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Ten Questions For Our Buddhist Friends FeaturedWritten by Scott Noble
Having lived in Asia for about 15 years now, I have many friends who are Buddhists. Most of the Buddhists I know are very patient and friendly people. However, Buddhism is a man-made religion which is like a shield, preventing people from knowing God's ways for their lives and keeping them in bondage to evil spirits instead. As limited human beings we need more than just "man-made" help. We need a Savior who is alive today and who can show us the way to salvation and freedom. That Saviour is the God who made us, and who knows everything about us. If you are a Buddhist, I have some questions for you. I hope these questions will lead you to consider God's love for you, and also your need to be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ so that you will have everlasting life with Him in heaven.
- Do you know the owner of heaven?
- What's the Difference Between Karma and Sin?
- If anatta is true (no self), WHO is to say what is right or wrong?
- Do you know what the Buddha taught about women?
- Do you know why your life is very valuable?
- What's the difference between meditating, praying, and chanting?
- Would you like to have a sure and stable refuge in your life?
- What did the Buddha teach about science?
- Is the Pali Canon Historically Reliable?
- Do you want to know what the Bible says about life?s
In Buddhist cosmology there are said to be 31 realms of existence, including various heavens, hells, the earth, etc. None of these 31 realms are "nirvana" though, because all of these realms are said to be prone to impermanence and suffering. Many of the Buddhists I've talked to are hoping to go to heaven. Their goal is not nirvana, but heaven. Of course there are others whose goal is nirvana, but these are in the minority. This pursuit of heaven or nirvana is impersonal in Buddhism.
In Buddhism, a Creator God is not acknowledged. Although many people want to go to heaven, it is usually thought of in impersonal terms, without anyone being the owner of heaven. Morality is made impersonal by the concept of "karma," and heaven is also made impersonal, just existing without anyone being in charge. When asked if a person will go to heaven or not, many people answer that it's up to their karma. They don't say that it's up to God.
However, a place that is as awesome as heaven must have an owner. Here on this earth we see many of the evidences for God's amazing design in creation. And, we see that even humble homes have an owner. If we have not received permission from the owner, we cannot enter.
In Shin Buddhism, which is totally different from most forms of Buddhism, the owner of heaven is said to be the Amida Buddha. His credentials are totally lacking in authority though. The first idol of Amida is from the second century AD. Amida is not even a historical person and none of this religion's claims come with any proof. Believing in Amida would be on the same level as putting one's faith in Batman, or Spiderman. Both Amida and Spiderman are the products of people's imaginations. Only God, who is the Creator of people, has the power and authority to offer heaven to those who come to Him on His terms.
The question remains though- "Do you know the owner of heaven?" It is logical to say that heaven has an owner, just as dwellings here on this earth have owners. Heaven being so much more awesome and so much more perfect must have someone who is maintaining the perfection and the awesomeness thereof. Here on this earth if a place has no owner, it will naturally follow the second law of thermodynamics and decay, and become run down. Heaven is a perfect and everlasting place with no sorrows nor decay.
To maintain these qualities of heaven requires someone who is Almighty and who is Himself perfect. This also means that to enter heaven means that one must come there on His terms. He has given these terms through Jesus Christ, who is Immanuel (God with us). No amount of good deeds will get a person to heaven. Only coming into a relationship with the Creator will ensure entrance into heaven. Jesus said, "...Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3)
Childers in his Pali Dictionary, presents a very definitive answer to what nibbanam (nirvana) is. He states, “But a creed which begins by saying that existence is suffering, must end by saying that release from existence is the highest good, and accordingly we find that annihilation is the goal of Buddhism, the supreme reward held out to the faithful observer of its precepts.” (265) “Annihilation” may not be the best choice of words here, but for another reason than one might think. Walpola Rahula, points out, “Nirvana is definitely no annihilation of self, because there is no self to annihilate. If at all, it is the annihilation of the illusion, of the false idea of self.” (37)
Rahula also states that nirvana is ceasing to exist: “There is a word parinibbuto used to denote the death of the Buddha or an Arahant who has realized Nirvana, but it does not mean ‘entering into Nirvana’. Parinibbuto simply means ‘fully passes away’, ‘fully blown out’ or ‘fully extinct’, because the Buddha or an Arahant has no re-existence after his death.” (41)
In a discussion of whether nirvana is taught as a state of bliss or cessation in the Pali Canon, Jones comments, “If this is the case [nirvana as bliss], I can find no basis for it in the Four Nikayas. So far as I am aware, there is not one word in the Four Nikayas which lends support to the idea of nibbana as some positive, transcendent state of bliss.” (152) In a footnote to this discussion, Jones brings to light the most commonly held view among Theravada scholars: “It is interesting to note that, while Jayatilleke, 1963, pp. 475f, does adopt a transcendentalist view of nibbana, his former pupil Kalupahana, 1976, pp. 87f, rebukes him for this and reasserts the more commonly (in Theravada circles) held cessationist view.” (202)
A.L. Herman in his article “Two Dogmas of Buddhism,” points out other difficulties with nirvana. “The dilemma of nirvana holds that if nirvana is seen negatively as the total absence of passion and desire and feeling then this is tantamount to being dead, and who wants to pursue a goal that leads to death? Nirvana is suicide on this first interpretation. On the other hand, if nirvana is seen positively as the presence of peace and tranquility wherein all that I desire is fulfilled then desire is not ended or blown out and the whole intent of nirvana is contradicted: nirvana is inconsistent on this second interpretation. But, the dilemma of nirvana continues, nirvana must be seen either negatively or positively; there is no third alternative. The conclusion of the dilemma is then that nirvana is either suicidal obliteration or inconsistent continuance.” (170)
Herman concludes with this somber note: “The effect of retaining these ill-founded dogmas in the face of these philosophic problems would be (has been) to move Buddhism away from empirical truth and reason and closer to either ‘a questionable pragmatism,’ where truth is measured by sheer usefulness, or towards ‘a non-rationalism and mysticism’ where truth is abandoned altogether.... ’a questionable pragmatism’ and ‘a non-rationalism and mysticism,’ were precisely the routes subsequently taken respectively by Southern or Theravada Buddhism, on the one hand, and Northern or Mahayana, Buddhism, on the other.” (174)
Instead of exiting from existence, Jesus Christ offers a way to quench thirst in order to live meaningfully and eternally: "Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." (John 4:13-14). Jesus is the owner of heaven. Do you know Him?
The system of Karma is one which has an appeal to people at the popular level, making it seem that everything that happens is based on what is deserved-- if you do good, you receive good; if you do evil, you receive evil. The supposed effects of karma are listed clearly in the Pali Canon (Middle Length Sayings III, p. 248- 253) The causes of a short life, illnesses, ugliness, being of little account, poverty, being in a lowly family, and being weak in wisdom, are spelled out for us- these things are supposedly due to bad deeds, words or thoughts done in previous lives. This is the way karma explains inequalities in life- according to what people deserve. In this system the poor deserve to be poor, and the rich deserve to be rich, etc. This type of thinking seems to place the crippled person in the same category as a criminal in jail, and the person with material possessions, in the hero category. Are these conclusions really warranted?
