Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Buddhism in a Nutshell

Dave, a friend of mine has said in his blog recently that he is considering pursuing the Buddhist religion while at the same time he seems conflicted between that and the religion he practiced previously (Episcopalian Christianity).

While I don't claim to know everything there is to know about Buddhism or Episcopalianism, I thought I'd put up some of my thoughts on "foundations," for lack of a better term, of the former. So without further ado, here is what I've got:

Human life is suffering (birth, aging, illness, death, separation, etc.)
It is craving that causes suffering.
If you give up craving, suffering will cease.
The way to give up craving is right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

Before I go any further with some of the foundations of Buddhism, I figured I would give my thoughts on this first section first.
Quite simply, I don't think that any of these beliefs conflict with any of the teachings of Christ. My point is, and this might be a message pointed at Dave specifically, but, you don't have to be a Buddhist to believe this sort of stuff. I also agree that much of the suffering in the world is caused by greed and hunger for power or money and that if everyone could live without desire in their heart, the world would be a much better place. I think this echoes much of what Christ tought.


This is actually the eight ways to end craving that were mentioned earlier.
Right View = right perspective, right understanding, right vision. To me this basically means understanding what causes suffering. Don't see anything in this belief that conflicts with His teachings.
Right intention = right thought, right aspiration. Essentially, the desire of your own will to change. The desire to change is a huuuge part of redemption and salvation in the Christian religion.
Right speech. This one is pretty easy. Watch what you say to others. Watch your words. Christ Himself spoke of this very thing, still no conflict.
Right action. Another easy one. Act right. Don't be a jerk. Definitely no conflict with Christianity there.
Right livelihood = do not egage in occupations that cause harm to other living beings. I'm sure Christ would agree with this as well as this technically goes along with the right action idea.
Right effort = keeping your mind free of thoughts that would impair your ability to put into practice other elements of the Eight Fold Path. Don't see any problem with that.
Right mindfulness and Right Concentration = meditation. This one I'm not too sure about. I mean, I guess it would be okay to just sit and relax but I think prayer, aka talking to God is what He wants you to do which I guess could be considered a form of meditation, I dunno really.

Refrain from taking life (Thou shall not kill)
Refrain from stealing (Thou shall not steal)
Refrain from improper sexual behavior (Thou shall not commit adultery)
Refrain from lying (Thou shall not bear false witness)
Refrain from intoxicants that lead to loss of mindfulness (Jesus spoke of not being drunk)
Not really much grey area there when it comes to whether or not this is in conflict with the teachings of Christ.

In addition to the previous 5 Precepts, 5 more were added after its founders death)
Refrain from eating at improper times (only eat from sunrise to noon). Uhhh.....ok, that is kind of silly.
Refrain from dancing, going to shows, wearing jewelry. Ok, we are starting to see some weirdness. Hey wait!!! Don't Hare Khrishnas dance? Aren't they Buddhist?
Refrain from using a high, luxurious bed. Okay, now this just sounds stupid to be honest.
Refrain from wearing perfume or cosmetics. Again, sounds kind of silly.
Refrain from accepting money. Well ok, if you are poor and someone gives you money to eat, I would have to say that's ok so this precept is kind of stupid. And again, if I remember correctly, the Hare Khrishnas are often found begging for money so what is that about?

So for the most part, I really don't think that the teachings of Buddhism are bad or in direct conflict with the teachings of Jesus Christ. However, why bother converting to Buddhism if you are concerned with its conflict with Christianity in the first place? There are so many ideas between the two that they share.

To be perfectly honest, this posting was mostly just a reply to Dave's blog posting at Oklahoma Lefty and I felt it way to long to just post as a comment on his page.


  1. WOW is all I have to say. I used to agree that Christ seemed to teach us to give up desires/cravings. But recently I have been reading "Desiring God" by John Piper and now I'm not so sure. Christ actually taught us to desire many things. So I have to think about this more, but Christianity may be even more wild than even I ever thought, and I've been a Christian for years. -Scott

  2. Those last 10 precepts are a bit odd.

    What has drawn me to Buddhism is the teaching of Buddha himself. You are very correct in drawing the comparisons between the teachings of Buddha and the teachings of Christ. There are even some crazy theories that Jesus spent some time in India, but I've never looked into any of them.

    And for the record...Hare Krishna’s are Hindu's, not Buddhists. :-P

  3. jbig red, don't take anybody's words as, for lack of a better term, gospel just because they claim to be a man of God. I disagree with Mr Piper. Chist taught us specifically NOT to desire things of the world.
    "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven...." Matthew 6:19-20. These are the words of Christ Himself.

  4. Yeah Dave, those 10 precepts are odd.

    What is it specifically about Buddha that draws you to him?

    Ok, I knew the Hare Khrishna's were one of those. LOL!

  5. Good question. I like his teachings and the calm that surrounds his teachings and followers (it is very rare that you get a Buddhist radical). I'll have to give some more thought to it to come up with anything more specific than that, but it might be a bit before I get a chance to do so. I have a big paper due on Thursday in Early Western Civilization and a project due a week from Monday in Mythology.

  6. Yet giving up things of the world is not the end or even the main point of Christ's teaching, wouldn't you agree? When Christianity is defined as a religious and rule-ridden way of life, what people mean is no smoking, no sex, no tattoos, no this, no that...no fun. But Christ didn't teach a bunch of don't do this or that rules, He more often taught what people should be for: peace, justice, love, and the biggest and most important thing of all, Christ himself. So it seems more like Jesus was after replacing sinful desires with Godly desires, rather than eliminating any desires. Just a thought I've been chewing on. Great blog!