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).

Two Paths to Liberation (Part 4)

Suffering

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

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

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

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

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

 

Two Paths to Liberation (Part 3)

Nature of Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)

When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)

When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!

Let’s look at some topics on which the Buddha was silent, or nearly so. Of the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, the Buddha refers to neighbors three times:

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

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

There is bad reputation, and the evil way (to hell), there is the short pleasure of the frightened in the arms of the frightened, and the king imposes heavy punishment; therefore let no man think of his neighbour’s [sic] wife. (Dhammapada 310)

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

Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

Have Integrity in Word and Deed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be Kind

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

Don’t Covet

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

Don’t Go to Court

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

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

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

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

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

The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)

When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!

Let’s look at some topics on which the Buddha was silent, or nearly so. Of the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, the Buddha makes 14 references to god or gods. Here is a sample:

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

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

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

 

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

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

God Gives Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding

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

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

 

Kindness Honors God

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

 

God Is a Refuge

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

 

Fear of God

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

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

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

 

God’s Work is Unfathomable

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

 

God Is our Provider

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

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

 

The Future Is in God’s Hands

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

 

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

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

Two Paths to Liberation (Part 2)

Spiritual Growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two Paths to Liberation (Part 1)

Paths to Liberation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The following chart summarizes the above narrative.

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

 

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

The following is a continuation in the series which began with: Whose Proverbs Covered a Broader Range of Topics: Buddha or Solomon? (What About Women?)

When Solomon taught on something, an amazing 48% of the time the Buddha was silent! Interestingly, those topics on which the Buddha was silent are totally predictable and expected. The Buddha was raised as a prince and totally renounced his wealth, status and family to give up everything in search of wisdom. So on what matters was the Buddha nearly silent? All the things he renounced: wealth, government, power, business, women, family, and children!

Let’s look at some topics on which the Buddha was silent, or nearly so. Of the 423 proverbs of the Buddha, the following ones pertain to children:

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

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

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

Consider these proverbs of Solomon:

Parent’s Righteous Life

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

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

Wisdom and Righteousness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Discipline (Training)

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

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

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

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

A Blessing

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

Inheritance

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

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

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

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