Buddhism and Jesus Christ

As a whole, Buddhism has little directly to say about Jesus Christ. It does acknowledge what most men do: that He was a great person. For the most part, however, His Gospel teachings are largely ignored and a more convenient Jesus is accepted: one who, along with the Buddha, smiles serenely.

But on the other hand, there is a sense in which Buddhism explicitly rejects Jesus Christ. What Christian belief in a personal Savior from sin represents to Buddhism is a serious form of personal ignorance. Personal Savior? No “person” exists. So what is there to save? And no genuine Savior can exist either, for we must ultimately save ourselves. The central message of Christianity (Jn. 3:16) is thus dismissed as remnants of beclouded consciousness.

After all, one could expect that in Buddhism the biblical Christ would be rather objectionable, for he rejects what Buddhism accepts and accepts what Buddhism rejects. He stresses sin and repentance before God (Jn. 5:34; Mt. 4:17). He believes in a loving, infinite-personal Creator who makes moral demands upon and judges His creatures (Lk. 12:5). He denies the possibility of self-perfection and refers to himself alone as the Savior of the world (Mt. 20:28; 26:28; Jn. 6:29, 47; 14:6). He not only believes in a creator God, the creator God is His personal Father (Jn. 14:5-6); He is God’s unique and only Son (Jn. 3:16, 18). Spiritual enlightenment and salva­tion come only by Him (Jn. 14:6) because Jesus is “the true light” of the world (Jn. 1:9; 8:12; 12:46). It is impossible that these could come through Buddha and his philosophy, or through Bodhisattvas and their sacrifice of remaining in the world, or through any other self-achieving method (cf., Mt. 19:24-26). Jesus Christ utterly rejects polytheism and paganism (e.g., Mt. 6:7; 22:37; Lk. 4:8). His worldview is thoroughly based on moral absolutes and it is by His moral standards that all creatures, heavenly and earthly, will be judged and required to give an ac­count (Jn. 5:22-29; Col. 1:16-18; Lk. 10:19-20; 1 Cor. 6:3). Jesus accepted the permanency (Mt. 25:46) and utility of suffering (Heb. 2:10; 5:8-9)—indeed it is by suffering alone that the world is redeemed and through which (in part) God sanctifies His people (1 Pet. 2:21, 24; 3:18; 4:1; Phil. 3:10).

Although ecumenically minded people would find it difficult to accept, the Jesus Christ of history is not merely un-Buddhist; He is anti-Buddhist. If we could bring Jesus and Buddha together for a discussion, neither Jesus nor Gautama would find the other’s worldview acceptable. According to Christ, Buddha would certainly not have been spiritually enlight­ened—far from it. His rejection of a creator God would classify him as a pagan unbeliever, however adept he was at philosophical speculation. “The fool has said in his heart, there is no God” (Ps. 14:1). Such a man would need repentance and faith in the one true God (Jn. 17:3). In other words, Jesus’ view of Buddha is that he would require salvation—just like everyone else.

And conversely, Buddha would have no need for Christ as Savior, for Buddha taught total, unswerving self-reliance. Compare this with Jeremiah 17:5—“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and makes flesh his strength and whose heart turns away from the Lord.” Thus, in discussing Buddhism’s appeal to modern man, Stephen Neill is correct in observ­ing that this appeal is based squarely upon prideful self-sufficiency:

For the modern man one of the most attractive things in this scheme is that in it he is entirely cast back upon himself. ‘Therefore, O Ananda, take the self as a lamp; take the self as a refuge. Betake yourselves to no external refuges. Hold fast as a refuge to the truth. Look not for refuge to anyone besides yourself. Work out your own salvation with diligence.’ So the Maha-Parinibbana-Sutta, one of the most famous of Buddhist classics….The Buddha attained to enlightenment by his own intense concentration; he called in no help from any god or savior. So it must be with the disciple. God has been abolished, at least as far as any possibility of a practical relationship to him is concerned. There is no hope for a man outside of himself—or rather in his inner apprehension of the meaning of the Buddha, the Law and the Order. ‘Man for himself.’ That is the modern mood. The last thing that a modern man desires is to be told that he needs to be saved, or that he requires the help of a savior…. So naturally Buddhism has attractive power…. [1]

Whereas Theravada views the Buddha as an enlightened man (more enlightened, no doubt, than the biblical Christ, but still a man), Mahayanists have placed Buddha on the level of a divine being who rivals Christ in his deity, although still falling far short of the biblical concept.

