If There's No God in Buddhism, Are Buddhists Atheists?

Our columnist explains why not.

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Fear of hellfire is not necessary to motivate me to live a moral life, challenging as that may occasionally prove to be. I prefer to strive for virtue and to live a wholesome, happy, nonviolent, service-oriented life that contributes to the greater good. For I would rather be part of the solution to the world's woes than part of that problem.

Q: What is your opinion of Jesus Christ?

A: I love Jesus. He represents much of what I believe and aspire toward myself. And I believe each of us has it in us to become like him. I relate more to Jesus Christ as embodying a cosmic spiritual principle--the personification of truth, love, mercy, and forgiveness--than as a historical "only son of God".

I like to read the Gospels each year during the Christmas season and reflect upon the many lessons embedded there. The rest of the year I try to live according to Jesus' teachings as much as I can. In fact, in Buddhism we have a comparable archetype: the Buddha of Love and Compassion, Avalokiteshvara, about whom there are many similarly selfless moral parables and mysterious and marvelous teaching tales. The Dalai Lama of Tibet is said to embody Avalokiteshvara on earth.

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