Jesus, Buddha & the Cessation of Suffering

This post is part of a series on Jesus’ Teaching in Buddhist Terminology.

Both Jesus and The Buddha taught about the suffering we may experience in life, and the path out of that suffering.  The Noble Eightfold Path (right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration) is the way to liberation from suffering outlined by The Buddha.  Jesus also had a lot to say on the nature of suffering, and the ways in which we bring more of it on ourselves through our own fears, cravings and aversions. Below are examples from the Gospels illustrating how Jesus addresses each of these areas.

Wisdom (Right View and Right Intention)

Judge Not: Jesus knew that we all suffer. And two thousand years ago, when Jesus was teaching, people thought that suffering came down on people because of their own sin (let’s be honest, sometimes we still make that mistake, or use the “karma cop-out” as a reason for judging rather than helping). Once, the people asked Jesus why someone was born blind, whether it was because of the sins of the parents or his own sins, and Jesus’ answered that it was neither thing… then he proceeded to heal that person (Gospel of John, Chapter 9).

Fear Not: them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:28-31)

Worry Not:  Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?  Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:  And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?  Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?  (Matthew 6:25-31)

Crave Not: And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. (Luke 12:15) And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Luke 12:29-31)    

Ethical Conduct (Right Speech, Action, Livelihood)

Right Speech: See full commentary.

Right Action: Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee. (John 5:14)  And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.  (John 8:10-12)

Right Livelihood: Buddhists eschew the following fields: instruments for killing, in human beings (e.g., slavery), the business in meat, intoxicants, and poisons.  Followers of Jesus would not be able to live out Jesus’ Great Commandment (Love God with your all, and your neighbor as yourself) while benefiting from toxic professions.  In addition, when Jesus spoke about cutting off  the hand or foot that offends (Mark 9:43-47) he may not have been entirely literal in his meaning. Perhaps one deeper meaning could be “if you can’t be in the world without acting in toxic ways, cut yourself off from it.”

Concentration (Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration)

Present Moment: Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (Matthew 6:34)

Beginner’s Mind:  [a Zen Buddhist concept meaning lack of preconceptions] And 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. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. (Matthew 18:3-5)

Right Mindfulness: Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41)

Right Concentration: And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.  But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.  And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? (Matthew 14:28-31)

See also Jesus’ Dharma of Metta.

In Sum

Jesus reminds us, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46)   No need to abide in darkness, when there’s such enlightenment available to us.

Categories Edify | Tags: | Posted on August 26, 2013

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