirable. This belief in god has helped people to control their animal nature. And much help has been granted to others in the name of god. For the most part, they feel insecure without the belief in god. They find protection and inspiration when that belief is in their mind. The reality or validity of such a belief is based on their understanding capacity and spiritual maturity.

However, religion should also concern our daily life. It is to be used as a guide to regulate our conduct in the world. Religion tells us what to do and what not to. do. If we do not follow a religion sincerely, mere religious labels or belief in god do not serve us in our daily life.

It must be remembered that if the followers of various religions are going to quarrel and to condemn other beliefs and practices— especially to prove or disprove the existence of their god—and if they are going to harbour enmity towards other religions because of their different religious views, then they are creating enormous disharmony amongst the various religious communities. Whatever religious differences we have, it is our duty to practise tolerance, patience and understanding. It is our duty to respect others' religious beliefs even if we cannot accommodate them. Religious tolerance or understanding of each other's religion is necessary for the sake of harmonious and peaceful living.

However, it does not serve any purpose to introduce this concept of god to those who are not ready to appreciate it. To some people this belief is not important to lead a righteous life. There are many who lead a noble life without such beliefs while amongst believers there are many who violate the peace and happiness of innocent people.

Buddhists can also co-operate with those who hold this concept of god, provided that they use this concept for the peace, happiness and welfare of mankind. But they must part company with those who abuse this concept by threatening people in order to introduce this belief just for their own benefit and with ulterior motives.

For more than 2,500 years, all over the world, Buddhists have practised and introduced Buddhism very peacefully without the necessity of sustaining the concept of a creator God. And they will continue to sustain this religion in the same manner without disturbing the followers of other religions.

Therefore, with due respect to other religionists, it must be mentioned that any attempt to introduce this concept into Buddhism is unnecessary. Let Buddhists maintain their belief since it is harmless to others and, let the basic Teachings of the Buddha remain because they do not try to drag others into Buddhism.

From time immemorial, Buddhists have led a peaceful religious life without incorporating the particular concept of God. They should be capable of sustaining their particular religion without the necessity, at this juncture, of someone trying to force something down their throats against their will. Having full confidence in their Buddha Dharma, Buddhists should be permitted to work and seek their own salvation without any undue interference from other sources. Others can uphold their beliefs and concepts, Buddhists will uphold theirs, without any rancour. We do not challenge others in regard to their religious persuasions, we expect reciprocal treatment in regard to our own beliefs and practices.

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Merely to believe that there is someone to wash away our sins without suppressing our evil state of mind, is not in accordance with the Teachings of the Buddha.

VERY often we come across cases of people who change their religion at the last moment when they are about to die. By embracing another religion, some people are under the mistaken belief that they can ‘wash away their sins' and gain an easy passage to heaven. They also hope to ensure themselves a more emotionally charged and aesthetically more attractive burial. For people who have been living a whole life time with a particular religion, to suddenly embrace a religion which is totally new and unfamiliar and to expect an immediate salvation through their new faith is indeed very far-fetched. This is only a dream. Some people are even known to have been converted into another faith when they are in a state of unconsciousness and in some cases, even posthumously. Those who are over zealous and crazy about converting others into their faith, have misled uneducated people into believing that theirs is the one and only faith with an easy method or short-cut to heaven. If people are led to believe that there is someone sitting somewhere up there who can wash away all the sins committed during a lifetime, then this belief will only encourage others to commit evil without fear.

According to the Teachings of the Buddha there is no such belief that there is someone who can wash away sins. It is only when people sincerely realise that what they are doing is wrong and after having realised this, try to mend their ways and do good that they can suppress or counter the bad reactions that would accrue to them for the evil they had committed.

It has become a common sight in many hospitals to see purveyors of some religions hovering around the patients promising them ‘ life after death'. This is exploiting the basic ignorance and psychological fear of the patients. If they really want to help, then they must be able to work the ‘miracles' they so proudly claim lies in their holy books. If they can work miracles, we will not need hospitals and cemeteries. Buddhists must never become victims to these people. They must learn the basic teachings of their noble religion which tell them that all suffering is the basic lot of mankind. The only way to end suffering is by purifying the mind. The individual creates his or her own suffering and it is that person alone who can end it. One cannot hope to eradicate the consequences of one's evil actions simply by changing one's religious label at the doorstep of death.

A dying person's destiny in the next life depends on the last thoughts which appear according to the good and bad karma accumulated during the current lifetime, irrespective of what type of religious label a person prefers to display at the last moment.

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Paradise is open not only to the followers of a particular religion, but it is open to each and every person who leads a righteous and noble way of life.

THERE is no difficulty at all for Buddhists to go to heaven if they really want to. But there are some people who go from house to house trying to convert other religionists into their faith and promising them the heaven they carry in their bags. They claim that they are the only blessed people who can go to heaven; they also claim that they have the exclusive authority to send others to the same goal. They introduce their religion like a patent medicine and this has become a nuisance to the public today. Many innocent people who lack the knowledge of their own religion, have become victims of these paradise peddlars.

If Buddhists can understand the value of the Noble Teachings of the Buddha, they will not be misled by such people. These paradise sellers are also trying to mislead the people by saying that this world which is created by god, is going to end very soon. Those who want to have a wonderful everlasting life in heaven must accept their particular religion before the end of the world comes, otherwise people would miss this golden opportunity and would have to suffer in eternal hell. We note with a smile how many red faces there were among these people who proclaimed loudly that the world would come to an end on 31st December, 1999, only to wake up very much alive to celebrate the beginning of the year 2000. But they do not give up so easily. Now they will go around saying that they misread their Holy Book and that the world will surely end in the following century.

This threat of the end of the world had been going on for hundreds of years. The wonder of it all is that there are still people today who believe in such a threat which is irrational and imaginary. Some people get converted after hearing such preaching; without using their common sense.

In Buddhism, there is no personal judge either to condemn or to reward but only the working of an impersonal moral causation and natural law.

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Buddhist Teachings Nature, Value and Choice of Religious Beliefs