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).

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.

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.