About R. E. Sherman

A graduate of UC San Diego (BA and MA), R. E. Sherman was a principal with PricewaterhouseCoopers and an expert witness in many major cases. He has authored 10 professional papers, including two national prize winners, 70 articles in a national trade publication and a book (10,000 copies sold). He has been a student of comparative religion for 40 years.

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.

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.

 

Reducing Parkinson’s Symptoms Via Meditation

It is well known that stress increases the symptoms of those with Parkinson’s disease. Since it has also been established that many kinds of meditation can noticeably reduce a person’s level of stress, it would not be surprising to find that meditation can reduce the severity of Parkinson’s symptoms.

Michael J. Fox has described Parkinson’s as being,

. . . like having a 4-year-old child climbing around on your lap all the time, pulling on your arms and legs. “You’re just trying to be patient and focus on what you need to do.”[i]

In September 2013, theparkinsonhub.com website posted an article entitled “Meditation & Mitigating Parkinson’s Symptoms”[ii] by Australian naturopath, John Coleman. It had been written in response to an earlier article, “Meditation in Parkinson’s.”[iii]

In both articles, it is proposed that meditation can have a positive effect on decreasing Parkinson’s symptoms, (i.e., tremors, pain, etc.) I have personally experienced a dramatic reduction in my symptoms by meditating specifically on whatever part of my body is shaking (e.g., left hand or my lips). Similar results have been observed when meditating on the sentence, “Be still and know that He is God”, a paraphrasing of Psalm 46:10 (“Be still and know that I am God.”). When doing this, I imagine myself ordering my hand or lip to be still, and so to acknowledge God.

John Coleman noticed a significant reduction in his Parkinson’s symptoms from utilizing meditation. He writes,

In 1995, I developed symptoms of advanced Parkinson’s disease with severe tremor, festinating walk, unintelligible speech, mask-like facial expression, significant pain, constipation and urinary incontinence. During my three year journey to a symptom-free state, I utilised a number of self-help strategies and complementary remedies. Prime among my activities was daily meditation, and involvement in a weekly meditation group. I observed that, while meditating, many of my symptoms reduced in intensity and, over time, this intensity reduction lasted for some time after meditating. Other benefits I noticed were improved sleep patterns, clearer thought processes and, interestingly, improved relationships with work colleagues. If I missed my daily meditation for any reason, I found I was less able to make decisions, my tremor increased, and I felt generally less well.[iv]

The article continues with his clinical experience of the changes his patients found when they utilized meditation as part of their health regimen. During his career, he has treated over 2,000 people with Parkinson’s. He writes,

Specific benefits noted by my patients when meditating included reduced tremor, reduced pain, increased energy, feeling “more peaceful”, and improved communication with loved ones.[v]

If you are a Parkinson’s patient, see the article “Meditation in Parkinson’s”[vi] for a simple outline of how to begin meditating.


[i] Dr. Mehmet Oz, “Michael J. Fox’s Personal Battle,” Oprah.com, http://www.oprah.com/entertainment/Michael-J-Foxs-Life-with-Parkinsons-Stem-Cells-Optimism-and-More, retrieved November 9, 2015.

[ii] John Coleman, ND, “Meditation & Mitigating Parkinson’s Symptoms,” theparkinsonhub.com, http://www.theparkinsonhub.com/your-quality-of-life/article/meditation–mitigating-parkinsons-symptoms.html, retrieved November 9, 2015.

[iii] Carol Fisher, “Meditation in Parkinson’s,” theparkinsonhub.com, http://www.theparkinsonhub.com/your-quality-of-life/article/meditation.html, retrieved November 9, 2015.

[iv] John Coleman, ND, “Meditation & Mitigating Parkinson’s Symptoms,” theparkinsonhub.com, http://www.theparkinsonhub.com/your-quality-of-life/article/meditation–mitigating-parkinsons-symptoms.html, retrieved November 9, 2015.

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Carol Fisher, “Meditation in Parkinson’s,” theparkinsonhub.com, http://www.theparkinsonhub.com/your-quality-of-life/article/meditation.html, retrieved November 9, 2015.

 

Gandhi’s Advice to Christians

 

Mahatma Gandhi was one of the greatest non-Christians of the last century. He was educated in England and became a very serious student of the Bible. He loved Jesus and yet he chose not to become a Christian and remained a Hindu. Why? Because he was generally not impressed by what he saw in the lives of most Christians he knew.

