In this article, the following topics will be discussed: Accessibility to Lasting Liberation, Rapidity of Liberation, Mercy, Grace and Forgiveness, One’s Soul, Culture Clash, Valuing Women and Family, and Challenges to Transformation
Accessibility to Lasting Liberation
For the Buddhist, many years (if not many lifetimes) of prolonged, intense meditation are necessary to approach enlightenment (thereby escaping endless reincarnation). Very few are capable of doing this.
Jesus submitted to the necessity of being brutally sacrificed…to make possible the salvation of those who would place their faith in him and follow him.[i] Billions have claimed to be saved.[ii] [2.18 billion Christians worldwide in 2010]
Rapidity of Liberation
For the Buddhist, attaining liberation through self-purification is always a very slow process, at best. Usually it takes many lifetimes. Only an elite few have claimed to attain it in one lifetime. “By oneself the evil is done, by oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is left undone, by oneself one is purified. Purity and impurity belong to oneself, no one can purify another.”[iii]
For the Christian, salvation can occur very quickly, because it is founded on being considered pure by God on the basis of one’s acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord by faith.[iv] However, unless one submits to the Lordship of Christ, the reality of conversion may be questionable.
Mercy, Grace and Forgiveness
For the Buddhist, bad karma from misdeeds must be worked off through good deeds and renunciation. There is no mercy, grace or forgiveness from a higher power.
“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.”[v]
“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.”[vi]
For the Christian, past misdeeds can be completely forgiven when one repents and receives Christ in faith as Savior and Lord. The believer immediately receives the full mercy, grace and forgiveness of a loving God.[vii] There is risk that the forgiven believer may presume that God will automatically forgive them whenever they sin again.
In Buddhism, the notion that one has a soul is an illusion.[viii]
In Christianity, each person has a soul that will continue to exist eternally, either in heaven or hell, after dying from one life here on earth.[ix]
Westerners who engage in prolonged, intensive meditation often become depressed, disoriented or bipolar or suffer from panic attacks and weird health problems.[x] The intensity of isolation and self-denial needed to engage in prolonged, intense meditation is exceptionally difficult for Westerners to accept and adapt to.
Christians who intermingle their faith with the materialistic and self-seeking way of life of Western culture end up feeling miserable, not being able to enjoy either way of life. Jesus encouraged his disciples to seek first the kingdom of God, and then their needs would be met.[xi]
Valuing Women and Family
The Buddha followed the Jain tradition of high honor in leaving his wife and son to become a wandering ascetic. It is always preferable to reincarnate as a man than as a woman.
“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.”[xii]
“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.”[xiii]
Jesus never married. He upheld the traditional Jewish emphasis on marriage and family.[xiv]
Jesus went out of his way to value and minister to the needs of women. Examples include healing crippled and sick women, visiting the home of Mary and Martha, and talking with the Samaritan woman about her life. At least one of his closest followers (Mary Magdalene) was a woman, and several women helped support Jesus and the disciples out of their own means.[xv]
Challenges to Transformation
In Buddhism, one looks deep within to tap into one’s inherently good buddha-nature,[xvi] while shutting out the distracting and debilitating nature of the outside world. It is critical to progressing toward liberation. For the Buddhist, staying focused is a constant battle against distractions.
“But life is hard to live for a modest man, who always looks for what is pure, who is disinterested, quiet, spotless, and intelligent.”[xvii]
“Be not thoughtless, watch your thoughts! Draw yourself out of the evil way, like an elephant sunk in mud.”[xviii]
In Christianity, the deep inner nature of every person is corrupted and rebellious toward God, and must be replaced by the filling of the Holy Spirit and a personal relationship with Jesus, through faith, not works.[xix] Temporarily relapsing back into self-centeredness is not unusual.[xx]
Acceptance of the Occult
In Asia, Buddhism typically blends in local superstitious beliefs and occult practices. Vajrayana Buddhists adopted many native Tibetan beliefs (in a wide range of deities) as an integral part of their spiritual practices.[xxi]
Conservative Christians view all occult beliefs and activities as misguided, at best. As a result, opposition to Christians from occult spirits is widespread and intense.[xxii]
[i] Philippians 2:6-8.
[iii] Dhammapada 165.
[iv] Romans 10:9.
[v] Dhammapada 15.
[vi] Dhammapada 16.
[vii] Acts 2:36-39.
[ix] Matthew 13:24-52, Luke 12:4-7, and John 5:24-30.
[x] R. E. Sherman, Buddha and Jesus: Could Solomon Be the Missing Link? (Charleston, CreateSpace, 2011). 280.
[xi] Luke 12:22-31.
[xii] Dhammapada 242.
[xiii] Dhammapada 284.
[xiv] Matthew 19:1-9.
[xv] Luke 8:1-3.
[xvii] Dhammapada 245.
[xviii] Dhammapada 327.
[xix] Romans 5.
[xx] James 3:13-18.