The Archbishop and the Buddhists

 Photo from Triratna News.

Jnanavaca, Chair of the London Buddhist Centre is attending a meeting today with the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Buddhist leaders, at the Buddhist Society. The conversation will centre on the Archbishop’s response to two major Buddhist texts: the Loving Kindness Sutta of the Pali tradition, and the Heart Sutra of the Mahayana tradition.

Jnanavaca has asked me to be his unofficial Research Assistant, so I thought I’d prepare this news review of the past few months for him, and also share it with you, ahead of the meeting. It’s mainly taken from the Guardian.

15 October. Protesters occupy land in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral as part of a worldwide movement challenging the economic and political status quo.

27 October. The canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, the Rev Dr Giles Fraser, resigns in protest at plans to forcibly remove protesters from its steps, saying he could not support the possibility of “violence in the name of the church”.

31 October. The Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral also resigns over the Occupy London protest, saying his position has become ‘untenable’.

3 November. Giles Fraser says that the Church risks becoming “the spiritual arm of the heritage industry”.

16 December. David Cameron declares that “Britain is a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so”, in a speech to mark the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.

25 December. The Queen’s Speech ends with a strong appeal to Christian values.

26 January. Alain de Botton publishes ‘Religion for Atheists’ and reveals plans for a ‘temple to atheism’ in heart of London.

10 February. Bideford Council ‘loses court battle over prayer sessions before meetings in an case brought by the National Secular Society.

14 February. Muslim cabinet minister Lady Warsi visits the Vatican and calls to fight against “intolerant secularism” and “give faith a seat at the table” in the UK.

15 February. The Queen says “we should remind ourselves of the significant position of the Church of England in our nation’s life. The concept of our established church is occasionally misunderstood and, I believe, commonly under-appreciated.”

22 February. The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols – leader of the Catholic Church in England – says he doesn’t feel persecuted as a Christian in the UK.

23 February. The Archbishop of Canterbury debates with Richard Dawkins at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, with the Guardian declaring that there were “no knockout blows“.

28 February. Occupy London protesters evicted from St. Paul’s.

I don’t know if Jnanavaca will have a chance to speak at the meeting, let alone ask the Archbishop a question. Given the chance, though, what would you want to ask the Archbishop, against the backdrop above, if you were in Jnanavaca’s shoes?

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7 Responses to “The Archbishop and the Buddhists”

  1. Chintamani says:

    Surely we should be primarily be focussed on those virtues and values that we all cherish and aspire to, rather than on our differing means of achieving them, and, far less, the different religious terms by which we account for and describe them. In this, theists, non-theists and secular atheists could surely all meet as brothers and sisters as no one system can surely have a monopoly on goodness. In this regard, is not the current polarization between secularism and faith an unfortunate backward step?

  2. Stephen Heppell says:

    I would ask him what he thinks the differences are between Buddhism and C of E Christianity. At interfaith meetings there is a tendency for people to affirm the similarities which aren’t really as interesting.

    Apparently they will be looking at the Heart Sutra- I would be interested to know if there is in Christianity a document similar ie- one that in essense prevents you from clinging onto any views, concepts or practices in Buddhism as being ultimately true.

  3. Stephen Heppell says:

    I would also be interested in what Richard dawkins thought of the Heart Sutra in regards of the Heart Sutra as he seems to be replacing one set of concepts with another.

  4. Geoff Sheridan says:

    Hi Stephen

    I’m not Richard Dawkins (!), but I know his work enough to say that he would agree that he is replacing one set of concepts with another. He thinks (and so do I) that the concepts he’s replacing the old ones with are better, because they are supported by evidence.
    I suspect he wouldn’t understand the point of the heart sutra, as far as I can tell RD thinks that the ‘truth’ is in principle knowable if not fully known.

    I’ve got quite a lot of respect for the Archbish, who I have briefly met a couple of times. He has rather left-wing anti-establishment views (or did when he was younger). My only objection is that he mostly keeps them to himself these days. Perhaps he could be drawn on the recent vile comments of that catholic bigot (who called gay marriage ‘grotesque’ and equated it with slavery).

    The punchline being that JNV isn’t such a fan of marriage, gay or otherwise!

  5. It would be interesting to have this debate with RD- as far as I’m aware it’s not something he’s addressed. Does anyone have his phone number?

    What I don’t get is why people seem to think science is objective. How can it be?

  6. Chintamani says:

    Yes, the unquestioned ‘scientific’ assumption is that human perception is neutral and agenda-less – and therefore a reliable means of amassing ‘evidence’ as to what is ‘true’.

  7. Rebecca Smith says:

    On objectivity in science: I would say that objectivity is aspired to in science. It’s probably the closest humans have ever got to an objective system of thought.

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