Violence in Thailand and Burma

Particularly in the West, Buddhism is considered a calm, almost passive religion. Its adherents are known for spending long periods of time meditating. But recent headlines regarding activities in Thailand and Burma (Myanmar) would be contrary to that notion.

Ashin Wirathu is a 46-year-old Buddhist monk and spiritual leader in Burma. He has been accused of hate speech, and is active on YouTube and other social media forums. Due to his vitriolic speeches against the Rohingya Muslims, he was sentenced in 2003 to 25 years in prison, but was released in 2010.[i] The July 1, 2013 edition of Time magazine featured Wirathu’s face on the cover, with the cover article’s title, “The Face of Buddhist Terror.”[ii]

On May 4, 2015, the Associated Press reported the arrest of three Thai officials and a citizen of Burma (Myanmar) after the finding 26 graves on the southern border of Thailand near Malaysia.[iii]

By May 6, CNN reported that number had grown to 30 to 40 graves of people believed to have been held by human traffickers. Southern Thailand is known as a “hot-spot for human trafficking.” Last year, the U.S. State Department reported Thailand as a Tier 3, the lowest ranking, in its “Trafficking in Persons” report. The remains are thought to be of Rohingya Muslims, fleeing from the ethnic violence in Buddhist-majority Burma. They are smuggled and/or captured by human traffickers and held for ransom. If they are unable to pay, they are held until they die from starvation or disease.[iv]

During the police raid, one lone survivor was found. He was left behind, because he could not walk. During his nine month captivity, he was moved between seven different camps. He estimated that 200 people were being held. He told police that the camp they found is not the only one with graves. A Rohingya activist, Abdul Kalam, estimates that dozens of camps have been set up, and that this raid has revealed “just the tip of the iceberg.” [v]

Most Americans see Buddhists as non-violent. Most Americans view Thailand as idyllic and credit that to Buddhism. The reality is that both Thailand and Burma are deeply troubled countries, and Buddhists are not immune to committing violence.


[i] “Ashin Wirathu,” Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashin_Wirathu, retrieved on June 11, 2015.

[ii] “Ashin Wirathu: Myanmar and its vitriolic monk,” BBC.com, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30930997, retrieved on June 11, 2015. See http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2146000,00.html for the text of the Time magazine article, “The Face of Buddhist Terror.”

[iii] “Thailand arrests 4, vows crackdown on human traffickers,” DailyMail.co.uk, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3067019/Thailand-arrests-3-vows-crackdown-human-traffickers.html, retrieved on June 11, 2015.

[iv] “At least 30 graves found in southern Thailand, and a lone survivor,” CNN.com, http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/02/asia/thailand-mass-graves/, retrieved June 11, 2015.

[v] “Thailand arrests 4, vows crackdown on human traffickers,” DailyMail.co.uk, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-3067019/Thailand-arrests-3-vows-crackdown-human-traffickers.html, retrieved on June 11, 2015.

 

Reviews: Becoming Enlightened and Jesus & Buddha: The Parallel Sayings

lamaBecoming Enlightened

Becoming Enlightened is a practical introduction to and handbook for anyone wanting an understanding of the practices and beliefs of Buddhism.

The information in the book is presented in prose, and twice again in “contemplations” or abbreviated lists itemizing the information. The first of these lists appears in the chapter initially presenting the information, and then all the contemplations are repeated again in a single chapter at the end of the book for quick reference.

Buddhist practices emphasize selflessness, altruism, kindness, tolerance, and compassion. Topics regarding karma, death and reincarnation, the impermanence of life, being a positive force for change, and developing wisdom are discussed.

Speaking of Buddha, the Dalai Lama states,

People the world over, regardless of whether they are Buddhist or not, are aware that there was someone called Gautama Buddha, praised for his profound and unique presentation on the nature of persons and objects and for his related teaching of the altruistic intention to become enlightened, in which others are cherished more than oneself. (page 216)

This accessible and matter-of-fact approach of presenting the steps for advancing toward enlightenment in every area of life is designed to assist the reader with making the practical day-to-day changes. For the non-Buddhist, it is an illuminating look into the philosophical underpinnings and practices of Buddhism.

It was written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and translated by Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D., who was his translator for ten years.

borgJesus & Buddha: The Parallel Sayings

Editor Marcus Borg set out to list parallels between Jesus and Buddha’s teachings and lives, by demonstrating parallels between their sayings and in the events surrounding their lives. He outlines parallels in numerous areas of their teachings and life stories, such as compassion, wisdom, materialism, inner life, and temptation, to name just a few.

 

The primary purpose of the parallels collected in this volume is not to make a scholarly case for similarity. We would need to include many more, as well as the debate whether and to what degree the dissimilarities count against similarity. Rather, the purpose of this collection is to provide opportunity for reflection and meditation. . . .

