Book Review: Buddhism and Christianity: Some Bridges of Understanding – by Winston L King

A Truly Aweful Book!

This book is copyrighted to one ‘WL Jenkins’ (1962) and I suspect a ‘nom de plume’ in operation! Moreover, it is certainly not worth its over-inflated cover-price (as Kindle or Hardback) – such are the howling schoolboy ‘errors’ that ‘Winston L King’ makes. His assessment of Buddhist philosophy is superficial, misleading and highly ‘Eurocentric’ in nature, and I suspect his grasp of Christian theology to be equally deficient. The Buddha is believed to be amongst the first of the truly ‘modern’ thinkers because he employed a dialectic of observation premised upon ‘logic’ and ‘reason’. (Fredrich Engels and Karl Marx both thought highly of the Buddhist dialectics found within Early Buddhism – encountered through the work of the German specialised in this field – Karl Koppen).  Bizarrely, and for no reason at all, Winston L King states that Early Buddhism does not make use of dialectics! This nonsense is compounded by the further Winstonian misunderstanding that the Dhammapada suggests that the physical world is an ‘idealistic’ creation of the human-mind, as if an individual ‘thinks up’ an image and it somehow ‘appears’ in material form. This is exactly the ‘inverted’ thinking that the Buddha termed as ‘delusion’ and firmly rejected throughout his 45 years as a teacher. A properly translated first chapter of the Dhammapada actually states that the material world is ‘reflected’ in the interior of the mind – which then generates ‘reactions’ to what is reflected. Within the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths, for instance, the Buddha clearly explains his materialist definition of reality which states that it is from ‘matter’ (rupa) that all ‘sensation’, ‘perception’, ‘volition’ and ‘consciousness’ arise. In other words, inert matter becomes (living) organic matter, and through a special arrangement (or ‘development’) of matter – conscious awareness develops – or ‘emerges’ from the brain. This is very different from the ‘idealist’ position that Winston L King is trying to superimpose as his interpretation of Buddhism! Buddhism is not ‘atheistic’ as the notion of a ‘single god’ did not exist in India during the Buddha’s lifetime (c. 600 BCE). Indeed, the Buddha recognises hundreds of polytheistic spirits, gods and demigods, (which seem to have the structure of passing states of mind), but the Buddha makes clear that when enlightenment (or ‘perfect understanding’) is achieved, the practitioner finally understands that there is no such thing as ‘gods’ and ‘spirits’. This is why the Buddha advises that his disciples should not rely on these fictitious entities that only appear to exist by convention. This explains why Buddhism should be more properly defined as ‘non-theistic’, a designation which ironically ‘agrees’ with the Christian rejection of polytheism. The impression this book gives is that Winston L King is trying to reconcile two distinct theological and philosophical paths that he does not properly understand. The Buddha clearly rejects all notions of formal religion and Winston L King is ‘wrong’ to continuously refer to Buddhism as a ‘religion’ throughout his diatribe, just as he is equally ‘wrong’ to assert that Buddhists tend to reject Scientific Socialism – Buddhist history in Asia is replete with Buddhist monks supporting Socialist causes! Finally, Christian monasticism is exactly where Buddhism and Christianity reconcile but Winston L King has painted himself into such a wayward corner that he ends-up writing virtually nothing practical about this!  

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