I stumbled across an interesting comparison of Jesus and Buddha at the Desiring God blog.
In commenting on Mark 10:21, where Jesus says “go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me”, Jon Bloom wrote: “Note that Jesus did instruct the man to become detached from his possessions, but he did not mean a Buddhist detachment. The Buddha taught that nothing lasts, so be attached to nothing. Jesus taught that One Thing lasts, so at all cost, be attached to that!”
This mirrors my own experience, having walked both paths. The teaching of Buddha and Jesus were very similar in some ways, very different in other ways.
Image: from the Japanese manga “Saint Young Men”
17 thoughts on “Jesus and Buddha on Happiness”
Mate, good thought there. And I love the image. I want to do something on contrasting the teaching of both Jesus and Buddha now just so that I can use that image.
I have often wondered; if they had met what would the conversation have been like?
Is there a good (read short) book that explores that issue?
Very interesting! I posted a comment to Jon over on the entry you linked to. Once it’s approved, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what I said too, Matt. Not to mention those of a couple of your readers. 😉
What a dreadful image. Neither of the characters look remotely happy and are obviously completely self-involved and dissociated from each other – and incredibly bored too.
I can’t remember if I’ve actually read this or not, but here’s such a book (it gets mixed reviews, though): http://www.amazon.com/Lotus-Cross-Jesus-Buddha-Conversations/dp/B002T4523A/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1289188355&sr=1-1
“The Buddha taught that nothing lasts, so be attached to nothing. Jesus taught that One Thing lasts, so at all cost, be attached to that!”
I like that.
“When you mix falsehood with truth, you create an even more destructive lie.”
-“Jesus,” p. 38
The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha (Great Conversations)Ravi Zacariah
That is from the the text Scott Rayl has recommended. As much as it is with the source text by Jon Bloom and book by Ravi Zacharias.
It is a little disappointing given the vast interpretations/misintepretations of the various forms of Christianity in the past that one would make statements on a belief system or philosophy one has little knowledge to comment on.
The single most apparent and fundamental misintepretation or falsehood of Buddhism in the texts is the referral to “The Buddha”. Buddha has never been purportated to be a single person/entity/higher power as God is considered. In fact, Buddha means elightenment and has been used over the centuries for those who have acheived this enlightenment, Starting with its founder Guatama.
To represent the teachings of many Buddhas and four schools of thought on Buddhism over the centuries as an oversimplified and at times misinterpreted understanding of Buddhism aimed at those most likely not of the tradition or of another faith is quite disheartening.
Ravi Zacariah’s text is quite biased and opinionated. I found it offensive in parts. I found the way both Jesus and “The Buddha” Guatama were represented to be very negative and am surprised Jesus was presented in a somewhat aggressive almost bullying nature. Not to mention the portayal of Buddha to be less than compassionate and empathic contradicting the very purpose and message of Buddhism. This may be due to Ravi’s lack of narrative skill, however highlight somewhat the perspective and intentions of the author which I find thought provoking.
I would much prefer to have read a text co-written by Ravi and a Buddhist scholar for a more factual intellectual and theological comparison, even if the text were longer. The text lends itself to misguiding Christians on the values and beliefs of Buddhism due to its unfair representation.
Ravi Zacariah’s text would be best decribed as an opinionated narrative presenting a critic on Buddhism from a Christian view point. Ravi’s knowledge of the bible is obvious, his knowledge of Buddhism despite his apparent consultation of Buddhists from all schools is not.
It would be pertinent to add that I am not a practising Christian nor Buddhist in the official sense. I am very interested in the history and differences in religion and philosphies of the ages as well as the various doctrines and the similarities/disimilarities they share. I have however participated in the teachings of both in the past.
Brian, actually, for a short but sweet book I’d recommend “If I were God I’d end all the pain” by John Dickson. It’s not about Jesus and Buddha per se, but rather, it contrasts differing attitudes towards suffering from a variety of perspectives including Buddhism, Islam and Atheism in addition to Buddhism and Christianity. As the search to transcend suffering was at the heart of the Buddha’s search I think it’s not bad as a basis for kicking off some Christian and Buddhist dialogue.
