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).

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.

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.

 

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.

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

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 business (work):

Good and Evil

The evil-doer mourns in this world, and he mourns in the next; he mourns in both. He mourns and suffers when he sees the evil of his own work. (Dhammapada 15)

The virtuous man delights in this world, and he delights in the next; he delights in both. He delights and rejoices, when he sees the purity of his own work. (Dhammapada 16)

Let a man avoid evil deeds, as a merchant, if he has few companions and carries much wealth, avoids a dangerous road; as a man who loves life avoids poison. (Dhammapada 123)

In like manner his good works receive him who has done good, and has gone from this world to the other;–as kinsmen receive a friend on his return. (Dhammapada 220)

If an occasion arises, friends are pleasant; enjoyment is pleasant, whatever be the cause; a good work is pleasant in the hour of death; the giving up of all grief is pleasant. (Dhammapada 331)

Work Hard and Be Wise

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). (Dhammapada 236)

Make thyself an island, work hard, be wise! When thy impurities are blown away, and thou art free from guilt, thou wilt not enter again into birth and decay. (Dhammapada 238)

 

In some of these verses, the Buddha is talking about good works or deeds, as opposed to working, as in a business. However, one may extrapolate the concepts and apply them to a person’s work ethic, even though he is not specifically talking about work in the sense of business or commerce.

He espouses working hard, being diligent, and avoiding evil deeds. He contrasts the evil or purity in one’s work. He states that a good work is pleasant to reflect on at the time of one’s death, and describes the benefit of it in the afterlife.

Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

Reward

From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward. (Proverbs 12:14, NIV)

All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23, NIV)

Do you see someone skilled in their work? They will serve before kings; they will not serve before officials of low rank. (Proverbs 22:29, NIV)

Priorities

Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house. (Proverbs 24:27, NIV)

Abundant Food or Fantasies

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense. (Proverbs 12:11, NIV)

Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. (Proverbs 28:19, NIV)

Motivation

The appetite of laborers works for them; their hunger drives them on. (Proverbs 16:26, NIV)

Sluggards

One who is slack in his work is brother to one who destroys.  (Proverbs 18:9, NIV)

The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work. (Proverbs 21:25, NIV)

Diligent hands will rule, but laziness ends in forced labor. (Proverbs 12:24, NIV)

 

And these passages from Ecclesiastes:

Meaningless

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11, NIV)

So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.  (Ecclesiastes 2:20-23, NIV)

Don’t Anger God

Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, “My vow was a mistake.” Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? (Ecclesiastes 5:6, NIV)

Work Hard

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. (Ecclesiastes 9:10, NIV)

Two Are Better Than One

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10, 12, NIV)

Find Joy and Satisfaction

So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them? (Ecclesiastes 3:22, NIV)

The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep. (Ecclesiastes 5:12, 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. (Ecclesiastes 5:18, NIV)

 

While the Buddha mostly focused on good and evil, and working hard, Solomon covered more topics with regards to working. Solomon believed that working hard results in rewards: financial or as in an abundance of food, and in being recognized and promoted by the authorities (e.g., bosses, kings, etc.). He stressed prioritizing work, first by taking care of your fields (having a steady supply of food), then building your home, and taking care of other needs. He made the distinction between working hard to provide for your needs, as opposed to chasing after fantasies and ending up in poverty. He also talked about hunger as a motivation for hard work.

Solomon denounced sloth and cautioned that it can lead to forced labor and death. He compared a sluggard to one who destroys. In Ecclesiastes, he bemoaned that even though he took delight in his labor, he said that it was all meaningless (a vapor) in the end. He cautioned not angering God, or He would destroy the works of your hands. Solomon espoused working hard during this lifetime as there is no work in the afterlife. Solomon believed that two working together are better than one working alone, and he outlined the ways in which they can help one another and have a “good return for their labor.” Lastly, he encouraged finding joy and satisfaction in your work.

