The Buddha and Jesus had differing views on the nature of the universe and this world, and on this life and the next. In this article, we’ll look at their views on the universe, their existence prior to life on earth, their origin, why there is so much suffering in this life?, ignorance and sin, life in this world and the next, nirvana and heaven, and on whether reality is permanent and unchanging?
The Buddha taught that the universe has always existed. It was never created. To the Buddhist, the universe is a given. The Buddha did not see any value in the discussion of the origin of the universe. He did not believe that gaining any knowledge of such matters would assist in a person being able in achieve liberation or nirvana.[i]
Jesus’ world view was that God created the entire universe suddenly,[ii] [God consisting of three persons: God the Father, Jesus, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit, also called the Trinity].[iii] To the Christian, the universe was intentionally given existence by God, the creator.
Existence Prior to Life on Earth
The Buddha “was 83 times ascetic, 43 times Deva (a divine being), 18 times ape, 6 times elephant, 1 time thief, 1 time frog, 1 time snipe (a bird), 58 times king, 24 times Brahman, 10 times deer, 10 times lion, 1 time gambler and 1 time hare.”[iv]
Jesus was always one with God. As the Apostle John describes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”[v] Many people do not realize that Jesus, as part of the Trinity, created the universe.
Buddha…“practiced life after life over three periods of countless great eons to complete the requisite stores of merit and wisdom, and bring his development to perfection.”[vi]
Why so much Suffering in this World?
The Buddha taught life is suffering. The cause of suffering is desire. Eliminate all desire and suffering stops.[ix]
God created a perfect world for mankind to live in (the Garden of Eden).[x] God gave free will to mankind, and we chose to rebel against God’s authority, wanting to become like God.[xi] God allowed that, relinquishing control of the Earth to mankind, leaving us vulnerable to the deceptions and attacks of Lucifer, the chief of the fallen angels (aka Satan).[xii] Much suffering resulted, since the Earth became a battleground between people seeking to follow God and forces directed by Lucifer.[xiii]
Ignorance and Sin
The Buddha taught people are naturally ignorant of their inherent Buddha-nature deep within. That nature comprehends the connectedness and oneness of all sentient (i.e., conscious) beings and the universe in general. “And he who lives a hundred years, ignorant and unrestrained, a life of one day is better if a man is wise and reflecting.”[xiv]
Jesus taught, “…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”[xv] “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[xvi] Jesus paid that penalty through his sacrifice on the cross, so that we might be freed from death and hell, and live in the Kingdom of God here on earth and the Kingdom of Heaven after we die.
Life in this World and the Next
The Buddha taught about reincarnation. In his world view, animals and people are nearly equal. “Mules are good, if tamed, and noble Sindhu horses, and elephants with large tusks; but he who tames himself is better still.”[xvii]
Jesus taught, “… people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”[xviii] After that each person will live eternally either in heaven or hell. People are clearly superior to animals.[xix]
Nirvana and Heaven
The Buddha taught that nirvana is not an actual physical place. It is the mental state of complete liberation from all suffering. It is characterized by an “imperturbable stillness of mind after the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion have been finally extinguished.”[xx] “This world is dark, few only can see here; a few only go to heaven, like birds escaped from the net.”[xxi]
Jesus taught that heaven is an actual physical place in the universe[xxii] where God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit reign and where all who have trusted in Jesus as their Savior and Lord will live forever. It will be 1,500 miles wide, deep and high,[xxiii] which would be big enough for every person who is now living to have half a cubic mile of room.
Reality: Permanent and Unchanging?
The Buddha taught that all things that appear to exist are impermanent. This is in complete contrast to nirvana, which does not change, decay or die.[xxiv] The belief that one has a soul is an illusion.[xxv]
Jesus taught while the universe God created is subject to great change, the existence, character and love of God never change.[xxvi] And “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”[xxvii]
[ii] Genesis 1:1.
[iii] Genesis 1:1-26, John 1:3.
[iv] Lit-Sen Chang, Asia’s Religions: Christianity’s Momentous Encounter with Paganism (Vancouver, Canada: China Horizon, 1999), 124. Source cited as Hardy, Robert Spence. The Legends and Theories of the Buddhists Compared with History and Science with Introductory Notices of the Life and System of Gotama Buddha, 2d ed. (London: F. Norgate, 1881), and A Manual of Buddhism in its Modern Development, 2d ed. (London: Williams and Norgate, 1880).
[v] John 1:1-3 (NIV)
[vi] Dalai Lama, Becoming Enlightened (New York: Atria Books), 216.
[vii] John 1:1.
[viii] Revelation 17:14 & 19:16.
[x] Genesis 1:26,31.
[xi] Genesis 3:5-6.
[xii] Job 1:6-12.
[xiii] 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2, John 12:31, Matthew 4:8-9.
[xiv] Friedrich Max Muller, trans., The Dhammapada: A Collection of Verses, Being One of the Canonical Works of the Buddhists, in vol. 10, Part 1, The Sacred Books of the East, translated by Various Oriental Scholars, edited by F. Max Muller, available at “Dhammapada (Muller),” Wikisource, Dhammapada 111. This work is cited as “Dhammapada” hereafter. To save space, line breaks in quotations from the Dhammapada have not been retained.
[xv] Romans 3:23 (NASB).
[xvi] Romans 6:23 (NASB).
[xvii] Dhammapada 322.
[xviii] Hebrews 9:27 (NIV).
[xix] Genesis 1:26.
[xxi] Dhammapada 174.
[xxii] Revelation 21:1-7, 10-26; 22:1-5.
[xxiii] Revelation 21:16.
[xxvi] Malachi 3:16.
[xxvii] Hebrews 13:8 (NASB).