- The Four Noble Truths
- The Fact of Suffering.
- The Cause of Suffering is Craving, Desire.
- The Suffering Stops with the Cessation of Desire.
- One Learns to Stop Craving by Following 'The Eightfold Path'.
- The Eightfold Path
- The Right View Point
- Right Aspirations
- Right Speech
- Right Behaviour
- Right Occupation
- Right Effort
- Right Mindfulness
- Right Meditation
Romans chapter 6 and verse 23 - this is a well-known verse to many Bible-believing Christians, and I'm sure most of you here tonight know it, but there may be one or two that don't know it. Verse 23 of Romans 6: "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God", or 'the free gift of God', "is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". Let me read that again: "The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord". Then just one more verse from 2 Corinthians chapter 5 and verse 17 - remembering that our subject tonight is the religion of 'Buddhism' - Paul writing to the church at Corinth, speaking of the great salvation that we have now entered into, says: "Therefore if any man be in Christ", in other words, if he is converted, he has been a partaker of salvation "he is a new creature", a new creation, "the old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new". Let us read that again: "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new".
Tonight we're turning our attention away from cults that could be numbered under the umbrella term of 'Christendom' - that does not mean the believing church of Jesus Christ that are truly saved, it's an umbrella term that incorporates all those who call themselves 'Christian', whether they're liberal or nominal or evangelical. From that base and foundation body of Christendom there have sprung up many many cults and false faiths, but tonight and in subsequent weeks we're turning our attention away from cults that have evolved out of Christendom to false faiths that are in our world today that do not class themselves as Christian, and maybe don't even worship the same God, or claim to do so, that we do.
Tonight we turn our attention to 'Buddhism', and of course as the title tells us, and as the name of the religion tells us, the founder of Buddhism was Buddha. Now this picture is not a self-portrait, and it's not a photograph anybody in the congregation - this is commonly how we perceive Buddha in our minds: this little, or large, fat man who sits in this posture, in the lotus position with his legs crossed, and often his arms perhaps out in a meditative fashion. What many people do not know, and here are more familiar statues of the Buddha - slimmer ones, it has to be said - most people don't know that Buddha's name is Siddhartha Gautama. He is not some kind of figment of the imagination, but he is and was a literal man. Now it's very difficult to distinguish, when we look at Buddhism, between history and legend - what people believe and purport to teach, and what are historical facts regarding the life of Buddha. In fact, the scholars themselves can't even agree on the dates for his life, but it's probable that Buddha was born around 560 BC and died about the age of 80 years.
The interesting thing about Buddha is that he was born a Hindu, obviously he couldn't have been born a Buddhist, but yet he grew up in a Hindu land, in a Hindu village near Benares in India. His father was a wealthy Hindu Raja - now if you're familiar with Indian culture, you will know that a raja is a ruler. Therefore, because his father was a ruler, he was born a prince. So he had a wealthy, and indeed a regal birth and upbringing. His father, like many fathers in our world today, like some of you in the congregation, wanted to protect his son from the evil things and the suffering that was in the world. He wanted Buddha to have a life full of happiness and joy and pleasure, and to be protected from suffering and wickedness. As a result of that the father kept him isolated in palaces most of his young life, to protect him from evil and unhappiness outside in the world at large. One day, like every child, but this was a young adult, he decided to venture into the external world. By this time he was married and he had a son of his own, and Gautama went riding, and when he was riding he testified to seeing four things that changed his life completely, and eventually gave birth to the religion of Buddhism.
The four things stayed with him throughout his whole life. The first thing that he saw on his travels was an old man, and he was struck by how frail the old man was and the affects of age on the human being. The second thing that he saw was a sick and a diseased man, he saw how illness and disease affected again the human form. The third thing that he witnessed was a dead man, he saw what death could do to humanity and to one body in particular in that funeral cortege that he witnessed. Now you imagine this, this is a young man, and Gautama had been protected by his father from all suffering and external wickedness in the world, and all of a sudden the first time he ventures out of his homely palace, these are the first three things that he sees: an elderly man, a sick and diseased man, and a dead man. His reaction was to ask the question in and of himself: why is all this to be? What is meant by suffering, by old age, by sickness and death? Why does it have to be in the universe?
