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Buddhism and Christianity can't both be right
« on: June 07, 2013, 10:10:04 AM »
Not to be bitchy, but the one believing in an imaginary man in the sky cant be right!

Buddhism and Christianity can't both be right

Fri, 7 Jun 2013

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is coming to Dunedin and will give a talk in the town hall. Photo by Reuters.
Religions are not ultimately the same, writes Mark Smith.
Next Tuesday, Dunedin will host Tenzin Gyatso, better known as the Dalai Lama. In anticipation, Lance Bardwell suggests (5.3.13) that church leaders of all religions could hold a welcome party for him on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral.

This raises the question, are all religions ultimately the same?

It's often said all religions just follow different paths to God. There is a problem here, like the analogy of the three blind men who come across an elephant. One touches the tail and declares the elephant to be a rope.

Another, feeling the leg proclaims that the elephant is a tree. The other touches its side and reports it to be a wall. This illustration is supposed to show that each religion contributes part of the picture, but doesn't see the complete picture.

The problem with this analogy, as Tim Keller points out, is that ''the only way this parable makes any sense, is if the person telling the story has seen the whole elephant.

''The minute one says, 'All religions only see part of the truth', you are claiming the very knowledge you say no-one else has.''

You are declaring yourself to be the enlightened one who holds the truth. So before someone says all religions are basically the same, it is worthwhile looking at them side by side. What do they fundamentally teach?

Let's consider Buddhism and Christianity.

There are several streams of Buddhism. The more original Theravada Buddhism regards Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) not as divine but as the ideal man.

While, Mahayana Buddhism sees Gautama as a divine figure, and images of Buddha regarded as true objects of worship. It also accepts the existence of many divine beings in addition to Buddha himself.

According to the Tibetan tradition, the Dalai Lama himself is the rebirth of Avalokitesvara, one of Mahayana Buddhism's most beloved deities. At the heart of Gautama's teaching you have the four noble truths.

1.Existence is marred by suffering.

2.The origin of suffering is attachment or craving.

3.The cessation of suffering is attainable through the cessation of craving.

4.The way to cease desire and escape from continual rebirth, is to follow the eightfold path which involves right understanding i.e. knowledge of the truths of Buddhism, the right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

Through mental and moral practices the Buddhist aims to remove craving and so escape the world of suffering and the need for rebirth.

They enter Nirvana where the endless cycle of rebirth ceases. Christianity, on the other hand, has a clear view of God as an infinite, eternal, holy and yet personal being who is one in essence, but three in person, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It sees the problem of humanity going deeper than just ignorance. It is the rejection of God himself in whom we live and move and have our being. This affects the whole person, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

The ''Ten Commandments'' are not 10 steps to get closer to God, but instead expose how far from God we really are.

The solution cannot be a self-help or self-improvement plan, because it is humanly impossible to fix. It takes God personally to step into our broken world and pay the ultimate price to reconcile us to Himself.

He calls people everywhere to accept his offer of forgiveness, new life and eternity with Him. Refusing this offer of mercy does not result in an endless cycle of rebirth, but to be shut out of God's presence in eternal despair.

Buddhism and Christianity are vastly different in their understanding of the nature of God, the world's problem, the solution and the final reality.

Some of the ethics might cross over, but they are worlds apart in regard to their core beliefs, motivations and results. If one is right the other must be wrong. They can't both be right.

Inherent in every religion is a step of faith in some aspect. No matter where we stand, there are faith assumptions undergirding it. It is worth examining what these are, whether we are Christian or Buddhist, or for that matter atheist. We need good reasons for what we believe.

For me, Jesus Christ is both historically reliable and convincingly answers the big questions concerning life, death and eternity.

Knowing him is personally fulfilling and vitally relevant. And based on my Christian foundations I can respect the Dalai Lama as a human being made in the image of God, but not agree with his core beliefs nor endorse the philosophy that all religions are basically the same, or result in the same destiny.

Mark Smith is pastor of Grace Church, Dunedin.