Do Buddhists Relate to Their Scriptures as Christians do to the Bible?

Most Christians in my experience view the Bible as the “inerrant word of God.”  The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy, written at an international conference of evangelical Christian leaders in 1978, states, “Holy Scripture, being God’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit, is of infallible divine authority in all matters upon which it touches…”  (Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics.)

In contrast, “…Buddhism, as a whole, does not possess a ‘canon’ of scriptures in the manner of…the Old and New Testaments of Christianity.”  (Rupert Gethin, The Foundations of Buddhism, p. 41.)  Buddhists are very comfortable with the fact that theirs was an exclusively oral tradition for centuries.  Writing in the context of early Buddhist literature, L.S. Cousins observes, “Above all, there is no permanent and unchanging soul or ground of being in man or the universe.” (L.S. Cousins, “Buddhism” from The New Penguin Handbook of Living Religions, p. 381.)  This core Buddhist doctrine of impermanence applies to any “scripture” as well.  “Indeed, according to Buddhists themselves, the Buddha’s ‘True Dharma’ was subject to the same laws of impermanence and change as anything else.”  (John S. Strong, The Experience of Buddhism, p. 89.)

Since there is no creator god in Buddhism, there is no supreme deity to insure the accuracy of the dharma.  Buddhists more readily accept their scriptures as guidelines.  The Buddha’s teachings are simply the Buddha’s teachings.  They are not sacred as the “word of God” is in Christianity.

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