By Charlie H. Campbell
Tonight we are going to be considering the religion of: Buddhism.
Buddhism is the world’s fourth largest religion.
The largest is, as you know Christianity, followed by Islam, then Hinduism, and then fourthly: Buddhism.
The number of Buddhists in the world today is enormous:
Estimates tell us that as of 2004 there were approximately 350-500 million Buddhists worldwide.
And the number is growing rapidly!!
Some of those who have embraced and promoted Buddhist philosophy and teachings include some well-known celebrities like…
--Tina Turner (Nichiren Buddhism)
--The once popular band, the Smashing Pumpkins,
--and Richard Gere
--Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys,
-- Phil Jackson (Zen Buddhism) the former coach of the Chicago Bulls
--the late rock band Nirvana,
Why is Buddhism Gaining in Popularity?
I think there are at least three reasons.
1. Buddhism offers moral guidance and direction without requiring any accountability or obligation to a god.
2. Buddhism offers peace, tranquility and enlightenment through meditation.
3. Buddhism promises additional chances at life through reincarnation.
The Origin of Buddhism.
Buddhism traces it’s roots back to a man by the name of Siddhartha Gautama.
now known as “the Buddha,” was born in what is now
It was long believed that Siddhartha was born around 560 B.C.
And that is the date your book [So What’s the Difference?] gives for Siddhartha’s birth.
But the modern consensus among scholars regarding that date has changed.
Scholars now believe that there is better evidence to suggest that Siddhartha Gautama was born around 480 B.C. and lived until about
Unlike the Biblical account of Jesus’ life, whose words and life story were written down by eyewitnesses, and those who were alive during His lifetime, the biography of Siddhartha Gautama was not written during his lifetime.
In fact, the earliest available accounts of Siddhartha’s life were collected...
--from scattered accounts
--and oral traditions that were still floating around
…between 200B.C. and 200A.D.
That’s 2 - 4 hundred years after his death.
Today, historians, and even Buddhist scholars and authors, are absolutely convinced that:
--and mythological embellishments have crept into Buddha’s biography.
Nevertheless, millions of Buddhists continue to believe the story. For that reason, I’ll share with you some about his life…
Buddhist literature tells us that Siddhartha was born into a royal family, the son of a king.
At the time of his birth, light supposedly spread throughout the world and the earth shook.
Upon coming out of his mother’s womb immediately, and quite miraculously, we are told that he...
--walked seven paces,
--scanned in all directions,
...and said in a noble voice that he was the foremost being in the world,
and that this would be his last rebirth.
It is taught that Siddhartha spent more than a hundred thousand past lives as an animal and human working off his karma and building up the perfections that he would need to finally become a Buddha like others who had achieved that state before him.
But before Siddhartha was born, his mom supposedly had a dream.
64 Hindu priests gave the interpretation.
They said the son that would be born would...
--become a great ruler like his father, if he remained in his father’s palace
--he would become a great spiritual teacher to mankind if he chose to leave.
The priests who supposedly prophesied these things warned Siddhartha’s father that if Siddhartha ever saw…
“A sick man, an old man, a dead body and a monk, he would
want to leave the palace and become a monk himself.”
The king, worried that his son would see these four sights and leave the palace, ordered a high wall to be built around the palace and the surrounding park.
Monks, as well as those whom were sick or old, were kept away.
Siddhartha grew up in a world of plenty and beauty.
--Siddhartha’s father gave him many servants.
--He built Siddhartha three palaces, one for winter, one for summer and one for the rainy season, as well as enclosed parks and hunting grounds.
--Siddhartha hunted and played in a world of gardens and groves, attended by dancing girls and musicians.
Siddhartha could have whatever he wanted, but like Solomon, who lived 400 years earlier, Siddhartha was not happy.
Tired of living like a prisoner, Siddhartha one day told his father,
“I must go out of the palace gate and see how other people live.”
The king told him…
“Very well my son, you shall go outside the palace wall to see how people live in my city. But first I must prepare things, so that all would be good and proper for my noble son’s visit.”
Siddhartha’s father ordered the streets to be cleaned and decorated and cleared of all elderly and sick people.
When the people had cleaned up and decorated the city the king said...
“Now you can go, my dear son, and see the city as you please.”
Four different excursions into the city would change Siddhartha’s life.
It was on those excursions that Siddhartha discovered what Buddhists call “the four troubling sights.”
1. A Hunched Over Old Man.
When Siddhartha asked his servant, a man by the name of “Channa,” what happened to this man.
Channa told him that the man was old, just as everyone someday would become.
On his next excursion the very next day he saw the second sight.
2. A Sick Man
He saw a man on the ground, twisting his body, holding his stomach with both hands and crying out in pain at the top of his voice.
All over his face and body were purple patches, his eyes were rolling, and he was gasping for breath.
For the second time in his life something made Siddhartha very sad.
Siddhartha was told that all people were liable to be sick and suffer pain like that individual.
The very next day Siddhartha made a third excursion. This time he his third troubling sight...
3. A Funeral Procession
In that procession was a corpse on its way to cremation, with followers weeping bitterly.
When Siddhartha asked what that meant, he was informed that that was the way of life, and that sooner or later both the rich and the poor would have to die.
This was heartbreaking to Siddhartha.
Suddenly he realized that life was fleeting, and all of his earthly comforts seemed meaningless.
On Siddhartha’s fourth excursion into the city, many days later he saw his fourth troubling sight...
4. A Monk Begging for Food.
This man was a happy man wearing an orange colored robe.
Siddhartha asked his assistant (Channa)…
"Who is this man wearing an orange robe? His hair is shaved off. Why does he look so happy? How does he live and what does he do for a living?"
"That is a monk, he lives in a temple, goes from house to house for his food and goes from place to place telling people how to be peaceful and good."
Siddhartha longed for the tranquility that he saw on the monk's face and decided that was the lifestyle for him.
Siddhartha sets out for Enlightenment.
So that night, at the age of 29, when all were asleep…
--took a last look at his sleeping wife
--and his baby son that had just been born.
--He mounted his favorite white horse
--and rode past the palace gate and out into the darkness.
On that night Siddhartha left behind...
--his beautiful palaces
--his fine clothing and food
--and his kingdom
...in search of enlightenment through the path of rigorous self-denial (ascetism): the life of a beggar monk.
Outside of the palace, Siddhartha cut off his hair with his sword, and put on the orange colored robe of a monk.
The night that he left his home to seek enlightenment became known to Buddhists as “the Great Renunciation.”
His renunciation of family life to this day stands as a precedent, or example, that Buddhist monks and nuns to this day emulate.
Siddhartha, now a beggar, spent his time wandering from place to place seeking to grow in wisdom.
He studied the Hindu scriptures under Brahman (Hindu) priests.
But Siddhartha, disillusioned with the teachings of Hinduism, continued his quest elsewhere.
Siddhartha tried this life of rigorous self-denial for six years, fasting on just a few drops of bean soup a day, until his body hair fell out and he became so thin that he could hardly stand.
Still not finding the peace he was looking for, Siddhartha abandoned his quest
as hopeless, but wondered…
‘Might there be another path to awakening?’
According to Buddhist tradition, Siddhartha found that other path.
It happened one morning under a fig tree.
There Siddhartha had spent the night sitting in deep meditation.
According to Buddhist tradition, just as the sun was coming up, Siddhartha’s mind was opened (like a lotus flower that opens up when it blooms) and the
light of supreme knowledge poured in upon him.
The truth that Siddhartha supposedly poured into Siddhartha’s mind were what Buddhists call “The Four Noble Truths.”
According to Buddhism, these truths were truths that had been lost and forgotten by the human race.
As these four noble truths, poured in on Siddhartha, he reached the highest degree of consciousness Buddhists believe one can reach: nirvana.