He testified that after asking that question, the answer was given to him that all suffering was merely the common fate of mankind - this is our lot down here on earth, and basically there's not an awful lot we can do about it. Now, further to his journey, there was a fourth thing he witnessed, and that fourth thing was a religious man. This was a positive experience for Buddha, because although this religious man was a monk who was begging, he seemed to have a joyful aura about him. He was convinced that this man was happy; his life was full of pleasures, not external ones; his life was not worthless. He saw meaning in religion in some kind of oblique nebulous form, but nevertheless he was won by it. From that he decided to leave the palace, all the palatial pleasures he had known were worthless as far as he was concerned, and he even left his wife and his child for good and decided to give up his life to be a monk.
Now his history tells us that during the next night he sat in the lotus posture, as we are accustomed to see him, with his legs crossed. He fought an inner battle - there are sacred writings of Buddhism that describe it to be the 'temptation of Mara', which simply was the personification of change, death and evil. So after seeing this evil in his world, Buddha wrestled in meditation, he says, with the evil, and we suspect that he overcame it. For the next six years he became a Hindu holy man. He had very little in his experience by way of material goods, he had even very little food. One day, ill from having no food at all, he collapsed and he realised that there was no good at all in what he was doing in his Hindu religion up to this point. We are told from his testimony that on the day of his 35th birthday, he was meditating under a fig tree - what they call 'the tree of wisdom' - and he came to learn new truths that would revolutionise not only his world, but what would come to be known as the Buddhist world.
Now before we go on any further, let me just say: isn't that something that we've noticed over these weeks in these studies? That all these confusing cults out of Christendom, false faiths in our world, claim to have new truth that the world has never known hitherto, and their founder is usually the prophet that is bringing and imparting that new revelation to man. The truths that he had been given, he was now going to teach to others - not under the name of Gautama, but as the Buddha, which simply means 'the enlightened one'. He had been given knowledge that no one else had been given.
Now let's just recap, because in that originating story concerning Buddha and Buddhism, we have the core beliefs of the Buddhist faith - and it is simply this: everybody in our world is suffering. Now we would have to say 'Amen' to that, wouldn't we? They believe that everyone is trapped in a life of physical or emotional turmoil and pain, but they go a step further to say that the reason for our pain and suffering is because of material goods and being consumed by desires and unimportant appetites, whatever it may be: entertainment, food - that's why Buddhists, certainly Buddhist monks, abstain from killing, abstain from stealing, abstain from forbidden sex, from lying and the use of illicit drugs and alcoholic beverages. They believe these things will cause you to suffer, and there's a measure of truth in that - but they have this belief that material things, and the things that associate with our human senses are intrinsically evil.
Now according to the Buddha, suffering is unavoidable - but, as new revelators usually conclude, the only way to salvation is to follow what had been revealed to him as the enlightened one. The first thing that was revealed to him were 'the four noble truths', the four noble truths of Buddhism. We'll look at them in a little bit of detail in a moment, but basically these were the four reasons why Buddha said there was suffering in the world. He thought that he could answer the reason why all the suffering. Now if you wanted to get out of all the suffering, he then had revealed to him what he called 'the eightfold path'. These were practical guidelines on how to live your life to avoid suffering. Now if you could understand why you were suffering, and you followed the eightfold path to avoid suffering, you may then get to a position called 'Nirvana'. Now 'Nirvana' was a pop group during the 1990's, I think it was, or a rock group, but they took their name really from Buddhism. 'Nirvana' is literally 'blowing out', the idea of blowing out a candle until it is in non-existence. What Buddha was teaching was that there is a level of transcendent permanent oblivion to suffering - you can get to a position, down this eightfold path, whereby you can get to a state of almost non-existence where you cease to suffer.
