From the opening:
I did not know about [Pope John Paul II's] book until I received several letters from Poland, from individuals and from a publishing house, asking me to comment on it. When I read the book in order to be able to answer their request, I found that it had serious, gratuitous misrepresentations of Buddhist doctrine which seemed to be based on misunderstandings, though perhaps my own understanding of the chapter is different from the meaning intended by the Pope. So, I thought it was necessary to identify and correct these mistakes with clarifications of the Buddhist point of view in order to dispel misconceptions. I have not tried to consider what is generally thought in either traditional or modern Christianity or Catholicism, but only to discuss the Pope's actual words about Buddhism and his comparisons of Christianity to Buddhism.
Of course, the Pope is known as the spiritual leader of millions of Roman Catholics, and his views and opinions are heard around the world. The misrepresentations of Buddhism in his book may have come from listening to advisors who were unfamiliar with Buddhism, from simply glancing at books at the Hinayana level, or by being shown books by misinformed authors. Perhaps he only looked at negative conceptions about Buddhism written by followers of other doctrines who had malicious intentions, or by idiots who wrote books for money without caring that they were full of mistakes. In any case, the Pope definitely heard about Buddhism from sources that did not know anything about it.
Buddhist teachings are infinite, since the revelations of the omniscient Buddha are infinite, reflecting the countless different faculties of beings through countless ways of connecting to them with skillful means and wisdom. These teachings can be categorized within the three levels of the vehicles of the Hinayana, Mahayana, and Vajrayana. But according to what the Pope has written, it seems that he has had just a little bit of exposure to only the Hinayana vehicle, as though he has scooped a few drops of water from an immeasurable ocean with a piece of grass and even misunderstood these few drops.
Without studying and understanding other doctrines deeply, to say many things about them is not wise. In particular, it is not enough just to say a few negative words, since it can create the tracks of hatred between religions, which is harmful to everyone. Whatever is said regarding the religious beliefs of millions of people should be considered in a vast way, said carefully, and proven in detail. One should make one's position clear, without distorting or adding one's own interpolations to the position of others. Instead, the Pope has first misrepresented Buddhist beliefs and then criticized them illogically.
Excerpted from Welcoming Flowers from across the Cleansed Threshold of Hope by Thinley Norbu. Copyright © 2014 by Thinley Norbu. Excerpted by permission of Shambhala, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.