At that moment (just as was the case at his birth) Buddhists writings say that light spread throughout the world and the earth shook.
So, it was there under that fig tree, at age 35, that Siddhartha attained the bliss and knowledge he had been seeking.
devoted the next 45 years of his life, until his death at the age of 80, to
When the people of Buddha’s day asked, “Are you a god?” He said “No.”
--“Are you an angel?” “No.”
--“Are you a saint?” “No.”
--“Then what are you?” Buddha’s answer? “I am awake.”
That answer became his title: “The Buddha.”
The word “Buddha,” literally means the “Awakened One” or “Enlightened One.”
The Four Noble Truths
The four noble truths, that all of Buddhism is built upon, are as follows:
The first noble truth of Buddhism is…
1. Life Consists of Suffering.
Buddha taught that all of life (from birth to death) is permeated with suffering.
And that death brings no relief.
Siddhartha, having been influenced by Hinduism, taught that we are stuck on a repeating cycle of life, death and rebirth.
This cycle, as perhaps you’ll recall from our study last week on Hinduism, is called samsara.
The second noble truth of Buddhism is…
2. We Suffer Because We Desire Those Things That Are Impermanent.
In Hinduism, man’s greatest problem is ignorance (ignorance of his divinity, or his/her oneness with Brahman).
Buddha taught that the cause of (or origin of) man’s suffering was his selfish desires and cravings that are ever on the lookout for gratification.
These cravings lead to suffering in a couple of ways.
First, they lead to the suffering of frustration.
In an ever changing world our desires will continually be disappointed and will never lead to lasting and satisfying fulfillment.
Second, these cravings motivate people to perform various actions, resulting in bad karma (actions) which leads to further rebirths with more suffering.
The third noble truth of Buddhism is…
3. The Way to Liberate Oneself From Suffering is By Eliminating All Desire.
How is one to eliminate desire?
By being enlightened; by obtaining a state of consciousness called nirvana.
Once a person obtains nirvana and ends the desires that lead to suffering, they will escape samsara (that cycle of life, death and rebirth).
Ahhhh, but, how does a Buddhist obtain nirvana?
Well Buddha talked about that in the fourth Noble Truth....
4. Desires Can Be Eliminated and Nirvana Reached by Following the Eight-Fold Path.
This eightfold path is also
A. According to the Buddha, enlightenment and nirvana lie at the end of a “middle way”…
--between a life of luxury
--and a life of unnecessary poverty and self torment.
Buddhists believe that if anyone could know this to be the case it was Siddhartha.
He had himself experienced the spiritual dead ends at the ends of both of those paths.
What is the Eightfold Path?
What is the eightfold path that a person must follow?
A prescribed path of ethical conduct.
Each of the eight paths are not steps to be taken in sequential order, but they are attitudes and actions that are to be developed simultaneously.
Here they are:
1. Having A Right Understanding
To have a right understanding one must understand and accept the four noble truths.
1. Life Consists of Suffering
2. We Suffer Because We Desire Those Things That Are Impermanent.
3. The way to liberate oneself from suffering is by eliminating all desire.
4. Desire can be eliminated and nirvana reached by following the Eight-Fold Path.
This is necessary before any further growth as a Buddhist can take place.
2. Having Right Thought
One must renounce all desires and any thoughts like lust, bitterness, and cruelty. They must also no harm any living creature.
3. Having The Right Speech.
One must speak only truth. There can be no lying, slander, or vain talk.
4. Having The Right Action.
Buddha taught that one must abstain from killing, stealing, and unlawful sexual immorality (Buddha had in mind adultery and rape, rather than fornication).
Romans two tells us that God has written his law on the conscious of all men.
5. Having The Right Livelihood
One must work in an occupation that benefits others and harms no one.
Buddhist writings say...
