In the famous Chinese novel The Journey West a mischievous monkey named Sun Wukong turns the heavenly kingdom upside down. As punishment, he is banished and forced to live fused to a mountain, immovable, forever. After 500 years, he is released so that he can accompany Tang Xuan(san)zang eastward in order to procure numerous sacred writings. However, he isn’t granted total freedom. Instead, a golden band is placed around his head. Whenever he misbehaves, his master, Xuanzang, will recite a mantra and the band will immediately tighten, causing Wukong excruciating pain. Because of this, Wukong must “be good”.
So what is Wukong’s dilemma?
Personally speaking, Wukong seems to be a very appropriate personification of Buddhism, a system of religious thought that requires its adherents to live in conformity to the rules laid down by its founder and later “masters” — or else. Because of particular teachings, like karma, reincarnation, and a vast array of “hells”, the motives of even the most genuine adherents become suspect to accusations of selfishness and self-interest. That is, you do good things to increase your karma so that you can escape this “nightmare” called life. You avoid doing bad things so that you will not be punished in one of the numerous hells (Naraka) accordingly.
So, Wukong’s dilemma could be summed up in a single question: Is Wukong serving his master out of genuine affection or fear of punishment? For that matter, are people executing religious duties out of a sincere heart or fear of punishment and retribution?
What are your thoughts? What is your motivation, fear or love?
What makes this or that person tick? Why believe this over that? How does Buddhism compare to Christianity? Perhaps more importantly, how does Buddha compare to Jesus? Did Buddha ever exist? Is it an “either or”? Why or why not? What was Confucius ultimately getting at? If so, what does that mean in the great scheme of things? How do Far Eastern religions view evidence? Where’s the line where evidence ends and faith begins? Can faith exist without evidence?
Those are thoughts that motivate me. And since it seems that the attitude of a successful apologist is that he or she genuinely cares about the people who are the aim of their efforts, it’s only right to investigate, compare, contrast, debate, and learn from the teachings that they hold dear. And, indeed, that’s why I have set up this small blog and will be posting content to it: to help me understand the religious thoughtlife of the people who I encounter on a daily basis living in the Far East. Yet, ultimately, I aim to show how that through all the religious traditions and the superstitious mire that taints the history of the nations of the Far East, God has not left Himself without a witness. Yes, that witness is a lone, dim lantern, but it still shines. He has never forgotten about its people either. In fact, the facts might just show they are an intricate part of His Plan.
Here I’ll be posting exclusive translations and tidbits on these subjects for your consideration. You’ll hear from the frontline — from Buddhists, Daoists, and others of all degrees of sincerity and how they relate and/or compare with the claims of Jesus and Christianity.