Without asking for it, I have received a chain of emails the past couple of weeks in which statements were frequently made that Y’shua was a mythological, rather than a historical figure. In one such email, where Y’shua was compared with Buddha, the following statement was made: “The Christ and the Buddha are the same concepts within spirituality. It is not a person but a state to which you aspire in your spiritual growth. It is not about worshipping the Christ, but becoming a Christ.” I am not in the mood to even bother responding to these absurd views about the One we’ve come to know as Y’shua of Natsaret, Promised Messiah and Son of Elohim the Most High. I was intrigued, however, by the comparison between Y’shua and Buddha.
It is believed that up to 7% or 500 million people of the total world population are Buddhists or leaning towards Buddhism. South Africa is very much on the other side of the world, and also on the other side of the religious spectrum, when compared with the Asian countries, where Buddhism originated, but even here do we have a vibrant and growing community of Buddhist adherents. Nowadays one would frequently hear about someone who is studying, or even considering to join Buddism, because of the “clarity” and the “ethical nature” of its teachings. The statement in the email above that Y’shua and Buddha are mere “concepts within spirituality” and not real persons, is, of course, very far from true, on both counts. “Buddha” means “Enlightened one” and it was a title given to a real person by the name of Siddhartha Gautama, born in Nepal, north of India around the years 560 to 520 BM (Before Messiah).
Just imagine, during those crucial years when the people of Yahweh served their time of exile in Babylon, about 4000 km to the east of Babylon, about the same distance as from Cape Town to Madagascar, this man Gautama, alias Buddha, was born in the country of the Himalayan mountains, Nepal. Looking at the influence he has had on the world since then and the growing popularity of Buddhism, even in our day, some people would ask: Was he not perhaps the Messiah, being born at the exact time when Yisrael was in their deepest distress and longing for the coming of the Messiah, more than any other period in the history of mankind? There is of course not the slightest chance that Buddha can be the Messiah. Gautama himself knew this all too well. It is said that when one of his students approached him and asked him, “Are you the messiah?”, Buddha’s answer was, “No”.
“Then are you a healer?”
“No”, Buddha replied.
“Then are you a teacher?” the student persisted.
“No, I am not a teacher.”
“Then what are you?” asked the student, exasperated.
“I am awake”, Buddha replied.
This was the kind of man Buddha was and the kind of reasoning he used that attracted many people’s attention. Like Y’shua of Natsaret, who was born more than 500 years later, Buddha was exceedingly humble and, at the same time, an excellent teacher, although he denied this in the story above. By the way, the traditional Buddha image of the fat guy, is not really a portrayal of Gautama, but of a Chinese monk known as Budai, who lived 1500 years after Gautama. Gautama is known to have uttered many wise words and sayings, some of which are known and quoted up to this day. Like the following …
Neither fire nor wind, birth nor death can erase our good deeds.
Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.
Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.
It is better to travel well than to arrive.
So, if the lifestyle of Buddha attracted so many people and his teachings affected the lives of so many, what is wrong about following Buddha today and becoming excited about Buddhism? Why not follow Buddha instead of Y’shua? There may be many answers to this question, and some people may even object to the fact that such a question is being asked in the first place, but somehow I feel it is necessary for us to know exactly where we are standing, and why. Against this background I shall give a number of reasons why I have decided to follow Y’shua, and not Buddha.
I have decided to follow Y’shua, because unlike Buddha, He introduced this world to a personal Elohim who is almighty, merciful, loving, forgiving, faithful, patient and full of righteousness. In the final analyses it is not someone’s good ideas and good teachings that hold the world together and give meaning to life, but an almighty One who is personal and alive and approachable and eager to save people.
Buddhism has its five precepts about respecting one’s fellow man (not lying, not stealing, not killing, not indulging in sexual misconduct and not taking alcohol or drugs) but it has nothing about respecting and honouring Yahweh. Nothing about the fact that He is set-apart and hates idolatry, nothing about the Name above all names, nothing about the Shabbat – the day that Yahweh had set apart and blessed by putting his personal seal upon it. In Buddhism I will never experience the depth and the jubilant feeling of saying “Yahweh is my shepherd, I’ll not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters …”
Buddhist adherents are striving to achieve “nirvana” – a difficult word to define, but meaning something like “the end of cravings and ignorance and the beginning of enlightenment and the endless cycle of rebirths”. In my own understanding the most notable ignorance of mankind is not knowing Yahweh and not acknowledging his authority in our lives and not recognising the One He had sent as part of what we may call the master plan for the salvation of mankind. In order to achieve this knowledge, it may be necessary to put a hold on our own fleshly cravings for some period of time (in fasting and praying). But it is not about a vague, spiritual and evasive enlightenment that one can only hope to achieve. No, it is about listening to Yahweh’s words (even meditating upon them to come to full understanding), embracing his promises and making these words and promises part of our daily lives – putting the guidelines into practise and storing each promise in our minds and memories so that these may dictate our conduct from day to day
Something that not everyone may know about Buddha, that I have come across in a number of resources, is that Buddha apparently prophesied about Y’shua. An old Brahman priest asked Buddha: “What should we do [to be saved]? The Buddha answered, “….look for another Holy One who will come and help the world and all of you in the future.” Then the Brahman priest asked, “What will the characteristics of the Holy One be like?” The Buddha answered him, “The Holy one who will keep the world in the future will be like this: In the palm of his hands and in the flat of his feet will be the design of a disk, in his side will be a stab wound; and his forehead will have many marks like scars. The Holy One will be the golden boat who will carry you over the cycle of rebirths all the way to the highest heaven [Nirvana]. Do not look for salvation in the old way; there is no salvation in it for sure. Quit the old way, and there will be a new spirit like the light of a lightening bug which will come down from the sky above to live in all of your hearts, and you will be victorious over all of your enemies. Nobody will be able to destroy you. If you die, you will not come back to be born in this world again. You will go to the highest heaven [Nirvana].
Buddhism may be noble in its philosophy and morally admirable in its high regard for the lives and the feelings for people. But compared to the way exemplified by Messiah, it is still the old way. And in Buddha’s own words, people need to quit “the old way”. The old way of traditional Buddhism, that is. Shaúl wrote to the Ephesians that Yahweh had ordained us who believe in Y’shua, before the foundation of the world to adoption as sons and daughters through Y’shua, according to the good pleasure of His desire and according to the riches of His favour. Sorry to say, but there is nothing in Buddhism that can carry such knowledge and such meaningful truth into a persons life.