The system of karma supposes that a good deed can make up for a bad deed, like a bank account of merit which could be added to or taken from. Biblically speaking, morality is not like a bank account which can be balanced out subtracting bad deeds from good deeds, or vice versa. Rather, morality is love in action in our various relationships, based on God's laws. Children have certain obligations to respect their parents, as parents have obligations to care for their children, etc. If a husband cheats on his wife, but then gives his wife a wonderful present, will he have amended his violation as if it were a business deal? There is such a thing as forgiveness in relationships, but morality is not just an impersonal formula that can be treated as a bank account. Likewise, if a person admitted to murder, but then told the judge that even though he had committed the murder, he had also given his life’s savings to a widow, would that judge cancel the punishment for the murder? He had violated his obligation to love his neighbor (whom he murdered). The crime of murder would still be punished, no matter how many good deeds the person had done.
Conversely, if a person lives an upright life and follows all of the laws of the land, does the government then send this person a reward for their good behavior? That person was simply fulfilling their obligations, so while the government would be appreciative, they would simply see the person as behaving as they should. They don’t get any bonus points for that. Violations count against us, but good behavior is simply expected. Even if a person does one hundred good deeds, but one bad deed, they have fulfilled their duty one hundred times, but have one violation on their record. What would we think of an employer who pays their employees 100 times, but the time after that doesn’t pay them, because of their supposed merit in already paying 100 times?
The biblical system is an entirely personal one. Positive or negative morals cannot be separated from relationships as being mere “points.” It is all relational. The laws of the Bible are summed up in two commands-- love God and love people. To reject morals is to rebel against a person-- the One who created life. First comes the law and thus a realization of the extent of violations. With that realization, comes a realization of the love of Christ, who being innocent died on the cross for our sins. With that realization comes a yielding to Jesus Christ. "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Galatians 3:24) Then things that were once “obligations,” become things which are welcome: "Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” (John 15:15)
On the other hand, to embrace morality, but to reject God is like refusing a ride from a ship going across the ocean and trying to swim that incredible distance. The Bible describes such a person as cursed, because they depend on their own abilities and not on God: "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them." (Galatians 3: 10). When our faith is in Christ the violations that were against us are nailed to the cross.
In our world we have personal beings, but no admission is made in Buddhism of a personal beginning of our universe. Can something personal come from something impersonal? Take a rock for example. A rock is impersonal. Can a personal being come from this impersonal rock? Furthermore, morality is personal (rocks don’t have morality), and yet karma is said to be an impersonal force. John Jones sums up the dilemma. "The morality of karmic consequences seems to call in question the strictly impersonal nature of karmic processes since, if these are moral processes, the only type of morality for which we have empirical evidence is that associated with personality. There is thus a tension between the impersonal and the moral attributes of karma." (Jones, 37).
Ultimately every sin is done against God (Psalm 51:4), because God is the owner of every person in the world. Therefore when people sin against someone they are sinning against a person that belongs to God. Just as a father would be offended if his children were sinned against, so God is wronged when we sin against others. And, because every sin is done against God, therefore only God has the right to forgive us our sins. Also, because God is perfectly good, only He has the right to tell us what is right or wrong. We could say that God is the owner of people, morality, and forgiveness. Just as we cannot enter a house without knowing the owner, we cannot properly understand people, morality, or forgiveness without God.
Walpola Rahula, in “What the Buddha Taught” writes, “…the Buddha denied categorically, in unequivocal terms, in more than one place, the existence of Atman, Soul, Self, or Ego within man or without, or anywhere else in the universe.” (Rahula, 56-57). In spite of the doctrine of anatta (no self), self is still made into a "refuge." Buddhism says that “One is one’s own refuge.” In 1950, the not yet prime minister of Ceylon, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, declared before the World Fellowship of Buddhists that man is free to decide for himself regarding what is right and wrong, without reference to God's will. "The Buddha preached that ultimate freedom of man when the human mind need not be subject even to the will of God, and man was free to decide for himself what was right or wrong…" (Swearer, 117)
With a philosophy like this, he should not have been surprised that three years after being elected as prime minister, someone did decide for himself what was right by shooting and fatally wounding him (he was elected in 1956 and assassinated in 1959). That someone was not a Hindu Tamil, whom his government had marginalized, but a fellow Buddhist, who was a monk. He simply followed Bandaranaike’s advice and decided for himself.
Buddhism does not usually advocate violence or immorality, but it does create a vacuum in people, where the anchor is cast off, and “self” becomes the center. The World Buddhist Sangha Council in 1981 made the statement, “Whether Therav_da or Mah_y_na, we do not believe that this world is created and ruled by a god at his will.” In the 1981 statement it was also said: “….nothing is absolute, permanent and everlasting in this universe." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_ Points_Unifying_the_Theravada_and_the_Mahayana) In saying that there is no God and that, “…nothing is absolute, permanent and everlasting in this universe,” it leaves a pretty weak foundation on which to build any system of morality.
In the midst of this impersonal Buddhist system people still hunger for personal contact with the spiritual world. Unfortunately, this leads many times to idolatry. Idolatry ironically though reinforces an impersonal way of dealing with things. Idolatry is likened to prostitution in the Bible. Prostitution is the taking of something very personal and turning it into just a business deal of two people using each other. Idolatry also promotes just using something or someone rather than having a personal and loving relationship. “My people seek advice from their wooden idols, and their rod declares to them. For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to go astray, and they have gone lusting away from under their God. They sacrifice on the tops of the mountains, and burn incense on the hills, under oaks and poplars and elms, because its shade is good. So your daughters shall be harlots, and your brides shall commit adultery.” (Hosea 4: 12- 13)
We cannot just decide for ourselves what is right or wrong as the former prime minister of Ceylon declared. Sometimes the laws of the land themselves are immoral, such as some of the laws in Germany during Hitler’s regime. In this case the country’s laws are acting like a renegade policeman, demanding immoral/optional things or prohibiting moral things. Buddhism itself is like a renegade policeman, because it is making up its own rules without having the authority to do so.
Any system which disregards God, must ultimately rest its morality on human opinion alone. This is the predicament of Buddhism. Many teachers may espouse lofty and humanitarian ideals, but these are only opinions with no authority to back them up. Other teachers, because of this lack of authority don’t bother to emphasize morality, at least not an absolute one. “....[Shunryu] Suzuki-roshi declined to establish an ethical code for his students, on the rationale that ethics were relative to culture. Such a code, he said, would have to be developed gradually over time through trial and error....” (Robinson, 304) Just as this teacher of Zen Buddhism did, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher also downplayed the importance of morality. “Trungpa viewed ethical norms as part of the ‘bureaucracy of the ego’ that meditation was intended to overthrow….Trungpa’s writings…were quite popular, and his frank rejection of ethical norms notorious.” (Robinson, 304- 5)
In both of the above cases, the results were predictable. “Suzuki-roshi died in 1971, and Chogyam Trungpa in 1987. Both had appointed American Dharma heirs shortly after their deaths; both of their heirs quickly became involved in sex scandals and were eventually removed from their appointed organizations. Soon similar scandals in other Zen, Son, and Tibetan centers, involving Asian as well as American teachers, brought home that these were not isolated instances but part of a general pattern…” (Robinson, 306)
In spite of teaching that there is no soul (no permanent person to receive the rewards or punishments of their deeds), but that there is rebirth, Sakyamuni Buddha still held to a conviction that the universe is not amoral. Concerning Buddha’s conviction that this is a moral universe, Jones concludes: “He could not claim that this conviction had a sound basis in the rational, analytical part of his teaching; indeed, it would seem to me not too strong to say that there is a hopelessly irreconcilable contradiction between the two” (Jones, 36).
Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer wrote, “If you begin with an impersonal, no matter how you phrase that impersonal, there is no meaning for morals.” (37). Schaeffer also wrote, “We must understand at this point that Plato was absolutely right. He held that unless you have absolutes you have no morals. Here is the complete answer to Plato’s dilemma, he spent his time trying to find a place to root his absolutes, but he was never able to do so because his gods were not enough. But here is the infinite-personal God who has a character from which all evil is excluded and so His character is the moral absolute of the universe.” (42)
Plato’s situation was similar to that of the Buddha. The Buddha rejected the absolute and personal God and thus could not justify his conviction of there being such a thing as morals. Impersonal karma cannot account for personal morality. The world we live in is amazingly fitted to correspond to itself in a way that does not come about just by a random, impersonal beginning.
Trees and plants put out oxygen and take in carbon dioxide. Humans and animals do just the opposite. Our stomachs are able to digest and use the food we find all around us. We have eyes, and we also have the corresponding light needed to use these. The migration instincts of birds correspond to the way the geography of our world is laid out. We also have a sense of morality which is built into our human make-up, which evolution or an impersonal beginning cannot explain. Human morality is different from what we see in the animal world. Animals don’t have police or courtrooms or prisons. It would be absurd to try to enforce morality on animals. It would be equally absurd to let go of all morals among humans, or to make up our own morals. We were made as moral beings. Only God has the authority and absolute wisdom necessary to tell us what is right or wrong.
In reading various articles from Buddhist journals, websites and books, there are a variety of theories of ethics which are proposed for Buddhism. Buddhists can propose a variety of systems for being good, but ultimately what defines good in these systems is just human opinion. Personal morality cannot come from an impersonal force. Instead, Buddhists, who are personal beings have made up their own morality. This does not carry with it any ultimate authority though, and it does not take into account our Creator who does have authority to teach us what is good.
According to the Pali Canon, it is said that someone can be born as a woman in one life and then as a man in the next, etc. But, nowhere in the 500 plus Jataka lives, nor elsewhere in the Pali Canon, does Sakyamuni appear as a woman. Jones writes, “The most striking single fact is that, in spite of the tremendous diversity of forms which the bodhisatta assumes, he never once appears as a woman or even as a female animal. Even when he appears as a tree-spirit or fairy, he is always masculine.” (20) His close friend Ananda who appears in many of his lives, appears only once as a woman (Jones, 113).
Going further, Jones contrasts the doctrine of the Jatakas with the Pali Canon in general: “But whereas the corrupting influence of an evil woman is the norm in the Jatakas, virtuous women being merely exceptions which prove the rule, the possibility of a friend’s becoming a corrupting influence is so remote that it is hardly ever mentioned. This differs from the canonical position. There, unquestionably, sex and marriage are bad, but so are love and friendship, since these involve one in personal attachments and painful (or potentially painful) emotions. The only love which the canon can bless is that which is quite detached and general; a ‘boundless friendly mind for all creatures’.” (115)
Commenting on one of these virtuous women, Jones writes, “That rare thing in the Jataka stories, a virtuous woman, owes her virtue to merit acquired in a former birth- as a male!” (43) In the Pali Canon itself, the depiction of women is hardly better: “…yet, women never tire of sexual intercourse and childbearing (GS I 72) and they never sit in court or embark on business because ‘they are uncontrolled, envious, greedy and weak in wisdom’ (GS II 92f).” (Jones, 78)
Regarding the establishment of an order for nuns, Jones writes, “When Ananda prevailed upon Gotama to allow a separate Order for women, he is reported to have been very gloomy about this. It would, he said, halve the length of time for which the Dhamma would be preserved in pure form.” (Jones, 77; GS IV 184f) In the Vinaya Pitaka (Book of Discipline V), a similar prediction is made by Sakyamuni, when addressing Ananda: “If, Ananda, women had not obtained the going forth from home into homelessness in the dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Truth-finder, the Brahma-faring, Ananda, would have lasted long, true dhamma would have endured for a thousand years. But since, Ananda, women have gone forth…in the dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Truth-finder, now, Ananda, the Brahma-faring will not last long, true dhamma will endure only for five hundred years.” (356)
Since women did “go forth” and five hundred years have already passed, the question arises, is the above canonical passage false, or is it true in saying that “true dhamma” will only endure for five hundred years? If we say it is false, then there is falsity in the Pali Canon. If we say it is true, then it is still false, since five hundred years have already passed, and thus “true dhamma” would no longer be around. In this same text, the Buddha compares the influence of women to mildew: “Even, Ananda, as when the disease known as mildew attacks a whole field of rice that field of rice does not last long, even so, Ananda, in whatever dhamma and discipline women obtain the going forth…that Brahma-faring will not last long.” (356)
Also in the above text (Book of Discipline V), the eight conditions for allowing the women to join, are spelled out. Among these, here are two examples, which highlight women’s subordinate role to men in Buddhism: “A nun who has been ordained (even) for a century must greet respectfully, rise up from her seat, salute with joined palms, do proper homage to a monk ordained but that day.” (354) “From to-day admonition of monks by nuns is forbidden, admonition of nuns by monks is not forbidden.” (355)
Instead of rebelling against Buddhism though, many women in Buddhist societies accept their lower status as something they deserve based on supposed karma from previous lives. Cleo Odzer, in the book “Buddhism and Abortion,” writes, “Typically, women in Thailand are undervalued in respect to men, a situation endorsed by the Buddhist religion…”(33), and in surveying women in a Bangkok slum area, it was discovered that “Mostly, the women accepted their lot in the Buddhist belief that they were born ‘as a woman because of bad karma or a lack of sufficient good merit.’”(35)
In the Bible women are not seen as “mildew,” incapable of doing business, of lesser status than even young men, the cause of men being defiled, and deserving of any suffering they may be facing. Women and men do have different roles and responsibilities in the Bible, but the inheritance for believers in God’s economy is equal: "For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." (Galatians 3:27-29) In the book of Proverbs chapter 31, written by King Lemuel’s mother, the virtuous woman is praised for being wise in business dealings, being clothed in strength and honor, having words of wisdom on her lips, and being trusted by her husband.
