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I was wondering what main stream Buddhism think of Jesus, was he a buddha?

Can anyone tell me where Jesus fits into Buddhism?

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jesusisbuddha.com –  catpnosis Jul 18 at 14:04
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5 Answers 5

Buddhism teaches that all misbeliefs are variations of 2 fundamental misbeliefs.

  1. Sasvatha Vada - Eternalism
  2. Uchcheda Vada - Nihilism

What Jesus preached falls under Sasvatha Vada. Hinduism and Islam are also in the same category. So he couldn't have been even an average Buddhist teacher, let alone a Buddha. Besides, the next Buddha to appear is Maitreya Buddha. So there won't be another Buddha for a long time.

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What's the best source of that teaching (i.e. that all misbeliefs stem from those two)? –  tkp Jul 19 at 17:09
"Thus have I heard" :) Will post a link when I find the exact place. –  Sankha Kulathantille Jul 19 at 18:06
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(I'm writing this in the spirit of providing a factual answer instead of preaching how people should strive to get along by seeing similarities in religions that may or may not be there.)

No. That's a different religion. We search for commonality amongst world religions so we don't have to hate on each other, but the religions are different.

To quote two relevant paragraphs from Donald Lopez & Robert E. Buswell:

Many think of Buddhism as a tolerant religion, one that recognizes the value of all religious traditions. In recent years, there have been growing numbers of Buddhist-Christian dialogues and Buddhist-Jewish dialogues. The Dalai Lama has even commented on the gospels. This might suggest that Buddhism holds that all religions are one, that all spiritual paths lead to the same mountaintop. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Buddhists have never proclaimed the unity of religions. Early Buddhist texts are filled with accounts of non-Buddhist masters claiming to have achieved enlightenment when in fact they have, at best, only achieved rebirth in the higher heavens of the immaterial realm


Now, if you specifically have in mind the syncretic Christian-Buddhist sangha in Baltimore, MD I've read about, then I imagine they have integrated the Buddha and Jesus into a common framework.

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As a preliminary, there are two issues to deal with first that can hinder a search for linkages between Jesus and Buddhism.

First, it's important to note that the religion associated with Jesus -- Christianity -- is just as forked and complex as the "religion" commonly known as Buddhism. To insiders in both, there are many differences, both significant and otherwise, but to outsiders each one they can look like a single monolithic block (that's why we have a single name for each). In this respect, the last line of the question is a good one because it asks about Jesus and Buddhism, rather than about Christianity and Buddhism. Still, if we're looking for possible links, we can certainly look at the faiths themselves, provided we take care to look inside them and not just at each as a single whole (because in fact, they're not single wholes).

The second issue is that Christianity (I was a Christian, for over 30 years -- still may be one for all you know :-) ) does have a tendency to attack dissent. Catholicism is particularly prone to that. As a result, some groups may be considered "Christian" by outsiders, but insiders may respond "no, they're heretics, they're not Christians". For example, if one was to point to the work of Meister Eckhart as being similar to some aspects of Buddhism, one risks falling foul of very orthodox Catholics who would point out that Eckhart came under scrutiny by the Inquisition. And references to Quietism would get an even bigger slap down. Even today, many calling themselves Christian would not consider Mormons or Jehovas Witnesses to be Christian. In fact, some don't believe Roman Catholics to be Christian. But those critiques are critiques from the inside. For people looking objectively from the outside, a more dispassionate approach is probably wise.

In that light, here are some connections I personally find interesting and even potentially profound.

There's a talk by the late Ayya Khema, where she suggests a possible connection between some of the Buddhist meditation absorptions and the seven "mansions" mentioned by St Teresa of Avila in her "Interior Castle". The talk was on YouTube until very recently but has been taken down for copyright reasons.

There are also clear similarities between the experiences recounted in St John of the Cross's "The Dark Night of the Soul", and some of the stages of insight as described in the Visuddhimagga, especially as further described by Daniel Ingram in "Mastering the Core Teachings of the Buddha".

Several ostensibly Christian works deal with the contemplative side of that religion, and include "The Cloud of Unknowing" and more recently works such as those by Thomas Merton and Fr. Thomas Keating.

