The Problem of Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy is a troublesome problem for all religions, but especially those that espouse clearly defined standards of conduct. Certainly, Buddhism and Christianity would fall under that description. Below we compare what hypocrisy looks like in each religion.

Shallow Buddhists don’t meditate much and try to use “spirituality” to serve their selfish needs. They believe that somehow, the impersonal God (or principle) that is in everything will cause life to work out just as they selfishly wish it would. Shallow Christians try to use God to further their own personal agendas. They pray, asking God to be their personal servant. Genuine Christians have surrendered their lives to follow Jesus in gratitude and obedience.

Shallow Buddhists have not renounced their selfish desires. Shallow Christians have not surrendered to Christ’s authority and active direction.

Buddhism is a religion that requires a substantial amount of discipline in the regular practice of meditation. It would be difficult for someone to simply be a nominal Buddhist. Because Christianity is universally accessible and quickly available to those who make a faith-based decision, a greater percentage of its adherents are shallow (or nominal) in their practice of it.

No one is motivated to quickly report or seize upon examples of hypocritical Buddhists. There has been much sympathy toward Buddhists because of the repression of Tibet by China.

People upset by Christianity’s “one way” claim are quick to report and seize upon examples of hypocritical Christians as a basis for discrediting their beliefs.

Hypocrisy is hard to identify relative to a subjective set of ethics and beliefs. It could be dismissed as just being a different path. Hypocrisy is easy to identify relative to a well-known, objective set of demanding ethics.

If one is finding one’s own path, one can make up one’s own rules, at least in grey areas.  People will naturally make up rules that would be easy to live up to.

Christ espoused ethics that are extremely difficult to live up to, even if one is wholeheartedly devoted to following him. This is fundamentally true, because the Evil One is in charge of this world, and the primal tendencies of people (i.e., “the flesh”) are at odds with the holy nature of God.

High achievers are likely to feel that truth can be found within, when their strengths or successes may be due to caring parents and a prior Judeo/Christian or other religious background.

Big sinners know that truth and goodness are not within. When becoming Christian many people experience a radical conversion from a life of obvious, habitual sin and change dramatically from who they previously were. But such people often have not had caring parents or a religious background and may be prone to reverting back to prior sins.

Although everyone has heard about notable sex scandals in the Roman Catholic Church[1] and among televangelists,[2] the press has generally been very slow to cover similar problems among Buddhist leaders. However, an August 20, 2010, article in the New York Times, “Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within,”[3] chronicled a shocking account of the excessive tolerance of sexual immorality between a married spiritual teacher of the Zen Studies Society and numerous students and other women over a period of fifty-five years. The article made the following points:

  • Because the student/teacher “relationship is considered sacrosanct, affairs were not always condemned, or even disapproved of.”
  • “There has also been a cultural aversion among Zen Buddhists to seeming censorious about sexuality.”
  • Of “Richard Baker, the abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center in the 1970s and ’80s, Frederick Crews wrote that Mr. Baker’s ‘serial liaisons, hardly unique in the world of high-level American Buddhism, could have been forgiven, but his chronic untruthfulness about them could not.'”
  • “Sex, alcoholism and drug abuse by major Buddhist leaders have all been tolerated over the years, by followers who look the other way, or even looked right at it and pretend not to care.”

Two books, Rogues in Robes: An Inside Chronicle of a Recent Chinese-Tibetan Intrigue in the Karma Kagyu Lineage of Diamond Way Buddhism[4] and Buddha’s Not Smiling: Uncovering Corruption at the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism Today,[5] have also documented major political scandals within the higher ranks of Tibetan Buddhism. In an opening quotation to the second book, we have this assessment:

“If the truth be told, the Buddha has not been smiling for a very long time. In the same way the Catholic Church transformed Jesus’ simple message of peace and love into Crusades and Inquisitions, the Buddha’s clear message of yoga and asceticism was largely ignored while rival schools developed throughout East Asia. . . . Buddha’s Not Smiling is a stark reminder that when false teachings are introduced for political gain . . . only more ignorance, and ultimately violence will result.”[6]

[1] “Child Sex Abuse Cases,” Wikipedia, is an extensive, detailed reporting, retrieved February 23, 2011.

[2] “Christian Evangelist Scandals,” Wikipedia, provides a lengthy list, retrieved February 23, 2011.

[3] Mark Oppenheimer, “Sex Scandal Has U.S. Buddhists Looking Within” New York Times, (August 20, 2010), retrieved February 23, 2011.

[4] Tomek Lehnert, Rogues in Robes (Nevada City, CA: Blue Dolphin, 1998).

[5] Erik Curren, Buddha’s Not Smiling (Staunton,VA. Alaya Press, 2006).

[6] Sankara Saranam, author of God Without Religion, in an introductory quotation to Curren, Buddha’s Not Smiling.