Now let's look in more detail at 'The Four Noble Truths', these four noble truths, or why people suffer in the world. The first is obvious, and it is simply: the fact of suffering. It is there, and you have to acknowledge that, that suffering is in our world in many shapes and forms. The second gives us a little bit more insight into the noble truths of Buddhism, because it tells us that the cause of suffering is craving and desire. So the reason why you suffer is because you want things that are bad for you, and when you get those things, well, it harms you. The third noble truth is that suffering can only stop with the cessation of your desire. Your suffering will only stop when you stop wanting things that are material or sensual. Therefore, the way you do it is to learn to stop craving by following the eightfold path of Buddhism.
Those are the four noble truths, but what is 'The Eightfold Path' of Buddhism? Let's go through it quickly: first of all you have to have the right viewpoint. Now some of you have a head start already where that one is concerned, but nevertheless you have to know everything that is right - and their particular viewpoint is claimed to be the right one of course. The second path is that you have to have right aspiration, right ambitions, right desires - and that therefore necessitates that your ambitions and desires will not be physical or material or sensual, because those are inherently evil. The third is that you must have right speech; fourth, right behaviour; five, right occupation; six, right effort; seven, right mindfulness; eight, right meditation. So the emphasis in this eightfold path is that you have to be right, you have to do everything right, say everything right, think everything right, and then and only then you possibly will get to that position of 'nirvana' where suffering will be something that is foreign to you.
Now Buddhism, of course, came out of Hinduism in the sense that Buddha was Hindu originally. In fact, some call Buddhism a reformation of Hinduism - and the Dali Lama, who we'll talk about in a moment or two, actually calls Buddhism and Hinduism 'natural twins'. There are some similarities in Buddhism with Hinduism, and one of the major ones is the doctrine of reincarnation. This has been made popular in the New Age movement today, whereby there is this belief that we live in the cycle of life. No one goes into eternity as such, but when you die you are reincarnated into another existence, and that other existence is determined by something called 'karma' - that means basically how good you have been, specifically in Buddhism, following this eightfold path. So you get credit, as it were, and if you're a really good person you will be reincarnated maybe as another person, but if you're a really bad person, you might be reincarnated as a cow, or as a flea and get squashed! I came across this one and couldn't resist it: 'The good news is that you'll be reincarnated as a cow, the bad news is that it will be a cow in Texas - thank the gods it's not a British cow, mad cow disease and all that!'.
The fact of the matter is, it borrows a number of its doctrines from Hinduism: reincarnation, the idea of karma and so on. It also took from Hinduism some of the disciplines, that is the discipline of yoga to help in meditation. Yoga is not just a form of meditation, but we talked in previous weeks about Reiki, also martial arts has inherent within it meditation that is not foreign to what we're talking about here this evening - and we need to beware about things like this, and sending our young people to them. So we can see that they aren't a million miles away from each other: Hinduism and Buddhism. But the most important thing to Buddhism is 'nirvana', this idea that you can get to a stage where suffering is excluded from your life, a state where you have no longer any craving, any desires, any want or ambition. Therefore, because you don't have any desire, there is no longer any suffering - and when you reach that place there's no more reincarnations for you. You will continue in this transcendent permanence.
The interesting thing about Buddhism is this: not even Buddha could say what nirvana really was. This is an obscure religion, there is no definite certainty or foundation on which it is built. We'll see this as we go through tonight, but I want to turn our attention just for a moment away from the origins of Buddhism to its development. Of course, it spread in India where it originated through Buddha, but it went beyond even in Buddha's lifetime, and spread after his death. Now it was unable to hold ground in India after his death, and that's why the majority of Buddhists are found today in countries like Sri Lanka, and beyond India in Burma and Thailand. There are estimated to be something around 500-600 million Buddhists in our world today. Now I haven't got time to go into this, but there have evolved different branches of Buddhism over the years, one of the most famous is Zen Buddhism that originated in China but today is practised in Japan.
