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The Buddha is nothing like Jesus

Detail of Passion of Jesus Christ at Sacred Heart Church.
Detail of Passion of Jesus Christ at Sacred Heart Church. | Getty Images/Pascal Deloche

Jesus of Nazareth walked on this planet 2,000 years ago. Siddhartha Gautama, commonly referred to as the Buddha, was born in Nepal about five centuries before Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Both men were spiritual teachers, but only one of them rose from the dead.

Buddha said, “Radiate boundless love towards the entire world.” Jesus said, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).

Buddha said, “The world is afflicted by death and decay. But the wise do not grieve, having realized the nature of the world.” Jesus told his disciples: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

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Buddha said, “To support mother and father, to cherish wife and children, and to be engaged in peaceful occupation – this is the greatest blessing.”  Jesus said, “Anyone who loves his father and mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38).

Buddha said, “Resolutely train yourself to attain peace.” Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). And the Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Romans 5:1-2).

Buddhism does not teach that man is sinful and in need of a Savior. Buddha said, “Purity and impurity depend on oneself; no one can purify another.” Scripture, on the other hand, teaches this simple fact about believers in Jesus: “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).

Buddha said, “Your own self is your master; who else could be?” Jesus taught his followers to rely upon God rather than upon themselves. Jesus becomes the Savior and Lord (Master) of all who receive him by faith. John 1:12 declares: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Jesus claimed to be God, which is one of the reasons he was hated by the Jewish religious leaders of his day and eventually put to death at the hands of Roman executioners. Buddha had no understanding of the One true God, who consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Buddha never claimed to be God, or that belief in a deity is necessary to achieve enlightenment.

Buddha said, “The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows.” Proverbs 14:12 teaches, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Buddha did not understand that man has sinned against a holy God. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin … So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34,36).

Buddha said, “Health is the greatest gift, contentment is the greatest wealth.” Jesus said, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet loses his soul?” (Matthew 16:26) Scripture reveals that man’s soul is immortal and in desperate need of the forgiveness of sins.

The divine nature of Jesus is eternal, without beginning or end. Jesus is the true God and true man. Buddha was only a man and did not have a divine nature.

Buddha died from an illness and did not rise from the dead. Jesus died by crucifixion and rose from the dead on the third day. After his resurrection, Jesus “appeared to more than 500 of the brothers at the same time” (1 Corinthians 15:6). Christ’s opponents were unable to track down his body because he was no longer dead but alive. Christianity exploded onto the scene through the eyewitnesses of the risen Christ, as recorded in the New Testament.

Interestingly, the manuscript witness to the teachings of Jesus are older than those of Buddha. The New Testament documents are more accurate than any other of antiquity.

Buddha presented his own version of enlightenment. Jesus, on the other hand, taught about the one and only path to Paradise. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26).

Buddha said, “Do not look for a sanctuary in anyone except yourself.” Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Buddha taught his followers to be self-reliant, whereas Jesus taught his followers to be reliant upon God.

Jesus is the omnipresent and living Messiah who loves you and willingly gave his life on the cross to pay for your sins. Buddha is not alive and is unable to love you. Buddha has never been omnipresent. 

Buddha taught the myth of reincarnation. Buddhists are taught that there is a continuous cycle of life, death, and rebirth known as samsara. Jesus taught the truth about life and death; sin and grace; Heaven and Hell.

Some people are led to follow Jesus, while others choose to base their life upon the teachings of the Buddha. And billions of others take a different spiritual path altogether, or no path at all. No one will force you to believe that Jesus is God and the Savior of the world. Christ invites you today to rely upon his death on the cross as the payment for your sins.

The Buddha’s self-help principles remain popular today, while the Messiah actually lives within everyone who accepts him as their Lord and Savior. Jesus of Nazareth preached: “Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). The Buddha was a sinner, just like us, and in need of a Savior, whereas Jesus was sinless, just like the Father and the Holy Spirit.

A dead man’s advice about the benefits of self-reliance, or the living Lord’s wisdom and his free gift of everlasting life in Heaven. Two paths. Two spiritual teachers. But only one eternal Savior who will gladly wash away your sins if you trust him to forgive you for breaking God’s commandments.

Dan Delzell is the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Papillion, Nebraska. 

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