“Five trades should be avoided by a disciple: trading in arms, in living
beings, in flesh, in intoxicating drinks, and in poison'. [ Anguttara-
Nikaaya, V. 1 77]
“Included are the professions of a soldier, a fisherman, a hunter, etc.”
6. Having The Right Effort.
“There are Four Great Efforts; the effort to avoid, the effort to overcome, the effort to develop, and the effort to maintain.”
What was Buddha talking about?
Evil things that have not yet arisen.
Evil things that have already arisen.
Wholesome things not yet arisen.
Wholesome things that have already arisen.
How do you do that? Buddha said...
--by making effort
--stirring up your energy
--exerting your mind
7. Having The Right Mindfulness.
This step is somewhat complicated to understand, but it basically requires that the Buddhist exercises incredible mental self-control, avoiding such things as sorrowful thoughts, and desires for anything.
8. Having The Right Concentration.
This involves deep meditation, and concentration, so as to overcome any sensation of pleasure or pain.
According to Buddhism, if a Buddhist successfully completes all eight steps on the eightfold path, they will reach the mountain top experience in all of Buddhism: NIRVANA.
That can happen in this life time.
Then upon death, a Buddhist, who has achieved nirvana, will enter into what is called:
What is Parinirvana?
Buddhist’s don’t really know.
Why not? Siddhartha himself never gave a detailed description of what it was.
His most detailed description was this...
He said..."There is disciples, a condition, where there is neither earth nor water, neither air nor light, neither limitless space, nor limitless time, neither any kind of being, neither ideation nor non-ideation, neither this world nor that world. There is neither arising nor passing-away, nor dying, neither cause nor effect, neither change nor standstill.”
Sounds like nothingness doesn’t it?
The word nirvana literally means: the blowing out.
The person who has follows the teaching of Buddha is in for a surprise.
Far from teaching annihilation of the individual, the Bible actually teaches that all men will stand before the living God to be judged for his sins.
For those that have rejected God and forsaken His salvation, there will be no chance at another life. The Bible says in Hebrew that it is appointed unto men once to die and then the judgment.
The Buddhist View of God
Let’s consider the Buddhist view of God.
What do Buddhists believe about God?
Well, surprisingly, Buddhism actually has more in common with humanism and agnosticism.
To the Buddha, the existence of God was totally irrelevant and unimportant.
To the Buddha, a personal…
…was absolutely unnecessary.
According to Siddhartha the world operates by natural power and law, not divine command.
There are Buddhists today (Mahayana Buddhists) who have deified the Buddha, that is, made him out to be God.
But that is something that Buddha himself denied.
Branches in Buddhism
Now what did I mean when I said Mahayana Buddhists?
Well, after Siddhartha’s death, his followers split into a number of factions, each with its own interpretations of Siddhartha’s teachings.
Within 200 years two major traditions emerged that still exist to this day.
1. Theravada Buddhism [Ther-a-vawda]
2. Mahayana Buddhism [ma-ha-yawna]
Theravada Buddhists remained relatively faithful to what it considered to be the true tradition of the Buddha's teachings. They also stick closer to Buddha’s original teachings about himself.
They believe that Siddhartha was just a man, a teacher, who gave up all his wealth and comfort and achieved nirvana.
Mahayana Buddhism is by far the largest and most popular of the two. They believe that Buddha became a Bodhisattva, a savior like god, and can be called upon for help.
Mahayana Buddhism was able to spread and make more converts because they chose to interpret the teachings of the Buddha more liberally than did the Theravada Buddhists.
Zen Buddhism is a branch of Mahayana Buddhism that has become widely known in the West. It developed about a thousand years after the death of the Buddha.
The word “zen” means “meditation.”
Any questions about anything we’ve looked at thus far?
Let’s move on and talk for a minute about Buddhism’s book: The Tripitaka
The Buddhist Scriptures: The Tripitaka
This is the book where can one fine Buddha’s teachings.
The Tripitaka is the authoritative, and even sacred text for the Buddhists.
