Jesus and Buddha The Parallel Sayings – Book Review

Jesus and Buddha The Parallel Sayings

jesus and buddha

Marcus Borg

jesus and buddha

Jack Kornfield

In this article, I will be reviewing a book called “Jesus and Buddha : The Parallel Sayings” edited by Marcus Borg who was a renowned Biblical scholar,  Christian theologian, and author.  He studied theology at the Union Seminary in New York City and is the author of books such as The Lost Gospel Q: The Original Sayings of JesusReading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not LiterallyJesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionaryand many more.

Book Summary

The book Jesus and Buddha : The Parallel Sayings contains a Foreword by Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield with the introduction written by Marcus Borg. Buddhism and Christianity have so much in common that the author notes that some scholars have suggested that Jesus came into contact with Buddhism in some way either through the presence of Greek civilization in Judea or by Jesus traveling to Tibet and India during his so-called “lost years”.

In the view of Buddhist teaching Jesus is very much considered to be a spiritual brother to the Buddha and many of their teachings are identical. However we must keep in mind that there are just as many differences between Buddhism and Christianity as there are similarities.Jesus and Buddha

The spiritual source of the teachings of both enlightened masters is the same experience of the sacred though they appear in different cultural contexts.

There are so many great quotes in this book, but I’ve included 10 of my favorites :

  1. Jesus: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Friend, let me take the speck out of your eye,” when you yourself do not see the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Luke 6.41-42

     

    Buddha: “The faults of others are easier to see than one’s own; the faults of others are easily seen, for they are sifted like chaff, but one’s own faults are hard to see.  This is like the cheat who hides his dice and shows the dice of his opponent, calling attention to the other’s shortcoming, continually thinking of accusing him.” Udanavarga 27.1

  2. Jesus: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?” Matthew 6.25-26

     

    Buddha: “Those who have no accumulation, who eat with perfect knowledge, whose sphere is emptiness, signlessness, and liberation, are hard to track, like birds in the sky.  Those whose compulsions are gone, who are not attached to food, whose sphere is emptiness, signlessness, and liberation, are hard to track like birds in the sky.” Dhammapada 7. 3-4

  3. Jesus: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.” Matthew 6.19-20
    jesus and buddha

    Russian Icon by Flickr user Shaun Ratcliffe

     

    Buddha:“Let the wise man do righteousness: A treasure that others cannot share, which no thief can steal; a treasure which does not pass away.” Khuddakapatha 8.9

  4. Jesus: “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Matthew 8.20

     

    Buddha: “The thoughtful exert themselves; they do not delight in an abode.  Like swans who have left their lake they leave their house and home.” Dhammapada 7.2

  5. Jesus: “As he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard this , he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick, for I have come to call not the righteous  but the sinners.’ Matthew 9.10-13

     

    Buddha: “The bodhisattva made his appearance at the fields of sports and in the casinos, but his aim was always to mature those people who were attached to games and gambling.  To train living beings, he would appear at crossroads and on street corners.  To demonstrate the evils of desire, he even entered the brothels.  To establish drunkards in correct mindfulness, he entered all the taverns.” Vimalakirtinirdesha Sutra 2

  6. Jesus: “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how.  The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head.  But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4.26-29

     

    Buddha: “The yeoman farmer gets his field well ploughed and harrowed.  But that farmer has no magic power or authority to say: “Let my crops spring up today, tomorrow let them ear. On the following day let them ripen.’ No! It is just the due season which makes them do this.” Anguttara Nikaya 3.91

  7.  Jesus: “When he saw that they were straining against the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea.”jesus walking on water

     

    Buddha: “He walks upon the water without parting it, as if on solid ground.” Anguttara Nikaya 3.60

  8. Jesus: “He told them a parable: ‘Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit?

     

    Buddha: “When these Brahmins teach a path that they do not know or see, saying “This is the only straight path,” this cannot possibly be right.  Just as a file of  blind men go on, clinging to each other, and the first one sees nothing, the middle one sees nothing, and the last one sees nothing – so it is with the talk of these Brahmins.” Digha Nikaya 13.15

  9. Jesus: “His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given.'” Matthew 19.10-11

     

    Buddha: “The wise man should avoid promiscuity as if it were a burning charcoal pit.  If he is unable to lead a celibate life fully, let him not transgress with another’s wife.” Sutta Nipata 396

  10. Jesus: “I came from God and now I am here.  I did not come on my own, but he sent me. You do not know him. But I know him.  I do know him and keep his word.” John 8.42&45

     

    Buddha: “It might be said that a man, on being asked the way, might be confused or perplexed. But I know Brahma and the world of Brahma, and the way to the world of Brahma, and the path of practice whereby the world of Brahma may be gained.” Digha Nikaya 13.38

My Critique

This is a truly amazing book meant for contemplation and reflection and I would recommend this to everyone interested in world religions and comparative religious studies.  It’s also amazing how well the parallel sayings complement and bring clarity to one another.  I would also recommend this book to both Buddhists and Christians alike

The only drawback for this book is that sometimes the Buddhist quotes are mistranslated and contain Christian terms such as “hell” and “purgatory” which can confuse some readers.

