This is the electronic version of a Book printed in Sri Lanka. It is reproduced here to make its contents known more widely. The original book contains no mention of publisher or of a copyright notice. Little is known about the author.
The second aim of this book is to help any Christians who might read it to understand why some people are not, and never will be, Christians. Hopefully, this understanding will help them to develop an acceptance of and thereby genuine friendship with Buddhists, rather than relating to them only as potential converts. In order to do this, I have raised as many difficult questions as possible and not a few home truths. If it appears sometimes that I have been hard on Christianity, I hope this will not be interpreted as being motivated by malice. I was a Christian for many years and I still retain a fond regard, and even admiration, for some aspects of Christianity. For me, Jesus' teachings were an important step in my becoming a Buddhist and I think I am a better Buddhist as a result. However when Christians claim, as many do with such insistence, that their religion alone is true, then they must be prepared to answer doubts which others might express about their religion.
The third aim of this book is to awaken in Buddhists a deeper appreciation for their own religion. In some Asian countries Buddhism is thought of an out-of-date superstition while Christianity is seen as a religion which has all the answers. As these countries become more Westernized, Christianity with its "modern" image begins to look increasingly attractive. I think this book will amply demonstrate that Buddhism is able to ask questions of Christianity which it has great difficulties in answering, and at the same time to offer explanations to life's puzzles which make Christian explanations look rather puerile.
Some Buddhists may object to a book like this, believing that such a gentle and tolerant religion as Buddhism should refrain from criticizing other religions. This is certainly not what the Buddha himself taught. In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta he said that his disciples should be able to "Teach the Dhamma, declare it, establish it, expound it, analyse it, make it clear, and be able by means of the Dhamma to refute false teachings that have arisen. "Subjecting a point of view to careful scrutiny and criticism has an important part to play in helping to winnow truth from falsehood, so that we can be in a better position to choose between "the two and sixty contending sects. "Criticism of another religion only becomes inappropriate when it is based on a deliberate misrepresentation of that religion, or when it descends into an exercise in ridicule and name-calling. I hope I have avoided doing this.
When asked to prove God's existence, the Christian will often open the Bible and say "The Bible says God exists, so he must." The problem is that if we ask a Hindu, a Muslim, a Sikh or a Jew the same question they too will point to their respective holy books as proof of the existence of their Gods. Why should we believe the Bible but not the holy books of all the other religions? Using the Bible to prove God's existence is only valid if we already accept that it alone contains God's words. However, we have no evidence that this is so. In fact, as we will demonstrate later, there is strong evidence that the Bible is a highly unreliable document.
In their attempts to prove God's existence, Christians will sometimes say "The universe didn't just happen, someone must have made it and therefore there must be a creator God." There is a major flaw in this argument. When it starts to rain ~e do not ask "Who is making it rain?" because we know that rain is caused not by someone but by something - natural phenomena like heat, evaporation, precipitation, etc. When we see smooth stones in a river, we do not ask "Who polished those stones?" because we know that the smooth surface of the stones was caused not by someone but by something - natural causes like the abrasive action of water and sand.
All of these things have a cause (or causes) but this need not be a being. It is the same with the universe - it was not brought into being by a God but by natural phenomena like nuclear fission, gravity, inertia, etc. However, even if we believe that a divine being is needed to explain how the universe came into existence, what proof is there that it was the Christian God? Perhaps it was created by the Hindu God, the God of Islam or one of the gods worshipped by tribal religions. After all most religions, not only Christianity, claim that their God or gods created the universe.
In response to the above refutation, the Christian will maintain that the universe does not merely exist but its existence shows perfect design. There is, a Christian might say, an order and balance which point to its having been designed by a higher intelligence, and that this higher intelligence is God. But as before, there are some problems with this argument.
Firstly, how does the Christian know that it was his God who is behind creation? Perhaps it was the gods of non-Christian religions who designed and created the universe.
Secondly, how does the Christian know that only one God designed everything? In fact, as the universe is so intricate and complex we could expect it to need the intelligence of several, perhaps dozens, of gods to design it. So if anything the argument from design proves that there are many gods, not one as Christians claim.
Next, we would have to ask, is the universe perfectly designed? We must ask this because if a perfect God designed and created the universe, then that universe should be perfect. Let us first look at inanimate phenomena to see whether they show perfect design. Rain gives us pure water to drink but sometimes it rains too much and people lose their lives, their homes and their means of livelihood in floods. At other times it doesn't rain at all and millions die in drought and famine. Is this perfect design? The mountains give us joy as we see them reaching up into the sky. But landslides ~nd volcanic eruptions have for centuries caused havoc and death. Is this perfect design? The gentle breezes cool us but storms and tornadoes repeatedly cause death and destruction. Is this perfect design? These and other natural calamities prove that inanimate phenomena do not exhibit perfect design and therefore that they were not created by a perfect God.
Now let us look at animate phenomena to see whether they reveal perfect design. At a superficial glance, nature seems to be beautiful and harmonious; all creatures are provided for and each has its task to perform. However, as any biologist will confirm, nature is utterly ruthless. To live, each creature has to feed on other creatures and struggle to avoid being eaten by other creatures. In nature, there is no time for pity, love or mercy. If a loving God designed everything, why did such a cruel design result? The animal kingdom is not only imperfect in the ethical sense, it is also imperfect in that it often goes wrong. Every year ~lions of babies are born with physical or mental disabilities, or are stillborn or die soon after birth. Why would a perfect creator God design such terrible things?
So if there is design in the universe, much of it is faulty and cruel. This would seem to indicate that the universe was not created by a perfect all-loving God.
Christians will sometimes say that everything has a cause, that there must be a first cause, and that God is the first cause. This old argument contains its own refutation, for if everything has a first cause then the first cause must also have a cause.
There is another problem with the first cause argument. Logically there is no good reason to assume that everything had a single first cause. Perhaps six, ten or three hundred causes occurring simultaneously caused everything.
Christians claim that miracles are sometimes performed in God's name and that the fact that this happens proves that God exists. This is an appealing argument until it is looked at a little more closely.
While Christians are quick to claim that because of their prayers the blind could see, the deaf could hear and crooked limbs were straightened, they are very slow in producing evidence to back up their claims. In fact, some Christians are so anxious to prove that miracles have occurred at their prayer meetings that the truth often gets lost in a flood of wild claims, extravagant boasts, and sometimes even conscious lies.
It is true that things which are unusual and difficult to explain do sometimes happen during religious events - but not just for Christians. Hindus, Muslims, Taoists, etc. all claim that their God or gods sometimes perform miracles. Christianity certainly does not have a monopoly on miracles. So, if miracles performed in God's name prove the existence of the Christian God, then miracles performed in the name of numerous other gods must likewise prove that they too exist.
Christians may try to overcome this fact by claiming that, when miracles occur in other religions, they are done through the power of the Devil. Perhaps the best way to counter this claim is to quote the Bible. When Jesus healed the sick, his enemies accused him of doing this through the power of the Devil. He answered that healing the sick results in good and if the Devil went around doing good he would destroy himself (Mk 3:22-26). Therefore the same could be said for the miracles performed by Hindus, Jews or Sikhs. If these miracles result in good, how can they be the work of the Devil?
Christians will often claim that only by believing in God will people have the strength to deal with life's problems, and therefore that belief in God is necessary. This claim is apparently supported by numerous books written by Christians who have endured and overcome various crises through the power of God. Some of these books make highly inspiring reading, so the claim that one can cope with problems only with God's help sounds rather convincing - until we look a little more deeply.
If this claim is true, we would expect most of the non-Christian people of the world to lead lives of emotional distress, confusion and hopelessness while most Christians through their faith in God would be able to unfailingly deal with their problems and to never need to seek help from counsellors or psychiatrists. It is clear, however, that people from non-Christian religions and even those with no religion are just as capable of dealing with life's crises as Christians are sometimes even better. It is also sometimes the case that people who are devout Christians lose their faith in God after being confronted with serious personal problems. Consequently, the claim that belief in God is necessary to cope with and overcome problems is baseless.
When Christians find they cannot prove God's existence with doubtful facts or logic, they may switch tactics and say "Perhaps it can't be proved that God exists, but neither can you disprove it". This of course is quite true. You cannot prove that God doesn't exist - but neither can you prove that the gods of Taoism, Hinduism and a dozen other religions do not exist. In other words, despite all the hyperbole, the extravagant claims and the confident proclamations, there is no more evidence for the existence of the Christian God than there is for the gods worshipped in other religions.
After everything else has failed, the Christian may finally try to convince us that God exists by appealing to the emotions. Such a person will say, perhaps quite truthfully, "I used to be unhappy and discontented but after giving myself to God I am happy and at peace with myself." Such testimonies can be deeply moving, but what do they prove? There are millions of people whose lives became equally happy and meaningful after they embraced Buddhism, Hinduism or Islam. Likewise, there are no doubt many people whose lives have not changed for the better after they became Christians - the same weaknesses and problems sometimes remain. So this argument, like all the others, does not prove the existence of the Christian God.
For the religious life to be meaningful we must have free will, we must be able to choose between good and evil. If we do not have free will we cannot be held responsible for what we do.
According to Christians, God is all-knowing - he knows all the past, all the present and all the future. If this is so, then God must know everything we do long before we do it. This means that our whole life must be predetermined and that we act not according to the free exercise of our wills but according to our predetermined natures. If we are predetermined to be good we will be good and if we are predetermined to be evil we will be evil. We will act not according to our will or choice but according to the way God has already foreseen we will act. Although Christians will insist that we do have free will, God's omniscience simply makes this logically impossible. And that people will act only as God determines is verified in the Bible
If people are evil it is because God has chosen to make them evil (Rom 1:24-28) and caused them to disobey him (Rom 11:32). If they do not understand God's message it is because he has made their minds dull (Rom 11:8) and caused them to be stubborn (Rom 9:18). God prevents the Gospel from being preached in certain areas (Act 16:6-7) and he fixes long before it will happen when a person will be born and when he or she will die (Act 17:26). Those who were going to be saved were chosen by God before the beginning of time (ii Tim 1:9 Eph 1:11). If a person has faith and is thereby saved, their faith comes from God, not from any effort on their part (Eph 2:9-10). One may ask "If a person can only do what God predetermines them to do, how can God hold them responsible for their actions?" The Bible has an answer for this question.
But one of you will say to me: "If this is so, how can God find fault with anyone? For who can resist God's will?" But who are you, my friend, to answer God back? A clay pot does not ask the man who made it: "Why did you make me like this?" After all, the man who makes the pot has the right to use the clay as he wishes, and to make two pots from one lump of clay, one for special occasions and one for ordinary use. And the same is true of what God has done (Rom 9:19-22).
So apparently in Christianity a person's life and destiny are due purely to the whim of God and as mere humans we have no right to complain about what God has decided for us. The idea that we are all predetermined is quite consistent with the idea of an all-knowing God but it makes nonsense of the concept of making a' effort to do good or avoid evil.
Perhaps the most potent argument against the existence of an all-powerful, all loving God is the undeniable fact that there is so much pain and suffering in the world. If there is really a God of love who has unlimited power, why doesn't h put an end to all evil? Christians try to answer this question in several ways.
Firstly, they will say that evil is caused by man not God and that if only ma would follow God's commandments there would be no pain, evil or suffering. However, while it is true that evils such as war, rape, murder and exploitation ca be blamed on humans, they can hardly be blamed for the millions who die each year in earthquakes, floods, epidemics and accidents, all of which are natural; events. In fact, according to the Bible, the germs that cause hideous diseases like TB, polio, cholera, leprosy etc. and all the misery, deformity and suffering to which they give rise, were created by God before he created man (Gen. 1:11-12).
Another way Christians will try to explain away evil is to say that it is God's punishment for those who do not follow his commandments. However this implies that terrible things happen only to bad people, which is certainly not true. We often hear of painful sicknesses or disasters befalling good people including good Christians, and likewise we often hear of really bad people who seem to have nothing but good fortune and success. So it cannot be said that suffering and evil are God's way of punishing sinners.
Next, Christians will say that God allows evil to exist in the world because he wants to give us the freedom to choose good over evil and thereby earn salvation. Evil, they will say, exists to test us. At first this seems to be a good explanation. If a man sees someone being beaten up by a bully he has a choice between turning away (doing wrong) or deciding to help the victim (doing right). If he decides to help then he has been tested and found good. However, as we have seen before, an all-knowing God must already know what choices a person will make so what is the point of testing us? Also, even if suffering and evil exist in the world to test us, couldn't an all-loving God think of a less cruel and less painful way to do this? It seems unloving and unfair to allow pain to be inflicted on one person so that another person can have the opportunity to choose between good and evil.
Some Christians will try to free God from responsibility for evil by saying that it is not created by God but by the Devil. This may be true but again if God is so loving why doesn't he simply prevent the Devil from doing this? In any case, who created the Devil in the first place? Surely it was God.
By this stage the Christian will start to get a bit desperate, shifting the argument from logic to pragmatism. He will say that even though there is suffering in the world we can use it as an opportunity to develop courage and patience. This is undoubtedly true but it still does not explain why an all-loving God allows babies to die of cancer, innocent bystanders to be killed in accidents, and leprosy victims to suffer deformity and pain. In fact the existence of so much unnecessary pain, misery and evil in the world is very strong evidence that there is no all-loving all powerful God.
Christians claim that God is perfect, that he is complete in every way, but if God really did create the universe this would prove that he was not perfect. Let us examine why. Before God created the universe there was nothing - no sun, no earth, no people, no good or evil, no pain - nothing but God who was, according to Christians, perfect. So if God was perfect and nothing but perfection existed, what motivated God to create the universe and thus bring imperfection into being? Was it because he was bored and wanted something to do? Was it because he was lonely and wanted someone to pray to him?
Christians will say that God created everything because of his love of man, but this is impossible. God could not love humans before he created them any more than a woman could love her children before she had conceived them. God's need to create indicates that he was dissatisfied in some way and therefore not perfect. Christians might then say that God created spontaneously and without need or desire. However this would mean that the whole universe came into being without purpose or forethought and therefore it would mean that God was not a loving creator.
Christians claim that God wants us to believe in him so that we can be saved - but if this is so why doesn't God simply appear and perform a miracle so that everyone will see and believe? Christians will say that God wants us to believe in him out of faith, not because we see him with our eyes. However, according to the Bible, God in the past performed the most awesome miracles and often intervened dramatically in human affairs so that people would know his presence. So if he did so in the past, why doesn't he do so now?
Christians will say that God does perform miracles today (healing, solving personal problems etc) but being stubborn and evil most people refuse to believe. However these so-called miracles are individual and rninor and leave much room for doubt. If God performed a really impressive miracle which could have no other possible explanation, then most people certainly would believe.
