Master's thesis comparing Jesus to buddhism

SteveB

Well-known member
Several weeks ago I ran across this paper, published in 2009, comparing Jesus to buddhism.
I'd love to just copy/paste the whole thing, but rules prohibit it.

It's 63 pages, so it won't be a quick read.
 

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rossum

Well-known member
It's 63 pages, so it won't be a quick read.
Thanks for posting that, Steve. I've started to read it, though I haven't finished it yet. As you say, it is not short.

The introduction has at least one problem:

Buddhism, being an atheistic religion cannot hold to Jesus being God.
That is incorrect. Buddhism has tens of thousands of gods:

Sakra, the ruler of the celestials, with twenty thousand gods, his followers, such as the god Chandra (the Moon), the god Surya (the Sun), the god Samantagandha (the Wind), the god Ratnaprabha, the god Avabhasaprabha, and others; further, the four great rulers of the cardinal points with thirty thousand gods in their train, viz. the great ruler Virudhaka, the great ruler Virupaksha, the great ruler Dhritarashtra, and the great ruler Vaisravana; the god Ishvara and the god Maheshvara, each followed by thirty thousand gods; further, Brahma Sahdmpati and his twelve thousand followers, the Brahmakayika gods, amongst whom Brahma Sikhin and Brahma Gyotishprabha, with the other twelve thousand Brahmakayika gods.​
-- Saddharmapundarika sutra, Chapter One​

There are many gods in Buddhism, but they are not very important. Their main functions in Buddhist scriptures is to ask the Buddha questions and to applaud in the right places. If a Buddhist wants to ignore them, then that is easily possible.

It is true that Buddhism does not have an equivalent of the Abrahamic God, since all Buddhist gods are impermanent, not eternal. In Buddhism everything is impermanent and everything changes. What Buddhism does have is a god who thinks that he is the Abrahamic God, but that god is mistaken as the sutta makes clear:

"I am the Brahma, the great Brahma, the conqueror, the unconquered, the all-seeing, the subjector of all to his wishes, the omnipotent, the maker, the creator, the supreme, the controller, the one confirmed in the practice of meditation, and father to all that have been and shall be. I have created these other beings."​
-- Brahmajala sutta, section 42 (Wrong View #5)​

This god has a wrong view.

Where I do agree with Mr. Forbes is when he says:

However, many Buddhists have a deep respect for Jesus and his teachings.

This is correct. Many Buddhists see Jesus as a Bodhisattva. It is worth noting that an advanved Bodhisattva is higher than any god, unless that god is also an advanced Bodhisattva. The Abrahamic God is not an advanced bodhisattva because He kills far too many people. The Buddhist equivalent of "You shall not kill" is "To undertake the rule of training to avoid injury to life." No Bodhisattva would break that rule wholesale the way that the OT God does.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Thanks for posting that, Steve. I've started to read it, though I haven't finished it yet. As you say, it is not short.

The introduction has at least one problem:


That is incorrect. Buddhism has tens of thousands of gods:

Sakra, the ruler of the celestials, with twenty thousand gods, his followers, such as the god Chandra (the Moon), the god Surya (the Sun), the god Samantagandha (the Wind), the god Ratnaprabha, the god Avabhasaprabha, and others; further, the four great rulers of the cardinal points with thirty thousand gods in their train, viz. the great ruler Virudhaka, the great ruler Virupaksha, the great ruler Dhritarashtra, and the great ruler Vaisravana; the god Ishvara and the god Maheshvara, each followed by thirty thousand gods; further, Brahma Sahdmpati and his twelve thousand followers, the Brahmakayika gods, amongst whom Brahma Sikhin and Brahma Gyotishprabha, with the other twelve thousand Brahmakayika gods.​
-- Saddharmapundarika sutra, Chapter One​

There are many gods in Buddhism, but they are not very important. Their main functions in Buddhist scriptures is to ask the Buddha questions and to applaud in the right places. If a Buddhist wants to ignore them, then that is easily possible.