Maybe you think: 'What is the relevance of all this today in East Belfast?' - well, maybe not so much in East Belfast, but certainly in the city of Belfast there's a lot of relevance. Whilst we welcome people of any nationality into our nation and into our City - and I think that has to be said - Buddhism has found root within our city through the Meditation Centre in Donegal Street, in Blackmountain Zen Centre in Kansas Avenue off the Antrim Road, there's also a place in Donegal Pass, Queen's University has a Buddhist Society in the Students Union - which should be no surprise - and there's also a group of Buddhists in Newry as well who worship. Some of you can remember in the news not so long ago, a couple of years ago, 'His holiness' the Dali Lama came to Northern Ireland, and there was a great furore regarding it because in 1989 he was the Nobel Peace Prize winner because he fought for independence and self-government to his own Himalayan homeland which China had annexed in 1950, and of course he was thrown out of China in 1959. While he was here, you may be interested to know, he met Gerry Adams and he prayed with him.
The fact of the matter is, in our world today, Buddhism has been popularised through many media. There is a film that's going to come out very soon, 'Seven Years in Tibet', and the two stars of it are a Bollywood star, that is a film star from India, and Hollywood 'hunk' Brad Pitt. This film is about 'the Lord Buddha', the Dali Lama of the day, and the film traces on-screen his life. Brad Pitt claims to have been greatly affected by the film, another interesting fact is that Richard Gere - who is a devout Buddhist - wanted to produce the film himself. It should come out in 2006 I think, but you can see how it popularises the Buddhist belief - just a bit like 'The Passion of Christ' regarding Christianity. Gaynor Faye, who is an actress on our television screens, a British actress, is also a Buddhist - and Buddhism is popularised through these personalities. I read an article just today in the New York Times that was written on the 3rd of June 2001 by Gustav Niebuhr, who said that Buddhist meditation was going on in the prisons of America, and it was having great results, and it was flourishing in popularity because they're all sitting around meditating, and when they were all meditating they were causing no problems for the prison guards! It's popular because the idea of clearing your mind from things that would suppress, things that would cause you to suffer and be violent - how could it not be popular? Its teaching of 'karma' would encourage you to do good, its teaching of 'reincarnation' would inspire you to do the best you could in your life to come back as some kind of exalted being other than an animal.
Buddhist understanding, although it's not similar to other reincarnation religions where he didn't believe in the soul as such, that it would be reborn, he believed that the elements of a person's personality would be brought together again and would live on in some other life form. He called this, and this is very interesting, he called this 'the self', the self. Now if I could sum up Buddhism for you tonight in one statement it would be this: Buddhism is the self-centred religion, the self-centred religion! It might surprise you that up to now I have deliberately not mentioned God, because God does not figure in Buddhism. Buddhists do not believe in God or a god, in fact they go as far as to say that to believe in God is ignorance. A belief in God gets in the way of you progressing to get suffering out of your mind, and the only reason why people believe in God is because it's some kind of utopia or opium to escape from the suffering that we have, but it actually suppresses us in fear and makes us suffer more.
I'm going to show you a video-clip just now of the 'Most Venerable Dr M. Vajiragnana', from the London Buddhist Vihara, and he expresses in very very clear dogmatic terms how the Buddhists do not believe in God.
[Begin video transcript]
Interviewer: "You can be certain that whoever thought up these programmes wasn't a Buddhist, for no Buddhist would put God first - no Buddhist would put God anywhere. Speculation about eternity is discouraged in the most basic forms of Buddhism, concentration is on the here and now, the need to penetrate who we are, what tight corner we find ourselves in, and how we escape the wall-to-wall craving that equals human life. The one who woke up to an understanding of these things is the Buddha, the path of the Buddha bypasses God as one of the 1001 distractions that serious wayfarers do without"
Dr Vajiragnana: "According to Buddhism there's nothing created, everything comes as cause and effect"
Interviewer: "How is it that the idea of God has arisen in the world?"
Dr Vajiragnana: "As we Buddhists believe, purely due to the fear and also due to ignorance"
Interviewer: "Fear and ignorance?"
Dr Vajiragnana: "Yes, fear and ignorance. Ignorance means the not understanding things as they really are, because when natural things happened they didn't know how to tackle it, and how to handle it, and how to realise it; and they thought that there was a powerful being who does these things, or there was a powerful being behind of all those things. To prevent any danger from that powerful being they started venerating or praising or praying to that unseen being whom they have created by themselves as a god"
Interviewer: "How did we emerge?"