According to the Bible when the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years, God fed them by making food fall regularly from the sky (Ex16:4). During the 1980's, several million Ethiopian Christians died slowly and painfully from starvation due to a prolonged drought. God had then the opportunity to make food fall from the sky, as the Bible claims he did in the past, in order to prove his existence, his power and his love. Buddhists would say that God did not manifest his presence because he does not exist.
As Buddhists neither pray to nor acknowledge God, the only way they can get an idea of what he is like is by reading the Bible. However when Buddhists look at what the Bible says about God they are often shocked. They find that God as he is portrayed in the Bible to be profoundly different from how they hear Christians describe him.
While Buddhists reject the Christian concept of God because it seems to be illogical and unsubstantiated, they also reject it because it seems so much lower than their own ideal, the Buddha. We will now examine what the Bible says about God, compare it to what the Tipitaka (the Buddhist sacred scriptures) say about the Buddha, and thereby demonstrate the moral superiority of the latter.
What does God look like? The Bible says that God created man in his own image (Gen 1:26) so from this we can assume God looks something like a human being. The Bible tells us that God has hands (Ex 15:12), arms (Deut 11:2), fingers (Ps 8:3) and a face (Deut 13:17). He does not like people seeing his face but he doesn t mind if they see his back.
And I will take away my hands and you will see my back parts but my face You shall not see (Ex 33:23).However, although God seems to have a human body he does at the same time look not unlike the demons and fierce guardians one often sees in Indian and Chinese temples. For example, he has flames coming out of his body.
A fire issues from his presence and burns his enemies on every side (Ps 97:3).When God is angry, which seems to he quite often, smoke and fire come out of his body.
Our God comes and shall not keep silent, before him a fire bums and around him fierce storms rage (Ps 50:3).
Now the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord, and when he heard them his anger was aroused. Then fire from the Lord burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp (Num11:1).
The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook, they trembled because he was angry. Smoke rose from his nostrils; consuming fire came from his mouth, burning coals blazed out of it (Ps 18:7-8).When the prophet Ezekiel saw God and his attendant angels, he described them a. looking like this.
On the fifth of the month - it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin the word of the Lord came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi , by the Kebar River in the land of the Babylonians. There the hand of the Lord was upon him. I looked, and I saw a windstorm coming out of the north - an immense cloud with flashing lightning and surrounded by brilliant light. The centre of the fire looked like glowing metal, and in the fire was what looked like four living creatures in appearance their form was that of a man, but each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight; their feet were like those of a calf and gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had the hands of a man. All four of them had faces and wings, and their wings touched one another. Bach one went straight ahead; they did not turn as they moved. Their faces looked like this: Each of the four had the face of a man, and on the right side each had the face of a lion, and on the left the face of an ox; each also had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. Their wings were spread out upward; each had two wings, one touching the wing of another creature on either side, and two wings covering its body. Each one went straight ahead. Wherever the spirit would go, they would go, without turning as they went. The appearance of the living creatures was like burning coals of fire or like torches. Fire moved back and forth among the creatures; it was bright, and lightning flashed out of it. The creatures sped back and forth like flashes of lightning. As I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the ground beside each creature with its four faces. This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel (Ezek 1:4-21).Christians often look at the many-armed and fierce-faced gods in Hindu and Taoist temples and claim that they are devils rather than gods - but as the Bible make clear the Christian God is very similar in appearance to these. Furthermore, just a Hindu and Taoist gods carry various weapons so too does the Christian God.
In that day the Lord will punish with his sword, his fierce, great and powerful sword (Is 27:1).Another interesting way in which God's appearance resembles that of non-Christian idols is in how he travels. The Bible tells us that God gets from one place to another either by sitting on a cloud (Is 19:1) or riding on the back of an angel (Ps 18:10). It is obvious from these quotes that God has a savage and frightening appearance; a conclusion verified again by the Bible where people are described as being utterly terrified by God's appearance.
The sun and moon stood still in the heavens at the glint of your flying arrows, at the lightning of your flashing spear. In wrath you strode through the earth and in your anger you threshed the nations ( Haba 3:11-12).
The Lord thundered from heaven, the voice of the Most High resounded. He shot his arrows and scattered the enemies (Ps 18:13-14).
But God will shoot them with arrows, suddenly they will be struck down (Ps 64:7).
Then the Lord will appear over them, his arrows will flash like lightning. The sovereign Lord will sound the trumpet (Zech 9:14).
Serve the Lord with fear and trembling, kiss his feet or else he will get angry and you will perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled (Ps 2:11).Jesus frequently says that we should fear God (eg Lk l2:4 -5). The Bible also very correctly says that where there is fear there cannot be love (I Jn 4:18) and so if God creates fear in people it is difficult to know how he can genuinely be loved at the same time.
Therefore I am terrified at his presence. When I think of him I am in dread of him, God has made my heart faint. The Almighty has terrified me (Job 23:15).
What did the Buddha look like? Being human, the Buddha had a human body like any ordinary person. However the Tipitaka (the Buddhist sacred books) frequently speak of his great personal beauty.
He is handsome, good-looking, pleasant to see, of most beautiful complexion, his form and countenance is like Brahma's, his appearance is beautiful (Digha Nikaya, Sutta No.4).Whenever people saw the Buddha, his calm appearance filled them with peace and his gentle smile reassured them. As we have seen, God's voice is loud and frightening like thunder (Ps 68:33). while the Buddha's voice was gentle and soothing.
He is handsome, inspiring faith, with calm senses and mind tranquil, composed and controlled, like a perfectly tamed elephant (Anguttara Nikaya, Sutta No.36).
When in a monastery he is teaching the Dhamma, he does not exalt or disparage the assembly. On the contrary, he delights, uplifts, inspires and gladdens them with talk on Dhamma. The sound of the good Gotama's voice has eight characteristics; it is distinct and intelligible, sweet and audible, fluent and clear, deep and resonant ( Majjihima Nikaya, Sutta No.19).God carries weapons because he has to kill his enemies and because he controls people with violence and threats. The Buddha, on the other hand, showed enmity to no one and was able to control people by reasoning with them. Addressing the Buddha, King Pasenadi once said:
I am a king, able to execute those deserving execution, fine those deserving to be fined, or exile those deserving exile. But when I am sitting on a court case people sometimes interrupt even me. I can't even get a chance to say: "Don't interrupt me! Wait until I have finished speaking." But when the Lord is teaching Dhamma there is not even the sound of coughing coming from the assembly. Once, as I sat listening to the Lord teach Dhamma a certain disciple coughed and one of his fellows tapped him on die knee and said, "Silence, sir, make no noise. Our Lord is teaching Dhamma", and I thought to myself, indeed it is wonderful, marvellous how well trained these disciples are without stick or sword (Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta No.89).We can just imagine how God would react if one were foolish enough to interrupt him while he was speaking. We can see from what has been said above that the Buddha's physical appearance reflected his deep inner calm and compassion. People were always inspired by the aura of peace that surrounded him.
We have seen that Buddhists do not believe in God because to them the idea is illogical and contrary to the facts. Buddhists also reject the Christian God because, if the Bible is correct, God appears to be so imperfect. All of the negative emotions which most cultured people find unacceptable are to be found in God. Let us examine how the Bible describes God's mind.
The emotion which is associated with God more than any other is jealousy. He even admits that he is jealous.
For the Lord is a devouring fire, a jealous God (Deut 4:24).Nothing makes God more jealous than people worshipping other gods, and he tells us we must even kill our own children if they do this.
if your brother, the son of your mother, or your son, daughter, the wife of your bosom or the friend of your own soul, entices you secretly, saying, "let us go and serve other gods" which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the people that are around you whether near or far, from one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him, but you shall kill him. Your hand shall be the first against him to kill him and after that the others can strike him (Deut 13:6).The Bible tells us that God frequently loses his temper.
See, the day of the Lord is coming - a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger, to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it (Is 13:9).God tells us to love but he is described as hating and being filled with abhorrence .
God is angry every day (Ps 7:11).
The Lord will cause men to hear his majestic voice and will make them see his arm coming down with raging anger and consuming fire (Is 30:30).
His anger will burn against you and he will destroy you from the face of the land (Deut 6:15).
You hate all those who do wrong. You destroy those who tell lies; bloodthirsty and deceitful men the Lord abhors ( Ps 5:5-6).He is further described as hating many other things as well as people (see Deut 16:22, Mala 2:16, Lev 26:30). God has a particularly deep hatred for other religions which probably explains why Christianity has always been such an intolerant religion. He is often described as feeling special hatred for those who will no worship him.
Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts my soul hates (Is 1:14).The Buddha had compassion for those who were cruel, he forgave those who did wrong, and he had respect for those of other religions. We would expect God being capable of jealousy and hate, to be vengeful, and not surprisingly the Bible often mentions God's vengefulness.
Behold, your God will come with vengeance (Is 35:4).What would be the use of worshipping a God who is full of the very mental defilements which we ourselves are striving to overcome?
The Lord is avenging and wrathful, the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and holds wrath for his enemies (Nahum 1:2).
For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay", and again, The Lord will judge his people". It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living god (Heb 10:30-31). (See also Rom 1:8, 2:5-6, 12:19).
During the forty years after his enlightenment, the Buddha urged people to give up anger, jealousy and intolerance and never once in all that time did he fail to act in perfect accordance with what he taught to others.
The Lord acts as he speaks and speaks as he acts. We find no teacher other than the Lord who is so consistent as this whether we survey the past or the present Digha Nikaya, Sutta No.19).In the whole of the Tipitaka, there is not a single example of the Buddha expressing anger, hatred, jealousy, etc. because, being perfect, he was freed from such negative emotions.
The Bible tells us that there is a time for hate and a time for war (Ex 3:8) and it is widely recognized today that those great evils depend upon each other. As we have seen, God is quite capable of hatred and, not surprisingly is therefore often involved in war.
The Lord is a man of war (Ex 15:3).For centuries Christians have been inspired by these Bible passages, which encourage and even glorify war, to use violence to spread their religion. Even today there is a distinctly militaristic flavour about Christianity. The Salvation Army with its motto "Blood and Fire"; the hymns that speak about "Onward Christian soldiers marching as to war"; the saying "Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition", etc. The Bible contains dozens of examples of God helping his devotees to capture cities, slaughter civilian populations and defeat armies (for example Num 21:1-3, Num 31:1-12, Deut 2:32-34, Deut 3:3-7, Josh 11:6-11, etc.). Concerning captives in war God says:
The Lord your God is in your midst, a warrior who gives victory (Zeph 3:17).
The Lord goes forth like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his fury, he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against the enemy (Is 42:13).
When I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me. I will make my arrows drunk with blood while my sword devours flesh: the blood of the slain and the captives, the heads of the enemy leaders (Deut 32:41-42).
And you shall destroy all the peoples that the Lord your God gives over to you, your eye shall not pity them (')eat 7:16).Even Christians are often shocked when they read passages like these. Buddhists simply feel that such passages justify their rejection of God and their faith in the Buddha.
When the Lord your God gives them over to you and you defeat them you must utterly destroy them and show no mercy to them (Deut 7:2).
What was the Buddha's attitude to war? There is no example of the Buddha ever praising war, encouraging war, or going to war himself. On the contrary, he urged all to live in peace and harmony and is described in this way:
Re is a reconciler of those who are in conflict and an encourager of those who are already united, rejoicing in peace, loving peace, delighting in peace, he is one who speaks in praise of peace (Digha Nikaya, Sutta No.1).He set an example by being a man of peace.
Abandoning killing, the monk Gotarna lives refraining from killing, he is without stick or sword, he lives with care, compassion and sympathy for others (Digha Nikaya, Sutta No.1).The Buddha was not content with merely speaking in favour of peace or with being peaceful himself. He actively promoted peace by trying to stop war. When hi relatives were about to go to war over the waters of the Rohini River, the Buddha did not take sides, urge them on, give them advice on tactics, or tell them to show no mercy to their adversaries, as God would have done. Instead he stood between the two factions and said, "What is more valuable, blood or water?" The soldier replied, "Blood is more valuable, sir." Then the Buddha said, "Then is it not unbecoming to spill blood for water?" Both sides dropped their weapons and peace was restored (Dhammapada Atthakata Book l5,l). The Buddha had put aside hatred and filled his mind with love and compassion, so approving of war was impossible for him.
Justice is the quality of being fair, and a person who is just acts fairly and in accordance with what is right. However ideas about what is fair and right differ from time to time and from person to person. Christians claim that God is just, so by examining his actions we will be able to know God's concept of justice.
God tells us that anybody who disobeys him will be punished "seven times over" (Lev 26:18), that is, one sin will be punished seven times. God obviously considers this to be fair and just. He also tells us that he will punish the innocent children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren of those who sm.
I the Lord am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third or fourth generation of those who hate me ([)eat 5:9).This is known as collective punishment; punishing a whole family or group for the crime committed by one of its members. Collective punishment is condemned today as unfair and unjust but God apparently considers it quite just.
God tells us that even minor offences should be punished by death. For example, those who work on Sunday should be stoned to death. Once a man was found collecting firewood on Sunday and God said to Moses and the people who caught the man:
"The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp." So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death as the Lord commanded Moses (Num 15:32-36).God's idea of justice does not seem to embrace the idea that the punishment should fit the crime. We are told that all who do not love God will suffer eternal punishment in hell. There are many kind, honest and generous people who do not believe in God and they will all go to hell. Is this fair and just? God apparently thinks so.
Was the Buddha just? The Buddha had attained the freedom of enlightenment and he taught others how they too could attain this freedom. Unlike God, he was not primarily a lawgiver, a judge, or one who metes out punishment. He was a teacher. In all his dealings with people he was fair, mild and merciful and he urged his followers to act in like manner. If someone did wrong, he said that one should not rush to punish him.
When you are living together in harmony, a fellow monk might commit an offence, a transgression. But you should not rush to condemn him, the issue must be carefully examined first (Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta No.103).In addition, when a person is being examined one should remain uninfluenced b bias or partiality and should look at both sides of the case.
Not by passing hasty judgments does one become just' a wise man is one who investigates both sides. He who does not judge others arbitrarily, but passes judgment impartially and in accordance with the facts, that person is a guardian of the law and is rightly called just (Dhammapada 256-257).As for punishment, the Buddha would have considered stoning someone to death or any other form of capital punishment to be cruel. He himself was always ready to forgive. Once a man called Nigrodha abused the Buddha and later realised hi mistake and confessed to the Buddha. Full of compassion and forgiveness the Buddha said:
Indeed, Nigrodha, transgression overcame you when through ignorance, blindness and evil you spoke to me like that. But since you acknowledge your transgression and make amends as is right, I accept your confession (Digha Nikaya, Sutta No.25).The Buddha forgave all whether they accepted his teachings or not, and even I Nigrodha had refused to apologise the Buddha would not have threatened to punish him. To the Buddha the proper response to faults was not the threat to punish but education and forgiveness. As he says:
By three things the wise man can be known. What three? He sees his faults as they are. When he sees them he corrects them and when another confesses a fault the wise man forgives it as he should (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Threes, Sutta No.10).