Although Buddha lived and taught for 45 years after the date of his enlightenment, he did not write down a single word of his teachings.
In fact no one during his lifetime put anything he said in writing!!!
His original teachings were originally handed down from one generation to the next by word of mouth.
This continuing oral tradition was not put in writing until about 3 centuries after his death.
The word “Tripitaka” means the “The Three Baskets” speaking of the threefold division that exists in the Tripitaka.
The total volume of these three groups of writings is about 11x’s larger than the Bible!
If you were to take away the numerous repetitions, however, the Tripitaka would be about equal in size to the Bible.
Differences Between Buddhism and Christianity
Let’s consider some of the weaknesses and defects of Buddhism when contrasted side by side with Christianity.
1. The writings of Buddhism have been contaminated with numerous legends and mythological embellishments (as even Buddhist authors and scholars admit).
In Christianity, the writings of the Old and New Testaments have been preserved by the God who inspired the original writings.
2. Buddhism prescribes striving and personal effort to achieve it’s end.
Christianity is all about God’s work, His grace and the life changing power of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible says…
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD.” NKJV
3. Buddhism offers nirvana (a state of nothingness)
Christianity offers eternal life in heaven, in the presence of God, family, friends, and angels, etc.
4. In Buddhism God is not important.
Christianity says there is a God, who can be known and enjoyed.
5. Buddhism offers no forgiveness of sins, only suffering in future lives for our moral failures.
Christianity offers not only the forgiveness of sins, but total and complete justification before God through faith in Christ.
6. The founder of Buddhism (the Buddha) never claimed to do miracles or be God.
The founder of Christianity (Jesus) did both.
7. Buddha said, “Look not to me, look to my doctrine (dharma).”
The founder of Christianity said, “Come unto me.”
8. The remains of the founder of Buddhism are buried today in Kusinara, at the foot of the
The founder of Christianity overcame death and today sits at the right hand of the Father.
So, those are some of the differences between Christianity and Buddhism.
Let’s talk about some witnessing to Buddhists.
I have printed out a three part article on witnessing to Buddhists that appeared a while back in CRI’s magazine the Christian Research Journal.
But allow me to throw out some of my own suggestions.
1. Love and Befriend the Buddhist.
We need to remember that it’s rare that a person abandons their faith for another one after just one conversation. If you have opportunity to know somebody that is a Buddhist, be their friend.
If you work with a Buddhist, ask them out to lunch sometime.
If they are your neighbor, invite them over for a meal sometime.
2. Ask the Buddhist what he/she believes.
Let them share with you what they believe. Slow to speak. Quick to hear.
3. Ask them why they believe it (Family? Study? Research?)
a Buddhist that I got into a talk with at
I said “Would you like to hear about a religion that not only claims to be true but actually can be examined and has good proofs that it is true?
He said, “Yes” and I got to share with him.
4. Share your testimony with them along with the Gospel.
Many Buddhist’s do not know any Christians, and have never heard a clear presentation of the Gospel or how it has radically changed a person’s life for better.
So talk to them about the forgiveness of sins, eternal security, the deep inner peace, and joy.
5. Talk to them about God’s grace, not only for salvation but for transformation.
There is a major difference between Buddhism and Christianity.
Buddhism is a path of: WORKS to obtain peace.
The Buddha himself said this regarding successfully completing these 8 steps...
“...each one has to struggle for himself, the Perfect Ones have only pointed out the way.” [Dhp. 276]
In fact Buddha’s very last words before he died were,
perfection through diligence.” [p.27, An Introduction to
How different this is than the message of the Bible...
“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.”
“For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
“Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
But God also gives us the Holy Spirit [Jn.14:16] who freely produces in us the inner peace, and joy that the Buddhist deeply desires.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness”
6. Tell them of a future without suffering.
Remember that the Buddhist is trying to escape suffering.
So tell them about the God who promises a glorious eternity where suffering will no longer exist in the lives of those who love Him.
Show them Revelation 21:3-5.
3 And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. 4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
7. Ask friendly, yet challenging questions.
In a friendly manner, with an inquisitive mind ask,
Q. How do you know that Buddha was right?
Q. “Is there any good evidence that Buddhism is actually true?
How do Buddhists know that law of karma and the existence of reincarnation are actually true? One Buddhist author writes that they QUOTE: “can be confirmed by experiences in deep meditation.”
But he goes on
to say that, “most Buddhists have not
obtained these [speaking of these confirming experiences]. They therefore only have belief in these
principles, not direct knowledge of their reality...” [p.44,
Jesus backed up his teachings and claims with the proof of:
--His sinless life
--hundreds of fulfilled prophecy, etc.
Q. How do you know that you’ll have another life?
What if you’re wrong? The Bible says…
“...it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment”
8. Give them a New Testament to read, or a copy of the JESUS movie.
Many Buddhists don’t know much about Jesus.
So, introduce them to Him.
God will bless it!
To read what Buddha taught in his own words go to:
Another good Buddhist web site for research, Buddhist definitions, etc. is
There is a Buddhist dictionary at this site:
Extra Information: Who is the Dalai Lama?
The Dalai Lama, as you probably know, has become one of the most influential religious leaders on earth (there is his picture on your hand out).
The title Dalai Lama means:
“A teacher whose wisdom is as deep as an ocean.”
The man that we know as the Dalai Lama was born Lhamo Thondup in
He was chosen as the 14th Dalai Lama at age two. He was
In 1959 the Dalai Lama, fled
He has been exiled from
As he works for a free
He is a spiritual guide for millions.
In 1989 he was the winner of Nobel Peace Prize.
He is a best-selling author, and as the head of the Tibetan Government in Exile, he has become a powerful political figure as well.
life has been celebrated in two major
What does the Dalai Lama think about Jesus?
The following is an excerpt
from an interview of the Dalai Lama that appeared in Christianity Today (
“In our interview, we devoted considerable time to the identity and integrity of Jesus. The Dalai Lama seemed at ease with the questioning, even while admitting that this was possibly the toughest area for exploration between evangelical Christians and Buddhists.
I reminded him of his belief that Jesus is "a fully enlightened being" and asked, "If Jesus is fully enlightened, wouldn't he be teaching the truth about himself? Therefore, if he is teaching the truth, then he is the Son of God, and there is a God, and Jesus is the Savior. If he is fully enlightened, he should teach the truth. If he is not teaching the truth, he is not that enlightened."
As the Dalai Lama felt the momentum of the question, he laughed more than at any other time in the interview. He obviously understood the argument, borrowed from C. S. Lewis's Mere Christianity.
"This is a very good question," he said. "This is very, very important, very important." Even in Buddha's case, he said, a distinction must always be made between teachings that "always remain valid" and others that "we have the liberty to reject."
He argued that the Buddha knew people were not always ready for the higher truth because it "wouldn't suit, wouldn't help." Therefore, lesser truths are sometimes taught because of the person's ignorance or condition. This is known in Buddhist dharma as the doctrine of uppayah, or skillful means. The Dalai Lama then applied this to the question about Jesus.
"Jesus Christ also lived previous lives," he said. "So, you see, he reached a high state, either as a Bodhisattva, or an enlightened person, through Buddhist practice or something like that. Then, at a certain period, certain era, he appeared as a new master, and then because of circumstances, he taught certain views different from Buddhism, but he also taught the same religious values as I mentioned earlier: Be patient, tolerant, compassionate. This is, you see, the real message in order to become a better human being." He said that there was absolutely no lying involved since Jesus' motivation was to help people.
ABOUT CHARLIE CAMPBELL
Charlie Campbell has been on staff as a pastor at Calvary
Chapel Vista in
If you would like to have Charlie Campbell speak at your church, conference, Christian school, or retreat please call 760-726-4224 or email him at References available..
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