Thursday, November 12, 2009

What Does Buddha Offer and What Does Jesus Offer?

I've been in dialog with several Buddhists from around the world in my blog post "Jesus Outshines Buddha. Read the comments to see our dialog.

From my interaction with them, I've begun to believe that it would be helpful for me and for you, my readers, to encounter some positive comparisons between these very different worldviews. I've heard people say all religions or philosophies teach people how to be better. If so, I want to hear about how, specifically.

I hope and have been praying that this blog post will serve to invite Jesus followers and Buddhists to post comments answering this one question:

How has Jesus or Buddha's teaching impacted your life in a positive way? Within this question is embedded the further interesting query of what attracted you to either Jesus or Buddha's life and teaching rather than the other? The more personal and specific you can be, the more interesting your input will be to all of us.

Try to avoid writing things like, "Jesus has saved me" or "Buddha provided the Noble Truths" instead tell us precisely how you've become a better person and how you've appropriated your religious founder's teaching. For example, if you post about how Jesus has saved you, we all want to know what you mean. What has Jesus saved you from? What does 'salvation' mean to you? Please reference the passages in the Holy Book that back up your beliefs, so we can all learn and read more for ourselves.

Holy Books

Like Christianity, Buddhism has different branches, Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana to mention a few, so let's be open to hearing about varieties within their belief system. For instance, as far as I can tell, Theravada Buddhists believe the canon to be closed with the Pali Canon Tipitaka and Mahayana Buddhists believe the canon is still open to more sacred scriptures. Christians look to the Bible as their holy book, Catholics include a few more books in this body of work, while Protestants a few less. Theravada Buddhists rely on the Pali Canon Tipitaka (includes Buddha's sermons, rules for monks and philosophy), Mahayana Buddhists favor the Lotus Sutra (Saddharma-pundarika) and the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajna-paramita) and other writings, Vajrayana Buddhists use the Kanjur and the Tanjur. So keep an eye out for these holy books in our discussion below.

Defining Terms

To get us started, I'd like to point out that there are significant differences in Buddhists and Christians understanding of things like salvation, enlightenment, death, worldview and the purpose of life. This means it is all the more important for each of us to define our terms.

I'd like to begin by re-quoting a few ideas my new Buddhist friend from Malaysia, Rahula, a knowledgeable blogger who I hope will be posting more of his insights here. To see Rahula's comments on the topic of Buddha and women look 1/2 way down in the comments on Jesus Outshines Buddha.

Enlightenment for a Buddhist means: the extinction of lust, hatred and delusion. (Samyutta Nikaya, 38:1-2). This is the definition given for nibbana and arahant.

In Siddhartha’s case, he is said to attain enlightenment when he had:

i)knowledge of recollection of his past lives;

ii)knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of beings; and finally,

iii)knowledge of the destruction of the taints/defilements (Maha Saccaka Sutta)

Rahula's explanation of enlightenment makes me think harder about what Buddha offers and what Jesus offers. How is Jesus' offer of "abundant life" and "living water"(John 10:10, John 4:13) different from Buddha's of enlightenment?

Rules of Engagement

Anyone can post here, I only ask you all abide by a few rules of respectful engagement in your commenting:

  1. Define your terms: whether they be "sin" or "samsara", "atonement" or "nirvana".
  2. Do ask questions of one another. Seek clarity from people who hold a different worldview than you do, ask them to help you understand better.
  3. Do not patronize, disrespect or in any way belittle other people's beliefs. If you do the latter I will reject your blog post.
  4. I invite you to include your email address at the end of our comment so that if your comment is rejected I can email you the offending section and you might be helped to re-post with offensive material deleted. This will help us all learn how to be more honoring in our discussion.
  5. I promise to carefully read every comment submitted. Since I come to this discussion as a follower of Jesus I want to be extra careful to not favor Christians more than Buddhists. So no matter how incredible your argument, do not insult, patronize or accuse others, if you do I will reject your comment. Ask questions, seek understanding, be willing to find Buddhists or Christians who do not fit what we may have previously believed about each other.
  6. I reserve the right to jump in and direct our conversation away from what appears to me to be a tangent and keep us on topic (the positive benefits of following Jesus or Buddha). My comments may be long or short depending on my job as facilitator. I ask that you, however, limit your responses to one comment to each person you are responding to (~4000 characters- blogger will let you know if your comment is too long). This will ensure our writing prevents us from overwhelming each other with exhausting, multiple comments to each other.
  7. As new comments come up feel free to post additional comments. I do not want to limit the times you post on this blog, but I do want the limit the number of comments you post to one person. We don't want to bombard or monologue each other away from discussion.
  8. If you have every taken a comparative religion class you will have amassed beliefs about other people's worldview. Take care when assuming this means you also understand the entire religion. I have been both falsely accused as believing things Jesus never taught and I have been guilty of accusing others of believing things Buddha never promoted. This blog and the ensuing comments are a place to learn. Please ask questions of one another for clarity, but do not assume you know more than adherents of any religion, unless you ask them first.
  9. If more rules are needed I will highlight them in the comments with "NEW RULE ALERT."
One Way Jesus Has Helped Me

I'll get this started with a few things I've found Jesus has given me.

Jesus has given me steady companionship, someone I can ask questions of and find direction from. He promised he would be a friend to his followers (Matthew 28:20, John 15:15). For instance, I've struggled with lust and Jesus has been someone I can actively engage in my struggle. As I've written in a previous post, I practice inviting Jesus into my lustful thoughts and he works a 180 degree change in my beliefs, thoughts and desires. I find myself not ceasing to have desire for men, but my actual desire changing into hunger to know them as people, noticing the men around me, not in a predatory way, but with new eyes, to see them as made in God's image, valuable and distinctly personal with family, friends and the capacity for dignity.

I invite you to share how your spiritual journey, with either Jesus or Buddha's teaching, has changed your life positively. Let's learn and challenge one another toward truth!

1 comment:

Jodi said...

This was hard for me to articulate, and there is so much I could say, but here's my condensed explanation of what Jesus offers me: As I get older and grow in my understanding, I find the verse, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8a) to be a truth whose value is greatly underestimated. When I purposefully set aside time and energy to spend with Jesus (like you would do for a friend or spouse) I am emotionally, mentally and spiritually filled up. There is no one or nothing else who can fill my cup because there is no one else who knows me and loves me the way Christ does. And there is *nothing* in the universe that compares to spending time with God! My spirit is encouraged, I am refreshed, I am able to proclaim my thankfulness to the one who provides, I am able to receive divine forgiveness, and receive gentle correction, which I ask for. In areas where I need correction (and have asked for help) I find God gently nudging me during my day and helping me to respond better. I could go on and on, but I'll stop with that.