Scouts-L Mail Archive for December of 1999: Buddhism and Duty to God
Buddhism and Duty to God
Fri, 3 Dec 1999 14:36:16 -0500
Michael A. Poretsky writes:
> It would appear that Buddhists do not believe in any sort of god.
> How does BSA handle this? How can a Buddhist Scout promise
> to "...do his best to do his duty to God."?
When Christians see Buddhists bow to a statue of Buddha, they assume that
they are worshiping a god. But to a Buddhist, Buddha Nature is human
nature. Buddha was the first human to experience the "Middle Way:" that
human suffering is a result of the mind's attachment to the objects of its
senses, and that neither retreating from the world nor trying to posses it
will ever set us free. So telling a Buddhist boy that to be a Scout he
must believe in God is exactly the same as telling a Jewish boy that it's
OK that he's Jewish, just so long as he accepts Jesus Christ as his
On a practical level this is not really the problem that it seems to be.
When the first Christian Missionaries arrived in Japan, the Buddhist
priests were the very first to "convert" to Christianity. They were
curious about the religion of these white men and wanted to be as close to
them as possible.
While many devout Westerners would rather die than kneel before the sword
of another's man's religion, the Buddhist Priests were not bound by
"Belief." To believe in a god as western religions demand, or to believe
that there is no god as atheists maintain, or to enjoy the lively debate of
theological issues as do most agnostics, is, in the Buddhist view, to be
equally attached to the mental bonds that are the very cause of human
A Buddhist can serve tea, shoot a bow and arrow, draw with pen and ink, or
"do his duty to God" with an equal full presence of mind. In so doing, he
practices his religion with complete purity and without compromise. In
fact ANY mindful activity on the part of a Buddhist is called his
"Practice." Some Christians can understand this as the life-changing
experience of profound transcendence or "Grace" found in the deepest layers
of self-less prayer.
Baden-Powell found this same transcendence in the feelings of awe and
wonder inspired by the contemplation of nature, or "sermons in stones"
(_Scoutmastership_, pg. 125). This is the true meaning of his statement
that "there is no religious side to the movement. The whole of it is based
on religion, that is, on the realization and service of God".
In _Scoutmastership_ Baden-Powell also wrote that "Duty to God" is NOT a
"loyalty oath to God". A Scout does his Duty to God through the direct
observation of nature (realization of God), and in his Service to Others
(service of God). Both of these are consistent with the purist forms of
Buddhist Practice. "The wonder to me of all wonders is how some teachers
have neglected this easy and unfailing means of _education_ and have
struggled to impose Biblical _instruction_ as the first step towards
getting a restless, full-spirited boy to think of higher things
(_Scoutmastership_, pg 126)."
In what he had seen of the world, Baden-Powell once wrote, the best
example of a society that practices this method of Scouting he termed
"Practical Christianity" could be found in the "so-called Buddhist" culture
I hope this helps.
Yours in Scouting,
Scoutmaster, Troop 252
Buffalo, the Kudu Net,
and a good old Beaver too!
reply to Rick@Kudu.Net
see also the writings of Baden-Powell's father on the subject:
Analytical outline at: