Two Paths to Liberation (Part 2)

Spiritual Growth

What is the source of truth? Buddhists looks deep within themselves by trying to exclude all outside voices. Christians do not trust what their inner selves may be saying, believing that all truth comes from God above.

Who is at the center of one’s life, spiritually? With the Buddhist, it is the self. With the Christian, it is the triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

Whether or not God exists, God is not relevant to the process of spiritual growth for the Buddhist. What is essential and critical, is the self. For the Christian, God’s role in spiritual growth is always essential and critical. The directive, “Let go and let God” is key to the spiritual growth of the Christian.

Spiritual growth for the Buddhist is a quest of the self to eliminate itself. The Buddhist is striving to engage in a process of spiritual bootstrapping. For the Christian, spiritual growth requires the self to submit to the authority and leadership of God. God causes spiritual growth when the Christian submits to His inspiration and direction.

The lifeblood of Buddhist spiritual growth requires prolonged, intensive meditation, often interspersed with chanting. For the Christian, Bible study, prayer and worship are essential activities.

                                 Buddhism Christianity
Source of Truth Deep within From above (God)
At the Center Self God
Existence of God Not relevant Totally essential
Self Self seeks to eliminate self Self subordinated to God
Source of Spiritual Growth Spiritual bootstrapping God enables when we submit
Lifeblood of spiritual growth Meditation & chanting Worship, Bible study & prayer

Two Paths to Liberation (Part 1)

Paths to Liberation

This world is a difficult place, from which people throughout history have sought relief and liberation. Two major paths to liberation, Buddhism and Christianity, will be compared in this five part series.

What each path holds out as model behavior toward others is virtually the same. Each challenge us to overcome hatred with love and to seek to banish negative thoughts by intentionally focusing on positive thoughts. However, each claimed to be the only true path to liberation. To Buddha, intense, prolonged meditation is the only way. In Christianity, faith in Jesus (apart from good deeds) is the only way to salvation.

Buddhism is a system of self-improvement directed and implemented by the self. The problem is that self-improvement tends to be very slow. It took the Buddha billions of lifetimes to reach perfection and become enlightened. By his own admission, the Dalai Lama has not yet attained enlightenment. If he hasn’t made it, who has?

The Buddha modeled ideal behavior, having achieved perfection. He thereby became enlightened and entered nirvana. Upon death, he left this earth, never to return. After his crucifixion and burial, Jesus rose from the dead and made at least a dozen different appearances, being seen by over 500 people. He then ascended into heaven, where he is alive today and in active communication and interaction with many of his followers.

Because of these differences, the number of Buddhists who have claimed to reach enlightenment and nirvana is very small. In contrast, the number of Christians who claim to have been liberated (i.e., saved) is in the hundreds of millions. However, we should not assume that anyone calling themselves a Christian is following Jesus. Jesus clearly stated that he never knew many of his followers.

This dramatic difference in the accessibility of liberation is due to the central role of mercy and grace in Christianity. Mercy is not receiving the punishment we deserve for bad deeds and thoughts. Grace is receiving blessings that we in no way deserve. Neither mercy nor grace are available in Buddhism because the universe is tightly governed by karma. Karma precludes mercy as well as grace.

Precautions should be noted for each path. Buddhism requires, at a bare minimum, many months of intense, prolonged meditation. When Westerners attempt this, the result is often depression because people in the West are conditioned to avoid self-denial.

Christians can easily fall into having judgmental attitudes toward others. It is best for religion and politics to be kept separate, and not to be intertwined.

The following chart summarizes the above narrative.

                                 Buddhism Christianity
One way? Intense, prolonged meditation is the only way Jesus is the only way
Basis of liberation Good thoughts & deeds Faith in Christ
Mercy and Grace Non-existent Abundantly available
Liberation slow/quick? Slow. Buddha lived billions of lifetimes. Dalai Lama not yet liberated. Often quick. Key is letting go and letting God.
How many claim liberation? A few hundred Hundreds of millions
Precautions After months of meditation, depression is not unusual Need to avoid judgmental words and attitudes, and linking politics and religion

 

Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Children?)

The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)

When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!

Let’s look at some topics on which the Buddha was silent, or nearly so. Of the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, the following ones pertain to children:

‘These sons belong to me, and this wealth belongs to me,’ with such thoughts a fool is tormented. He himself does not belong to himself; how much less sons and wealth? (Dhammapada 62)

‘Here I shall dwell in the rain, here in winter and summer,’ thus the fool meditates, and does not think of his death. Death comes and carries off that man, praised for his children and flocks, his mind distracted, as a flood carries off a sleeping village. Sons are no help, nor a father, nor relations; there is no help from kinsfolk for one whom death has seized. A wise and good man who knows the meaning of this, should quickly clear the way that leads to Nirvana. (Dhammapada 286-289)

The Buddha cautions that children are not property, and thinking of them as such is folly. A wise person considers the temporal nature of life, and does not think that a family or possessions in any way can prevent or stave off death.

Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

Parent’s Righteous Life

Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. (Proverbs 14:26, NIV)

The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them. (Proverbs 20:7, NIV)

Wisdom and Righteousness

Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways [wisdom’s ways]. (Proverbs 8:32, NIV)

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother.  (Proverbs 15:20, NIV)

The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him. (Proverbs 23:24, NIV)

A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him. (Proverbs 17:25, NIV)

Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright? (Proverbs 20:11, NIV)

A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father. (Proverbs 28:7, NIV)

Discipline (Training)

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. (Proverbs 13:24, NIV)

Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death. (Proverbs 19:18, NIV)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6, NIV)

Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire. (Proverbs 29:17, NIV)

A Blessing

Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. (Proverbs 17:6, NIV)

Inheritance

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. (Proverbs 13:22, NIV)

I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. (Ecclesiastes 5:13-15, NIV)

Solomon teaches that the righteous life of a parent is a blessing for their child, and that wise and righteous children are a blessing to their parents. Implicit in these Scriptures are an admonishment to teach our children to be wise and lead righteous lives. Training our children is first done by setting a good example, and then by actively teaching them how to seek out wisdom and make good decisions. Solomon knew first hand that children are a blessing from God, and he encourages us to leave a spiritual as well as material inheritance for our children.

The Buddha’s teachings on children center on whether they are viewed as property, or as some sort of ability to stave off death. Buddha abandoned his family on his quest for wisdom, which may inform his teaching and lack of teaching about children. Solomon’s teachings center on children as a blessing from God, and owning the importance of being a good example and teacher to them.

 

Barbara Walter’s Interview of the Dalai Lama

Nine years ago Barbara Walters interviewed the Dalai Lama. The interview is available on You Tube (9:17).

The interview covers an amazing amount of ground about Buddhism and His Holiness. It showcases his no-nonsense, disarming humility and his endearing giggle. The interview leaves the viewer with a clear sense of why he is admired and revered by hundreds of millions.

The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) is believed to be the 14th incarnation of The Buddha (Gautama Buddha). He is often referred to as the “heavenly deity of compassion and wisdom.” Many Buddhists believe he is a god. When questioned by Walters, he denied being a deity, saying he is a teacher. He laughed and commented that he had an eye irritation and that shouldn’t happen if he is a god.

Walters described him as “the world’s foremost scholar in his very complex faith.” Buddhists do not believe in God the way Christians do, but they do believe some kind of heaven exists. Ancient Tibetan texts describe six distinct levels of heaven and six nightmarish levels of hell. When asked about the Buddhist vision of heaven, he described it as a very happy, very pleasant place, the best place to refine one’s practice of Buddhism.

For Buddhists, heaven is not a destination, but a place to visit temporarily. A place to go to continue to reincarnate until they become a buddha (enlightened one). Good compassionate people reincarnate as people, and bad people as animals. For example, a good dog may reincarnate as a person, and a bad person as a dog. From the Buddhist point of view, everyone is reborn (reincarnated) repeatedly.

