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The Philosopher
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PostSubject: Buddhism and Christianity 1    Mon Dec 12, 2011 4:04 pm

Tolerance is something we wouldn't hold to when considering a medical question. If someone with questionable qualifications were giving medicine to our child, surely we wouldn't stand back and ignore it on the basis of tolerance. Why then should we ignore dangers, inaccuracies, etc. when it comes to the well-being of the soul? Taking a critical stance is not always wrong. The Bible is not silent when it comes to speaking out against false teachings.

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The History of Buddhism

Buddhism is similar on a number of points to Hinduism. Buddhism began in India in about the 6th century B.C., and from there it spread throughout Asia. Today it is found mainly in Japan, China, and the Far East.

The system was begun by Gautama Buddha (the title "Buddha" means "one who is enlightened"). He was born about 563 B.C., and raised in a very wealthy family where he was protected from problems and suffering. Later he was exposed to suffering and became concerned with the cause of it. At age 29 he left his wife and son to seek a solution.

He tried and rejected both Hinduism and extreme self-deprival (asceticism). After 6 years of seeking, he arrived at the system that became Buddhism. He established an order of monks and one of nuns devoted to his plan of overcoming suffering, then he spent the rest of his life as a wandering religious teacher.

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Major divisions of Buddhism

Buddhists have tried to adapt their religion to the views of people converted from other religions. The result was that people could believe almost anything and be Buddhist. The differences within Buddhism can be likened, not to the differences between Catholics and Protestants, but to those between Christians, Jews, and Moslems. These vast differences make it extremely difficult to characterize Buddhism in general. No matter how you attempt to describe Buddhism, many Buddhists will object because they believe some different variation of Buddhism. [WR 169]

We will examine two major branches of Buddhism:

* Theravada is the older, conservative wing which follows the original teachings of Gautama. These Buddhists are found mainly in Southern Asia - Thailand, Burma, etc.

* Mahayana is the newer, liberal wing of Buddhism. Those of this view refer to conservatives as the "little vehicle" and themselves as the "great vehicle" because they believe their views are more practical for most people. They are found mainly in central and northern Asia - Japan, China, Korea, etc.

We will attempt to describe some concepts often accepted in Buddhism, but please remember that there are vast variations within Buddhism. The material here presented is based on the Encyclopedia Britannica .

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I. God

A. Buddhist Teaching about God

The Conservative View : Gautama taught nothing about God. He refused even to deny or affirm God's existence. He definitely denied that he himself was divine.Instead his teachings were designed to obtain relief from suffering by means of human effort alone. Original and conservative Buddhism involves neither faith nor worship, neither prayer nor praise nor forgiveness of sins. In that sense, conservative Buddhism is not really a religion but a moral philosophy designed to overcome suffering.

The Liberal View : Liberal Buddhists do accept existence of Deity, an absolute Supreme Being or power. In fact they deify Gautama Buddha as divine, even though he himself denied it!. Prayers and worship are offered to Buddhas, including use of images.

B. The Bible Teaching.

Romans 1:20 - "Though God is invisible, His power and divinity can be seen through the things that are made."

The Conservative View says, "There is no God who created the world and controls man's destiny. Man is his own master. The way is one of self-effort, free from prayer and superstition" .

Well This reminds me with scripture when God said "My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water" (Jeremiah 2: 13).

Furthermore, man cannot be divine and cannot become God.

Ezekiel 28:2,6-10 - God brings a curse on any man who claims to be God.

Conservative Buddhism contradicts the Bible evidence that God exists and that the purpose of religion is to please God. Liberal Buddhism contradicts the Bible teaching that there is one God and that man is not divine.

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II. The Destiny of Man

A. Buddhist Teaching about God

Rebirth (reincarnation)

Regarding the spirit of man, conservatives believe man has no spirit or inner part that lives after death. Only the consequences of past deeds (karma) lives from life to life. Liberals believe man has a spirit that continues from life to life. Many Buddhists believe that, when a man dies, he will return to live as another human on earth. The cycle of birth and rebirth continues indefinitely until one is "released."

Karma (action)

Everything (good or bad) that happens to a man is the result of his conduct in previous lives. What happens in future lives is determined by his actions now. Nothing is really a result of a person's environment, the acts of others, or the work of God. All is payment for what the person himself did in the past.

Nirvana (release)

Conservative Buddhists believe that the ultimate goal of man is to be released from the cycle of rebirth and suffering. This is a state of rest without continuation of earthly desires. Whether or not this state is conscious is not defined. They deny annihilation, but they also deny existence as individuals distinct from others. Liberal Buddhists do believe in a concept of conscious happiness.

B. The Bible Teaching.

Rebirth (reincarnation)

Man lives and dies (physically) only once. In Hebrews 9:27 "It is appointed to man once to die."

"and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it."[Ecclesiastes 12:7]. Man lives one life then dies. At Jesus' return, the spirit is reunited with the body and man is judged for that one life. There is no other life on earth and no other chance to please God after this life.

Karma (action)

I'll start by really explaining what karma is defined as. When you really look at it, karma is just about cause and effect. If you do good things, good things will happen to you. If you do bad things, bad things will happen to you. When you apply this to the idea of reincarnation (the origin of the idea of karma), then a person that leads a good life will be reincarnated into a higher state of being, while a person that leads a bad life will be reincarnated into a lower state of being. The way you live your life causes you to either be rewarded or punished.

Whether or not you attribute karma to reincarnation, the idea of "what goes around comes around" is not at all compatible with Christianity. Christianity teaches that we all have done bad things, and we all deserve punishment. We can't atone for our misdeeds by trying to do good deeds. Christianity believes in grace, not karma. They are two completely contradictory ideas, and you cannot logically believe in both. Karma says you get the reward or punishment that you deserve. Grace says you get the reward even if you deserve the punishment.

"The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair." -Be My Escape by Relient K

If we always reap what we sow, the Bible would clearly confirm this. To the contrary; let's look at just a few passages of scripture that contradict karmic philosophy:

Jeremiah 12:13: "They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns, they have strained themselves to no profit."

Psalm 126:5: "Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting."

Galatians 6:7: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life."

In contrary to karmic philosophy, we won't necessarily reap what we sow! John 4:38 states, "I sent you to reap that for which you have not labored [sown]; others have labored and you have entered into their labor."

And 1 Corinthians 3:7 states, "So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth."

As we can see, believers who think that karma is a Christian concept are mistaken (missing the mark). Nothing we think, say or do determines a karmic cycle, for the Bible tells us that our "righteous works" are as filthy rags to the Lord (Isaiah 64:6), and that our righteousness is only in Jesus Christ, our Savior (2 Corinthians 5:21)!

Whilst on the cross, Our Lord promised the good thief he would be with him in paradise that very day. Under karmic law, a thief of his ilk would have necessitated hundreds of life times to remove his own karma. Our Lord carries this burden for each of us. If reincarnation were a reality, perhaps some might like to spend hundreds of lifetimes on this very sad world to be released - but why would they?

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To be Continued "Buddhism and Christianity 2"

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"He who fights monsters should see to it that in the process, he does not become a monster. And when you look into the abyss, the abyss also looks into you." - Nietzche
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