T H E G R E A T D E B A T E
Rev. David de Silva
He argued that Buddhists believe that there is no soul or irreducible “self”, quoting various Buddhist scriptures to that effect, like:
(the original Pali) Rupam bhikkhave anattam, yadanattam n’etam mama n’eso ‘hamismineso attati.
(English translation) Organized form, monks, is not self, that which is not self is not mind, I am not that, that is, not to me a soul.
He continued by claiming that this means that there is no fundamental difference between humanity and frogs, pigs, and the rest of the animal kingdom.
And also that there would be no rewards and punishments after death for what one has done in this life, meaning that one would have nothing to fear if one did something bad.
And quoted the Bible to the effect that we do have souls (no word on frogs, pigs, etc.).
Ven. Mohottiwatte Gunananda
He took a swipe at Rev. de Silva’s command of the Pali language, suggesting that someone who makes elementary mistakes in it cannot be expected to have a good understanding of abstruse metaphysics described in it.
He then proceeded to explain how reincarnation works in Buddhism in the absence of a “soul” — there is some sort of continuity that extends beyond the death of the body.
He then accused Christian missionaries of being deceptive on account of their use of various local deities’ names for the Christian God, like in Calcutta the Hindu god Ishwara and in Ceylon Dewiyanwahanse.
He continued in this vein by charging that some Bible translators have committed vagarious deceptions, like translating “jealous” into Sinhalese jwalita, which literally means “glittering” or “luminous”. And also of omitting verses like Leviticus 17:7, saying that they should no longer make offerings to various devils that they have prostituted themselves to. He concluded by saying that he appreciates that Catholics have not rewritten their Bibles in the above-described fashion of some Protestants.
Turning to Genesis 6:6,
(KJV) And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
(NASB) The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
(NIV) The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
Mohottiwatte Gunananda asked what kind of entity regrets something that he/she/it has done. Certainly not an omniscient one, as he pointed out.
He continued to ask why an allegedly omniscient being needed visible markers, as when he killed the firstborn of Egypt; the Israelites had to put some blood at the doors of the houses so that God would know who they were and not kill their firstborn.
In Exodus 4, God tells Moses to perform a miracle to impress the Egyptians, and if that fails to impress them, to perform more miracles until they are suitably impressed. Gunananda pointed out the implied lack of omniscience here also.
Later in that chapter, Zipporah circumcises Moses, offering Moses’s foreskin to God, who had wanted to kill Moses. And God was apparently satisfied with that bloody offering. Gunananda wondered what kind of being the Biblical God must be like, a being like some devil who likes receiving blood offerings.
And turning to Judges 1:19, he wondered how omnipotent a being was who could not overcome iron chariots.
Rev. David de Silva
He claimed that he was simply repeating some statements made elsewhere, and that any alleged errors were not his fault. And he bluntly denied that any Bible translators were trying to be dishonest.
He also claimed that the “translations” of the Christian God’s name were not done to deceive would-be converts but to provide something that they could relate to.
About the regretting of Genesis 6:6, he claimed that the original Hebrew word (nokam) did not imply fretfulness. And the marking with blood in Exodus he claimed was a symbol of Christ’s death.
He concluded with an effort to show that some Buddhist doctrines have some contradictions of the form that X is the source of Y and Y is the source of X.
Ven. Mohottiwatte Gunananda
He started off by pointing that the Reverend had called him viruddhakaraya (“opponent” or “adversary”), even though there was no personal enmity between the two. And that he now had no choice but to do the same.
He continued by asking why de Silva had made no comment about the (mis)translation of “jealous” in the Sinhalese Bible, and why the Biblical God is referred to as “jealous”. He continued in this vein, asking what de Silva’s level of competence in Pali was when he repeats others’ grammatical errors without bothering to correct them. And despite de Silva’s praise of the honesty of Bible translators, the rearrangements of parts of it suggests something suspicious about Bible translators.
He turned to the question of Iswara, noting that Hindus believe that he has a wife named Umayaganawa; does the Christian God also have a wife?
Continuing in this vein, he complained that de Silva never took on the question of the Biblical God’s implied non-omniscience and taste for blood offerings.