As a three-year-old, he underwent testing before he was proclaimed the 14th Dalai Lama. During the testing, he pointed to objects that belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama. He said as a child he had clear memories of a past life, but now he does not.

Walters explained that Buddhists believe the ultimate goal is nirvana or enlightenment, which is a state of all-knowing contentment. The Dalai Lama explained that once you eliminate all negative emotions, you automatically become enlightened and enter Nirvana. Walters asked him, are you enlightened? He answered no. He said he does not know what will happen tonight, and that he is having trouble with his memory. He added, if he was enlightened, he would not be forgetful. He said he sees himself as just another human being, nothing special, nothing more. It is this humility that endears him to so many.

Gyatso is the first Dalai Lama ever to travel outside of Tibet. He is an ambassador of Buddhism recognized world-wide as a symbol of compassionate, non-violent living. Before an audience of 65,000 people in New York’s Central Park, Richard Gere introduced him as “one of the great beings perhaps to ever walk on this planet. . . .”

Walters asked the Dalai Lama what the purpose of life is, and he replied that the purpose is to be happy and is accomplished by warm-heartedness. That compassion gives inner strength, and changes our attitudes and the way we see things. When asked if the world is closer to heaven or to hell, he replied closer to heaven.

Moved by the time with him, Walters concluded her time with him by requesting if she could kiss him on his cheek. He permitted it and giggled. Then he showed her a New Zealand kiss and touched noses with her.

The interview raised some key concerns about the efficacy of Buddhism as a path to enlightenment and nirvana. If the Dalai Lama has not attained enlightenment, then who has? Attaining enlightenment is the only real way to be liberated from the suffering of this world, and from repeatedly being reincarnated into that same world of suffering. Only a very small number of Buddhists have “made it,” even in the 2,500 years that Buddhism has existed as a religion. This stands in sharp contrast to Christianity and Islam, where a high percentage of adherents believe that they will be freed from suffering when they enter heaven (or paradise). The difference is that in these two theistic religions, God (or Allah) is believed to do what no human being can—provide a way of liberation from this very troublesome world and the great limitations that plague all human beings.

If the Dalai Lama is “just another human being, nothing special, nothing more,” and is not enlightened, then is he really qualified to speak with such authority as a teacher? While his humility is disarming, it is also unsettling.

All this reminds me of the painfully honest confession of Bruce Newman, author of A Beginner’s Guide to Tibetan Buddhism. He noted,

When I look back on my twenty-three years of practice, I can’t but help but feel deeply disappointed by how little progress I’ve made in my meditation. In a sense, I’ve done most things right—I’ve played by the book, so to speak. Why then have the experiences of meditation, so tantalizing, been beyond my reach? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if nothing has happened; it’s just that progress has been painfully slow.[i]

While one may question the efficacy of sudden conversions in Christianity for many of its faltering followers, we also encounter many Christians who dramatically changed for the better overnight, or nearly so. This phenomenon is absent in Buddhism, where spiritual growth is “painfully slow.”


[i] Bruce Newman, A Beginner’s Guide to Tibetan Buddhism, (Ithaca, New York: Snow Lions Prod., 2004), 71.

Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Family?)

The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)

When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!

Let’s look at some topics on which the Buddha was silent, or nearly so. Of the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, the following ones pertain to family:

Mind Over Family

Not a mother, not a father will do so much, nor any other relative; a well-directed mind will do us greater service. (Dhammapada 43)

No Help at Death

Sons are no help, nor a father, nor relations; there is no help from kinsfolk for one whom death has seized. (Dhammapada 288)

A True Brahmana

A man does not become a Brahmana by his platted hair, by his family, or by birth; in whom there is truth and righteousness, he is blessed, he is a Brahmana. (Dhammapada 393)

