11 NonTheistic-Buddhism

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11 NonTheistic-Buddhism
This religion takes its name from its
founder meaning “the enlightened or
awakened one” about 2500 years ago.
What he discovered would solve the
problem of suffering.
Why is Buddhism considered
a non-theistic religion?
Considered non-theistic though it teaches the existence of “gods” (devas),
who are heavenly beings who temporarily dwell in celestial world of
However they are not eternal in that incarnate form
They are subject to death and rebirth into lower realms of existence.
Early Buddhism dismissed as “foolish talk” or “ridiculous, mere words, a
vain and empty thing” (Digha-Nikaya No. 13, Tevijja Sutta).
Buddha did not see Brahma as a sovereign, all-knowing, all-powerful
Creator God.
– He was subject to change, decline and death
– Not yet free from self-delusion and the processes of rebirth
The wise seek to practice Dharma (spiritual truth) of the Buddha (8-fold
Path of Middle Way)
The “God idea” forms no part of Buddha’s doctrine of release from
He saw something of an impersonal, transcendental Absolute in the realm
of “deathless realm of Nirvana”
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
Basic Concepts of Buddhism
1. The Buddha
2. Four Noble Truths
3. Five Precepts
4. Three Characteristics of existence
5. Rebirth
6. Karma
7. Compassion and Loving Kindness
8. Meditation
9. Buddhist Scriptures
10. Major Schools of Buddhism
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
1. Life and illumination of Gautama,
the Buddha (563-483 BC)
• Son of a Hindu clan ruler of Kshatriva caste in Lumbini, modern Nepal
• Sheltered from harshness of life until after his marriage: he saw he could
not escape sickness, old age and death.
• Once exposed to reality, he abandoned his wife/child to find meaning in
life, the ultimate answer
• He spent six years searching extreme practices of self-mortification,
starvation hoping to develop spiritual insight but without finding selfrealization. It was only when he stopped torturing his body that he saw
the nature of things at the age of thirty-five.
• He devoted himself to intense mental activity which culminated in a “flash
of enlightenment” under a sycamore fig tree (Bo or wisdom tree)
• The “flash” had to do with suffering, its cause and cure
• Conclusion: suffering is intrinsic to human existence and comes from
desire or craving (for possession, selfish enjoyment and especially the
desire form separate, individual existence
• In this experience he saw a state of perfect peace and bliss in which
greed, hatred and ignorance were totally absence called it Nirvana
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
Life and illumination of Gautama,
the Buddha (563-483 BC)
• The solution he saw was the elimination of all desire, selfish craving,
lust for life, have been renounced and destroyed through a pathway
to this state called the Noble Eightfold Path.
• The last 45 years he spent as a humble monk, teaching others what
he himself had discovered
• This is accomplished by the “Middle Way” – not extreme asceticism
nor by fleshly self-gratification
• Starting with Hindu idea of Karma, where people are reborn
according to previous life’s behavior
• Buddha never claimed divinity nor that he was inspired by any god.
• He was only a teacher to guide those who chose to listen, rather
than a personal savior.
• He was only a guide to those who must tread the path themselves,
attain spiritual Awakening and see truth and reality as he did.
• “Only by complete detachment could a man’s thoughts, words, and
actions be deprived of their power to bind him to the inexorable
wheel of life and death.” (David-Bently Taylor, “Buddhism”, pp. 120121)
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
2. What is a Buddhist?
Followers of the teachings of Buddha
Ordinary people who often keep their beliefs to
They follow the Four Noble Truths
1. Dukkha: All realms of existence are places of
suffering and dissatisfaction
2. Tanha: The cause of this suffering he identified as
3. Nirvana: There is a state in which all suffering and
craving was non-existent, a state of bliss
4. Noble Eight-Fold Path is the way to actualize
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
Noble Eightfold Path of
Middle Way
Right Understanding: Acceptance of the Four Noble teaching
and rejection of unworthy attitudes and acts
Right thought: free from lust, ill will and cruelty rather
detachment, loving kindness and compassion
Right Speech: plain, truthful, free from gossip and harshness
Right Action or Conduct: avoid killing (including eggs and
insects), stealing and illicit sex
Right Mode of Livelihood: avoid jobs that obligate breaking the
five precepts. Such as involve killing (whether animals or humans),
sexual misconduct, deceit, taking intoxicating drinks or drugs.
