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Finding God in Buddhism: A New Trend in Contemporary Buddhist Approaches to Islam

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The purported absence of a highest god who creates and governs the universe in the Buddhist worldview has often been regarded as an obstacle to dialogue and mutual understanding between Buddhists and Muslims. However, there has emerged a trend among contemporary Buddhist scholars to discuss a Buddhist equivalent of such a god in order to relate to Islam doctrinally. This article examines three examples of such an attempt, respectively representing the Theravāda, Tibetan, and Japanese Pure Land traditions, as endeavors in the theology of religions. The article demonstrates that these accounts all seek to overcome the psychological gap between Buddhists and Muslims created by perceived doctrinal remoteness between the two traditions, by drawing parallels between the Islamic concept of God and Buddhist notions of the ultimate reality, be it the dhamma, emptiness, Adi Buddha, or Amida Buddha. It will be argued that, although highly unconventional, this line of approach has been motivated by the agenda shared among these Buddhist scholars to promote interreligious harmony and understanding on a global scale. Such agendas tend to be developed in reaction to interreligious conflicts or through personal involvement with Muslims.

Affiliations: 1: Mahidol University, College of Religious Studies Salaya, Phutthamonthol 4, Nakhon Pathom, 73170 Thailand


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