He then explained further what gets reincarnated, discussing various views of the “soul”, claiming that the Biblical view sort-of agrees with the Buddhist view of something that has an eternal existence before birth as well as after death.
He continued into the story of Jephthah sacrificing his daughter; he charged that Protestants had rewritten their Bibles to indicate that that sacrifice was not literal, and he praised Catholics for being honest about that sacrifice.
He next took on the question of how long Jesus Christ had stayed in his tomb, noting that “three days and three nights” does not exactly fit Friday afternoon to Sunday morning.
He then argued that Jesus Christ’s birth had a bad omen associated with it — King Herod’s mass murder of baby boys. By comparison, the Buddha’s birth had had nothing but good omens — lots of cures and pain relief.
He concluded by claiming that he would renounce Buddhism if even so much as an ant died as a result of the Buddha’s birth.
Rev. F.S. Sirimanne
He started by comparing Gunananda’s rejection of Christianity to a fever patient’s rejection of food, no matter how good the food might be for him/her.
He claimed that Gunananda had not really replied to the argument that Buddhism teaches that there is no such thing as the soul, and that Buddhism also teaches the existence of beings like the soul, beings that are immaterial and invisible and so forth.
He continued with the claim that the Biblical God being “jealous” did not really mean “envious”, just not wanting his glory to be shared by others.
About the Ten Plagues of Egypt, he claimed that God knew how it would turn out, but that all those plagues were necessary because the king of Egypt was so haughty.
He continued with God being unable to defeat those iron chariots in Judges 1:19, claiming that Judah had not had sufficient faith in him. He claimed that the Bible is not only literally and historically true, but full of valuable spiritual lessons for future generations.
He had a chortle at Gunananda’s interpretation of the creation of Adam by God blowing on him, the monk claimed that that meant that Adam had received some of God’s soul.
He turned to Jephthah’s daughter, seemingly claiming that she was not really sacrificed. And also to JC’s reamining in the tomb, claiming that this was some special Jewish way of counting days. He correctly points out that Herod’s massacre would be hard to call an omen, though he continued by claiming that they were sent to Heaven, where they would be much happier than if they had been allowed to live out their lives.
About the Buddha’s birth, Sirimanne noted that the Buddha’s mother had died seven days afterward, and that the Buddha had not only walked and talked when he was born, he roared like a lion. And he noted that lion roars are widely believed to be deadly.
He followed that by claiming that Jesus Christ came to fight sin and establish righteousness, while the Buddha was a sinner who wanted to encourage vice. And that the Buddha’s good omens are like drunkards welcoming a fellow drunkard with open arms, while spurning a teetotaler.
He continued by pointing out that the Buddhist scriptures were written down only 450 years after the Buddha’s death, hinting that they could have been less-than-reliably transmitted in all that time.
This was followed by him claiming that the Buddha pursued enlightenment in previous reincarnations by offering his eyes, head, flesh, blood, wives and children; he commented on how cruel the Buddha must have been, to desert all those wives and children.
He also wondered if the Buddha was as omniscient as he was sometimes claimed to be, since the Buddha thought that some living people were dead, and vice versa, and since the Buddha was not initially sure that there would be anyone who could understand his message.
He interpreted Nirvana as be a state of nonexistence, and thus, since the Buddha had achieved that state, that the Buddha was now nonexistent. This meant that “taking refuge in the Buddha”, as many Buddhists talk about, is taking refuge in someone now nonexistent.
And he concluded by claiming that many Buddhist monks are wicked, thus making them unfit for moral leadership.
Ven. Mohottiwatte Gunananda
He started by expressing disappointment in the quality of his opponents’ arguments, and continued by noting that Ecclesiastes 3:19 (NIV: Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath man has no advantage over the animal. Everything is meaningless.) is what de Silva charges that Buddhism teaches. He challenged de Silva to find similar statements in the Buddhist scriptures.
After going into some arcane Buddhist doctrines, and explaining further what gets reincarnated if there is no soul, he pointed out a contradiction:
1 Corinthians 15:22-28 (NIV: For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. …) — implying that everybody who believes in Jesus Christ will go to Heaven.
Matthew 25:41-46 (NIV: Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. … [those who do wicked things] … “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”) — implying that one can believe in Jesus Christ yet be sent to Hell.
