Mon | Dec 11, 2017

Religion & Culture | Christianity vs Buddhism - Is it really necessary to choose?

Published:Sunday | October 15, 2017 | 12:00 AMDr Glenville Ashby
File Buddhist monks walk for special prayers at a temple in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
File Christians carrying a cross in a mock crucifixion in Kingston.
File Members of Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority Rohingya fleeing monks who have been knee-deep in violence against them.
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Christianity is losing an appreciable amount of its members to Buddhism, and while there is no hard data on the extent of this trend, Christian leaders must be concerned.

Arguably, many Christians are disaffected with their faith. The fire and brimstone approach to salvation; the scandals, the hubris, and the incredulity of its dogmas have all contributed to the exodus.

Buddhism arrived in the west many decades ago but has emerged as the voice of peace, ahimsa (non-violence), and compassion. Never seemed to be rocked by scandals, never appearing to thirst for gratuities, Buddhism appears to be a rose among thorns.

The priests or abbots seem reserved, almost demure, interested only in imparting knowledge. They carry an aura of assurance, of magical purity, and never articulate their conversations with God as evangelicals tend to do.

And Buddhist schools and literature abound. There is much to choose from and the western mind is fascinated. There is Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism and Vajrayana Buddhism - each doctrinally distinct but interrelated.

For example, Theravada Buddhism is uniquely esoteric, concentrating on Chan meditation, studying the sutras and teaching; while those who practise Mahayana emphasise helping others as dharma (duty) as essential to spiritual evolution.

Those following the path of Vajrayana implement the ideas of the faith to their individual lives. The overriding philosophy of all Buddhist schools is detachment (attachment brings suffering), and freeing oneself from the wheel of birth and rebirth.

But most westerners practise what can be called secular Buddhism, meaning that they are more enraptured by the mystique and pacifist overtures of the faith, with marginal preoccupation with schools of thought. To them, Buddhism centres on meditation, mental purity and virtuous living.

Notably, many of coverts are students of history who are recoiled by Christianity's long history of violence.

But this perceived pacifism of Buddhism is misplaced. To the dismay of many westerners, many of whom have romanticised this eastern faith, monks have been knee-deep in violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, a genocidal campaign that has killed and displaced tens of thousands in the last couple of years.

It is a situation that has stunned and embarrassed the Dai Lama. No one religion has a monopoly on violence.

In Michael K. Jerryson's Buddhist Fury: Religion and Violence in southern Thailand, we learn the extent to which monks have stoked violence in that region and beyond.

Still many opt to leave Christianity, not realising that the fundamental teachings of Buddhism do not contradict or subvert their erstwhile religion. Converts, or those mulling conversion, must revisit the New Testament in solitude, away from the weekly harangue of ministers.

They must meditate and reflect on the teachings and counsel of the 'Good Book'. They will experience the anecdotes, parables and admonitions through a new refreshing prism. Silence brings wisdom.

They will realise that Buddha and Jesus promulgated the same spiritual truths. In other words, why reject your faith when the very pearls you seek are before your eyes? Really, there is hardly a need to jump ship.

Let us reflect on some of Jesus' sayings and compare them to those of Buddha. We can well argue that Jesus and Buddha are one, unified. Inseparable.

 

A brief look at Jesus' core teachings:

 

- Anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court.

- Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

- You must love your neighbour as yourself.

- When you stand in prayer, forgive whatever you have against anybody.

- If you refuse to love is to remain dead. To hate your brother is to be a murderer.

- Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.

- Offer the wicked man no resistance.

 

Note that Buddha's sayings are

indistinguishable from Jesus'.

 

- Conquer the angry man with love.

- Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness.

- Conquer the miser with generosity.

- Conquer the liar with truth.

- One is not called noble who harms living beings. By not harming living beings one is called noble.

- As I am, so are these. As are these, so am I. Drawing the parallel to yourself, neither kill nor get others to kill.

- All tremble at violence; all fear death. Putting oneself in place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

Jesus and Buddha were 'founders' of two great religions. With some study one can discern the striking similarities between both men. To embrace one at the expense of the other is disturbingly misleading.

- Dr Glenville Ashby is the author of 'The Mystical Qigong Handbook for Good Health' now available at AmazonFeedback:

glenvilleashby@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby.