Understanding the Buddhist World View

Hi. I just returned from a trip to Cambodia where I spoke at a camp meeting.

My assignment there was to share the gospel with adherents who were considering becoming Christians, and to encourage Christians who were living in the society which is so heavily influenced by the Buddhist world view.

I learned a great deal about the Buddhist religion prior to going and had some very interesting conversations comparing Christianity with Buddhism with people I met while traveling. Needless to say preparing my talks, and then conversing at the camp meeting also allowed me to think and learn more.

Here are some of the things I learned.

I found there are many positive things about the Buddhist religion that Christians can identify with and affirm.

Buddhists are moral people who strongly believe in the second table of the law commandments (no killing, stealing, immorality, coveting, honoring one’s parents, etc.) though they call them the five precepts; look for a future judgment; and have rightly recognized that desires bring suffering—they refer to the four noble truths when speaking of suffering.

Buddha, who saw himself as an enlightened teacher, wasn’t sure if a supreme being existed, or, if such a being existed could be understood, and therefore discouraged his followers from wasting time thinking about such a being, preferring his followers concentrate on the eight-fold path that would bring nirvana. He also looked for a merciful Buddha who had marks in his hands and feet and had been scratched by a peacock in his side.

Buddhists also misunderstand Christianity since their law of karma—the law of inevitable consequences (my definition, but speaks to fleeting good desires and bad desires bringing negative consequences)--suggests that any man who dies as a criminal must have committed crimes worthy of such a sentence, and therefore look at Jesus as a lesser being. They also seek to achieve nirvana, a state of no desires and therefore no suffering. There is also the belief in reincarnation--ongoing chances to try and live the right way and achieve nirvana.

There are issues relating to Christianity being a foreign, western, religion, adherents often viewing and judging Christianity on the basis of Hollywood's excesses, violence and immorality--which results in Christianity being perceived as a lower form of spirituality than Buddhism.

I am aware there are vast differences exist between the various forms of Buddhism, so the above doesn't universally apply, but gives some idea of what the thinking is.

In conversations I began with similarities and affirmed all I could about the religion, discussed the kind of spirituality sought in authentic Christianity, and talked about Jesus as the God that Buddha was not sure about, and how Jesus made it possible to keep the five precepts of Buddhism and achieve the Christian form of nirvana-being emptied of selfish and evil desires, and living the highest kind of moral and devoted life possible. I also liked to agree that good and bad desires bring suffering, but that ONE desire—Jesus—was worth suffering for.

I am aware that there is a strong animist undertone as well, which I don't mention here, and which I am learning about.

What have you experienced sharing your faith with individuals holding the Buddhist world view? Please share.

Happy witnessing!