Transformation Offered, Part 2

In Part 1 of Transformation Offered, the following topics were covered: The One and Only Way, Disciplines Advocated, Empowerment, and Source of Light to Mankind. In Part 2, the topics are: Miracles, Pervasive Influence, Thoughts vs. Physical Reality, Mindfulness, and Looking Above or Within.

Miracles

The Buddha avoided doing miracles of healing and provision, since these would have subverted the operation of karma. He did perform displays of supernatural power (e.g., “vanishing, traveling through walls and space, diving in and out of the earth, hearing divine sounds, mind reading and recollection of past lives.”[i])

Jesus frequently performed miracles of healing from debilitating conditions or diseases.[ii] He also delivered people from possession by demons on seven occasions.[iii] He provided for physical needs (e.g., Jesus fed people miraculously. On two occasions, he was moved with compassion on the crowds that came to hear Him teach. He fed 5,000 people on five loaves of bread and two fish,[iv] and he fed 4,000 people with seven loaves and a few fish.[v]). Jesus often exhibited miracles of insight (e.g., mind reading or recounting past events in the lives of those he encountered). He also raised four people from the dead,[vi] including Himself.[vii]

Pervasive Influence

The Buddha taught that what you think becomes your reality.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.[viii]

All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.[ix]

Tibetans Buddhists believe that the words on their prayer flags waft through the air, changing the surrounding area.

Jesus participated in the creation of the universe and everything in it—all that is reality.

“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.”[x] Many people do not realize that the universe was created through Jesus.

He answers the prayers of those who believe in him, and in this way his followers influence reality. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”[xi]

Thoughts vs. Physical Reality

The Buddha taught,

All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.[xii]

To a Buddhist, usually no action is needed to aid others, only positive thoughts. Giving tangible assistance to others is very good, but not necessary, as long as one’s intentions toward others are compassionate.

In the Book of Acts, Luke wrote of Jesus, “In him we live and move and have our being.”[xiii] James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote that compassion needs to be tangible. “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?”[xiv]

Mindfulness

The Buddha taught that our thinking affects who we are. It essentially creates who we are.

All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.[xv]

All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.[xvi]

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”[xvii] And “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”[xviii]

Looking Above or Within

The Buddha searched ever deeper within himself for wisdom and guidance, tapping into his buddha-nature.“When the Buddha became enlightened he realized that all beings without exception have the same nature and potential for enlightenment, and this is known as buddha nature.”[xix]

Jesus often prayed to his Father for guidance and strength—since he had voluntarily set aside many aspects of his divinity during his life on earth. “Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”[xx]

Tolerance

The Buddha taught tolerance of everyone, to treat everyone in a peaceful, non-violent and compassionate way.

The disciples of Gotama are always well awake, and their mind day and night always delights in compassion.[xxi]

Him I call indeed a Brahmana who is tolerant with the intolerant, mild with fault-finders, and free from passion among the passionate.[xxii]

Jesus opposed any aspects of religiosity that would result in treating non-believers in a condescending or judgmental way.

But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.[xxiii]


[i] Digha Nikaya: The Long Discourses (1997-2012), DN11 Kevatta (Kevaddha) Sutta: To Kevatta PTS: D i 211, translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, from http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.11.0.than.html, retrieved December 17, 2012.

[ii] Matthew 9:27-31, Mark 8:22-26, John 9:1-12, Matthew 20:29-34, Mark 10:46-52, Luke 18:35-43, Matthew 8:1-4, Mark 1:40-45, Luke 5:12-16, Luke 17:11-19, Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10, John 4:46-54, Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26, Matthew 8:14-15, Mark 1:29-34, Luke 4:38-41, Matthew 9:20-22, Mark 5:24-34, Luke 8:43-48, Luke 13:10-17.

[iii] Mark 1:21-18, Luke 4:37-37, Matthew 9:32-34, Matthew 8:16-17, Mark 1:32-34, Luke 4:40-41, Matthew 8:28-34, Mark 5:1-20, Luke 8:26-39, Matthew 12:22-28, Mark 3:20-30, Luke 11:14-23, Matthew 15:21-28, Mark 7:24-30, Matthew 17:14-21, Mark 9:14-29, Luke 9:37-49.

[iv] Matthew 14:31-21, Mark 6:31-34, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:5-15.

[v] Matthew 15:32-39, Mark 8:1-9.

[vi] Young man from Nain: Luke 7:11-17, Matthew 9:18-26, Mark 5:21-43, Luke 8:40-56, John 11:1-44.

[vii] Matthew 28:1-10, 16:1-8, Luke 24:1-12, John 20:1-18.

[viii] Dhammapada 1.

[ix] Dhammapada 2.

[x] John 1:1-3 (NIV)

[xi] John 15:7 (NIV).

[xii] Dhammapada 1, 2b.

