Where Science and Enlightenment Collide

Contrasting Buddhism and Christianity

Buddhism, historically speaking got its start around 500 BC (depending on which tradition you follow) so it was already well established for a few years when Jesus first appeared on the earth.  Now much like early Christianity most of the lessons were passed down through word of mouth for a few hundred years before being committed to text, but because of trade with the old spice routes, there were quite a number of practicing Buddhists in the area around the time of Jesus’s life.

At first glance, Buddhism and Christianity would appear to have little in common. One is non-theistic for instance, the other, theistic. But the sayings of Jesus and the Buddha, whose teachings gave rise to the two religions are another matter. They have much in common in the realms of ethical behavior, discipleship, compassion, materialism and the inner life. The following are some examples.

Reprinted from “Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings” edited by Marcus Borg, published by Ulysses Press

Jesus: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
Buddha: “Consider others as yourself.” Dhammapada 10:1

Jesus: “If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” Luke 6:29
Buddha: “If anyone should give you a blow with his hand, with a stick, or with a knife, you should abandon any desires and utter no evil words.” Majjhima Nikaya 21:6

Jesus: “Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” Matthew 25:45
Buddha: “If you do not tend to one another, then who is there to tend you? Whoever would tend me, he should tend the sick.” Vinaya, Mahavagga 8:26.3

Jesus: “Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword.” Matthew 26:52
Buddha: “Abandoning the taking of life, the ascetic Gautama dwells refraining from taking life, without stick or sword.” Digha Nikaya 1:1.8

Jesus: “Those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.” Mark 8:35
Buddha: “With the relinquishing of all thought and egotism, the enlightened one is liberated through not clinging.” Majjhima Nikaya 72:15

Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Matthew 28:19-20
Buddha: “Teach the dharma which is lovely at the beginning, lovely in the middle, lovely at the end. Explain with the spirit and the letter in the fashion of Brahma. In this way you will be completely fulfilled and wholly pure.” Vinaya Mahavagga 1:11.1

It would seem that no matter the teacher, there are some lessons that are quite universal in nature.

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One response

  1. wsmarble

    Very succinct encapsulation you managed here–well done! I was in a supermarket parking lot once, and a lady with pamphlets approached me. “Have you accepted Christ as our Lord?” she asked. “Thanks, but actually I am a Buddhist,” I answered. With all sincerity, she then asked “I don’t know much about Buddhism…what exactly are your beliefs?”

    “Well,” I started, “I would tend to believe that Jesus was someone who, about two thousand years ago, looked around himself and saw the suffering and hopelessness that the people of Palestine endured. He taught them a new way of thinking, of hope, and his message of love and forgiveness. He achieved what we call “enlightenment” and would therefore indeed be God.”

    “Oh,” she said, somewhat taken aback. “Then what is it that I believe, that would be different from that?”

    “Simply that he was born that way.”

    May 27, 2014 at 3:12 pm

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