He then asked why take the Bible seriously when it contains gross contradictions like that. Which of these parts is right, if any at all? They can’t both be right.
Turning to Sirimanne’s speech, he commented that he had never heard anything so unscholarly or aimlessly meandering, and that he will skip over irrelevant parts like the curing of a fever patient. Many of his opponents responses he found beside the point, like how haughty the Pharaoh was. About Judah and the iron chariots, he asked that if Judah did not have enough faith in God, then why was God with him at all?
In connection with the baby-boy massacre, Sirimanne charged that Buddha’s mother had died seven days after giving birth to him. Gunananda’s response was that she had been fated to die on that date, implying that giving birth to the Buddha had had nothing to do with it.
He reiterated that the baby-boy massacre was nevertheless a bad omen, and that sinful omens imply that one will be a friend of sin. And asked if there was any record of anyone having been injured by the “lion-like” roaring of the baby Buddha.
As to the transmission of the Buddhist scriptures, he claimed that they had been recorded in the Buddha’s lifetime on gold-leaf pages.
And while the recorders of the Buddhist scriptures had supposedly reached a state of great enlightenment, the same cannot be said of the writers of the Bible; he pointed out that Moses had committed some murders. He even claimed that the Bible was once completely burnt and then written down again.
And as to Moses performing miracles in Egypt, his Egyptian-sorcerer opponents had performed similar miracles (turning sticks into snakes), he commented that either Moses was also a sorcerer or else God Almighty was helping his Egyptian sorcerers also.
He continued into discussing the abandonment of wives and children by those seeking Buddhahood; he pointed that it was necessary to conquer passions and attachments, like to one’s wives and children.
About Sirimanne’s remarks about how long Jesus Christ spent in his tomb, Gunananda mainly commented novasanavan (“miserable”), and reiterated his view that “three days and three nights” is a miscount. He claimed that he’d be providing more demonstration of the falsehood of Christianity in his final statement.
Rev. David de Silva
After claiming that “opponent” is not objectionable, he then took on Eccl. 3:19, claiming that Eccl. 3:21 implies that humanity has a soul, unlike animals.
After commenting that human souls would be human souls in Heaven, though being glorious immortal beings there, he continued to the contradiction that Gunananda had pointed out between 1 Corinthans and Matthew, claiming that “being made alive” and “being saved” were two different things.
As to when the Buddhist scriptures were written down, he quoted those scriptures themselves as stating that they had been written down 450 years after the Buddha died.
As to Moses killing someone, he claimed that Moses had only killed some Egyptian who had been trying to kill some fellow Israelite.
He continued into how some very enlightened people (Arahants/Arhats) had once been robbers and murderers.
After mentioning some more such scandals, like someone who gambled with a king and seduced and ran off with his wife, he turned to the subject of a legendary world-axis mountain, Mt. Meru (Mahameru), which according to Buddhist scriptures has a length, a width, a depth below the sea, and a height of 84000 yojanas (1 yojana ~ 16 mi / 26 km). Quoting some more Buddhist scriptures, he noted this sequence of world-destruction events:
* The rain would stop and all the plants would die.
* A second sun would appear and the small rivers and lakes would dry up.
* A third sun would appear and the large rivers would dry up.
* A fourth sun would appear and the large lakes would dry up.
* A fifth sun would appear and the oceans would dry up.
* A sixth sun would appear and Mt. Meru, everything else on Earth, and the Earth itself would be destroyed.
De Silva then showed a globe and asked where was Mt. Meru. It is mentioned in several places in the Buddhist scriptures, and it would be difficult for it to escape explorers’ attentions; where was it?
On top of Mt. Meru is a stack of heavenly worlds, on top of those is a stack of Brahma worlds, and on top of those is a stack of Arupa worlds. Without Mt. Meru, they would have no support, and thus could not exist. De Silva asked why act virtuously and perform good deeds if one has no chance of being reborn in one of these worlds?
He continued by noting that some Buddhist monks have interpreted their mandated celibacy in strange ways; one of them had sex with his mother, another with his sister, and another with a female monkey. And when some monks committed what de Silva described as “the foulest sin, the particulars of which cannot be given”, the Buddha treated those acts as minor offenses.
