East West Culture Clash

In the West, I do not think it advisable to follow Buddhism. Changing religions is not like changing professions. Excitement lessens over the years, and soon you are not excited, and then where are you?  Homeless inside yourself. —The Dalai Lama[1]

Some Eastern Buddhists have sizeable reservations about their Western counterparts. This is surprising to many, in light of all the favorable press Buddhism has received. Haven’t countless people found calm in this hectic world through meditation? Buddhists desire world peace and compassion for all people, and they want to take an open stand for nonviolence. Buddhism is exotic and inviting. It shuns the violent, materialistic culture of the West. It offers the opportunity to tailor a unique path to becoming a better person, and, ultimately, to attaining enlightenment. Why would the Dalai Lama be hesitant about urging Westerners to become Buddhists?

Beginning Buddhism is easy. You choose the kind of meditation that feels good to you, and you select what you will meditate on. However, converting to Buddhism isn’t just about beginning. It’s about going deep into meditation and sustaining that depth . . . for a lifetime.

Many elements of Buddhism strongly attract people in the West. Elements of Buddhism very similar to Judeo-Christian teachings resonate with them. They think, Here is a wise, practical path to follow—without the constraint of submitting to an exacting God.

After delving more deeply, Westerners encounter some of Buddhism’s Eastern elements and usually balk, selectively. They pick and choose what they will practice and what they will ignore. Yet this cafeteria-style approach to spirituality may not work well. Many Western Buddha-seekers end up homeless—alienated from the Western traditions in which they were raised, and yet unwilling to adopt the Eastern ways of Buddhism sufficiently.

Patrick French, the author of Tibet, Tibet, noted: “I was . . . cautioned by the Dalai Lama’s own refusal to proselytize. After long observation, he had decided that conversion usually led to confusion, and that without the support of the prevailing culture, it was hard to maintain your spiritual practice.”[2]

The Dalai Lama did elaborate on his precautions. He said, “Westerners who proceed too quickly to deep meditation should learn more about Eastern traditions and get better training than they usually do. Otherwise, certain physical or mental difficulties appear.”[3]

Difficulties? What difficulties? Lorin Roche, Ph.D., a meditation instructor who has specialized over the past three-plus decades in counseling people who have engaged in prolonged, intensive meditation, has noted some of these. They include depression, a feeling of being lost, trouble adapting to life in the city, finding it hard to be intimate with another person, weird health problems and panic attacks.[4] Westerners have much higher expectations for happiness in this world, so there is a much greater sense of loss when someone commits to retreat from this world.

Dr. Roche teaches a form of meditation he believes avoids these problems. Just keep it simple, brief and consistent. Perhaps Buddhism is like a pain killer. Taking a few tablets can do a lot of good, but swallowing a handful of pills and you better get your stomach pumped.

Dr. Roche does not see any need to convert to Buddhism or Hinduism to meditate more effectively. Most other major religions have long traditions in meditative practices. There is much that Westerners can learn about meditation . . . in order to strengthen their own form of Western religion. So why not leave it at that?

You may doubt that the Dalai Lama said the things quoted above. After all, hasn’t he spent decades traveling the globe as the world’s most visible Buddhist? While this is certainly true, what is not often fully appreciated is that one of his chief objectives has been to serve as a rallying point for the cause of the liberation of Tibet.  Portraying Buddhism in the most positive light possible aids him in furthering the cause of the autonomy and welfare of the Tibetan people, for whom he has served as “the temporal and the spiritual leader” for more than half a century.[5]

We all have much to learn. Imagine Jesus giving a warning to American Christians similar to the Dalai Lama’s precautions. He might say, “I do not think it advisable to blend my teachings with Western culture.” And he would be dead on.

 


 

[1] Patrick French,Tibet,Tibet (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), 27.

[2] Ibid., 27.

[3] Mary Garden, “Can Meditation Be Bad for You?” Humanist, September/October 2007, www.thehumanist.org/humanist/MaryGarden.html, retrieved November 22, 2010.

[4] Lorin Roche, “The Dangers of Meditation,” www.lorinroche.com/page8/page8.html, retrieved September 18, 2010.

[5] “His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet,” www.dalailama.com/, retrieved April 11, 2011.

How Knowledgeable Are You About Buddhism?

Below is a little true/false quiz to help you assess how knowledgeable you are about Buddhism. Mark each statement as true or false.

