Monday, February 8, 2010

(D1975) If the Buddha and Jesus were to meet, they might recognize one another as fellow teachers of the good. They taught similar truths and experienced similar hardships. For example, both stayed in the wilderness and were tempted by Mara. Originally, Jesus's teachings promoted peace and turning the other cheek, passive resistance rather over armed insurrection.

Marcus Borg, a Christian scholar, focuses on Christian basics by selecting a range of quotations from the Gospels and pairing them with parallel sayings by the Buddha. Whereas Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God," the Buddha said, "Let us live most happily, possessing nothing; let us feed on joy, like the radiant devas."

It is surprising to readers familiar only with the Bible how similar the words of the two religious leaders actually are. When two ancient spiritual traditions like Buddhism and Christianity are compared, a striking similarity is revealed between the narratives of their founders. In the case of Christianity, Jesus is more bodhisattva than "god."

In the case of Buddhism, the Buddha is portrayed as almost omniscient like God. The essence of the Buddha's message is embodied in the Four Noble Truths: unhappiness, its origin, its cessation, and the truth of the path leading to its cessation. These truths are exemplified in the life of the Buddha himself. Similarly, if one looks at the life of Jesus, one sees the essential practices and teachings of Christianity in it. In both, it is only through hardship, dedication, and commitment, by standing firm on one's principles, that one grows spiritually and attains liberation from suffering.

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