If Sakyamuni had really passed through virtually countless lives previous to that one, why was Sakyamuni so startled by the sites of death, poverty, and old age, when he finally ventured out of the palace to see things for himself? If we are to take the Jataka re-birth tales at face value, he would have been quite familiar with all of these harsher realities of life- in fact according to the Jataka tales, he was sometimes a participant in the cruel side of life. “…within this group is the one which depicts the bodhisatta himself as being, in one way or another, involved in killing or injuring. The stories concerned are JSS 93, 128, 129, 152, 178, 233, 238, 246, 315, 319, 384.” (Jones, 61). Among the 547 Jataka stories, he is twice said to have been a robber, once a gambler, and twice a giant snake (Jones, 18-19). He would also have been familiar with suffering according to Jataka 538, which states he had to spend eighty thousand years in the Ussada hell (Jones, 43). So why was Sakyamuni so struck by the fact of death or suffering, as if he had never experienced or seen these things?
The common answer given to this question is that previous lives must be remembered in a state of meditation, when the mind is free from distraction, and more capable of reaching these deep levels of memory. But how can the mind store such information when the mind and everything of which people are said to consist (the five aggregates) are said to not survive death? Actually though, this popular story of the Buddha’s renunciation is not found in the Pali Canon.
In the Pali Canon, as a baby, the Buddha was said to have walked uprightly and proclaimed that it was his last birth: “Chief am I in the world, Eldest am I in the world, Foremost am I in the world! This is the last birth!” (D II, 12) How can a baby be so mature as to speak these lofty words if there is no enduring soul? In the non-canonical story, the problem of anatta arises because meditation does not explain how the 35 year old bodhisatta could “remember” that which according to his own doctrine was not an enduring soul. In the canonical story, the problem of anatta (no enduring soul) is still there, because his doctrine of no enduring soul stands in contrast to a baby speaking from the perspective of an enduring soul, relieved to see the end in sight.
The doctrinal mismatch between anatta and rebirth leaves the intellect unsatisfied, while an attempt is made to appease the conscience with an invented morality: “When two propositions conflict, the simplest possible solution is to ignore one of them- which is precisely what the Jataka does. There is no contradiction in the Jataka between the doctrine of anatta (no self) and the doctrine of a series of lives of the same individual because the doctrine of anatta is simply ignored” (Jones, 39). Sakyamuni did not want to let go of morality, but his system is one which leads people to contradictions-- both the villainous and the virtuous are said to have no soul connection from one life to the next- and thus the ones receiving a particular “lot” are not the ones who “earned” it.
But apart from these difficulties with rebirth, what about real life cases of people who claim to have been reborn? Ian Stevenson, who is one of the foremost authorities in the field of re-birth/reincarnation research reported, “In my experience, nearly all so-called previous personalities evoked through hypnotism are entirely imaginary and a result of the patient’s eagerness to obey the hypnotist’s suggestion.... Some people have been terribly frightened by their supposed memories, and in other cases the previous personality evoked has refused to go away for a long time (Omni Magazine 10 (4): 76 (1988)).” (www.comparativereligion.com/reincarnation1.html)
Ernest Valea points out that this phenomenon is called “false memory syndrome,” and that, “Courts of law know these dangers and most do not accept testimonies produced under hypnosis or from witnesses that have been previously hypnotized.” What about other cases, where the “memories” are not evoked by hypnotism? Valea brings our attention to the demographic of people who are usually targeted for this:
”Almost all cases of spontaneous past life recall experiences are produced by children who manifest them between the age of two and five, when their spiritual discernment is almost nonexistent, especially concerning spirits. This situation makes them easier to be manipulated by external spirits. As the child grows up, the entities lose their power of influence upon him, which could explain why the past life memories are lost after the age of 10.” (www.comparativereligion.com/reincarnation1.html)
Seeing the possibility of outside spirits to deceive in this way, how are we to suppose that a monk or nun who is meditating is immune to this outside influence? Meditation actually swings the door wide open to such an influence. The monk or nun may experience many things during their meditations and count them as confirmations of the Buddha’s doctrine. Are they though? Can we really count this as a confirmation when they were trying to have such “memories” in the first place, and when the experiences are largely subjective? Even if a person can reveal information they would not naturally know, this information is something which outside spirits could know and transmit.
Why does a person need to be under hypnosis, or have the undiscerning mind of a child, or be in an altered state of consciousness during meditation, in order to have such “memories?” If rebirth is “for real” why isn’t it obvious among the billions of people in the world, regardless of cultural background? Why can’t babies speak the language of their “former life” or any language (besides gobbly gook) for that matter? This is probably the reason for inventing the doctrine of anatta (the idea of there being no enduring soul explains the lack of memory). This places the dilemma in the moral realm though (no real justice without a permanent soul) and still does not solve the practical problem of having a connecting point from life to life.
According to the Bible people only have one life to live. "...it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." (Hebrews 9:27). If a person had 1000 cell phones, all with the same information and functions, it would not be a big deal if they lost 10 of them. But, if a person had only one cell phone with important contact information and no money to buy a new one, it would seem like a big loss to lose that one cell phone. Likewise if a person thinks they have thousands of lives, the value of this life and the urgency to live rightly is decreased. But, God who is our owner has told us, that we have only one life!
The belief in re-birth caters to a sense of procrastination. For example, if a student knows he will have a test this coming Friday, but if he also knows there will be a second chance for testing again if his score is not good, he will tend to procrastinate, rather than studying hard for only one chance at the test. Biblically speaking, there is only one chance. When a person is deceived into thinking that there are many chances and many "lives," this lessens the urgency to get right with God right now. Procrastination leads to failure instead of to success. This Buddhist belief takes people far away from God by giving them a false sense of comfort, rather than a sense of urgency not to waste our lives on false ways. When we understand how very valuable our life is, which God gave us, we will thank God for it, and want to come to know God through Jesus Christ.
Buddhist meditation is often presented as something neutral-- just meditation, as opposed to being a “religious” activity. People from various worldview backgrounds are encouraged to try it, on the assumption that it’s just a kind of mind training-- just as physical exercise is body training. This is an attraction for someone who just wants to have a unique, peaceful, or meaningful experience without necessarily buying into the doctrines of the Buddha. But how neutral is meditation really?
In a rarely referred to portion of the Pali canon, a meditation time gone haywire is reported: “Indeed there was one occasion so damaging to the Buddha’s reputation as a ‘peerless charioteer of men’ that it is hard to think it would have been invented. I have never seen it referred to in any of the books on Buddhism I have read. In KS V 284, we read that the Buddha had commended ‘the unlovely’ as a subject for meditation before he himself went off for a fourteen-day retreat. On his return, he found the Order sadly diminished because so many of the monks, contemplating ‘the unlovely’ had ‘as to this body…worried about it, felt shame and loathing for it, and sought for a weapon to slay themselves’- and had in fact, committed suicide. Ananda suggests that in future it might be better if the Buddha ‘would teach some other method’ of meditation. Gotama replies with this suggestion and advises his monks to base their meditation on their breathing in future.” (Jones, 76)
To this day, ‘the unlovely’ (such as a human corpse) is still a valid object of Buddhist meditation, although other types of meditation, such as focusing on breathing, are far more common. Even in the more standard types of meditation, such as focusing on one’s breathing, or observing one’s thoughts as though they were not one’s own thoughts (being detached from the concept of “self” and “objectively” observing the thoughts), there are dangers. Rahula nonetheless encourages such meditation: “Try to examine it as if you are observing it from the outside, without any subjective reaction, as a scientist observes some object. Here, too, you should not look at it as ‘my feeling’ or ‘my sensation’ subjectively, but only look at it as ‘a feeling’ or ‘a sensation’ objectively. You should forget again the false idea of ‘I.” (73)
When a person becomes a “third person” observer of themselves, and even renounces the idea of “self”, it is like relinquishing the steering wheel and sitting in the passenger seat. This presents the possibility of outside spirits entering in and having a very real and dangerous influence. Speaking of the highest level of meditation (Nirodha-samapatti), Vajiranana writes, “But that which is experienced in the Nirodha-samapatti is the state of Nirvana, namely the cessation of all mental activities, which is comparable to that of final Nirvana. The final Nirvana is called ‘Khandha-pari-nibbana,’ the complete cessation of the five aggregates, and is attained by the Arhat at his death” (467).
