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.

Two Paths to Liberation (Part 4)

Suffering

To the Buddhist, the inherent nature of life is a state of suffering. The Christian expects much suffering during their lifetime on earth, but they also see life as a series of opportunities to love God and people.

The highest goal of life for the Buddhist is to become enlightened and to cease suffering. For the Christian, the highest goal is to live out a strong love relationship with God and people.

Buddha taught that any desire, even if it is “good”, is the cause of suffering. While Jesus taught that many kinds of desires can cause suffering, suffering can be experienced by Christians that is not caused by anything they have or have not done. Suffering can occur when it serves the purposes of God in a Christian’s life. For example, suffering can cause character development or somehow bring glory to God.

To the Buddhist, suffering is never a good thing. To the Christian, suffering arising from being persecuted for one’s faith can result in eternal rewards.

Buddhism Christianity
Nature of Life Life is suffering Opportunities to love God & people
Highest Goal Eliminate suffering Loving God & people
Cause of suffering Any desire, even if “good” Many possible causes
Is suffering ever good? No Yes, when being persecuted

 

Two Paths to Liberation (Part 3)

Nature of Reality

Buddhists believe the universe always existed. Most Christians believe that God created the universe, either in the recent or distant past. Who or what is in charge of the universe? For Buddhists, everything is governed by karma. For Christians, God is in charge.

Buddha believed that one’s soul is an illusion. Christians believe that each person’s soul is very real and exists eternally, either in heaven or hell after one dies.

Buddhists believe that virtually everything is determined by karma. The only real exception is that one can attain enlightenment and cease existing, whereby karma is no longer in control. To Christians, free will is pervasive. Even though God governs, He does not force His will on human beings, except perhaps in God’s determination of each person’s eternal state (i.e., heaven/hell).

To the Buddhist, nothing exists permanently except the state of Nirvana, or total emptiness. For the Christian, God, heaven and hell, and the souls of every person are permanent.

Both Buddhists and Christians believe in life after death. However, in Buddhism, one reincarnates and returns to earth as either a person or animal. Christians believe in eternal life after just one life on earth, which will be spent either in heaven or hell.

The desired ultimate spiritual state of the Buddhist is enlightenment, enabling entrance into the state of Nirvana. The desired ultimate spiritual state of the Christian is life in heaven, to be experienced by all who have been saved.

                                 Buddhism Christianity
Universe created? Universe always existed Universe created by God
Who/What is in Charge? Karma God (Father, Son, Spirit)
Your soul Is an illusion Is very real & eternal
Free will Very little Pervasive
What is permanent? Nothing except Nirvana (a state of total emptiness) God, heaven/hell & the souls of every person
Life after death? Repeated reincarnation (could return as an animal) Resurrection
Desired ultimate spiritual state Enlightenment (Nirvana) Salvation (destined for heaven)

 

 

 

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

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. In the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, he does not refer to servants at all. Since he lived as a prince before he left on his search for enlightenment, he would have had experience with servants, so it is astonishing that he doesn’t mention them once.

Solomon was a king, therefore he had extensive experience with servants. Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant than pretend to be somebody and have no food. (Proverbs 12:9, NIV)

Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise. (Proverbs 11:29, NIV)

A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share the inheritance as one of the family. (Proverbs 17:2, NIV)

Servants cannot be corrected by mere words; though they understand, they will not respond. (Proverbs 29:19, NIV)

A servant pampered from youth will turn out to be insolent. (Proverbs 29:21, NIV)

Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you—(Ecclesiastes 7:21, NIV)

A king delights in a wise servant, but a shameful servant arouses his fury. (Proverbs 14:35, NIV)

Solomon discouraged pretense with the example that it’s better to be a nobody and have a servant, than to pretend to be someone important yet have no servant. He taught that a foolish person will be the servant to a wise one, and a prudent servant will rise in importance in a family, ruling over a disgraceful son, and perhaps even sharing in an inheritance.  A servant would be corrected merely with words, yet a pampered servant would become disrespectful and arrogant (insolent). He also encouraged not listening to gossip, or you might hear that your servant cursed you. And again, probably from his experience, he taught that a wise servant would elicit the king’s delight, and a shameful one, his fury.

