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

Whose teaching was wiser? The Buddha’s or Solomon’s? Your answer to that question will reveal whether you are more “into” Eastern or Western religion, because it is clearly a matter of spiritual perspective.

Who led a life that practically reflected the wisdom that they taught? The Buddha clearly wins this one without a doubt. He taught others for 45 years while remaining thoroughly committed to practicing renunciation and selflessness. Solomon, on the other hand, departed from his earlier teachings in a number of blatant ways that should be an example to all of us on how not to live. One such area was in having many wives from other nations with belief in other gods.

What happens when you compare all the proverbs of the Buddha with all of Solomon’s? A number of surprising things stand out:

Clearly Solomon had much more to say. We counted 423 proverbs of the Buddha’s versus 1,236 of Solomon’s. When both taught on the same subject, they agreed an astonishing 98% of the time! Getting two very famous people to agree so often is almost beyond belief. On topics that only one of them commented on, 100% of the time it was Solomon who spoke! The Buddha never said anything that Solomon didn’t say, in so many words.

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 women:

“Bad conduct is the taint of woman, greediness the taint of a benefactor; tainted are all evil ways in this world and in the next.” (Dhammapada 242)

“So long as the love of man towards women, even the smallest, is not destroyed, so long is his mind in bondage, as the calf that drinks milk is to its mother.” (Dhammapada 284)

Clearly, these sayings of the Buddha reflect a negative view of women, ascribing bad conduct to them, and describing the love of a man for a woman as bondage.

What did Solomon have to say about women? In Proverbs 2, 5, 6, 7, 11, 22, 23, and Eccl. 7, he cautioned his son against adulterous, duplicitous and wicked women. However, consider these proverbs:

A kindhearted woman gains honor, but ruthless men gain only wealth.” (Proverbs 11:16, NIV)

“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down.” (Proverbs 14:1, NIV)

Solomon said that there are kindhearted, wise and productive women, while the Buddha did not. He only saw women in a negative light, and that for a man to love a woman was the equivalent of bondage.