#1 Can You Be Buddhist and a Christian at the Same Time?
No, you could not be a Buddhist and simultaneously be a Christian. Despite having a moral code that leads them to kindness and generous behavior, there is little else that is similar between these two denominations.
Buddhists follow the teachings of Buddha, as the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (a Buddhist that sought spiritual enlightenment in sixth century BC), while Christians follow the trinitarian belief in God.
The central reason that a Buddhist could not be a Christian is that Buddhists do not have a God, only spiritual teachers; while Christians are led by the authority of their one Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.
Some theologists draw analogies between Buddhism and Jesus, with the Dalai Lama saying:
“Jesus Christ also lived previous lives.”
Alluding to the idea that Jesus was subject to reincarnation, just as other Buddhists are. With this framework in mind, Buddhists do recognize Jesus as a real and influential teacher, but they do not acknowledge the presence of an omnipotent deity or God.
Buddhist scriptures from the holy Tipitaka text:
- “Purity or impurity depends on oneself, No one can purify another.” …
- “A religion is not judged by the contents of its book but by the power of its Spirit.”
Conversations of Faith – Buddhism, and Christianity; First Congregational Church; February 8th, 2015.
#2 Can You Be Buddhist and Catholic at the Same Time?
No, you could not be Catholic and Buddhist at the same time.
You may take principles from each faith and be agnostic or undecided. Still, you could not be baptized as a Catholic while retaining the primary ideas of Buddhism (such as reincarnation and karma) because the views of the afterlife are so distinctive in each faith.
You can take the teaching of Buddha as a non-Buddhist, just as nearly everyone enjoys a wise quote from Buddha. In this sense, yes, you can take many principles from Buddhism and align them with Christianity.
However, some of the main differences are:
- Buddhists think that we control our fate, Catholics think that God controls our fate
- Buddhists do not believe in a God, Catholics believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as a trinity
- Buddhists seek to escape the ego, Catholics seek to enhance God’s
- Buddhists take actions to improve their future lives, Catholics take action to improve their afterlife
Ultimately, Christianity teaches about God and salvation in the afterlife to reach Heaven, while Buddhism teaches about reaching enlightenment, being reincarnated into multiple lives, and eventually reaching nirvana. There are parallels in these cycles, but none of which could make them interchangeable faiths.
- Is It Possible to Be Both Christian and Buddhist? – The Meeting House; November 22nd, 2015
- Buddhism to Catholicism; November 8th, 2010.
#3 Can a Woman Be a Buddhist Monk?
No, only men can become Buddhist monks officially. Only recently have there been surprising accounts of female monks attempting to defy tradition by rebelling against the ordination against female monks.
Since 1928, there has been a ban against women becoming ordained monks. With nearly a century of laws against females (as well as thousands of years that set a precedent for the gender-hierarchy) – It is exciting to see that some are creating their own monasteries to meditate and reflect without the presence of male monks.
Some argue that anyone can be a Buddhist monk, with the key necessities of:
- Sense of commitment
- Vow acceptance
As time goes on, there are predictions to see more and more female monks, despite the ordination against them.
- English Woman Who Becomes a Buddhist Monk; Tracks; November 21st, 2019.
#4 Can a Buddhist Believe in God?
No, Buddhists do not believe in God. Some would argue that believing in a God, like Buddha did, does not contradict Buddhism, but it is not the general approach to Buddhism (being that it is more of a philosophy and way of life, rather than a religion).
In the time of Buddha, he was on a journey of meditation (500 years before Christ arrived). During this period, Buddha noted that all of the Gods in his Indian-heritage could not save humanity from the endless suffering he witnessed.
Since Buddha was never exposed to the concept of ‘only one God,’(because he never crossed paths with a Jew or anyone of the Christian faith), he would likely not have understood the notion of monotheism. At this time so far preceding the birth of Jesus, Buddha likely would have seen Brahma as his Hindu Creator and omnipresent authority, amongst millions of other Gods.
The history goes that:
- Buddha did not abandon his faith nor his belief in many Gods
- Buddha developed a theology (Buddhism) that does not teach about Gods (non-theistic)
- Buddha is revered as a great teacher, but never wanted to be seen as a God
Therefore, the main takeaway is that – Buddha still believed in Gods, but this was kept separate from his personal theology of Buddhism.
- Huffington Post on Do Buddhists Believe in God – “For Buddhists, what and how you practice is more fundamental than what you believe. My teacher, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, used to say that people could practice Zen meditation and also believe in God; that was OK with him. My good friend, Brother David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, practiced meditation with us in the early days of Tassajara Zen monastery. Like many other Catholic priests and monks who have taken up, and even taught, Zen, Brother David did not feel a contradiction between his Catholic contemplative practice and Zen meditation. In fact, he felt that there was an affinity between the two. A Tibetan Buddhist teacher once said, when asked about God, “God and Buddha may appear to be different, but when we speak of the nature of God and the nature of Buddha, there may be more closeness.”
- No God in Buddhism? – The Clear Vision Trust; May 30th, 2009.
#5 Can a Buddhist Smoke Weed?
Officially, substance and addiction could be viewed by Buddhist (especially a monk) as a deviation from the path of spiritual liberation; however, plenty of Buddhists smoke marijuana and will use it as a means for meditation or a deeper state of self-reflection.
Trevor Fenwick, Zen Buddhist, discusses Buddhist Views on Marijuana: Intoxicant vs. Medicine in his interview with Smuggle Vision. He states that the qualities of marijuana (THC, cannabinoids, CBD, etc.) are “medicinal for most people.”
There is undeniably an extensive range of opinion here, and with it, great controversy.
Many religious members (Buddhist or not) avoid any substances that could be seen as addictive. Nonetheless, marijuana or CBD could be regarded as immensely helpful to those that require aid with sleep, enhanced meditation, or something to calm the mind.
· A Buddhist Pot-smoker on quitting weed – Lion’s Roar; April 20th, 2018.
- Buddhist Views on Marijuana: Intention and Meditation; Smuggle Vision, October 28th, 2015.
#6 Can Buddhist Monks Marry?
No, a Buddhist monk would not generally choose to marry.
The reasons for this are:
- It is a rule cited in the Five Precepts of Buddhism authority
- It is more important to remain celibate, promoted by the Buddha
- Marriage is a distraction from meditation
- Marriage is a hindrance to achieving enlightenment
Buddha was very clear and explicit in his teachings that an ordained monk should release their ties from marriage, children, and the household-lifestyle. The Buddha suggested a vow of celibacy, but monastic communities have sometimes established their own rules (such as a Buddhist emperor in Japan that abolished celibacy in the 19th century, or this 2018 piece about a Japanese wife to a Buddhist monk).
Nonetheless, most Buddhists will do as the Buddha commands, especially the ordained monks.
- Vatican.va – View of a Zen Monk from Japan on Celibacy; Vatican Official Website.
- A Day in the Life of a Buddhist Monk; True Tribe; March 26th, 2020.