Why was the Buddha silent on this topic? Perhaps because he had forsaken his role as prince, and the opportunity of one day being king. He chose the opposite extreme of a solitary, non-materialistic life. Perhaps, he put having servants completely out of his mind.

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

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 Buddha refers to neighbors three times:

The fault of others is easily perceived, but that of oneself is difficult to perceive; a man winnows his neighbour’s [sic] faults like chaff, but his own fault he hides, as a cheat hides the bad die from the gambler. (Dhammapada 252)

Four things does a wreckless man gain who covets his neighbour’s [sic] wife,—a bad reputation, an uncomfortable bed, thirdly, punishment, and lastly, hell. (Dhammapada 309)

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 [sic] wife. (Dhammapada 310)

The Buddha warns against one finding fault in a neighbor while hiding one’s own faults, in short, have integrity. And he cautions twice not to covet a neighbor’s wife.

Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

Have Integrity in Word and Deed

Do not say to your neighbor, “Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—when you already have it with you. (Proverbs 3:28, NIV)

Do not plot harm against your neighbor, who lives trustfully near you. (Proverbs 3:29, NIV)

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go—to the point of exhaustion—(Or Go and humble yourself,) and give your neighbor no rest! (Proverbs 6:1-3, NIV)

If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse. (Proverbs 27:14, NIV)

Those who flatter their neighbors are spreading nets for their feet. (Proverbs 29:5, NIV)

With their mouths the godless destroy their neighbors, but through knowledge the righteous escape. (Proverbs 11:9, NIV)

Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue. (Proverbs 11:12, NIV)

Like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow is one who gives false testimony against a neighbor. (Proverbs 25:18, NIV)

Like a maniac shooting flaming arrows of death is one who deceives their neighbor and says, “I was only joking!” (Proverbs 26:18-19, NIV)

Be Kind

It is a sin to despise one’s neighbor, but blessed is the one who is kind to the needy. (Proverbs 14:21, NIV)

Don’t Covet

My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life, keeping you from your neighbor’s wife, from the smooth talk of a wayward woman. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes. (Proverbs 6:20-25, NIV)

Don’t Go to Court

What you have seen with your eyes do not bring hastily to court, for what will you do in the end if your neighbor puts you to shame? If you take your neighbor to court, do not betray another’s confidence, or the one who hears it may shame you and the charge against you will stand. (Proverbs 25:7b-10, NIV)

Do not testify against your neighbor without cause—would you use your lips to mislead? (Proverbs 24:28, NIV)

Solomon expounds at length on the importance of having integrity in word and deed and of being kind to others. He exhorts not to covet your neighbor’s wife, or to take your neighbor to court. Both can backfire and ruin your life.

Both Solomon and the Buddha warn against a lack of integrity and coveting your neighbor’s wife. In addition, Solomon encourages kindness, and not taking your neighbor to court.

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

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 Buddha makes 14 references to god or gods. Here is a sample:

One’s own self conquered is better than all other people; not even a god, a Gandharva, not Mara with Brahman could change into defeat the victory of a man who has vanquished himself, and always lives under restraint. (Dhammapada 104-105)

Let us live happily then, though we call nothing our own! We shall be like the bright gods, feeding on happiness! (Dhammapada 200)

But he whom those who discriminate praise continually day after day, as without blemish, wise, rich in knowledge and virtue, who would dare to blame him, like a coin made of gold from the Gambu river? Even the gods praise him, he is praised even by Brahman. (Dhammapada 229-230)

 

The Buddha views the conquering of self (i.e., self-control, lack of materialism, and remaining pure), as being praiseworthy (even by the gods), and that not even a god would defeat one who has conquered himself. Lowercase “god” and “gods” are almost an afterthought in the Buddha’s proverbs.

