What aspects or practices of Buddhism (if any) seem to be inconsistent with its basic goals? Please give examples and explain either way.

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are several aspects and practices that seem to be inconsistent or contradict some of the fundamental goals of Buddhism. These inconsistencies are existent in the original Buddhist teachings but have been heightened by the focus of different schools of Buddhism. For instance, Buddhism teaches the denial of self but also speaks of rebirths, this then leads to the question how can there be reincarnation when there is no self?

Buddhist scriptures state the continuity of existence, where it states that there is judgment after death and consequences thereafter in the form of hell for evil doers. This state of personal existence challenges the existence of self. This is because according to Buddhist teachings the 5 Skandhas or aggregates are scattered during ones death. In that case nothing is left but energy or karma and this, according to Buddhist teachings, confirms that life in its essence is a mere illusion.

Buddhism has also been accused of violence. For a religion that teaches non violence this accusation is a contradiction. In Sri Lanka, militant Buddhists exercised violence against the Muslim minority while the Tibetan riots and unrest of 2008 are often linked to the Dalai Lama. These are some of the examples that point to the inconsistencies. To avoid prejudice they must be observed in context.

Piyumi | Student

So far I have not come across with the inconsistencies of the Buddhism but there are times I had my own doubts about some aspects. But now as I have come over them I thought of sharing my ideas about the inconsistencies mentioned above.

1) As told in the 'thetall's answer I too felt the teaching of the denial of self and the rebirth is largely an inconsistency at first. BUT what Buddhism teaches is that there is nothing eternal behind the word 'soul' If we look at a forest, we see it is consisted of many trees. If those trees are removed one by one no jungle is to be seen just like the 'soul' for it is consisted of five aggregates(the five skandhas) If these aggregations are removed one by one there will be nothing to be called 'soul' for only these five aggregates exist:

  1. Form  - the physical appearance, the five organs(eyes,nose,tongue,ears and body)
  2. Sensation- the feelings (pleasant, unpleasant, neither unpleasant nor pleasant)
  3. Perception - recognizing the things around us. 
  4. Mental Formation - All the recognition we enter into us goes under this skhandha except those comes under sensation and perception)
  5. Consciousness - The word 'sitha' is given for this though I find no exact word to explain this in English language for it is neither mind nor heart or the brain. It is much like the feelings we feel or the thoughts we think. We don't have one 'sitha'(feelings/thoughts) but constant flow of feelings/thoughts.

+ This word 'sitha' is taught in Buddhism as what goes from one body to another not the 'soul'. Even 'sitha' is not eternal for it changes every so often and the path to control this 'sitha'(or to stop the journey of sitha which is rebirth) is clearly taught in Buddhism.

The reason (maybe) to deny the soul is the hindrance it creates to the teaching that everything is not eternal for with the word 'soul' comes with the idea of eternity though everything we see subjects to change. This sense of eternity is very dangerous for it makes people desirable to collect and therefore sinful. It is taught in Buddhism to stop this journey of 'sitha( to end this cycle of sufferings) we must loose that desire to collect(meanness followed by the selfishness) BUT Buddhism doesn't refuse the use of the word 'soul' as the word 'me' for identity. 

2)Yes, it is taught in Buddhism that after death these aggregations scatter and if the 'sitha' is not developed to defeat the sins will again cause to form another body, sensations etc. That is the rebirth.

+But sometimes it is said that there is also a period(antharbawaya) for some who does not get a rebirth quickly and they just wander in search of a place to be born( the place we judged by the good and bad deeds done by them which is known as KARMA)

If we think deeply isn't life an illusion? we live a life wrapped around so many things and people and we build relationships with them.Those relationships give us what we think 'pleasure' is finally resulting in sufferings.Sometimes they are very strong relationships that keep us worrying for loosing them. But all of them are mere illusions for we finally find out that we have to loose all of them and it will lead us for another birth with sufferings. (as shown in the medieval drama, 'Everyman') We should penetrate this layer of fallacy to be met with the truth(the nibbana)

3)And yes, I agree that Buddhism speaks of peace and non-violence and some militants who have born as Buddhists creates violence sometimes. BUT can it be considered as an inconsistency in the teaching of Buddhism?  It is something wrong with the untamed humans.

In Buddhism it is taught and admired the peaceful living among different religions for religions are there to make a spiritual uplift in people but not to make them violent to quarrel over different religious beliefs/ ideas. Those people who creates violence can be born to the world as Buddhists but may not be true Buddhists to go against the teachings. What we should keep in our mind is that Buddhism is a philosophy not a religion with beliefs. It is taught in Buddhism to understand and accept the teachings even in Buddhism. But just because we do not understand, we should not reject it. We should try to develop our abilities to understand what we do not understand at once. Therefore, it is optional for everyone to choose whether they should take the path showed by the Buddhism or not, disregarding the religion they are born into. As there is no rule in this philosophy to believe this teaching, those militants can act without understanding the depth of the teachings.

For it simply shows the way and only those who understand and willing to understand follow that way.

+From the ancient human history people have quarreled against each other for different reasons (many religions against each other or races or the skin colour etc.) for they do not understand the gravity of the things they do. The religion/philosophy cannot be blamed for it for it is a great error of the militants done without a proper understanding.  

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