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Top 100 Atheist Challenges

How do Christians respond to eastern systems of thought such as Buddhism and Hinduism?

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Our Written Response:  Though there are quite diverse and disparate forms of both Hinduism and Buddhism, Christians could attempt to respond to both by pointing out the inadequate way in which each of them deals with the problem of evil.  Given Buddhism, suffering (dukkah dukkah) is a function of the fact that one’s existence is but a temporally extended series of five distinct (instantaneous) skandhas (one physical and the other mental).  Because the constituents of the series are in constant flux, it is difficult for this view to make sense of what is called “diachronic identity” (identity across time).  Since none of the members of the series exists for more than a moment, it is difficult to see how the existence of any individual person can last longer than a moment either.

In most forms of Hinduism, suffering results from the ignorance (avidya) of non-duality (advaita).  In other words, suffering is alleviated once it is realized that all distinctions are illusory and that all is one.  However, if all of reality is one, then it appears that illusion and reality cannot be two things.  Thus, they must be one thing, which would mean that the illusion is reality, which is contrary to Hindu teaching.