A Comparision of the Ethical teachings and Impact of Jesus and Buddha

The ethical teachings of Christ vs Buddha

Christ’s teachings :

Love God with all your heart , soul , mind and strength.

Love your neighbour as you love yourself .

Love one another , as I have loved you.

Loving your enemies .

Holy living – in thought , word and deed. Lust of the eye is equivalent to adultery. Anger is equivalent to murder.

Forgiveness of  friends and enemies.

Ten Commandments – No idolatory, no other gods, no killing, no lying, no coveting, honouring parents etc

Buddha’s teachings:Eight fold path

“The Buddha’s Doctrine of compassion and Love – Metta (Loving Kindness) and Karuna (Compassionate Action) has a refreshing validity and relevance to today’s world. The Buddha’s concept of Metta -LOVE, like that of the Bhagawan, is universal and all encompassing. It includes every living thing; not only ones family, or race, or caste, or religion but everything that is sentient, including the animal world.”

http://www.saibaba.ws/articles2/contributionofbuddhism.htm

This doctrine is not a commanded and it is not an absolute moral value. It is about being kind and nothing close to the self-giving love which modeled and also commanded. There is no obligation to love anyone. If you want nirvana, you should practice compassion, meditation and the eight fold path of the Buddha. If you don’t practise the eight fold path, you will get a rebirth and suffer not because you did not obey the moral law but because you were attached to world things through your cravings. Life on earth is suffering. You are already in a “hell”. The Buddha is teaching you to get out of this world of suffering. There is a open denial in this reductionist view that “all life is suffering”. This is too much pessimism, which is not consistent with the truth.

Whereas the Buddha taught how to attain nirvana, Jesus taught how to live the abundant life, on this earth, before you can have it in heaven .

Because the teachings of the Buddha’s teachings were very tough for the average layman to practice, Buddhist teachers modified the teachings of the Buddha to make it easy for the laymen and thus started the whole system of devotion to Buddha and the Boddhisatva’s. Buddhist teachers in order to obtain political legitimacy and support for their religion also allowed emperor worship and ancestor worship, which had no place in Buddha’s teachings.

Christ and his apostles on the other hand did not water down his moral demand. Jesus promises change in the one who has submitted himself to him and has become his disciple. He gives

1. The new nature to anyone believes in Christ.

2. The Holy Spirit to anyone who believes in Christ.

3. His Holy word.

4. The fellowship of other believers, the Church, the family of God.

In Buddhism there is no need for repentance. There is no new nature, there is no Holy Spirit to empower you to live according to the teachings of Christ. They do have the Buddhist Scriptures. They do have a Sangha or body of believers which is similar to the Church.

The salvation which Christ offers is relational. A sinner obtains salvation by entering into a relationship with God, through repentance and faith in Jesus. God accepts anyone who comes to him in repentance and faith and no prior performance is required. God accepts the sinner, transforms him and empowers him to live the ethical life according to the teachings of Christ.

Buddhism – the teachings of the Buddha aim to end suffering  by offering escape from another rebirth. To escape this next rebirth,  the ethical teachings of Buddha will help. If you are living according to the teachings of Buddha, the eight fold path, you can escape the next birth. If you don’t think all life is suffering, you will not become a Buddhist. There is no necessity for that. Buddhism does have some points which are common to all religions and these do help to decrease some aspects and kinds of sufferings in this present life. Nirvana is base don ones karma. Grace has no place. Your next birth or your non-birth(nirvana) is based entirely on what YOU do in this life. Some schools of Buddhism do teach grace or salvation by faith alone. But this is not the original teaching of Buddha.

“The Buddha’s Doctrine of compassion and Love – Metta (Loving Kindness) and Karuna (Compassionate Action) has a refreshing validity and relevance to today’s world. The Buddha’s concept of Metta -LOVE, like that of the Bhagawan, is universal and all encompassing. It includes every living thing; not only ones family, or race, or caste, or religion but everything that is sentient, including the animal world. It is founded on the principle of non violence – ahimsa movingly and tellingly employed by modern India’s greatest sons – Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru in the march to freedom and beyond”

http://www.saibaba.ws/articles2/contributionofbuddhism.htm
Though this passage claims that Mahatma Gandhi’s ahimsa (non-violence) is a Buddhist concept, ahimsa is a Jain concept which Buddha borrowed from Mahavira’s teachings. Moreover Mahatma Gandhi was more influenced by the sermon on the mount, than by the Buddha. He read the sermon on the mount daily. He tried to live according to the sermon on the mount. He even named his first ashram, which he started in South Africa, after Leo Tolstoy the Russian Christian universalist and pacifist. Gandhi was more influenced by Jesus, Bible and Christians than by Buddha.

