Buddhism on the Religious Other

Buddhism was born into a context of thriving cultural diversity and has since maintained its openness to other religious and philosophical traditions. The Buddha lived and formulated his own system during a period of flourishing religious activity in northern India. He was fundamentally opposed to certain key teachings of the Vedic tradition—one of the forerunners of modern-day Hinduism—in particular its dual insistence on the individual soul (atman) and the transcendent self (Brahman). He insisted, by contrast, that there is no permanent self or soul and that all entities are interdependent and in flux. The existence of certain core beliefs within Buddhism has not, as a rule, translated into intolerance of other traditions or an attitude of proselytism. On the question of right and wrong doctrines, the Buddha counseled tolerance and restraint from disputation, insisting that his own dharma (teachings) were best understood as a means to the end of reducing suffering. This openness to other faith traditions is exemplified by contemporary Buddhist leaders such as the Dalai Lama, who emphasizes the importance of following the best of one’s own religious tradition rather than conversion to Buddhism.