Right Effort: There are four aspects to this: the effort to avoid the
arising of evil, the effort to overcome evil, the effort to develop
wholesome states and the effort to maintain wholesome states.
Right Mindfulness or Awareness: This encompasses The Four
Foundations of Mindfulness. This involves being mindful of 1. the
body and bodily processes 2. feelings 3. states of mind 4. thoughts,
ideas, Buddhist teachings such as the Four Noble Truths
Right Concentration or Meditation: The final factor focuses on
developing meditative concentration leading to the eradication of
the five hindrances and the experience of the four jhanas
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3. Five Precepts
1. Abstain from harming human beings, animals
and even insects (no hunting, fishing, etc)
You could eat meat if an animal was not specifically
killed for you
2. Avoid taking what is not given
Stealing is strongly discouraged
Best to develop generosity
3. Avoid sexual misconduct in thought or deed
4. Avoid false speech, lying or deceit
5. Avoid indulgence in alcoholic drinks and
recreational drugs
These promote harmony with ourselves and
others, thus prevent further suffering for
ourselves and others
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4. Three Characteristics of
1. Impermanence: all things in a state of continuous
We create problems when we try to cling on to everything as if
it were permanent, rather than appreciating the moment
2. Suffering: (1st Noble Truth) Physical, emotional and
mental pain
Spirit of dissatisfaction that affects all our experience
Misfortune can strike at any time
Way out of suffering are the Four Noble Truths
3. Not-Self: (Denial of a permanent self or soul)
Our nature is five factors that are prone to change: physical
body, feeling, perception, mental formations and consciousness
It is not that we don’t have individuality, but the personality does
not have an unchanging essence
The most difficult
of the three concepts to grasp
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5. Rebirth
We are born and reborn (not the same as
Six realms of existence into which we can be
Hell worlds
Realm of “hungry ghosts”
Realm of animals
Realm of humans
Realm of jealous gods and
Realm of the heavenly worlds
None of these worlds are satisfactory, though
some are worse than others
Reincarnation is distinct from rebirth since there
is no permanent soul or self
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
6. Karma or kamma
• Buddhism seeks to be helpful to oneself and
others, while advising against actions that lead to
one’s own suffering or the suffering of others
• Karma means “action” – the process of moral
actions having consequences for us in the future
– Good deeds lead to happy states/ Bad deeds, to
unhappy ones
– Deeds refer to physical actions, words and thoughts--
• Buddhism is a sense of moral justice, without a
judge. It is a natural phenomenon.
• Key to Karma: Intention.
• Karma and Rebirth Linked: Consequences of this
life’s actions, karma, can affect future lives when
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
7. Compassion and Loving
• Two human qualities highly regarded:
– karuna, “compassion”
– metta, “loving kindness”
• Compassion is recognizing the suffering of others and wanting to
help alleviate it.
– Both with associates and globally
– The motivation to share Buddhism, though difficult to understand, is to
help people out of the cycle of life and death (samsara) and the
inevitable suffering
• Loving kindness is extending good will, care and consideration to
others, which are to be developed
– First, one generates feelings of loving kindness to oneself, then a friend
or relative; next to a neutral person; finally towards someone who you
feel anger towards or dislike
– Thus feelings of hostility are washed away; destructive energy is
redirected towards positive channels
– This is the key to developing proper attitudes towards others and the
world around us. 275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
8. Meditation
• In Buddhism the highest goal is nirvana a state where both
suffering and desire have been extinguished forever.
• Meditation is a method by which we attempt to look more deeply
within ourselves and into the nature of the world around us.
– We all do this to some extent whether we meditate or not. The
Buddha, however, gave precise instructions how this meditation
should be undertaken.
– Traditionally, there are two methods - 'calm' or samatha meditation
and 'insight' or vipassana meditation.
• In the first, the idea is to calm the body and concentrate the mind.
Often, the meditator will use the breath to focus and in this way, with
perseverance, a degree of calm and concentration are reached. Calm
meditation leads to a series of rapturous states known as jhanas.
• In vipassana meditation, the aim is to see things as they really are.
This is less to do with calming the mind (although this may be a byproduct) than with being aware.
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
8. Meditation
• There are many benefits to meditation.
– It helps you to operate in a more relaxed way and therefore
more effectively.
– Decisions are made calmly and logically, not based on
sudden gusts of emotion that can easily throw us off balance
if we're not guarded.