Gandhi developed a deep friendship with E. Stanley Jones (1884-1973), a Christian missionary to India. In Chapter 29 of Brian McLaren’s book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World, he wrote, “Like other great Christian missionaries in India, Jones neither watered down his deep commitment to Christ, nor did he set out to knock down the world’s third-largest religion so he could replace it with Christianity. He looked for a way that Christ could enter, incarnate himself within, and bless Hinduism just as he had done in sectors of Judaic culture, Greco-Roman culture, Celtic culture, Anglo-Saxon culture, and many other cultures through history. He envisioned a time when a new movement of Indian followers of Christ would model a new, non-Western kind of Christian faith, one that respected the Hindu roots in which it grew and one that brought blessing to its Hindu and Muslim neighbors.”

Jones asked, “I am very anxious to see Christianity naturalized in India, so that it shall no longer be a foreign thing identified with a foreign people and a foreign government, but a part of the national life of India and contributing its power to India’s uplift and redemption. What would you suggest we do to make that possible?”

Gandhi gave Jones some deep and sincere advice to Christians who might seek to redirect believers in other religions to turn to Christianity. His advice is summarized in Chapter 29 of McLaren’s book:

  • Begin to live more like Jesus. “Then He said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.’” (Luke 9:23, NKJV) Gandhi didn’t see in the Christians he knew a serious commitment to self denial and to pursuing the unique mission Jesus had given to them. And he didn’t see clear evidence that they were following the kind of direction(s) that Jesus would likely give to them. Jones saw the hundreds of millions of people of India speaking to him through Gandhi’s eyes, and saying, “If you will come to us in the spirit of your Master, we cannot resist you.”
  • Practice your religion without adulterating or toning it down. Gandhi saw in the Christians he knew a tendency to water down the Gospel and to back off from talking about things that non-Christians might not understand or might take offense to. The tragedy is that, according to Jones, Christians are “inoculating the world with a mild form of Christianity, so that it is now practically immune against the real thing.”
  • Put your emphasis on love, for love is the center and soul of Christianity. Gandhi loved Jesus because he saw that Jesus’ focus was on love. Gandhi had encountered many Christians who focused on preaching a message of dealing with sin through confession and repentance as a means of avoiding divine judgment and condemnation. Jones noted, “He did not mean love as a sentiment, but love as a working force, the one real power in a moral universe, and he wanted it applied between individuals and groups and races and nations, the one cement and salvation of the world.”
  • Study the non-Christian religions and culture more sympathetically in order to find the good that is in them, so that you might have a more sympathetic approach to the people.

In his book, Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World’s Religions Can Come Together, the Dalai Lama stated in his concluding chapter, “This book has traced the journey of a Buddhist monk who has had the precious opportunity to glimpse the vast expanse and multifaceted richness of the world’s great religions. This journey has, without doubt, enriched my practice within my own Buddhist faith. In particular, the profound convergence of all the major religions on compassion has reinforced my conviction of the centrality of compassion as a universal spiritual value.”

If Christians take the time and energy to learn more about the beliefs and practices of the religions people they meet are trying to follow, this will do much to convince those people that Christians care about them, rather than their getting the sense that Christians see no real value in alternative faiths.

Violence in Thailand and Burma

Particularly in the West, Buddhism is considered a calm, almost passive religion. Its adherents are known for spending long periods of time meditating. But recent headlines regarding activities in Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) would be contrary to that notion.

Ashin Wirathu is a 46-year-old Buddhist monk and spiritual leader in Burma. He has been accused of hate speech, and is active on YouTube and other social media forums. Due to his vitriolic speeches against the Rohingya Muslims, he was sentenced in 2003 to 25 years in prison, but was released in 2010.[i] The July 1, 2013 edition of Time magazine featured Wirathu’s face on the cover, with the cover article’s title, “The Face of Buddhist Terror.”[ii]

On May 4, 2015, the Associated Press reported the arrest of three Thai officials and a citizen of Burma (Myanmar) after the finding 26 graves on the southern border of Thailand near Malaysia.[iii]

By May 6, CNN reported that number had grown to 30 to 40 graves of people believed to have been held by human traffickers. Southern Thailand is known as a “hot-spot for human trafficking.” Last year, the U.S. State Department reported Thailand as a Tier 3, the lowest ranking, in its “Trafficking in Persons” report. The remains are thought to be of Rohingya Muslims, fleeing from the ethnic violence in Buddhist-majority Burma. They are smuggled and/or captured by human traffickers and held for ransom. If they are unable to pay, they are held until they die from starvation or disease.[iv]

During the police raid, one lone survivor was found. He was left behind, because he could not walk. During his nine month captivity, he was moved between seven different camps. He estimated that 200 people were being held. He told police that the camp they found is not the only one with graves. A Rohingya activist, Abdul Kalam, estimates that dozens of camps have been set up, and that this raid has revealed “just the tip of the iceberg.” [v]

Most Americans see Buddhists as non-violent. Most Americans view Thailand as idyllic and credit that to Buddhism. The reality is that both Thailand and Burma are deeply troubled countries, and Buddhists are not immune to committing violence.