Buddhism greatest contribution to the ending of suffering are its theoretical teachings. It had it’s effect in the life of Emperor Asoka who changed from a warrior king to a emperor monk. Buddhism had the showed it’s potential by transforming Asoka from a blood thirsty man to a monk. We should acknowledge this aspect of the influence of Buddhism in world history for promoting peace. This Asoka sent his children as missionaries to Srilanka and Srilanka became a strong Buddhist country. In spite of the strong Buddhist influence and culture, Srilanka as a nation indulged in systematic discrimination of Tamil Hindu in the recent past which resulted in a bloody civil war in which Buddhists were fighting with mission guns, rockets and fighter jets. The strong Buddhist heritage and culture did not stop the Srilankan army from massacring innocent Tamil civilians. Recently the U.S, U.K and other western powers have passed a resolution against Srilanka for the War crimes enacted during the close of the civil war. So Buddhism though it had the potential for promoting peace, did exactly the opposite. What’s the big deal after all, the Buddhist will have another rebirth where he can work towards nirvana. Even the cold blooded murders which the srilankan Buddhist committed were not violation of any absolute moral law for which they will be held responsible (except of course by international community), for there is no God in the Buddhist system who will hold them accountable and all their morality is just relative. Though on the surface Buddhism seems to promote peace, it has proved itself of having a greater potential to inflict harm and suffering , by relativizing morality and denying the existence of a God, who will judge them.
One of the greatest contributions of Buddhism in ending suffering in India is the formation of a casteless society where equality prevailed on a social level and this was far better than the Hindu system with it’s demeaning caste system. But with the revival of Hinduism, through the devotional or Bhakti movement, caste system came back into Indian society and still inflicts pain and suffering to many. The main reason for the revival of the Bhakti movement was the absence of a God in Buddhism to whom people can express devotion. The Non-theism and legalism ofTheravada Buddhism was impossible for the average man to live out and the heart of man longed for a easier way to attain liberation and express devotion. So Buddhism which initially started to reform society by giving a classless society could not satisfy the deeper longings of man for devotion and personal relationship with God. The Hindu Bhakti movement filled this void by making devotion to a deity of choice, the path to liberation and Hinduism came back to regain it’s dominance in India. Buddhism we can say gave a good try, but did not succeed in the long run to end suffering as it intended to.
Christianity – the teachings of Christ which led to formation of many hospitals, orphanages, schools, universities, scientific inventions, medical discoveries etc.. Christians left the comforts of their home, renounced their privileges and comforts and went into uncharted territory proclaiming the love of Christ, starting hospitals, schools and leprosy homes, destitute homes and  working to liberate people from different forms of slavery and bondage. These missionaries renounced and served and made an impact many times greater than that of Buddha and his followers.
Christians worked to promote peace. Christianity transformed savage tribes into peaceful men. In the north-east of India is one of the largest Baptist states in the world, Nagaland. The Nagas were head hunting tribes, who were fighting each other. Missionaries from U.S came and shared the Gospel to these head hunters and they were transformed into a peaceful and civilized people, now sending missionaries to other parts of India. The same happened to many tribes in that region.
The conversion of the white tribes of Europe into a civilized society was because of the direct influence of Christianity.
Mahatma Gandhi, the pacifist who used non-violence to fight the British tyranny, was more influenced by Jesus and his sermon on the mount. Jesus directly influenced Gandhi and led to the non-violent freedom struggle which gained freedom for India.
Jesus directly influenced another reformer Rev.Martin Luther King, who used the Jesus influenced Gandhian way of non-violence to fight for the rights of the black people in USA.
The influence of Christ in promoting peace and ending suffering is unparalleled in the history of the human race.

Conclusion:

Buddhism is a great competitor to the Christian faith. Buddhism has a molecule of truth, which any human being can see and they are attracted to it. In Buddhism the ethical teachings help achieving nirvana(salvation), whereas in Christ, the person’s following of Christ’s teaching is a sign that he has attained salvation.  The ethical teachings of Buddha have also had an impact on world history as seen in the life of Asoka, the great emperor. But the teachings of Christ have had greater impact in world history and individual life. Buddhism’s great weakness is in relativising it’s great teachings and thus making them non-obligatory. Christ’s teachings on the other hand are binding and everyone will be called to account for not keeping the laws of God as communicated through Christ. Buddhism’s teachings of non-violence, tolerance , compassion and love do not rise to the level of the love of Christ, the son of God, who gave himself for the sin’s of the whole world, as a demonstration of God’s love and justice.  That same love which the Christ manifested is also commanded of his followers. This rises the life of the follower of Christ, to the level of Christ and thus above everyone else. Thus the impact of Jesus, the light of the world is much greater than Buddha, considered as the ‘light of Asia’.

Consequently, the ethical teachings of Buddha are identical to some of the teachings of Christ, but Christ goes higher and deeper, in his practice and teachings proving he is indeed the ‘light of the world’

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DISCLAIMER: Blog entries made by individual authors reflect the views of the author and not necessarily the view of other CAA authors, or the official position of the group at large.
About Samuel Inbaraja

Samuel Inbaraja is from Pondicherry, India. His is a follower of Lord Jesus Christ. He is a doctor by profession. His ministry includes teaching, preaching, evangelism, mentoring, apologetics, giving, etc. His hobbies include blogging, sports, music, cooking, photography, and travelling.

