12. Answering Buddhism
should a Christian respond to Buddhism and the Buddhist? First
Christians should understand Buddhism is an ethical system, with
wrongs and rights. Before Christians see how they differ, they
should look and see what they have in common with Buddhism.
Buddhism recognizes the need to live a “Good” moral
life, refraining from actions called “sin” in Christianity.
Buddhism teaches people to refrain from stealing, lying and
committing adultery. Reflecting the standards of sin in the Ten
Buddhism also recognizes the temporary (Illusion)
view of this physical world. Although Christianity does not
deny its physical elements, the Bible clearly teaches the
temporary nature of this physical world (2 Peter 3;10,12, Isaiah
51:6, Hebrews 1;11,12,).
All the host of heaven shall be dissolved, And
the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll; All their host
shall fall down As the leaf falls from the vine, And as fruit
falling from a fig tree.
Buddhism, views this world as illusionary and deceptive, causing
attachment to this world, rather then to seeking truth.
The recognition of suffering in the world is the
first noble truth of Buddhism; Christianity also observes the
suffering in the world. Buddhism sees suffering as the result of
bad karma, not a fallen world. Christianity sees the
suffering because of our fallen nature and sin. However, both
Christianity and Buddhism see the suffering of humanity as a
focal point of humanities status. Buddhism’s solution is to
first recognize suffering, (1st Noble truth),
then to know attachment to this physical world is cause of this
suffering (2nd Noble truth). The Buddhist is
then two separate themselves from attachment to the physical (3rd
Noble Truth), and seek thee teachings of Buddha (4th
Noble Truth), as summarized in the Noble Eightfold Path.
The goal being to escape this physical world into Nirvana,
after a succession of lives filled with suffering. The hope of
the Buddhist is one day reincarnating into the body of a male
who will live a life worthy of escape from Samsara.
Christianity recognizes the suffering of Humanity,
unlike Buddhism, salvation from suffering in this physical and
temporary world only comes through having a “saving
relationship” with Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our
sins, to restore humanity. By His death, Jesus paid for our
sins, he took our suffering upon himself, to purchase our
redemption with His blood. By putting faith in Jesus Christ,
our account of sin and suffering is transferred to His work on
Unlike Buddhism, which depends on the works of the
individual for salvation, salvation in Christianity is dependent
on the work or Christ alone, who died for our sins. Salvation
is dependent on faith in Jesus Christ not human effort. (John
3:15-18, Romans 3:23-26,) Salvation is a gift from God to
humanity, a person cannot work for their salvation (Ephesians
area, where Buddhism and Christianity differ is in understand
what happens after death. The Buddhist have a modified
understanding of the Hinduism’s doctrine of reincarnation.
Buddhists believe following death, only the karmic elements
of the soul are reincarnated not the personal soul.
This doctrine is completely contrary to the
Christian concept of death, which can be summed up in Hebrews
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but
after this the judgment,
Bible clearly teaches that each individual only has one life on
this earth, following our life, we are eternally judged, with no
second chances of living another life. Those who have accepted
Jesus Christ as savior are ushered into His presence as a soul
without a body (Phil.
until the resurrection. While those who die without Christ, die
in their sins. At the end of this age, both saved and lost
receive their eternal bodies (resurrection) , the saved are with
Jesus Christ in eternity (I Thes.
while the lost dwell in the Lake of Fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
To reach Buddhists, the Christian should first
understand the difference between Western Buddhist and Asian
Buddhists. Most Asian Buddhist are from a Buddhist culture,
Buddhism is not only a theology for them, but part of their
culture and link to their community. To leave Buddhism for
Christianity, for Asian Buddhists may mean leaving their
cultural identity. With Asian Buddhists, Christians should also
be sensitive to communication gaps between cultures. Tissa
Weerasingha, a Christian pastor from Sri Lanka writes,
Buddhist were to be asked, “Do you want to be born again?,” he
might likely reply , “Please, no! I do NOT want to be born
again. I want to reach nirvana.” The Buddhist quest is for
deliverance from the cycle of rebirths. If a Buddhist confuses
“new birth” with “rebirth,” the Christian message will be
Its important to define terms, so the important
concepts are not lost in translation.