A true Brahmana goes scatheless, though he have killed father and mother, and two valiant kings, though he has destroyed a kingdom with all its subjects. (Dhammapada 294)

A true Brahmana goes scatheless, though he have killed father and mother, and two holy kings, and an eminent man besides. (Dhammapada 295)

Pleasant

Pleasant in the world is the state of a mother, pleasant the state of a father, pleasant the state of a Samana, pleasant the state of a Brahmana. (Dhammapada 332)

For the most part, the Buddha takes a very negative view of family. He states a “well-directed mind” will do a person greater service than any family member. That family is useless at death. That becoming a Brahmana has nothing to do with family, and that a true Brahmana would be untouched even if they killed their parents. In only one proverb does he talk about anything positive with regards to being a parent, and then he goes only as far as to call it pleasant.

Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

Heed Parent’s Teaching

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. (Proverbs 1:8, NIV)

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. (Proverbs 4:1, NIV)

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes. (Proverbs 13:1, NIV)

Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.  (Proverbs 23:22, NIV)

A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father. (Proverbs 28:7, NIV)

The Wise Bring Joy

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother. (Proverbs 10:1, NIV)

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother. (Proverbs 15:20, NIV)

The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him. (Proverbs 23:24, NIV)

A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth. (Proverbs 29:3, NIV)

The Foolish Bring Ruin and Grief

Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise. (Proverbs 11:29, NIV)

A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him. (Proverbs 17:25, NIV)

A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof. (Proverbs 19:13, NIV)

Don’t Steal from Family or Curse Them

Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother is a child who brings shame and disgrace. (Proverbs 19:26, NIV)

Whoever robs their father or mother and says, “It’s not wrong,” is partner to one who destroys. (Proverbs 28:24, NIV)

If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness. (Proverbs 20:20, NIV)

Better a Prudent Servant than a Disgraceful Son

A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share the inheritance as one of the family. (Proverbs 17:2, NIV)

Solomon’s teaching on family definitely covers a much broader scope. He admonishes children to be obedient to their parents. He then contrasts the joy of having wise children with the ruin and grief of having foolish children. Solomon teaches not to steal from family or to curse them. He also states that a prudent servant might displace a disgraced son to the point of having a share in the inheritance. While the Buddha predominantly has a negative take on family, Solomon has a broader range of teaching on the topic, and illustrates the positive as well as the potential negatives of family life.

Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Business?)

The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)

When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!

Let’s look at some topics on which the Buddha was silent, or nearly so. Of the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, the following ones pertain to business (work):

Good and Evil

The evil-doer mourns in this world, and he mourns in the next; he mourns in both. He mourns and suffers when he sees the evil of his own work. (Dhammapada 15)

The virtuous man delights in this world, and he delights in the next; he delights in both. He delights and rejoices, when he sees the purity of his own work. (Dhammapada 16)

Let a man avoid evil deeds, as a merchant, if he has few companions and carries much wealth, avoids a dangerous road; as a man who loves life avoids poison. (Dhammapada 123)

In like manner his good works receive him who has done good, and has gone from this world to the other;–as kinsmen receive a friend on his return. (Dhammapada 220)

If an occasion arises, friends are pleasant; enjoyment is pleasant, whatever be the cause; a good work is pleasant in the hour of death; the giving up of all grief is pleasant. (Dhammapada 331)

Work Hard and Be Wise

Make thyself an island, work hard, be wise! When thy impurities are blown away, and thou art free from guilt, thou wilt enter into the heavenly world of the elect (Ariya). (Dhammapada 236)

Make thyself an island, work hard, be wise! When thy impurities are blown away, and thou art free from guilt, thou wilt not enter again into birth and decay. (Dhammapada 238)

 

In some of these verses, the Buddha is talking about good works or deeds, as opposed to working, as in a business. However, one may extrapolate the concepts and apply them to a person’s work ethic, even though he is not specifically talking about work in the sense of business or commerce.