Disease, sickness and plagues have been the scourge of mankind for centuries causing untold suffering and misery. The Bible shows us that God has always' considered disease a useful way of expressing his anger and exercising hi vengeance. When Pharaoh refused to release the Jews, God caused festering boil to break out on "all Egyptians" (Ex 9:8-12). God used this affliction to punish men, women, children and babies for the sin of one man. Later God made the first-bon of every male child die. He says:
Every first-born son in Egypt will die, from the first-born son of Pharaoh who sits on the throne, to the first-born son of the slave girl who sits at her handmill. There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt - worse than there has ever been or ever will be (Ex 11:5-6).This is another good example of God's idea of justice and compassion. Countless thousands of men, boys and innocent babies were killed by God because Pharaoh would not obey. In many places in the Bible God promises that he will inflict terrible diseases on those who do not follow his commandments.
The lord will plague with diseases until he has destroyed you...the Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation...(1)eat 28:21-22).Sometimes God even inflicts hideous diseases on people just to test their faith. To test Job God allowed all his children to be killed (Job 1:18-19) and Job himself to be struck with a terrible disease (Job 2:6-8). So unbearable was Job's grief and suffering that he began to wish he had never been born (Job 3:3-26).
The Lord will inflict you with the boils of Egypt and with tumours, festering sores, and with itch, from which you cannot be cured (Deut 28:27).
The Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters and severe and lingering illnesses. He will bring upon you all the disasters of Egypt that you dreaded and they will cling to you. The Lord will also bring on you every kind of sickness and disaster (Deut 28:59-61).
God even created some people blind and allowed them to spend their lives begging and groping in darkness just so that Jesus could miraculously heal them and thereby demonstrate God's power (Jn 9:1-4). Obviously, God sees illness, sickness and disease as useful means of punishing people and of demonstrating the extent of his power.
Now let us have a look at the Buddha's attitude to sickness. The Buddha saw sickness and disease as a part of the general suffering from which he came to free mankind. He was called "the compassionate physician". There are no examples of the Buddha ever having caused people to become diseased in order to punish them or because he was angry at them. The Buddha rightly understood that for as long as we have a body we will be susceptible to disease. He urged all to attain Nirvana and be forever free from suffering. While he tried to cut the problem at the root, he also did practical things to comfort the sick and restore them to health. Rather than inflict diseases on people, as God did, he gave practical advice on how to help and comfort the sick.
With five qualities one is worthy to nurse the sick. What five? One can prepare the correct medicine; one knows what is good for the patient and offers it, and what is not good one' does not offer; one nurses the sick out of love not out of desire for gain; one is unmoved by excrement, urine, vomit and spittle; and from time to time one can instruct, inspire, gladden and satisfy the sick with talk on Dhamma (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Fives, Sutta No.124).He not only taught this but acted in conformity to his own teaching. When once he found a sick monk, neglected and lying in his own excrement, he bathed him, comforted him and then calling the other monks together said to them, "If you would nurse me, nurse those who are sick" ( Vinaya , Mahavagga , 8). When God was angry he would inflict diseases on people and then watch them suffer. When the Buddha saw people with diseases, out of compassion he did all he could to restore them to health.
God created all that is good, but because he created everything, he also created a' that is evil. God himself says:
I am the Lord and there is no other. I form the light and I create the darkness, I make the good and I make evil (Is 45:7-8). (See also Rom 11:32).When we think of nature and we remember that God is supposed to have created everything we understand the meaning of these words. Leprosy germs cause untold( misery and they were created by God. Tuberculosis germs kill and deform millions of humans each year and they were created by God. God created the plage bacteria, the fleas and the rats that together cause bubonic plague and which hay throughout the centuries killed perhaps as many as a hundred million people. h 1665, 68,000 people died of the plague in London alone. No doubt all this is what God means when he says he created darkness and evil. But God also created other forms of evil. He says:
When disaster comes to a city, has not the Lord caused it? (Amos 3:4).This undoubtedly refers to the earthquakes, fires, social strife, wars and other forms of evil which periodically afflict mankind's towns and cities. We also read in the Bible that even evil spirits come from God. In 1 Samuel 16:14-16 we are told that an evil spirit from God tormented Saul.
Did the Buddha create evil? As he was not a creator God, he could not be held responsible for 'darkness and evil'. The only thing he 'created' was the Dhamma which he discovered and then proclaimed to the world. And his Dhamma has brought only light, good and tenderness everywhere it has spread.
In Old Testament times when people broke God's commandments he would get angry and the only way the sinner could make atonement and soothe God's anger was to sacrifice an animal. God himself gave exact instructions on how the animal was to be slaughtered.
If the offering to the Lord is a burnt offering of birds, he is to offer a dove or a young pigeon. The priest shall bring it to the altar, wring off its head and burn it on the altar; its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar. He is to remove the crop with its contents and throw it to the east side of the altar, where the ashes are. He shall tear it open by the wings, not severing it completely, and then the priest shall burn it on the wood that is on the fire on the side of the altar (Lev 1:14-17).God tells us that when the meat, fat, skin and bone of the sacrificial victims are thrown in the fire and burned, he likes the smell of it (Lev 1:9, 1:17). But not all the sacrifices God demanded were animals; sometimes he demanded even human sacrifices. God once said to Abraham:
Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about (Gen 22:2).Abraham took his son to the place God indicated, built an altar, laid his son on it and then took up the knife. Just as he was about to slit his own son's throat, Abraham was stopped by an angel (Gen 22:12). Presumably, Abraham was a good devotee because he blindly, unquestioningly and willingly did anything God told him to do, even to the extent of preparing to butcher his own son as a sacrifice to God.
In later centuries, mankind's sins became so bad that the sacrifice of mere animals could no longer appease God's anger. God required a greater, a more valuable sacrificial victim - his own son Jesus. Once again it was the blood of a victim which most atoned for sin and which is able to reconcile the sinners with God. Thus modern Christians often say that their "sins have been washed away by the;' blood of Jesus".
What did the Buddha think of animal or human sacrifices? At the time of the Buddha, the Hindu deities were offered animal sacrifices just as the Christian God was, and so the Buddha was quite aware of this practice. However, he considered sacrifices to be vulgar, cruel and useless.
The sacrifice of horse or man, the Peg-Thrown Rite, the Sacrificial Drink, the Victory Rite, the Withdrawn Bolt, all these rites are not worth a sixteenth part of having a heart filled with love, any more than the radiance of the moon outshines the stars (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Eights, Sutta No.1).Christians believe that Jesus' sacrificial blood will wash away their sins just as Hindus at the time of the Buddha believed that their sins could be washed away by bathing in holy rivers. The Buddha criticised the Hindu idea just as he would have criticised the Christian idea if he had known about it. To believe that blood, water or any other external things can purify the heart, which is an internal thing, is foolish indeed.
In the Bahuka River, at Adhikakka , at Gaya , in the Sundrika , the Sarassati , the Payaga or the Bahumati the fool can wash constantly but cannot cleanse his evil deeds. What can the Sundrika , the Payaga or the Bahumati River do? They cannot cleanse the angry, guilty man intent on evil deeds. For the pure in heart every day is lucky, for the pure in heart every day is holy (Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta No.7).This being the case, bathing in sacrificial blood or holy rivers is a poor substitute for purifying oneself by acting in a pure way. The only sacrifice that the' Buddha asked us to make was to give up our selfishness and replace it with love, wisdom and compassion.
We are told that God is love and the Bible sometimes mentions love as one God's attributes. However, there are different types of love. A person can love I or her own children but hate the neighbour's children. Someone might have strong love for his own country but a burning hatred for another country. Though we may love someone deeply, we may, due to changed circumstances, grow indifferent or even hateful towards them. This is the lower, less developed, type of love which ordinary people feel - but there is a higher, more universal, type of love than this. This higher type of love is well described in the Buddhist texts and also in the Bible. In Corinthians we read:
Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Cor 13:4-5).Does God exhibit this higher type of love? Let us have a look. We are told that love is patient. Patience is defined as the ability to wait calmly for a long time, to control oneself when angered, especially at foolishness or slowness. We have already seen that God gets angry every day (Ps 7:11) and that he gets angry very quickly (Ps 2:11). Obviously God has very little patience.
We are told that love is kind. Is God kind? Read Deuteronomy (28:15-68) where God describes in his own words just how cruel he can be. This shocking passage proves beyond all doubt that God is capable of truly terrible cruelty. Obviously God is not always very kind.
We are told that love does not envy. Envy is, of course, very similar to jealousy and God often describes himself as fiercely jealous. He says:
For the Lord your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God (Deut 4:24).We are told that love does not boast and is not proud. Is God like this? Certainly the Bible does not give us the impression that God is modest and retiring. God spends a lot of time telling Job how great he is (Job 40:41) and ends by boasting of himself that:
He looks down on all that are haughty, he is king over all that are proud (Job 41:34).Next we are told that love is not easily angered. We have already seen that God is very easily angered.
Serve the Lord with fear and trembling, kiss his feet or else he will get angry and you will perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled (Ps 2:11).Finally we are told that love does not keep a record of wrongs that are done, that is, love soon forgives and forgets. Does God keep a record of wrongs that are done? God tells us that he will punish the children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren of those who sin (Deut 5:9). In order to do this he must keep a record of the wrongs that have been committed and long remember them. Jesus tells us that God will never forgive those who insult the Holy Ghost (Lk 12:10).
We are told that God casts sinners and non-believers into eternal bell. In other: words, he refuses to ever forgive them. In short, he keeps a record for eternity of the wrongs which have been done. Quite clearly, God does not exhibit the highest type of love.
What about the Buddha? Did he exhibit the highest type of love? The first characteristic of this highest kind of love is patience, and there is not one incident recorded in the Tipitaka of the Buddha being impatient. Even when he was abused he remained calm. His every action displays a calm, strong patience. When Asurinda cursed and abused the Buddha, he calmly replied:
He who abuses his abuser is the worse of the two. To refrain from retaliation is to win a battle hard to win. If one knows that the other person is angry but refrains from anger oneself, one does what is best for oneself and the other person also. One is a healer of both (Samyutta Nikaya, Chapter Seven, Sutta No.3).As he was always patient, he was also free from anger. Even when his cousin Devadatta tried to murder him, the Buddha displayed only pity and tolerance.
We are also told that love is kind. Was the Buddha kind? Again there is not a single hint of the Buddha being anything other than kind and compassionate - not only to those who accepted his teachings but also to the followers of all faiths, not only to the good but also to the evil, not only to humans but also to animals. He says:
One should do no unkind thing that wise men might condemn and one should think, "May all beings he secure and happy. Whatever beings there are, moving or still, tall, middle-sized or short, great or small, seen or unseen, whether living far or near, existing or not yet come into existence, may they all be happy." One should not harm another or despise anyone for any reason. Do not wish pain on another out of either anger or jealousy. Just as a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life, even so, one should develop unbounded love towards all beings in the world (Sutta Nipata, Verses 145-149).The Buddha did not only teach this but he also practised everything he taught. God tells us that he is jealous and by this he means that he is jealous of other gods and other religions. He wants everyone to worship and revere him alone. So jealous is he that he says his devotees should kill even their own children if they worship other gods (Deut 13:6) and that God hates followers of other religions.
I hate those who cling to worthless idols (Ps 31:6).Was the Buddha jealous of other faiths? Indeed, he was not. A man called Upali was a follower of the Jain religion. The Buddha explained the Dhamma to him after which he decided to become a Buddhist. The Buddha did not exult nor was he anxious to 'win' Upali. Rather, he advised him to think carefully before making such an important decision:
I gain understanding from your precepts, therefore I hate every wrong path (Ps 119:104).
Make a careful investigation first, Upali. Careful investigation is good for well-known people like yourself (Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta No.56).The Buddha then advised Upali to keep offering donations to the Jain religion. He said this because he could see the good in all religions and because he was free from envy and jealousy.
Vacchogatta said to the Lord, "I have heard it said that you say that charity should only be given to you, not to other teachers, to your disciples, not to the disciples of other religions." Then the Lord said, "Those who say this are not reporting my words, they misrepresent me and tell lies. Truly, whoever discourages anyone from giving charity hinders in three ways. He hinders the giver from doing good, he hinders the receiver from being helped and he hinders himself through his meanness." (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Threes, Sutta No.57).Even today many Christians, especially fundamentalists and evangelicals, will refuse to have anything to do with non-Christians and would certainly refuse to help non-Christian charities.
The Buddha was not boastful or proud, he was not rude or self-seeking, he was not easily angered and he did not keep a record of wrongs that were done to him. From the day of his enlightenment, his every thought, word and action was an expression of love and compassion. As one of his contemporaries said:
I have heard this said, "To abide in love is sublime indeed", and the Lord is proof of this because we can see that he abides in love (Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta No.55).The Bible passages we have just looked are deeply shocking and Christians will try to repudiate them by saying that" the Old Testament does not show God as he really is but nearly reflects man's understanding of God at that time". How amusing is it discuss Theology with Christians I When it suits them they will quote the Old Testament as God's eternal word, when it does not suit them they will move away from this position and say that the Old Testament reflects man's attempts to understand God. The Christian claim that the Bible is divine infallible revelation means that the Old Testament is as true as the New and that the same God speaks in both.
The single thing which makes Christianity what it is, the foundation on which it rests, is Jesus Christ, or rather, claims about Jesus Christ. Christians are always making the most exaggerated claims about this man: "Jesus was the only man in history to claim to be God"; "Only faith in Jesus can give a person peace and happiness"; "Either Jesus was God or he was the greatest liar in history"; "Thousands of witnesses saw him rise from the dead so it must be true"; "Jesus was the most perfect human being who ever lived"; etc, etc, etc. These claims all sound very impressive until we look at the evidence.