True/False Quiz

  1. The Dalai Lama publicly encourages Westerners to convert to Buddhism.
  2. There are no serious precautions one should take before practicing Buddhist meditation.
  3. The Buddha believed that there are many ways to become enlightened.
  4. No nation with a government headed by Buddhists has ever initiated a war with another country.
  5. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has attained enlightenment. He is confident that he will not reincarnate.
  6. Buddhist nuns are subject to about the same number of monastic laws as monks are.
  7. Buddhist beliefs are highly compatible with science.

Discussion

All seven of the above statements are false, or at least are seriously in question. Let’s look at each one in turn.

The Dalai Lama publicly encourages Westerners to convert to Buddhism. He has been quoted as saying, “In the West, I do not think it advisable to follow Buddhism. Changing religions is not like changing professions.  Excitement lessens over the years, and soon you are not excited, and then where are you?  Homeless inside yourself.”[1] How could that be? Don’t forget, another top objective of the Dalai Lama is the liberation of Tibet.  Portraying Buddhism in the most positive light possible increases support for that cause. Regarding new converts in the West, he is all too aware of numerous difficulties with many of them (see discussion of the next statement).

There are no serious precautions one should consider before practicing Buddhist meditation. The Dalai Lama has been cited as saying, “Westerners who proceed too quickly to deep meditation should learn more about Eastern traditions and get better training than they usually do. Otherwise, certain physical or mental difficulties appear.”[2] Dr. Lorin Roche has noted the following hazards of engaging in intense prolonged meditation: 1) depression, 2) a feeling of being lost, 3) trouble adapting to life in the city, 4) weird health problems, 5) bipolar disorders, 6) panic attacks and 7) psychosis.[3] Why? Renunciation is much harder for Westerners, who have so much, than it is for Asians, who often have comparatively little to give up. Secondly, meditation involving emptying your mind may make room for various odd things to enter.

The Buddha believed that there are many ways to become enlightened. In three successive proverbs, the Buddha said, “The best of ways is the eightfold; the best of truths the four words; the best of virtues passionlessness; the best of men he who has eyes to see. 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). If you go on this way, you will make an end of pain! The way was preached by me, when I had understood the removal of the thorns (in the flesh).”[4]

No nation with a government headed by Buddhists has ever initiated a war with another country. A clear counterexample is Burma (Myanmar), whose population is very predominantly Buddhist. Burma’s history has been characterized by frequent, lengthy warfare or oppression, both internally and with surrounding nations, from the Pagan Empire (AD 1044-1287) until our present time.[5]

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has attained enlightenment. He is confident that he will not reincarnate. The Dalai Lama has been practicing techniques to greatly hasten progress toward enlightenment, and yet he is quite uncertain what his fate will be after he dies. “The rehearsal of the processes of death, and those of the intermediate state, and the emergence into a future existence,” he wrote, “lies at the very heart of the path in Highest Yoga Tantra. These practices are part of my daily practice also and because of this I somehow feel a sense of excitement when I think about the experience of death. At the same time, though, sometimes I do wonder whether or not I will really be able to fully utilize my own preparatory practices when the actual moment of death comes!”[6]

If the Dalai Lama is uncertain about what his next life will be, he is not enlightened, for the enlightened Buddhist is supposed to know that he will enter nirvana when he dies and that he will not reincarnate as another sentient being. Furthermore, the Dalai Lama’s words highlight his uncertainty, even though he describes the state of enlightenment as including: (1) omniscience, with “full comprehension of all that can be known,” and (2) victory, since “you have overcome all problems and have achieved realization of all knowables.”[7]

Buddhist nuns are subject to about the same number of monastic laws as monks are.  Buddhist nuns have 311 vows to take, in contrast to the 227 for monks.[8] Buddha’s view of women was, to put it bluntly, archaic. For example, one of his proverbs was, “So long as the love of man towards women, even the smallest, is not destroyed, so long is his mind in bondage, as the calf that drinks milk is to its mother.”[9]

Buddhist beliefs are highly compatible with science. Buddhists believe, as do Hindus, that the universe has always existed. It was never created. This conflicts with the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe.[10]

Closing Thoughts

How did you do? If you are like most Americans, your knowledge of Buddhism may have been affected by media coverage colored by sympathy for the plight of Tibet and the Dalai Lama. While such sympathy is very well founded, it can affect objectivity.


[1] Patrick French, Tibet, Tibet (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), 27.

[2] Mary Garden, “Can Meditation Be Bad for You?” Humanist, September/October 2007, www.thehumanist.org/humanist/MaryGarden.html, retrieved October 5, 2011.

[3] Lorin Roche, “The Dangers of Meditation,” retrieved October 5, 2011.