– It can make us more aware of what impulses and desires
govern our behavior and by being aware of these we can
deal with them at a conscious level.
• The importance of meditation is that it is a means of
helping us realize nirvana in a way that is practical and
both physically and mentally beneficial.
• Supposedly, the Buddha himself attained nirvana through
the practice of meditation.
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
9. Buddhist Schools:
Theravada and Mahayana
• Theravada Buddhism was the earliest
form of Buddhism
– means “Old” (Thera) “Way” (vada), or ‘the
Doctrines of the Elders’.
– Theravada Buddhism takes the Pali Canon as its
main source of authority, seeing these early
scriptures as the authentic word of the Buddha.
– A few months after the Buddha’s death, a
meeting was held – known as the First Council –
and agreement was reached on what the
Buddha’s teachings were.
– His teachings were then committed to memory by
his followers and
passed on orally.
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
9. Buddhist Schools:
Theravada and Mahayana
• Mahayana: (The “Greater Vehicle”) emerged between
150 BCE and 100 CE. In its early stages,
• Mahayana Buddhism was not a single movement but a
number of disparate groups who began to question the
Theravada perspective on the Buddha’s teachings.
• Mahayana Buddhism was uncomfortable with the
Theravada emphasis on desire for personal
enlightenment, what is sometimes referred to as the
arahant or ‘saintly’ ideal.
• If Buddhism was to be driven by compassion then to
strive for one’s own enlightenment could be seen as
• True Buddhism would be more concerned about
enlightenment for all.
– It was for this reason that this Buddhist tradition referred to itself
as ‘the greater vehicle’ and referred to the Buddhism that
preceded it as the Hinayana or ‘ lesser vehicle’.
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
9. Buddhist Schools:
Theravada and Mahayana
• The Bodhisattva Ideal or Model. -• To reach this stage they have attained six perfections, namely: the
perfections of giving, morality, patience, vigor, meditation and wisdom.
• Sometimes this is extended to a further four perfections, namely: the
perfections of skill in means, aspiration, power and knowledge.
• Bodhicitta-• The aim in Mahayana Buddhism is to strive to be a Bodhisattva.
• Within the Mahayana tradition a whole pantheon of bodhisattva figures
emerged, the most important of whom is Avalokitesvara (literally, ‘the
Lord who looks down’). He is often depicted with many heads and
arms, the former symbolizing his ability to see the suffering of all
beings and the latter his ability to serve all beings.
• The Mahayanist tradition saw the Theravada as exalting wisdom over
compassion. What it sought to do was to place much more emphasis
on compassion.
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
9. Buddhist Schools:
Theravada and Mahayana
• The Three-Body Doctrine
• Appearance body – Dharma body – Bliss body
• The Theravada Buddhism placed emphasis on the Buddha as a
flesh and blood human being, the Mahayanist tradition offered a
more complex interpretation of who the Buddha was.
• Emptiness
• The Mahayana tradition also took the Buddha’s teaching on not-self
a step further, applying it to all phenomena.
• In Theravada Buddhism, what we term the self is impermanent and
is made up of five factors: material form, feeling, perception, mental
formations and consciousness.
• In Mahayana Buddhism all things are said to be ‘empty’ of an
enduring essence and are made up of interacting and everychanging elements known as dharmas.
• This concept is known as ‘emptiness’ (or sunyata) and is crucial to
an understanding of Mahayana philosophy. The teaching on sunyata
is to be found in The Heart Sutra, an influential text written in about
the first century BCE.
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
Zen Buddhism
• Zen Zen Buddhism emerged in China in the sixth century AD,
stemming from the inspirational life and teachings of an Indian monk
and scholar named Bodhidharma. From China, this form of Buddhism
was eventually brought to Japan in the 12th century.
• A Special Transmission
• Zen is essentially a school of Buddhism that places great emphasis on
meditation, in particular, ‘sitting meditation’ known as zazen. The word
‘zen’ itself derives from the Sanskrit word dhyana meaning ‘meditation’.
The crux of Bodhidharma’s teachings is captured in the following lines
which history has attributed to him:
• A special transmission outside the scriptures;
Depending not on words and letters;
Pointing directly to the human mind;
Seeing into one's nature, one becomes a Buddha
• Direct Pointing
• Zen Buddhism in its traditional form places much more emphasis on an
existential experience rather than scriptures.
