June 28, 2012 18 Comments
Let us be clear that I am not promoting one religion over another in this series of world religions and cults. However, I am presenting these from the point of view of a Christ follower who subscribes to His teachings and offer of salvation as the only way to true Life with God. So why present other religions? Simply to refute the idea that Christians are closed-minded. Plus, I believe strongly that each Christian, in order to be an effective witness, must study these other teachings in order to be ready to engage intelligent conversations with people we might come across in our living. Each Christian, before he became one, dabbled in many pieces of religions and belief systems before Christ found him. We were all deists and naturalists and evolutionists and atheists before we turned to Christ as our only mean of salvation. In an effort to continue our weekly discussion about world religions, we’re going to contribute to the conversation with information about Buddhism and the dangers that accompany its belief system.
A brief history. Siddhartha Gautama was born a Hindu in 560 B.C., near India in what is now Nepal. Determined to solve the riddle of life, he left his palace, his wife and child, shaved his head, wore a yellow robe and wandered the countryside as a beggar monk. He studied Hinduism but found no satisfaction. Then he starved himself until he was a walking skeleton, thinking he could find salvation through self-denial. Finally, he sat under a tree for 40 days and 40 nights and swore he would not move until he found what he was searching for. Accordingly, Mara – “The evil one” – tried to make Gautama give up his quest.
At the end of 40 days he experienced the highest degree of God-consciousness – nirvana – literally, the “blowing out” of the flame of desire and the negation of suffering. He felt he found salvation. From then on he was known as Buddha or “enlightened one.”
He preached and taught about the meaning of life and his way to nirvana. He founded the Sangha – an order of monks. By the time he died 45 years later, many thousands had adopted his teachings.
However, many of Buddha’s teachings were rejected as heresies by the dominant teachers of Hinduism. Buddha denied that the Vedas and the Upanishads were divine writings, that they were of no help in finding nirvana. He also denied that man has an atman (soul), which is part of the Brahman (world soul), and that the present world is maya (unreal). (For more information on Hinduism, click here.)
Buddha rejected other Hinduism concepts such as, he emphasized ethics over ritual. He rejected the caste system, and taught that enlightenment was open to anyone, not just Brahmin males. He challenged all the indifferent gods/goddesses, saying they were essentially unimportant in the quest for enlightenment. However, he did accept reincarnation and karma. You could be reborn as a human, animal, hungry ghost, demon, or even a Hindu god.
Buddha said that we are to suppress cravings of the flesh by following what is called, “The Middle Way.” This could also be called, The Noble Eightfold Path: This consists of eight ways of righteous living. Right viewpoint, right behavior, right occupation are amongst them. Buddha said whoever could follow this would reach nirvana. He said life in this world is quite real. Unlike Hindus, Buddhism offers a precise definition of man’s problem, along with an exact “plan of salvation” for everyone.
A popular form of one branch of Buddhism in the west is Zen – A discipline with the goal of experiencing enlightenment through meditation (reaching Satori). “Look within your, you are the Buddha.” After World War II Zen made significant inroads into the west: Tina Turner, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford.
Buddhists deny God’s existence or say that He is irrelevant. They say that Jesus was a good teacher, but less important than Buddha.
Many people of many different religions say that Jesus was a good man or a good teacher. This demotes Jesus to nothing but a mere human, and not God. To do this is to reject God fully. He is an extreme God who will only accept your full devotion; not a part of it. Many may whine and say this is asking too much. But if you flip this idea on its head and look back a couple thousand years in history, it’s clear that Jesus gave us His full devotion by dying on the cross for our sins for those who choose to accept His offered gift. As I’ve stated previously in another post, if you ask me, He isn’t asking for enough.