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Jesus and Buddha

We’ve talked a lot about the trouble with the Christian message here. How, based on a lot of misinformation and teachings, the Good News is distorted. One result of this is that Jesus doesn’t get a lot of love. In other words, people will actually frown when his name is mentioned. However, others, like Buddha, get all kinds of praise and accolades.

Buddha does indeed rock. I was thumbing through the Dhammapada recently – a popular book of sayings attributed to the man himself – and there is great stuff in there. Much of it is strikingly similar to the sayings of Jesus. I was going through my old notes and I noticed that I had put a “J” next to any verse or teaching that was similar to Jesus. There were many. There are books on this, if interested.

To be clear, the Dhammapada is way older than the New Testament. It’s something like 3rd century B.C. But what’s concerning is why has Jesus, the greatest teacher ever, who changed the entire world more than anyone, taken a back seat? I’ll toss out a couple of ideas.

The first is that, in the West, Buddhism is viewed in it’s idealistic Eastern sense. That is, all we see is these amazing quotes that resonate so much truth about living. And those Buddhist monks sure do look peaceful in their saffron robes. What we don’t see is the reality of practice, which according to my sources, is quite similar to the hypocrisy we see in Christianity.

With Christianity, we see the ugly reality everyday. It’s right in front of us – on the news, the media, YouTube. Too often Christians are spouting off about this or that. The ideals and message of Jesus are buried under this hypocrisy.  And the Christian monks we see, well, let me tell you, their boring brown robes do little to inspire, and one does wonder about the whole “no sex” thing.

Although there are numerous similarities between these two great teachers there is a striking difference in their ultimate sense. In Buddhism, the ultimate is “nothingness” or “emptiness.” Jesus offered a “kingdom” and a “relationship” with a loving and personal God. These should of course be explored further, but it seems many are content to casually subscribe to the former without discovering the latter.

Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson


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  1. Mr Olson:

    I am a Buddhist from Singapore and would like to suggest that your views about Buddhism’s ultimate goal is inaccurate. The following is a short erratum that I have taken the liberty to compose:

    Sincerely 🙂

    • Ted Olson says:

      Mr. Ah Heng –

      Thank you for your comments and clarification on Buddhism’s ultimate goal. I am grateful that we can connect, you in Singapore, me in the US. It’s a wonderful thing. First and foremost, please forgive my attempt at defining Buddhism’s ultimate goal, as well as my limited understanding of Buddhism. I in no way intended to belittle such profound teachings. My western ideas of Buddhism fall far short of its profound truths. I have added your definition below for all to enjoy.

      If I may clarify, my intention in this post was not so much to define the ultimate, but rather highlight the western hypocrisy of dabbling in “spiritual things” as if that’s where we’ll find purpose, meaning, and happiness. We seem to think we can take a few profound truths of Buddha and be on our way. We think we’re cool, hip. This approach is foolish. Either get in, or get out.

      If I summed up the article another way it would be: We in the west see Buddhist ideals, and Christianity’s ugliness and therefore come up with stupid belief systems that make little sense other than to make ourselves feel better.

      Jesus offered a way – we can take it or leave it. However, the “way” is clouded and distorted by those that claim to know this truth. Christians (evangelists) actually do more harm than good. Many do not understand even the basics of Jesus’ message or its ramifications. What this has done, is rendered Jesus’ message, which also includes extinguishing greed, anger, and delusion, ineffective.

      In short, westerners are turning away from Jesus’ message before they even understand just how profound it is – or how similar it is to the teachings of Buddha.

      You titled me an evangelist in your post, which made me chuckle. I’ve never been called that. For me, that term carries with it all the hypocrisy associated with Christianity. That said, I am indeed an evangelist – just not a Christian one – at least not in any traditional sense. I am after God’s truth though, no matter what. I follow Jesus. I learn a lot from Buddha.

      Thank you again. I hope we can continue the conversation.

      Kind regards,
      Ted Olson

      Ah Heng writes:
      The ultimate goal of Buddhism is not some hocus pocus mystical state of “emptiness” or “nothingness”. The ultimate goal of Buddhism is Nibbana, which means “to extinguish” in Pali. To extinguish what? The flames of Greed, Anger and Delusion. The following observations from the Buddha give us a hint of what Nibbana feels like:

      Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the hostile. Amidst hostile men we dwell free from hatred.
      Happy indeed we live, friendly amidst the afflicted (by craving). Amidst afflicted men we dwell free from affliction.
      Happy indeed we live, free from avarice amidst the avaricious. Amidst the avaricious men we dwell free from avarice.

  2. Ah Heng says:

    Ted (may I call you Ted? ) :

    Thank you for your gracious and thoughtful reply. As a former Christian, I have been accustomed to evangelicals reducing Buddhism to simplistic absurdity to assert Christian superiority and I felt inspired to respond to your description of Buddhism’s ultimate goal. I hope I did not offend you with my straightforward writing. Christians and Buddhists have much to learn from each other and may we continue to do so through contemplative dialogue.

    Sincerely 🙂

    • Ted Olson says:

      Thank you for your follow up comment. I appreciate your frustration with Christians/Evangelicals. I frequently argue that few actually teach or follow Jesus, and hence take on an attitude of superiority. Your point is also one of the primary reasons I started, as I knew, from personal experience and my own in-depth study, that there is much more to Jesus than what continues to be spewed from pulpits around the world. To be fair, there are some really cool Christians who get it, and who are working hard to clarify the message – but there’s a lot of baggage to unpack.

      I would love to hear your story. I’m a former atheist. I gather we have much in common. If you’re willing we could connect on FaceBook and/or perhaps Skype sometime.

      Thanks again, and no offense. Your comments are engaging and inspire more thoughts.

      Kind regards,
      (And please feel free to call me Ted – and tell me your name – we Americans can be quite ignorant of proper etiquette)

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