  • Joshua Asiantastic NinjaBeast

    Thank you for the information and insight, brother. I learned a lot about the Buddhist teachings and some history that I’ve never even heard of. However, one thing got me – I know this is a pro-Christian website, but the bias kind of hindered me from seeing the full scope and taste of Buddhism (not that I want it, but rather that I wished Buddhism got a fairer, more even, or more objective stance so I can truly grasp the passion, motivation, and perspective of Buddhists more clearly and precisely when I’m ever called to witness to them). We Christians also have had dark spots on our history as well that are questionable as well (the Spanish Inquisition, Crusades, Salem Witch Trials, etc.).

    Overall, I do really appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into this because I did learn a lot; it was very informative and I was equipped with tools to use in potential conversations with Buddhists. Thanks brother, God bless and keep growing in wisdom and keep sharing your knowledge.

    • Samuel

      Yes, definitely political christianity was not christian at all to start with. We have to decry them and distinguish ourselves as true disciples of Christ. We need not own up to it. The teachings of Christ contradict them.
      You may think of using the same line of defense for budhism. But budhism has relatvised morality. There is no God who is offended. Buddha is not going to judge you on the last day. There is no absolute or objective moral law, because there is no God, moral law giver. Human beings don’t even have a soul. Those who are killed will get a rebirth.
      So though it may appear biased, it is actually balanced.

      • Joe Rossi

        there is a bit of a bias .. but this is an apologetics website ~ I and appreciate the fact that articles acknowledges the good that Buddhism does ~ keep in mind Buddha’s teachings predated Christ by 500 years so you have to consider his teachings could have influenced Jesus. As for non-obligatory ~ proceed at your own risk ~ the whole point is FREE WILL ~ of course it’s not obligatory. You can choose to pursue wisdom or not. You reap what you sow. Ask and it shall be revealed to you. Buddha had neither Jesus nor the Biblical God to call on ~ something to consider before you patronize him. God Bless & namaste.

        • Samuel

          Hi I appreciate your thoughts! If you are interested there is another article in the serirs where the development of Buddha z thought has been discussed.
          Secondly everyone comes to any issue with some bias. You canot avoid it. But objectively speaking, the cross of Christ exceeds anything Buddha or any other religious leader would have said or done.
          As far as Buddha influencing Jesus, I don see it as necessary, because all that Jesus taught is in the old testament, except that he went to the depths to reveal it’s original design n intent.
          Buddha by his own admission restricted himself to liberating man from suffering. He said that is his only aim. Other things don’ bother him. Please do go through the other articles in the buddhism series.

          • Joe Rossi

            can you direct me to an OT scripture that reflects what Jesus teaches in the parable of the Good Samaritan. — Luke 10:30–37

            • Samuel

               Leviticus 19:18. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am God.• Exodus 23:4-5. If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it, you shall help him to lift it up.• Proverbs 25:21. If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink

              • Joe Rossi

                Not the same thing ~ we go into the parable knowing that ~ you have heard what scripture said ~ the point rather the chosen are not those who believe in something but those whose actions reveal compassion. In modern parlance Jesus would say in a similar situation if a professed Christian ignored the needy man, but a non believer rendered him aid, the non-believer is the one who would reap the reward.

                • Joe Rossi

                  I think a better way of saying what I see the point is that Jesus is saying it’s not about what you believe ~ it’s about what you do.

                  • Samuel

                    It may be your interpretation. But I don’t see that point there. I think he is answering the question, “who is my neighbour?” And in that reply he tells them they are worst than who they think are outcaste, the samaritan. The racial, ethnic, religious, social standards don’t make the Jews acceptable to God, but obedience to God’s command to love your neighbour, who in this case was the injured person, who they very conveniently bypassed. The answer to the queston, “who is my neighbour?” is “anyone who you see, who is in need is your neighbour”.
                    How can you say this passage is not about loving your neighbour? I m surprised at your denial of it’s most apparent and glaring message.

                  • Samuel

                    What you believe and what you do both are important, because only right beliefs can lead to right actions.
                    Jesus made it very clear that belief is very important.28Then said they to him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent. john6 .To those who didTo the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”not believe, he ministered to them so that they can believe. To those who believed he taught them to obey”John 8. So Jesus taught both faith in him n obedience to his commands.

  • owenbevt

    You miss one of the main points of Buddhism: that the ego is an illusion, if I cause you to suffer I am hurting another me. A fear of a grate judge is not needed to stop me from hitting myself.

  • Joe Kanna

    beautiful. well said and done. nice.. got a little more on Buddha, to see go to http://trendsvcv.blogspot.in/2013/11/buddhas-preachings-on-dharma.html