In order to understand the Buddhist teaching we must first understand their world view. In their view there is no God who exists in himself, separate from Creation. There is only the primordial Void or the Clear Light of Mind in which all creatures and all worlds are part of. "Buddhism holds that the universe and all creatures in it are intrinsically in a state of complete wisdom, love and compassion; acting in natural response and mutual interdependence. The personal realization of this from-the-beginning state cannot be had for and by one-self because it is not fully realized unless one has given the self up; and away." (Gary Snider)
Buddah's Four Noble Truths
1. All Life is Suffering: Everyone is aware of sickness, old age and death but even during our happiest moments we suffer from a deep down awareness that nothing is permanent. We would like to hold on to pleasurable states but we cannot and this causes suffering. For the Buddhist there is also a belief in Karma, the accumulation of wrongdoing which would eventually lead to rebirth and renewed suffering and death, that is a hell.
2. Cause of Suffering:
"The ideas of impermanence, suffering, and non-self are bound up in the fundamental Buddhist concept of ignorance. A simple definition of ignorance is that it is "a state of mind that does not correspond to reality, that holds illusory phenomena for reality, and brings forth suffering
[and] occasions craving (attachment) and is thereby the essential factor binding beings to the cycle of rebirth" (Schuhmacher 26). Ignorance creates suffering by obscuring the fact that all things are essentially impermanent and transient. The idea is that the failure to acknowledge the impermanence of the world creates a false sense of self or ego that feeds on suffering."
(Li-Dai-Lu, "The Awakened One, 1998) On Line: http://www.womenwriters.net/domesticgoddess/htm
Daistz T. Suzuki comments, "Buddhist philosophy considers discrimination of any kind - moral or metaphysical - the product of Ignorance which obscures the original light of Suchness which is Emptiness."52 This means that the lost innocence of Eden gave rise to Ignorance or highly rational knowledge of good and evil.
To the Judeo-Christian suffering was brought about by man's revolt against God at its origin (Original Sin). This brought about suffering and death to all generations. Wrongdoing does not bring about rebirth but suffering in this world and the next in the form of a period of purification (Purgatory) or Hell depending on on the state of man's soul at death.
3. Extinction of Suffering: The aim of Buddhism is to reach Nirvana or cessation of all suffering and peace. This entails extinction of craving, clinging, effects of Karma and rebirth. The ego and the self is an illusion. There is no soul or self. However, according to the Pali Canon, when Buddha was asked whether there was a self or not he refused to answer. (Thanissaro Bhikkhu) Further we read in the Dhammapada as follows, "Self is master of self; who else would be master? With self under control, one gains a master hard to find." 53
From a Christian perspective, the no soul or self in unacceptable.
We are in agreement with Buddhism that the egocentric personality is illusory and must be eliminated. The true "I" or self is man made in the image of God and is substantial. It cannot be eliminated but transfigured in the words of St. Paul "I live, not I, but Christ lives in me." (Gal 2:20) As God becomes more the center of one's life there is a tendency to forget the self because, psychologically speaking, God becomes our All. The happiness we experience varies with according to the center of our lives. If the Divine becomes the center of our lives, there is joy of being one with Infinite Life and Truth and Love 54
4. The Way to Enlightenment - Eightfold Path
(Image courtesy of Staffordshire Learning Net )
1. Right Knowledge of Four Truths
2. Right Resolve to curb malice
3. Right Speech, true and kind
4. Right Behavior respecting life, property, and propriety
5. Right Occupation
6. Right Effort to free the mind of evil qualities and retain the good
7. Right Control of sensations and ideas
8. Right Contemplation.... 55
This is the path Buddha pointed out toward the purification of vision. He says, "You must make the effort, the Buddha tells you how." (Dhammapada, XX The Path, 4) In essence, Buddha told his followers to look within themselves to achieve enlightenment.
The Way of Christ is different because He not only pointed out the way, that is, faith in the Son of God, but also became the Way into the life and vision of God by his Death-Resurrection which destroyed the power of evil holding mankind in bondage. The Christian must still use his/her free will and make the effort to live according to God's Law but the power comes from the Spirit of God dwelling in our hearts. Further, in Buddhism, there is no resurrection of the body.
In many ways Buddhist are encourage to live a strong moral life not unlike that of the Ten Commandments except that God is missing from the equation. "But what, perhaps, brings Buddhism most strikingly in contact with Christianity is its spirit of gentleness and forgiveness of injuries. To cultivate benevolence towards men of all classes, to avoid anger and physical violence, to be patient under insult, to return good for evilall this was inculcated in Buddhism and helped to make it one of the gentlest of religions. To such an extent was this carried that the Buddhist monk, like the Brahmin ascetic, had to avoid with the greatest care the destruction of any form of animal life." (Advent Encyclopedia on Line: Buddhism)