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Other Buddhist Groups
• Vajrayana: the Diamond Vehicle
– Similar to Mahayana, but adds mystical and cultic elements from
Tantrism, to transform human passions by self-control and acceptance
– Name comes form vajra, “something bright, transparent, indestructible,”
like a diamond to refer to the purity of tantric spiritual power.
– They use mantra (chant), mudra (physical gesture), and
mandala (meditation cycle)
– Began in India in the 1st cent. AD then spread to Nepal,
Tibet, China and Japan.
• Lamaism or Tibetan Buddhism (Dharamshala, India)
– Vajrayana Buddhism spread to Tibet in 7th cent. AD combining the
ancient Tibetan Bon religion, a local spiritistic religion to form Lamaism,
the national religion of Tibet and Mongolia
– The Dalai Lama (lama is “great as the ocean”) is the worldly leader,
while the Panchen Lama (“jewel of the scholars”) is the spiritual leader
– Communist conquest in 1951 forced its leader, Dalai Lama, to flee to
India – believed to be the reincarnation of a Budhisattva
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10. Buddhist Scriptures
Pali Canon: The historical Buddhist scriptures
Pali is the language they were originally written in,
The Pali Canon - also known as 'the three baskets' is split into three categories - are the
closest we can get to the words of the Buddha, even though they were not written down until
three hundred years so so after his death. .
The Three Baskets
The Pali Canon consists of three divisions, the Tipitaka, which literally means the 'three
Each of these baskets has different concerns.
– First, the Book of Discipline, which includes the rules of monastic discipline given by the
Buddha during his lifetime.
– The second division is the Sutta Pitaka, a collection of the Buddha's discourses. This
contains the essential teachings of the Buddha, accounts of his own enlightenment
experience, and instructions on morality and meditation.
– The third division is Higher Teachings which offers an intricate analysis of the nature of
mental and physical existence.
Considered A Miracle
After the Buddha's death and final entry into nibbana - the Buddha's followers met at what
was called the First Council, and a consensus was formed on what the Buddha's teachings
actually were.
There were then committed to memory and passed down orally from generation to generation.
It was not until the first century BC that the Buddha's teachings were finally written down.
The language used was Pali, the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism.
The scriptures were written on palm leaves and stored in three baskets, hence the name
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
Buddha’s borrowing from Hinduism
Gautama’s Buddhism
Hindu Concepts
Wheel of life (cyclical time line)
Karma (consequence of deeds)
Maya (illusion)
Atman (individual soul)
Reincarnation of soul
Moksha (realization)
Caste System
Wheel of Life (unmodified)
Karma (unmodified)
The Middle Way
No Atman
Rebirth without reincarnation
Nirvana (oblivion)
Atheistic > Pantheistic
No Caste System
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
Prayer and witness for
Buddhism in various forms plays a dominant role in Asian life and culture.
Influences at least 1 Billion people and is the state religion in 5 Asian
countries. There are 1.6 million Buddhists in the United States.
Resistant to the Evangelical Gospel message. Less than 1% Protestant and
3,000 unreached Buddhist people groups in SE Asia.
– The difficulty is that they are taught to mix and blend various religious ideas.
Christianity demands exclusivity.
– Asian cultural pride and identity is linked to Buddhism
Believe there are many paths to one God
Deny that we have a soul or personality, so a personal understanding of God
is a foreign concept
Follow a mixture of one or more dominant Buddhist traditions, animism and
ancestor worship
Jesus is understood to be a spiritual master similar to Buddha.
Most Buddhists have never hear the Gospel, nor know anyone who has!