[xiii] Acts 17:28 (RSV).

[xiv] James 2:15-16 (RSV).

[xv] Dhammapada 1.

[xvi] Dhammapada 2.

[xvii] 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV).

[xviii] Philippians 4:8 (NIV).

[xix] “Buddha-Nature,” RigpaWiki.org, retrieved May 30, 2013.

[xx] Luke 5:16 (NIV).

[xxi] Dhammapada 300.

[xxii] Dhammapada 406.

[xxiii] Matthew 5:44-45 (NIV).

Transformation Offered, Part 1

In Part 1 of Transformation Offered, the following topics will be covered: The One and Only Way, Disciplines Advocated, Empowerment, and Source of Light to Mankind. In Part 2, the topics will be: Miracles, Pervasive Influence, Thoughts vs. Physical Reality, Mindfulness, and Looking Above or Within.

The One and Only Way

The Buddha’s way consists of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path. The way to enlightenment is through right thinking and acting, and habitual intensive, prolonged meditation. “This is the way. There is no other that leads to the purifying of intelligence. Go on this way! Everything else is the deceit of Mara [the tempter].”[i] Great latitude is possible, however, regarding what one meditates on.

Of Jesus, the Apostle John wrote, “Jesus answered [Thomas], ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”[ii] Jesus determines the personal destiny of each soul. “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.”[iii]

As judge and God, he can pardon anyone, giving them entrance to eternal life in heaven where they will live in his presence. Or he can reject someone, committing them to an eternity separated from God. “…a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”[iv] Jesus made salvation possible apart from doing good works or being a good person, so that anyone can be empowered by the Spirit of God to be quickly and radically transformed.

Disciplines Advocated

The Buddha urged his followers to renounce their old way of life, study and live out his teachings, to meditate long and frequently, to seek guidance and strength from within themselves, and to have compassion on all people.

The Buddha taught:

The man who is free from credulity, but knows the uncreated, who has cut all ties, removed all temptations, renounced all desires, he is the greatest of men.[v]

Those who are ever watchful, who study day and night, and who strive after Nirvana, their passions will come to an end.[vi]

He who dwells in the law, delights in the law, meditates on the law, follows the law, that Bhikshu will never fall away from the true law.[vii]

The disciples of Gotama are always well awake, and their mind day and night always delights in compassion.[viii]

Jesus urged his followers to study the Scriptures, to pray frequently, to seek guidance and strength from God, and to love all people.

Jesus taught:

Jesus answered Satan, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'”[ix]

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable [The Parable of the Persistent Widow] to show them that they should always pray and not give up.[x]

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.[xi]

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”[xii]

 

Empowerment

The goal of the Buddha’s followers is to realize their Buddha-nature, an indivisible oneness of wisdom and emptiness that makes possible to all conscious beings their becoming a Buddha (i.e., an enlightened being). If one becomes enlightened, they enter Nirvana (even while on earth) and become assured that they will never again reincarnate.

In Jesus is life eternal. A Christian receives this by faith in Jesus as his/her Savior and Lord, and they are filled with the Holy Spirit (i.e., God). They then have the mind of Christ[xiii] and the heart of God. “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”[xiv]

Source of Light to Mankind

The goal in Buddhism is to become enlightened, and to positively affect everyone by thinking good thoughts. “Those whose mind is well grounded in the (seven) elements of knowledge, who without clinging to anything, rejoice in freedom from attachment, whose appetites have been conquered, and who are full of light, are free (even) in this world.”[xv]

Of Jesus, the Apostle John wrote, “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”[xvi] “In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”[xvii]

Relationship to Followers

The Buddha served as the ultimate wise teacher and role model. Teachings attributed to him fill 40 books.[xviii] It is not possible to contact or interact with the Buddha now, since his departure to Nirvana (non-existence).

Of Jesus, there is an ongoing interactive personal relationship. To his true followers, Jesus is Savior, Shepherd, Healer, Comforter, Advocate and Judge.

In the Book of John we read:

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.[xix]

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.[xx]

If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.[xxi]

I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.[xxii]


[i] 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 274, 275. Dhammapada_(Muller). This work is cited as “Dhammapada” hereafter. To save space, line breaks in quotations from the Dhammapada have not been retained.

[ii] John 14:6 (NIV).

[iii] John 5:21-23 (NIV).

[iv] Romans 3:28 (NIV).

[v] Dhammapada 97.

[vi] Dhammapada 226.

[vii] Dhammapada 364.

[viii] Dhammapada 300.

[ix] Matthew 4:4 (NIV).

[x] Luke 18:1 (NIV).

[xi] John 14:26 (NIV).

[xii] Matthew 22:36-40 (NIV).

[xiii] 1 Corinthians 2:16.

[xiv] Ezekiel 36:26 (RSV).

[xv] Dhammapada 89.