Solomon references God 54 times in the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

God Gives Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. (Proverbs 2:1-8, NIV)

To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. (Ecclesiastes 2:26, NIV)

 

Kindness Honors God

Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. (Proverbs 14:31, NIV)

 

God Is a Refuge

When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous seek refuge in God. (Proverbs 14:32, NIV)

 

Fear of God

Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble. (Proverbs 28:14, NIV)

I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him. (Ecclesiastes 3:14, NIV)

Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore fear God. (Ecclesiastes 5:7, NIV)

 

God’s Work is Unfathomable

He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NIV)

 

God Is our Provider

That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 3:13, NIV)

This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given them—for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil—this is a gift of God. (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19, NIV)

 

The Future Is in God’s Hands

When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider this: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, no one can discover anything about their future. (Ecclesiastes 7:14, NIV)

 

In these handful of proverbs by Solomon he covers many aspects of our relationship to and with God. If we pursue wisdom, God will give us wisdom, knowledge and understanding. In being kind, we honor God. God is our refuge in times of difficulty and calamity. The fear and reverence of God brings blessing. God’s work, his creation, is unfathomable. He is our provider, giving us life, food and drink, and work to put our hands to, and the future is in God’s Hands.

The Buddha’s teachings are about self, and controlling self, with god or gods as almost an afterthought. Solomon’s teaching is about many of the aspects of a relationship to and with God, as our refuge and provider.

Two Paths to Liberation (Part 2)

Spiritual Growth

What is the source of truth? Buddhists looks deep within themselves by trying to exclude all outside voices. Christians do not trust what their inner selves may be saying, believing that all truth comes from God above.

Who is at the center of one’s life, spiritually? With the Buddhist, it is the self. With the Christian, it is the triune God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).

Whether or not God exists, God is not relevant to the process of spiritual growth for the Buddhist. What is essential and critical, is the self. For the Christian, God’s role in spiritual growth is always essential and critical. The directive, “Let go and let God” is key to the spiritual growth of the Christian.

Spiritual growth for the Buddhist is a quest of the self to eliminate itself. The Buddhist is striving to engage in a process of spiritual bootstrapping. For the Christian, spiritual growth requires the self to submit to the authority and leadership of God. God causes spiritual growth when the Christian submits to His inspiration and direction.

The lifeblood of Buddhist spiritual growth requires prolonged, intensive meditation, often interspersed with chanting. For the Christian, Bible study, prayer and worship are essential activities.

                                 Buddhism Christianity
Source of Truth Deep within From above (God)
At the Center Self God
Existence of God Not relevant Totally essential
Self Self seeks to eliminate self Self subordinated to God
Source of Spiritual Growth Spiritual bootstrapping God enables when we submit
Lifeblood of spiritual growth Meditation & chanting Worship, Bible study & prayer

Two Paths to Liberation (Part 1)

Paths to Liberation

This world is a difficult place, from which people throughout history have sought relief and liberation. Two major paths to liberation, Buddhism and Christianity, will be compared in this five part series.

What each path holds out as model behavior toward others is virtually the same. Each challenge us to overcome hatred with love and to seek to banish negative thoughts by intentionally focusing on positive thoughts. However, each claimed to be the only true path to liberation. To Buddha, intense, prolonged meditation is the only way. In Christianity, faith in Jesus (apart from good deeds) is the only way to salvation.

Buddhism is a system of self-improvement directed and implemented by the self. The problem is that self-improvement tends to be very slow. It took the Buddha billions of lifetimes to reach perfection and become enlightened. By his own admission, the Dalai Lama has not yet attained enlightenment. If he hasn’t made it, who has?

The Buddha modeled ideal behavior, having achieved perfection. He thereby became enlightened and entered nirvana. Upon death, he left this earth, never to return. After his crucifixion and burial, Jesus rose from the dead and made at least a dozen different appearances, being seen by over 500 people. He then ascended into heaven, where he is alive today and in active communication and interaction with many of his followers.

