Simply put, Buddhism is mans attempt to escape pain and suffering through self-perfection and meditation. The goal is to eliminate desires in an attempt to stop the endless cycle of reincarnation and karma by attaining enlightenment and thus extinguishing self, desire, and pain; while at the same time becoming one with the universe.
Buddhism is appealing because of its mystical aspects; it is also appealing to those who desire to escape from material reality.
One works to attain “salvation” which is achieved by practicing Buddhist teachings and thus we can categorize Buddhism as a religion of works.
Buddhism is gaining momentum in the west. This is partially due to the fact that some of the biggest names in Hollywood are practicing Buddhists. This intrigues many people who are caught up in the Hollywood fascination with shows such as Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood or E! News.
The Gazette, the campus newspaper of The University of Western Ontario said:
“It may not be the latest religious fad in L.A., but Buddhism has certainly continued to attract celebrity practitioners unsatisfied with their own religions…the adoption of Buddhism into celebrity culture has helped bring the Eastern religion into the Western conscience.” 1
Famous Hollywood actors and actresses that are said to practice Buddhism include not only Richard Gere and Orlando Bloom but also,
◦ Goldie Hawn (Oscar-winning actress)
◦ Kate Hudson (Goldie’s daughter and actress)
◦ Phil Jackson (Head Coach of ten NBA Championships)
◦ George Lucas (Creator of Star Wars and in which we can see major themes and inspirations of eastern religion such as “The Force”) ◦ Jennifer Lopez (singer, actress)
◦ Keanue Reeves (actor)
◦ Steven Segal (actor)
◦ Uma Thurman (actress)
◦ Mark Walhberg (rap singer, actor)
Richard Gere is extremely outspoken in his Buddhist beliefs.
“Richard Gere makes his admiration for the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader in exile, well known. Gere periodically retreats to Tibet to brush up on his Buddhism. While there, the actor enjoys a very different existence than he does in Hollywood. According to Gere, he has a simple room and has to share a bathroom. There is a limited supply of water and no television, air conditioning or newspapers. Self-prescribed torture? For Gere, as he explains it, this is his time to relax, to meditate, to release.” 2
The facts are these -- our friends, coworkers, and children see their movies, watch their videos, listen to their music or watch them coach from the sidelines and can easily be caught up and influenced by the lifestyle they lead including their belief systems.
Tonight, we’re here to discuss, contrast and compare Buddhism with Christianity, to see how it deviates from the historic Christian faith, but first, let’s look at Buddhism’s beginnings.
Beginnings of Buddhism
By definition, Buddhism is a “way of living based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. Buddhism focuses on personal spiritual development. Buddhists strive for a deep insight into the true nature of life.”3
Since we lack “primary source” material for the history of Buddhism, most modern scholars doubt the reliability of the traditional legends of the Buddha since many developed centuries after his death, so keep in mind that his life story is based on myths and speculation.
Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BC) was born a Hindu in north-eastern India in what is now called Nepal.
[To give us a timeline that we can relate to Biblically, 563-483 BC coincides with the time when the people of Judah were exiled in Babylon.
In fact, Nebuchadnezzer, King of Babylon died in 561 BC, a scant 2 years before Siddhartha was born while Daniel was serving in the Kingdom of Babylon.
It was around 536 BC that Cyrus the Persian allowed the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and...