[xvi] John 8:12 (NIV).

[xvii] John 1:4-5 (NIV).

[xviii] Ven S. Dhammika, “Good Questions, Good Answers.” BuddhaNet.net, retrieved December 8, 2016.

[xix] John 15:1-2 (NKJV).

[xx] John 15:4-5 (NKJV).

[xxi] John 15:7-8 (NKJV).

[xxii] John 10:14-15 (NKJV).

Nature of the Universe

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 Universe

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.

Origin

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]

Jesus was totally divine and perfect from before the beginning of time, existing as the second person of the Godhead (Trinity).[vii] Jesus was and is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.[viii]

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]


[i] Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera. “The Origin of the World.” Budsas.org, retrieved November 3, 2016.

[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.

[ix] “The Four Noble Truths.” BBC.co.uk. retrieved November 10, 2016.

[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.

[xx] “Nirvana,” Wikipedia, retrieved March 6, 2013.

[xxi] Dhammapada 174.

[xxii] Revelation 21:1-7, 10-26; 22:1-5.

[xxiii] Revelation 21:16.

[xxiv] “Impermanence: Buddhism.” Wikipedia, retrieved November 10, 2016.

[xxv] Jayaram V. “Buddhism: The Concept of Anatta or No Self.” HinduWebsite.com, retrieved November 10, 2016.

[xxvi] Malachi 3:16.

[xxvii] Hebrews 13:8 (NASB).

The Buddha and Jesus: Self-Denial and Exaltation

In this article, we consider the lives of the Buddha and Jesus with respect to: their initial self-denial, perfection, further self-denial (to free others), model lives, self-sacrifice, exaltation, and the aftermath of their deaths.

Initial Self Denial

The Buddha was born a prince. He lived in three palaces, according to the seasons, and was sheltered from the outside world (and existing religions) as a youth and a young man, by his father, a king. At the age of 29, he ventured outside his palaces and encountered the ravages of old age, sickness and death.[i] He renounced his royalty to become a wandering ascetic who begged for food and starved himself while practicing intensive, prolonged meditation in his search to find a way to end suffering.

Jesus: Before coming to earth, Jesus dwelled with God in heaven. Christ Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”[ii] Jesus, the Word, became flesh and dwelled among people.[iii] He was conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph, a poor Jewish carpenter. He set aside many of his divine powers while on earth, but reassumed them after his ascension into heaven. Though equal with God, Jesus descended to earth and became a man, to help people to relate to God and to be reconciled to him.

Perfection

The Buddha approached perfection entirely by self effort. He claimed to have attained it at the moment of his enlightenment,[iv] in his last reincarnation before entering nirvana.

Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life because he was God. He was the spotless lamb[v] who was sacrificed to atone for the sins of the whole world.

Further Self-Denial (to free others)

The Buddha, after becoming enlightened, considered keeping his findings to himself, but then chose to devote the rest of his life (another 45 years) to teaching it to others.[vi]

Jesus: “And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross.”[vii] He volunteered to be crucified. He was not a hapless victim of political tensions between Jewish priests and Rome. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”[viii] “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.”[ix]

Model Lives

The Buddha modeled the process of becoming a rock (island). “Make thyself an island, work hard, be wise! When thy impurities are blown away, and thou art free from guilt, thou wilt enter into the heavenly world of the elect (Ariya).”[x] His goal was emotional detachment from any sentient beings, while thinking that all beings can attain their buddha-nature (a combination of emptiness and wisdom).

Jesus was a model servant to others, as exemplified by 1) his washing the feet of his disciples,[xi] 2) performing numerous healings and exorcisms out of compassion, 3) twice feeding multitudes of people,[xii] and 4) submission to God’s will in voluntarily submitting himself to be crucified.[xiii]

Self Sacrifice (Why?)

The Buddha taught that we must become dispassionate. “Those who are slaves to passions, run down with the stream (of desires), as a spider runs down the web which he has made himself; when they have cut this, at last, wise people leave the world free from cares, leaving all affection behind.”[xiv]

Jesus’ passion—volunteering to be tortured and crucified to provide a way for sinful people to be saved.[xv]

Exaltation

The Buddha “I have conquered all, I know all, in all conditions of life I am free from taint; I have left all, and through the destruction of thirst I am free; having learnt myself, whom shall I teach?”[xvi] “When the learned man drives away vanity by earnestness, he, the wise, climbing the terraced heights of wisdom, looks down upon the fools, serene he looks upon the toiling crowd, as one that stands on a mountain looks down upon them that stand upon the plain.”[xvii]

Jesus “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”[xviii]

Aftermath of Their Deaths

The Buddha died at age 80, claiming that he had succeeded in ending the cycle of reincarnation for himself and had attained nirvana (non-existence). “According to the Mahaparinibbana Sutta of the Pali canon, at the age of 80, the Buddha announced that he would soon reach Parinirvana, or the final deathless state, and abandon his earthly body.”[xix]

Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after he died, and then he appeared to at least a dozen different groups of people before ascending into heaven before many witnesses. Besides appearing eight times to the disciples[xx] he also appeared to Mary Magdalene and other women when they visited the empty tomb.[xxi] He also appeared to a group of 500 men and women[xxii] and to those gathered as he ascended into heaven.[xxiii]  And he appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus.[xxiv]


[i] His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Becoming Enlightened, translated by Jeffrey Hopkins (New York: Simon and Schuster, Atria Books, 2009), 216.