Christians claim that many of the events which are happening in today's world were long ago prophesied in the Bible. When one actually asks to have a look at these 'amazing prophecies' one can see that they are usually so broad and general that they could be interpreted to correspond to any event. For example, they will say that the world is going to end soon because the Bible prophesies that in the last days "There will be wars and rumours of wars" (Matt 24:6). The problem with this prophecy is that it could refer to any period in world history because there are always a few wars occurring somewhere. Christians also claim that all the events in Jesus' life were prophesied in the Bible long before he was born and that the fact that these prophecies came true proves that he really was the Messiah . So let us have a look at some of these supposed prophecies and see if there is any truth in this claim. In the book of Isaiah in the Old Testament it says:
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called 'Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace'. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. (Is 9:6-7).This is supposed to be a prophecy foretelling the birth of Jesus. But does it? Other than being born no event mentioned here happened to Jesus. The government was not on his shoulders, he was never called nor did he call himself by the titles mentioned here and there has been no more peace since he was born than there was before. This is a fairly good example of the 'amazing prophecies' upon which Christianity is based. Before Jesus' birth an angel is supposed to have prophesied
The Lord God will make him a king, as his ancestor David was, and he will be the king of the descendants of Jacob forever (Lk 1:32-33).But if what the Bible says is true David could not possibly have been Jesus' ancestor because God, not Joseph, was Jesus' real father. Also David was a king in a political sense, while Jesus never became a king in this way or in any other way similar to David. Finally, the descendants of Jacob (i.e. the Jews) never accepted Jesus as their king - politically, spiritually or in any other way - and have refused to accept him as such even to this day. So as before this prophecy is wrong on every point. Again in Isaiah it says:
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. (Isa 53:3-5).This is supposed to prophesy that when Jesus was attacked by his opponents he would not retaliate. But in the Gospels Jesus is portrayed as robustly defending himself against criticism and loudly condemning his enemies. He cursed and criticized the Pharisees when they opposed him and according to John 18:33-37 he was anything but silent at his trial.
When the Romans crucified people they would nail them to a cross, let them hang there for some time and then finally break their legs, thereby increasing the poor victims' pain and killing them. According to the Bible, when the Romans came to break Jesus' legs he was already dead and so they did not bother (Jn 19:31-34). This, so Christians claim, is another remarkable example of biblical prophecy, for in Psalms (34:20) it says that God will not let even one bone of the Messiah's body be broken. Unfortunately the Christians have overlooked a very important fact. Although the bones in Jesus legs may not have been broken, the bones in his feet definitely were. When the nails were driven into Jesus feet they must have broken or at least cracked one or several of the metacarpals.
Christians claim that Jesus died and on the third day rose from the dead. And of course they claim that this was prophesied before it happened. The supposed prophecy says:
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth (Matt 12:40).However, like most Christian prophecies, this is wrong. Jesus is supposed to have died on Friday (Good Friday) and risen from the dead early on Sunday morning Easter Sunday). Even a schoolchild can see this is not three days and three nights - but one day and two nights. Another problem is that just before Jesus died he turned to the two criminals crucified with him and said "I assure you, today you will be in Paradise with me." (Lk 23:43). So according to the prophecy Jesus would go to heaven three days after he died, according to the gospels he went to heaven two days after he died, and according to Jesus, own words he went to heaven on the day he died. But it is not just prophecies about Jesus that are wrong, the prophecies he himself made were also wrong. Christians are always claiming that the end of the world is coming soon. Where do they get this bizarre idea from? They get it from Jesus. He believed and explicitly taught that the world end within his own lifetime or very soon afterwards.
I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened (Lk 21:25-33).By "this generation" he was obviously referring to the people he was addressing. On another occasion he again told the people who stood listening to him that some of them would still be alive when the end of the world came.
I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom (Matt 16:28).These and other examples prove that most of the supposed prophecies about Jesus and by him are false. But even where a prophecy seems to be true this does not necessarily mean anything. It can be demonstrated that whoever wrote the Gospels deliberately invented events in the life of Jesus to make them fit into supposed prophecies. We will examine one well-known example of this. Several hundred years before Jesus the Old Testament was translated from Hebrew into Greek, the language of the day. When a passage in Isaiah which says that the Messiah will be born of a young woman (Is 7:14) was translated, the word for young woman (almah) was mistranslated as virgin (pardhenas) changing the meaning of the prophecy considerably. When the authors of the Gospels read this they thought that to qualify to be the Messiah Jesus' mother had to be a virgin and so they fabricated the story of the virgin birth. In fact it only became necessary to invent this story because of a misunderstanding. So it is not that prophecies foretold events in Jesus' life but rather that events were fabricated to fit into prophecies.
When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly I say to you, you will not have gone through the towns of Israel, before the son of man comes. (Matt: 10.23)
Let us have a look at what the Bible says about the birth of Jesus. First we are told that news of Jesus' impending birth was conveyed to Joseph, Jesus' father, in a dream (Matt 1:20). Then we are told that the news was given to Mary, Jesus' mother, by an angel (Lk 1:28). Which of these two stories are true? Was it Joseph who got the news or Mary? Christians will say that they both got it. Then why does the Gospel of Matthew fail to mention the angel appearing to Mary and the Gospel of Luke fail to mention Joseph's dream? On one hand we are told that Jesus' parents went on a journey before the baby was born (Lk 2:4-7) and on the other that they went on a journey after the birth (Matt 2:13-14). Which of these true stories is true? When we come to where Jesus was actually born we meet with more contradictions. Was Jesus born at home (Matt 1:24-25) or was he born in a manger at the back of an inn (Lk 2:7)? Next we come to Jesus' ancestry. We have two lists of all Jesus' ancestors on his father's side, but when we look at the names in these we find almost no correspondence between them. They do not even agree about the name of Jesus' grandfather. One says his name was Jacob (Matt 1:16) and the other says his name was Heli (Lk 3:23). Moreover, it is ridiculous to talk about Jesus' ancestors on his father's side and Jesus being related to King David (Matt 1:1), when not Joseph but God is supposed to be Jesus' real father.
And at his death the Niganthas split into two parties, quarrelling and disputing, fighting and attacking each other and using a war of words You would have thought that they were disgusted, displeased and repelled when they saw that the doctrine was so badly presented, so poorly laid out and so ineffective in calming the passions because it had been taught by one who was not fully enlightened and was now without guide or arbiter (Digha Nikaya, Sutta No.29).Interestingly enough, this was exactly what happened as soon as Jesus died and for exactly the same reasons. Jesus is justly famous for the parables he used to illustrate his ideas but at the same time he often failed to make his meaning clear. Sometimes this was because he himself was not clear about his ideas and at other times it seems that he was just a poor communicator. What is even more strange is that Jesus even admitted that he deliberately obscured his message.
And when his disciples asked him what the parable meant, he said; To you it has been given to know the secrets of the Kingdom of God: but for others they are in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand (Lk 8:9-10; Mk 8:17-18).Add to this deliberate obscurity the numerous contradictory ideas in Jesus' teachings and it is not hard to imagine why his disciples fell into disagreement as soon as he died. In the Epistles there are constant references to the bickering and squabbling between the various factions amongst the early Christians. Paul complained that all the churches in Asia turned against him (2 Tim 1:15) and that they refused to take his side in some theological argument (2 Tim 4:14-16). He tells us of his squabble with Peter and the elders of the church in Jerusalem (Gal 2:11-13), of how he was snubbed by the church at Philippi (1 Thess 2:1-20), and of course he accused his rivals of not having real faith (2 Thes 3:1-3), of teaching 'another Christ' and of not really knowing God (Tit 1:10-16). John bitterly complained that his opponents threw those who supported him out of the church (John 1:9-10). Paul made a desperate but futile appeal for harmony between the early Christians.
But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they could not perceive it: and they were afraid to ask him about this saying (Lk 9:45).
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree with one another that there may be no divisions between you and that you might be perfectly united in mind and thought (1 Cor 1:10-12).What were the early Christians squabbling about? One of the numerous points of disagreement seems to have been on the issue of whether it was necessary to be circumcised or not (Rom 2:25-29, Gal 5:2-12, Gal 6:12-15, Phil 3:2-4, Col 2:1113). Paul was against it and called those who disagreed with him "dogs" (Phil 3:2), said that he hoped that they would go all the way and castrate themselves (Gal 5:12) and he warned other Christians to keep away from them (Tit 1:10). Sadly, all this is reminiscent of modern Christians. While claiming that they alone have the truth there is so much disagreement between them about what that truth is that they have split into hundreds of denominations, sects, cults and churches and refuse to worship the same God together. Like the early Christians there is much ill-will and jealousy between them with one group accusing the other of not being 'true Christians', of not understanding the Bible properly and of being misled by Satan. For Buddhists and other non-Christians this is all very bewildering. If it is true that Jesus' message of salvation was so clear and if it is true that God communicates with and guides Christians through prayer why is it that there is so much disagreement and mutual hostility among them?
Christians will reluctantly admit these mistakes but say that they are minor and of no significance. Perhaps so, but they do prove that the Bible is not infallible, and if the Bible makes mistakes about what Jesus did, it could just as easily make mistakes about what Jesus said. But even when we look at very important event in Jesus' life we find confusion. Let us have a look at the Last Supper. According to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus' Last Supper took place on the Jewish holy day of Passover (Matt 26:17-20, Mk 14:12-17, Lk 22:7-14). The Gospel of John on the other hand claims that the Last Supper took place on the day before Passover (Jn 19:14). Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were supposed to be among the disciples who attended the Last Supper with Jesus. They are also supposed to be the disciples who remembered and wrote down all Jesus' teachings, If they couldn't even remember the day of the Last Supper how do we know that they remembered Jesus' teachings correctly?
Would the trial really have proceeded like this? Let us have a look. We are told that "when Jesus rode into Jerusalem crowds of delighted people greeted him, laying their cloaks on the road and praising him as their king (Mk 11:8). But only a day after a huge crowd were screaming out for Jesus to be crucified (Mk 15:12-14).
This sudden change from adulation to hatred is hard to explain. Next we have Jesus brought before Pontius Pilate. The Bible portrays Pilate as a man who can find no guilt in Jesus but is pushed into crucifying him by the Jewish priests. This is clearly impossible. The Romans were famous for their strong and effective government; their judicial system was known for its justice and they did not send weak, indecisive men to govern troublesome parts of the empire. Who could believe that a Roman governor would allow the people he ruled to make up his mind for him and tell him how to run his own court? The Bible says that Pilate asked the crowd whether they wanted either Jesus or Barabbas released (Lk 23:1318), and when they said Barabbas, he was set free and Jesus was executed. Now credibility has been stretched to the limit. We are asked to believe that a Roman governor would execute a man he believed to be innocent and set free a rebel involved in murder and trying to overthrow Roman rule (Lk 23:19). The Romans did not conquer and govern Europe, Africa and the Middle East by releasing dangerous rebels. They were strong, fair and completely ruthless with all who opposed them. So the Christian account of Jesus' trial is unconvincing.
If we read what Jesus is supposed to have said at his trial we can see that all the accounts of the trial are fabrications. According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus "gave no answer", (Matt 27:12) and "made no reply, not even to a single charge, to the great amazement of the governor" (Matt 27:14) during his trial. In a complete contradiction to this the Gospel of John claims that Jesus answered charges, asked questions and spoke much during his trial (Jn 18:33-37). Which of these two accounts is true? Was Jesus silent or did he speak? Like the Gospel of John, the Gospel of Luke also claims that Jesus spoke much during his trial. But if we compare John's account of what was said with Luke's account we find that almost every sentence is different (Compare Jn 18:33-37 with Lk 22:66-70). Obviously, Christian claims that the Bible is an accurate, reliable historical document are completely untrue.
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. "[ have sinned", he said, "for I have betrayed innocent blood". "What is that to us", they replied. "That's your responsibility!". So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chief priests picked up the coins and said, "It is against the law to put this into treasury, since it is blood money". So they decided to use the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the field of blood to this day (Matt 27:3-8).Elsewhere we are told a different story.
With the reward he got for his wickedness, Judas bought a field; there he fell headlong, his body burst open and all his intestines spilled out. Everyone in Jerusalem heard about this, so they called that field in their language Akeldama, that is, field of blood (Acts 1:18-19).Was it Judas who bought the field or was it the chief priests? Did Judas hang himself or did he fall down and have his body burst open?
It will happen that in the very place where it was said of them "you are not my people" they will be called "sons of the living God" (Rom 9:26).Jesus is called God's 'only begotten son' but even this is not unique. In the Psalms God says to King David, "You are my son, today I have begotten you" (Ps 2:7) In fact, Jesus said distinctly that when he called himself a son of God, he did not mean he was God or related to God in a literal sense. When the Jewish priests criticized him for claiming to be equal with God, Jesus said:
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your father in heaven (Matt 5:44-45).
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26).
You are God's; you are all sons of the most high (Ps 82:6).
Is it not written in your law, "I have said you are gods"? If he called them "gods" to whom the word of God came - and the Scripture cannot be broken what about one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? (Jn 10:34-36).Christians will protest that in these quotes 'son of god' is not written in capitals but when Jesus makes his claims capitals are used thus, 'Son of God'. But capital letters to make a phrase outstanding or to give it emphasis is an innovation of modern English. In ancient Greek and Aramaic, the languages in which the New Testament was written, capital letters were never used and so the distinction between 'son of god' and 'Son of God' did not exist. Christians make an enormous fuss about Jesus' claims to be a son of God but as we can see, there is absolutely nothing unique in this claim. Christians could claim that the term 'son of God' is used in the Bible in two different ways - as a title for a particularly holy person and for the actual son of God, Jesus, who was with God in heaven before coming to earth. But even in this second sense Jesus was not unique. The Bible tells us that God had numerous sons with him in heaven who later came to earth and lived with humans just as Jesus did.
When mankind began to increase and spread all over the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful; so they took for themselves such women as they chose(Gen 6:1-3)In the Bible Jesus is called the Son of Man more than 80 times. Yet the Bible also tells us that in the eyes of God the Son of Man is nothing more than a worm (Job, 25:6). How can Christians claim that the Son of Man is God when the Bible itself says that the Son of Man is nothing more than a worm? Christians will then insist that Jesus was called the Messiah, but again it was not unusual to be called a Messiah. The Hebrew word messiah of which the Greek translation is christos simply means 'anointed one', and refers to anyone sent by God to help the people of Israel. Even a non-Jew could be and sometimes was called a Messiah. The Bible even calls the pagan Persian King Cyrus a Messiah because he let God's people return to their homeland (Is 45:1). So just because Jesus was called the Messiah does not prove he was God. In fact, throughout the Bible Jesus goes out of his way to make it clear that he was not God. When someone called Jesus 'good teacher' he said:
Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone (Lk 18:19).Now if Jesus was God why would he deny that he was good? We are told that Jesus prayed, but if he was God why would he need to pray to himself? And when Jesus prayed, he said to God, "not my will but yours" (Lk 22:42). Quite clearly Jesus is making a distinction between God's will and his own. Jesus says that no one has even seen God (Jn 1:18), meaning that when people saw him they were not seeing God. Again Jesus says he can do nothing without God.
I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees the Father do (Jn 5:19).If Jesus was God he could do anything he wanted to do, and in these passages and dozens of others he is making it as clear as crystal that he is one thing and God another. Jesus said, "The Father is greater than I" (Jn 14:28) making it clear that he is not as great as God and therefore different from God. He says:
By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me (Jn 5:30).
