Jesus and Buddha The Parallel Sayings
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 Jesus, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, and many more.
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.
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 :
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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.”
Buddha: “He walks upon the water without parting it, as if on solid ground.” Anguttara Nikaya 3.60
- 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
- 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
- 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
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:
Thanks for reading my review on Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings. Feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts.