Summary: In Buddhism enlightenment is achieved through pouring one’s self out. In Christ, grace has been poured out unto us!
What About Buddhism? Titus 3:1-7
Frederick Buechner, in his book Now and Then, has a section on his comparison of the teachings of Buddha and of Jesus Christ, a topic he wrestled with when he was teaching at Phillips Exeter Academy: “Finally, lest students of comparative religion be tempted to believe that to compare them is to discover that at their hearts all religions are finally one and that it thus makes little difference which one you choose, you have only to place side by side Buddha and Christ themselves.
“Buddha sits enthroned beneath the Bo tree in the lotus position. His lips are faintly parted in the smile of one who has passed beyond every power in earth or heaven to touch him. ‘He who loves fifty has fifty woes, he who loves ten has ten woes, he who loves none has no woes,’ he has said. His eyes are closed.
“Christ, on the other hand, stands in the garden of Gethsemane, angular, beleaguered. His face is lost in shadows so that you can’t even see his lips, and before all the powers in earth or heaven he is powerless. ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you,’ he has said. His eyes are also closed.
“The difference seems to me this. The suffering that Buddha’s eyes close out is the suffering of the world that Christ’s eyes close in and hallow. It is an extraordinary difference, and even in a bare classroom in Exeter, New Hampshire, I think it was as apparent to everyone as it was to me that before you re done, you have to make a crucial and extraordinary choice.”
Here, will consider the last of the three largest world religions, outside of Christianity; Buddhism. At its heart, Buddhism is about emptying oneself of concern, attachment, or care for this life. In Buddhism, it is said that in the pouring out of one’s earthly entanglements, in achieving a state of “nothingness” through meditation and other means, a person is able to achieve nirvana, which breaks the cycle of birth and rebirth through reincarnation.
Buddhists regard nirvana as freedom from all worldly concerns such as greed, hate, and ignorance. Nirvana is enlightenment through disentanglement with the world. In what follows, we will consider the central disagreement between Buddhism and the true faith of Jesus Christ; in Buddhism man is to “pour out” all of his concerns, cares, and worries from this life to achieve a state of pure emptiness.
In Christ, God has poured Himself out in the person of Jesus Christ, so that, rather than seeking to empty ourselves of cares, we are enabled to cast our burdens at the Cross; so that rather than achieving a state of “nothingness,” Christ is poured out into us so that, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (Philippians 4:13 KJV)
Whereas in following after the Buddha, I am continually pouring myself out, in Christ, my cup runneth over, and out of the abundance of His grace, from me “shall flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38 KJV) The Chief difference between Buddhism and Christianity is the difference between leaving this world for nothing and leaving this world for Christ and His righteousness!
Background. Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama in the 6th century B.C. There was no biography written during his lifetime, so much of what comes to us from history regarding Siddhartha Gautama is intertwined with myth.
Tradition holds that he was born around 563 B.C. He was the son of King Suddhodana Gautama, who was a chieftain, or a raja, of the Sakya clan. His father reigned over a small district in the Himalayas between India and Nepal. At birth he received the name Siddhartha, meaning “he who has accomplished his objectives”, but was also called Sakyamuni (“the wise sage of the Sakya clan”), Ghagavat ("blessed with happiness"), Tathagata ("the one who has gone thus"), Jina ("the victorious"), and, probably most common, the Buddha or "the enlightened one".
When Siddhartha was an infant, a sage visited the King’s court and prophesied that Siddhartha would become either a great ruler like his father if he remained in the palace or, if he went out into the world, he would become a Buddha. The King believed that if Siddhartha was exposed to any human misery, he would leave his home to seek the truth. Therefore, he ordered his subjects to shield Siddhartha from any form of evil or suffering.
At age sixteen, Siddhartha won the hand of his cousin by performing 12 feats in the art of archery. He may have taken more wives during his life, but his cousin Yashodara was his principle wife. Despite his father’s attempts to keep him confined to the palace, he ventured outside and observed a leper, a corpse, and an ascetic. From these observations he determined that happiness was an illusion.