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

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 power:

The wise prevail through great power, and those who have knowledge muster their strength. (Dhammapada 5)

These wise people, meditative, steady, always possessed of strong powers, attain to Nirvana, the highest happiness. (Dhammapada 23)

He who always greets and constantly reveres the aged, four things will increase to him, viz. life, beauty, happiness, power. (Dhammapada 109)

The swans go on the path of the sun, they go through the ether by means of their miraculous power; the wise are led out of this world, when they have conquered Mara and his train. (Dhammapada 175)

The Buddha equates wisdom, self control, and kindness with power and strength.

Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act. (Proverbs 3:27, NIV)

I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have insight, I have power. (Proverbs 8:12-14, NIV)

Hopes placed in mortals die with them; all the promise of their power comes to nothing. (Proverbs 11:7, NIV)

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. (Proverbs 18:21, NIV)

When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding. (Proverbs 28:12, NIV)

When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive. (Proverbs 28:28, NIV)

And these passages from Ecclesiastes:

Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter. (Ecclesiastes 4:1, NIV)

Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:12, NIV)

Wisdom makes one wise person more powerful than ten rulers in a city. (Ecclesiastes 7:19, NIV)

As no one has power over the wind to contain it, so no one has power over the time of their death. As no one is discharged in time of war, so wickedness will not release those who practice it. (Ecclesiastes 8:8, NIV)

Solomon also equates wisdom and kindness with power. He contrasts the results of the wise versus the wicked being in power. He describes the power of the tongue for good or evil, and over life or death, and the power of wickedness over those who practice it.

The Buddha took one view of power, whereas Solomon takes a broader perspective about it.

Forgiveness in Buddhism and Christianity

Joseph S. O’Leary has written a blog on “Buddhism and Forgiveness.”[i] He writes in an effort to come up with a solution for the ongoing hatred and violence in Northern Ireland, and he believes that the solution lies in Buddhism’s attitudes about forgiveness and not in Christianity’s.

O’Leary writes,

Christianity is based on the idea, or rather the event, of divine forgiveness: ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world with himself’ (2 Cor. 5.19). That is correlated with mutual forgiveness between human beings: ‘Forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you’ (Eph. 4.32). . . .

O’Leary goes to comment that in Christianity to be “set right” one must be right with God and with one another. He states that the result ought to be, “the construction of a loving community.” He then poses the question:

Why was this gracious reality so little actualized in Northern Ireland? Even now, when a measure of rational political coexistence has been achieved, there is little cordiality or friendship between the Christian communities of the area.

He then proposes that the solution may be found in Buddhist thought. O’Leary expounds on a preemptive form of forgiveness, by not taking offense in the first place, regardless of the infraction against the person.

The emphasis falls not on forgiving but on the foolishness of taking offence in the first place:

’He abused me, he struck me, he overcame me, he robbed me’ – in those who harbor [sic] such thoughts hatred will never cease.

’He abused me, he struck me, he overcame me, he robbed me’ – in those who do not harbour [sic] such thoughts hatred will cease. (Dhammapada 1.3-4; trans. Radhakrishnan)

Harboring thoughts and memories of abuses is discouraged, and the realization that each of us is a flawed person, temporarily residing on this earth, is encouraged. If such mental purity could be fully realized, peace can occur. However, attaining such purity has been a very rare, if not impossible thing to maintain.

An underlying assumption in the article is that because the people of Northern Ireland are predominantly Catholic and Protestant that Christianity itself must be faulty, rather than the problem of violence and unforgiveness stemming from the exercise of free will.

The assertion that Buddhist teaching on forgiveness is more effective presupposes that Buddhist countries are strangers to violence. History indicates otherwise. See “Violent Intolerance in Buddhist Burma.”[ii]


[i] Joseph S. O’Leary, “Buddhism and Forgiveness,” retrieved March 18, 2014. All quoted sections of O’Leary’s blog retain his reference notes. The East West Insights blog focuses on the section entitled “Buddhist Approaches to Forgiveness.”

[ii] R. E. Sherman, “Violent Intolerance in Buddhist Burma,” East West Insights, June 10, 2013.

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.