My rating for this book is:

The Dharma of Star Wars

Thanks for reading my review on Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings.  Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts.


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15 Responses to Jesus and Buddha The Parallel Sayings – Book Review

  1. Torrey says:

    I have never studied the buddhist religon. And don’t plan to study it anytime soon. I am a christian because I’ve read the Bible, and I believe what it says. I realize we could argue for hours and hours. But I am still a firm believer in the fact that God doesn’t want religon, God doesn’t want a tithe. God doesn’t want us to live an upright life. God wants us to serve Him with all of our heart and all the things I just mentioned are a result of living for Him.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for the comment! First I’d like to say that I respect your opinion and beliefs and I’d rather not argue.

      I’m not sure why you say that God doesn’t want us to live an upright life? Isn’t that the way you serve Him? What sect of Christianity do you belong to? I’m curious.

      It’s not about reading scriptures but more about living the faith so actions speak louder than words. I take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha and you take refuge in Jesus, the Word, and the Church. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find additional insight from examining other faiths. Personally I’d rather concentrate on what binds us together than what divides us. I think we should learn more about one another’s beliefs and religions so that we can be more tolerant and live in peace.

  2. G.C.Horton says:

    Very interesting. Some people think Jesus was trained by Buddhists. Historically, that is possible. However, some people think both Buddha and Jesus are mythological constructs. I don’t think it matters.

    If you strip away all the institutional trappings, the teachings of Buddhism and Jesus will guide us to an authentic life.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for the comment!

      Yes, I think you’re right about the teachings of both Jesus and Buddha guiding us to live an authentic life. I think many people tend to concentrate on what separates us rather than what unites us and institutions tend to propagate that.

      I think there are not only institutional but also cultural trappings that color the teachings of both.

  3. braxa0103@gmail.com says:

    This was an enjoyable read.

    I am interested in comparative religion and am fascinated by the similarities between different religions.

    As someone who has been exposed to Christianity over the years, I have heard people mention Buddha but i’ve never really known anything about him until reading this post.

    This post was very interesting and detailed and I look forward to reading more.

    • Ian H says:

      Thanks for the comment! I’m glad that you got some benefit out of my posts. There is tons on my site and a lot more upcoming posts so be sure to check back.

  4. Jonathan says:

    Hi there again Ian. Yet another great book review. Thanks for introducing us to a great book that shares both views Christianity and Buddhism. It’s intriguing to me because I am a Christian and have been thinking of what Buddhism is really about. This book would be a great read. I’m looking forward to picking it up. Thanks again for your efforts in providing a quality review.

  5. Apeng says:

    I feel that all religions teaches good. It’s only the people that are using it to meet their own crooked ends mainly political ends that are making it look bad or deforming it to a really ugly end. Indeed there will be a lot of parallel between Jesus and Buddha as there will be parallels between these and the teachings of Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, and other great religions of our world. I especially like no. 8 … Gotta walk the walk before talking the talk …and that is not a religious saying isn’t it? More cultural.
    Cool … Apeng.

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Apeng,

      Thanks for the comment!

      I think you’re right about the common. I also think the core of all religions is love and compassion. And yes there are parallels with other religions as well, which I will be covering in upcoming posts.

  6. Jess says:

    Interesting! I never realized how many similarities there were between Christianity and Buddhism. This seems that this would be a very good read from a philisophical standpoint.

    I like to look at various religions from an analytical standpoint because I find that I learn a lot about the world, other cultures, and sometimes even change my own standpoint on different topics.

    Great article on “Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings” Thanks for sharing!

    Jess

  7. Ponce says:

    Hi, Ian. This book review is well presented; and although you only gave ten parallel sayings of Jesus and Buddha, I am sure there are more of these which were discussed in the book. Although I see some of them have less similarities of thoughts and may seemingly not parallel at all, the message from each of the saying is truly insightful. Sometimes, it is not easy to comprehend the real thought behind a sentence or two or what the author termed ‘sayings’ when these are taken from religious books because these may become “out of context”.
    At any rate, I see you have lots of articles about Bhuddism. I may visit your site again to look at your posts. Great job…

  8. Alyssa says:

    Hi Ian,
    I studied Anthropology many, many years ago in college. So a book comparing the sayings of Jesus and Buddha is quite intriguing to me. The sayings do seem to be quite similar, just using slightly different language (accounting, of course, for the translations too). Is the book just one long illustration of parallels, or does it go into other aspects of similarities between the religions?
    Thanks.
    Alyssa

    • Ian H says:

      Hi Alyssa,
      The book is set up as a a book of parallels that are organized around various themes which go into various aspects of the similarities between Christianity and Buddhism. It’s definitely a great book if you’re interested in comparing various religions.

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