Buddhism is not “negative”

There is a common theme, freqently echoed in fundamentalist Christianity, that Buddhism is a negative religion. It is said that Buddhism is pessimistic, world-denying, immersed in suffering, the practice of a resigned embrace of suffering, etc. Not so: and this is obvious from one of Buddha’s basic teaching. Buddha, describing his core mesage, typically said things like:

“I teach suffering, and the end of suffering.”

This statement is “negative” only if one falsifies it by dividing it, retaining the first claim and discarding the second.

If an opponent can be persuaded to listen, breaking the sentence down will be helpful:

“I teach suffering”…

COMMA,

… “and the end of suffering” …

PERIOD.

Repairing the mutilated sentence presents the fulness of Buddhist “positivity”, i.e. that life is suffering, but there is also an end to suffering. Obviously, no one followed Buddha because he taught the plain truth that life is suffering. Equally obviously, people followed, and follow, Buddha because of his claims about, and the methods he developed to vanquish, suffering. There is no “negativity” involved in true perception of Buddha and Buddhism.

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