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Christians and Buddhists

Question:

I wonder if you could point me towards any resources that focus on intersections between Christian thought and Buddhist practice? My religion is Christianity and I’m just beginning to explore Buddhist ideas/practices as a philosophy or way of being. Have you anything in your archives that would be helpful?

Answer:

If you’re looking for a place to start studying Buddhism, I would recommend getting a good understanding of the underlying ideas of Buddhism. Here are the relevant Daily Buddhism posts for any beginner:

What is Buddhism? http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/1149
Who Was Buddha? http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/1150
Four Noble Truths: http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/1151
Eightfold Path: http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/1152
Five Precepts: http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/1153

Moving specifically into comparing Christianity and Buddhism, there are many similarities between the two. Take a look at the Five Precepts of Buddhism; they’re essentially equivalent to several of the Ten Commandments. There are a great many similarities in the stories about Buddha and the stories about Jesus from the Bible. Much of the Christian concepts of this world being evil, that the meek shall inherit the Earth, and many other ideas are similar. The only major divergence between the two is that Christianity says to look to God for your salvation, while Buddhism says to look to yourself.

Here are five books that discuss the links between the two. I have read the first and last on the list, but all of them look promising:

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh at Amazon (Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1573220183/?tag=askdrarca-20)

From Buddha to Jesus: An Insider’s View of Buddhism & Christianity by Steve Cioccolanti at Amazon (Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0980483905/?tag=askdrarca-20 )

The Noble Eightfold Path of Christ: Jesus Teaches the Dharma of Buddhism by Thomas Ragland at Amazon (Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1412000130/?tag=askdrarca-20 )

Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers by Thich Nhat Hanh at Amazon (Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1573228303/?tag=askdrarca-20)

Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings by Marcus Borg and Jack Kornfield at Amazon (Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1569754616/?tag=askdrarca-20)

Depending on the books you read or the teacher you learn from, Buddhism can be either very religious or purely philosophical. I think you’ll find that the more philosophical styles of Buddhism, Zen for example, can be practiced alongside Christianity with very little adjustment to your current beliefs.

The similarities between the two faiths is not something that has been discovered recently. Here’s an old story about a monk who lived in the 1300’s.

Koan: Not Far From Buddahood: http://www.dailybuddhism.com/archives/674

Even if you eventually decide that Buddhism is not for you, I would still absolutely recommend that you look into meditation as a practice. The benefits of meditation are medically and scientifically proven, and the clarity of thought that it will give you is easily worth the investment of time.

7 comments to Christians and Buddhists

  • Christianity has its own version of meditation as well. Many names, but it’s often called “centering prayer.” Rev. Thomas Keaton is a good author to examine. The principles will be recognizable to Buddhist meditors: react to no thought, reject no thought, retain no thought. Blessings, Susan

  • From a symbolic standpoint, I am always reminded of Jesus and Buddha’s mythological journey toward enlightenment. Buddha journeyed into the forest, meditated for an extensive period, was tempted by Mara, overcame the temptations, and attained nirvana. Likewise, Jesus, after being baptized, journeyed into the desert for 40 days and nights, was tempted by Satan, and overcame the temptations. Both follow the hero journey motif described by Joseph Campbell. Here is a quick overview. http://www.am-psychotherapists-new-york-city.com/Joseph-Campbell.html

  • Jami

    A caring attitude to both traditions is refreshing. It is hard not to think of Jesus, in his mission, more similar to the spiritual persons who inhabited the Far East than those elsewhere.

    The Monastic Fathers, in the sand dunes of the Sahara, lived lives unlike the men in the Forests of Asia. Rabbi Nachman, a Jewish hasidic sage, said: ‘those who chase after worldly goods are the true fanatics…’

    Clearly, for any Christian, in the modern period, wanting to explore the connections between the Monastic traditions should consider the work of Thomas Merton. He had much to say about Buddhism, and was a poetical and erudite Monk, who sadly died while exploring Buddhist Asia.

  • Riglin

    It has been exposed by two Buddhist monks that this book, From Buddha to Jesus: An Insider‚Äôs View of Buddhism & Christianity by Steve Cioccolanti, does not tell the truth of Buddhism. It’s written by a Evangelical for the sole purpose of evangelism.

    For those who wish to find out about Buddhism, please read those books written by Buddhist monks.

    Those who wish read the book review by a western monk,
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/13296079/Book-Review-by-Ven-S-Dhammika-From-Buddha-to-Jesus

    Another book review by another Buddhist monk,
    http://www.scribd.com/doc/13099022/Review-From-Buddha-To-Jesus-by-Steve-Cioccolanti

  • Anonself

    A Buddhist Insight: View of Steve Cioccolanti

    http://dhammaprotector.blogspot.com/

  • Bob Wright

    Having been brought up in the Roman Catholic faith in England and now living in Thailand, I read the teachings of Buddha and I am very interested in the similarity of Christian and Buddhist teachings.
    I see more inner happiness in poor Thais than I have ever witnessed in the western world and want the same.
    I am eager to learn meditation and rid myself of selfishness, greed, intollerance and anger which have all helped in ruining my life.

  • moo

    I am against recommending a book
    “From Buddha to Jesus: An Insider‚Äôs View of Buddhism & Christianity by Steve Cioccolanti”
    to anyone. especially those who are very new to Buddhism.

    Steve Cioccolanti was, and is not “Insider of Buddhism”.
    he is just a former Atheist, and now Evangelical Christian.

    Did I Just said he was Atheist? yes! because by saying you’re Buddhist
    means you’ve Really practice the teaching of Buddha
    not because of your Birth certificate was written so.

    And It seems to me that, Steve did not do that while he was being an ‘Insider’ of Buddhism.

    I Myself, a Thai Buddhist, growing in the same country and the same environment, like steve.
    I can tell you that, Steve was just among typical, many of, corrupted, Idolatrous, Amulet Worshiper,
    Thai Buddhists who steered so far away from the Real teaching of Buddha.

    Ven. Shravasti Dhammika, REAL ‘Buddhism ‘s Insider’, Has exposed this book once
    please, I beg you, Christians, or Anybody, who interested in this book, read his review here :
    http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=10,7797,0,0,1,0

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