Buddha was born in Nepal, approximately 500 to 600 years before Jesus’s birth, in the Roman providence of Judea in a small town called Bethlehem. Buddha and Jesus had totally different views on God, the meaning of life, salvation, and death. Here are some highlights of what Jesus and Buddha taught their followers.
Who is Jesus?
According to the Scriptures, Jesus isn’t an enlightened man like Buddha claimed to be. The Bible says that Jesus was fully man and fully God. He was equal with God and part of the Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us he was with God at the world’s Creation.
In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1 ESV)
The Bible teaches that we can draw near to God through believing in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Christianity isn’t about being a good person or doing good works but about embracing Jesus’s teachings and trusting he was who he said he was.
For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)
Who is Buddha?
Siddhartha Gautama, later called Buddha or “the Awakened One,” was born into a wealthy family as the king’s son in an area that is present-day Nepal. At the age of 29, he left his lavish lifestyle to pursue the meaning of life. Buddha embraced ascetic practices of fasting and meditating and taught that suffering resulted from misplaced desires. Buddha said it took him 49 nights of meditation under a Bodhi tree to become enlightened. He claimed this helped him reach the end of suffering. Today, there are approximately 613 million Buddhists worldwide. In the United States alone, there are one million followers of Buddha. Buddha never claimed to be a god but felt he could show others how to become enlightened.
Buddism teaches four noble truths.
- Suffering and pain exist in the world.
- People experience these things because they get attached to the world and people.
- You will stop having pain if you can get rid of yourself and your desires
- Pain gets rid of your desires.
Ethnicity differences between Buddha and Jesus
Jesus was born to a young Jewish woman who lived in Nazareth, a small town in northern Palestine. Jesus likely had olive skin, which was common for people from the Middle East. He spent a lot of time outdoors, so his skin was naturally sun-tanned and rugged. Over the centuries, artists have depicted Jesus with different skin colors. Byzantine painters even went so far as paint Jesus with pale white skin and a dark beard. Historians agree he didn’t have European characteristics but was of Middle Eastern descent.
Buddha was born in the northeastern part of India on the border of Nepal. He probably had the skin color of the people of that region. There are no pictures or paintings of Buddha, so no one really knows what he looked like.
Wife and children differences between Jesus and Buddha
Buddha has a wife, Yasodhara, and a son, Rahula. He left them to pursue enlightenment.
Even though Jesus was fully God and fully man, he never married or had children. For him to have a wife and children would have been inconsistent with his teachings about why he had come to earth to die for the sins of all people. He referred to his followers as his children and family.
Religion and belief differences
|Human nature||People are ignorant. They are attached to people and their desires. Buddha claimed he wasn’t like other normal humans because he was enlightened.||Mankind is fallen, sinful, and in need of a savior. God, in his mercy, provides a way for them to be forgiven for their sins through Jesus’ death on the cross.|
|Confessing sins||Didn’t believe in sin, but taught that desires were the root of all suffering.||If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 ESV)|
|Beliefs||Believe in reincarnation. After death, you return to earth in a cycle of Karma. You achieve Nirvana or enlightenment, seeking to do good deeds. You are paid for it with pain and suffering if you do bad things. Buddha claimed to have reached Nirvana.||Christianity teaches Jesus is the one and only Son of God. He is the Saviour of the world. He bore the sins of all mankind. A person is saved by grace through faith in Jesus, not good deeds.|
|Bible||Buddha didn’t believe the Bible was the inspired word of God. He didn’t believe in God or observe the ten commandments. It’s still being determined where he got his moral views. He wasn’t against others believing in gods or idols.||Christians believe Bible is the inspired, holy word of God.|
|God||Didn’t believe in the Sovereign God of the Bible.||Teaches that God of the Bible created the heavens and the earth. He is all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful.|
Relationship with God differences
Buddha didn’t believe in the personal, Sovereign God of the universe as revealed in the Bible. He didn’t think there was a sovereign overseeing God but felt suffering was mankind’s problem. People could solve the problem of pain and suffering. He taught doing good or bad determines whether you suffer or not. Good Karma resulted when you did good, and bad Karma happened if you did evil. He believed that if you practiced self-denial and meditation, you could eventually reach Nirvana or an enlightened state. Buddha made it his mission to spread his message. Buddha also prohibited the eating of certain foods like meat or fish. He taught that eating food shouldn’t be pleasurable or desirable. Yet, he did enjoy eating honey and a certain type of porridge.
