Monday, March 9, 2015

Difference Between How Buddha and Christians Handle Suffering

Buddha lived and taught in the fifth century before Christ. He came from a royal family and when he came of age he left the palace and immediately saw the deplorable living condition of those outside the palace. From this is learned that the main problem of life is suffering, and, if he were to help others, this would have to be eliminated. He became an ascetic and gave up his royal life. He went into the forest and contemplated the purpose of life. He determined that suffering was caused by selfish desire (tanha). This desire creates a gap between what we desire and what we have. This he concluded was the cause our suffering. To eliminate suffering this gap had to be eliminated. To do this, one only had to give up what they desire. The ultimate was to desire nothing. If one were able to do this it would lead to what he called Nirvana.

Jesus Christ shows us a different path. It does not involve trying to get what we desire or giving up all our desires. He showed us how to change our desires. By changing what we desire we change our world and how we experience life. He taught us to desire one thing, to do the will of God, our Father in heaven, instead of our own will. This is known as having a pure heart. By controlling how we use our free-will we learn to only desire what God wills. We unite our will with His. This is done based on faith and our love of God. Jesus provides the example and instructs us in the Way. He shows by His life what it means to desire only God's will. Since He was fully human as well as God, He lived by uniting His will with His divine will. When we form this intimate relationship with God, then we experience pure joy no matter what is happening to us or around us. We know that God is good and loves all His creation. When we put to death our self-will and offer our life to Christ, we discover His unlimited love. We have hope in eternal life in His kingdom. We know there is more than the strife of this world in the life to come. Through our faith and His grace we learn to love others as ourselves. As we are able to do this our love of God become perfect and we live in union with Him.

If we always accept whatever comes to us as God's will, knowing that He is a God of love, then there is nothing that will cause us to experience suffering. We will always experience the joy of being united with God.

Neither of these paths are easy as they both require effort on our part. Buddha's path is the most difficult because it is based exclusively on our self-will and ends in nothingness. The Christian path involves our faith in the Gospel and our cooperation with God by learning to control our bodily passions so that our soul is in control directing us to follow God's will. As we go down this path we receive God's grace. It is through His grace, His help, that we are able to overcome suffering and live in union with Him. It is not something we can do through our own will. It is only by giving up our own will to God, learning self-discipline, that we can follow the Christian path which ends in eternal life in His Kingdom.

Christians have help in God. They have hope in an eternal life in God's Kingdom. They have the comfort of a loving God. The Gospel records for us that Jesus was born of a virgin, He healed the sick, and taught about the Kingdom of God. He was killed unjustly by crucifixion, a voluntary sacrifice He made for our benefit. He was resurrected after being three days in a tomb and forty days later, after teaching his disciples the mysteries, ascended into heaven opening the gates to Paradise for all humankind. He then sent the Holy Spirit to empower His disciples so they could spread the good news about God's kingdom and establish faith communities called churches, where all mankind could come to receive the Holy Spirit, to be healed and united with Him. Follow Him and you will find eternal joy. Have only one desire, to unite your will with His. 

Reference: Making Sense Out of Suffering by Peter Kreeft, pp 147-148

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