Dr Vajiragnana: "Absolute first cause is not to be found, because it was in the dim past"
Interviewer: "And there's no point spending energy trying to go back to the first cause?"
Dr Vajiragnana: "No point at all, because it doesn't help us to solve the problems in the modern, in the present-day life"
Interviewer: "Does anything come to our rescue when things go rough in Buddhism?"
Dr Vajiragnana: "Nothing from outside. Again we have to go back to say cause and effect, and we have to think about what is in the popular language 'karma and results'"
Interviewer: "Sorry, I didn't get that..."
Dr Vajiragnana: "Actions and results"
Interviewer: "Actions and results - and you have to look into that to explain the position you are in"
Dr Vajiragnana: "Yes, and our position will be explained by karmic theory"
Interviewer: "Karmic theory?"
Dr Vajiragnana: "Yes, karmic theory, and those who have done good things are happy, and they are enjoying; and those who have done bad deeds in the past, they are not happy, or they are unhappy, or sometimes we can say they are suffering"
Interviewer: "We sometimes need, as human beings, a parental hug or a shoulder to cry on - now where does a Buddhist find that sort of comfort?"
Dr Vajiragnana: "We don't have anybody to hug for comfort, as man has created God to have that comfort. In Buddhism we don't have something of that nature, and we are born of our karma or actions, and we are dependent on our actions, and it is our own actions that will do everything for us"
Interviewer: "Where does compassion come in? There's no God to give compassion, where does compassion come from?"
Dr Vajiragnana: "Compassion is not coming from outside, it is a human feeling. It is like not only compassion, love, compassion, kindness, sympathetic joy, equanimity - these are human feelings and human emotions, they're not coming from outside. We can create them, and we can be comforted by ourselves thinking about our own lifestyle or way of living. When we do good things we can be comforted by ourselves: 'Oh, I have done good things. Oh, I have done something good' - and that gives comfort"
[End video transcript]
He's asked 'What then is the source of compassion that you have in your life? Where do you get hugs from?'; and he says: 'Well, we do not need hugs from God, we find our compassion in and of ourselves'. So this is a religion that is a self-centred religion - God is not in any of their thoughts.
Now what I want us to consider just now is Buddhism versus the Bible. We read a couple of verses in introduction this evening regarding the issue of sin, and regarding the issue of salvation, but we want to look at it in a bit more detail. What is the Christian message, and how does the Christian message compare with what the Buddha taught? Well, first of all, of course, the Christian message is found in the Bible and we believe the Bible is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The Bible's supreme message is first and foremost about God, and then secondly telling us about man, ourselves. Now when we ask the question: what does the Bible tell us about God? We find out that God, as revealed in the Scriptures is nothing like the epitome of spirituality found within Buddhism. Buddhism says that God, if He is there at all, cannot be known, and the most likely thing is that He is not there. Whereas the Bible tells us that there is a God, and that God is not some kind of cosmic force or life that is reincarnated through various cycles, through generations, but that He is a personal God who can be known. He is a knowable God, and in fact the whole reason for human life is that we might come to know God.
Now I hope all the Christians here tonight know that the Bible is the revelation of God. The Book of the Apocalypse at the end of the New Testament, of course, is called the book of the Revelation; but the whole Bible has been classified as the 'revelation', because it is the revealing of God of Himself to mankind. So the revelation of God is found in the Bible, but as we come into the New Testament we find that the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures were pointing forth to the day when there would be a Messiah born to declare God to the human race as a human being Himself, so that men could know God in an intimate sense. Now if you were to turn in your Bibles to the book of Hebrews and chapter 1 verses 2 and 3, you would find out there that the apostle writing says that: 'In these last days', these New Testament days, 'God has spoken to us by His Son'. He goes on to define who His Son is: 'whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, upholds all things by the word of his power'.