[4] Dhammapada, 273-275.

[5] “Burmese Kingdom,” Wikipedia, retrieved October 5, 2011.

[6] Dalai Lama, “Introductory Commentary,” The Tibetan Book of the Dead (New York: Penguin Classics, 2005), xxviii.

[7] Dalai Lama, Becoming Enlightened, 221.

[8]“Patimokkha,” Wikisource, retrieved October 5, 2011.

[9] Dhammapada, 284.

[10] “Big Bang,” Wikipedia, retrieved October 5, 2011.

Buddhism & Christianity: Thought Provoking Analogies

Christian apologist C. S. Lewis[1] once observed that the spiritual life of a Christian is like the opportunities and risks available to an egg.  If an egg never advances beyond just being an egg, it will rot and decay.  It is designed to hatch, become a bird, and take flight.  A major problem with Christianity is that too many of its followers:

  1. never really break out of their shell, or
  2. if they do, they don’t spread their wings, or
  3. if they do, they try to fly by relying on their own power and direction.

The third option is much like a bird leaping from a tree branch without spreading its wings. It will plummet even though it wants to fly. The opportunity to receive the uplifting wind of the Holy Spirit is always available, but it requires not only an initial leap of faith but also the ongoing, moment-by-moment surrender of one’s life to God.  Without that surrender, the believer’s behavior can easily become a blight on the reputation of Christianity.

Practicing Buddhism is much like swimming,[2] while attempting to be a Christian is like flying. If a way can be found to fly safely, it is a more efficient way of getting around.  However, an air crash draws much more attention than a drowning.  Like meditation, swimming is incredibly repetitive and inward focused.  Like seeking the direction in which the spirit of God is leading you as a Christian, the flying bird can easily be blown this way or that by puffs of wind.

Initially, the Buddhist aspirant is hopeful of experiencing substantive empowerment and freedom from suffering.  Practicing deep, prolonged meditation can noticeably reduce stress levels and have a calming effect. So far, so good. After a while, however, another reality begins to set in.  Making progress spiritually as a Buddhist is very slow—to the point where the feasibility of achieving liberation comes into question.  To use the swimming analogy, it is often refreshing initially to dive into the water and begin swimming.  However, attaining enlightenment is much like swimming the 26 miles from Long Beach to Catalina Island.  Most can swim out from the shoreline and make progress for a while, but only a very select few have trained to the point where they can go the distance. And so it is that while Buddhism has initial appeal, over the long run at most a select few seekers somehow endure to the end, hoping to attain enlightenment. It is all a very conscious, concerted act of the will.

Christians would argue that becoming liberated (i.e., saved) by sheer human effort is not possible.  It would be like swimming from California to Hawaii.  No one, by good works, can traverse the 2,400 miles of ocean to get there. Rather, becoming saved is like entrusting yourself to a ship or jet to transport you there.  You have to board, committing yourself to the entire journey.  You can’t wander out on the wings during flight, or dive into the ocean for a bit to swim part of the way.

And so we see that in some ways these two great religions are quite different. Each has easy  as well as challenging aspects.


[1] “Coming In Out of the Wind,” July 8 reading, in C. S. Lewis, A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works, edited by Patricia S. Klein (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 2003), 208.[2] Buddha used this analogy when describing his path, referring to it as “entering the stream.” Dhammapada 178, in Harischandra Kaviratna, trans., Dhammapada, Wisdom of the Buddha, 1980, Theosophical University Press Online, retrieved October 5, 2011.

Different Spiritual Journeys

Two throngs gather at the base of the southern tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. Fifty Buddhists wearing maroon wetsuits prepare to swim 1 ¼ miles in the chilly waters beneath the Bridge to the Marin Headlands near the Bridge’s northern tower. After crossing, it is a short hike to a very secluded retreat center in a hidden cove.

Close by a group of fifty Christians have gathered to begin their march across the north shore of San Franciscoto Fisherman’s Wharf. There they will board the ferry “Faith” to Angel Island. The island is a beautiful nature preserve in the middle of the Bay. It has 25 miles of hiking trails with panoramic views of the Bay and San Francisco and several uncrowded beaches.

A monk addresses the Buddhist swimmers. “Blessed monks, you are about to embark on a noble journey to the Nirvana retreat center. First you must swim over a mile in the cold waters of the Straits of Bad Karma, crossing quickly before the tide comes in. Otherwise, you will be swept into the Bay by powerful currents. It is critical that you keep repeating your mantra as you swim: ‘The water is warm. I am a strong swimmer.’ You must gauge your own ability to complete the swim. If you feel that you cannot make it quickly across, you should turn around and swim back. Once you make the crossing, you will only need to hike a few blocks to Nirvana. Thoughts about it must fill your mind.”