It is true that Buddhism does not have an equivalent of the Abrahamic God, since all Buddhist gods are impermanent, not eternal. In Buddhism everything is impermanent and everything changes. What Buddhism does have is a god who thinks that he is the Abrahamic God, but that god is mistaken as the sutta makes clear:

"I am the Brahma, the great Brahma, the conqueror, the unconquered, the all-seeing, the subjector of all to his wishes, the omnipotent, the maker, the creator, the supreme, the controller, the one confirmed in the practice of meditation, and father to all that have been and shall be. I have created these other beings."​
-- Brahmajala sutta, section 42 (Wrong View #5)​

This god has a wrong view.

Where I do agree with Mr. Forbes is when he says:



This is correct. Many Buddhists see Jesus as a Bodhisattva. It is worth noting that an advanved Bodhisattva is higher than any god, unless that god is also an advanced Bodhisattva. The Abrahamic God is not an advanced bodhisattva because He kills far too many people. The Buddhist equivalent of "You shall not kill" is "To undertake the rule of training to avoid injury to life." No Bodhisattva would break that rule wholesale the way that the OT God does.
Thanks.
Keep reading.
As it's his master's thesis, he actually digs deeper.
 

HillsboroMom

Active member
The Abrahamic God is not an advanced bodhisattva because He kills far too many people. The Buddhist equivalent of "You shall not kill" is "To undertake the rule of training to avoid injury to life." No Bodhisattva would break that rule wholesale the way that the OT God does.

This is only true if you believe that the Hebrew Scriptures are literally true, and what is written in them actually happened, historically.

I am not sure that is the case. In fact, I'm pretty sure that's NOT the case.

What's more, the divine whom I worship -- who are the same as the divine whom the ancient Hebrews worshiped, who is, for all intents and purposes, "the Abrahamic god," -- does not and did not "kill" anyone.

I look at "the Abrahamic god" much the same way I look at, say, King Arthur or Robin Hood. There was a historical person, Arthur Pendragon, King of the Britons. How much of what is written about him is true? Did he pull a sword out of a stone, or was the sword given to him by a "lady of the lake"? Did his favorite knight have an affair with his wife? Was he challenged by a Green Knight who, after being beheaded, picked up his head and rode off?

I find it amusing that so many non-Christians have no trouble labeling the Bible false, but for some reason they seem stuck on insisting that what is written in there must be true. "I don't believe in your god," they seem to say, "and I don't like him very much, either." If you reject what Scripture says, what makes you so sure that what it writes about its main character is factually accurate?

The stories in the Bible are just that: stories. They were never intended to be taken literally. The Abrahamic god did not do the things of which "he" is accused, any more than Robin Hood and his Merry Men did anything that's written about, or Harry Potter actually won any Quidditch matches.
 

rossum

Well-known member
The stories in the Bible are just that: stories. They were never intended to be taken literally.
I agree to some extent. However there are many Christians who do take those stories very literally. Liberty University (the source of the paper in the OP) being one such group and SteveB also. The God of those Biblical literalist Christians is most certainly not a Bodhisattva.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Thanks for posting that, Steve. I've started to read it, though I haven't finished it yet. As you say, it is not short.

The introduction has at least one problem:


That is incorrect. Buddhism has tens of thousands of gods:

Sakra, the ruler of the celestials, with twenty thousand gods, his followers, such as the god Chandra (the Moon), the god Surya (the Sun), the god Samantagandha (the Wind), the god Ratnaprabha, the god Avabhasaprabha, and others; further, the four great rulers of the cardinal points with thirty thousand gods in their train, viz. the great ruler Virudhaka, the great ruler Virupaksha, the great ruler Dhritarashtra, and the great ruler Vaisravana; the god Ishvara and the god Maheshvara, each followed by thirty thousand gods; further, Brahma Sahdmpati and his twelve thousand followers, the Brahmakayika gods, amongst whom Brahma Sikhin and Brahma Gyotishprabha, with the other twelve thousand Brahmakayika gods.​
-- Saddharmapundarika sutra, Chapter One​

There are many gods in Buddhism, but they are not very important. Their main functions in Buddhist scriptures is to ask the Buddha questions and to applaud in the right places. If a Buddhist wants to ignore them, then that is easily possible.