Apart from the dangers of meditation on a personal level, meditation does not deliver the objective standard it claims. However, the meditators are instructed beforehand in what they can expect to experience. This expectation removes objectivity since it conditions people to generate what is expected. If the instructor tells them they can expect to see previous lives, they are already predisposed towards that. Also, it is not objective, because there are “wrong” or heretical views described in the Pali Canon. In other words, if someone meditates and experiences something heretical- such as “I do have an eternal soul,” this will be rejected.
Shravasti Dhammika in talking about meditation in Sri Lanka, writes: “…the meditators walk around looking like the long-term inmates of a psychiatric hospital. Indeed it is not unknown that some people who spend time in these meditation centers end up having serious mental problems. A joke circulating in certain circles in Sri Lanka in the 1990’s went ‘One month in Kanduboda, six months in Angoda,’ Kanduboda being a well-known meditation center in Colombo and Angoda being the city’s main mental asylum.” (www.buddhistische-gesellschaft-berlin.de/downloads/ brokenbuddhanew.pdf )
Buddhist meditation takes people who are relational by nature, and makes their mind more like a machine. Even when the meditation is “spreading compassion to all beings”, the focus is on one’s own ability to direct the mind to this challenge, and the compassion is meant to be a detached one. When the meditation is a concentration upon one object, to the exclusion of all other thoughts, this silences the voice of conscience calling us to a relationship with God, and sets the mind instead on a path toward increased detachment and isolation. In isolation one’s own desires may be accomplished, but this situation can be compared to a child who would reject the care of loving parents who provide good food and friendship, and wants to instead go live in the forest- rejecting offers of food, rejecting clothing, rejecting offers for education, etc. Such a child would have difficulty surviving and would eventually lose the ability even to communicate with the parents.
Meditation in the Bible means to consider God’s principles and character, spending time with God. It’s a relational process of God “feeding” His children and communicating with them, taking away the burdens in life and providing wisdom. To pray is to take refuge in God, communicating with Him in a real relationship.
In addition to meditation being highly subjective (things “learned” through meditation could not be admitted into a court of law as evidence), meditation also opens up a dangerous door into the spirit world. The meditator must go into an altered state of consciousness. I know someone in Bangkok whose landlord was being taught meditation. One time, as she was doing meditation, a hideous being appeared in front of her. She was scared and ran out of the room. Her meditation teacher later told her not to worry about it, but to go back and teach that hideous being the “peaceful” ways of Buddhism. The evil spirit deceived her into thinking she was doing some good, when in actuality she was in the presence of an evil deceiver only pretending to learn peace, but keeping her bound in deception. Meditation opens up a person at their deepest level to be led not by accurate and objective truths, but rather to be led by subjective experiences away from the God who loves them.
Prayer is communicating with God in a relationship-- not formulas; not chanting; but really speaking with God from our hearts. Before my father-in-law became a Christian he was a chanting leader at his local Buddhist temple. As a young Christian he would repeat a written prayer on the back of a gospel tract every day, not yet understanding that prayer is having a living relationship with God, not reciting a formula. In Thailand Buddhists chant using the Pali language, often not understanding what they're chanting, but thinking they are accumulating merit or blessings or obtaining spiritual protection, etc. Sometimes people will just recite these chants out of a book in front of their idols. Jesus said, "But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking." (Matthew 6:7) Far more Buddhists practice chanting than they do meditation, because meditation requires more effort and training. But, Buddhist meditation and chanting are both spiritually dangerous, because they keep people away from having a real relationship with God our Creator.
The three traditional refuges in Buddhism are the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha. The whole idea of going to a refuge presupposes needing help outside of ourselves. It presupposes a person is limited and finite and needs a refuge which is infinite and reliable. All three of the traditional refuges are flawed, but to make matters worse, a fourth refuge is proposed, which is SELF. A teaching in the Pali Canon (in the Jataka of Kumarakassapa’s mother), brings “self” to the foreground: “Bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, those who depend on others cannot attain any progress or development in life, therefore one is one’s own refuge or master, no one else can be our refuge.” (http://www.buddhapadipa.org/plinks/MHAR-6ELBY2) The three refuges are put into perspective with this Jataka exposition. “Self” is highlighted as a supremely important refuge. But, in the end, all four refuges are unreliable:
- To take refuge in the Dhamma (the teachings) is really by and large to take refuge in one’s self, as this is the direction the teachings point to. But, we’ve seen the teachings to be historically unreliable, and the teachings are contradictory in saying, “do not go by the sacred text” (A.I,188). If one disregarded this admonition, and went by the sacred text, then in going by the sacred text one would have to again not go by it! Many Buddhists today do not see the Buddhist texts as being transcendent and unalterably authoritative, but rather as something that can be modified according to modern opinions of people (reliance on self more than on scriptures).
- To take refuge in the Buddha is to take refuge in a dead man no longer present to offer any help. Even his biography is not helpful, because it is filled with legends and unreliable history.
- To take refuge in the Sangha (the community of monks), is to depend on impermanent and ever changing (anicca), non- enduring selves (anatta) who have their own suffering (dukkha) to deal with. Also, in the Jataka tale above, it was said, “those who depend on others cannot attain any progress or development in life,” which would include depending on the Sangha.
- To take refuge in one’s self is just the finite taking refuge in the finite. It does not solve the problem of getting a person beyond their own limitations. In one breath self is derided (anatta) and in the next it is made into a refuge.
Is any person truly independent? Can anyone say they have received nothing from other people, and nothing from God? How could any person truly and consistently live out the slogan “one is one’s own refuge”?
Let’s take for example a tailor who for some reason took this as his slogan. He would have to make all of his own clothes to begin with. He could not wear anything that another made or bought for him. But, even then he could not use any threads or cloth which he did not himself harvest from the cotton fields or silkworm farm, etc. And, he could not use any scissors or sewing machines, unless he himself had made these. And, he could not make any sewing instruments unless he himself had mined and smelted the iron ore for that purpose. But, how would he mine the iron ore without using equipment made by others? Then, our hypothetical tailor could not eat anything, unless he himself had planted and cooked these. And, with what could he cook except with instruments he himself had made. And, where would he live, except in a house he himself had made.