And so I invite you to ponder the parallels between these two enlightened teachers of an enlightenment wisdom. The path of which they both speak is a path of liberation from our anxious grasping, resurrection into a new way of being, and transformation into the compassionate life. (Editor’s Preface, page 11)

However, we take exception to his conclusions on the basis of three points:

  1. While there are a few points of comparison, many of these may be attributed to being generally accepted truths. However, many of the so-called parallels are weak at best.
  2. The author’s assumptions are deeply flawed in that he presents the parallels as though the texts he is quoting from have equal veracity. He fails to note that the New Testament authors were disciples of Jesus and eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life, teaching, death and resurrection, while the sayings attributed to Buddha and the writings about Buddha were not put in written form until centuries after he lived, and many of the events attributed to Buddha as miraculous and which appear to be parallel to Jesus’ life are known to be myths that developed over the centuries and were not documented facts about his life at all.
  3. Rather than Buddha being an influence on Jesus, the author fails to observe that Solomon may have been an influence on Buddha, since Buddha would have had access to Solomon’s writings as a Prince of northern India. This premise is explored in R. E. Sherman’s book, Buddha and Jesus: Could Solomon Be the Missing Link?

The editor offers this book as a volume for meditation, but the basic premise is so flawed as to nullify the value of this exercise.

Reviews: Sharing Your Faith with a Buddhist and Asia’s Religions

Sharing Your Faith with a Buddhist

thirumalai
Sharing Your Faith with a Buddhist contains an extensive description of the beginnings of Buddhism, and of the assorted forms of Buddhism and their distinctive variations by country, including very practical and appropriate approaches to take for sharing Christ with adherents to each major type of Buddhism.

Madasamy Thirumalai describes the teachings of Buddha as a “social program,” which is “geared more toward individuals than toward society.” (page 12)  While Christ offers us eternal life, “Gautama Buddha’s way focuses on extinction.” (page13)

Nirvana, appearing at the end of karma, is a condition of total freedom—total annihilation of self-beyond which there is no future birth. It is the total extinction of all desire and a final, complete release from suffering, including no consciousness (there is total peace, but no consciousness of peace). This is the goal of human beings—to have no existence. (page 29-30)

While Buddha’s individualism appeals to Westerners, Thirumalai compares the intellectualism and aloofness of Buddha to Jesus being actively involved with people and a servant to others. (38, 49-50)

The ministry of Jesus was, is, and will ever be for those who are lacking in spirit and body. Gautama Buddha represents an elaborate philosophical superiority, whereas Jesus represents the selfless servant-hood that focuses on the poor, the needy, and the dregs of society. This does not mean Gautama Buddha was haughty or boastful about his caste or his socioeconomic background or his spiritual attainment. It does mean his dominant feature was intellectualism, not service to others. (page 50)

He further contrasts “between the Buddhist insistence upon high attainments and the Christian demand for simple faith,” and presents Christianity as “message of hope and comfort rather than [the] despair and fatalism” of Buddhism. (page 61)

Additional topics covered are Idols, Relics, Animism, Pantheism, Polytheism, Magic, Divination, and Spirit Possession.

Madasamy Thirumalai is a professor of world religions and the academic dean at Bethany College of Missions in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has been a believer in Jesus for over 20 years, and he writes with knowledge and an intimate understanding of Buddhism, because he grew up in India and earned his Ph.D. in linguistics at the University of Calcutta, and he taught in universities in India.

chang

Asia’s Religions: Christianity’s Momentous Encounter with Paganism

Like a man who has been rescued from the desert and tasted his first glass of water, Lit-Sen Chang writes of six different Asian religions: Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Zen, Hinduism and Islam, with relationship to Christianity. Two chapters are devoted to each religion. The first puts forth an understanding of the religion describing the basic tenets, historical texts it is based on, and its influence on the world. This is done with an eye to comparison and contrasts with Christianity. The second chapter critiques the faults of each religion and ultimately how they pale in light of the life, death and resurrection of Christ, His sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and the hope that brings.

As a result, the study of pagan religions has too long been in the hands of non-evangelical or secular scholars who have stressed the similarities between Christianity and the non-Christian religious rather than emphasizing the supreme uniqueness of the Christian faith. (page XXXV)

Indeed, faced with Christ’s resurrection, all religious philosophers should give up all their disputing and vain imaginations. (page 26)

Throughout the book, he demonstrates that all of these Asian religions are paganism and states, “the chief characteristic of paganism is auto-soterism” (page 243) that is the effort of self-saving (versus the mercy and saving grace of God through Christ).

Christianity, unlike other natural ethnic religions, is not a set of philosophical systems or ethical teachings: but is “the way of life,” . . . (page 265)

Born in China and reared in a family rich in Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism, he writes not as one who has studied these religions, but as one who has lived and been completely immersed in them. Intent on improving the life of people in China by promoting the culture and religion of his people, he became a lawyer and a university professor, teaching in numerous universities. During the war against Japan (1937-45), he became a political leader, and eventually a key adviser to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, advising him on matters related to the war and national reconstruction. In 1949, he was invited to lecture at a leading university in India on Buddhism. The following year, he underwent a conversion of faith, and committed his life to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Serving in various capacities in other educational institutions, he later attended Gordon Divinity School, in the United States, and received a Bachelor of Divinity (1959). He spent the remaining years of his life writing of the Christian faith.