Reaching Western Buddhist, who are from a Christian
or post-Christian culture, is another task. Most have taken bits
and pieces of Buddhism, which are most appealing to them. Many
of these have no clue to the words and meanings of the prayers
they recite. For many being “ A Buddhist” is act of rebellion
against a western Christian culture, they have grown to reject.
A suggested procedure to reaching Buddhist could be
First start by trying to find out just how familiar the person
is with Buddhism, not all Buddhists know what Buddhism is.
Second, try to build a relationship of mutual understanding
sharing beliefs and communicating ideas.
Third try to establish the Buddhist view of Nirvana, the
ultimate destination. Buddhist have varying views of the final
Fourth, point to philosophical errors and shortcomings of
Buddhism as compared to Christianity.
Christian missionary, James Stephens, a former
Buddhist who founded the Sonrise
Center for Buddhist Studies suggest Christians ask Buddhist
about their concept of Nirvana, most followers of Buddhism will
have no clear explanation opening up the door for the following
“Subscribing to a religious system that gives no tangible idea
of one’s future destiny is like someone going to airport and
simply asking for a ticket. When asked for a destination, the
same person responds by saying, the same person responds by
saying, I don’t know just give me a ticket. When I get there,
I’ll know where it is”
Christian could then show the Buddhist, prophecies about Christ,
such as Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, which foretell the coming of the
Messiah, and his death after he came. He suffered for our sins.
Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the Lord
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root
out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see
Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and
acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from
Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him
For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has
enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; 17 I can
count all My bones. They look and stare at Me.
They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they
Jesus and Buddha
Buddhism comes into contact with Christianity, a comparison is
often made between Jesus and Buddha (Siddhartha
Gautama). In fact, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism,
the Dalai Lama was recently interviewed by James A. Beverly
for Christianity Today, who asked how Jesus could be
“Enlightened” and teach falsehood according to Buddhist
reminded him of his belief that Jesus is "a fully enlightened
asked, "If Jesus is fully enlightened, wouldn't he be teaching
the truth about himself? Therefore, if he is teaching the truth,
then he is the Son of God, and there is a God, and Jesus is the
Savior. If he is fully enlightened, he should teach the truth.
If he is not teaching the truth, he is not that
enlightened."……..As the Dalai Lama felt the momentum of the
question, he laughed more than at any other time in the
interview. He obviously understood the argument, borrowed from
C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity………."This is a very good
question," he said. "This is very, very important, very
important." Even in Buddha's case, he said, a distinction must
always be made between teachings that "always remain valid" and
others that "we have the liberty to reject."…….He argued that
the Buddha knew people were not always ready for the higher
truth because it "wouldn't suit, wouldn't help." Therefore,
lesser truths are sometimes taught because of the person's
ignorance or condition. This is known in Buddhist dharma
as the doctrine of uppayah, or skillful means. The Dalai
Lama then applied this to the question about Jesus……."Jesus
Christ also lived previous lives," he said. "So, you see, he
reached a high state, either as a Bodhisattva, or an
enlightened person, through Buddhist practice or something like
that. Then, at a certain period, certain era, he appeared as a
new master, and then because of circumstances, he taught certain
views different from Buddhism, but he also taught the same
religious values as I mentioned earlier: Be patient, tolerant,
compassionate. This is, you see, the real message in order to
become a better human being." He said that there was absolutely
no lying involved since Jesus' motivation was to help people.
