In this article, the following topics will be discussed: Training Disciples, Non-Violence, Tangible Compassion, Iconoclast, Persecution, and Converts and Martyrs.
The Buddha drew a small group of disciples that he taught and led during 45 years of teaching.[i]
Jesus gathered 12 disciples, also called apostles[ii] that he trained and led during three years of ministry.
The Buddha placed great emphasis on non-violence in his teachings.
The Awakened call patience the highest penance, long-suffering the highest Nirvana; for he is not an anchorite (pravragita) who strikes others, he is not an ascetic (sramana) who insults others.[iii]
Not to blame, not to strike, to live restrained under the law, to be moderate in eating, to sleep and sit alone, and to dwell on the highest thoughts,–this is the teaching of the Awakened.[iv]
Speak the truth, do not yield to anger; give, if thou art asked for little; by these three steps thou wilt go near the gods.[v]
The sages who injure nobody, and who always control their body, they will go to the unchangeable place (Nirvana), where, if they have gone, they will suffer no more.[vi]
Beware of bodily anger, and control thy body! Leave the sins of the body, and with thy body practise [sic] virtue![vii]
Jesus taught people by his example to turn the other cheek. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”[viii]
He demonstrated total non-violence and selflessness in response to his torture and abuse before being crucified.[ix] He voluntarily submitted himself to be crucified, knowing beforehand what would happen to him. He was not a hapless victim of political tensions between Jewish priests and Rome.
And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross.[x]
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.[xi]
The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.[xii]
The Buddha believed it was sufficient to live in the world of mind and thought, which he believed determined reality. “Those who bridle their mind which travels far, moves about alone, is without a body, and hides in the chamber (of the heart), will be free from the bonds of Mara (the tempter).”[xiii]
He placed little emphasis on providing tangible help to those in need, which he taught should be done in order to become less selfish and advance toward one’s own enlightenment. “The Bhikshu who acts with kindness, who is calm in the doctrine of Buddha, will reach the quiet place (Nirvana), cessation of natural desires, and happiness.”[xiv]
Jesus lived in both the world of the spirit and the physical world,[xv] tangibly helping others by healing the lame and sick and casting out demons.[xvi] He taught his followers to emphasize providing for the physical needs of the suffering out of compassion for them.[xvii]
There is no documentation to suggest that any of Buddha’s disciples died violent deaths or were persecuted for their beliefs. Buddha himself died from food poisoning.[xxiii]
Of Jesus’ disciples, all but one (John) were violently executed because they refused to deny their belief in the divinity of Jesus.[xxiv]
Converts and Martyrs
Emperor Ashoka of India converted to Buddhism after witnessing the horrible bloodshed of a major war in India.[xxv] “In Asoka’s empire, all religions were tolerated but Buddhism was preferred. Buddhism became a dominant religious force under Asoka.”[xxvi]
Over the 300 years after his death, thousands of Christians were martyred because they refused to worship Roman gods, or the Roman emperor as divine.[xxvii] These Christians believed that only Jesus was divine. The witness of these martyrs drew the attention of people throughout the Roman Empire, causing Christianity to spread extensively.
In 313 CE, Emperor Constantine put forth the Edict of Milan, which established tolerance and benevolent treatment towards Christians. In 380 CE, Emperor Theodosius I, with the Edict of Thessalonica, declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.[xxviii]
[ii] Luke 6:12-16.
[iii] Dhammapada 184.
[iv] Dhammapada 185.
[v] Dhammapada 224.
[vi] Dhammapada 225.
[vii] Dhammapada 231.
[viii] Matthew 5:38-39 (NKJV).
[ix] Matthew 26:47-67, Mark 14:32-65, and Luke 22:39-71.
[x] Philippians 2:8 (NIV).
[xi] John 15:13 (NIV).
[xii] John 10:17-18 (NIV).
[xiii] Dhammapada 37.
[xiv] Dhammapada 368.
[xv] John 1:1-5.
[xvi] Matthew 4:23-25
[xvii] Matthew 25:31-46.
[xxi] Matthew 15:1-20.
[xxii] John 19:28.
[xxiv] “The Martyrdom of the Apostles,” BibleProbe.com, retrieved November 14, 2013. And Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., “The Emperor Caligula and the Early Christian Martyrs,” RLHymersJr.com, retrieved December 12, 2016.