[ii] Philippians 2:6-7 (NIV).

[iii] John 1:14.

[iv] “Gautama Buddha: Awakening” Wikipedia.org, retrieved October 31, 2016.

[v] 1 Peter 1:19.

[vi] “Gautama Buddha: Awakening” and “Gautama Buddha: Travels and Teaching,” Wikipedia.org, retrieved November 26, 2013.

[vii] Philippians 2:8 (NIV).

[viii] John 15:13 (NIV).

[ix] John 10:17-18 (NIV).

[x] 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 236. Dhammapada_(Muller). This work is cited as “Dhammapada” hereafter. To save space, line breaks in quotations from the Dhammapada have not been retained.

[xi] John 13:3-5.

[xii] Jesus feeding the multitudes appears in Matthew 14:13-21 (more than 5,000 people) also found in Mark 6:30-44, Luke 9:1-13, and John 6:1-15; and Matthew 15:29-39 (more than 4,000 people) also found in Mark 8:1-13.

[xiii] Philippians 2:5-8.

[xiv] Dhammapada 347.

[xv] Matthew 26:36, Mark 14:32, John 18:1, John 10:17-18.

[xvi] Dhammapada 353.

[xvii] Ibid. 28.

[xviii] Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV).

[xix] “Gautama Buddha: Mahaparinirvana,” Wikipedia.org, retrieved November 26, 2013.

[xx] Mark 16:12, Mark 16:14, Mark 16:15b, Luke 24:13-32, Luke 24:34, Luke 24:36-43, John 20:19-24. John 20:26-29, John 21:1-14, 1 Corinthians 15:3-5a, 1 Corinthians 15:6, 1 Corinthians 15:7.

[xxi] Matthew 28:8-10, Mark 16:9-11, John 20:11-18.

[xxii] John 21:15-23.

[xxiii] Acts 1:3-11.

[xxiv] 1 Corinthians 15:8.

Buddha and Jesus: Greatest Teachings, Part 2

In a two-part article, we will see that the Buddha and Jesus often taught on the same subjects. Part 1 covered: the Golden Rule, boundless compassion, loving your enemies, and our sources of power. In Part 2, we’ll look at mindfulness; mercy, grace and forgiveness; materialism and selflessness; laying up treasures; and karma. Let’s ponder how their respective teachings compare and contrast.

Mindfulness

The Buddha taught, “All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.”[i] “All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.”[ii]

Jesus taught, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”[iii] “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”[iv]

Consider

The Buddha taught that who we are is a result of our thought life. Jesus encouraged spending our thought life on being joyful, praying, having gratitude, and placing our thoughts on things that are noble, pure and lovely.

What occupies your thought life? What can you do to shift your thoughts to more noble and uplifting thoughts? Begin by thinking about something you are grateful for today.

Mercy, Grace and Forgiveness

In Becoming Enlightened, the Dalai Lama states, “A Buddhist bodhisattva is someone near perfection who chooses to transfer some of their merit to help other meritorious seekers to progress more rapidly toward nirvana.”[v]

Jesus taught The Parable of the Prodigal Son. It illustrates how eager and excited God is to welcome back into his kingdom those who have become trapped in habitual sin, if they will truly turn away from those sins and wholeheartedly desire to return to God.[vi]

Consider

Someone transferring their merit to another is not grace, which is receiving something good we clearly don’t deserve. Contrast that with the reception of a father to his son who does not deserve forgiveness, but is received with open arms and wholehearted forgiveness.

Do you feel a need for mercy, grace and forgiveness in your life?

Materialism and Selflessness

The Buddha taught, “Him I call indeed a Brahmana who calls nothing his own, whether it be before, behind, or between, who is poor, and free from the love of the world.”[vii]

Jesus taught, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”[viii]

Consider

The Buddha taught to be free from the love of this world, and to renounce materialism. Jesus taught to seek first the kingdom of God, and then our material needs would be met.

Do you feel shackled or weighed down by materialism? What are your priorities with regard to materialism?