I’m not sure I could recommend too many others. My own switch from Zen meditation to Christian discipleship was intensely personal and most of what I’ve read falls far short of describing or even adequately charting my own experience. Most books covering the topic seem to be too syncretistic or too unsympathetic and cold.
Jarred, good point, though possibly a bit overstated. I don’t think Buddha was anti-friendship, but I think he would have said: friending, defriending, be attached to neither.
In any case, in my experience the path of Jesus is far more intensely social and personal than the path of Buddha. Hence the greater emphasis on corporate spirituality and interpersonal forgiveness.
Scott, I can recall browsing The Lotus and The Cross but can’t recall why I didn’t buy it.
But speaking more broadly, many Evangelical apologists just come across as just too modernist for me. I’ve always pushed back against the dual conversion, to both western logic and Christian conviction. I inclined to embrace the latter without taking the former as particularly essential.
What I’d like to see is something that affirmed meditation practice AND Christ-centered living, something that challenged Buddhist pantheism without presuming commitment to Western mind-body dualism.
Jenna, I can’t comment on Ravi’s book, not having read it, but at face value I don’t understand your problem with him referring to Siddhārtha Gautama as “The Buddha”. Siddhārtha did after all refer to himself as “The Enlightened One” if Buddhist biographies about him are to be believed.
As for multiple Buddhas, I agree this is true of Mahayana Buddhism but I’d challenge this as an interpretation of Theravada Buddhism. Could it be that you’re emphasizing the Mahayana interpretation and Ravi is emphasizing the Theravadan interpretation and the differences of opinion between the two of you lie somewhere in there?
As for claims he’s over opinionated, well, I’d have to read it before Icould comment either way. See my comments to Scott on that score.
Would like to hear about your switch from Zen meditation to Christian Discipleship.
There are contemplative traditions in Christianity…but they haven’t always been emphasized.
Author R. E. Sherman believes that the connection between Buddha and Jesus is really a connection between Buddha and Solomon. Solomon taught about meditation, as well as many of the ideas presented in Buddha’s proverbs. Sherman’s book is called Buddha and Jesus: Could Solomon Be the Missing Link? (www.buddha-christ.info)
I downloaded the sample from Amazon about a month ago, but I didn’t buy it as what I read didn’t strike me as particularly rigourous. Nevertheless, it was a stimulating suggestion. My thoughts so far? I am doubtful of a direct connection between Buddha and Solomon. Nevertheless, I’ve long held that Ecclesiastes is a great book for Buddhists to read, as it deeply reasonates with me as a former practioner of Zen meditation and continuing practitioner of Psalm-inspired Christian meditation. Its important to read the book holistically though. When read as a whole it becomes clear that its an example of cynical wisdom. It plays with the paradox of human wisdom vs divine foolishness. Solomon seeks everything “under the sun”, but the final paragraph challenges us: what if the universe is not so closed, what of our wisdom then?
Thanks for your reply. I wasn’t notified about it, so I’m just coming across it now. Sherman’s thoughts include Buddha being born a prince and having access to the wisdom of the day, which would include Solomon’s proverbs (400 years earlier), and the proximity of Jewish settlements near Buddha’s home around the time of his birth. By the way, I’m not Buddhist. I’m a follower of Christ, and meditate on the Bible.
Wonderful subject thread. In part of my teens, I was a serious, practicing Christian. Since then, I’ve thought of myself as a seeker, leaning more towards Buddhist principles and a syncretic approach. Now in midlife, I find myself drawn more to the Christian concepts of forgiveness and divine grace (not trying to do it all alone).
Matt, I have to commend and thank you for this blog. From what I’ve seen so far, you’ve managed to avoid that ugly strain of evangelism that burdens most Christian dialogue and which partly drove me from Christianity as a young man. I’ve been looking for a blog like this in my continued “quest”.
Thanks Royce. In reflecting on my own journey – having had some time to do this over the holidays – it has again struck me how much I owe Chinese philosophy – especially Ch’an (Zen) and Daoism – for helping my to transcend the Western philosophical tradition and explore Christ from a more global/holistic perspective.