I can do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me (Jn :28).
Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven (Lk 12:10).Now if Jesus and the Holy Spirit were the same, to blaspheme one would be the same as blaspheming the other. In the Bible we are told that no one born of a woman can be pure (Job 25:4). Jesus was born of a woman, his mother Mary, so he likewise must have been impure. Now if Jesus was impure how could he be God? We are told that Jesus was dead for three days before ascending into heaven.
How can God possibly die? Who was looking after the universe while he was dead? Jesus said that at the end of the world he would be sitting at the right hand of God to judge the world (Lk 22:69). If Jesus and God are the same being, how is this possible? Quite clearly the two are separate and different. And again David is described as sitting on the right hand of God, so to do this one does not have be a god (Ps 110:1). We are told that Jesus stands between God and man.
For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:5).This passage clearly states that Jesus is not God, for if he was, how could he stand' between God and men? It also specifically calls Jesus a man (see also Acts l7:3 -31). In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (Matt 1:16, Lk 3:23) we are given the* name of Jesus' father, his father's father, and so on, back through many generations. if God was really Jesus' father, why does the Bible list all Jesus' ancestors on his father's side? Christians are forever claiming that Jesus is God and at the same time that he is the son of God. But how is this possible? How can I father be his own son and himself all at the same time? And to make matters more confused, the Holy Spirit is brought in and we are asked to believe that Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit are different and yet the same.
The claim of Christians that Jesus is God contradicts what the Bible says, it goes against common sense and it raises numerous logical problems. Whereas if we sci Jesus as he was, a reformer and prophet, none of these problems arise.
Jesus' ethical teachings are often described as 'sublime', 'lofty', 'utterly perfect' etc. But were they? Let us look at his teachings on divorce. In the Old Testament divorce was allowed under certain circumstances, which of course when a couple no longer love each other or when they are incompatible, is the most humane thing to do. But Jesus took an extreme position on divorce, saying that it was allowable only on the grounds of adultery:
It has been said, "Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce". But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to commit adultery, and anyone who marries a woman so divorced also commits adultery (Matt 5:31-32).This terrible teaching has meant that until recently in Christian countries millions of couples were trapped in unhappy and loveless marriages, unable to get a divorce. It also meant that countless women who did manage to get a divorce from their husbands even without committing adultery were branded as adulterers if they 'named again. This teaching of Jesus alone has caused untold misery and heartbreak. Another example of the far from perfect teachings of Jesus is his attitude to money. Jesus seems to have a deep resentment for the rich:
But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you that are full now, for you shall hunger (Lk 6:24-25).While it is true that the rich are sometimes greedy and thoughtless (as are the poor) 'no mention is made of this. The rich are condemned simply because they are rich. Once when a young man pressed Jesus for an answer to the question of how he could have eternal life he finally said:
If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give it to the poor and follow me and you will have treasure in heaven (Matt 19:21).Jesus even went so far as to say that it is virtually impossible for a rich person to get to heaven.
Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God (Matt 19:23-24).Christians of course, have never taken any notice of these sayings of Jesus, but if they did the economies of most Christian countries would collapse and all the good qualities that honest entrepreneurship can engender would disappear. This rather impractical and unfair teaching of Jesus contrasts very sharply with the Buddha's attitude to wealth. He recognized that wealth honestly earned can be a source of happiness.
What is the happiness of ownership? Herein, a householder has wealth acquired by energetic striving, won by strength of arm and sweat of brow, justly and lawfully won When he thinks of this, he feels happiness and satisfaction. And what is the happiness of wealth? Herein, a householder has wealth justly and lawfully won, and with it he does many good deeds. When he thinks of this, he feels happiness and satisfaction. And what is the happiness of freedom from debt? Herein, a householder owes no debt large or small to anyone, and when he thinks of this, he feels happiness and satisfaction (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Fives, Sutta No.41).He also understood that with the right attitude the wealthy can do great good their money.
With wealth acquired by energetic striving, won by strength of arm and sweat of brow lawfully and justly, a noble disciple makes himself, his mother and father, his wife and children, his servants and workmen and his friends and acquaintances cheerful and happy - he creates perfect happiness. This is the first opportunity seized by him, used for good and appropriately made use of (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Fives, Sutta No.41).So rather than dismissing the rich wholesale from the religious life as Jesus did. d Buddha taught them to earn the money honestly and to use it for the benefit themselves and the general community.
But the teaching of Jesus which has caused more problems than any other is U claim that he and he alone can give salvation (Jn 14:6). It follows axiomatical from this that all other religions lead to the only alternative to salvation - hell - a' are therefore evil. Sadly, this claim by Jesus is the root of that most characteristic of all Christian traits - intolerance. Christianity has always equated disbelief Jesus with evil and has castigated non-believers as godless, wicked, stubborn pagan, scoffers, followers of false prophets, idol worshippers (see e.g.2 Pet 2:l .-22).
Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? What does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? (2 Cor 6:14-16).What, Paul asks in this passage, can a Christian have in common with, for example, a Buddhist? For Paul as for fundamentalist and evangelical Christians the fact that the Buddhist may value and practise love, compassion, charity, patience, humility, and truthfulness just as he does, counts for nothing. For the Christian the single fact that the Buddhist does not believe that Jesus is God automatically puts him on the side of wickedness and darkness; he is an idol worshipper who should be shunned and who deserves to go to hell.
This is the great tragedy of Christianity - the stronger the Christian's faith in Jesus the more partisan, bigoted and intolerant he usually becomes. What a relief it is to be able to Take Refuge in the Buddha and still be able to respect and admire Lao Tzu , the Prophet Mohamrned, Krishna, Guru Nanak, etc. How pleasant it is to be able to communicate with others without the need to be always trying to convert them. How nice it is to be able to be happy when one sees others happy with their religion. Christianity is intolerant because it is obsessed with Jesus and excludes everyone who does not accept him. Buddhism is tolerant because it treasures wisdom and compassion and can embrace anyone, whatever their religion, who is developing these qualities.
To the Buddhist this miracle, if it even really happened, seems to be unnecessary, and even cruel. How much more practical and humane was the Buddha's approach to death. On one occasion a young mother named Kisagotami came to the Buddha with her dead son, deranged with grief and pleading with the Buddha to give her son medicine. Full of compassion the Buddha told her to go and get a mustard seed from a house where no one had ever died. In the process of looking for such a seed, Kisagotami gradually came to realize that death is an integral part of life and she overcame her grief ( Dhammapada Atthakatta , Book 8,13). Jesus performed showy miracles which seemed to leave people much as they were, the Buddha gently and skilfully led people to understanding. This is what the Buddha meant when he said that education is the highest miracle (Digha Nikaya, Sutta No.11).
Another miracle where Jesus seems to have given little thought to the consequences of what he was doing was the one he supposedly performed at Godara. A man was possessed by devils, and just before Jesus exorcized them the devils asked Je sus if he would send them into a nearby herd of pigs. Jesus obliged, sending the devils into the pigs, which then rushed screaming down the side of a cliff into a lake where they drowned (Mk 5:1-13). The man who had been possessed by the devil must have been very grateful for this but one wonders what the owners of the pigs would have thought. The loss of their animals would have caused them gr financial hardship. Not surprisingly, we are told that after this incident the people from the nearby village came to Jesus and begged him to leave their territory (Mk 5:17). Note that Matthew tells this same story but he exaggerates it, claiming the not one but two men were exorcized (Matt 8:28-32).
This supposed miracle also highlights Jesus utter disregard for nature. He could simply have expelled the devils but instead he chose to do it in a most cruel w by driving to their deaths a large number of completely harmless and innocent animals. On another occasion he used his miraculous powers to kill a fig tr simply because it could not bear fruit (Matt 21:18-20). Apparently he never considered that animals could have eaten its leaves, birds could have nested in branches, travellers could have rested in its shade and its roots would have helped prevent erosion of the soil by the rain and the wind - which probably explains why the tree had been left growing. No advantage at all came from killing the tree was little more than an act of wanton vandalism.
While some of Jesus' miracles were pointless others seem to have verged on the ridiculous. Once Jesus was invited to a wedding. After some time there was Ii wine left to drink so Jesus turned several large jars of water into wine (Jn 2:1 -1l ). No doubt the host must have appreciated not having to go out to buy more alcohol but it does seem a bit incongruous. that God should incarnate as a man, come earth and use his powers just so that people wouldn't run out of drinks at the parties.
Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel (Matt 10:5-6).When a poor distressed woman came to Jesus begging for help he refused to help her simply because she was not Jewish. Teaching the Gospel to Canaanites was, he said, like taking food from children and throwing it to dogs.
A Canaanite woman from the vicinity came to him, crying out, "Lord, son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession". Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, "Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us". He answered: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel". The woman came and knelt before him, "Lord, help me!" she said. He replied, "It is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to the dogs" (Matt 15:22-26).It was only after strong urging from his disciples that Jesus finally decided to help the woman. So much for loving one's neighbour. Jesus taught that we should love our enemies, but again he seemed to have difficulties doing this. When the Pharisees criticized him he responded with a tirade of curses and insults (e.g. Jn 8:42-47, Matt 23:13-36).
Jesus said that we should not judge others (Matt 7:12) and claimed that he himself judged no one (Jn 8:15). But despite this he was constantly judging and condemning others, often in a harsh and sweeping manner (Jn 8:42-47, Matt 23:13-16)
In conformity with the Old Testament Jesus taught that we must honour our mother and father (Matt 19:19) but on other occasions he taught and practised the exact opposite.
If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple (Lk 14:26).This demand that to love Jesus we must be prepared to hate others, even our own parents, seems to be very much at odds with the idea of honouring parents - let alone with the idea of loving our neighbour. Once Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him while he was preaching only to be rudely rebuffed.
And his mother and brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting about him, and they said to him, "Your mother and brothers are outside, asking for you". And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?" And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, "Here are my mother and brothers!" (Mk 3:31-35).Once when his mother spoke to him, he snapped at her: "0 woman, what have y( to do with me?" (Jn 2:4). And yet while he acted like this to his parents I condemned the Pharisees for their supposed hypocrisy over the law to honour mother and father (Matt 15:3-6, Mk 7:10-13).
In some instances, it is difficult to accuse Jesus of failing to practise what I preached for the simple reason that he taught contradictory things. Christians ai used to thinking of him as "gentle Jesus meek and mild", because of his command "to turn the other cheek" and to "not resist an evil person" (Matt 5:39). And indef. Jesus seems to have acted like this sometimes. But at other times he clearly saw his role as a violent one.
Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but the sword. I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man's enemies will be the members of his own household (Matt 10:34-36).Certainly he saw nothing wrong with using violence when he thought it was necessary. When he saw the money changers in the temple he lost his temper and lashed out with violence.
So he made a whip out of cords and drove all from the temple areas: he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables (Jn 2:15).Before his arrest Jesus was expecting trouble so he told his disciples to prepare themselves by getting weapons.
If you do not have a sword sell your cloak and buy one (Lk 22:36).When he was arrested there was a fight during which "one of Jesus' companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear" (Matt 26:51). It is very difficult for the Buddhist to reconcile such behaviour with the idea of being perfect. To retaliate against one's accusers, to lon one's temper and to encourage others to carry weapons and use them seem t negate the whole idea of moral perfection.
At this stage it might be good to point out that while most of Jesus' teachings are inadequate and ill-conceived, some are excellent. His teachings on love, forgiveness, humility and service to the sick and poor are worthy of the highest praise. However, none of this is unique. Such ideas are to be found, sometimes rnore fully, in the teachings of the Buddha, Confucius, Mo Tzu , Mahavira , Guru Nanak etc, most of whom lived centuries before Jesus. What is good in Jesus' Teachings is not unique and what is unique is not particularly good.
Christians have great difficulty understanding why Buddhists and other non-Christians cannot accept Jesus as the Lord and saviour as they themselves do. But when we read the life and teachings of the Buddha - a man who smiled at abuse, remained calm when provoked and who always discouraged violence - the reason for their rejection becomes clear.
Then we come to the Gospels which recount the life of Jesus. Why has God decided to reveal the whole of Jesus' biography, not once, but four times? And why has he revealed what are, quite clearly, four different and contradictory versions of the same story? Unlike Christians, historians have given perfectly plausible answers to these questions. The Bible is not a revelation from God, rather it is a compilation, a fairly untidy compilation, written by many different people, over many centuries, changed and edited from time to time, and containing legends, stories, genealogies, fables, sacred and secular writings. It is no more a revelation from God than are the Iliad or the Odyssey, the Ramayana or the Mahabharata, books which the Bible resembles quite closely.
Insomuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us it seemed good to me also having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you (Lk 1:1-3).Nothing about being filled with the spirit of God either before or while he wrote, he simply says that others had written accounts of the life of Jesus so he thought it might be a good idea if he wrote something also. If he really was inspired by God to write the Gospel why didn't he say so? But the claim of inspiration is not just unsubstantiated, it also raises a very serious problem. Christians are always claiming that in prayer God speaks to them, gives them advice and tells them what to do. They claim that his voice is very direct, very clear and very real. But if they really have no doubt that God is communicating with them surely his words should he recorded and included in the Bible. The Bible contains words God spoken to Moses, Joshua, Matthew, Mark Peter and Paul so why shouldn't the words he speaks to modern day Christians be included also? Christians will balk at such a suggestion which indicates that they are not so convinced that the words they hear in their hearts really do come from God after all.
When we look at the Bibles used by modern Christians we find that there are several different versions. The Bible used by the Ethiopian Church, one of the most ancient of all churches, contains the Books of Enoch and the Shepherd of Hernias which are not found in the versions used by Catholics and Protestants. The Bible used in the Catholic Church contains the books of Judith, Tobias, Banuch, etc which have been cut out of the Bible used in Protestant churches. Prof H.L. Drummingwright of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in his introduction to the Bible explains how these books came to be cut out of the Bible used by the Protestants. These books were, he says, "in most Protestant Bibles until the 19th century, when publishers, led by the British and Foreign Bible Society voluntarily began to omit them". Once again, these books contained ideas which the churches did not like so they just cut them out. How can a book like Judith be the infallible word. of God one moment and not the next? Why are there so many different versions of the Bible? And which version is the infallible word of God?
The Bible however, clearly states that the earth does not move. In 1 Chronicles 16:30 the Bible says, "The world is firmly established, it cannot be moved." (See also Ps 93:1, 96:10 and 104:5).