Lay Up Treasures

The Buddha taught, “Let the wise man do righteousness: A treasure that others cannot share, which no thief can steal; a treasure which does not pass away.”[ix]

Jesus taught, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”[x]

Consider

The Buddha taught that doing righteous acts is a treasure that cannot be stolen. Jesus taught not to accumulate wealth, but to do that which builds your treasure in heaven. Both illustrate the uselessness of accumulating that which can be stolen versus that which cannot.

Where is your heart invested?

Karma

Buddha provided a way to escape from the endless cycle of reincarnation—by attaining perfections after working off all bad (as well as good) karma.[xi]

Jesus provided a way to be absolved of all of the negative spiritual weight of one’s bad karma—by believing that he is the Savior of mankind and accepting him as Lord of one’s life. Having been absolved, however, one may still have to face the negative consequences of past misdeeds. Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”[xii] The Apostle Paul taught, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. “[xiii]

Consider

Both the Buddha and Jesus taught that our actions have results for good or bad. However, the Buddha taught one must work off all the bad karma, whereas Jesus taught that our bad behavior can be forgiven, and about the importance of repenting from the bad behavior.

Do you believe that you have to work off the bad acts in your life? Do you believe that you can be forgiven by God for your bad acts? Where do you find the strength to turn away from bad behavior? Are you alone in accomplishing this, or do you find your strength comes from God?


[i] Dhammapada 1.

[ii] Dhammapada 2.

[iii] 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NKJV).

[iv] Philippians 4:8 (NIV).

[v] His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Becoming Enlightened, translated by Jeffrey Hopkins (New York: Simon and Schuster, Atria Books, 2009), 161-183.

[vi] Luke 15:11-32.

[vii] Dhammapada 421.

[viii] Matthew 6:33 (NIV).

[ix] Buddha, Khuddakapatha 8.9, in Borg, Jesus and Buddha, 69.

[x] Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV).

[xi] Jonathan Landaw, and Stephan Bodian. Buddhism for Dummies. Indianapolis: Wiley, 2033. Chapter 12: “Getting Your Karmic Act Together.” Chapter 13: “Breaking Free of the Cycle of Dissatisfaction.”

[xii] Luke 5:32 (NIV).

[xiii] Galations 6:7 (NASB).

Buddha and Jesus: Greatest Teachings, Part 1

In a two-part article, we will see that the Buddha and Jesus often taught on the same subjects. In this first article, we’ll look at the Golden Rule, boundless compassion, loving your enemies, and our sources of power. Let’s ponder how their respective teachings compare and contrast.

The Golden Rule

The Buddha taught, “Consider others as yourself.”[i]

Jesus taught, “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.”[ii]

Consider

In this instance, the Buddha and Jesus had very similar thoughts about treating others as yourself.

How do you want others to treat you?

Rank these in importance:

  • Meet my physical needs
  • Treat me with respect
  • Genuinely empathize with me.

What do your answers to the first question suggest how you should treat others?

Boundless Compassion

The Buddha taught, “Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own life, even so, cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings. Let your thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world.”[iii]

Jesus taught, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”[iv]

Consider

The Buddha taught to think loving thoughts toward all sentient beings, and Jesus taught to love God with your entire being and to love your neighbor genuinely.

In what ways does your love of yourself become evident?

What might that imply about how you should tangibly love your neighbor?

Loving Your Enemies

The Buddha taught, “For hatred does not cease by hatred at any time: hatred ceases by love, this is an old rule.” [v] And “Let a man overcome anger by love, let him overcome evil by good; let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth!”[vi]

Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who mistreat you.” [vii] And “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” [viii]

Consider

The Buddha taught that hatred can only be overcome with love, evil with good, greed with liberality, and lying with the truth. In each of these instances, he encourages a positive action. Likewise, Jesus encourages positive actions in loving our enemies, doing good for those who hate you, blessing those who curse you, and praying for those who mistreat you.

Picture someone who actively dislikes, or even hates, you, and imagine doing something good for them. You can begin by simply praying a blessing on them. What additional acts of kindness might you consider doing for them?

Our Source of Power

The Buddha taught, “Rouse thyself by thyself, examine thyself by thyself, thus self-protected and attentive wilt thou live happily, O Bhikshu!”[ix] “Self is the lord of self, who else could be the lord? With self well subdued, a man finds a lord such as few can find.”[x]

Jesus taught, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”[xi] “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”[xii]

Consider

These teachings are in direct contrast to one another. The Buddha teaches about having a life completely motivated and dictated by self. Jesus teaches about having a life which abides in him.

Do you believe that what you become depends entirely on you, or in contrast, that being close to Jesus will strengthen you? Do you believe that you are alone in this life, or do you believe in God?


[i] Heartland Sangha American Buddhism, “Parallel Sayings of Buddha and Christ,” www.heartlandsangha.org/parallel-sayings.html, retrieved October 12, 2010.

[ii] Luke 6:31 (NASB).

[iii] Heartland Sangha American Buddhism, “Parallel Sayings.”

