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Fundamentalism

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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Fundamentalism (idaṃsaccābhinivesa) is the belief that the sacred scriptures should be interpreted literally. Fundamentalists tend to be dogmatic in the practice of their religion and intolerant towards other religions. If anything, they are often even more intolerant of their fellow-religionists who interpret the scriptures differently from how they themselves do. The Buddha characterised the fundamentalist as the person who keeps angrily proclaiming: ‘This alone is true, all else is false.’ (M.II,171). Because of Buddhism’s generally open and explorative nature, it has only rarely produced fundamentalists or fundamentalist movements. The Buddha said that while examining his teachings one has to take into account not only the letter(vyañjana) but also the spirit (attha), implying that there are dimensions and nuances of the Dhamma beyond mere words and that knowing just the words is not enough (D.III,127; Vin.I,20). Elsewhere, he said: ‘The Dhamma has been taught by me in diverse ways. But it may be expected that those who agree and approve of it being taught by others (with different but still) well-spoken words, will live with them in harmony, mutual respect, without arguing, like milk and water mixed and looking upon each other with the eyes of love.’ (S.IV,225). In the famous Kālāma Sutta he said that in our efforts to assess religious claims we should rely more on our experience than on religious scriptures (A.I,187).

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