I came across a book about the 500 Arahants, and it briefly mentioned that Jesus is depicted as an Arahant in a particular temple in China. After spending some time Googling, I found out that it's actually true! The Qiongzhu Temple (筇竹寺) in Kunming has an Arahant Hall containing Arahant-Jesus, along with some other Western figures. Here's a photo of it.

I'm perplexed as to why there is such depiction, and whether it can be considered a good idea. I read some news/articles about the temple, which used the reasoning that it shows the compassion and inclusiveness of Buddhism. There maybe an alternative explanation, unfortunately I have never been to the place, so this is the only one I could find on the Internet.

My question is: Is it true that making an 'Arahant-Jesus" shows that Buddhism is compassionate and inclusive? If not, is such depiction valid/acceptable in Mahayana or any other school of Buddhism?

I hope the title is not too ridiculous. Thank you :D

2 Answers 2


One of the five precepts is undertaking the training to abstain from incorrect speech, which includes abstaining from speaking untruth.

From Iti 25:

This was said by the Blessed One, said by the Arahant, so I have heard: "For the person who transgresses in one thing, I tell you, there is no evil deed that is not to be done. Which one thing? This: telling a deliberate lie."

The person who lies,
who transgress in this one thing,
transcending concern for the world beyond:
there's no evil
he might not do.

To state that Jesus is an Arahant may be false speech, because who could say for certain that Jesus was an Arahant?

In fact, Jesus couldn't possibly have been an Arahant because his teachings were not similar to the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path.

Hence, to state or portray Jesus as an Arahant, is not acceptable, in my opinion, because it is untruth.

Furthermore, such a portrayal might not be in the best interest of Buddhists, as Christian missionaries could hypothetically make use of it when engaging lay Buddhists who are not well-versed with the teachings of the Buddha, by portraying Jesus as a Buddhist teacher, and the Christian Bible as a Buddhist teaching.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer :) Aug 21, 2020 at 16:16

The Dhamma is absolutely pure and should not morph to any cultural norms. In fitting with cultural norms, it is very easy to misconceive the Dhamma and engage in wrong speech.

In fact, such a thing is happening in the West. Buddhism is being skewed by western philosophy, such as German Romanticism. In making the Dhamma more amenable to Westerners, we are losing the purity and truth of it. We must conserve the Dhamma as was taught by the Buddha.

One may also remember that this happened when Buddhism went to China -- at first it was interpreted in terms of Taoism and Chinese thought that the Indians had misattributed texts.

For a deeper discussion: Buddhist Romanticism

One should note, this is from a Theravada perspective and it is likely that another sect would answer differently.

I think a better question is: "Can we call Jesus an enlightened being?"

I think this is instructive, as it points to someone who it trying to purify their views. While they are not in-line with the Dhamma, Jesus was certainly someone attempting to walk the path. I think in this way, we are being true to our tradition and at the same time pointing at what the path is about.

We are not here to say a non-Buddhist does not see any reality. We are here to try to see reality as clearly as possible. If someone not from our tradition is seeing part of reality, then I think that is worth pointing out, but there is the caveat that it could be very easily misinterpreted.

Another question worth pondering is: "Why are we attempting to make Buddhism more inclusive?" Ultimately we cannot make people practice the Dhamma. All one can do is to exemplify the life of an enlightened being and hope that others will be inspired to practice. Changing the Dhamma only serves to harm, in my opinion

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