He espouses working hard, being diligent, and avoiding evil deeds. He contrasts the evil or purity in one’s work. He states that a good work is pleasant to reflect on at the time of one’s death, and describes the benefit of it in the afterlife.

Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

Reward

From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward. (Proverbs 12:14, NIV)

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23, NIV)

Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank. (Proverbs 22:29, NIV)

Priorities

Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. (Proverbs 24:27, NIV)

Abundant Food or Fantasies

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. (Proverbs 12:11, NIV)

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. (Proverbs 28:19, NIV)

Motivation

The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on. (Proverbs 16:26, NIV)

Sluggards

One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.  (Proverbs 18:9, NIV)

The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. (Proverbs 21:25, NIV)

Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor. (Proverbs 12:24, NIV)

 

And these passages from Ecclesiastes:

Meaningless

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, NIV)

So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.  (Ecclesiastes 2:20-23, NIV)

Don’t Anger God

Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? (Ecclesiastes 5:6, NIV)

Work Hard

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 9:10, NIV)

Two Are Better Than One

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10, 12, NIV)

Find Joy and Satisfaction

So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them? (Ecclesiastes 3:22, NIV)

The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:12, NIV)

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. (Ecclesiastes 5:18, NIV)

 

While the Buddha mostly focused on good and evil, and working hard, Solomon covered more topics with regards to working. Solomon believed that working hard results in rewards: financial or as in an abundance of food, and in being recognized and promoted by the authorities (e.g., bosses, kings, etc.). He stressed prioritizing work, first by taking care of your fields (having a steady supply of food), then building your home, and taking care of other needs. He made the distinction between working hard to provide for your needs, as opposed to chasing after fantasies and ending up in poverty. He also talked about hunger as a motivation for hard work.

Solomon denounced sloth and cautioned that it can lead to forced labor and death. He compared a sluggard to one who destroys. In Ecclesiastes, he bemoaned that even though he took delight in his labor, he said that it was all meaningless (a vapor) in the end. He cautioned not angering God, or He would destroy the works of your hands. Solomon espoused working hard during this lifetime as there is no work in the afterlife. Solomon believed that two working together are better than one working alone, and he outlined the ways in which they can help one another and have a “good return for their labor.” Lastly, he encouraged finding joy and satisfaction in your work.

Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Power?)

The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)

When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!

Let’s look at some topics on which the Buddha was silent, or nearly so. Of the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, the following ones pertain to power:

The wise prevail through great power, and those who have knowledge muster their strength. (Dhammapada 5)

These wise people, meditative, steady, always possessed of strong powers, attain to Nirvana, the highest happiness. (Dhammapada 23)

He who always greets and constantly reveres the aged, four things will increase to him, viz. life, beauty, happiness, power. (Dhammapada 109)

The swans go on the path of the sun, they go through the ether by means of their miraculous power; the wise are led out of this world, when they have conquered Mara and his train. (Dhammapada 175)

The Buddha equates wisdom, self control, and kindness with power and strength.

Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. (Proverbs 3:27, NIV)

I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have insight, I have power. (Proverbs 8:12-14, NIV)

Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing. (Proverbs 11:7, NIV)

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21, NIV)

When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding. (Proverbs 28:12, NIV)

When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive. (Proverbs 28:28, NIV)

And these passages from Ecclesiastes:

Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter. (Ecclesiastes 4:1, NIV)

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NIV)

Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful than ten rulers in a city. (Ecclesiastes 7:19, NIV)

As no one has power over the wind to contain it, so no one has power over the time of their death. As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it. (Ecclesiastes 8:8, NIV)

Solomon also equates wisdom and kindness with power. He contrasts the results of the wise versus the wicked being in power. He describes the power of the tongue for good or evil, and over life or death, and the power of wickedness over those who practice it.

The Buddha took one view of power, whereas Solomon takes a broader perspective about it.

Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Government?)

The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)

When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!