[i] “Ashin Wirathu,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashin_Wirathu, retrieved on June 11, 2015.

[ii] “Ashin Wirathu: Myanmar and its vitriolic monk,” BBC.com, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30930997, retrieved on June 11, 2015. See http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2146000,00.html for the text of the Time magazine article, “The Face of Buddhist Terror.”

[iii] “Thailand arrests 4, vows crackdown on human traffickers,” DailyMail.co.uk, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3067019/Thailand-arrests-3-vows-crackdown-human-traffickers.html, retrieved on June 11, 2015.

[iv] “At least 30 graves found in southern Thailand, and a lone survivor,” CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/02/asia/thailand-mass-graves/, retrieved June 11, 2015.

[v] “Thailand arrests 4, vows crackdown on human traffickers,” DailyMail.co.uk, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3067019/Thailand-arrests-3-vows-crackdown-human-traffickers.html, retrieved on June 11, 2015.

 

Reviews: Becoming Enlightened and Jesus & Buddha: The Parallel Sayings

lamaBecoming Enlightened

Becoming Enlightened is a practical introduction to and handbook for anyone wanting an understanding of the practices and beliefs of Buddhism.

The information in the book is presented in prose, and twice again in “contemplations” or abbreviated lists itemizing the information. The first of these lists appears in the chapter initially presenting the information, and then all the contemplations are repeated again in a single chapter at the end of the book for quick reference.

Buddhist practices emphasize selflessness, altruism, kindness, tolerance, and compassion. Topics regarding karma, death and reincarnation, the impermanence of life, being a positive force for change, and developing wisdom are discussed.

Speaking of Buddha, the Dalai Lama states,

People the world over, regardless of whether they are Buddhist or not, are aware that there was someone called Gautama Buddha, praised for his profound and unique presentation on the nature of persons and objects and for his related teaching of the altruistic intention to become enlightened, in which others are cherished more than oneself. (page 216)

This accessible and matter-of-fact approach of presenting the steps for advancing toward enlightenment in every area of life is designed to assist the reader with making the practical day-to-day changes. For the non-Buddhist, it is an illuminating look into the philosophical underpinnings and practices of Buddhism.

It was written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and translated by Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D., who was his translator for ten years.

borgJesus & Buddha: The Parallel Sayings

Editor Marcus Borg set out to list parallels between Jesus and Buddha’s teachings and lives, by demonstrating parallels between their sayings and in the events surrounding their lives. He outlines parallels in numerous areas of their teachings and life stories, such as compassion, wisdom, materialism, inner life, and temptation, to name just a few.

 

The primary purpose of the parallels collected in this volume is not to make a scholarly case for similarity. We would need to include many more, as well as the debate whether and to what degree the dissimilarities count against similarity. Rather, the purpose of this collection is to provide opportunity for reflection and meditation. . . .

And so I invite you to ponder the parallels between these two enlightened teachers of an enlightenment wisdom. The path of which they both speak is a path of liberation from our anxious grasping, resurrection into a new way of being, and transformation into the compassionate life. (Editor’s Preface, page 11)

However, we take exception to his conclusions on the basis of three points:

  1. While there are a few points of comparison, many of these may be attributed to being generally accepted truths. However, many of the so-called parallels are weak at best.
  2. The author’s assumptions are deeply flawed in that he presents the parallels as though the texts he is quoting from have equal veracity. He fails to note that the New Testament authors were disciples of Jesus and eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life, teaching, death and resurrection, while the sayings attributed to Buddha and the writings about Buddha were not put in written form until centuries after he lived, and many of the events attributed to Buddha as miraculous and which appear to be parallel to Jesus’ life are known to be myths that developed over the centuries and were not documented facts about his life at all.
  3. Rather than Buddha being an influence on Jesus, the author fails to observe that Solomon may have been an influence on Buddha, since Buddha would have had access to Solomon’s writings as a Prince of northern India. This premise is explored in R. E. Sherman’s book, Buddha and Jesus: Could Solomon Be the Missing Link?