God is personal, the Bible says, and God is knowable through His Son, Jesus Christ, who made the worlds and upholds all things by the word of His power - because He is not only God's Son, He is God the Son. John 1 that we quoted in our prayer, He is the Word of God, which means 'logos', 'the expression of God's mind'. So if you want to know what God is like, and who God is, you look to the Lord Jesus and you see Him fully declared. My friend, that is how God is known. He is personal, He is knowable, and He is knowable through Jesus Christ the Son. But the Bible also tells us that God is the Creator, the Buddhist friend who was speaking there said that it is futile to think about the origins of life because they are in some mysterious secret era that is dim to the imagination - you cannot really know it, and even from knowing it, it doesn't help you in the here and now and that's all that's important to a Buddhist, the here and now, for there is no eternity.
But the Bible's revelation of God is different, for at the very first verse of the Bible - Genesis 1 verse 1 - it says 'In the beginning God'. God created, God pre-existed all of creation and the universe, and that which is material. Not only does it tell us that God is our Creator who made us, but it also tells us that we are answerable to God because He created us. It's not 'Do your best, and even if you don't do your best you'll come back as some kind of life form, even if it's some degenerate one', but the Bible teaches us in Hebrews 9:27 that it is appointed unto man once to die, and after this the judgment. Revelation 21 tells us of the judgment, that one day men and women without Christ will stand before that Great White Throne, and God will open the books and judge them for the works that they have committed in their life. You see, because God created us, that means we are answerable to God and to God alone, we are responsible beings.
The Bible also tells us that we depend, our very lives depend on God. Now you might not like that fact tonight, but Job could say in the Old Testament Scriptures that his very breath was held in hand of God. Paul the apostle, when he was preaching, spoke to the Greeks about their own poets who quoted - and he was taking the truth and owning it as scriptural - that in God we live, we move, we have our being, and the very fact of our existence tonight in this meeting, the next breath that we take, comes from God and we ought to be thankful to Him for it. That is what the Bible reveals about God, and you can see that not only does it tell us there is a God, but that God is foreign to anything that Buddhism purports.
But the Bible also tells us about man, and it doesn't paint a pretty picture, because it tells us that man, by nature, is a sinner. You know, sometimes I think that Christians don't even believe this - that we as human beings are totally depraved. That does not mean that we are as evil and wicked as we can be, but it means that everything in our lives is tainted by the stain of sin - even our good works, the Bible says, are like filthy rags in the eyes of God. David, the Psalmist, in Psalm 51:5 said: 'Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me'. When life came to me in my mother's womb, I was a sinner - not only do we know from that verse that that's where life begins, but we know that that's where life as a sinner begins!
Romans 3:23 is very clear, Paul said in the New Testament there is no difference: 'For all of us have sinned, and come short of the glory of God'. We are lawbreakers - God has given us His good laws: thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt have no other gods before me, and so on and so on in the ten commandments. We have broken God's laws that He has given us - and the reason why we have broken God's law is that we want to please ourselves, not please our God! John 3:19 says: 'And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil'. We are sinners and there's nothing we can do about that. We please ourselves intrinsically, and because we are sinners our sins against God deserve to be judged. Because of our self-pleasing we are guilty in the eyes of God, we are condemned before God, and God in the Old Testament told man that 'the soul that sinneth, it shall die'. The verse that we read in Romans 6:23: 'the wages of sin is death', and our sins and our iniquities have separated between us and our God, and our sins have hid His face from us. We deserve punishment, the Bible says that we deserve hell, and that there is in eternity a hell where men and women will suffer for their sins.
We are guilty, and the fact of the matter is we are hopeless - do you know this? Do you, even as a Christian, believe this? That the human race, in and of itself, is hopeless - and it doesn't matter how many pop singers sing 'Search for the hero inside yourself', there is no hero inside yourself! There is nothing in you that can commend you to God, we cannot change our nature! Our nature is fallen, our nature is cut off and separated from God - Jeremiah said: 'Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard change his spots? Then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil'. We as sinners cannot do good in and of ourselves.