If this poor fellow was beginning to feel the extreme demands of his time and labors in separating himself from all human dependence, perhaps he would then wish to go and live in the forest. But, even there he would have to come to the realization that he is not at all independent or sufficient to be his own refuge. In the forest (as also in the city) he would need to depend on the many things God has created- the plants for food, and trees for shelter, the water to sustain his life, etc. He could not even eat without using the mouth God gave him or make anything without using the hands and feet God gave him. Likewise he could not think or make choices without using the brain and soul which God gave him. No matter how much he wanted to be his own refuge, he would need to face the fact that his own limitations do not allow him to be his own refuge in any ultimate or even temporal sense.
By telling people that they need not concern themselves about God, it is as though the Buddha had said "thinking" is not important. It’s something that is innate to every human being, because God created us with this hunger to think and seek to know and worship God. But, in replacing this hunger with other things, the search goes on unsatisfied. It’s like somebody telling a bird that flying is not important and then clipping the wings of these birds. In the next generation of birds, the wings would grow to be normal wings, but in the environment of saying “flying is not important,” the birds would use their wings in the dirt, not for flying. They would still “hunger” to fly though. Just as birds were made to fly, people were made to love and worship God. Buddhism does not fill the need in the human heart to know their Creator, and so the search goes on. Unfortunately though it becomes a search for personal prosperity instead of a search for truth and righteousness, which would lead to God.
The classic Buddhist analogy about the issue of our origin and the issue of what is important to focus on, is the man who was shot with an arrow. That man does not worry about where the arrow came from, who shot it, what kind of bow it was shot from, etc., but instead focuses on getting the arrow out! So it is said that humans need not worry about the beginning of the world or the destination of the Buddha and other “metaphysical questions.” But, unfortunately, by relegating God to the sidelines, the true source of (everlasting) relief is also missed. God is overlooked and rejected, like a wounded man telling the doctor to go away.
The void in the human heart has not been filled, and the search for spirituality continues through various expressions. Unfortunately the one true answer has been eliminated from consideration by ignoring God. In the first seven questions in this paper, we've seen that God is the owner of heaven, and the owner of people. He has the right to tell us what is right and what is wrong. Because God owns people, all sin is ultimately done against Him. Therefore only God has the right to forgive sin. We've also seen that God has made both men and women valuable in His sight, and that every person's life is very valuable and something to thank God for.
God is also the Maker of our hearts, and the only one who can give our hearts a sense of fulfillment when we repent of our sins and put our faith in Jesus Christ. God our Creator is a refuge who is more reliable than any doctor, teacher, or family member. Will you put your faith in Jesus today? "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." (Hebrews 13:8) In the end there will only be two kinds of people-- those who will rejoice for all of eternity that they put their faith in Jesus, and those who will spend eternity wishing they had put their faith in Jesus. "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (I John 5:11-12)
How credible is the Pali Canon as a book of facts? If Sakyamuni Buddha did not inspire these writings either directly or indirectly, where is the standard by which truth is measured? And, if it is claimed that the Pali Canon was inspired by the Buddha why does it contain so many factual errors? If the Pali Canon is a mix of truth and error, entrusting one’s destiny to its teachings would be like entrusting oneself to a doctor who prescribes both good and harmful medicines-- a real gamble. All of the scriptural quotations in this science section are from the Pali Canon proper, not its commentary.
In the Digha Nikaya (Dialogues of the Buddha III; 137-139), are listed the 32 marks of one who is supposed to become either a Buddha or a universal ruler. Among these marks, it says he must have 40 teeth [as a baby! - the time when such an assessment is made (Dialogues of the Buddha II; pp. 13-18)]. Ordinarily children have only half that amount- 20 teeth. A mature adult will have 32 teeth total (assuming they didn’t play too much hockey), or 28 teeth if the four wisdom teeth are removed. Fitting eight extra teeth into the jaw of an adult would be quite a feat, but fitting 20 extra teeth into a baby’s jaw would be a real stretch- both of the jaw and of it’s credibility!
Among the 32 marks, another one is that the potential universal ruler or Buddha must have a large tongue. Just how large? In the Majjhima Nikaya (Middle Length Sayings II), a brahman named Sela came to talk with the Buddha and was looking for the 32 marks on him…”Then the Lord, having put out his tongue, stroked it backwards and forwards over both his ears and he stroked it backwards and forwards over both his nostrils and he covered the whole dome of his forehead with his tongue.” (335). Wow. Although there are many statues of the Buddha with various expressions, and in various postures, I’ve never seen one highlighting this aspect of his anatomy, and yet this is canonical.
When responding to Ananda’s question about the cause of an earthquake (Gradual Sayings IV; pp. 208-210), the Buddha gives eight reasons. The first is a natural explanation relating to the structure of the earth, while in the next seven reasons the Buddha says the earth responds with quaking when various “enlightened” ones make monumental accomplishments. In the first reason for earthquakes, we see some real differences between what he says and what modern science knows about the structure of the earth and the causes of earthquakes: “Since, Ananda, this great earth rests on water and the water rests on wind and the wind subsists in space; what time the great winds blow, they cause the water to quake, and the quaking of the water causes the earth to quake. This, Ananda, is the first cause, the first reason, of a great earthquake becoming manifest.”
This example and some of the following examples, demonstrate a lack of correspondence with “the way things are” (the kind of insight the Buddha claimed to provide). In the Dialogues of the Buddha III, a description is given of human ancestors who lived to be 80,000 years old, but gradually through various vices, their life-spans were reduced to only ten years. At that time it is alleged that these humans married at five years of age. These are clearly referred to as humans in this text, and not monkeys. Then, with an increase in moral living, the humans are said to increase their life-spans once again. If this story is only allegorical, why does the text refer to a well known city as being part of this history/prophecy: “Among such humans the Benares of our day will be named Ketumati…” (73). Also, if it is allegorical, so is the prediction of the future Buddha Metteyya, who is supposed to appear when human life-spans are back to 80,000 years.
In another “reality claim” coming from the mouth of the one who “can fall into no error” (Dialogues of the Buddha III, 25), the Buddha says that there are fish in the great ocean, which are anywhere from 100- 500 yojanas long: “And again, monks, the great ocean is the abode of great beings; these beings are there: the timis, the timingalas, the timitimingalas, asuras, nagas, gandhabbas. There are in the great ocean individualities a hundred yojanas (long), individualities two hundred…three hundred…four hundred…five hundred yojanas (long).” (Book of Discipline V, 333)
According to the Pali Text Society Dictionary, one yojana is equal to 7 miles. That means a fish which is 500 yojanas long would be 3500 miles long. That’s quite a claim, considering that this distance would be about 700 miles longer than the USA is wide! Also, it would be quite a disproportional fish since the deepest spot in the world’s oceans is about 7 miles deep, with the average depth being about 3 miles.
