Who is Buddha?
Sometime between 563 and 483 BC, a man from India named Siddhārtha Gautama or Buddha who taught the principles of peace, harmony and love. He lived in luxury since his father, Shuddodana, did not want his son to experience hardships. He wanted to hide ugliness and suffering in the world from his son.
When Siddhārtha was 29, he asked his father’s permission to visit a neighboring city. His father allowed him although he tried to have the whole city cleaned before his son arrived. The strategy worked at first. However, Siddhārtha did not take the rout that his father gave him. He saw four men where the “four signs” were based. The first was old. The second was sick. The third was dead. And, the fourth was a beggar. Suddenly, he realized that he would also grow old and die. He wondered the point in life if a person was just going to die. He gave up his good life and started to beg on the streets.
At 35 years, he gained great insights on causes of pain and suffering as well as eliminating them started teaching. He preached the “four noble truths” which were 1) all life is suffering, 2) desire causes suffering, 3) one can overcome suffering, and 4) it can be overcome by following the Eight-Fold Path.
For those who said Jesus copied the teachings of Buddha.
Virginal Conception by Mother/Virgin Birth
The conception and birth of Christ in the Gospel of Luke is quite similar to the birth stories of Buddha. The mother was called a shining example of virtue. She had a vision and did not engage in sex but became pregnant with an extraordinary child. Both babies were delivered while their mothers were on a journey. Likewise, their births were announced by angels. In the case of Buddha, a hermit and wise person overheard the celebrations of angels. The angles told him the infant would sit on the throne of enlightenment. According to the Christian version, angels appeared and told shepherds Christ, the Lord was born. The narratives stressed holy people gave homage to the world’s savior.
What can we say about this?
It is true the birth of Siddhārtha Gautama was miraculous but the claim his mother Maya was a virgin is not supported and not found in Buddhist writings. Buddhist tradition indicated Maya and her husband, King Suddhodhana were already married for 20 years before their son was born. It is an argument against Queen Maya’s virginity. Their marriage would have been consummated even before the birth of Siddhārtha Gautama.
Sakyamuni Buddha had 12 disciples
This is not true. After his renunciation, Buddha had five companions (The Story of Buddha, Pages 40 & 41). Later on, he had 11 male and nine female disciples. He also had five lay disciples for a total of 25 which was more than double. This does not include Buddha’s immediate family or royal patrons.
Both promised their last converts, “Today you will be in paradise.”
It is also not true. Even the old Brahman priest asked Buddha what must be done to save the people. Buddha was not sure of his answer. As a result, he told the old Brahman priest to “Look for Another holy one” and his prophecy referred to Jesus.
This is the conversation between Buddha and the old Brahman priest.
The old Brahman priest asked further, “What are we all to do to be saved?” The Buddha answered the old Brahman priest, “The results of sin and karma are very great, heavier than the sky, thicker than the earth, and so high that it would be like an angel dusting the corner-posts of the temple compound with a cloth post that are 18 inches high – dusting them one time per year – until the posts were worn down to the ground. When the posts are worn down, that’s how long it would take to end your sins.”
The Buddha said further, “I have given up my high position and entered the priesthood. I considered that even though I am good, I would have only a very small amount of merit at the end of the year. If I was given this same amount of merit for 100,000 epochs and live 10 more lifetimes, I would not be saved from sin’s results even once.
The old Brahman priest asked further, “So what should we all do?” The Buddha answered, “Keep on making merit and look for another Holy One who will come and help the world and all of you in the future.”
Then the old Brahman priest asked, “What will the characteristics of the Holy One be like?” The Buddha answered him, “The Holy One who will keep the world in the future will be like this: in the palms of his hands and in the flat of his feet will be the design of a disc, in the side will be a stab wound; and his forehead will have many marks like scars. This Holy One will be the golden boat who will carry you over the cycle of rebirths all the way to the highest heaven (Nirvana). Do not look for salvation the old way; there is no salvation in it for sure. Quit the old way. And there will be a new spirit like the light of a lightning bug in all of your hearts and you will be victorious over all your enemies. Nobody will be able to destroy you. If you die, you will not come back to be born in this world again. You will go to the highest heaven (Nirvana).” ’
Jesus and Buddha Made Miracles and Fed Many People
It is true Buddha was associated with miracles. Yet, this barely proves anything since miracle-workers are expected in all religions. This alone does not mean any imitation on the part of Jesus.