A young monk, new to the Sangha, poses a question. “Blessed Dasbala, shouldn’t we just walk across the Bridge instead? We would only need to walk about two miles. The water is 55 degrees. Even with wetsuits, few of us will be able to brave the cold without experiencing hypothermia. After all, the Christians nearby are going to cross the Bay in a ferry.”

“Ignorant one! We would never be able to overcome the disgrace of taking the same path as thousands of reckless, speeding cars. Nor would we do so easy a thing as to take a ferry. We must take the path of tranquility, meditating as we swim and working off our bad karma.”

A few muffled groans waft through the air, laced with salt water smells. Dasbala surveys his followers with piercing eyes as he shakes his head in disappointment.

A block away a huddle of fifty Christians listen to Pastor James: “Today we will journey to the paradise of Angel Island aboard the ferry ‘Faith.’ First, however, we must march four miles across the northern shore of San Franciscoto Fisherman’s Wharf, where the ferry is docked. We will carry the banner, ‘Praise God’ in front of us as we march. We may encounter significant opposition and ridicule.”

The Buddhist swimmers stoically walk out to the end of the pier. They rapidly wave their arms back and forth to loosen up and warm themselves, taking deep breaths. Then, one by one, they dive into the water. Some let out shouts of shock after plunging into the chilly water. Within minutes, about half of them begin swimming back to the dock, some shivering uncontrollably as they ascend the ladder at the pier. After twenty minutes, all but one of the swimmers have turned around.

An hour after starting the sole remaining swimmer reaches the rocks by the Bridge’s north tower. Looks of joy cover his face. He gazes back, but doesn’t see any swimmers in sight. Shivering, he scampers over the rocks and onto the trail to the retreat center. There he finds an empty meditation room in a setting of complete peace and solitude. “Nirvana!” he whispers happily.

The Christians begin their march, parading their banner and singing, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise Him all creatures here below, praise Him above ye heavenly host, praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.” As they approach Fisherman’s Wharf their route is blocked by a throng of protesters waving signs saying, “Phooey on God! We have Sinbad’s Fudge,” and “Powered by Devil’s Food Fudge.” The protesters entice the marchers with little wrapped bits of fudge, tossing these into the midst of the marchers. Some of the Christians catch these and pocket them while others, wary, let them fall to the street.

When the Christians get to the pier at Fisherman’s Wharf, Pastor James addresses them: “Our ferry is about to take us safely on a 40 minute crossing to Angel Island. You must dispose of any fudge you have before you board. Otherwise, you must stay here. We will search your pockets and backpacks.” A few line up to board, but the others hang back, fretting over their fudge. Only a dozen finally board.

When the ferry docks at Angel Island, a dozen Christians disembark. There a sumptuous banquet awaits them, with a broad array of savory dishes. For dessert, however, there is no fudge. Only some amazing angel food cake.

Facing Opposition

In this article, the following topics will be discussed: Training Disciples, Non-Violence, Tangible Compassion, Iconoclast, Persecution, and Converts and Martyrs.

Training Disciples

The Buddha drew a small group of disciples that he taught and led during 45 years of teaching.[i]

Jesus gathered 12 disciples, also called apostles[ii] that he trained and led during three years of ministry.

Non-Violence

The Buddha placed great emphasis on non-violence in his teachings.

The Awakened call patience the highest penance, long-suffering the highest Nirvana; for he is not an anchorite (pravragita) who strikes others, he is not an ascetic (sramana) who insults others.[iii]

Not to blame, not to strike, to live restrained under the law, to be moderate in eating, to sleep and sit alone, and to dwell on the highest thoughts,–this is the teaching of the Awakened.[iv]

Speak the truth, do not yield to anger; give, if thou art asked for little; by these three steps thou wilt go near the gods.[v]

The sages who injure nobody, and who always control their body, they will go to the unchangeable place (Nirvana), where, if they have gone, they will suffer no more.[vi]

Beware of bodily anger, and control thy body! Leave the sins of the body, and with thy body practise [sic] virtue![vii]

Jesus taught people by his example to turn the other cheek. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.”[viii]

He demonstrated total non-violence and selflessness in response to his torture and abuse before being crucified.[ix] He voluntarily submitted himself to be crucified, knowing beforehand what would happen to him. He was not a hapless victim of political tensions between Jewish priests and Rome.

