What Does The Bible Say About Buddhism

Buddhism and Christianity have a long and complex history – and the relationship between the two religions continues to spark the interest of many. In this article, we’ll take a look at what the Bible has to say about Buddhism – and how these two great traditions, while often overlapping, are still distinct in their approaches.
First and foremost, it’s important to understand that Buddhism is not mentioned at all in the Bible. This is mainly because the first Buddhist writings, which predate the Bible by hundreds of years, were largely unknown in the ancient Near East during the time the Bible was written. The Bible, therefore, does not come to any official conclusions about Buddhism – it simply doesn’t have the information to do so.
What is clear, however, is that the Bible does not promote aspects of Buddhism that conflict with its own teachings. For example, in the New Testament, Jesus claims to be the only way to God, and that none are saved except by believing in him (John 14:6). This clearly conflicts with Buddhist teaching, which purports that all religions have merit.
On the other hand, there are certainly elements of Buddhism that resonate with the Bible’s teachings. Both Buddhism and Christianity promote non-violence and turning the other cheek when wronged (Matthew 5:38-39). Both advise striving for compassion and humility rather than pride and wrath.
Most interestingly, Buddhism teaches a fundamental truth: that all of Creation is one, just as the Bible also teaches “That they all may be one” (John 17:1). This resonates with the biblical concept of the Kingdom of God – a spiritual realm in which all are united in love, peace and compassion.
Furthermore, both Buddhism and Christianity share the notion of detachment from worldly influence – a philosophy rooted in the idea of non-attachment (Romans 12:2). This entails a focussed effort on free will and individual responsibility, something exemplified in Jesus’ beatitudes for the poor, weak, and forgetful (Matthew 5:3-12).
Indeed, Buddhism and the Bible share many values, though their approaches differ significantly. While those of Buddhist faith may deny the divinity of Jesus, many of the Bible’s ethical values align with the ethical teachings of Buddhism. It’s this overlap that can provide insight into Buddhist spirituality and can perhaps enlighten us on how we can better serve God with our daily practices in thoughtful, intentional ways.

Karma in Buddhism

Karma is an important principle of Buddhism which has been widely misconstrued and sometimes denied. At its root, karma simply refers to the natural law of cause and effect. It states that in a moral system, the consequences of our intentions and actions are inextricably linked. Essentially, what we give, we will receive in return.
This idea is explicitly supported in the Bible – an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24). The Bible also tells us that men reap what they sow, and it’s this notion of cause and effect that lies at the heart of karma.
However, unlike the Biblical concept of everything being predestined or a fate which is predetermined, karma allows us to choose our own destiny, passing through cause and effect to find spiritual growth. Buddha tells us that if we live with purity, kindness and charity, we will reap a spiritual harvest. The Bible teaches a similar message, reminding us that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).
Karma is, therefore, simply another way of expressing the Biblical view; that we should always strive to do good, as this is all that we can do to ensure a good outcome. As Jesus states, “for whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matthew 12:50).
The notion of karma is, in fact, found all throughout the Bible. Jesus himself teaches the concept of “measure for measure” (Matthew 5:38) and the Apostle Paul advises us to do all that we do as unto the Lord (Colossians 3:17).

Meditation in Buddhism

Meditation is intrinsic to many forms of Buddhism, though it carries a range of different implications. It’s essential to remember that the purpose of meditation in Buddhism is not necessarily related to relieving anxiety or providing a mental respite – it’s intended to provide insight into our relation to the world around us.
Interestingly, meditation is mentioned multiple times in the Bible – a few examples being: “Be still, and know that I am God,” (Psalms 46:10) and “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” (Habakkuk 2:20).
Christian meditation, however, as taught by Jesus himself, is less about attempting to force focus and concentration, and more about engaging with God in prayer and communion. Jesus tells us to meditate not in stillness and detachment from God, but in relationship with Him (Matthew 6:6).
This is an important distinction with the meditative practices of Buddhism – it is about a living relationship with God and relationship with the holy. In other words, it’s not a self-centred practice, but rather a God- and neighbour-centred practice.

