Tag Archives: Buddha

What Is Buddhism?

What does Buddhism teach, and how does it differ from Christianity?

Legend tells us that Buddha was a powerful young prince who gave up his earthly position and possessions in order to seek enlightenment and salvation. Buddha lived in India approximately 600 years before Christ. He was concerned with the terrible things that were being done within the Hindu tradition, so he developed his own religious system.

Buddha taught that the question of God’s existence is meaningless. His conception of salvation is radically different than that taught by Christianity.

Buddha believed in reincarnation. He taught that every evil thing we do ties us more tightly to the cycle of rebirth. Buddha taught that a person can escape the cycle of reincarnation and enter nirvana only by following the “Noble Eight-fold Path,” a strict ethical system.

Buddhist teachings include dedication to meditation. Meditation involves emptying one’s mind of all content and learning to drift away from a consciousness of this world. Thus, it is part of the process by which a Buddhist frees himself from his attachments to this world and the cycle of reincarnation.

We should not confuse nirvana with heaven, however. For the Buddhist, nirvana is simply an escape from the world of suffering. It is like a candle that had been burning with a hot flame (representing our suffering in the cycle of reincarnation) being suddenly extinguished. Once a flame is out, there is no point in questioning where it went. To the classical Buddhist, to attain nirvana is simply to be out of existence.

Buddhism is clearly a very different religion from Christianity. It offers no personal salvation. It stands against sin and immorality, but it ignores the issue of God’s existence and our need for redemption. At its root, Buddhism is a form of agnosticism or at least practical atheism. It provides no answers about the ultimate meaning of existence. By denying the ultimate meaningfulness of life, Buddhism provides its followers with little motivation to conquer evil or to work for justice. Jesus Christ, in contrast, confronts us with the need to become right with God and to introduce a new order into the world, an order He called “the kingdom of God.”

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Wasn’t Jesus Merely One of Many Divine Messengers?

Even if Jesus was a messenger from God, why shouldn’t I believe He was merely one of many divine messengers, like Rama, Krishna, or Buddha?

As Eastern philosophy and religious ideas become more popular, many people are attracted to the idea that while Jesus may have been a divine being in human form, He was not unique. Nor could He—a divine being—really have died on a Roman cross.

The Hindus have a word for a divine being who appears in human form to bring enlightenment to mankind. This word is avatar, meaning “God-manifestation.”

Probably the closest biblical equivalent to this Hindu concept were the theophanies of the Old Testament, in which God revealed Himself to people in a variety of forms: to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:2); to Jacob as a man with whom he struggled on the night before his reunion with Esau (Genesis 32:24); and to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3:24-25) as a divine-like figure in the midst of Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace. If these were indeed manifestations of God, and not angelic appearances, in such manifestations God never changed His essential nature. He simply assumed a form that allowed Him to communicate directly to people.

It is beyond the purpose of this article to speculate further about the exact nature of the Old Testament theophanies or to evaluate the validity of Hinduism or its avatars.

The point this article is making is that Jesus was not just a divine manifestation. He didn’t come merely to impart knowledge or a special sense of awe or consciousness of God’s presence. Our race needed much more from God than mere knowledge and wonder. As victims of our own fallen natures, knowledge alone could never help us.

The witnesses of His life, death, and resurrection declare that in Jesus Christ, God became a genuine human being. In Christ, God merged His identity with fallen creatures of flesh and accomplished what none of them was capable of doing—living and dying in a way that not only set a flawless example for humanity, but also destroyed the power of Satan and evil.

In Matthew 1:20-21, the angel of the Lord said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” There might be many avatars who, like the angel of God in the Old Testament, come to impart wisdom or strength, but there could be only one incarnation in which God not only “appeared” to us, but fully became one with us in all of our weaknesses and limitations (Hebrews 4:15). Having lived and died on our behalf, Jesus Christ was raised from death triumphantly, His task completed for all time (Romans 6:9; Hebrews 10:10-14). His sacrifice was on behalf of the entire human race (1 John 2:2), and He was proven the “Son of God with power” (Romans 1:4 NKJV). He is the one to whom everyone will some day bow and confess as Lord (Philippians 2:10).

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