The Buddha taught that evil comes from without, evil comes from suffering, but if you turn with me to Matthew chapter 15 for a moment you will see that the Lord Jesus Christ - who I would believe any day rather than Buddha - taught that evil does not come from without, evil comes from within. Verse 18: 'But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart', out of the heart, 'and they defile the man'. It's what's in the heart, for in verse 19: 'For out of the heart comes forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man'. The things that you do externally may be sinful things, but the motivations for those things are not external, they are internal. We sin after we follow the lust that is in our heart. The Lord Jesus Christ told us that we have a sinful nature, and John says that the Lord Jesus knew what was in man.
But you know, the wonderful message of the gospel is that even though the Buddhists and other religious systems when asked the question - like this gentleman that we heard tonight - if you need deliverance and you need help, can you get it from any external source? His answer was 'No, we cannot, any help is from within'. Do you know what the New Testament teaches? Not only is humanity hopeless, but humanity has been loved by God! God so loved the world that He did something about its hopeless, lost state. The Bible says that He sent His Son, His only begotten Son, into the world. He came as a man in human flesh, and He went to the cross, and this is the message of good news: the cross, that He took the punishment for all the wrong that you have done.
The answer to 'bad karma' is not 'good karma', the answer to 'bad karma' is Calvary! The cross, the blood of Jesus Christ, for there - as we preached last night - so much suffering in the world, but let's not forget that if anybody knows about suffering it's Christ, for 1 Peter 3:18 says: 'Christ hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God'. First Peter 2:24: 'Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree' - do you realise this tonight? I don't know who's here, whether you're a Christian or not, but even for the Christians this is a great thought: who can get sin away from them? Who can get rid of evil in themselves? Who can get away from its symptoms? Who can get rid of its cravings and its desires, its selfishness, its pride, its envy, its jealousy, its covetousness, and its anger? You can't get away from it, it's in you, it's in your heart, it's in your nature, because we live in a fallen world - that's why there's suffering! Because God told Adam and Eve not to take of that tree, and they took of the tree, and from that moment death came on the world and sin.
How do you get rid of it? Well, Buddhism says that the suffering that's in the world - up here you see a man with his leg up, a grave, someone taking another's wife, a car crash, all these accidents, all these sufferings, all these problematic things in life - well, it's because of craving, the craving causes the sufferings - people who say: 'I have to have it'. So you become a monk, and you sit in a monastery away from external things, you deprive yourself of much food, of sexual relations, of material pleasures, and you become somebody who is transcendent over these things. You decide: 'I don't want it, I don't want it, I don't want it' - the cure for suffering is to eliminate craving, to eliminate your desires, and you follow this eightfold pathway: 'I'll not covet, I'll not steal, I'll not be unkind or gossip', and so on. By following this path, supposedly, you'll eliminate suffering because you eliminate your desires.
Do you know what the sad news is? You can't eliminate those desires: the sinful behaviour that transmits out of your being is because there is a sinner's heart in your breast. It is impossible for you to stop those things, you can't - but even if you could, and you can't, but think about for a moment if you could: what about everybody else in the world? What about the man who runs into your car, and crashes into you, or the man who takes your wife? You haven't desired that craving, but you're suffering from it because of someone else. But what even about yourself? You might be hammering a nail in and, as often is the case, you hammer your thumb - and you didn't desire it, but you're still suffering!
Buddhism is not the answer, the problem with Buddhism is that it's false. The problem with the premise of Buddhism is that it is impossible, it cannot be done! Look at this cartoon: 'That's right Kenji, everything happens for a reason, but no-one has a clue what it is' - that's Buddhism. We're suffering, we're suffering for reasons, but we don't know what it is, and we're content not to know - we just want all the suffering to stop. Well, praise God, God has given us the Bible, God has told us that suffering is because of sin, not the specific sins in our life that cause the specific sufferings, but the sufferings in this world today are a direct result not of bad karma, it's a result of sin. It's impossible for us to change what we are inside, however hard we might try - and do you know what Buddhism is? It's just like every false religion and cult in this world, it is the attempt of man to pull himself up by his own bootlaces, and you can't do it! Religion's definition is man trying to get to God, it is impossible! But the definition of the Gospel is God coming to man, as man, to bring him to God.