The Mahayana text Matrceta Satapancasatkastotra I, 2-4 states of Buddha:

To go to him for refuge, to praise and to honor him, to abide in his religion, that is fit for those with sense. The only Protector, he is without faults or their residues; The all-knowing, he has all the virtues, and that without fail. For even the spiteful cannot find with any justice any fault in the Lord—in his thought, words or deeds.[2]

The Lotus Sutra (Saddharmapundarika) says of him “He thus becomes the Saviour of the world with its Gods” (XXIV, 17). [3]

Finally, in the area of miraculous, we find another disagreement with Christian faith: “It may be fairly said that Buddhism is not a miraculous religion in the sense that none of its central doctrines depend on miracles.” [4]

By contrast, how many Christological themes or doctrines depend upon the miraculous? Messianic prophecy (Isa. 9:6; Ps. 22), the incarnation (Phil. 2), virgin birth (Mt. 1:25), Christ’s miracles as proof of his Messiahship (Mt. 8:15-17), the miracles associated with the crucifixion (Mt. 27:50-53), resurrection (Lk. 24:36-39) and atonement (e.g., the miracle of regeneration), the ascension (Acts 1:9-10), the second coming (Mt. 24), etc. The differ­ences are again striking.

In conclusion, Buddha and Jesus are not just a little bit short of being friends. The suffer­ing and exaltation of Christ is hardly equivalent to the serene peacefulness of the Buddha entering nirvana. Jesus came to save the world, not himself (Jn. 12:27). Indeed, Jesus said, “He that would save his life will lose it” (Mt. 16:25). He obeyed and glorified the very God whom Buddha contentedly rejected (Jn. 17:4).

NOTES

  1. Stephen Neill, Christian Faith and Other Faiths (2nd ed.) (Great Britain: Oxford Univer­sity Press, 1970),, p. 118-119.
  2. Edward Conze et al. (eds.), Buddhist Texts Through the Ages (NY: Philosophical Li­brary, Inc., 1954), p. 194.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Sir Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism, Vol. I. (NY: Barnes and Noble, Inc., 1971), p. 325.

21 Comments

  1. fgreg on May 22, 2016 at 2:33 am

    well if we seek perfection for ourselves its not really perfection right?

    • KILAM on March 8, 2018 at 5:54 am

      It would put you on a futile quest of seeking the unattainable bliss, It will cause you to seek a path of self destruction and terrible suffering without blessing all the days of you miserable self centered life of horror, religion delights in this, it will then promise you eternal suffering in death, for not fulfilling your duty on earth, you know, the one thing we dread and avoid until we are so tired and week we long for it, the pain and suffering becomes so great its our last lingering hope of relief.

  2. Jonathan on February 19, 2018 at 1:14 pm

    Curious. I would expect Buddhism has little directly to say about Jesus Christ since the Buddha died more than 500 years before Jesus was born. However, The Sermon on the Mount shares much with the teaching of the Buddha, who encourages freedom from possessions and the love of the world. The Gospels say: do not resist evil, love your enemy, live in poverty, shun pride and falsehood and greed. The Buddha also teaches this. Both have at their core sympathy for the whole world, the welfare of the whole of humanity, and promoting of a spirit of unity and mutual love. Jesus is far from anti-Buddhist. In fact, I’d say Jesus, who is about love and forgiveness, is not “anti” anything and would embrace the Buddha.

    • lag on March 8, 2018 at 4:25 am

      That’s true, the same could be said of the HEBREW prophets, it seems the unreligious buddha’s enlightenment came to him when he submitted to one greater, does your understanding make you a buddha, perfect, superior or GOD. Would Jesus embrace Gandhi? or the doings of the british empire?

  3. John on March 7, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    Didn’t Buddha live like 400+ yrs before Jesus? So how can he judge him? And would a Buddhist judge any person?