In this interview, the Dalai Lama was forced to
either say Jesus was a liar, lord or lunatic. While saying
there was “”Absolutely no lying”, the Dalai Lama called Jesus a
liar, who taught false hood, according to Buddhism. According
to the Dalai Lama, Jesus was enlightened but knowing told lies,
Himself being the Son of God and God being personal, both which
contradict Buddhist teaching. So either Jesus lied, or was a
lunatic. In the last line of the quote, the Dalai Lama
basically says the lying was justified because the “motivation
was to help people”. Trying to fit Jesus into Buddhist
doctrines does not work, because Buddhism and Christianity are
Today, many are trying to compare Buddha and
Jesus as two similar spiritual beings with two similar
messages. As we shall see, this is false. Jesus and Buddha
have very little in common. Jesus in commenting on the teaching
of Buddha and others who claimed the “Keys to salvation” apart
from God’s revelation in scripture said,
Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I
am the door of the sheep.
who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the
sheep did not hear them.
"I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved,
and will go in and out and find pasture.
"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to
destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may
have it more abundantly.
Jesus preached exclusive truth; there is only one way for
salvation, through Christ alone, He called others who came
before him thieves and robbers. Buddha, taught the way of
escape (Salvation) was by following his teachings as revealed in
the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold path.
With Good works, resulting in good Karma, one might escape into
Jesus and Buddha an evaluation
When we compare Jesus and Buddha, what we are really
asking is, who is the messenger of truth? Though both taught
people how to live moral lives, both Jesus and Buddha claimed to
know the answers to the questions most important to those alive
What happens after we die?
there a heaven or hell?
there something I can do, while I am alive, to determine my
teachings of Buddha and Jesus both address these questions for
humanity, but can they both cannot be right. The answers given
by Jesus and Buddha both have contradictory claims so they both
cannot teachers of ultimate truth. For example, Jesus taught He
alone was the way to Heaven, and there is only one life. Buddha
taught, salvation is attained through self-effort, after living
many lives, you attain nirvana. Both Jesus and Buddha cannot be
right. They may both be wrong, but they cannot both be right,
because their claims contradict each other.
how can we know if Buddha or Jesus was right? Is there a way to
evaluate, whether Jesus or Buddha has the truth, or do we just
have to wait until we die to find out?
place to start is to examine and compare the teaching of
Buddhism and Christianity. This ultimately leads us to the
history behind each person. What is the basis on their
teachings? Did they just appear and say accept me, I have the
truth? Is there a basis to their claims?
The basis of Jesus Christ
The basis of Buddha
The Old Testament:
Jesus Christ claimed to be the Messiah (Christ), the
redeemer of humanity promised at the fall of man. From
four hundred to over a thousand-year, before Jesus, God
spoke through prophets, who foretold the events
surrounding the coming of Messiah.
For example, in Micah 5:3, were told he would be born in
Bethlehem. 2 Samuel
tells us he would be a descendent of King David. Daniel
9:24-27, tells us the exact time when Messiah will be
killed and what happens after his death. Isaiah 53,
talks about his rejection by his people the Jews, and
how his death would pay for the sins of the world.
All this and more was revealed in the scriptures before
Jesus came, to prove the identity of the Messiah and his
work on the cross. The Old Testament identified the
Messiah as God himself who would dwell in flesh. (Isaiah
Buddha’s basis is Hinduism. Most of the doctrines and
teachings of Buddha are steeped in Hinduism. The
concepts of Karma, Reincarnation,
Samsara and Illusion comes from the Vedic
(Wisdom) teachings of the Aryan tribes which migrated
into India. Buddha, himself claims to be one in a
succession of Buddha’s. According to Buddhism, another
Buddha is coming, Maitreya. The concept of
incarnations of into the realm of the living is also a
Hindu concept. In Hinduism, Vishnu would
incarnate himself as an avatar, Buddha is believed to be
the 9th incarnation of Vishnu after Ram
So in essence, Buddhism is a sect of Hinduism, without
the Caste System
and some other aspects. So the question needs to be
asked, Is Hinduism inspired? Are the Aryan Vedas
inspired? Is there any evidence?
The evidence for the Jesus and the Bible is
substantial. Archeological and Historical Evidence
demonstrate the accuracy of the Bible from a historical
perspective. Super-natural evidence demonstrates the
Bible as having a supernatural source (The God of the
The Bible reveals the person of Jesus Christ before he
came. Giving us details which could only be fulfilled
by the Jesus of Nazareth. The
weeks of Daniel gives the exact month, day and year
Jesus would be cut off, 539 years before his birth.
The Bible also reveals events in the future, events
happening today regarding Israel, Jerusalem and the
Jewish people as evidence the God of the Bible is only
God, there is no other.
The evidence of Buddha being a historical figure is not
denied by anyone, nor is the fact that he started
Buddhism. The question is was his revelation
super-natural. Again, we have to understand, Buddha
preached a reformed Hinduism. What he taught was not
unlike the teachers of Jainism or Hinduism. His
teaching modified some of Hindu doctrines, but in
essence Buddhism is Hinduism, without the caste system,
and without a focus on Brahman
The text of the Bible both Old and New Testaments are
preserved through manuscripts. The oldest existing
Hebrew Manuscripts (The Dead Sea Scrolls) prove the
integrity of manuscript transmission. The Greek
translation of the Old Testament (Septuagint) also
affirm the transmission of the Old Testament.
The New Testament manuscripts we have are dated as early
as 50 years (John Rylands) to150 years from its
Texts: Pali Canon Tripiṭaka
The Pali Canon is one the earliest
existing scripture collections of the Buddhist
tradition. These scriptures were recited orally from the
time of the Buddha and were put into writing in
Sri Lanka around 30 BC. So for 500 years, after Buddha,
what he said was not even written down.
The other texts of Mahayana and Vajrayana branches of
Buddhism are even less reliable then the Pali Canon and
number in the thousands.
Jesus and Buddha
Jesus died for our sins, being crucified on the
Cross. By our faith in Christ we are given the gift
of grace by God. (John 3:16-18, Ephesians 2:1-10,
Salvation is available to all who accept Jesus
(Biblical Jesus) and call on his name for salvation.
Buddha according to Buddhist teaching attained
Nirvana, exiting into annihilation. The salvation
for the Buddhist is to escape into annihilation and
end the cycle of reincarnations and suffering. (Samsara).
According to orthodox Buddhism, to attain Nirvana
you must be a male Buddhist monk.
Jesus claims to be “Truth”. The only way of
Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the
life. No one comes to the Father except through
Buddha taught there is no reality in this physical
world, all is an illusion. The way out of this
illusion is to follow the Buddha’s 4 Noble Truths
and the 8 fold path. This will then take the
karmic elements toward the point of annihilation.
Every person is a unique individual soul, who will
live for eternity, with memory of their life on
earth. Each person lives one life, after our life
on earth is judgment. (Hebrews 9:27, Luke
16:20-31,) The Lord God created the soul of the
person at conception. (Zechariah 12:1)
Each person now living has lived past lives; In
Buddhism there is no soul, only Karmic elements that
are preserved from reincarnation to reincarnation.
After death, the soul of the individual goes to
Heaven or Hell. There is only one life for each
person. In this life we need to make our decision
where we will spend eternity. According to the
Bible there are no second chances after death.
According to Buddhism if a human does not obtain
nirvana or enlightenment, as it is known, the
person cannot escape the cycle of death and
rebirth and are inevitably be reborn into the 6
possible states beyond this our present life, these
being in order from the highest to lowest;
1. Heaven 2. Human life, 3. Asura 4. Hungry Ghost 5.
Animals 6. Hell
(See attached Table)
There is one God who created the heavens and the
earth, who has revealed Himself in three persons,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ was the
incarnation of God, who came to die for our sins on
Though most Western Buddhist deny the existence of
God in Buddhism, this is not so clear cut. As
Buddha himself in most ways held Hindu beliefs.
According to the Pali Canon, Brahma the
creator-god of Hinduism appeared to Buddha after his
enlightenment. In some parts of the world Buddha or
his disciples are worshipped as gods. Pure Land
Buddhism is example where Buddha is worshipped
as god and savior. In Buddhism…there are many
gods…because Buddhism for the most part is
polytheistic Hinduism without and emphasis on
Heaven as understood by most is the presence of God.
When the saved Christian dies, he enters Heaven to
be with Christ. (John 14:1-6, Phil. 1:23)
After death, there are according to some Buddhist
traditions up to 37 levels of heaven. And you rest
there until your karma runs out.
According to Jesus, Hell is a real place where
un-saved souls go after death. (Luke 16:20-31).
Naraka or Neraka, in Buddhism and Hinduism, is the
underworld and Hell. In Hinduism, there are many
hells, and Yama, Lord of Justice, sends human beings
after death for appropriate punishment. Such
punishment can be in boiling oil, etc. However,
Naraka in Hinduism is not equivalent to Hell in
Christian ideology. Naraka is only a purgatory where
the soul gets purified of sin by sufferings.
God is objective truth, God established what is
right and wrong. When we violate God’s will this is
known as sin. In Christianity there is an objective
right and wrong. (Exodus 20:1-17)
Buddhism has no objective right or wrong according
to Buddhist. They have right or wrong thinking and
actions, which lead to good or bad karma.
Buddhism and Its relationship to Hinduism and Jainism
Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha following the earlier
formations of Hinduism and Jainism.
(563 to 483 B.C.)
Buddhist writing in fact prove the Jainist influence
Many of the principles of Buddhism are clearly derived
or Lord Mahavira founded Jainism before Buddha was even
born. The similarity of Buddhism and Jainism begs the
question did Buddha copy Jainism concepts.
Sanskrit: Extinction, or Blowing Out this concept is
present in both Hinduism and Buddhism
Siddhartha Guatama (Buddha) redefined this term which is
common in both Hinduism and Jainism.
Nirvana is the stopping of Samsara, the cycle of birth
and rebirth. The Atman(Soul) is united with Bhraman.
Buddha however choose to not clearly define the end.
In Jainism the In Jainism, Moksha and Nirvana are the
same. When a soul (atman) achieves Nirvana, it is
released from the cycle of births and deaths, and
achieves its pure self. It then becomes a Siddha
(literally one who has accomplished his ultimate
objective), and hence a god, worthy of worship
sanskrit, roughly law or way) is the way of the higher
This term is used for both Hinduism and Jainism to
describe their system of the “Way”
from the Sanskrit root yuj ("to yoke")
meaning to yoke with the divine.
Buddha, became a Yogi, after he left the palace and
according to Jainism was under the influence of Jain
Yogis. Demonstrating Buddhism is a Hindu sect.
Hinduism see Buddha as a Hindu Yogi.
Jainism founder was a Hindu Yogi, showing Jainism like
Buddhism is actually Hinduism. Buddhist scriptures
record philosophical dialogues between the wandering
seeker Buddha and Udaka Ramaputta, who
appears to have been a Jain teacher (having taught a
doctrine of eight types of karma).
, "to flow together," to go or pass through states, to
This term is used in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism to
describe the cycle of birth and rebirth, prior to
Hinduism is the basis of this term. Both Buddhism and
Jainism demonstrate their total dependence on Hindu
Jainism also has this doctrine.
from the root kri, "to do", meaning deed)
This a purely Hindu doctrine which Buddha based his
understanding of attaining the right amount of “Good”
Karma. In Buddhism, only intentional actions are karmic
"acts of will". The 'Law of Karma' refers to "cause and
Palī kamma in Indian philosophy, the influence of an
individual's past actions on his future lives, or
reincarnations. The doctrine of karma reflects the Hindu
conviction that this life is but one in a chain of lives
This is also a foundational doctrine of Jainism.
Buddhism there is no reincarnation of the soul, just the
Karmic elements. Tibetan Buddhists do believe that a
new-born child may be the reincarnation of someone
departed, like the
The idea that the soul reincarnates is intricately linked
to karma, whose first explication was also seen in the
Hindu books of the Upanishads. The idea is that
individual souls, jiva-atmas pass from one plane of
existence and carry with them samskaras (impressions)
from former states of being.
In Jainism, gods reincarnate after they die. A Jainist, who
accumulates enough good karma, may become a god; but,
this is generally seen as undesirable since gods
eventually die and one might then come back as a lesser
Sanskrit: ma: not, ya: this,
translated illusion. The view world we live in is an
Buddha, borrowed this concept from Hinduism, and
is the illusion of a limited, purely physical and mental
reality in which our everyday consciousness has become
entangled, a veiling of the true, unitary Self, also
known as Brahman.
or ignorance, of one's true self,
And the state of illusion,
The Same as Hinduism, except reincarnation involves only
the Karmic elements and only transfers to humans and not
In Hinduism, it is
or ignorance, of one's true self, that leads to
ego-consciousness of the body and the phenomenal world.
This grounds one in desire and the perpetual chain of
The state of illusion is known as
The Creator God
Though Buddhist claim Buddhism is an atheistic religion
that does not have a creator-god, their scripture
contradicts this claim. In fact after his
enlightenment, two Hindu gods appeared to Buddha. One
of these gods was Brahma
who is the creator-god, according to the Pali Canon.
The Hindus have a pantheon of gods and goddess. The
main god is Brahman, the supreme god. The senior god of
the hindu trinity
Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma was the creator god who appeared to Buddha,
according to Buddhist scripture.
The founder of Jainism renounced Brahman. But later his
disciples worshipped him as god.
6 Realms of Buddhist
In the Buddhist viewpoint, there are 6 different realms we can
be reborn into. And beings in each of these states has different
degrees of happiness and suffering. These realms are namely:
The Upper Realms
The Lower Realms
These Realms represents 6 different states of existence. Though
some cannot be readily seen, they can be experienced. These 6
realms also represent 6 different states of mind a person might
continually go through.
It is important to note that in Buddhism, gods are
not beings that control or intervene in our daily
lives. Rather, they are beings who experience a
great deal of happiness as life goes on smoothly for
a long time with absence of general suffering.
However, this state is only temporal. We all, at one
time or other, have had such an experience. When
"everything" goes our way, as we wish, we are
experiencing a state very similar to the gods.
These are beings who are constantly in an aggressive
or competitive state of mind. They have great
wealth, yet they are always reaching out, striving
for more. In our modern world many of us are not
unlike them. We live a generally high standard of
life. Yet, we are constantly seeking and reaching
out for more endlessly.
In this state we experience a mix of happiness and
suffering. It is also in this state that we are able
to attain Buddhahood. Thus a Buddhist would strive
not to be born as a god but as a human, as it is as
a human that we are most able to best practice the
The most powerful force acting on animals is
ignorance. They are guided mainly by instincts where
the preoccupying thoughts are food, sex and material
comfort. Many of us have had experiences when
craving for food or sex is so strong that we do
things that we might regret later. A person who is
too preoccupied by these thoughts is thus somewhat
bestial or animal in nature.
In the ghost realm, beings are in a state of
neurotic desire, and not having them fulfilled. They
are always filled with great hunger or thirst. We
have often seen people in less fortunate nations in
great hunger due to drought or war. Their living is
not unlike beings in the ghost realm. Closer to
home, many people experience neurotic craving for
relationships and cause great pain to both parties.
These beings, of all the realms, are the ones
suffering from the most pain. These beings suffer
from constant acute physical and mental pain. These
descriptions fit the details of the ways in which
many prisoners-of-war have been tortured.