[iv] Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV).

[v] 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, http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/, Dhammapada 5. Dhammapada_(Muller). This work is cited as “Dhammapada” hereafter. To save space, line breaks in quotations from the Dhammapada have not been retained.

[vi] Ibid. 223.

[vii] Luke 6:27b-28 (NKJV).

[viii] Matthew 5:38-41 (NIV).

[ix] Dhammapada 379.

[x] Ibid. 160.

[xi] Philippians 4:13 (NKJV).

[xii] John 15:5 (NASB).

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.

Different Concepts of Hell

A common misconception is that Buddhists do not believe in hell. While this may be true of some Buddhists, the Buddha offered specific teachings about hell.

In “Devaduta Sutta”, the 130th discourse of the Majjhima Nikaya, Buddha teaches about the hell in vivid detail. Buddhism teaches that there are five (sometimes six) realms of rebirth, which can then be further subdivided into degrees of agony or pleasure. Of these realms, the hell realms, or Naraka, is the lowest realm of rebirth. Of the hell realms, the worst is Avīci or “endless suffering”. The Buddha’s disciple, Devadatta, who tried to kill the Buddha on three occasions, as well as create a schism in the monastic order, is said to have been reborn in the Avici Hell.

However, like all realms of rebirth, rebirth in the Hell realms is not permanent, though suffering can persist for eons before being reborn again. . . . Buddhism teaches to escape the endless migration of rebirths (both positive and negative) through the attainment of Nirvana.[i]

*****

The Narakas of Buddhism are closely related to diyu, the hell in Chinese mythology. A Naraka differs from the hells of Abrahamic religions in two respects: firstly, beings are not sent to Naraka as the result of a divine judgment and punishment; secondly, the length of a being’s stay in a Naraka is not eternal, though it is usually very long.

A being is born into a Naraka as a direct result of his or her accumulated karma and resides there for a finite period of time until that karma has achieved its full result. After his or her karma is used up, he or she will be reborn in one of the higher worlds as the result of karma that had not yet ripened. . . . Physically, Narakas are thought of as a series of cavernous layers which extend below Jambudvīpa (the ordinary human world) into the earth. There are several schemes for enumerating these Narakas and describing their torments.[ii]

Buddhist hell (naraka) in Burmese representation.[iii]

Ngaye (Naraka) in Burmese art

In Dante’s Inferno, he detailed his belief in nine distinct different levels of hell (see image below).[i]

Dante's Inferno: Levels of Hell

Conservative Christians beliefs about hell are well summarized in this excerpt from the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible.

While the duration of punishment in hell is eternal for all who have chosen that destiny for themselves, there are degrees of punishment proportional to the degrees of guilt of each individual. Only God is able to determine what those degrees are, and he will assign the consequences with perfect justice according to the responsibility of each one. Evidence of such gradations in future punishment is found in Scripture (Mt 11:20-24, Lk 12:47-48, Rv 20:12,13; cf. Ez 16:48-61). An obvious comparison is made in these texts between the differing intensities of punishment that are involved in the contrasting privileges, knowledge, and opportunities.[i]

The Buddha taught in his First Noble Truth that “life is suffering”. His view of life on earth seems similar to Dante’s portrayal of the First or Second levels of hell.


[i] Walter A. Elwell, General Editor. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, 1988), Vol. A-I, 955.

[i] “Circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno,” Bing, retrieved February 25, 2014.

[i] “Hell in Buddhism,” Wikipedia, retrieved February 25, 2014.

[ii] “Naraka,” Wikipedia, retrieved February 25, 2014.

[iii] “Ngaye (Nakara) in Burmese Art.” Wikipedia, retrieved February 25, 2014.

Where was God in the Philippines?

In early November 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, the deadliest typhoon ever to hit the Philippines, struck and killed approximately 5,982 people. Assessed as a Category 5-equivalent super typhoon on the Saffir Simpson hurricane wind scale, it reached a maximum of 196 mph. Estimated to be the fourth most intense tropical cyclone ever observed, UN officials believe 11 million people have been affected and many are left homeless.[1]

Buddhists, Atheists, and Christians view catastrophic events differently.

A Buddhist viewpoint would be that life is impermanent, and that we ought to treasure every moment. In view of typhoon Haiyan, Vietnamese Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh said,

This is the best that we can do for those who have died: We can live in such a way that they can feel they are continuing to live in us, more mindfully, more profoundly, more beautifully, tasting every minute of life available to us, for them.[2]

For atheists, cataclysmic storms are regarded as proof that God does not exist. Following Japan’s tsunami, author and activist Sam Harris said,

Either God can do nothing to stop catastrophes like this, or he doesn’t care to, or he doesn’t exist. God is either impotent, evil or imaginary. . . . Take your pick, and choose wisely.[3]

It takes a real measure of chutzpah to stand in judgment of God, as Harris does. In the Book of Job, God asked Job questions such as whether it was Job’s place to correct Him, or are His ways inscrutable and mysterious?