    • lag on March 8, 2018 at 4:04 am

      Yes he did, he learnt of the promise to come which was from the beginning and was part of the religion of his collapsing and corrupted empire. He was contemporary to the empires that would fulfill the prophecies of Isaiah, he was ancestor to those who were prompted by the prophecies of that day to follow the astrological signs that led them to the promise, the infant child of promise.
      Yes a buddhist would and does judge all person according to his kind of religion. Do you know anyone steeped in religion, any religion, that does not judge and is not racist or is not superior? A minority religion may bung on false humility, but only till it establishes itself. NO religion is for peace. Even islam is submissive where it is a minority, which religion is peaceful in reality

  4. lag on March 8, 2018 at 1:38 am

    Buddha was contemporary with a world wide revival of monotheism, King Nebuchadnezzar came face to face with prophet Danial and God himself, this would have came to PRINCES’S attention, hence his quest for truth, He was not unfamiliar with Ahura Mazda, Zarathustra and the Persian empire, the babylonian Magi were led by Jewish/Hebrew prophets, worship was monotheistic, Buddha aligned himself with the new monotheistic teaching, there became a great awareness of the coming savior, it was this awareness and the recorded prophetic utterances of that time that led the great empires of the east of whom Buddha Zoroaster were ancestors of, to the dwelling place of the child KING of KINGS in a stable wrapped in swaddling with his mum and farm animals with gifts..

  5. KILAM on March 8, 2018 at 4:55 am

    I can not post because i use spam words .What are you talking about

  6. KILAM on March 8, 2018 at 5:17 am

    sick sick sick i HAVE RE WRITTEN THIS 20 TIMES what is spam words

  7. KILAM on March 8, 2018 at 5:18 am

    SpAm WoRd

  8. KILAM on March 8, 2018 at 5:21 am

    Its futile and argumentative to push an ungodly belief in any religion, every religion is exactly the same in essence.

    • Emyarsan on April 1, 2018 at 12:02 am

      False!!! Can Buddah provide you with eternal life? How many profecies did he fulfilled? Did he raised from the dead like Jesus? Did his disciples died for his teaching like the Christian disciples of the first century? Does Buddah provide love, joy, peace, patience…? If Buddah was a mere man, there is nothing he can do for other man spiritually talking. Just meditating make you better than other people, really???

      • Bunks on April 7, 2018 at 10:22 pm

        The beauty of the Buddha’s teaching (that’s how you spell it btw) is that we are our own saviours….no need to make up imaginary friends 🙂

      • William Herbert on May 22, 2018 at 6:09 pm

        Yes Buddha did those things because it’s the same person – reincarnation.

      • Rico on June 7, 2018 at 12:27 am

        Meditation does indeed mellow you out…for real. Try it you’ll like it. If you practice Buddhism you will experience and give more love, more joy, more peace, more patience…that is true. I have tried it and it seems to work. It’s all about truth, however. If indeed the Lord Jesus Christ is THE truth, then no other philosophy or religion can stand against Him.

    • BRENT BEATTY on May 1, 2018 at 9:41 pm

      Who created the earth that buddha was born on?

      • Rico on June 7, 2018 at 12:29 am

        Who knows!!! The Buddha taught that origins and karma are two areas not worthy of fussing over since you can’t prove either. The creation story is central and key to Christianity, and it makes a lot more sense that SOMEBODY made all this…but we don’t know for sure. If you have faith you can believe it, but you have no proof. That’s why the Buddha taught not to bother with such questions and to bother instead with our practical life here on earth…

  9. KILAM on March 8, 2018 at 5:29 am

    Every religion introduces you to the polytheistic occult

  10. Garlind on April 2, 2018 at 8:46 am

    I would be more interested in what Buddha and Buddhism says about Christ rather than the conclusions drawn as to what they would think of each other based no their beliefs. That information is interesting but I’m looking for something else

  11. Andrew on April 21, 2018 at 10:38 am

    I don’t agree with this article at all.
    The Buddha would have told his followers to follow Jesus the true enlightened one. Buddha didn’t like the concept of gods or God because he came from Hinduism knew it was a scam and set out to seek truth and enlightenment. Just like Buddhist think of Christians as the Catholic Church and don’t want any part of it VS living like Jesus, teaching his ways and loving people.
    I think the Buddha (not present day Buddhists or what they might teach) would have been all about Jesus and his biggest advocate. Just sayin

  12. William Herbert on May 22, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    Jesus was the reincarnation of Buddha . http://www.buddhamaitreya.org

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