Here, and in many places, the Bible contradicts scientific fact. Moreover the Bible does not just contradict scientific fact it also contradicts itself. Let us have a look at the creation story. In the first book of the Bible it says that God created all the plants and trees on the third day (Gen 1:11-13), all birds, animals and fish on the fifth day (Gen 1:20-23) and finally, man and woman on the sixth day (Gen 1:2627). Yet a little further on the Bible gives a different version of the creation story saying that God created man first (Gen 2:7), then all plants and trees (Gen 2:9), after that all birds and animals (Gen 2:19) and only then did God create woman (Gen 2:21-22). These two versions of the creation story clearly contradict each other.
Now let us have a look at the story of Noah's Ark. In one place in the Bible we are told that Noah took two of every animal and put them in the ark (Gen 6;19). Later the Bible says Noah took seven pairs of all clean animals and birds and two of all other creatures and put them in the ark (Gen 7:2). Again the Bible is contradicting itself. Christians will object to this saying that these and the numerous other mistakes in the Bible are only small and of no significance. However, only one mistake is required to show that the Bible is not infallible. Also, if mistakes can be made in small matters they can be made in important matters. And, finally, one mistake is proof either that the Bible is not the word of God or that God is capable of mistakes.
We have seen that the Bible is not infallible and therefore cannot be revelation. So if it is not God's word whose word is it? Many of the books in the Bible are named after different people who are supposed to have written them. So the Gospel of Matthew is supposed to have been written by Matthew, one of the disciples of Jesus. The Gospel of Mark is supposed to have been written by Mark, another of Jesus' disciples, and so on.
The Christian could claim that even if the Bible is not necessarily infallible revelation it is the testimony of reliable people, They could claim that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John knew Jesus well, they lived with him for several years, they heard its teachings and they wrote down what they saw and heard and that there is no reason for them to lie or exaggerate. Therefore, Christians could claim that the Bible is reliable testimony. Except that for testimony to be reliable it must come from reliable people, people we could trust, people from good backgrounds. Were the disciples of Jesus such people? Let us look.
Some of Jesus' disciples were tax collectors (Matt 9:9), a dishonest and despised class of men (Matt 18;17); others were mere illiterate fishermen (Mk 1:16-17). Simon was a Zealot (Lk 6:15), a group of men known for their fanatical and often violent opposition to Roman rule, and like many people involved in illegal politics he used an alias and was also known as Peter (Matt 10:2). Peter and James were given the nicknames ' Boanerges ' meaning 'sons of thunder' (Mk 3:17) once again suggesting their involvement in violent politics. When Jesus was arrested his disciples were carrying swords and were willing to use them (Matt 26:51). Hardly the sort of people with whom we would feel comfortable.
Another thing that should make us wary of trusting the testimony of Jesus disciples is that they seemed to be constantly misunderstanding what Jesus was saying (Mk 4:13, 6:52, 8:15-17, 9:32; Lk 8:9, 9:45). They are supposed to have seen Jesus perform the most amazing miracles and yet despite this they still doubted. Jesus scolded them and called them "men of little faith" (Matt 8:26, 17:20). Should we trust the writings of men who constantly failed to understand what was being said to them and whom even Jesus called men of little faith? If even the people who knew and saw Jesus had "little faith" how could we, who have never seen him, be expected to have faith in him?
How unreliable and faithless the people who wrote the Bible were is best illustrated by what they did just prior to and during Jesus' arrest. He asked them to keep watch but they fell asleep (Matt 26:36-43). After Jesus was arrested they lied and denied that they even knew him (Mk 14:66-72), and after his execution they simply went back to their fishing (Jn 21:2-3). And who betrayed Jesus in the first place? His disciple Judas (Matt 26:14-16). Association with sinners, liars and fools in order to help them, as Jesus did, is a good thing. But should we believe everything such people say?
An even more disturbing thing about the disciples of Jesus is just how many of them were possessed by demons or devils from time to time. Mary Magdalene who later claimed to have seen Jesus rise from the dead, had been possessed by seven devils (Mk 16:9). Satan entered into Judas (Lk 22:3), tried to get into Simon (Lk 22:31) and Jesus once actually called Peter, his chief disciple, "Satan" (Matt 16:23) indicating that he too was possessed by a devil at that time. Whether possession by devils actually happens or whether it indicates serious psychological disorders as modern psychiatrists believe, either way it indicates that we should treat the words of Jesus' disciples with great caution.
So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab according to the word of the Lord, and they buried him in the valley in the land Moab opposite Beth Peor , but no man knows the place of his burial to this day (Deut 34.5-6).How could a man write an account of his own death and burial? The book of Deuteronomy, at least, must have been written by someone other than Moses.
Now let us have a look at the New Testament. The Gospel of Matthew is supposed to have been written by Matthew (tax collector, doubter, man of little faith), one of the disciples of Jesus. Yet we can easily demonstrate that Matthew could not have possibly have written the Gospel of Matthew. We read:
As Jesus passed on from there he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office and he said to him, "Follow me". And he rose and followed him (Matt 9:9).Neither now nor in the past do people write in the third person. If Matthew had really written this we would expect it to read:
As Jesus passed on from there he saw me sitting at the tax office and he said to me, Follow me". And I rose and followed him.Obviously this was not written by Matthew but by some third person. Who this third person is we do not know but Bible scholars have made a guess. In the preface to his translation of the Gospel of Matthew the distinguished Bible scholar J.B. Phillips says:
Early tradition ascribes this Gospel to the apostle Matthew but scholars nowadays almost all reject this view. The author, who we still can conveniently call Matthew has plainly drawn on a collection of oral traditions. He has used Mark's Gospel freely, though he has rearranged the order of events, and has in several instances used different words for what is plainly the same story.This is a deeply disturbing admission, especially coming from an eminent Christian Bible scholar. We are told that "almost all" modern Bible scholars reject the idea that the Gospel of Matthew was actually written by Matthew. We are told that although the real author is unknown it is "convenient" to keep calling him Matthew. Next we are told that whoever wrote the Gospel of Matthew has "freely copied much of his material from the Gospel of Mark. In other words, the Gospel of Matthew is just a plagiarism where material has been "rearranged" and restated in "different words". So apparently in the Gospel of Matthew not only do we no have the words of God, we don't even have the words of Matthew.
To the credit of Bible scholars like Prof. J.B. Phillips, they freely admit these an other major doubts about authorship of the Bible, but such admissions make di claim that the Gospels were written by the disciples of Jesus clearly untrue.
In the New Testament Jesus and his disciples often quote the Old Testament in order to make a point or, more usually, to attempt to prove that the Old Testament prophesizes events in the life of Jesus. But when we compare these quotes with the original text of the Old Testament we find that they are almost always different We will use here the New International Version of the Bible.
Old Testament: But you, Bethlehem Ephasthah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old (Mic 5:2). New Testament
But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah are by no means the least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel (Matt 2:6).
The quote in the New Testament contains not just different words, it also changes the meaning of the original. Has Matthew misquoted the Old Testament because he was not familiar with it and made a mistake? Has he deliberately misquoted in order to alter the meaning? Or is the Old Testament Matthew used different from the one we have today? The New Testament quotes the Old Testament dozens of times and hardly a single quote is accurate. Christians will protest and say that these changes are only minor and of no importance. Perhaps so, but these are proofs that the Bible does contain mistakes, contrary to what Christians say. Also, it is strange that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul, who according to Christians were inspired by God to write the New Testament, could not even quote the Old Testament correctly.
King James Version: Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The New International Version: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation (Lk 11:2-5).
Notice that these phrases - "who art in heaven", "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven", "but deliver us from evil, for thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory forever and ever. Amen" - have been cut out of the Lord's Prayer. We should ask our Christian friends why these verses have been cut out of the most famous and important of all Jesus' teachings. Ask them which of these two different versions of the Lord's Prayer is the infallible, unchanging word of God. Ask them < I>who had knowledge and wisdom enough to tamper with the Bible. You will find that they have great difficulties answering your questions. Here as elsewhere, the reader is encouraged to go to the library and the bookshop, find different versions of the Bible and carefully compare them. We will see with our own eyes how much the Bibles differ as the result of tampering.
If you have no satisfactory teacher, then take this sure Dhamma and practise it. For Dhamma is sure, and when rightly undertaken it will he to your welfare and happiness for a long time. (The Buddha)Christianity is based upon certain supposed historical events (the virgin birth, the resurrection, etc), the only record of which is an allegedly reliable document called the Bible. If these events can he shown to have never occurred, and if the documents recording these events can he shown to he unreliable, then Christianity will collapse. In this book we have seen that the claims are at hest highly doubtful and at worst demonstrably wrong.
When we examine the teachings of the Buddha we find an entirely different situation. Even if we were able to prove that the Buddha never existed or that there were mistakes in the Buddhist scriptures this would in no way undermine Buddhism. And why? Because Buddhism is not primarily about the historical Buddha or about events which happened in the past; rather, it is about human suffering, what causes that suffering, and how it can be overcome so that humans can be free, happy and radiant. If we wish to verify or understand Buddhism we don't pick through scriptures squabbling about the meaning of words or phrases; rather, we become sensitive to our own experience. Let us examine the four principles which are the doctrinal basis of Buddhism.
Christians believe that when people die they have only one or the other of two possible destinies - heaven or hell. They believe that these destinies are eternal and that one goes to one's destiny according to God's judgement.
Buddhism teaches that when people die they can have a variety of destinies (heaven, hell, as a human being, as an animal, etc). It teaches that none of these destinies is eternal and that, having finished one's time in one of these realms, one will die and pass to another. It also teaches that one's destiny is conditioned by one's kamma (i.e., the sum total of the good or bad that one has done during one's life). This means that all good people, no matter what their religion, will have a good destiny. It also means that even those who have done evil will have a chance to become good in the next life.
Christians scoff at the idea of being reborn and say that there is no evidence that such a thing happens. But the idea of rebirth is not so different from the Christian afterlife belief - if people after death can become angels in heaven, why can't they become humans on earth? And as for evidence, there is certainly no evidence for the Christian afterlife theory while there is some evidence that people can be reborn (see Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation, University Press of Virginia, Charlotteville U.S.A., 1975).
The next principle upon which Buddhism is based is the idea that life is suffering. Although Christians accuse Buddhists of being pessimistic for saying this, life's inherent unsatisfactoriness is in fact confirmed by the Bible: "In the world you will have tribulation" (Jn 16:33); "Man is born to trouble as sparks fly upwards" (Job 5:7); "All things are full of weariness" (Ecc 1:8); "the earth mourns and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth" (Is 24:4). But while both religions agree on this point they disagree on why suffering exists.
Christianity relies on what is plainly a myth to explain the origin of evil and suffering, claiming that they are due to Adam and Eve having eaten an apple. Buddhism sees suffering as a psychological phenomenon with a psychological cause - wanting, craving and desire. And our experience tells us that this is so. When we want something and cannot get it we feel frustration, and the stronger the wanting the stronger the frustration. Even if we get what we want we soon grow tired of it and begin to want something else. Even physical suffering is caused by craving because the strong craving to live causes us to be reborn and when we are reborn we become subject to sickness, accidents, old age, etc. Buddhism says that even the bliss of heaven is impermanent and imperfect, a fact confirmed by the Bible. The Bible tells us that Satan was originally a heavenly angel but that he rebelled against God (i.e. he was dissatisfied) and was cast out of heaven (i.e. existence in heaven need not be eternal). If having been in heaven one can fall from that state this proves that heaven is not, as Christians claim, perfect and everlasting (see Is 14:12-15, II Pet 2:4, Jude 6, Rev 12:9).
The third principle upon which Buddhism is based is the idea that it is possible to be free from suffering. When craving and wanting stop, one's life becomes more content and happy, and at death one is no longer reborn. This state of complete freedom from suffering is called Nirvana and is described by the Buddha as being "the highest happiness" (Dharnmapada 203). Christians often mistakenly think that Nirvana is a blank nothingness and accuse Buddhism of being nihilistic. This misunderstanding arises because of their inability to conceive of an afterlife more subtle than their own naive heaven - a place "up there" (Ps 14:2, 53:2) with doors and windows (Gen 28:17, Rev 4:1, 2 Kg 7:2, Mal 3:10), where God sits on a throne (Rev 4:2) surrounded by Christians in beautiful gowns with crowns on their heads playing trumpets (Rev 4:4). The Buddha categorically said that Nirvana is not nihilistic.
When one has freed the mind, the gods cannot trace him, even though they think: "This is the consciousness attached to the enlightened one (Buddha)." And why? It is because the enlightened one is untraceable. Although I say this, there are some recluses and religious teachers who misrepresent me falsely, contrary to fact, saying: "The monk Gotama (Buddha) is a nihilist because he teaches the cutting off, the destruction, the disappearance of the existing entity." But this is exactly what I do not say. Both now and in the past, I simply teach suffering and the overcoming of suffering (Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta No.22).But he also said that Nirvana is not the crude 'eternal life' as portrayed in Christianity. It is an utterly pure and blissful state which no conventional language can adequately describe.
Christians sometimes claim that Buddhism contradicts itself because in wanting to attain Nirvana one is strengthening the very thing which prevents one from attaining it. This point was raised at the time of the Buddha and answered by one of his chief disciples, Ananda.
A priest asked Venerable Ananda: "What is the aim of living the holy life under the monk Gotama?" - "It is for the sake of abandoning desire." - "Is there a way, a practice by which to abandon this desire?" - "There is a way it is by means of the psychic powers of desire, energy, thought and consideration together with concentration and effort." - "If that is so, Venerable Ananda, then it is a task without end. Because to get rid of one desire by means of another is impossible." - "Then I will ask you a question; answer as you like. Before, did you have the desire, the energy, the thought and consideration to come to this park? And having arrived, did not that desire, that energy, that thought and that consideration cease?" - "Yes, it did."
- "Well, for one who has destroyed the defilements, once he has won enlightenment, that desire, that energy, that thought and that consideration he had for enlightenment has now ceased" (Samyutta Nikaya, Book Seven, Sutta No.15).
The last of the four principles which form the basis of Buddhism tells us how to eliminate craving and thereby be free from suffering both in this life and in the future. The first three principles are how the Buddhist sees the world and the human predicament while the last principle is what the Buddhist decides to do about it. And the Buddhist response to suffering is to walk the Noble Eightfold Path. This practical and universally valid system of training comprises the development of Right Understanding, Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. We will look briefly at each of these steps.
If we persist in believing that evil and suffering are due to something Adam and Eve did, or that they are caused by devils, we will never be able to overcome them. When we come to understand that we inflict suffering upon ourselves through our ignorance and craving, we have taken the first step in overcoming that suffering. Knowing the true cause of a problem is the beginning of overcoming it- And it is not sufficient to just believe - we must strive to understand. Understanding requires intelligence, careful observation, weighing up the facts, openness; and in trying to develop insight, these qualities are strengthened.