It is true that Buddhism does not have an equivalent of the Abrahamic God, since all Buddhist gods are impermanent, not eternal. In Buddhism everything is impermanent and everything changes. What Buddhism does have is a god who thinks that he is the Abrahamic God, but that god is mistaken as the sutta makes clear:

"I am the Brahma, the great Brahma, the conqueror, the unconquered, the all-seeing, the subjector of all to his wishes, the omnipotent, the maker, the creator, the supreme, the controller, the one confirmed in the practice of meditation, and father to all that have been and shall be. I have created these other beings."​
-- Brahmajala sutta, section 42 (Wrong View #5)​

This god has a wrong view.

Where I do agree with Mr. Forbes is when he says:



This is correct. Many Buddhists see Jesus as a Bodhisattva. It is worth noting that an advanved Bodhisattva is higher than any god, unless that god is also an advanced Bodhisattva. The Abrahamic God is not an advanced bodhisattva because He kills far too many people. The Buddhist equivalent of "You shall not kill" is "To undertake the rule of training to avoid injury to life." No Bodhisattva would break that rule wholesale the way that the OT God does.
Still reading it?
 

HillsboroMom

Active member
I agree to some extent. However there are many Christians who do take those stories very literally. Liberty University (the source of the paper in the OP) being one such group and SteveB also. The God of those Biblical literalist Christians is most certainly not a Bodhisattva.
This is going to seem off-topic, but bear with me.

Many, many years ago, before geeks were cool, I was eating at a restaurant at a SciFi Convention. This is before they really caught on, when they were still very fringe, more counter-cultural than pop-cultural.

I overheard a conversation at a nearby table of fellow-convention-goers, something like this: "Well, I could have gone to Starfleet Academy, but I was afraid I just wouldn't fit in."

I thought, now there's a special kind of delusion.

It's one thing not to fit in with reality. I sure didn't. But in my fantasies I was a rock star. Here's someone who didn't even fit in to his own fantasies. That struck me as being wrong on so many levels. Why have fantasies if you're just as much a loser in them as you are in real life?

So now, how it applies to the issue at hand.

Biblical literalists seem, to me, to be cut from the same cloth. Here, they've been given this amazing collection of stories. And rather than delve into them for their poetic beauty or their literary style or their cultural significance, they read them as if they're reading a friggin newspaper. What a waste.

And as if that weren't sad enough, then they use these stories to beat up other people who don't "measure up" to their own ideas.

It's all so pathetic.

Like someone who doesn't fit in to his own fantasies.
 

rossum

Well-known member
Several weeks ago I ran across this paper, published in 2009, comparing Jesus to buddhism.
I'd love to just copy/paste the whole thing, but rules prohibit it.
Much of the piece is specific to Christianity and the origins of the New Testament, which I will mostly ignore. I will just comment of sections which attracted my attention, this is not a systematic response, which would be too long.

This is because a singular God can demand a singular way to Himself. This is the case in Christianity as Jesus claims to be “the Way.”

God is not the only one to offer a single way:

Thus have I heard. At one time the Blessed One was living in the Kurus at Kammasadamma, a market-town of the Kuru people. Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus as follows: "This is the only way, O bhikkhus, for the purification of beings, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the destruction of suffering and grief, for reaching the right path, for the attainment of Nibbana, namely, the Four Arousings of Mindfulness." (emphasis added)​
-- Satipatthana sutta, Digha Nikaya 22.​

"This is the only way..." is a single way, not coming from a god.

The Christian way relies on God; the Buddhist way relies on oneself. I am certain that I exist. I am less certain that gods exist.

While Buddhists will accept some of Scripture they discount other parts as historically inaccurate or even complete fabrications.

Buddhists accept scripture -- Buddhist scripture. This piece is comparing and contrasting two different religions, so it is necessary to state which religion's scriptures are being discussed. The author seems to assume that Christian scripture is correct while Buddhist scripture is only correct when it agrees with Christian scriptures. Not unsurprising, given that the source is Liberty University, though the built-in bias could have been better concealed. This piece may seem convincing to a Christian, but it will not convince a Buddhist.