And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross.[x]

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.[xi]

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.[xii]

Tangible Compassion

The Buddha believed it was sufficient to live in the world of mind and thought, which he believed determined reality. “Those who bridle their mind which travels far, moves about alone, is without a body, and hides in the chamber (of the heart), will be free from the bonds of Mara (the tempter).”[xiii]

He placed little emphasis on providing tangible help to those in need, which he taught should be done in order to become less selfish and advance toward one’s own enlightenment. “The Bhikshu who acts with kindness, who is calm in the doctrine of Buddha, will reach the quiet place (Nirvana), cessation of natural desires, and happiness.”[xiv]

Jesus lived in both the world of the spirit and the physical world,[xv] tangibly helping others by healing the lame and sick and casting out demons.[xvi] He taught his followers to emphasize providing for the physical needs of the suffering out of compassion for them.[xvii]

Iconoclast

The Buddha challenged Hindus regarding their caste system,[xviii] and reliance on making sacrifices to gods.[xix] He accepted other Hindu beliefs (i.e., karma and reincarnation-rebirth).[xx]

Jesus challenged the Pharisees as false practitioners of Judaism.[xxi] He fulfilled the requirements of Old Testament laws through his sinless life and his sacrifice on the cross.[xxii]

Persecution

There is no documentation to suggest that any of Buddha’s disciples died violent deaths or were persecuted for their beliefs. Buddha himself died from food poisoning.[xxiii]

Of Jesus’ disciples, all but one (John) were violently executed because they refused to deny their belief in the divinity of Jesus.[xxiv]

Converts and Martyrs

Emperor Ashoka of India converted to Buddhism after witnessing the horrible bloodshed of a major war in India.[xxv] “In Asoka’s empire, all religions were tolerated but Buddhism was preferred. Buddhism became a dominant religious force under Asoka.”[xxvi]

Over the 300 years after his death, thousands of Christians were martyred because they refused to worship Roman gods, or the Roman emperor as divine.[xxvii] These Christians believed that only Jesus was divine. The witness of these martyrs drew the attention of people throughout the Roman Empire, causing Christianity to spread extensively.

In 313 CE, Emperor Constantine put forth the Edict of Milan, which established tolerance and benevolent treatment towards Christians. In 380 CE, Emperor Theodosius I, with the Edict of Thessalonica, declared Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire.[xxviii]


[i] “Gautama Buddha: Travels and Teaching,” Wikipedia.org, retrieved November 20, 2013.

[ii] Luke 6:12-16.

[iii] Dhammapada 184.

[iv] Dhammapada 185.

[v] Dhammapada 224.

[vi] Dhammapada 225.

[vii] Dhammapada 231.

[viii] Matthew 5:38-39 (NKJV).

[ix] Matthew 26:47-67, Mark 14:32-65, and Luke 22:39-71.

[x] Philippians 2:8 (NIV).

[xi] John 15:13 (NIV).

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

[xiii] Dhammapada 37.

[xiv] Dhammapada 368.

[xv] John 1:1-5.

[xvi] Matthew 4:23-25

[xvii] Matthew 25:31-46.

[xviii] “Buddhist Studies: Caste System,” BuddhaNet.net, retrieved November 20, 2013.

[xix] “Animal Sacrifice: Buddhism,”  Wikipedia.org, retrieved November 20, 2013. And “Animal Sacrifice: Hinduism,”  Wikipedia.org, retrieved November 20, 2013.

[xx] “The Hindu and Buddhist concept of reincarnation,” UCS.Louisiana.edu, retrieved November 20, 2013.

[xxi] Matthew 15:1-20.

[xxii] John 19:28.

[xxiii] “The Death of the Buddha,” PBS.org, retrieved November 20, 2013.

[xxiv] “The Martyrdom of the Apostles,” BibleProbe.com, retrieved November 14, 2013. And Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., “The Emperor Caligula and the Early Christian Martyrs,” RLHymersJr.com, retrieved December 12, 2016.

[xxv] “Ashoka,” Britannica.com, retrieved November 20, 2013.

[xxvi] “Asoka,” ThenAgain.info, retrieved November 26, 2013.

[xxvii] “Church History: Persecution,” Theologian.org.uk, retrieved November 18, 2013.

[xxviii] “State Church of Roman Empire,” Wikipedia.org, retrieved November 14, 2013.