The Lord said to Job:

“Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him?
Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Then Job answered the Lord:

“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
I put my hand over my mouth.
I spoke once, but I have no answer—
twice, but I will say no more.”

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm:

“Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.

“Would you discredit my justice?
Would you condemn me to justify yourself?
Do you have an arm like God’s,
and can your voice thunder like his?
Then adorn yourself with glory and splendor,
and clothe yourself in honor and majesty.
Unleash the fury of your wrath,
look at all who are proud and bring them low,
look at all who are proud and humble them,
crush the wicked where they stand.
Bury them all in the dust together;
shroud their faces in the grave.
Then I myself will admit to you
that your own right hand can save you.[4]

You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’
Surely I spoke of things I did not understand,
things too wonderful for me to know.[5]

Human beings are very presumptuous. We expect a well-ordered universe that caters to our personal preferences. The truth is that we should be grateful that, against all odds, the earth presents an environment that is generally habitable, and often favorable, to human well being. That the earth is so is the result of a mind boggling series of “just right” characteristics of the environment earth provides for us.

Consider the following:

  • Temperature: Human beings, animals and plants can only survive in a limited temperature range. To maintain the needed range, the earth is the right distance from the sun, and the sun is relatively stable.
  • Atmosphere: The earth’s atmosphere is about 100 miles thick. This protects the surface of the earth from radiation. The needed ratio of oxygen to other gasses in the air is present for sustaining life.
  • Energy: Light from the sun provides the energy for chemical reactions in cells necessary for life.
  • Nutrients: The chemical composition of earth is conducive to nourishing life.
  • Water: All life requires water to exist. In addition to drinking water, there is the appropriate ratio of ocean water to earth.
  • Location: Due to earth’s location in the solar system, Jupiter acts as a guard for the earth, protecting it from constant bombardment of asteroid and comet strikes.[6]

We forget that all of these result in a range and mix of weather which produces a nurturing environment for vegetation and animals. Weather variation is a part of this, including rare extremes. All these characteristics were staged and set in motion by God.

God designed the Garden of Eden as an ideal place for people to dwell where typhoons would never occur and only asked that we not eat one type of fruit in the garden. Mankind chose to opt out of this idyllic existence to “do it our own way.” God backed off, permitting us to be exposed to the challenges and risks of living on this earth. God is still present, but God doesn’t force himself on anyone. God waits patiently for us to turn to God individually when we realize that we are far from sufficient in and of ourselves.

In 2 Corinthians, we are reminded to be grateful that God comforts us during difficult and tragic times, so that we can comfort others, and that when we are steadfast in faith and partake of sufferings, we will also partake of the consolation to come.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.[7]

Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor, poses the following questions,

How should we make sense of such senseless death and destruction? Was God in the whirlwind itself, as the Bible hints, or present only in the aftermath, as people mobilize to provide food, water and shelter?[8]

Perhaps God is in it all. He is in the whirlwind, which is part of the amazing earth He created, and He is present in the aftermath of a devastating storm. We can be like His hands and feet when we provide food, water and shelter, and comfort those who suffer.


[1] “Typhoon Haiyan,” Wikipedia.org, retrieved December 12, 2013.

[2] Daniel Burke, “Where was God in the Philippines?” CNN Belief Blog, retrieved December 12, 2013.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Job 40:1-14 (NIV).

[5] Job 42:3 (NIV).

[6] “What Makes a World Habitable?” Lunar and Planetary Institute, and “What is it about Earth that makes it just right for life?” Science.howstuffworks.com, retrieved December 16, 2013.

[7] 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 (NIV).

[8] Daniel Burke, “Where was God in the Philippines?” CNN Belief Blog, retrieved December 12, 2013.

Wrathful Deities

Across many religions is the belief in demons, or malevolent spirits that may do harm or inhabit a person, resulting in the need for exorcism. Some believe that they may be the spirits of the recently deceased, returned to earth to take care of the unfinished business of their lives. So, when one sees the statues or images of the wrathful deities of Buddhism, one might automatically assume they are demons.

Demons and Idols

A demon is a malevolent, disembodied spirit. These may be the spirit of a deceased person, of a fallen angel, or a spirit which possesses a person, resulting in the need for exorcism. In Judaism and Christianity, a demon is an unclean spirit. They may be summoned and possibly controlled.[1]

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus healed the demon-possessed. One example is in Mark 5:1-20, where Jesus drove out a legion of demons from a man who had been cruelly plagued with them for years.

This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.[2]

The demons, called Legion, begged to be sent into a herd of pigs. The pigs then raced down into a lake and were drowned.