The next three steps on the Noble Eightfold Path embody Buddhism's ethical teachings. Christians often try to give the impression that theirs are the only ethics which revolve around gentleness, love and forgiveness. However, the truth is that 500 years before Jesus the Buddha taught a love-centred ethic as good as and in some ways more complete than that of Christianity. To practise Right Thought we must fill our minds with thoughts of love and compassion.
Develop a mind full of love, he compassionate and restrained by virtue, arouse your energy, be resolute and always firm in making progress (Theragatha 979).In practising Right Speech we should use our words only in ways which promote honesty, kindness and peace. The Buddha described Right Speech like this.
When with a mind full of love one feels compassion for the whole world above, below and across, unlimited everywhere, filled with infinite kindness, complete and well-developed; any limited actions one may have done do not remain lingering in one's mind (Jataka 37,38).
Just as water cools both good and bad and washes away all dirt and dust, in the same way you should develop thoughts of love to friend and foe alike, and having reached perfection in love you will attain enlightenment (Jataka Nidanakatha 168-169).
If words have five characteristics they are well-spoken, not ill-spoken, neither blamed nor condemned by the wise, they are spoken at the right time, they are truthful, they are gentle, they are to the point, and they are motivated by love (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Fives, Sutta 198).With a beauty and comprehensiveness typical of the Buddha he describes the person who strives to develop Right Speech like this.
Giving up lying, one becomes a speaker of die truth, reliable, trustworthy, dependable, not a deceiver of the world. Giving up slander, one does not repeat there what is heard here, or repeat here what is heard there, for the purpose of causing divisions between people. Thus, one is a reconciler of those who are divided and a combiner of those already united, rejoicing in peace, delighting in peace, promoting peace; peace is the motive of his speech. Giving up harsh speech, one speaks what is blameless, pleasant to the ear, agreeable, going to the heart, urbane, pleasing and liked by all. Giving up useless chatter, one speaks at the right time, about the facts, to the point, about Dhamma and discipline, words worthy of being treasured up, seasonable, reasoned, clearly defined and connected to the goal (Dight Nikaya, Sutta No.1).Right Action requires that we avoid killing, stealing and sexual misconduct and that we practise gentleness, generosity, self-control and helpfulness towards others.
To practise Right Livelihood one will do work which is ethically wholesome and which produces something which does not harm society or the environment. An employer will pay his workers fairly, treat them with respect and make sure their working conditions are safe.' An employee on the other hand will work honestly and diligently (see Dight Nikaya, Sutta No.31). One should also use one's income responsibly - providing for one's needs, saving some and giving some to charity (see page ).
Christian beliefs about God and man make human effort inconsequential. Humans are by nature depraved and evil sinners.
How can man be righteous before God. How can he who is born of a woman he clean? (Job 24:4).Being nothing more than a maggot (Job 25:6) humans are incapable of being good, and can be saved not through their own efforts but only through the grace of God. Buddhism, by contrast, sees human nature as primarily good and in the right conditions more likely to do good than evil (see Milindapanha 84). In Christianity humans are held responsible for the evil they have done throughout their lives but they are also held responsible for and likely to be punished for the sins of Adam and Eve. In Buddhism people take responsibility only for their own actions and, as human nature is basically good, this means that effort, exertion and diligence are of great importance. The Buddha says:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt (Jer 17:9).
Abandon wrong. It can be done. If it were impossible to do, I would not urge you to do so. But since it can he done, I say to you: "Abandon wrong". If abandoning wrong brought loss and sorrow, I would not urge you to do so. But since it conduces to benefit and happiness, I urge you: "Abandon wrong."
Cultivate the good. It can be done. If it were impossible to do, I would not urge you to do so. But since it can be done, I say to you: "Cultivate the good." If cultivating the good brought loss and sorrow, I would not urge you to do so. But since it conduces to benefit and happiness, I urge you: cultivate good." (Anguttara Nikaya, Book of Twos, Sutta No.9).
The last two steps on the Noble Eightfold Path jointly refer to meditation, the conscious and gentle practice of firstly coming to know the mind, then controlling it, and finally transforming it. Although the word meditation occurs about twenty times in the Bible, it seems to refer only to the simplistic practice of ruminating over passages from the scriptures (e.g. Josh 1:8). The Bible seems to be almost completely devoid of the sophisticated meditation techniques found in the Buddhist scriptures. Consequently when Christians are plagued by evil desires or troubled by stubborn negative thoughts, about all they can do is pray harder. This absence of meditation is also the reason why Christians so often appear agitated and lacking in the quiet dignity which is characteristic of Buddhists. God says "Be still and know that I am God" (Ps 46:10) but Christians can't seem to sit still, let alone still their minds, for a moment. God also says "Commune with your own heart on your beds and be still" (Ps 4:4) which is exactly what Buddhists do when they meditate. But Christian services and prayer meetings often seem like a cross between a rock concert and a riot, with the pastor shouting and wildly gesticulating while the people in the congregation sway back and forth, 'speak in tongues', weep and clap their hands.
The great advantage of Buddhism is that it not only advises us to be calm, peaceful, free from unruly desires and self-aware but it also shows us how to develop these states. There are meditations to induce calm, to modify specific mental defilements, encourage positive mental states, and to change attitudes. And of course when the mind is calm and free from prejudices, preconceived ideas and distorting passions it is more likely to see things as they really are. It is not surprising that many of the meditation techniques taught by the Buddha are now being used by psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors.
You do not believe in God so you cannot explain how the world began
It is true that Christianity has an explanation about how everything began. But is this explanation correct? Let us examine it. The Bible says that God created everything in six days and on the seventh day he rested. This quaint story is nothing more than a myth and is no more true than the Hindu myth that the gods created everything by churning a sea of milk, or the classical belief that the universe hatched out of a cosmic egg.
Some parts of the creation myth are plainly absurd. For example it is said that on the first day God created light and darkness but on the fourth day he created the sun (Gen 1:15-16). How can there be day and night without the sun? The creation myth also contradicts modern science which has proven how the universe began and how life evolved. There are no departments of astronomy or biology in any of the world's universities which teach the creation myth for the simple reason that it is not based on fact. So while it is true that Christianity has an explanation for how everything began (as do most religions) that explanation is just a myth.
Then what does Buddhism say about how everything began? Buddhism says little on this subject and for a very good reason. The aim of Buddhism is to develop wisdom and compassion and thereby attain Nirvana. Knowing how the universe began can contribute nothing to this task.
Once a man demanded that the Buddha tell him how the universe began. The Buddha said to him "You are like a man who has been shot with a poison arrow and who, when the doctor comes to remove it, says 'Wait! Before the arrow is removed I want to know the name of the man who shot it, what clan he comes from, which village he was born in. I want to know what type of wood his bow is made from, what feathers are on the end of the arrow, how long the arrows are, etc etc etc.' That man would die before all these questions could be answered. My job is to help you to remove the arrow of suffering from yourself" (Majjhima Nikaya Sutta No.63).
Buddhism concentrates on helping us solve the practical problems of living - it does not encourage useless speculation. And if a Buddhist did wish to know how and when the universe began he would ask a scientist.
Buddhism is impractical because it says you cannot even kill an ant
Before we defend Buddhism against the charge of being impractical, let us see if Christianity is practical. According to Jesus if someone slaps us on the cheek we should turn the other cheek and let them slap us there also (Matt 5;25). if we discover that someone has stolen our pants we should go out and give the thief our shirt too (Matt 5:40). If we ourselves cannot resist stealing we should cut off our hands (Matt 5:30). We could call all these teachings impractical although Christians would probably prefer to call them challenging. And of course they would be right. To turn the other cheek when someone assaults us is not easy. It requires that we control our anger and doing this helps to develop patience, humility, non-retaliation and love. If we are never challenged we will never grow.
The Buddha asked us to have respect for all life, even for humble creatures. As with turning the other cheek, this is not always easy. Like some people, creatures such as ants can be an irritating inconvenience. When we take the precept not to kill and try to practice it we are challenged to develop patience, humility, love, etc. So in asking us to respect all life, Buddhism is no more impractical than Christianity.
The Buddha is dead so he cannot help you
Buddhists sometimes have difficulty responding effectively when Christians say this to them. However if we know Dhamma well it will be quite easy to refute this claim because, like most Christian claims about Buddhism, it is based upon misunderstandings.
Firstly, the Buddha is not dead. He has attained Nirvana, a state of utter peace and freedom. The other name the Buddha gives Nirvana is the Deathless State (Amata) because after one attains it one is no longer subject to birth or death. Of course Nirvana is not the naive 'eternal life' described in the Bible, where the body is resurrected and where angels sing. In fact it is so subtle it is not easy to describe. However it is not non-existence, as the Buddha makes very clear (Majjhima Nikaya Sutta No.72; Sutta Nipata, verse 1076).
It is equally untrue to say that the Buddha cannot help us. During his forty year career, the Buddha explained in great detail and with masterly clarity everything we need to attain Nirvana. All we need to do is to follow his instructions. His words are as helpful and as valid today as when he first spoke them. Of course the Buddha doesn't help us in the same way as Christians claim Jesus helps them, and for a very good reason. If a student knew that during the exams he could ask the Leacher for the answers to the exam questions, he would never study and consequently would never learn. If an athlete knew that by merely asking for it the judge would give him the prize, he would never bother to train and develop his body. Simply giving people everything they ask for does not necessarily help them. In fact, it guarantees that they will remain weak, dependent and lazy.
The Buddha pointed us to Nirvana and told us what provisions we would need for the journey. As we proceed, we will learn from our experiences and our mistakes, developing strength, maturity and wisdom as we do. Consequently when we finish our journey we will be completely different persons from when we started. Because of the Buddha's skilful help we will be fully enlightened.
To say that the Buddha is dead and cannot help you is not only wrong it also implies that in contrast, Jesus is alive and can and does help you.
Let us look at these two assumptions. Christians claim that Jesus is alive but what evidence is there of this? They will say that the Bible proves that Jesus rose from the dead. Unfortunately statements written by a few people thousands of years ago don't prove anything. A statement in the Mahabharata (one of the Hindu holy books) says that a saint had a chariot which could fly. But does this prove that the ancient Indians invented the aeroplane? Of course it does not. The ancient Egyptian scriptures say that the god Khnum created everything out of clay which he shaped on a potters wheel. Does this prove that everything which exists is just mud? Of course it does not. A passage in the Old Testament says that a man named Balaam had a donkey which could talk. Is that conclusive proof that animals can speak? Of course it is not.
We cannot uncritically accept claims made in the Bible any more than we can uncritically accept claims made in other sacred books. When we examine Bible claims about Jesus' supposed resurrection we find very good reasons why we should not believe them (see page ). In fact, the Bible actually proves that Jesus is not alive. Just before he was crucified Jesus told his disciples that he would return before the last of them had died (Matt 10:23, Matt 16:28, Lk 21:32). That was 2000 years ago. Jesus has still not returned. Why? Obviously because he is dead.
The second assumption is that Jesus always responds when you pray to him. It is very easy to prove that this is not true. Christians die from sicknesses, suffer from misfortunes, have emotional problems, give in to temptations etc just as non-Christians do and despite the fact that they pray to Jesus for help. I have a friend who had been a devout Christian for many years. Gradually he began to doubt and he asked his pastor for help. The pastor instructed him to pray and even got members of the church to also pray for him. Yet despite all these prayers to Jesus for strength and guidance my friend's doubts increased and he eventually left the church. Later he became a Buddhist. If Jesus is really alive and ready to help why do Christians have just as many problems as non-Christians do? Why didn't Jesus answer my friend's prayers and help him to remain a Christian? Obviously because he is dead and cannot help.
In answer to this objection Christians will say that there are people who can testify that their prayers have been answered. If this is true, it is also true that there are Muslims, Taoists, Sikhs, Hindus, Shintos and devotees of Kuan Yin who can say the same thing.
Unlike Christianity, Buddhism is so pessimistic
According to Webster's Dictionary, pessimism is "the belief that evil in life outweighs the good". It is interesting that Christians accuse Buddhism of being pessimistic because the idea that evil is more pervasive than good is one of the central doctrines of Christianity. Two of their favourite Bible quotes are "All have sinned, all have fallen short of God's glory (Rom 3:10) and "Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins (&c 7:20). The doctrine of Original Sin teaches that all human beings are sinners, incapable of freeing themselves of sin, and that the evil in us is stronger than the good (Rom 7:14-24). Christians will say that while this is true, we can be free from sin if we accept Jesus. This may be so but it is still the case that Christians feel they need Jesus because their view of human nature is so utterly pessimistic.
Buddhism on the other hand has a very different, not to say more realistic, view of human nature. While fully recognizing mankind's potential for evil, Buddhism teaches that we can conquer evil and develop good through our own efforts.Abandon evil! One can abandon evil! if it were impossible to abandon evil, I would not ask you to do so. But as it can be done, therefore I say, "Abandon evil!"Whether one agrees with this belief or not, one could certainly not say that it is pessimistic.
Cultivate the good! One can cultivate what is good! If it were impossible to cultivate the good I would not ask you to do so. But as it can be done, therefore I say, "Cultivate the good!" (Anguttara Nikaya, Bock of Ones).
Jesus teaches us to love but Buddhism encourages us to be cold and detached
This is not true. The Buddha says that we should develop a warm caring love towards all human beings.Just as a mother would protect her only child even at the risk of her own life, even so one should cultivate unconditional love to all beings (Sutta Nipata, verse 150)In every sense love is as important in Buddhism as it is in Christianity and is emphasized just as much. There is however something which somewhat spoils Christians' practice of love. Their loud insistence that only they love, that the quality of their love is superior to that of others, and their constant disparagement of and scoffing at others' efforts to practise love makes them appear thoroughly invidious. So petty and jealous are some Christians that they cannot even praise or appreciate a quality as beautiful as love, unless it has 'Made by Jesus' written on it.
You claim that when we die we are reborn, but there is no proof of this
Before responding to this let us examine both the Christian and Buddhist afterlife theories. According to Christianity, God creates a new soul that becomes a human being which lives its life and then dies. After death the soul will go to eternal heaven if it believed in Jesus, or to eternal hell if it did not.
According to Buddhism, it is impossible to fathom the ultimate beginning of existence. Each being lives its life, dies and then is reborn into a new existence. This process of dying and being reborn is a natural one and can go on forever unless the being attains Nirvana. When a being does attain Nirvana their understanding, and consequently their behaviour, alters and this changes the process which causes rebirth. So instead of being reborn into a new existence the being attains Nirvana. Nirvana is not existence (to exist means to respond to stimuli, to grow and decay, to move in time and space, to experience oneself as a separate etc.) and it is not non-existence in that it is not annihilation. In other words each being's existence is beginningless and endless unless Nirvana is attained and until that time existence has no other purpose than to exist.