Because of these differences, the number of Buddhists who have claimed to reach enlightenment and nirvana is very small. In contrast, the number of Christians who claim to have been liberated (i.e., saved) is in the hundreds of millions. However, we should not assume that anyone calling themselves a Christian is following Jesus. Jesus clearly stated that he never knew many of his followers.

This dramatic difference in the accessibility of liberation is due to the central role of mercy and grace in Christianity. Mercy is not receiving the punishment we deserve for bad deeds and thoughts. Grace is receiving blessings that we in no way deserve. Neither mercy nor grace are available in Buddhism because the universe is tightly governed by karma. Karma precludes mercy as well as grace.

Precautions should be noted for each path. Buddhism requires, at a bare minimum, many months of intense, prolonged meditation. When Westerners attempt this, the result is often depression because people in the West are conditioned to avoid self-denial.

Christians can easily fall into having judgmental attitudes toward others. It is best for religion and politics to be kept separate, and not to be intertwined.

The following chart summarizes the above narrative.

                                 Buddhism Christianity
One way? Intense, prolonged meditation is the only way Jesus is the only way
Basis of liberation Good thoughts & deeds Faith in Christ
Mercy and Grace Non-existent Abundantly available
Liberation slow/quick? Slow. Buddha lived billions of lifetimes. Dalai Lama not yet liberated. Often quick. Key is letting go and letting God.
How many claim liberation? A few hundred Hundreds of millions
Precautions After months of meditation, depression is not unusual Need to avoid judgmental words and attitudes, and linking politics and religion

 

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

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 children:

‘These sons belong to me, and this wealth belongs to me,’ with such thoughts a fool is tormented. He himself does not belong to himself; how much less sons and wealth? (Dhammapada 62)

‘Here I shall dwell in the rain, here in winter and summer,’ thus the fool meditates, and does not think of his death. Death comes and carries off that man, praised for his children and flocks, his mind distracted, as a flood carries off a sleeping village. Sons are no help, nor a father, nor relations; there is no help from kinsfolk for one whom death has seized. A wise and good man who knows the meaning of this, should quickly clear the way that leads to Nirvana. (Dhammapada 286-289)

The Buddha cautions that children are not property, and thinking of them as such is folly. A wise person considers the temporal nature of life, and does not think that a family or possessions in any way can prevent or stave off death.

Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

Parent’s Righteous Life

Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. (Proverbs 14:26, NIV)

The righteous lead blameless lives; blessed are their children after them. (Proverbs 20:7, NIV)

Wisdom and Righteousness

Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways [wisdom’s ways]. (Proverbs 8:32, NIV)

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother.  (Proverbs 15:20, NIV)

The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him. (Proverbs 23:24, NIV)

A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him. (Proverbs 17:25, NIV)

Even small children are known by their actions, so is their conduct really pure and upright? (Proverbs 20:11, NIV)

A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father. (Proverbs 28:7, NIV)

Discipline (Training)

Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them. (Proverbs 13:24, NIV)

Discipline your children, for in that there is hope; do not be a willing party to their death. (Proverbs 19:18, NIV)

Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6, NIV)

Discipline your children, and they will give you peace; they will bring you the delights you desire. (Proverbs 29:17, NIV)

A Blessing

Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children. (Proverbs 17:6, NIV)

Inheritance

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children, but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous. (Proverbs 13:22, NIV)

I have seen a grievous evil under the sun: wealth hoarded to the harm of its owners, or wealth lost through some misfortune, so that when they have children there is nothing left for them to inherit. Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb, and as everyone comes, so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands. (Ecclesiastes 5:13-15, NIV)

Solomon teaches that the righteous life of a parent is a blessing for their child, and that wise and righteous children are a blessing to their parents. Implicit in these Scriptures are an admonishment to teach our children to be wise and lead righteous lives. Training our children is first done by setting a good example, and then by actively teaching them how to seek out wisdom and make good decisions. Solomon knew first hand that children are a blessing from God, and he encourages us to leave a spiritual as well as material inheritance for our children.