About the Buddha’s death, he pointed out that the Buddha had died in an entirely normal fashion, of food poisoning from some pork and rice he had eaten, with none of the miracles or divine assistance of the rest of his career.
He ended by saying that believing in Jesus Christ was the only way to Heaven, and he claimed that all the objections to Christianity had been answered, while none of the objections to Buddhism had been.
Ven. Mohottiwatte Gunananda
He reiterated Eccl. 3:19 on how humanity is fundamentally like the (nonsentient) animals, and rebutted the Revs’ claim that some Buddhist doctrine represents a mixed-up view of causality. He went on to explain that if there is any mixed-up causality, it’s in the Christian Trinity with the Virgin Mary. Is God her father? Her sort-of husband? Her son?
He continued by reiterating his claim that the Bible had once been burnt and re-recorded, and he asked if some of those alleged criminals who achieved enlightenment had really been criminals, and claimed that if they had, then they had received appropriate punishments before achieving enlightenment. By comparison, Moses was an unrepentant murderer.
He then claimed that there was nothing in the Buddhist scriptures about the Buddha giving away his wife, and that sins in previous reincarnations should not be held against the Buddha.
About Mt. Meru, he claimed that de Silva was referring to Isaac Newton’s theory that night is caused by the Sun being hidden behind the bulk of the Earth instead of behind Mt. Meru.
He claimed that Newtonianism was not completely accepted, noting the work of a certain R.J. Morrison, and also noting that the Bible, like some Buddhist books, states that the Earth is stationary. (Eccl. 1:5, NIV: The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises.)
He noted that compass needles point northward and not in any other direction, meaning that Mt. Meru must be at the North Pole, and that it must be magnetic. He also claimed that the exact size of a yojana was controversial, meaning that that mountain could be smaller than Rev de Silva thought it is.
After arguing that the misbehavior of some Buddhist monks did not necessarily discredit Buddhism, he pointed out that some Christian clergymen have also been known to misbehave. He continued with mentioning that the Bible has numerous immoralities, like Lot and his daughters’ incest and the incest committed by Adam and Eve’s children.
He claimed that the pork and rice were not responsible for the Buddha’s death, since he was fated to have dropped dead at the date and time he did.
At any rate, he claimed, pork was no fundamentally worse than the grasshoppers eaten by John the Baptist.
As to the Buddha being dead, he claimed that part of the Buddha was still “alive” — his relics — and that 2500 years from now, they will be gathered at the Bo tree where he achieved enlightenment, where they will assume the form of a living Buddha, preach for a while, and then disappear. And that the Buddha will completely achieve Nirvana when that happens.
About the Buddha’s alleged omniscience, he claimed that it was not the sort of omniscience that the Christian God has, of knowing everything whether he wants to or not, but the ability to know whatever he wants to know. Which thus shields him from all the superabundance of pain and misery and sin and filth in the world.
He asked why Christians attach so much emphasis to the death of Jesus Christ, someone who advised his followers to acquire swords, and someone who had been charged with posing as the king of the Jews.
As to the resurrection, the first witness, according to Mark 16:9, was Mary Magdalene, who had seven devils driven out of her. Could she be counted on to be completely sane and reliable?
He seemed to believe in a form of spontaneous generation, in which air, heat, and water produces living things — whether they be called Brahma, Vishnu, and Iswara, or God, Son, or Holy Ghost. “The spirit of God moved across the waters” he cited as evidence that the Bible agrees with him.
Turning to the Adam and Eve story, and how women were sentenced to give birth painfully as a result of eating that forbidden fruit, he asked why is it that some animals sometimes give birth painfully. Had their ancestors eaten some forbidden fruit also?
In a final statement, he claimed that the most eminent in all ages had spoken in support of Buddhism, including eminent doctors, astrologers, and the like, and he stated that Buddhism “inculcated the purest morality and urged the necessity of self-denial, self-sacrifice, and charity. It encouraged peace. It tolerated all religions in its midst. It had nothing to fear. It pleaded of men to follow the example of Holy Buddha, and pointed the sick and the sorrowing to the blissful state of Nirvana.” After stating that he had proved the truth of Buddhism and the falsehood of Christianity, he urged his listeners to take refuge in Holy Buddha.
His listeners shouted “Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!”, but only stopped when he told them to.