Nirvana in Buddhism

Nirvana is the highest state of understanding in Buddhism that one can achieve, and it is often misinterpreted as the destruction of a person’s personality or identity. In Buddhist traditions, this is an incorrect characterization – instead, Nirvana merely signifies the destruction of spiritual ignorance.
The concept of Nirvana is surprisingly echoed in the Bible. In the Bible, it’s referred to as the Promise of Eternal Life (Revelation 21:4). It can also be seen in the words of Jesus, who encourages us to go beyond ourselves to a transcendental consciousness. He states “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).
Essentially, the ancient concept of Nirvana is found in Christianity through the eternal life promised to believers in Jesus. In Buddhism, Nirvana is reached by following the righteous path of Eightfold virtue, while in Christianity it is promised through faith in God and good works.

Reincarnation in Buddhism

Reincarnation is a core doctrine of many Buddhist traditions, though it may not be immediately recognizable as such in Western culture. Reincarnation holds that each living being, human or otherwise, will be reborn after death into a new life form.
This idea is found nowhere in the Bible, however -nor is there any hint of it. On the contrary, the Bible tells us that death is the end of a person’s life. Jesus even states emphatically that “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
The Bible doesn’t come out explicitly against the doctrines of reincarnation, however – it simply doesn’t speak of it. This is likely a reflection of the predominant belief of the time – that death was the ultimate ending of one’s life.

Atheism and Buddhism

Atheism is a philosophical stance which has often been associated with Buddhism, however, this is ultimately an oversimplification.
At its core, Buddhism is a religion without a God – but this doesn’t need to translate to an absence of faith in anything. In fact, Buddhism is characterized by compassion, virtue, and inner peace – all of which are paths to discovering the ultimate truth of the universe.
In this way, Buddhism is very different from atheism. While atheists may reject any notion of the divine, Buddhists seek to discover ultimate truth. The 8-fold path of Buddhism, for example, suggests that we can uncover the truth by cultivating our virtues, wisdom and insight.
This contrasts starkly with the atheistic narrative which focuses on proof and rationality as the true road to knowledge about our ultimate purpose and place in the universe.

The Impact of Buddhism

Buddhism has played an influential role in many aspects of modern life. In the West, Buddhist values of non-attachment and compassion have inspired many to lead moral lives, while Buddhist concepts of mindfulness and meditation are currently being studied and applied across a range of disciplines, from psychology to business.
Indeed, Buddhist ideas have provided a basis for much of Western thought over the last few centuries – and as our understanding of Buddhism deepens, we stand to learn even more.
The cultural and historical impact of Buddhism cannot be overstated. In a world of growing globalisation, Buddhist traditions offer a unique world-view that can inform our own way of living. Buddhism’s message of social and environmental responsibility, for example, is deeply relevant in the current context of environmental degradation and social unrest.
Therefore, Buddhism and its impact on the world can not only be seen as spiritual teachings, but rather as teachings on how to live in harmony with one another for a more peaceful and ethical world.

What is Dharma?

Dharma is a Sanskrit word which carries many meanings, from ‘law’ or ‘duty’ to ‘nature’ or ‘truth’. In Buddhism, it refers to the path one must take to reach enlightenment. Dharma basically implies right living or right behaviour – living a life that is selfless and in harmony with the laws of nature.
The notion of Dharma can be seen in the Bible, though in a somewhat different context. For example, Jesus says “Behold, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart” (Psalms 40:7-8).
What Jesus is saying is that he is determined to do God’s will. He is referring to the “law” or dharma written in his heart – a law which is inwardly generated and not imposed from outside. Jesus also speaks about living a righteous life and about doing good, which are the fundamental teachings of Dharma.

Buddhism and Spirituality

Buddhism is often thought to be a spiritual practice – however, this is something of an oversimplification. While Buddhism does have a spiritual component, Buddhism is mainly a philosophical and ethical program intended to bring about spiritual awareness and wisdom.
That said, if we look a little deeper, we can see that Buddhism and the Bible do have some similarities. Fundamentally, they both share the notion that we are spiritual beings, and that real spiritual growth comes from within.
The primary differences lie in how they seek to achieve this growth. In Buddhism, the focus is on regular meditation and following the 8-fold path. In Christianity, this is achieved by following the teachings of Jesus and living a life of compassion, charity, and righteousness.
Therefore, Buddhism and the Bible unite on this point that we are fundamentally spiritual beings, though their approaches to achieving spiritual growth differ. This ultimately leaves space for both traditions to work together – to help us become our truest selves and realize our spiritual potential.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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