Metaphysical arguments go nowhere, no different from political or religious ones! What does make a difference, however, is how we treat each other. I may be a Buddhist and you may be a Christian, yet if we both treat each other with respect, how crazy can that be?

When a monk asked the Buddha some metaphysical questions one day - "Is the universe eternal or not eternal, is my soul eternal or not eternal, where was I before I was born, etc.," the Buddha maintained the "Noble Silence." He always contended that those kinds of questions would not help the monk progress. Only when the monk set metaphysical questions aside and quieted his mind, and then observed his own greed, hatred and delusion (not someone else's!) would the monk begin making progress.

When the monk insisted that his metaphysical questions be answered to his satisfaction before he agreed to follow the Buddha, the Buddha likened the monk to a man who was shot with a poison arrow and insisted that he get some answers about the arrow before it's pulled out! He wanted to know what kind of feathers were used, the kind of tree that the shaft came from, who shot the arrow, what the point was made of etc., etc., and of course before the questions could be answered the man would die!

Similarly, before a monk could get all of his metaphysical questions answered, his lifetime would be over and he would be destined for rebirth, because there is no end to metaphysical questions except enlightenment. After enlightenment there is no longer anyone there to ask questions!

When it comes to theoretical subjects involved with Metaphysics, Politics, and Religion, it is important that we can agree to disagree on these kinds of things that can't be proven. That is the secret to peace - knowing that we have differences, but accepting those differences and even perhaps finding some common ground.

The Buddhist "Bible" consists of volumes of texts that take up about six feet of a bookshelf! A tiny part of these writings is the Dhammapada, arguably the most read of the Buddhist texts. This little book, in the simplest, clearest of terms, sums up many of the Buddha's teachings.

The first sentences in the Bible and the first sentences in the Dhammapada go a long way in explaining the differences between Buddhism and Christianity, differences that seem irreconcilable regarding metaphysical and religious aspects, but really aren't when one considers the overall aim of both religions; love and compassion between human beings.

The Bible says that God is all-powerful, and we should worship God, while the Dhammapada says that one should rely on one's mind and be proactive in altering his or her consciousness. Both ways have their positive and negative points, but the important thing is that they both have the same goal - the spiritual development of humankind. They just use different techniques.

Here are the first lines of the Dhammapada under Chapter One, "Dichotomies" Verses 1 and 2:

"All experience is preceded by mind, led by mind, made by mind. Speak or act with a corrupted mind and suffering follows as the wagon wheel follows the hoof of the ox."

"All experience is preceded by mind, led by mind, made by mind. Speak or act with a peaceful mind, and happiness follows like a never departing shadow."

The Bible points to God the creator and humankind's dependence on that power, whereas the Dhammapada emphasizes the power of the mind and how the mind forges our destiny based on our own actions and options.

In other words, Buddhists believe that we are the ones who publish and hold our little black book of deeds that foretell our destiny, and although Buddhists believe in God realms and heavenly realms that can be populated temporarily after death as we cycle through lifetime after lifetime, they do not believe in one single creator God. Buddhists are closer to science in this area, believing in cause and effect, which we perpetuate ourselves. This is why scientific discoveries are always welcomed by Buddhists, and not intimidated by them.

Another area of disagreement is that where Christianity believes in a soul, Buddhists believe in an impersonal stream of consciousness created by our karma. The Christian retains their personality and name in heaven, whereas the Buddhist takes on a new body. The new Buddhist body will have a different personality, even though the stream of karma will remain intact.

But many of these differences are no more than words, concepts, and expressions of the same experiences.

Therefore, Buddhism studies the mind in order to transcend the mind and come face-to-face with that Reality which Christians relate to as God. The results are the same in all religions when mind is transcended. Whether through a surrender to something greater or through meditation, the personality and the life experience changes for the better.

This is no different from what the prophets historically experienced, and what many religious people are looking into these days; direct communication with God - direct experience. But Buddhists don't dwell on that unknown called God, and instead work with something practical that they can know - their own minds.

This is a view shared by the Catholic contemplative saints, as well as the more serious practitioners in many mainstream religions as they look into the deeper aspects of their faith. They know that the roots of their beliefs began with a direct experience of God by a prophet, and are asking why they can't have a direct experience as well.

I think as more people get to know practicing Buddhists, they will find them to be very sensitive and compassionate people, interested in peace and goodwill no different from Christians.

We count on the compassionate actions and kind words that result from our practice to tell our story.

Author's Bio: 

E. Raymond Rock of Fort Myers, Florida is cofounder and principal teacher at the Southwest Florida Insight Center, http://www.SouthwestFloridaInsightCenter.com His twenty-eight years of meditation experience has taken him across four continents, including two stopovers in Thailand where he practiced in the remote northeast forests as an ordained Theravada Buddhist monk. His book, A Year to Enlightenment (Career Press/New Page Books) is now available at major bookstores and online retailers. Visit http://www.AYearToEnlightenment.com