The editor offers this book as a volume for meditation, but the basic premise is so flawed as to nullify the value of this exercise.

Reviews: Sharing Your Faith with a Buddhist and Asia’s Religions

Sharing Your Faith with a Buddhist

thirumalai
Sharing Your Faith with a Buddhist contains an extensive description of the beginnings of Buddhism, and of the assorted forms of Buddhism and their distinctive variations by country, including very practical and appropriate approaches to take for sharing Christ with adherents to each major type of Buddhism.

Madasamy Thirumalai describes the teachings of Buddha as a “social program,” which is “geared more toward individuals than toward society.” (page 12)  While Christ offers us eternal life, “Gautama Buddha’s way focuses on extinction.” (page13)

Nirvana, appearing at the end of karma, is a condition of total freedom—total annihilation of self-beyond which there is no future birth. It is the total extinction of all desire and a final, complete release from suffering, including no consciousness (there is total peace, but no consciousness of peace). This is the goal of human beings—to have no existence. (page 29-30)

While Buddha’s individualism appeals to Westerners, Thirumalai compares the intellectualism and aloofness of Buddha to Jesus being actively involved with people and a servant to others. (38, 49-50)

The ministry of Jesus was, is, and will ever be for those who are lacking in spirit and body. Gautama Buddha represents an elaborate philosophical superiority, whereas Jesus represents the selfless servant-hood that focuses on the poor, the needy, and the dregs of society. This does not mean Gautama Buddha was haughty or boastful about his caste or his socioeconomic background or his spiritual attainment. It does mean his dominant feature was intellectualism, not service to others. (page 50)

He further contrasts “between the Buddhist insistence upon high attainments and the Christian demand for simple faith,” and presents Christianity as “message of hope and comfort rather than [the] despair and fatalism” of Buddhism. (page 61)

Additional topics covered are Idols, Relics, Animism, Pantheism, Polytheism, Magic, Divination, and Spirit Possession.

Madasamy Thirumalai is a professor of world religions and the academic dean at Bethany College of Missions in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has been a believer in Jesus for over 20 years, and he writes with knowledge and an intimate understanding of Buddhism, because he grew up in India and earned his Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Calcutta, and he taught in universities in India.

chang

Asia’s Religions: Christianity’s Momentous Encounter with Paganism

Like a man who has been rescued from the desert and tasted his first glass of water, Lit-Sen Chang writes of six different Asian religions: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Zen, Hinduism and Islam, with relationship to Christianity. Two chapters are devoted to each religion. The first puts forth an understanding of the religion describing the basic tenets, historical texts it is based on, and its influence on the world. This is done with an eye to comparison and contrasts with Christianity. The second chapter critiques the faults of each religion and ultimately how they pale in light of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, His sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and the hope that brings.

As a result, the study of pagan religions has too long been in the hands of non-evangelical or secular scholars who have stressed the similarities between Christianity and the non-Christian religious rather than emphasizing the supreme uniqueness of the Christian faith. (page XXXV)

Indeed, faced with Christ’s resurrection, all religious philosophers should give up all their disputing and vain imaginations. (page 26)

Throughout the book, he demonstrates that all of these Asian religions are paganism and states, “the chief characteristic of paganism is auto-soterism” (page 243) that is the effort of self-saving (versus the mercy and saving grace of God through Christ).

Christianity, unlike other natural ethnic religions, is not a set of philosophical systems or ethical teachings: but is “the way of life,” . . . (page 265)

Born in China and reared in a family rich in Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, he writes not as one who has studied these religions, but as one who has lived and been completely immersed in them. Intent on improving the life of people in China by promoting the culture and religion of his people, he became a lawyer and a university professor, teaching in numerous universities. During the war against Japan (1937-45), he became a political leader, and eventually a key adviser to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, advising him on matters related to the war and national reconstruction. In 1949, he was invited to lecture at a leading university in India on Buddhism. The following year, he underwent a conversion of faith, and committed his life to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Serving in various capacities in other educational institutions, he later attended Gordon Divinity School, in the United States, and received a Bachelor of Divinity (1959). He spent the remaining years of his life writing of the Christian faith.

Possible Shift in China Regarding Buddhism

In 1959, during the invasion of Tibet by China, the 14th Dalai Lama fled and has lived in exile ever since.[i] While there has been no change in China’s official stance towards the Dalai Lama, there are indications that tensions in China may be relaxing towards Tibetan Buddhism.