Issues About Transformation

In this article, the following topics will be discussed: Accessibility to Lasting Liberation, Rapidity of Liberation, Mercy, Grace and Forgiveness, One’s Soul, Culture Clash, Valuing Women and Family, and Challenges to Transformation

Accessibility to Lasting Liberation

For the Buddhist, many years (if not many lifetimes) of prolonged, intense meditation are necessary to approach enlightenment (thereby escaping endless reincarnation). Very few are capable of doing this.

Jesus submitted to the necessity of being brutally sacrificed…to make possible the salvation of those who would place their faith in him and follow him.[i] Billions have claimed to be saved.[ii] [2.18 billion Christians worldwide in 2010]

Rapidity of Liberation

For the Buddhist, attaining liberation through self-purification is always a very slow process, at best. Usually it takes many lifetimes. Only an elite few have claimed to attain it in one lifetime. “By oneself the evil is done, by oneself one suffers; by oneself evil is left undone, by oneself one is purified. Purity and impurity belong to oneself, no one can purify another.”[iii]

For the Christian, salvation can occur very quickly, because it is founded on being considered pure by God on the basis of one’s acceptance of Jesus as Savior and Lord by faith.[iv] However, unless one submits to the Lordship of Christ, the reality of conversion may be questionable.

Mercy, Grace and Forgiveness

For the Buddhist, bad karma from misdeeds must be worked off through good deeds and renunciation. There is no mercy, grace or forgiveness from a higher power.

“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.”[v]

“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.”[vi]

For the Christian, past misdeeds can be completely forgiven when one repents and receives Christ in faith as Savior and Lord. The believer immediately receives the full mercy, grace and forgiveness of a loving God.[vii] There is risk that the forgiven believer may presume that God will automatically forgive them whenever they sin again.

One’s Soul

In Buddhism, the notion that one has a soul is an illusion.[viii]

In Christianity, each person has a soul that will continue to exist eternally, either in heaven or hell, after dying from one life here on earth.[ix]

Culture Clash

Westerners who engage in prolonged, intensive meditation often become depressed, disoriented or bipolar or suffer from panic attacks and weird health problems.[x] The intensity of isolation and self-denial needed to engage in prolonged, intense meditation is exceptionally difficult for Westerners to accept and adapt to.

Christians who intermingle their faith with the materialistic and self-seeking way of life of Western culture end up feeling miserable, not being able to enjoy either way of life. Jesus encouraged his disciples to seek first the kingdom of God, and then their needs would be met.[xi]

Valuing Women and Family

The Buddha followed the Jain tradition of high honor in leaving his wife and son to become a wandering ascetic. It is always preferable to reincarnate as a man than as a woman.

“Bad conduct is the taint of woman, greediness the taint of a benefactor; tainted are all evil ways in this world and in the next.”[xii]

“So long as the love of man towards women, even the smallest, is not destroyed, so long is his mind in bondage, as the calf that drinks milk is to its mother.”[xiii]

Jesus never married. He upheld the traditional Jewish emphasis on marriage and family.[xiv]

Jesus went out of his way to value and minister to the needs of women. Examples include healing crippled and sick women, visiting the home of Mary and Martha, and talking with the Samaritan woman about her life. At least one of his closest followers (Mary Magdalene) was a woman, and several women helped support Jesus and the disciples out of their own means.[xv]

Challenges to Transformation

In Buddhism, one looks deep within to tap into one’s inherently good buddha-nature,[xvi] while shutting out the distracting and debilitating nature of the outside world. It is critical to progressing toward liberation. For the Buddhist, staying focused is a constant battle against distractions.

“But life is hard to live for a modest man, who always looks for what is pure, who is disinterested, quiet, spotless, and intelligent.”[xvii]

“Be not thoughtless, watch your thoughts! Draw yourself out of the evil way, like an elephant sunk in mud.”[xviii]

In Christianity, the deep inner nature of every person is corrupted and rebellious toward God, and must be replaced by the filling of the Holy Spirit and a personal relationship with Jesus, through faith, not works.[xix] Temporarily relapsing back into self-centeredness is not unusual.[xx]

Acceptance of the Occult

In Asia, Buddhism typically blends in local superstitious beliefs and occult practices.  Vajrayana Buddhists adopted many native Tibetan beliefs (in a wide range of deities) as an integral part of their spiritual practices.[xxi]

Conservative Christians view all occult beliefs and activities as misguided, at best. As a result, opposition to Christians from occult spirits is widespread and intense.[xxii]


[i] Philippians 2:6-8.

[ii] “. . . in 2010 there were 2.18 billion Christians around the world, nearly a third of the global population.”  Christianity.About.com, retrieved November 19, 2013.

[iii] Dhammapada 165.