Buddha didn’t deny that other people believed in God, but he would not have acknowledged a ruling, reigning God who rules the world.
The Bible teaches us that God is uniquely sovereign over all people and the world. He is holy and unable to sin. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve when they chose to disobey God in the Garden of Eden. This turn of events set into motion the consequences of sin for all mankind. God, in his mercy, provided a way for us to be reconciled with God through Jesus’s sacrificial death on the cross. He became our substitute, dying in our place and providing a way for us to have a relationship with God.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23-24 ESV)
Christianity teaches that God is merciful, patient and forgiving. Those who believe in Jesus are considered children of God.
Birth and death differences
Birth-Buddism view of birth is that of cycles of death, the state between your death and rebirth called bardo, and finally, rebirth. During bardo, you experience the consequences of your actions on earth. These can be either terrifying or pleasant, depending upon your good or bad deeds. Buddha was born into a wealthy family. His father, the king, offered him many opportunities that only wealth could allow. Buddha left his father’s house and chose life as a beggar.
Death-According to Buddha, life revolves around pain and suffering. To overcome this, you must let go of your desires and pursue enlightenment. Buddha rejected the God of the Bible and eternal life in heaven. He taught his followers that reincarnation was the afterlife. You cycled through Karma seeking to you had achieved Nirvana or enlightenment. Buddhist’ believe that you should do good to help achieve this enlightenment. If you endure enough suffering, you’ll be purified and reach a state free from worry and pain.
Scripture’s view of birth is that God oversees every human birth. God fearfully and wonderfully makes every person.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
(Psalms 139:13-16 ESV)
Death-Jesus taught his followers that the kingdom of God had come. He brought salvation and hope to those who trusted and believed his words.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
(John 3:16-17 ESV)
Jesus was born to a poor carpenter in a small town. We don’t know for sure, but according to the culture at the time, he probably worked as a carpenter alongside his father. At 30, he began his ministry traveling around the country.
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.
So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, those having seizures, and paralytics, and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23-24 ESV)
Why should a Buddhist consider becoming a Christian?
Buddha hoped to solve the world’s problem of pain and suffering. His solution was to practice self-denial, mediation, and good deeds. He believed you can find peace if you practice these things; eventually, your suffering will disappear. Nirvana or enlightenment was achieved if you just worked hard enough.
If you’re a Buddhist, you may feel you must work hard to be free from Karma’s cycle. You may avoid certain foods or do things to prevent bad Karma. Christianity teaches that freedom from eternal suffering and pain comes only through faith in Jesus. He suffered for all our bad deeds once and for all. God accepts Jesus’s sacrifice in our place. Christianity teaches that good works or self-denial can’t save you.
…yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16 ESV)
Jesus claims He is the only way to God. This means that no other belief system or philosophy or even doing good things is the way to know God.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6 ESV)
That’s a pretty amazing claim and one that needs to be considered. Jesus died so you can have freedom from guilt and the assurance of heaven in the midst of pain or suffering.
Scripture says that those who trust in Christ for salvation will spend eternity in heaven with God. Those who reject Jesus and what he did on the cross will spend eternity in hell, a place of torment.
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelations 20:15 ESV)
Suffering is a common hurdle for people to believe in God. Faith isn’t easy when you’re suffering or see someone you love in pain. The Christian faith believes God is sovereign, even over evil and pain. Life can be full of suffering, but Christians believe it’s temporary and that all pain and evil are under the judgment of God. You can’t get rid of suffering through good Karma. But you can find freedom from guilt when you put your faith in Christ. He is the only way to really know God and experience true peace.