Therefore Buddhism is sure to fail, do you know why? It suppresses the symptoms of sin, but it does not solve the problem of its source. Do you know what Jesus Christ does for a man? Because He took our sin on Himself, as if it were His own and was cursed for it by God on the cross, He gives us in return, through the act of faith, His own goodness! He gives us a new heart, a new nature - old things pass away, behold all things become new. Peter says we are given the divine nature, the very life of God in us by the Holy Spirit. What could be better than that? That deals with the source!
You see, the issue is not so much Buddhism versus the Bible, the issue is Buddhism versus the truth. Friends this evening, we have got the truth, God tells us that we're suffering because we've decided we know better than He does, we know what's right, we know what's best. We have not obeyed God, we have done the bad things, and the only result of that is that we can suffer and we do suffer for it. It doesn't matter how a religion, like Buddhism, is sincere, how it is tolerant, how it does good works all around the world; it doesn't matter that Christians at times have done wrong, and have gone on crusades around the world and so on - what matters is this, and you'll not hear this often in this day and age of post-modernism and relativism, what matters is the truth! Jesus said in John 14 verse 6: 'I am the truth, no man cometh unto the Father but by me'.
Now maybe there's a doubter here tonight. Can I give you four reasons why He is the truth, and why you should believe in Him? The first is that His biography was written before His birth - you read the Old Testament, my friend. In the book of Micah, we'll be reading it soon at Christmas, it tells you that He will be born in Bethlehem Ephratah, the very town that Jesus would be born in. It tells us in Isaiah 7 and 9, that His birth would be to a virgin - who could have known that? In Isaiah 9 it tells us that He would be called Immanuel, the same name that the angel gave to Mary that He would be called. We could go on concerning His birth, but when we turn to His life we see that it's unique, the miracles that He performed. Nicodemus, who was a sceptic at one time, could say: 'No man can do these things except God be with Him'. Look at His miracles, look at His wonderful words! Who could teach like Christ? Buddha couldn't, that's for sure! Then there is His unique death: He lived a perfect life, no one at His crucifixion could point the finger and say: 'This is a sin that I saw Him do, this is a word that I heard Him speak' - yet they crucified Him! But friend, do you know that He said that no man could take His life from Him, He laid it down of Himself. He Himself, in His ministry, had prophesied His death and told that He would go into Jerusalem, He would die at the hands of wicked sinners, and He would rise again the third day - and what happened? He died, and He died for sinners, and the third day He rose again - and it has been proven evidentially in historical fact that He is risen, and He is alive! Buddha is dead, but Christ lives, and He is coming again.
Now can I end on a twofold challenge? A challenge first of all to the Christian: there are 500-600 million Buddhists in our world - how shall they hear without a preacher? Will you go and tell them? Right across the Asiatic world there are people who know no other truth but this lie, and the Truth who can bring them to God is unknown to them - have they ever heard the name of Jesus?
What about the individual? What about you? Are you a Buddhist? Have you been imbibing Buddhist teaching? It doesn't matter if you're a Buddhist or not, because most Protestants in Northern Ireland, as well as Catholics, are trying to get to God themselves. It's characteristic of every religion that is false: self-salvation, whereas the message to you tonight is: relinquish your sin, but relinquish yourself and embrace the Saviour! Will you do that tonight? Will you come to Christ?
Let us bow our heads: Our Father, if there are any in this place who do not know the Saviour, we pray that tonight by Thy grace, that the Spirit who loves to testify of Him, would reveal Christ to their minds and hearts. We thank Thee for the prophetic word concerning His birth, for the life that He lived among men, for the death that He died - prophesied as well, and fulfilled to every iota and crossed 't' - and His glorious resurrection. Lord, may the living Saviour reveal Himself to souls in this place tonight - and to all of us who love Him, may we cherish the privilege of what it has been to receive the truth. He could say: 'Ye shall know the truth, and truth shall set you free'. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the eighth recording in his Strongholds Shaken series, titled "Buddhism" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word. The inclusion of Images and diagrams in this transcript is done without intention to breach any copyright restrictions. If this has been done in any instance, please contact us and we will willingly remove the offending item.
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