Let’s look at some topics on which the Buddha was silent, or nearly so. Of the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, the following ones pertain to government (Kings):

He who inflicts pain on innocent and harmless persons, will soon come to one of these ten states: He will have cruel suffering, loss, injury of the body, heavy affliction, or loss of mind, or a misfortune coming from the king, or a fearful accusation, or loss of relations, or destruction of treasures, or lightning-fire will burn his houses; and when his body is destroyed, the fool will go to hell. (Dhammapada 137-140)

There is bad reputation, and the evil way (to hell), there is the short pleasure of the frightened in the arms of the frightened, and the king imposes heavy punishment; therefore let no man think of his neighbour’s wife. (Dhammapada 310)

A true Brahmana goes scatheless, though he have killed father and mother, and two valiant kings, though he has destroyed a kingdom with all its subjects. A true Brahmana goes scatheless, though he have killed father and mother, and two holy kings, and an eminent man besides. (Dhammapada 294-295)

In Dhammapada 137-140 and 310, the Buddha states that inflicting pain or harm on innocent people or pursuing an evil path in life results in the king or government causing misfortune and or punishment on the guilty party. In Dhammapada 294-295, he states that a true Brahmana will go through life untouched by harm, even if he has killed the king or his parents. The underlying assumption here is that the Brahmana (Brahmin) has committed these acts while adhering to the highest teachings of the ancient Indian texts.

It would appear that the Buddha had some misgivings about kings and the government. On the one hand he states, if you do evil the king will punish you, but on the other hand he states that if you live up to the highest standard, you will be unharmed even if you kill the king or your parents. With no further comment on kings or the government, it would appear that the Buddha felt that his teachings were sufficient for the individual to conduct his or her life by, and that there was no need to teach on the individual’s relationship to or attitude toward the government.

Solomon was a king, so what did Solomon have to say about government? Passages on kings are contained in Proverbs 8, 14, 16, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, and 29. Also in Ecclesiastes 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, and 10. Consider these proverbs:

By me [God] kings reign and rulers issue decrees that are just; by me princes govern, and nobles—all who rule on earth. (Proverbs 8:15-16, NIV)

The lips of a king speak as an oracle, and his mouth does not betray justice. Honest scales and balances belong to the Lord; all the weights in the bag are of his making. Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness. Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks what is right. A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, but the wise will appease it. When a king’s face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring. (Proverbs 16:10-15, NIV)

And this passage from Ecclesiastes:

Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God. Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?” Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm, and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter, though a person may be weighed down by misery. (Ecclesiastes 8:2-6, NIV)

These are a small sample of the verses where Solomon discusses kings (government). He outlines that God places leaders and kings in their positions and that they should be honored as such. He talks about the value of obedience and honoring the king, and he describes the reward of obtaining the king’s favor being like “a rain cloud in spring.”

Even though the Buddha was born a prince with wealth and status, he seems to have very mixed feelings about kings. However, Solomon is unswerving in his attitude that kings are placed in power by God, and ought to be honored and obeyed, with resulting blessings on the obedient soul.

Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Money?)

The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)

When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!

Let’s look at some topics on which the Buddha was silent, or nearly so. Of the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, the following ones pertain to money and wealth:

“One is the road that leads to wealth, another the road that leads to Nirvana;” if the Bhikshu, the disciple of Buddha, has learnt this, he will not yearn for honour [sic], he will strive after separation from the world. (Dhammapada 75)

Whatever place a faithful, virtuous, celebrated, and wealthy man chooses, there he is respected. (Dhammapada 303)

Clearly, these sayings of the Buddha reflect a somewhat conflicting point of view of regarding wealth. The first says you can either take the path to wealth, or the path to nirvana, appearing to make them mutually exclusive, but then in the second one the Buddha states that wherever a wealthy man resides (who is also faithful, virtuous and celebrated), he is respected.

Solomon was an extremely wealthy King, so what did Solomon have to say about wealth? Consider these proverbs:

Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth. (Proverbs 10:4, NIV)

The wealth of the rich is their fortified city, but poverty is the ruin of the poor. (Proverbs 10:15, NIV)

The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it. (Proverbs 10:22, NIV)

Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. (Proverbs 11:4, NIV)

Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. (Proverbs 13:11, NIV)

Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it? (Proverbs 17:16, NIV)

And these passages from Ecclesiastes:

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. (Ecclesiastes 5:10, NIV)

Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this: Wisdom preserves those who have it. (Ecclesiastes 7:12, NIV)

A feast is made for laughter, wine makes life merry, and money is the answer for everything. (Ecclesiastes 10:19, NIV)

Solomon makes the distinction between laziness and diligence: laziness bringing about poverty, and diligence bringing about wealth. He notes that wealth can fortify a city, whereas poverty causes ruin to cities and people, and that God can give the blessing of wealth without difficult and painful efforts to earn it (perhaps he experienced that himself). In a somber comment, he states that at the end of life, wealth is worthless in the face of death. He espouses working diligently, and making money slowly with perseverance. In Ecclesiastes, he states that wealth in itself does not bring satisfaction, but that it can be a shelter. In comparison to wealth, wisdom is ultimately that which preserves us, and in the final quote, he most surprisingly calls money the answer to everything.

The Buddha expressed that wealth needed to be renounced in order to achieve nirvana. Solomon said that there were blessings in working diligently and acquiring wealth along with wisdom, and that while it couldn’t really satisfy (if wealth was the individual’s sole purpose), it could provide protection for individuals and cities.

Forgiveness in Buddhism and Christianity

Joseph S. O’Leary has written a blog on “Buddhism and Forgiveness.”[i] He writes in an effort to come up with a solution for the ongoing hatred and violence in Northern Ireland, and he believes that the solution lies in Buddhism’s attitudes about forgiveness and not in Christianity’s.

O’Leary writes,

Christianity is based on the idea, or rather the event, of divine forgiveness: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world with himself’ (2 Cor. 5.19). That is correlated with mutual forgiveness between human beings: ‘Forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you’ (Eph. 4.32). . . .

O’Leary goes to comment that in Christianity to be “set right” one must be right with God and with one another. He states that the result ought to be, “the construction of a loving community.” He then poses the question:

Why was this gracious reality so little actualized in Northern Ireland? Even now, when a measure of rational political coexistence has been achieved, there is little cordiality or friendship between the Christian communities of the area.

He then proposes that the solution may be found in Buddhist thought. O’Leary expounds on a preemptive form of forgiveness, by not taking offense in the first place, regardless of the infraction against the person.

The emphasis falls not on forgiving but on the foolishness of taking offence in the first place:

’He abused me, he struck me, he overcame me, he robbed me’ – in those who harbor [sic] such thoughts hatred will never cease.

’He abused me, he struck me, he overcame me, he robbed me’ – in those who do not harbour [sic] such thoughts hatred will cease. (Dhammapada 1.3-4; trans. Radhakrishnan)

Harboring thoughts and memories of abuses is discouraged, and the realization that each of us is a flawed person, temporarily residing on this earth, is encouraged. If such mental purity could be fully realized, peace can occur. However, attaining such purity has been a very rare, if not impossible thing to maintain.

An underlying assumption in the article is that because the people of Northern Ireland are predominantly Catholic and Protestant that Christianity itself must be faulty, rather than the problem of violence and unforgiveness stemming from the exercise of free will.

The assertion that Buddhist teaching on forgiveness is more effective presupposes that Buddhist countries are strangers to violence. History indicates otherwise. See “Violent Intolerance in Buddhist Burma.”[ii]


[i] Joseph S. O’Leary, “Buddhism and Forgiveness,” retrieved March 18, 2014. All quoted sections of O’Leary’s blog retain his reference notes. The East West Insights blog focuses on the section entitled “Buddhist Approaches to Forgiveness.”

[ii] R. E. Sherman, “Violent Intolerance in Buddhist Burma,” East West Insights, June 10, 2013.