Also, there's an interesting BBC-produced documentary (available on YouTube) that speculates about a possible link between Jesus and Buddhism. A point I found particularly interesting was their theory on who the "Three Wise Men" of Christian fame actually were. The documentary speculates they may have been Buddhist lamas searching for a reincarnation. (I think the most commonly accepted view is that they were Zoroastrians, but the documentary's theory is interesting.) The documentary is not all about the potential Buddhist link, but the main points it makes in that context are:

  1. There are reasonable arguments to be made that Jesus didn't actually die on the cross; instead he survived and escaped
  2. There are major missing years from all accounts of Jesus' life, and those could well correspond to a training time (further East)
  3. The Three Wise Men thing
  4. The significance of compassion and selflessness in Jesus' teachings

Then, broadening out from Christianity to the contemplative sides of other religion -- e.g. Jewish Kabbalah, Muslism Sufism -- Aldous Huxley's "The Perennial Philosophy" is a good argument on how once the societal trimmings are stripped away, the contemplative aspects of numerous religions seem to be plumbing precisely the same well. B. Alan Wallace talks about that book, as a follow on in his reading from Evan-Wentz's "The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation") in his videos on his "Buddhist Journey" (three parts on YouTube, starting here).

My overall conclusion is that it is credible that Jesus had developed an advanced capability in meditation/contemplation/prayer/whatever-you-want-to-call-it, and in compassion, and also had the charisma, ability, and timing to represent an effective teacher of those things. There are then several possible reasons we don't see that easily today. For example:

  1. Maybe he had simply achieved high levels of samadhi but hadn't gone further onto insight, and so hadn't experienced enough to override, or at least re-interpret, his default monotheistic Judaism
  2. Maybe he had gained some insight, but got waylaid by views of higher heaven realms, thinking those were the final deal. Had he gone further, maybe he'd have realized that the Deva realm wasn't the final goal.
  3. Maybe he did go the full way -- maybe he was an arhat -- but subsequent political events, such as, initially, the influence of Roman Emperor Constantine or maybe just the interpretations of St Paul, but later on the politicization of Catholic Christianity as it spread, not to mention the defensive posture taken by Christianity in the face of the advance of modern science, have smothered the core teachings of Jesus and what we have today is a highly adulterated form.
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Fantastic answer (I'd already +1 before). I'm a believer in a commonality of religious experience (but that might be just a wonky theory). I think interpretations of enlightenment experience or at least higher meditative states are coloured by culture. A friend who is an ex-Christian was speaking about 3rd dhyana and beyond - she said if she had still been a Christian the dhyanic experience would have been to her communication with God - she felt God –  Crab Bucket Jul 19 at 17:21
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I think when discussing this kind of thing it is to start seeing connections where there are none. However I would like to give a more positive response to the question. If I can address this side of the question

Can anyone tell me where Jesus fits into Buddhism?

Thich Nhat Hanh wrote a lovely book about the parallels between the Buddha and Jesus called Living Buddha, Living Christ

When we meet someone overflowing with love and understanding [..] we know that they are very close to Buddha and to Jesus

While this doesn't point to an exact relationship between Buddha and Christ, it does draw our attention to a commonality between them, certainly in the opinion of Thich Nhat Hanh.

Perhaps the parallels are more evident the nearer one comes to the original Christianity. For instance when I read parts of the Gospel of Thomas (an early Christian Gnostic text) parts of it resonated more than I thought it would - for instance

Rather the Kingdom is inside of you and it is outside of you. [...] When you come to know yourself, then you become known and you will realise that it is you who are the children of the living Father

In the introduction to the Living Buddha, Living Christ, Elaine Pagels the historian of early Christianity states

[Experienced meditators] will surely notice in those early Christian sources many more resonances [between Christianity and Buddhism], than I can mention here. Comparative study of Buddhism and early (Gnostic) Christianity has barely begun.

I think generally if Elaine Pagels and Thich Nhat Hanh find it profitable to look for similarities between the two religions then I would be inclined to think there is actually something there.

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If you believe in Shakyamuni Buddha the answer is No, because Buddha was clear about the previous Buddha Kassapa and the next Buddha Maytreia, but many people debate about Jesus being a boddisatva or an enlighted being, but it is just impossible for us to answer that, just keep in mind that both are great religions but they dont share 100% of their views.

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Just to mention there are different types of Buddhas (private Buddhas and the Buddhas that teach the Dhamma, like the fully enlighted Shakyamuni Buddha) but still I think the answer is no, because Jesus taught the disciples, a pratyekabuddha would probably not do that. –  konrad01 Jul 18 at 23:25
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