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
Bridges for Evangelizing
• Suffering: deeply concerned with overcoming suffering
but must deny that suffering is real. Christ faced the
reality of suffering by solving its problem: sin. Trusting in
Christ can rise above suffering in this life, because of the
hope of a future life free of suffering (2 Cor 4:18)
• Meaningful Self: must work to convince themselves they
have no personal significance, even though daily they live
like they do. Need to see how we are created in the
image of God, thus have characteristics distinct from
animals and rest of creation, plus how God values people
such that He would die for them (Rom 5:8)
• Future hope: Nirvana is no hope at all – only death and
extinction. The hope of the believer is eternal life with a
personal God who will take away all suffering (Rev. 21:4)
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
Bridges for Evangelizing Buddhists
• Moral Law: Because of karma, the law of moral cause and effect, is
completely rigid and impersonal, making life oppressive. There is no
appeal, no mercy and no escape, except through an unceasing effort
at self-perfection – a vain effort. To the Christian the moral force
governing the universe is a personal God, who listens to prayers,
has mercy on those who repent and who controls their lives for good
(Rom 8:28)
• Merit: constant struggle to earn merit by doing good deeds, hoping
to collect enough to break free from the life of suffering. Their saints
can transfer surplus merit to the undeserving. Jesus taught that no
one could ever collect enough merit on his own to earn everlasting
freedom from suffering. Jesus has unlimited merit (righteousness)
by virtue of His sinless life, vicarious death and resurrection, now He
offers His unlimited merit as a free gift to anyone who will be His
disciple (Eph 2:8-9)
• Desire: they live a contradiction: seeking to overcome suffering by
rooting out desire, but simultaneously cultivate desire for self-control,
meritorious life and nirvana. Christians are consistent – we seek to
reject evil desires and cultivate good desires according to the
standard of Christ. (2 Tim 2:22)
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
Jesus and the Eightfold Path
Right Views: Jesus is the way the truth and the life (Jn 14:6) and
there is salvation in no one else (Acts 4:12).
Right Aspiration: Fights and quarrels come from selfish desires
and wrong motives (Jas 4:1-3).
Right Speech: A day of judgment is coming when God will hold men
accountable for every careless word (Mt 12:36)
Right Conduct: The one who loves Jesus must obey Him (Jn
14:21). Those who live by God’s wisdom will produce good acts/fruit
(Jas 3:17).
Right Livelihood: God will care for those who put Him first (Mt
6:31,33) and all work must be done for God’s approval (2 Tim 2:15)
Right Effort: Like runners in a race, followers of Christ must throw
off every hindrance to give Him their best efforts (Heb 12:1-2)
Right Mindfulness: A sinful mind cannot submit to God’s law (Rom
8:7) and disciples must orient their minds as He did (Phil 2:5)
Right Contemplation: The secret of success, inner peace, selfcontrol and lasting salvation is submission to Christ as Savior and
Lord, then setting your heart and mind on things above where He
reigns in glory waiting to bring the present order of sin and suffering
(Col 3:1-4)
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
Witnessing to Buddhists
Avoid terms such as “new birth,” “rebirth,” “regeneration,” or “born
again.” Use alternatives such as “endless freedom from suffering,
guilt and sin,” “new power for living a holy life,” “promise of eternal
good life without suffering,” or “gift of unlimited merit.”
Emphasize the uniqueness of Christ.
Focus on the gospel message and do not get distracted by details
of Buddhist doctrine
Understand Buddhist beliefs enough to discern weaknesses that
can be used to make the gospel appealing (ref. Bridges for
Evangelism Buddhists and Jesus and the Eightfold Path)
While using Bridge-concepts be careful not to reduce Christian
truth to a form of Buddhism. They are taught to accommodate
other religions. Do not say, “Buddhism is good, but Christianity is
Share your own testimony, especially your freedom from guilt,
assurance of heaven (no more pain), and personal relationship
with Christ.
Prepare with prayer. Do not witness in your own strength.
275 million Buddhists in 900 people groups
Buddhism, (2002). Interfaith Evangelism Belief Bulletin, North American Mission Board, 4200 North Point Pkwy., Alpharetta, GA 30022
Burtt, E. A. (1955). The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha. Editor. New American Library, New York.
K. Sri Dhammananda,(1964). What the Buddha Taught. Buddhist Mission Society of Malaysia. (1964).
Gethin, Rupert (1998). Foundations of Buddhism. Oxford University Press.
Gunaratana, Bhante Henepola (2002). Mindfulness in Plain English. Wisdom Publications.
The Mahayana Mahapariniryana Sutra (Nirvana Publications 1999-2000), tr. by Kosho Yamamoto, revised and edited by Dr. Tony Page.
Norbu, C. (1999). The Supreme Source, Snow Lion Publications, New York.
Thich, Nhat Hanh, (1974). The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching. Broadway Books.
Thurman, Robert, A.F. (translator) (1976). Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: Mahayana Scripture. Pennsylvania State University Press.
Walpola, Rahula, (1998). What the Buddha Taught. Grove Press (1974). Yin Shun, Yeung H. Wing (translator), The Way to Buddhahood: Instructions
from a Modern Chinese Master. Wisdom Publications.
Web sites: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_Buddhism and http://buddhism.about.com/od/theravada/ss/BuddhismSS_3.html
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