[iv] Romans 10:9.

[v] Dhammapada 15.

[vi] Dhammapada 16.

[vii] Acts 2:36-39.

[viii] Ernest Valea, “The Human condition in world religions,” ComparativeReligion.com, retrieved November 20, 2013.

[ix] Matthew 13:24-52, Luke 12:4-7, and John 5:24-30.

[x] R. E. Sherman, Buddha and Jesus: Could Solomon Be the Missing Link? (Charleston, CreateSpace, 2011). 280.

[xi] Luke 12:22-31.

[xii] Dhammapada 242.

[xiii] Dhammapada 284.

[xiv] Matthew 19:1-9.

[xv] Luke 8:1-3.

[xvi] “Buddha-Nature,” Wikipedia.org, retrieved November 20, 2013.

[xvii] Dhammapada 245.

[xviii] Dhammapada 327.

[xix] Romans 5.

[xx] James 3:13-18.

[xxi] “Tibetan Buddhism,” ReligionFacts.com, retrieved December 12, 2016.

[xxii] Patrick Zukeran, “Character of the Cults: A Christian Perspective,” Probe.org, retrieved December 12, 2016.

Transformation Offered, Part 2

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

Miracles

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

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

Pervasive Influence

The Buddha taught that what you think becomes your reality.

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

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

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

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

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”[x] Many people do not realize that the universe was created through Jesus.

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

Thoughts vs. Physical Reality

The Buddha taught,

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

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

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

Mindfulness

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

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

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

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

Looking Above or Within

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

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

Tolerance

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[viii] Dhammapada 1.

[ix] Dhammapada 2.

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

[xi] John 15:7 (NIV).

[xii] Dhammapada 1, 2b.

[xiii] Acts 17:28 (RSV).

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

[xv] Dhammapada 1.

[xvi] Dhammapada 2.

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

[xviii] Philippians 4:8 (NIV).

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

[xx] Luke 5:16 (NIV).

[xxi] Dhammapada 300.

[xxii] Dhammapada 406.

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

Transformation Offered, Part 1

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

The One and Only Way

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

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

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

Disciplines Advocated

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

The Buddha taught:

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus taught:

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

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

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

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

 

Empowerment

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

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

Source of Light to Mankind

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

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

Relationship to Followers

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

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

In the Book of John we read:

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

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

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

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


[i] Friedrich Max Muller, trans., The Dhammapada: A Collection of Verses, Being One of the Canonical Works of the Buddhists, in vol. 10, Part 1, The Sacred Books of the East, translated by Various Oriental Scholars, edited by F. Max Muller, available at “Dhammapada (Muller),” Wikisource, Dhammapada 274, 275. Dhammapada_(Muller). This work is cited as “Dhammapada” hereafter. To save space, line breaks in quotations from the Dhammapada have not been retained.

[ii] John 14:6 (NIV).

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

[iv] Romans 3:28 (NIV).

[v] Dhammapada 97.

[vi] Dhammapada 226.

[vii] Dhammapada 364.

[viii] Dhammapada 300.

[ix] Matthew 4:4 (NIV).

[x] Luke 18:1 (NIV).

[xi] John 14:26 (NIV).

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

[xiii] 1 Corinthians 2:16.

[xiv] Ezekiel 36:26 (RSV).

[xv] Dhammapada 89.

[xvi] John 8:12 (NIV).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nature of the Universe

The Buddha and Jesus had differing views on the nature of the universe and this world, and on this life and the next. In this article, we’ll look at their views on the universe, their existence prior to life on earth, their origin, why there is so much suffering in this life?, ignorance and sin, life in this world and the next, nirvana and heaven, and on whether reality is permanent and unchanging?

The Universe

The Buddha taught that the universe has always existed. It was never created. To the Buddhist, the universe is a given. The Buddha did not see any value in the discussion of the origin of the universe. He did not believe that gaining any knowledge of such matters would assist in a person being able in achieve liberation or nirvana.[i]

Jesus’ world view was that God created the entire universe suddenly,[ii] [God consisting of three persons: God the Father, Jesus, the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit, also called the Trinity].[iii] To the Christian, the universe was intentionally given existence by God, the creator.

Existence Prior to Life on Earth

The Buddha “was 83 times ascetic, 43 times Deva (a divine being), 18 times ape, 6 times elephant, 1 time thief, 1 time frog, 1 time snipe (a bird), 58 times king, 24 times Brahman, 10 times deer, 10 times lion, 1 time gambler and 1 time hare.”[iv]

Jesus was always one with God. As the Apostle John describes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”[v] Many people do not realize that Jesus, as part of the Trinity, created the universe.