Even if Buddha really cared for the sick, his method was very different from Jesus who healed with a touch and over long distances. Buddha treated patients with hot water and bathe them. There were various patients supposedly treated by Buddha who failed to recover and died. This did not happen to Jesus.
There are no Buddhist or Encyclopedic sources showing Buddha feeding 500 persons with a “small basket of cakes.” Jesus did not use cakes but five loaves of bread and two fish – Matthew 14:13-21.
Buddha Died Between 2 Trees While Jesus Died Between Two Criminals
Buddha was not crucified to atone for people’s sins. He fell sick and died at age eighty after eating a large meal of “soft pork”. Based on his diagnosis, this could not be accommodated by his digestive system.
The Prodigal Son Story
This story hinted Jesus is a reincarnation of Buddha.
If you read the version of Buddha, there is no form of mistake about the departure of the son from their home. In Luke 15:21, we can read clearly it was the son who erred against the Father and God. If you read the version of Buddha, the father even asked the servants to look for his son but they did not recognize him. During the second time, he went with them but he failed to recognize their house and his father. In the Gospel of Luke 15:20, we can see it was the father who waited for his son and eve showed his love as a father.
It is impossible that Jesus copied the teachings of Buddha even if we refer to deeper studies.
Just look at the four noble of truths again.
According to Buddhism, “All Life is Suffering.” For Jesus, the view is different. He came here to give us life which is everlasting without any suffering.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”(John 10:10-11, NRSV)
“he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”(Revelation 21:4, NRSV)
According to Buddhism “Desire Causes Suffering.” Not all desires are bad especially if your desire is to be with God and forego suffering in the future.
“Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire other than you. My flesh and my heart may fail,but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”(Psalms 73:25-26, NRSV)
Buddha taught regarding reincarnation. Jesus taught about resurrection (John 11:25).
In fact, the Bible contradicted reincarnation (Hebrews 9:27) even if others claim there is reincarnation.
Some say the Bible supports reincarnation since John the Baptist is a reincarnation of Elijah. Some people interpreted this incorrectly.
Jesus said John the Baptist was fulfillment of Elijah’s coming but this was not reincarnation.
John the Baptist was called “Elijah” since he came in the “spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17), not because he was Elijah literally.
“With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”(Luke 1:17)
John the Baptist even denied he was Elijah.
“And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the prophet?” He answered, “No.”(John 1:21)
Early Manuscripts of Buddhism Vs. Early Manuscripts of Christianity
There were no written records of Buddha’s lifetime even centuries after his death. The oldest surviving Buddhist manuscripts are Gandhāran Buddhist texts. These were said to have been found in eastern Afghanistan. These are 27 scrolls dating between 100 BC and 200 AD. It will put them at more than four centuries after the life of Buddha. Even if Buddha lived 500 years earlier than Jesus, initial surviving copies of his words came around the same time earliest surviving copies of the words of Jesus also appeared. Our earliest manuscript of the complete collection of Buddha’s canonical sayings did not emerge until the middle ages. This was approximately 1,500 years after these were written down.
For the historical Jesus, the earliest extant document belongs to a minor section of the Gospel of John (P52) around 130 AD or earlier.
The first complete copies of single New Testament books appeared during 200 AD. The earliest complete copy of the New Testament or Codex Sinaiticus was dated on the 4th century.
Here are a few New Testament manuscripts and corresponding dates.
(Source: The Popular Handbook of Archaeology and The Bible, Page 118-122)
Time difference for earliest extant manuscripts favors the historical Jesus over Buddha. Our first whole copy of a New Testament book was 200 AD (+-170 years after Jesus’ life). The first copied book for Buddha was between 100 BC and 200 AD (300 – 600 years after Buddha’s life).
Hence, smaller time gap favors historical Jesus. The New Testament, containing our primary sources for the life of Jesus, was finished by 60-65 years after his death.