Possible Shift in China Regarding Buddhism

In 1959, during the invasion of Tibet by China, the 14th Dalai Lama fled and has lived in exile ever since.[i] While there has been no change in China’s official stance towards the Dalai Lama, there are indications that tensions in China may be relaxing towards Tibetan Buddhism.

While corrupt business practices have been ensconced, for some of the super-rich in China there is a search for new ways to be even more successful. This longing has manifested itself as a desire for good karma through practicing Buddhism, and spending their resources promoting Buddhism, and providing for Buddhist monks.

In a New York Times interview[ii] with John Osborn, author of Anxious Wealth: Money and Morality Among China’s New Rich, Osborn stated,

Now that every Shanxi coal baron’s mistress can afford Louis Vuitton, in order to differentiate themselves, other new rich are moving on to other pursuits and tastes.

I think this is part of what’s driving this interest in spiritual and moral cultivation. Some people are genuinely interested in spiritual transformation. But there’s also an element of social distinction that’s feeding this trend.

Osborn explained that some of the wealthy donating to monks and temples call it their “spiritual protection money,” but found that others have been more serious about applying Buddhist teachings to their lives. He said, “. . . I’ve encountered several people whose lives have been radically transformed by Buddhism.”

In a recent BBC article, “China’s Super-Rich Communist Buddhists,”[iii] BBC Journalist John Sudworth described being invited into a former senior Communist Party official’s home. There he witnessed Xiao Wunan sitting with Buddhist monk Geshe Sonam and beneath a portrait of the Dalai Lama and a Buddhist shrine. He explained that the idea of seeing a former official doing this would previously have been “preposterous” or “laughable,” yet it was exactly what Xiao was doing.

Further in the article, another wealthy Chinese businessman, Sun Kejia, said, “I was once confronted with great difficulties and problems in my business. I felt they couldn’t be overcome by human effort and that only Buddha, ghosts and God could help me.”

Thirty-six year old Sun’s fortune is estimated at over $100 million. He runs a chain of clubs, and he pays for Buddhist gurus to come and teach his clients. Sun said, “I desire influence.”  He describes his friends coming to his club as being “attracted to this place. I can use the resources they bring to do my other business. From that angle, it is also my contribution for spreading Buddhism. This brings good karma and so I get what I want.”

According to the Cultural China website[iv], Chinese worship the Tibetan Gods of Wealth, such as the:

  • Heavenly King of Wealth
  • Yellow Wealth God
  • Black Wealth God
  • White Wealth God
  • Umbrella Heavenly King

In addition, “Each time of the Spring Festival, every family will hang a picture of the god for blessings of great luck and large wealth.”

It is unknown when China as a nation might officially recognize the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhism, but it is evident at this time that the people of China have already begun to do so, and in particular many of the super-rich are in pursuit of karmic blessing and transformation.


[i] “Dalai Lama,” Wikipedia, retrieved February 9, 2015.

[ii] Ian Johnson, “Q and A with John Osburg on China’s Wealthy Turning to Spiritualism,” New York Times. (December 18, 2014), retrieved February 9, 2015.

[iii] John Sudworth, “China’s Super-Rich Communist Buddhists,” BBC.com. (February 7, 2015), retrieved February 9, 2015.

[iv] “Tibetan Buddhist Gods of Wealth,” CulturalChina.com, retrieved February 10, 2015.

Two Paths to Liberation (Part 5)

Behavior

To the Buddhist, violence is never acceptable behavior. For the Christian, using weapons in warfare can be acceptable if the conflict is clearly morally justified.

For the Buddhist, thinking good thoughts toward another is an essential part of having compassion, but providing physical assistance to meet their needs is optional. For the Christian, offering physical assistance is typically necessary for compassion to be real.

The main priorities in public building for Buddhists are monasteries and meditation centers. For Christians, the top projects are building churches, schools and hospitals.

The Buddha refused to perform miracles of healing because such would violate the operation of karma. Jesus miraculously healed many people in part as a demonstration of his compassion for them and his divinity.

Vegetarianism is the diet of choice for Buddhists because every animal may have been or will be a human being in some future reincarnation. Eating meat is an acceptable, and even a recommended, diet for Christians.

Having occulting beliefs and engaging in occultic practices is entirely acceptable in Buddhism. Indeed, the focus of meditation can be virtually anything or any spirit. What matters is the effective practice of meditation in disciplining the mind. In Christianity, no occultic beliefs or practices are acceptable.

 

                                 Buddhism Christianity
Is violence ever acceptable? No Sometimes war is necessary (e.g., WW II)
Compassion should include physical assistance Not necessary Necessary for it to be real
Top priorities in building Monasteries and meditation centers Churches, schools and hospitals.
Miracles of Healing OK? No. Violates karma OK if God gets the glory
Acceptable diet Vegetarianism OK to eat meat
Occult OK? Yes Never

 

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).