Origin

Buddha…“practiced life after life over three periods of countless great eons to complete the requisite stores of merit and wisdom, and bring his development to perfection.”[vi]

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

Why so much Suffering in this World?

The Buddha taught life is suffering. The cause of suffering is desire. Eliminate all desire and suffering stops.[ix]

God created a perfect world for mankind to live in (the Garden of Eden).[x] God gave free will to mankind, and we chose to rebel against God’s authority, wanting to become like God.[xi] God allowed that, relinquishing control of the Earth to mankind, leaving us vulnerable to the deceptions and attacks of Lucifer, the chief of the fallen angels (aka Satan).[xii] Much suffering resulted, since the Earth became a battleground between people seeking to follow God and forces directed by Lucifer.[xiii]

Ignorance and Sin

The Buddha taught people are naturally ignorant of their inherent Buddha-nature deep within. That nature comprehends the connectedness and oneness of all sentient (i.e., conscious) beings and the universe in general. “And he who lives a hundred years, ignorant and unrestrained, a life of one day is better if a man is wise and reflecting.”[xiv]

Jesus taught, “…all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”[xv] “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[xvi] Jesus paid that penalty through his sacrifice on the cross, so that we might be freed from death and hell, and live in the Kingdom of God here on earth and the Kingdom of Heaven after we die.

Life in this World and the Next

The Buddha taught about reincarnation. In his world view, animals and people are nearly equal. “Mules are good, if tamed, and noble Sindhu horses, and elephants with large tusks; but he who tames himself is better still.”[xvii]

Jesus taught, “… people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”[xviii] After that each person will live eternally either in heaven or hell. People are clearly superior to animals.[xix]

Nirvana and Heaven

The Buddha taught that nirvana is not an actual physical place. It is the mental state of complete liberation from all suffering. It is characterized by an “imperturbable stillness of mind after the fires of desire, aversion, and delusion have been finally extinguished.”[xx] “This world is dark, few only can see here; a few only go to heaven, like birds escaped from the net.”[xxi]

Jesus taught that heaven is an actual physical place in the universe[xxii] where God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit reign and where all who have trusted in Jesus as their Savior and Lord will live forever. It will be 1,500 miles wide, deep and high,[xxiii] which would be big enough for every person who is now living to have half a cubic mile of room.

Reality: Permanent and Unchanging?

The Buddha taught that all things that appear to exist are impermanent. This is in complete contrast to nirvana, which does not change, decay or die.[xxiv] The belief that one has a soul is an illusion.[xxv]

Jesus taught while the universe God created is subject to great change, the existence, character and love of God never change.[xxvi] And “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”[xxvii]


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

[ii] Genesis 1:1.

[iii] Genesis 1:1-26, John 1:3.

[iv] Lit-Sen Chang, Asia’s Religions: Christianity’s Momentous Encounter with Paganism (Vancouver, Canada: China Horizon, 1999), 124. Source cited as Hardy, Robert Spence. The Legends and Theories of the Buddhists Compared with History and Science with Introductory Notices of the Life and System of Gotama Buddha, 2d ed. (London: F. Norgate, 1881), and A Manual of Buddhism in its Modern Development, 2d ed. (London: Williams and Norgate, 1880).

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

[vi] Dalai Lama, Becoming Enlightened (New York: Atria Books), 216.

[vii] John 1:1.

[viii] Revelation 17:14 & 19:16.

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

[x] Genesis 1:26,31.

[xi] Genesis 3:5-6.

[xii] Job 1:6-12.

[xiii] 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2, John 12:31, Matthew 4:8-9.

[xiv] Friedrich Max Muller, trans., The Dhammapada: A Collection of Verses, Being One of the Canonical Works of the Buddhists, in vol. 10, Part 1, The Sacred Books of the East, translated by Various Oriental Scholars, edited by F. Max Muller, available at “Dhammapada (Muller),” Wikisource, Dhammapada 111. This work is cited as “Dhammapada” hereafter. To save space, line breaks in quotations from the Dhammapada have not been retained.

[xv] Romans 3:23 (NASB).

[xvi] Romans 6:23 (NASB).

[xvii] Dhammapada 322.

[xviii] Hebrews 9:27 (NIV).

[xix] Genesis 1:26.

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

[xxi] Dhammapada 174.

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

[xxiii] Revelation 21:16.

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

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

[xxvi] Malachi 3:16.

[xxvii] Hebrews 13:8 (NASB).

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).