Buddhism and God: Seeking the Middle Way

A pragmatic and experiential way through the big dogmas of ‘Buddhism’ versus ‘God’.

‘Buddhism’ and ‘God’ are both powerful ideas rooted in powerful experiences for individuals, but form the basis of conflicting religious traditions. Many Buddhists interpret Buddhism as atheistic, clearly rejecting God. Theists, for their part, reject Buddhism because they see true religion as necessarily involving God. Universalists, on the other hand, may see God and Enlightenment as ultimately the same. Who, if anyone, is right?

This book takes none of these approaches at face value, but tries to look behind the dogmatic conflicts. Which is the most helpful of the many ways of interpreting both ‘God’ and ‘Buddhism’? What human experiences do those different interpretations relate to? Success in the inquiry depends on disentangling the meanings given to words and maintaining an open attitude. It offers a pragmatic and experiential resolution of these debates in the face of the dogmas of tradition.





1. The meaning of God for theists

The traditional definition of God

Absolute belief in God as a tool of power

Distinguishing belief from experience of God

God as an archetype

Separating belief from meaning

2. The meaning of Buddhism for theists

Buddhism fails when certainty is required

The basis of uncertainty in Buddhism

The finality of enlightenment as belief or meaning

3. The meaning of God for exclusivist Buddhists

God and gods in Buddhism

Faith in Buddhism

Belief in God as ‘eternalist’

Faith in God and faith in Buddhism

Is Buddhism atheist?

Buddhism and agnosticism

Summary: the limitations of exclusivist Buddhism

4. The meaning of Buddhism for exclusivist Buddhists

The appeal to final enlightenment in Buddhism

The Middle Way as an alternative interpretation

Compatibility between Buddhist and theistic Middle Ways

5. The meaning of God for universalists

Universalism and its strengths

The projection of God as ‘ultimate reality’

Naïve and critical universalism

Appropriation and naïve universalism

Critical universalism and the Middle Way

6. The meaning of Buddhism for universalists

Enlightenment and ‘ultimate reality’

The ambiguity of ‘dharma’

Critiquing naïvely universal Buddhist formulae

Buddhist inspiration for functional questions about God

Effective ways of breaking down barriers with theism


Summary of the argument

Interpretation of the argument

The wider context in Middle Way Philosophy

The future of theism and Buddhism


Further Reading

About the Author


Read sample text (prologue and introduction) from this book