The Buddha’s teachings on children center on whether they are viewed as property, or as some sort of ability to stave off death. Buddha abandoned his family on his quest for wisdom, which may inform his teaching and lack of teaching about children. Solomon’s teachings center on children as a blessing from God, and owning the importance of being a good example and teacher to them.

 

Barbara Walter’s Interview of the Dalai Lama

Nine years ago Barbara Walters interviewed the Dalai Lama. The interview is available on You Tube (9:17).

The interview covers an amazing amount of ground about Buddhism and His Holiness. It showcases his no-nonsense, disarming humility and his endearing giggle. The interview leaves the viewer with a clear sense of why he is admired and revered by hundreds of millions.

The Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso) is believed to be the 14th incarnation of The Buddha (Gautama Buddha). He is often referred to as the “heavenly deity of compassion and wisdom.” Many Buddhists believe he is a god. When questioned by Walters, he denied being a deity, saying he is a teacher. He laughed and commented that he had an eye irritation and that shouldn’t happen if he is a god.

Walters described him as “the world’s foremost scholar in his very complex faith.” Buddhists do not believe in God the way Christians do, but they do believe some kind of heaven exists. Ancient Tibetan texts describe six distinct levels of heaven and six nightmarish levels of hell. When asked about the Buddhist vision of heaven, he described it as a very happy, very pleasant place, the best place to refine one’s practice of Buddhism.

For Buddhists, heaven is not a destination, but a place to visit temporarily. A place to go to continue to reincarnate until they become a buddha (enlightened one). Good compassionate people reincarnate as people, and bad people as animals. For example, a good dog may reincarnate as a person, and a bad person as a dog. From the Buddhist point of view, everyone is reborn (reincarnated) repeatedly.

As a three-year-old, he underwent testing before he was proclaimed the 14th Dalai Lama. During the testing, he pointed to objects that belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama. He said as a child he had clear memories of a past life, but now he does not.

Walters explained that Buddhists believe the ultimate goal is nirvana or enlightenment, which is a state of all-knowing contentment. The Dalai Lama explained that once you eliminate all negative emotions, you automatically become enlightened and enter Nirvana. Walters asked him, are you enlightened? He answered no. He said he does not know what will happen tonight, and that he is having trouble with his memory. He added, if he was enlightened, he would not be forgetful. He said he sees himself as just another human being, nothing special, nothing more. It is this humility that endears him to so many.

Gyatso is the first Dalai Lama ever to travel outside of Tibet. He is an ambassador of Buddhism recognized world-wide as a symbol of compassionate, non-violent living. Before an audience of 65,000 people in New York’s Central Park, Richard Gere introduced him as “one of the great beings perhaps to ever walk on this planet. . . .”

Walters asked the Dalai Lama what the purpose of life is, and he replied that the purpose is to be happy and is accomplished by warm-heartedness. That compassion gives inner strength, and changes our attitudes and the way we see things. When asked if the world is closer to heaven or to hell, he replied closer to heaven.

Moved by the time with him, Walters concluded her time with him by requesting if she could kiss him on his cheek. He permitted it and giggled. Then he showed her a New Zealand kiss and touched noses with her.

The interview raised some key concerns about the efficacy of Buddhism as a path to enlightenment and nirvana. If the Dalai Lama has not attained enlightenment, then who has? Attaining enlightenment is the only real way to be liberated from the suffering of this world, and from repeatedly being reincarnated into that same world of suffering. Only a very small number of Buddhists have “made it,” even in the 2,500 years that Buddhism has existed as a religion. This stands in sharp contrast to Christianity and Islam, where a high percentage of adherents believe that they will be freed from suffering when they enter heaven (or paradise). The difference is that in these two theistic religions, God (or Allah) is believed to do what no human being can—provide a way of liberation from this very troublesome world and the great limitations that plague all human beings.

If the Dalai Lama is “just another human being, nothing special, nothing more,” and is not enlightened, then is he really qualified to speak with such authority as a teacher? While his humility is disarming, it is also unsettling.

