Once upon a time there were three Buddhist monks who lived in a monastery. Each day, the monks would walk along a lengthy path to fetch water from a local well.
As they were walking one day, the monks met a Christian missionary, and they entered into a lively debate about spiritual principles, and the nature of God. They agreed on many things, including the importance of forgiveness and compassion, and about karma, which the Christian called “sowing and reaping.” However, when it came to the nature of God, and the life to come, they seemed to disagree.
The Buddhists said that there was no personal god whom one could converse with, but only the impersonal principles of the universe, with compassion as the central positive force. Additionally, they said that man’s suffering could only be overcome through detachment, and through multiple lifetimes of progressive enlightenment, where he worked out his bad karma (which the Christian called “guilt”).
As the monks walked home, they discussed the things the Christian had said. “I don’t know about you,” said the first monk, “but I am very content with my practice, and feel no need for a personal God to talk to. And as for the Christian’s view that God could remove our bad karma by just one act of faith on our part, that doesn’t seem fair, and goes against nature.”
The second monk spoke up, saying “I must admit, although I love my practice, I have sometimes whispered up prayers as if some God were listening, even though we teach that no such personal God exists. I have no way to determine God’s existence, and am therefore content to practice as if God does not exist. But I certainly wonder, and sometimes feel a need to talk to the Divine as a child might talk to a parent. And as for the Christians view that Jesus took upon himself all of our karma, that certainly would be a loving act, but I don’t think such a thing is really possible.”
They walked in silence for a long time, until the third monk looked up and spoke. “I have a confession to make. I have practiced Buddhism since childhood, but have always felt a vast aloneness in the universe. Deep down my soul reaches for a personal God, but I have not found any conclusive evidence that there is a God. Just today I cried out loud to God, asking if he was real, to show himself. I have prayed this prayer every day, but have only seen, at best, circumstantial or coincidental evidence. But today I heard the words of compassion, and I saw and heard about the greatest thing anyone could do for another – to take away their guilt. ”
“You see, when I was a young man, I killed another man in a fit of anger, and have lived with that guilt to this day. I entered the monastery to start my many lifetimes of good works in order to remove my guilt and bad karma. To me, the message that someone died in my place and took my divine punishment sounds unnatural only in that it is too good to be true. ”
“Can we prove reincarnation? No. Can anyone prove that Jesus died for us? Not really. But I have prayed just as the Christian told us, and something has changed in me. I feel a close fellowship with God, as if God hears me and I feel and hear Him. And my guilt has melted away. For these things I am thankful.”
Just then, a horse and cart came careening around the corner, striking all three men and killing them. Their spirits left their bodies, and entered into the next realm.
What happened next? No one really knows this side of death. Can you identify with one of the monks? If you are a practicing Buddhist, Christianity has two things to say to you.
1) Much of what you know as truth, and the compassionate meditations and acts you practice are valid, good for the body and spirit, and do not have to be abandoned. These truths are consistent with Christian thought and practice, and consistent with the God of love and kindness.
2) For those who wonder or long for a personal God, Christianity claims that such a God does exist, and that He can be a part of your spiritual life through understanding that God is love, and that He is waiting for you to invite Him into your life now.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whomever believed in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. – John 3:16
But to all who believed him and received him, he gave the right to become children of God. – John 1:12
And while Buddhism teaches that suffering exists, Christianity claims that the answer to WHY it exists is not just our attachments and desires, but the fact that all of us have sinned – and that is the source of sickness, suffering, and death.
…through one man (Adam) sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. – Romans 5:12
He sent His Son Jesus to fulfill justice and receive the punishment that all negative, sinful acts deserve. You don’t have to spend lifetimes earning freedom, and you don’t have to spend this lifetime doing any kind of good work to remove guilt.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast. – Ephesians 2:8-9
If you feel the need to further understand the basic Christian message and ask Christ into your life, visit the links below.
- The Four Spiritual Laws
- 10 Basic Steps Toward Christian Maturity
- How to Know That Christ Is In Your Life
I hope you enjoyed my little story. I have much more to say in coming months about the similarities and differences between Christianity and Buddhism. Let it be known that I love and respect both.