This assumption renders the conclusions of the piece logically doubtful since he is assuming what he should prove.

Both authors seem to accept both Christianity and Buddhism as acceptable religious paths but did not go into detail as to why.

The usual Buddhist image for this is the ascent of a mountain to the peak. A map of the path up the western face of the mountain will be very different to a map showing the eastern face of the mountain. They are two very different paths, but the important part is that both paths meet at the peak of the mountain. There is more than one way to attain the summit.

Gautama, though brilliant and incredibly wise, was hindered by his own mortality.

Jesus was also mortal since He died on the cross. That He died makes Him mortal, just as the Buddha was mortal. This is a logical error; if Jesus did not die then Christianity is worthless because there was no sacrifice. Jesus' death means He was mortal; only mortal beings can die.

This example can act as a proof text for the Buddhist who wishes to prove that Buddhism teaches a deeper form of love than Christianity.

Buddhism does not generally use "proof texts" in the way that Christians do. There are about 50 volumes in the Pali Tripitaka, 108 volumes in the Tibetan Tripitaka while the Japanese Taisho Tripitaka has 55 volumes of sutras with 30 volumes of authoritative commentaries, so if you look hard enough you can find a 'proof text' for almost anything. Even with a much shorter Bible, Christians have found proof texts for hundreds of different denominations.

The nun Wu Jin-cang asked the Sixth Patriach Hui-neng, "I have studied the Mahaparinirvana sutra for many years, yet there are many areas I do not quite understand. Please enlighten me."​
The Patriach responded, "I am illiterate. Please read out the words to me and perhaps I will be able to explain the meaning."​
Said the nun, "You cannot even recognize the words. How are you able then to understand the meaning?"​
"Truth has nothing to do with words. Truth can be likened to the bright moon in the sky. Words, in this case, can be likened to a finger. The finger can point to the moon's location. However, the finger is not the moon. To look at the moon, it is necessary to gaze beyond the finger, right?"​

Buddhists generally have a less rigid approach to our scripture than is taught at Liberty University. The Buddha does not give commands or lay down laws, instead the Buddha offers advice. You are free to follow or reject that advice; the consequences of your decision are on you and on nobody else.

Mind precedes all conditions,​
mind is their chief, they are mind-made.​
If you speak or act with an evil mind then suffering will follow you,​
as the wheel follows the draught ox.​
Mind precedes all conditions,​
mind is their chief, they are mind-made.​
If you speak or act with a pure mind then happiness will follow you,​
as a shadow that never leaves.​
-- Dhammapada 1:1-2​

The Buddha has been gone for 2,500 years and never returned. By following in the path of the Buddha one can only assume to achieve the same fate.

This misunderstands the point of Buddhism. If you return you are born again and die again and are born again and die again... How many times do you want to die? Will you enjoy dying again and again and again...? All that is born dies. If you want to avoid death, then you need to avoid birth. You avoid birth by attaining enlightenment so you are not reborn any more. That the Buddha has never returned is a measure of the Buddha's success.
 

HillsboroMom

Active member
Depending on how you define "god," you can be just as sure that god exist.

If you are the source of god, and god is the source of you, then you are sure that god exist.
 

SteveB

Well-known member
Much of the piece is specific to Christianity and the origins of the New Testament, which I will mostly ignore. I will just comment of sections which attracted my attention, this is not a systematic response, which would be too long.
Nobody ever said that systematic responses had to be a single post, in a single setting.

Considering that posts are limited to 10,000 characters, that'd be a very brief one.

I think a systematic analysis would actually be what this forum is really about.

Years ago another member and I worked through the Dan Barker book, Godless.
Sadly they vanished halfway through. After reappearing a few months later, they refused to finish.

So, by all means please put together a series of "systematic responses."

I for one would actually enjoy a real conversation about it, instead of a bunch of abbreviated and abrupted arguments.
 
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