While corrupt business practices have been ensconced, for some of the super-rich in China there is a search for new ways to be even more successful. This longing has manifested itself as a desire for good karma through practicing Buddhism, and spending their resources promoting Buddhism, and providing for Buddhist monks.

In a New York Times interview[ii] with John Osborn, author of Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China’s New Rich, Osborn stated,

Now that every Shanxi coal baron’s mistress can afford Louis Vuitton, in order to differentiate themselves, other new rich are moving on to other pursuits and tastes.

I think this is part of what’s driving this interest in spiritual and moral cultivation. Some people are genuinely interested in spiritual transformation. But there’s also an element of social distinction that’s feeding this trend.

Osborn explained that some of the wealthy donating to monks and temples call it their “spiritual protection money,” but found that others have been more serious about applying Buddhist teachings to their lives. He said, “. . . I’ve encountered several people whose lives have been radically transformed by Buddhism.”

In a recent BBC article, “China’s Super-Rich Communist Buddhists,”[iii] BBC Journalist John Sudworth described being invited into a former senior Communist Party official’s home. There he witnessed Xiao Wunan sitting with Buddhist monk Geshe Sonam and beneath a portrait of the Dalai Lama and a Buddhist shrine. He explained that the idea of seeing a former official doing this would previously have been “preposterous” or “laughable,” yet it was exactly what Xiao was doing.

Further in the article, another wealthy Chinese businessman, Sun Kejia, said, “I was once confronted with great difficulties and problems in my business. I felt they couldn’t be overcome by human effort and that only Buddha, ghosts and God could help me.”

Thirty-six year old Sun’s fortune is estimated at over $100 million. He runs a chain of clubs, and he pays for Buddhist gurus to come and teach his clients. Sun said, “I desire influence.”  He describes his friends coming to his club as being “attracted to this place. I can use the resources they bring to do my other business. From that angle, it is also my contribution for spreading Buddhism. This brings good karma and so I get what I want.”

According to the Cultural China website[iv], Chinese worship the Tibetan Gods of Wealth, such as the:

  • Heavenly King of Wealth
  • Yellow Wealth God
  • Black Wealth God
  • White Wealth God
  • Umbrella Heavenly King

In addition, “Each time of the Spring Festival, every family will hang a picture of the god for blessings of great luck and large wealth.”

It is unknown when China as a nation might officially recognize the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism, but it is evident at this time that the people of China have already begun to do so, and in particular many of the super-rich are in pursuit of karmic blessing and transformation.


[i] “Dalai Lama,” Wikipedia, retrieved February 9, 2015.

[ii] Ian Johnson, “Q and A with John Osburg on China’s Wealthy Turning to Spiritualism,” New York Times. (December 18, 2014), retrieved February 9, 2015.

[iii] John Sudworth, “China’s Super-Rich Communist Buddhists,” BBC.com. (February 7, 2015), retrieved February 9, 2015.

[iv] “Tibetan Buddhist Gods of Wealth,” CulturalChina.com, retrieved February 10, 2015.

Two Paths to Liberation (Part 5)

Behavior

To the Buddhist, violence is never acceptable behavior. For the Christian, using weapons in warfare can be acceptable if the conflict is clearly morally justified.

For the Buddhist, thinking good thoughts toward another is an essential part of having compassion, but providing physical assistance to meet their needs is optional. For the Christian, offering physical assistance is typically necessary for compassion to be real.

The main priorities in public building for Buddhists are monasteries and meditation centers. For Christians, the top projects are building churches, schools and hospitals.

The Buddha refused to perform miracles of healing because such would violate the operation of karma. Jesus miraculously healed many people in part as a demonstration of his compassion for them and his divinity.

Vegetarianism is the diet of choice for Buddhists because every animal may have been or will be a human being in some future reincarnation. Eating meat is an acceptable, and even a recommended, diet for Christians.

Having occulting beliefs and engaging in occultic practices is entirely acceptable in Buddhism. Indeed, the focus of meditation can be virtually anything or any spirit. What matters is the effective practice of meditation in disciplining the mind. In Christianity, no occultic beliefs or practices are acceptable.

 

                                 Buddhism Christianity
Is violence ever acceptable? No Sometimes war is necessary (e.g., WW II)
Compassion should include physical assistance Not necessary Necessary for it to be real
Top priorities in building Monasteries and meditation centers Churches, schools and hospitals.
Miracles of Healing OK? No. Violates karma OK if God gets the glory
Acceptable diet Vegetarianism OK to eat meat
Occult OK? Yes Never