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis [the Ten Cities] how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.[3]

The Apostle Paul warned against sacrificing to idols or worshiping them, and against having anything to do with demons.

Do I mean then that food sacrificed to an idol is anything, or that an idol is anything? No, but the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.[4]

And he admonished that,

The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.[5]

The Apostle John wrote that during the End Times,

The rest of mankind who were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood—idols that cannot see or hear or walk.[6]

Protectors

In Tibetan Buddhism, wrathful deities are “enlightened beings”[7] that are ferocious in appearance. These personifications of evil are meant to protect and to assist sentient beings into enlightenment, as well as symbolize the effort it takes to overcome evil. They are considered:

. . . benevolent gods who symbolize the tremendous effort it takes to vanquish evil, the violence that is a fundamental reality of the cosmos and the human mind and protect the faithful by instilling terror in evil spirits.[8]

History

The worship of wrathful deities began in the 8th century. The magician-saint Padmasambhava is believed to have conquered them and forced them to act as protectors of Buddhists and the Buddhist faith. Hinduism is the source of some of the deities.[9]

Hinduism includes numerous varieties of spirits that might be classified as demons, including Vetalas, Bhutas and Pishachas. Rakshasas and Asuras are often also taken as demons.[10]

Iconography

Images or statues of the wrathful deities, which are ferocious and hideous in appearance, are used to protect Buddhists from evil influences, and as a reminder to eliminate passion and evil in their lives. They are meant to frighten evil spirits, and to be “roosting places”[11] or temporary dwellings for evil energies to reside in. The evil energy is sent into them through the use of mantras.

These icons can be in the form of masks, scrolls (paintings), or sculptures, generally depicting the deity with short, thick limbs, a great number of hands and feet, and several heads, with a third eye and disheveled hair. Atop their heads they wear crowns made from skulls or severed heads. They may be treading on animals. Their wrathful expression may be an angry smile, which includes long fangs. From their noses may be a “mist of illnesses”[12] like a terrific storm blowing.

Categories

Some of the wrathful deities fall into three categories, the Herukas (promoting detachment from the world of ignorance), the Wisdom Kings (protectors of the Five Dhyani Buddhas, a feature of Japanese rather than Tibetan Buddhism), and the Protectors (protectors of one of the three: the World, a Region or the Law).[13]

Initiations (Empowerments)

Initiation or empowerment ceremonies are conducted to confer the blessings of a particular deity and to authorize a follower into the various stages of meditation specific to or associated with a particular deity. A highly respected lama conducts the elaborate ceremony. The empowerments are directed at three specific areas, the body, speech and mind, and involve taking extensive vows. These are not to be undertaken lightly, as Bruce Newman warns in his book, A Beginner’s Guide to Tibetan Buddhism: Notes from a Practitioner’s Journey. He calls it the “point of no ‘return.'”[14]

Offerings

Two types of offerings may be made to the deities. “External” offerings are made in the form of

. . . a cemetary [sic] flower, incense of singed flesh, lamp burning human fat (or a substitute), scent of bile, blood (usually symbolized by red water) and human flesh (usually symbolized by parched barley flour and butter realistically colored and modeled).[15]

“Internal” offerings are made in the form of

. . . a skull cup containing a heart, tongue, nose, pair of eyes, and pair of ears. In Tibetan texts, these are human organs, but in actual ceremonies barley-flour-and-butter replicas are used instead.[16]

Demons or Protectors?

For the Buddhist, wrathful deities can be likened to big, scary bodyguards standing watch over their path to enlightenment, and the statues or representations are repositories for evil, but from the Judeo/Christian point of view, these deities embody the earmarks of a demon, not to be sacrificed to, worshiped or followed.


[1] “Demon,” Wikipedia.org, retrieved October 22, 2013.

[2] Mark 5:3:5 (NIV).

[3] Mark 5:18-20 (NIV).

[4] 1 Corinthians 10:19-21 (NIV).

[5] 1 Timothy 4:1 (NIV).

[6] Revelation 9:20 (NIV).

[7] “Wrathful Deities,” Wikipedia.org, retrieved April 2, 2013.

[8] “Wrathful Deities,” Religionfacts.com, retrieved April 2, 2013.

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Demon: Hinduism,” Wikipedia.org, retrieved October 22, 2013.

[11] Nitin Kumar. “Wrathful Guardians of Buddhism: Aesthetics and Mythology,” ExoticIndia.com, February 2001, retrieved April 2, 2013.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “Wrathful Deities,” Wikipedia.org, retrieved April 2, 2013.

[14] Bruce Newman. A Beginner’s Guide to Tibetan Buddhism: Notes from a Practitioner’s Journey. (Ithaca, New York: Snow Lion Publications, 2004), 31, 35, 38.

[15] “Wrathful Deities,” Religionfacts.com, retrieved April 2, 2013.

[16] Ibid.