Buddhist Perspective: Who Is Jesus Christ?

Jesus's teachings are appreciated by Buddhists.
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Although the beliefs and practices of Buddhists and Christians seem different, the stories and teachings of their founders have some striking similarities. Some prominent Buddhists who have read the bible or heard the story of Jesus have concluded that Jesus was in fact a Buddha, a state available to anyone in Buddhism. Being a Buddha means that one has fully awakened, or become enlightened, and devotes their life to teaching the truth to others in order to end their suffering.

1 Jesus as an Enlightened Individual

One of the first recorded Buddhist commentaries on Jesus Christ comes from zen koans (sayings) attributed to Gasan, a 14th century Japanese Zen Buddhist. In the koan a student reads Gasan the Sermon on the Mount from the Bible, specifically Matthew 6:28-34, where Jesus tells his followers not to worry about their clothes, food or even tomorrow: "...Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself....". This teaching on 'being here now' struck the Zen master as so profoundly Buddhist in nature that he exclaimed “Whoever uttered those words I consider an enlightened man.”

2 Jesus and Buddha as Brothers

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and has authored over a hundred books finds similarities between Buddha and Jesus at every corner. His books "Living Jesus, Living Buddha" and "Going Home: Jesus and Buddha as Brothers" argue that the differences between the two are merely artificial, and the essence of their teachings are almost exactly the same. According to Hanh: “When you are a truly happy Christian, you are also a Buddhist."

3 The Dalai Lama on Jesus

Leader of the Buddhist nation of Tibet, the Dalai Lama enjoys a world-wide following of Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike. When asked about Jesus at the John Main Seminar in London, he responded “For me, as a Buddhist, my attitude toward Jesus Christ is that he was either a fully enlightened being or a bodhisattva". A bodhisattva in Buddhism is someone who has pledged to devoting their life to achieving enlightenment and serving all other beings.

4 Jesus and Divinity in Buddhism

In Buddhism enlightenment is seen as a divine state, but one that is accesible by anyone if they strive hard enough to eliminate their delusions and stop acting in ways that harm others. Because Jesus spent 40 days in prayer in the desert (Buddha also spent 40 days in meditation before he became enlightened) before he began teaching, the personal story of Jesus is actually very familiar to many Buddhists. It is easy to see Jesus as an individual who worked out his own salvation and purified himself through meditation and prayer, thereby reaching the divinity that we are all capable of, through Buddhist eyes.

Based in San Francisco, Ocean Malandra is a travel writer, author and documentary filmmaker. He runs a major San Francisco travel website, is widely published in both online and print publications and has contributed to several travel guidebooks to South America.