All this reminds me of the painfully honest confession of Bruce Newman, author of A Beginner’s Guide to Tibetan Buddhism. He noted,

When I look back on my twenty-three years of practice, I can’t but help but feel deeply disappointed by how little progress I’ve made in my meditation. In a sense, I’ve done most things right—I’ve played by the book, so to speak. Why then have the experiences of meditation, so tantalizing, been beyond my reach? Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if nothing has happened; it’s just that progress has been painfully slow.[i]

While one may question the efficacy of sudden conversions in Christianity for many of its faltering followers, we also encounter many Christians who dramatically changed for the better overnight, or nearly so. This phenomenon is absent in Buddhism, where spiritual growth is “painfully slow.”


[i] Bruce Newman, A Beginner’s Guide to Tibetan Buddhism, (Ithaca, New York: Snow Lions Prod., 2004), 71.

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

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 family:

Mind Over Family

Not a mother, not a father will do so much, nor any other relative; a well-directed mind will do us greater service. (Dhammapada 43)

No Help at Death

Sons are no help, nor a father, nor relations; there is no help from kinsfolk for one whom death has seized. (Dhammapada 288)

A True Brahmana

A man does not become a Brahmana by his platted hair, by his family, or by birth; in whom there is truth and righteousness, he is blessed, he is a Brahmana. (Dhammapada 393)

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. (Dhammapada 294)

A true Brahmana goes scatheless, though he have killed father and mother, and two holy kings, and an eminent man besides. (Dhammapada 295)

Pleasant

Pleasant in the world is the state of a mother, pleasant the state of a father, pleasant the state of a Samana, pleasant the state of a Brahmana. (Dhammapada 332)

For the most part, the Buddha takes a very negative view of family. He states a “well-directed mind” will do a person greater service than any family member. That family is useless at death. That becoming a Brahmana has nothing to do with family, and that a true Brahmana would be untouched even if they killed their parents. In only one proverb does he talk about anything positive with regards to being a parent, and then he goes only as far as to call it pleasant.

Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

Heed Parent’s Teaching

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. (Proverbs 1:8, NIV)

Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. (Proverbs 4:1, NIV)

A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, but a mocker does not respond to rebukes. (Proverbs 13:1, NIV)

Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.  (Proverbs 23:22, NIV)

A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father. (Proverbs 28:7, NIV)

The Wise Bring Joy

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son brings grief to his mother. (Proverbs 10:1, NIV)

A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish man despises his mother. (Proverbs 15:20, NIV)

The father of a righteous child has great joy; a man who fathers a wise son rejoices in him. (Proverbs 23:24, NIV)

A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth. (Proverbs 29:3, NIV)

The Foolish Bring Ruin and Grief

Whoever brings ruin on their family will inherit only wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise. (Proverbs 11:29, NIV)

A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the mother who bore him. (Proverbs 17:25, NIV)

A foolish child is a father’s ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like the constant dripping of a leaky roof. (Proverbs 19:13, NIV)

Don’t Steal from Family or Curse Them

Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother is a child who brings shame and disgrace. (Proverbs 19:26, NIV)

Whoever robs their father or mother and says, “It’s not wrong,” is partner to one who destroys. (Proverbs 28:24, NIV)

If someone curses their father or mother, their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness. (Proverbs 20:20, NIV)

Better a Prudent Servant than a Disgraceful Son

A prudent servant will rule over a disgraceful son and will share the inheritance as one of the family. (Proverbs 17:2, NIV)

Solomon’s teaching on family definitely covers a much broader scope. He admonishes children to be obedient to their parents. He then contrasts the joy of having wise children with the ruin and grief of having foolish children. Solomon teaches not to steal from family or to curse them. He also states that a prudent servant might displace a disgraced son to the point of having a share in the inheritance. While the Buddha predominantly has a negative take on family, Solomon has a broader range of teaching on the topic, and illustrates the positive as well as the potential negatives of family life.