Many people often assume that Jesus and Buddha were equally significant “spiritual teachers” who taught roughly the same thing.
The essential religious truth claims of Jesus and Buddha differ radically from one another. To think otherwise is to ignore history, logic, and the well-being of one’s soul, since Jesus and Buddha proposed radically different spiritual paths.
So, what about Jesus’ and Buddha’s essential worldviews, that is, their teachings on ultimate reality, the human condition, and spiritual liberation?
Two Views of Ultimate Reality.
Jesus affirmed the existence and unity of a personal and moral God, who is both sovereign over history and involved with it. He taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven”. Jesus never challenged the monotheism (the doctrine or belief that there is only one God) of His Jewish brethren but affirmed it and intensified its spiritual and moral challenges.
Buddha, however, did not deem theological matters worthy of consideration. He regarded them as metaphysical speculations. He challenged key features of the (Hindu) Brahmanism of his native India but did not embrace belief in a Creator God as fundamental to proper spirituality. Ironically, Buddha’s image is worshiped around the world, but he never considered himself a revelation of God. He rather considered himself an enlightened teacher.
Two Views of the Human Condition.
Human beings, according to Jesus, were created by God and ought to worship and “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” as well as to “love your neighbour as yourself”. Jesus taught that humans possess immaterial souls that persist after death. Jesus, however, also referred to humans as spiritually “lost” and corrupt at their core.
Buddha did not speculate about human origins but focused on the human condition as (1) suffused with suffering (2) brought about through unfulfilled desires. He taught that people cannot satisfy their souls with anything because they do not have souls. There is no personal essence or soul, and there is no personal afterlife. Buddha did not deny the Hindu doctrines of transmigration and reincarnation, but he denied that there is any individual soul that comes back in another form.
Two Views of Spiritual Liberation.
According to Jesus, salvation is found in Him alone: “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost”. Jesus viewed Himself as the only way to restore fellowship with the heavenly Father: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him”.
Jesus claimed to be God incarnate: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am”. In light of this, Jesus welcomes us to follow Him and to believe in Him for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. These claims, however, were not uttered in a vacuum. Jesus demonstrated Himself to be the divine Messiah through the wisdom of His teaching, His fulfilment of Hebrew prophecy, the unparalleled power of His miracles, His authority over the demonic world, His sacrificial death on the cross, and His own death-shattering resurrection.
Buddha taught that spiritual deliverance was found by letting go of desire and the quest to satisfy the nonexistent soul, and by detaching oneself from impermanent things. He also taught that salvation is achieved through effort, which Buddha called “the eight-fold path.” Those who succeed leave the realm of karma and rebirth and attain Nirvana, which is the blowing out of the human personality in a state that supposedly cannot be described in words. Buddha did not claim to bestow this state upon others, he simply pointed toward it. He never claimed to be God moreover; nor did he raise the dead, heal the sick, or cast out demons. Buddha died at age 80.
According to the New Testament, Jesus came into the world as a manifestation of God Himself, who accepted suffering at the hands of sinful humans that He might vicariously atone for the sins of a rebellious world estranged from its own Source of goodness and life. He embraced suffering on the cross in order to rescue those suffering from sin and its effects. The risen Jesus presented His wounds to doubting Thomas as proof of the efficacy of His mission.
The oldest accounts of the life of Buddha do not depict him as a supernatural figure but as an illuminated sage. Images of Buddha worldwide show a man sitting in tranquil contemplation with his eyes shut to a world he wants to transcend. How different from this posture was the defining act of Jesus, who, though nailed to a cross, bruised and bloodied, gazed in love on the world He came to redeem. Buddha taught the dharma (the way or teaching) to many others, but he never claimed to overcome death through his own death or to offer life through his own life. He only pointed the way to Nirvana, whereas Jesus opened the door to Heaven.
The essential teachings and ministries of Jesus and Buddha cannot be looked at as one and the same. By accurately defining these differences we do justice to both religious leaders while communicating the truth in love to those who would place them on the same plane.
Excerpts (passage or quotation taken or selected from) taken from the following link: