Jesus and Buddha

Where do you see “Buddhist thought” in our society today? Join into the conversation as we continue our Religious Roundtable series. Listen as Paul Kiss looks at Matthew 22:34-37 and John 14:6. We learn that Buddhism lays out a set of rules or guidelines that one must follow as a path to enlightenment. But in Jesus, the good news involves grace over karma. Jesus invites us to follow him instead.


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Jesus and Buddha

Speaker: Paul Kiss
Date: September 22, 2019

In Jesus, the good news involves grace over karma. Jesus invites us to follow him instead. Text: Matthew 22:34-37; John 14:6

1 · Story of Buddhism

Gautama Buddha – grew up a prince. Sheltered by father. Age 30, leaves wife and child and goes on a quest. Sees the suffering of the world. Extreme ascetic lifestyle. Final attempt to understand existence under the Bhodi Tree. Achieves enlightenment (Buddha = “Enlightened One”). Returns to teach others.


2 · Key Elements of Buddhism

3 Jewels:
1 » The Buddha ~ Teacher
2 » The Dharma ~ Teaching
3 » The Sangha ~ Community

4 Noble Truths:
1 » Life is suffering (dukkha).
2 » The root of suffering is desire.
3 » The way to escape suffering is through detachment from desire.
4 » The way to become detached is through the Eight-fold path.

The Eight-Fold Path:
1 » Right understanding – accept Buddhist teaching
2 » Right intention – cultivate good attitudes
3 » Right speech – avoiding gossip, slander, abusive speech
4 » Right action – be peaceful, harmonious, don’t steal, kill or overindulge
5 » Right livelihood – avoid livelihoods that cause harm, killing, etc
6 » Right effort – cultivate positive state of mind; free oneself from evil
7 » Right mindfulness: develop awareness of body, sensations, feelings, state of mind
8 » Right concentration – develop mental focus necessary for awareness

The Ten Precepts: (Theravada – first 5 for laity, last 5 for monks)
1 » Do not kill
2 » Do not steal
3 » Do not misuse sex
4 » Do not lie
5 » Do not abuse intoxicants

6 » Do not eat after noon
7 » Do not be involved in forms of entertainment (dancing, singing, music, etc)
8 » Do not beautify the body (cosmetics, perfumes, etc)
9 » Do not sleep on a luxurious bed
10 » Do not accept money or payments

3 · Key Similarities with Christianity

Text: Acts 17:23; John 4:22
1 » Buddha and Jesus – both were reformers.
2 » Ahimsa and non-violence.
3» The Sangha (community) and the Church.

4 · Key Differences

1 » Existence of God – No God or Know God.
2 » Existence of Self – Anicca/anatman or the individual loved by God.
3» Kingdom of God or Nirvana – “extinguished”
4 » Existence of Grace or Karma
5 » Follow Me or Follow the Path
6 » Prayer as communion or Meditation for enlightenment
7 » Go out and make disciples or Look within for enlightenment

5 · Jesus and Buddhists

● I think that Jesus’ response to Buddha is to answer all the regulations, paths and noble truths of Buddhism with the teaching found in Matthew 22:24-27.
● I think Jesus, rather than calling people to follow the path, declares himself to be the path – John 14:6. He told people to “follow me.” – John 1:43, Mark 1:17
● He doesn’t offer a way out of karma by teaching us how to liberate ourselves. Instead, he takes our karma/sin upon himself and removes it from us. – 2 Peter 2:24; Rom. 3:23-25
● He calls his disciples to celebrate rather than escape. Celebrate the life we have now, in Him, rather than sit around and wait for another life that may or may not be better. Eternity begins now with Jesus, not later.

Warming Up:
1. Where do you see “Buddhist thought” in our society today?
2. What do you think is the biggest appeal for people attracted to Buddhism?

Discussing and Learning:
3. The Buddhist idea of enlightenment is to realize that there is no self. Compare this with the following ideas about ourselves from Jesus and Paul. John 15:4, 9-11; Romans 6:6-11. What do these passages teach us about the “self?” What other scripture references can you add to this?
4. Buddhism lays out a set of rules or guidelines that one must follow as a path to enlightenment. Consider the words of Jesus in John 14:1-7, especially verse 6. Buddha says to follow the path. Jesus says “follow me.” What are the implications for each of these commands?
5. Buddhism teaches that karma determines our fate in life. Jesus shows us the way of grace, of God’s undeserved love. Read John 15:9 again. Jesus invites us to remain in his love. It is given already, just remain in it. Discuss the differences. Cf. 2 Cor. 12:9; Romans 5:20-21; Ephesians 1:6-7; Hebrews 4:16

Making it Real:
6. How could you have a meaningful conversation with a Buddhist about karma and grace, or non-violence, the self or no self, the Kingdom of God or Nirvana?
7. What questions are you left with about Buddhism compared to the teachings of Jesus?

1. Read the book, “The Lotus and the Cross,” by Ravi Zacharias. It’s a short book.
2. If you know someone who follows Buddhist teaching, get together with them to have a conversation. Ask good, open-ended questions, and then listen well. If appropriate, share with them the stories of Jesus. Be respectful and loving.

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