In the fourth volume of the Book of Discipline, there are a number of stories which make it plain that the Buddha’s knowledge does not even match up to modern standards, much less omniscience. In one such case the Buddha puts his approval on consuming raw flesh and blood from swine: “Now at that time a certain monk had an (sic) non-human affliction.... He, having gone to the swine’s slaughter-place, ate raw flesh and drank raw blood, and his non-human affliction subsided. They told this matter to the Lord. He said: ‘I allow, monks, when one has a non-human affliction, raw flesh and raw blood.’” (274) “A non-human affliction” here may refer to demon-possession as the footnote for this passage points out. The cure approved of by the Buddha, is to let the “non-human” spirit (a.k.a. demon) indulge itself in raw flesh and blood. Is there any disease for which this would actually be a wise practice? Why didn’t the Buddha cast out such a foul oppressor as Jesus Christ often did?
Lastly, because the theory of evolution seems to align itself to Buddhism pretty well (no need for a Creator), does this mean Buddhism is therefore scientific? Firstly, the Buddha didn’t explain ultimate origins and said that speculating about origins is one of the useless endeavors in life. But, also if there is no Creator, how can we expect our world to have any morals, or any beauty if everything came into being through random, mutated, impersonal chance? The evidence for evolution is not increasing, but decreasing. The famous line-up of monkeys to men, for example, have been shown to be hoaxes, or completely ape, or completely human. The missing links are still missing. The website www.answersingenesis.org has articles, audios, and videos, presented by Ph.D. creation scientists, offering evidence in support of a Creator of this world. To dismiss this evidence without a fair examination would itself be unscientific. A person who is reasonable would be willing to follow the evidence where it leads, even if that means to God.
The vanity in this world should turn us towards our Creator for direction and renewal, rather than supposing we can handle the problems on our own. Jesus taught his disciples their need to humble themselves before God: "And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:2-3)
What we see in this world oftentimes is unjust- the wicked prospering, the “innocent” facing trouble, etc., but we need to know the perspective of eternity, which includes a judgment day in which God will judge the world in righteousness. Considering Sakyamuni’s lack of omniscience, it is not advisable to trust in his speculations about what is or is not a worthy pursuit. If an appliance in our house is not functioning properly, we turn to the owner’s manual or maybe call the maker of that appliance. Similarly, God who made us has the answers to life’s dilemmas.
Looking at Buddhism plainly like this, if Buddhism were a journey, it would be a journey in which the road map contains known false claims, the “discoverer” of this journey is no longer around to offer any help, and ultimately one is extinguished when arriving at the destination. Although Buddhism is a fascinating system, it leads people along a pathway away from the God who loves them, away from incorruptible everlasting life, and thus away from what we were made for- a life washed of our sins and relating to our Maker- made possible not by “earning it”, but through Jesus Christ taking our punishment onto Himself on the cross. To reject this is to reject a true road map to heaven, help for the journey, and a guide who will not fail us.
To acknowledge and accept this is to begin a relationship of trust with our Maker. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:16-18). There are many things which dead men can’t do. The Buddha is dead. One very important thing a dead man can’t do is to save a person’s soul. But Jesus Christ is alive and can redeem our soul and take us to heaven if we believe in Him. That is because Jesus Christ is God, who is our Creator and who will judge us based on His Word, when we die.
To begin with, the Buddhist scriptures of the Pali Canon were written down very late, and the scriptures of other schools of Buddhism were formed and written down even later. The Pali Canon was written down about 70 BCE in Sri Lanka (Veidlinger, 23):
“Most scholars currently believe that the texts of the Pali Tipitaka were transmitted orally for about four hundred years, from the time of their genesis until the first century BCE.” (Veidlinger, 2)
There is also a huge time gap from the time of writing to the time of the earliest surviving manuscripts. Veidlinger writes: “…the bulk of traditional chirographic Pali texts in the Theravadin world exist in nineteenth-century manuscripts. The oldest Pali manuscript yet found dates back to the sixth century….it consists of a selection of passages…The earliest extant manuscript from Sri Lanka is of the Samuttanikaya from 1411 CE…” (14-15) Hinuber likewise confirms this situation in writing, “The continuous manuscript tradition with complete texts begins only during the late 15th century. Thus the sources immediately available for Theravada literature are separated from the Buddha by almost 2000 years.” (4). The words “complete texts” here mean individual texts from the Pali Canon. If we date the Buddha’s death to about 410 BC, according to modern scholarship, then the gap between the Buddha and a complete Pali Canon in manuscript form is over 2000 years.
By contrast, we have individual New Testament books in manuscript form from about 150 years after Jesus was raised from the dead (though there are some fragments before then), and complete Bible manuscripts from about 300 years after Jesus’ resurrection. We have individual books of the Old Testament from about 200 BC from the Dead Sea caves.
In the 19th century the Pali Canon was written in stone in Burma: “Mindon...held the Fifth Buddhist council in Mandalay. He had already created the world's largest book in 1868, the Tipitaka, 729 pages of the Buddhist Pali Canon inscribed in marble and each stone slab housed in a small stupa...” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindon_Min
Although “written in stone” is an idiom for something absolute and steadfast, Trevor Ling writes of King Mindon’s project, “Mistakes in the carving of the text had made necessary a revision…” (124). This revision took place during the sixth Buddhist Council from 1954- 1956 in Burma.
In Sri Lanka’s history [the place where the Pali Canon was first written down (70 BC), and where its commentaries were composed (c. 500 AD)], the texts went through a purging in the 12th century: “When Parakkamabahu I. (1153- 1186) reformed Buddhism in Ceylon during the 12th century, the monks of the Abhayagiri- and the Jetavana-vihara were reordained according to the Mahavihara tradition. Consequently, their texts gradually disappeared, and the only Theravada texts surviving are those of one single monastery, the Mahavihara.” (Hinuber, 22)
Looking beyond the unreliable history of the Pali Canon, the more important question to ask is, “Did the Buddha have authority to teach on spiritual subjects in the first place?” Being only a man (with very limited knowledge), and currently a dead man, he is woefully underqualified to give advice on any ultimate topics (e.g. where will you spend eternity? What is your purpose in life? Where did you come from?). In fact the Buddha often took people’s attention off of these important topics only to focus their attention on temporal rather than eternal topics. Only God who knows everything, and who has power over death, and who created and owns the world, has the authority necessary to teach people spiritual truths. Here are three stories which show some of the exaggeration used in the Pali Canon...
