Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism? - Dhamma Wheel

Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby Sambojjhanga » Thu Jan 03, 2013 8:01 pm

Like many here, I started life out as a Christian, primarily because that was the religion of my family. Fortunately for me, they were what I'd call a "moderate to non-practicing" Christian household.

I realized at an early age that there were a lot of problems and issues with Christianity, though for me, personally, Jesus Christ always represented what I later learned to be the 4 Brahma Viharas.

I consider myself a Theravada Buddhist who primarily practices in the methods of the Thai Forest tradition and, specifically, the teachings of Ajaan's Geoff, Brahm, and Sumedho. I look at Jesus Christ as a realized Buddhist Master.

My own belief is that since both Christ and Buddha spoke of this path, current or religion as existing before they did, I think it fair to consider that Christianity, at least in SOME of its forms, describes the same path that Buddhism, again, at least in SOME of its forms, does.

Christianity, of course, has gone through its own changes, re-writes, etc., etc., just like Buddhism. But still, at both their cores, we're dealing with two men, Jesus and Buddha. In my own reading of the Christian Scriptures, I don't find Jesus Christ claiming to be anything in relation to God the Father that any of us aren't, or can't be. The idea that Jesus Christ IS God, I think, is a later addition to the doctrine. In Buddhism, we always here how Buddha isn't God, never claimed to be, etc., etc. and this is, of course, true, especially from Sid Gotama's POV! Again, the Mahayana doctrine has added a bit more "spiritual" and "godly" attributes to Buddha, Buddhism, and the idea that there is some eternal spirit out there (again, not unlike Christianity, especially some of the more esoteric versions.)

So what do you all think? I realize my subject post is did Christianity borrow from Buddhism? I think it did. I think SOME of it may be honest, contemplative humans discovering "the path".

Here is what I think. I think that the problem with the idea of "God" is that we are describing an intelligent and good process. Some call this nature. Some call it the dhamma (which is more the rules of its functioning, rather like the Tao.) Some call it the Tao. Some call it Buddha Nature. Some call it God (God the Father.) I do not believe that there is a PERSONAL, INDIVIDUAL divinity, God, Allah, etc. I DO believe that there are Brahmas who are deluded into believing they are such (think about it...this would explain a LOT of the weird stuff in the Bible!)

Anyway, I'm having a "down day" from work today and just thought I'd get the opinion of my dhamma friends as to what they think.


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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby James the Giant » Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:16 am

I was interested in this idea 5 or 6 years ago, triggered by a lot of new age friends who were keen on drawing historical links and explaining the missing decades of Jesus' life.
I poked around to see what I could find, but unfortunately I learned that there is no historical evidence that Buddhism had any influence on Christianity. (Unfortunate because it would have been cool if it did.)
There were travellers in the area who were Buddhist, but there's no hint that their ideas made their way into the Christian world-view.
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you will put an end to suffering and stress.

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby LonesomeYogurt » Fri Jan 04, 2013 12:51 am

I see it less as evidence for any kind of verbal or cultural transmission and far more as evidence for the eternal truth being available to all wise people who seek to discover the truth.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby Digity » Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:11 am

I've always felt that Buddhism encompassed Christianity nicely. The Buddha never denied the existence of hell or heaven and gods. So, in a sense, a lot of what Christianity teaches does fit into Buddhism. Maybe that's why you think Christianity "borrowed" from Buddhism. However, the critical difference is the teachings on the end of suffering...Christianity doesn't teach about Nibbana and going past all realms of rebirth. In Christianity your goal is to be reborn in heaven, but in Buddhism even rebirth in heaven is considered a lowly goal. The true goal is the putting out of the flame altogether. In that sense, the path in Christianity and Buddhism are NOT the same. Sure, "some" aspects are similar, but the real meat and potatoes of Buddhism is actually in the parts that are different from the two.

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby Ben » Fri Jan 04, 2013 3:25 am

In answer to your question,I think that its natural to see parallels,given that the first occidentalists who encountered the myriad forms of what later became known as 'Buddhism' were Presbyterian Christian scholars. Their I,pact was so profound that the Buddha was redefined according to their perceptions. Not just in the west, but in the east as well. Modern American or western Buddhism is a direct result of that cross-cultural connection.
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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Jan 04, 2013 6:20 am

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby Kusala » Fri Jan 04, 2013 7:33 am

According to Ajahn Brahm, Jesus was a Buddhist...


