Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Buddhism vs Christianity

June 24, 2010

Sam Shropshire posted on Facebook to ask what word other than “crime” is adequate to describe all the creatures dying from the oil spill.

Here is my response:

Sam, I am going to respond to this thread with an answer which is from the heart but which very few here could really understand. I spent a few years reading everything I could get my hands on regarding every form of Buddhism (and there are many.) One Buddhist monk writing in the mid 20th century commented that the greatest sin of all, perhaps the only sin, was our very existence as a species because our existence and sustenance entails untold suffering for a myriad of other sentient beings. As I came to understand the Jain/Buddhist views (as much as one can hope to understand anything as an “outsider”) I came to realize that one day the human species will go extinct and when that day comes the universe will be a better place. We are basically scorpions but some of us are eloquent scorpions with a PhD. My response will be hard to take for cultures who consider mankind to be “a little lower than the angels” (to quote one Psalm.) Those various sci-fi movies where humans create a super-cyber intelligence which then comes to see humanity as a virus to be extinguished has perhaps had some influence on me. I was probably one of the few kids in the audience who rooted for the aliens to win.

The BEST single example I ever came across on the Internet which sums up the difference between Buddhism and Christianity goes something like this (paraphrased from memory): Siddhartha Gautama spends years trying to determine the source of suffering and comes to realize that it is desire itself (we desire things which we do not have and we have things [like cancer] which we do not desire.) Then Siddhartha confronts Mara (the devil) and says “I have discovered the architect of this house on fire (namely Buddha’s own mortal body, condemned to be reborn again and again)…. I have discovered the architect of this house on fire and it shall not be built again.”

Now Jesus says, “I come to give you life… and life more abundantly.” The Buddha offers Nirvana (in Pali: Nibbana) which means “extinguishment” (like snuffing out a candle)… i.e. you ALREADY have eternal life in the form of continual rebirth… and the Buddha suggests a way to GET OFF the merry-go-round of the great circle of birth-death-rebirth. Jesus offers life everlasting… unending consciousness with the Father in his mansions (which we get a glimpse of in The Book of Revelation.)

Vengeance Is Mine!

September 10, 2009

Naturally, the average, decent person abhors criminal negligence.

But it suddenly occurs to me that when we allow ourselves to feel secret delight in the apprehension and punishment of a criminal, or if we gloat about it, then in some sense we are missing a subtle but important point.

During Passover, in the Haggadah, there are 10 drops of wine which are shed in sympathy for the suffering of the Egyptians during the 10 plagues and the loss of their first-born. As Plato points out in The Republic, the cruel Tyrant with absolute power is the most wretched of people, to be pitied.

One must guard the heart for:

Sow a thought, reap an action.
Sow an action, reap a habit.
Sow a habit, reap a character.
Sow a character, reap a destiny.

Always remember that, whenever you clinch your fist and point the finger of accusation at anyone, there are always THREE fingers pointing back at yourself.

I am suddenly reminded of these, with this new (for me) realization:

Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Deuteronomy 32:35 ‘Vengeance is Mine, and retribution, In due time their foot will slip; For the day of their calamity is near, And the impending things are hastening upon them.’

Psalm 94:1 O LORD, God of vengeance, God of vengeance, shine forth!

Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, “I will repay evil”; Wait for the LORD, and He will save you.

Proverbs 24:29 Do not say, “Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work.”

1 Thessalonians 4:6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.

Hebrews 10:30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.


I suppose I was trying to keep in mind sentiments like these:

(excerpt from above post)

Seder night celebrates our freedom from Pharaoh’s oppression, but, in one of its most poignant moments, it also commemorates the tragedy that befell the Egyptians.

As we recount the 10 Plagues that decimated Egyptian society, we spill a drop of wine for each plague, to remind us of the Egyptian blood that was spilt.

The act of spilling the wine compels us to retain our humanity when we might understandably forget it.

As we whoop with joy that we achieved our freedom, we are commanded to feel sad at the loss of human life amongst our enemies.

We do not deny that this loss of life was necessary, but neither do we rejoice in that necessity. This segment of the Seder, teaching generations of Jews that Schadenfreude is the most un-Jewish of emotions, is one of Judaism’s finest hours.
(end of excerpt)


The issue that I point to is the guarding of one’s own heart. The crime would not be less offensive had the victim been a male in training for an Olympic competition. I have before me a slender paperback by Richard Holloway He was Bishop of Edinburgh for 14 years and Gresham Professor of Divinity in the city of London. The title of his book is “On Forgiveness – How Can We Forgive the Unforgivable?” The photo on the cover is the mushroom cloud of an atomic bomb such as was used on Hiroshima. He dedicates the book to Desmond Tutu. On the 2nd page, facing the Table of Contents, is a quote from Jacques Derrida: “There is only forgiveness, if there is any, where there is the unforgivable.” These are some of the hardest lessons to learn in life, and I cannot say that I have made much progress myself. An old Greek abbot once explained righteous anger Psalm4:4 “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah.”

I was simply inspired by reading their post to remember the importance of these lessons from the Jewish and Christian traditions (and I am sure that similar sentiments are to be found in many other religions as well as teachings of agnostic and atheist philosophers.) Not long ago, the would-be assassin of the late Governor George Wallace was released on parole. When a reporter asked his surviving family how they feel about the the parole, they basically replied (paraphrased): “Well OF COURSE we forgive him because we are COMMANDED to forgive. But we feel he should have rotted in jail for the rest of his life.” A Protestant once told me “I am commanded to LOVE you, but I don’t have to LIKE you.” Sometimes in the zeal of our moral calculus, we throw out the baby with the bath water. There are those who stress to us the importance of our friendship with Jesus, but I sincerely feel that if it is does not transform us, it is in vain.

Agreed! And we defend ourselves by legislation and due process. If there is any knower of the heart, then there is only one, and it is that knower Samuel alludes to. Are we even the knower of our own hearts? Can we be certain that we never secretly feel schadenfreude? Kurt Vonnegut laughed at the American society who frequently clamors for monuments to The Ten Commandments but never once suggests a plaque to the beatitudes of the sermon on the mount. Vonnegut made a good point. I suspect we have been weighed, and found wanting, as a society. Jesus said “I was in prison and you visited me.” Jesus says nothing about guilt or innocence.