In the Vinaya of the Pali Canon, an incredible story is told to explain why candidates for the monkhood must be asked whether or not they are a human being. According to this story a naga snake, changed its form to look like a human and became a monk: “Then one day, that other monk got up at night, toward dawn, and stepped outside to practice walking meditation. The naga, feeling certain that his cellmate had gone off, fell asleep, and in his sleep he took on his natural form. His snake’s body filled the whole room, and his coils came out through the windows. Then, his roommate, thinking he would go back inside the cell, opened the door and saw the whole room filled with snake….Terrified at the sight, he screamed.” (Strong, 1995; P. 62)
Also, in the the Udana of the Pali Canon the Buddha is said to have been covered from the rain by a giant naga: “Then Mucalinda the naga-king left his dwelling place and having encircled the Lord's body seven times with his coils, he stood with his great hood spread over the Lord's head (thinking) to protect the Lord from cold and heat, from gadflies, mosquitoes, wind, sun, and the touch of creeping things. At the end of those seven days the Lord emerged from that concentration. Then Mucalinda the naga-king, seeing that the sky had cleared and the rain clouds had gone, removed his coils from the Lord's body. Changing his own appearance and assuming the appearance of a youth, he stood in front of the Lord with his hands folded together venerating him.” (www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.2.01.irel.html)
Another incredible phenomenon in the Pali Canon, which is supposed to be in existence even now (more specifically- “as long as the world lasts”)- is a roofless house, which never takes in rain: “…there is a story in the Majjhima-Nikaya (Middle Length Sayings) of some monks who ‘borrowed’ the roof of a potter’s house for the repair of their monastery. But rather than being angry at this appropriation of their roof, the potter and his blind parents were suffused with ineffable joy for 7 days. Then in accordance with the law of Cause and Effect a strange phenomenon come into being. Drench the whole village or the whole country by immense rainfall, but not a single drop of rain fallls into this roofless house. And it is ordained that this site of Gati Kara’s house be in such state as long as the world lasts.” (King, 121)
The author goes on to make a contemporary application of the above account: “This place must be somewhere in the vicinity of the eternal town of Benares. The Indian Government should find out, especially Mr. Nehru who seems to venerate Buddhism. It is an easy task. Within a radius say of a hundred miles around Benares each and every headman of the village tracts can enquire minutely and try to seek for this marvelous place. Once it is found the impact of Buddhism upon humanity will be enormous and the tourist income of India will be magnificent.” (King, 121)
On the other hand, take someone like Luke, whose accounts in the Bible are verified even after intense historical and archeological examination by those hostile to the accounts. A semi-technical book on this is Colin Hemer’s book… “Acts in a Setting of Hellenic History.” The history of Buddhist Scriptures is filled with inaccuracies. The Pali Canon contains large sections of legend. Since these scriptures did not get it right when it comes to physical reports of “the way things are,” then why in the world would anyone want to trust them when it comes to their eternal soul? Sadly and ironically, instead of this lack of authority in their scriptures, making Buddhists search for God, they tend to depend more on themselves- the very thing which according to their own teachings is non-enduring and ever changing.
Our purpose in life is to love God and love people: "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:37-40)
Loving God requires faith: "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him." (Hebrews 11:6) This faith is based on evidence God has given us, not a blind faith. With faith in God, there must also be respect: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." (Proverbs 9:10). Instead of fearing God, many Buddhists end up living in fear of ghosts and in bondage trying to appease various spirits.
Loving God also means coming to Him humbly: "...God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." (James 4:6). "...Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 18:3). Instead of glorifying God, Buddhists follow vain imaginations by glorifying meditation and imagined previous lives: "Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools." (Romans 1: 21-22)
To begin a relationship with God a person has to first repent-- turn away from false and sinful ways, and turn to God's ways as revealed in the Bible. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17: 3) Knowing God is the goal. This is personal. God’s offer of forgiveness is not something that can be earned, or demanded, but is a free gift of mercy for all who realize the extent of their violations and truly repent-- putting their trust in God, and not in themselves: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Eternal life in heaven comes only through Jesus Christ. "And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (I John 5:11-12)
The Buddha has given people lies instead of the truth and the result is spiritually tragic: "Because with lies ye have made the heart of the righteous sad, whom I have not made sad; and strengthened the hands of the wicked, that he should not return from his wicked way, by promising him life." (Ezekiel 13:22) Instead of being in the care of a loving Shepherd (Jesus), Buddhists are left in the presence of the devil, the serpent (the naga serpents which Buddhism exalts, but which really are demons). "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." (Revelation 12:9)
To put it very simply, a dead man (the Buddha) can’t help anyone to find the answers to life’s most important questions: Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where will I go when I die? The Bible can answer these questions. Jesus Christ is alive. He has risen from the dead. Would you like to make peace with your Creator who loves you, even though you have sinned against Him? If you do, you can begin by confessing your sins to Him, including the sins of ignoring Him and not giving Him the honor that is due to Him. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." (I John 1: 9). God wants each person to believe in Jesus Christ and thus have a personal relationship with God. The choice is yours. Will you respond to God’s love? Will you come to Him humbly? Will you yield your life to Him, with a child-like faith?
Regarding the archeological evidence that supports the Bible account, Mark Cahill says,"There have been over 25,000 archeological finds that provide support regarding people, their titles, and their locations mentioned in the Bible. Nelson Glueck, the renowned Jewish archaeologist, wrote: ‘It may be stated categorically that no archeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference’” (Cahill, 65)
“Lionel Luckhoo (1914-1997) was a famous lawyer and later an evangelist, whom the Guinness Book of World Records lists as having had the most successive acquittals in murder trials, with 245...'I [Lionel] have spent more than 42 years as a defense trial lawyer appearing in many parts of the world and am still in active practice...I say unequivocally the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is so overwhelming that it compels acceptance by proof which leaves absolutely no room for doubt." (http://www.conservapedia.com/Lionel_Luckhoo)
Jesus Christ was God Almighty in the flesh. Jesus is the Creator of the universe. He lived among us for 33 years, did miracles, healed people, cast out demons, taught with authority, was crucified, laid in a tomb, and then rose from the dead on the third day. His disciples were willing to testify to His resurrection with their own spilled blood. Hundreds of prophecies preceded Jesus’ ministry and were fulfilled by Him. Most of these prophecies were given even before the Buddha was born. Jesus Christ is not a dead man like other religious leaders, but rather is alive. He is the only one who has the authority to cleanse us of our sins and receive us into heaven. But, to reject Him is to reject the truth in favor of lies. Do you love the truth? Are you willing to follow Jesus Christ at any cost? Although salvation is offered freely, there is a certain cost for yielding to God to let Him be the Lord of our lives, but there is a greater cost for keeping “self” as Lord. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.
- Cahill, M. (2005). One Heartbeat Away: Your Journey Into Eternity. Rockwall: BDM Publishing.
- Childers, R.C. (1979). A Dictionary of the Pali Language. New Delhi: Cosmo Publications.
- Herman, A.L. (1996). Two Dogmas of Buddhism. In Pali Buddhism Hoffman, F.J., Mahinda, D. (Eds.) Surrey: Curzon Press.
- v. Hinuber, Oskar. (1996). A Handbook of Pali Literature. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter.
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- The Pali Canon: Pali Text Society Version. Abbreviations of Pali Text Society books, with Pali titles in parentheses: V = Book of Discipline (Vinaya Pitaka); GS = Gradual Sayings (Anguttara Nikaya); D = Dialogues of the Buddha (Digha Nikaya); KS = Kindred Sayings (Samyutta Nikaya); MLS = Middle Length Sayings (Majjhima Nikaya); JS(S) = Jataka Stories (Jataka).
- Vajiranana, P. (1987). Buddhist Meditation in Theory and Practice: A General Exposition According to the Pali Canon of the Theravada School. Kuala Lumpur: Buddhist Missionary Society.
- Veidlinger, D.M. (2006). Spreading the Dhamma: Writing, Orality and Textual Transmission in Buddhist Northern Thailand. Bangkok: O.S. Printing House.
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