"He, the Blessed One, is indeed the Noble Lord, the Perfectly Enlightened One;
He is impeccable in conduct and understanding, the Serene One, the Knower of the Worlds;
He trains perfectly those who wish to be trained; he is Teacher of gods and men; he is Awake and Holy. "

"The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One,
Apparent here and now, timeless, encouraging investigation,
Leading to liberation, to be experienced individually by the wise. "

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Fri Jan 04, 2013 8:56 am

In my opinion, the two religions are as different as chalk and cheese. One teaches Anatta, Dukkha and Anicca. The other talks of immortal souls, original sin and eternal life.

The ONLY similarity is the 'be nice' instruction found in almost all surviving religions. Well, plenty in the Bible directly contradicts that 'be nice' instruction, so, realistically, just how similar are they?

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby daverupa » Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:48 am

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby plwk » Fri Jan 04, 2013 11:56 am

I sometimes wonder on the legend of Barlaam & Josaphat, revered as saints in the medieval Catholic days and up until today the Orthodox Church still reveres them, perhaps someone might have gone ' :jawdrop:'s the Buddha, right?' :tongue:

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby barcsimalsi » Fri Jan 04, 2013 1:28 pm

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby mogg » Thu Apr 25, 2013 3:39 pm

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby Monkey Mind » Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:06 pm

I'll throw in with an unconventional source:
"Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal", by Christopher Moore ... moore+lamb

It's a hilarious comedy, if you don't mind humor about religions, and a great read. In the book, a young Jesus Christ sets out on a quest to find the "Three Wise Men" from the tales of his famous birth. One of the wise men turns out to be a meditation master. In the author's notes at the end of the book, Moore outlines his research process into theology and biblical scholarship related to The Wise Men and the mysteries of Jesus's childhood and teenage years. My point is: who knows? Moore's comedy could be as accurate as anything else that has been written on the topics.
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as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby Coyote » Thu Apr 25, 2013 7:53 pm

There was a website I saw a while back that tried to compare scenes from the gospels from that of the pali canon - I believe there are Christian sayings, whether from the gospels or epistles or a non-canonical source that are very similar to Buddhist sayings. I'll try and find the website later as I find the subject quite interesting. There are certainly themes in common, but I think this has far more to do with archetypes and themes that many cultures hold in common than any actual cultural transmission. For example Christian treatment of the problem of suffering and injustice- certainly recognized more than in other religions and a major theme running throughout the gospels and early christian soteriology. Could this be Buddhist influence or just natural reaction to Dukkha? The religious climate at the time certainly shows Indian influences on hellenic-roman religious cults of which early Christianity could be considered one. I have also read theories, how well supported I don't know, that suggest cults like the essenes (I think) were Indian, perhaps Buddhist influenced.

Edit: Monasticism - thats one thing we can say with more certainty was influenced by Indian religions such as Buddhism, though I don't know much about the subject.
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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Apr 26, 2013 12:04 am

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby mogg » Fri Apr 26, 2013 2:31 am

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Apr 26, 2013 4:54 am

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby mogg » Fri Apr 26, 2013 5:23 am

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Apr 26, 2013 7:58 am

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Re: Did Christianity "borrow" from Buddhism?

Postby PeterB » Fri Apr 26, 2013 8:09 am

And you will find none beyond the Jesus -went -to -Kashmir fringe of syncretic New Ageism.
There is no biblical scholar of any repute , whether Christian or Jewish, religious or secular, who accepts any influence either way, other than at a rare and individual level, between Christianity and Buddhism... until the 19th century.
If there were such an influence you would need to explain how Christianity aped the outer form of Buddhist monasticism..but came to diametrically opposed views about the nature and existence of God.
There is a group of concepts called " Parallelism " which concerns itself with similarities that are apparent....but have no basis in reality.
The roots of Christian monasticism are well known and well described..they lie in the practices of figures like Elijah, through John The Baptist, and start to be seen as early as the second century AD in the Desert Fathers..
There simply is no need for a more exotic explanation.
And those exotic explanations are..if I might borrow a Buddhist concept..papanca. :smile:

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