There is little evidence for either of these two theories. However, there are several logical and moral problems with the Christian theory which are absent from the Buddhist theory and which make the latter more acceptable. Christianity sees existence as having a beginning but no end whereas Buddhism sees it as cyclic. Nature offers no examples of processes which have a beginning but no end. Rather, all the natural processes we can observe are cyclic. The seasons go and return again next year. Rain falls, flows to the sea, evaporates, and forms clouds which again fall as rain. The body is made up of the elements we ingest as food; when we die the body breaks down and releases its elements into the soil, where they are absorbed by plants and animals which we again eat to build the body. The planets circle the sun and even the galaxy containing our solar system slowly revolves. The Buddhist theory of rebirth is in harmony with the cyclic processes we see throughout nature whereas the Christian theory is not.
Christians claim that God created us for a purpose - so we can believe in him, obey him and be saved. if this is so it is very difficult to explain why, each year, millions of foetuses naturally abort, and millions of babies are born dead or die within the first two years of their lives. Further, millions of people are born and live their whole lives with severe mental retardation, unable to think even the most simple thoughts. How do all these people fit into God's supposed plan? What purpose can God have in creating a new life and then letting it die even before it is born or soon after its birth? And what happens to all these beings? Do they go to heaven or hell? If God really created us with a plan in mind, that plan is certainly not very obvious. Also, as the majority of the world's people are non-Christian and as not even all Christians will be saved, this means that a good percentage of all the souls that God creates will go to hell. God's plan to save everyone seems to have gone terribly wrong. So although we can't prove either the Christian or the Buddhist afterlife theory, the Buddhist doctrine is more appealing and acceptable.
If we are really reborn, how do you explain the increase in the world's population?
When beings die they are reborn but they are not necessarily reborn as the same type of being. For example, a human could be reborn as a human, as an animal, or perhaps as a heaven being, according to its kamrna. The fact that there is a dramatic increase in the world's human population indicates that more animals are being reborn as humans (there has been a corresponding drop in the number of animals due to extinctions etc.) and more humans are being reborn as humans. Why is this so? Just why more animals are being reborn as humans is difficult to say. But why more humans are being reborn as humans is undoubtedly due to an increasingly widespread knowledge of the Buddha's teachings. Even where the Dhamma is not widely known its capacity to be a subtle influence for good is powerful. All this can account for the increase in the human population.
Nirvana is an impractical goal because it takes so long to attain and so few can do it
It is true that attaining Nirvana may take a long time but on the other hand rebirth gives us plenty of time. If one does not do it in this life one can continue striving in the next life. In fact, it will take as long as one wants. The Buddha says that if one really wants, one can attain Nirvana within seven days (Majjhima Nikaya Sutta No.10). If this is so, the Christian will ask, why haven't all Buddhists already attained Nirvana? For the simple reason that mundane phenomena still hold an attraction for them. As insight and understanding gradually make-that attraction fade one moves step by step, at one's own pace, towards Nirvana. As for the claim that only a few people can attain Nirvana, this is not correct. While in Christianity a person has one and only one chance of being saved, Buddhism's teachings on rebirth mean that a person has an infinite number of opportunities to attain Nirvana. This also implies that everyone will eventually be liberated. As the Buddhist text saysThis immortal state has been attained by many and can be still attained even today by anyone who makes an effort. But not by those who do not strive (Therigatha, verse 513).
In Christianity, history has a meaning and is moving towards a particular goal. Buddhism's cyclic view of existence means that history has no meaning and this makes Buddhists fatalistic and indifferent
It is true that according to Buddhism history is not moving towards any climax. But the person who is walking the Noble Eightfold Path certainly is. He or she is resolutely moving towards the peace and freedom of Nirvana.Just as the river Ganges flows, slides, tends towards the east, so does one who cultivates and makes much of the Noble Eightfold Path flows, slides, tends towards Nirvana (Samyutta Nikaya, Great Chapter, Sutta No.67)So it is not true to say that Buddhism's more realistic view of existence and of history necessarily leads to indifference. And what climax is history moving towards according to Christianity? The Apocalypse, where the vast majority of humanity and all the works of man will be consumed by brimstone and fire. Even the lucky few who are saved will have the gloomy prospect of an eternity in heaven knowing that at least some of their family and friends are, at the same time, being punished in hell. It would be difficult to imagine a more depressing future to look forward to than this.
The Buddha copied the idea of kamma and rebirth from Hinduism
Hinduism does teach a doctrine of kamma and also reincarnation. However, their versions of both these teachings are very different from the Buddhist versions. For example, Hinduism says we are determined by our kamma while Buddhism says it only conditions us. According to Hinduism an eternal soul (atman) passes from one life to the next while Buddhism denies that there is such a soul (anatman) saying rather that it is a constantly changing stream of mental energy which is reborn. These are just two of many differences between Hinduism and Buddhism on kamma and rebirth.
However, even if the Buddhist and Hindu teachings were identical this would not necessarily mean that the Buddha unthinkingly copied the ideas of others. It sometimes happens that two people, quite independently of each other, make exactly the same discovery. A good example of this is the discovery of evolution. In 1858, just before he published his famous book The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin found that another man, Alfred Russell Wallace, had conceived the idea of evolution exactly as he had done. Darwin and Wallace had not copied each other's ideas; rather, by studying the same phenomena they had come to the same conclusion about them quite independently of each other. So even if Hindu ideas about kamma and rebirth were identical to those of Buddhism (which they are not) this would still not be proof of copying. The truth is that Hindu sages, through insights they developed in meditation, got vague ideas about kamma and rebirth, which the Buddha later expounded more fully and accurately.
Jesus forgives our sins, but Buddhism says you can never escape the consequences of your kamma
It is only partially true that Jesus forgives sins. According to Christianity, after people are created they will live forever - first for a few decades on earth and then for eternity in either heaven or hell. Jesus will forgive people's sins while they live in the world but for the rest of eternity he will refuse to do so, no matter how frequently or how pitifully the souls in hell may call upon his name. So Jesus' forgiveness is limited to a minute period of time in a person's existence after which he will withhold it. So most people will never escape from the consequences of their supposed sin.
Can Buddhists escape from their kamma? The doctrine of kamma teaches that every action (kamma) has an effect (vipaka). However this effect is not always equal to its cause. For example, if a person steals something this act will have a negative effect. If however after the theft the person feels remorse, returns the stolen article, and sincerely resolves to try to be more careful in the future, the negative effect of the theft may be mitigated. There would still be an effect although not as strong. But even if the thief does not mitigate the wrong which has been done with some good, he or she will be free from the deed after its effect comes to fruition. So according to Buddhism we can be free from our kamma while according to Christianity our sins will only be forgiven during an extremely limited period of time.
There are other ways in which the doctrine of kamma is better than the Christian ideas of forgiveness and punishment. In Buddhism while one may have to endure the negative effects of the evil one has done (which is only fair) this means that one will experience the positive effects of the good one has done as well. This is not so in Christianity. For example, a non-Christian may be honest, merciful, generous and kind yet despite this at death this person will go to hell and not receive any reward for the good he or she has done. Furthermore, according to the doctrine of kamma the effects we experience, all things being equal, are in direct proportion to their cause. Again this is not so in Christianity - even if a person is exceptionally evil during this life, eternal hell is an utterly disproportionate punishment. How much more is this so if the person is virtuous but non-Christian? Indeed the eternity of hell, and the idea that all non-Christians are condemned to it, are teachings which cast very serious doubts on the concept of a just and loving God.
Christianity has spread to almost every country in the world and has more followers than any other religion, so it must be true
It is true that Christianity has spread widely but how has this happened? Until the 15th century Christianity was largely confined to Europe. After this, European armies spread throughout the world forcing their religion on the people they conquered. In most conquered countries (e.g. Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Taiwan and parts of India) laws were passed banning all non-Christian religions. By the late 19th century brute force was no longer used to enforce belief but, under the influence of the missionaries, colonial administrators tried to hinder non-Christian religions as much as possible. Today the spread of Christianity is supported by lavish financial assistance which missionaries get largely from the U.S.A. So Christianity has spread not because of its inherent superiority but because of violence in the past and wealth today.
Whether Christianity is the world's largest religion is a matter of definition. Can we consider the Mormons, the Moonies and the Jehovah's Witnesses to be Christians? Can we consider the numerous strange cults and sects which flourish in South America and Africa, and which account for many millions of people, to be Christian? Most Protestants don't even consider Catholics to be Christians! if we deny that all the heretical, heterodoxist , cultic and bizarre Christian groups are 'real' Christians, this would probably make Christianity one of the smallest religions in the world. This would also explain why the Bible says that only 144,000 people will be saved on Judgement Day (Rev 14:3-4).
However even if Christianity was the world's largest religion what would this prove ? In the recent past almost every one believed that the world was flat, and they were all wrong. Whether or not an idea is true has nothing to do with how many people believe it
Of all the arguments that Christians use to try to convert people this is by far the most foolish. Firstly if what the Bible says about wealth is true (Matt 19:23-24) it would seem that the blessings which God has supposedly poured out on Europe and America are really a curse in disguise. Secondly if prosperity is really proof of God's favour it would seem that he really likes the Muslims because he has given them all the oil. Thirdly, some Christian countries like Honduras and the Philippines are extremely poor while Japan, predominantly a Buddhist country, is very rich. And finally, by making statements like this Christians are letting slip their real motive for worshipping God - desire for money. Buddhism for its part teaches that qualities like contentment, love, gentleness and inner peace are more precious than money
Throughout the world including Asia, Christianity has been a force for progress while Buddhism has done little to improve society
In Christianity's long history there is much to be proud of and perhaps equally as much to be ashamed of. Take for example slavery, a terrible institution which almost all churches supported until the 19th century. After Paul converted the runaway slave Oresimus he convinced him that as a Christian he should go back to his master, but he never tried to convince the master to free his slave (Philemon I: 3-20). Christian slaves were asked to stay bound to their masters, and Christian slave owners were under no obligation to free their slaves. The Bible says that slaves should obey their masters even if they are' treated with cruelty.Slaves be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only the gentle but also the cruel. For one is approved if mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if when you do wrong and are beaten for it you take it patiently. But when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently you have God's approval. (1 Pet. 2:18-20.)So according to Christianity a slave should look to his oppressor as if he was God, and should consider it better to be beaten for doing right than for doing wrong. Such teachings where of course eagerly welcomed by the slave-owners. Take science. The development of science in the West was retarded by church opposition (see A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 2 Vol, A.D.White , 1960). Christian opposition to dissection of corpses held back the development of medicine and anatomy for 300 years. The churches were against dissection because they believed that it would make bodily resurrection impossible. The church was opposed to the heliocentric view of the universe and even threatened to execute Galileo for saying that the earth moved around the sun. When Benjamin Franklin invented the lightning rod which prevented buildings from being damaged by lightning, Protestant churches were in an uproar. They believed that God would no longer be able to punish sinners by hurling thunder bolts. When chloroform was invented the churches refused to allow it to be used to alleviate the pain of childbirth. The Bible teaches and they believed that such pain was God's punishment on women for the sin of Eve (Gen 3:16).
Bid slaves to be submissive to their masters and give satisfaction in every respect; they are not to be refractory, nor to pilfer, but to show entire and true fidelity so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our saviour (Tit 2:9-10)
Take intolerance of the Jews. Of all the bleak pages in the history of Christianity this is the bleakest and most disgraceful. For 2000 years Christians have harassed, hounded, humiliated and murdered the Jews because they refused to believe in Jesus. And in this respect Protestants have been no better than the Catholics. In 1986 a leading Protestant clergyman in the U.S.A. said "God does not listen when the Jews pray".
We could go on but this is enough. However since the 19th century it is true that many Christian churches have begun to eagerly adopt the outlook of the liberal secular tradition and make it their own. So now Christians are often in the forefront of movements for justice, democracy and equality. But there is little in the Bible that they can use to justify their actions. On the contrary, the Bible specifically says that all rulers, even the unjust, get their power from God and to oppose them is to oppose God.Let every' person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore lie who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement Rom 13:1-2, see also Jn 19:11, Tit 3:1, (Pet 2:13, Prov 8:15-16, 16:10)Buddhism has always been less aggressive and less organized than Christianity. This has meant that its influence on society has been subtle, less noticeable and even perhaps less dynamic than it should have been. On the other hand it has also meant that the witch hunts against heretics, the persecution of non-believers, and the bloody religious wars which have marred Christian history have been rare or absent in Buddhism.
Despotic kings, cardinals and bishops quoted passages like these for centuries to justify their rule. Liberation theologians are very silent about such Bible passages today. Christian social philosophy doesn't come from the Bible, it conies from the Western secular tradition which the churches spent 400 years opposing. Now they try to pretend that these values originate from Jesus (see What the Bible Realty Says, ed. M. Smith and R. S. Hoffman , 1989).
(1) Deep down Buddhists are really searching for God
(2) Buddhism is just a different expression of man's understanding of God
(3) Buddhists are Christians outside the church
Today one often hears liberal Christians make statements like these. Sadly, such statements are meaningless. One could simply reverse them and say "Deep down Christians are really searching for Nirvana", "The Christian God is just a personification of Nirvana", or "Christians are Buddhists outside the Sangha". Although such statements are often welcomed by Buddhists as indicating that liberal Christians are more tolerant than their fundamentalist brothers and sisters, this is actually not so. Such statements really show that Christians still wish to claim superiority for their own religion. They also show that the liberal Christian's supposed tolerance is dependent upon believing that Buddhism is just another form of Christianity. In short, it is based on a delusion. Liberal Christians will only be genuinely tolerant when they can admit that Buddhism is different from Christianity, very different, and be tolerant despite these differences.
Buddhism may be a noble philosophy but if you look at Buddhist countries you notice that so few people seem to practise it
Perhaps! But is it not exactly the same in Christian countries? What honest Christian could say that all Christians fully, sincerely and with deep understanding follow Jesus' teachings? Let us not judge a religion by those who fail to practise it.
A popular and easy to read book exposing many of the fallacies in Christianity is Jesus - the Evidence by Ian Wilson, 1984. Wilson examines the history of the Bible and shows how scholars have demonstrated beyond doubt that it is an untidy compilation composed over several centuries. He also shows how the man Jesus gradually came to be seen as a god.
Another good book is Rescuing the Bible from the Fundamentalists by John Spong, 1991. Spong is a Christian bishop and scholar who freely admits that most of what the Bible contains is either mythological or erroneous, and he gives abundant evidence for this.
Perhaps the most scholarly and thorough critical study of recent times is Is Christianity True? by Michael Arnheim, 1984. This outstanding study examines every major Christian doctrine and exposes each of them to the cold light of reason - and none of them survive the exposure.
Many excellent books on the teachings of the Buddha are avallable.