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Buddhism & Christianity. The Numbers. 4 th Largest Religion in the world 6% of the World’s Population are Buddhist 360 – 550 Million People China, Thailand, Japan, Burma, Sri Lanka have the largest Buddhist populations. 6.3 Million Buddhists (.07% of population) in the U.S.

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the numbers
The Numbers
  • 4th Largest Religion in the world
  • 6% of the World’s Population are Buddhist
  • 360 – 550 Million People
  • China, Thailand, Japan, Burma, Sri Lanka have the largest Buddhist populations.
  • 6.3 Million Buddhists (.07% of population) in the U.S.
  • 7 Buddhists Temples in Nashville
buddhism in america
Buddhism in America
  • Over the last century Buddhism in America has grown considerably.
  • first Buddhist temple appeared in San Francisco in the mid 1800’s.
  • In 1960’s Buddhism saw great growth and interest as the counter culture from America and Europe began to intersect with Asian cultures and in particular the exodus of the great Lamas from Tibet into India. Up until this point Tibetan Buddhism was mostly monastic, very remote and secretive. Now in America it is widely practiced by lay practitioners and many of it’s teachings have been made available.

It is said that Buddha gave 84,000 teachings, or meditations for the 84,000 various propensities of individuals. In the west this has shown to be true as people typically gravitate towards a particular school, teacher and practice that resonates with them. While Tibetan Buddhism in America has gained in popularity, there has also been great interest in Zen Buddhism from Japan and Vietnam, Chan Buddhism from China and Theravadan Buddhism from Burma, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Each school has their own presentation, particular focus and meditation practice.
  • Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Guatama (Sid-artha, Gow-tama) (563-483 B.C.) during the 6th Century B.C.- same time people of Judah were in exile in Babylon
  • Siddhartha Guatama became known as Buddha
  • His life can be divided into 3 periods: enjoyment, enquiry, and enlightenment.
  • He was born into the warriror caste of the Shakya

Tribe in the town of Kapilavastu in N.E. India, now Nepal.

His Father tried to shelter him from the outside world, so

He would never encounter any form of suffering. Siddhartha

Ventured outside the palace and was exposed to 4 different

Kinds of suffering: old age, sickness, death, and poverty.


This had a profound effect on Siddhartha. He became disillusioned with wealth and deeply concerned for the poor.

He would leave his wife and child and life of luxury and commit

Himself to discovering the source of suffering and how to eliminate it.

He began to practice extreme asceticism. This almost

Killed him. He stopped eating and almost

drowned in a river while bathing.


He ate after almost drowning, walked to the city of

Bodh Gaya, where he set under a fig tree by the edge of a river.

He vowed to not rise again until he had attained enlightenment,

And subsequently went into a deep state of meditation.

During his meditation, he was severely tempted by

Mara, the evil one. He resisted temptation and attained

Enlightenment and became the Buddha.

Bodh Gaya is now the site of the holiest temple in the

Buddhist world, the Mahabodhi (“Great Enlighenment”) Temple.


Buddha’s immediate goal was to eliminate the cause of suffering.

His ultimate goal was to become liberated from the cycle of Samsaraby teaching how we can cease craving and thereby eliminate our attachment to and beliefs in this existence of the illusory self.

If we don’t crave anything then we will eliminate karma and be released from the realm of illusion. At that moment of enlightenment, the person achieves the state of Nirvana – the ultimate goal for the Buddhist.

*Interesting to note that one must crave to not crave any longer. One must have a desire to not desire any longer. One must be obsessed with self to eliminate self. This creates enormous problems.


His road to enlightenment became known as the Middle Way, because it avoided both extremes of affluence and asceticism, both had only caused him to suffer.

After attaining enlightenment, Buddha traveled to Benares, and in the Deer Park gave his first sermon – the contents of which have come to be known as the Four Noble Truths.

He would win thousands of followers.

He started communities called sanghas.

He spread his message fro 45 years until he died of

food poisoning .

His last words were: “Decay is inherent in all component things!

Work out your salvation with diligence.”


For 2 Centuries Buddhism did not spread beyond the borders of India.

Then King Ashoka, who ruled India from 274 – 232 B.C., became so revolted by bloodshed while leading a battle that he renounced all such fighting.

He converted to Buddhism and devoted himself and his resources to spreading Buddhism.

He sent missionaries to Syria, Egypt,

Cyrene, Greece, Sri Lanka, Myammar,

and Thailand.

While it spread it also split into major divisions.


Primary Issue that caused the split was whether enlightenment is accessible to everyone or only a few.

Those who said it was accessible to everyone were called Mahayana (“the greater vehicle”).

Those who said it was accessible to only a few were called Hinayana (“the lesser vehicle”), but later became Theravada Buddhists.

types of buddhism1
Types of Buddhism

There are lots of other types of Buddhism.

Some of the other popular ones are Ch’an Buddhism introduced by Indian scholar Bodhidharma in China in the 6thcentry B.C.

Ch’an Buddhism is a technique for meditating on the “Vast Emptiness” within oneself.

Migrated to Japan and was predecessor to Zen Buddhism which was eventually brought to the U.S. by Japanese scholar D.T. Suzuki in early 20th century.

Another popular Japanese form of Buddhism is Jodoor “Pure Land” Buddhism = a transitional realm from which it is easier to attain nirvana than from the realm of earth. One enters the Pure Land through faith in Amitabha – or Amida – Buddha and by repeating newbutsu(Namu-Amida-Butsu).

There is also Vajrayana or TantraBuddhism. These Buddhists uses occultic techniques for the development of spiritual power. They believe in tapping into a spiritual power that allows you to attain enlightenment faster. Vajrayana’s gave the world the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama is Tibet’s exiled Spiritual and Political Leader. He is considered to be the 14th reincarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.


Although there are a ton of variations of Buddhism and some extreme forms, there are some beliefs that most Buddhist share.

The common beliefs are contained in the Four Noble Truths

1st Noble Truth – Life consists of suffering. This concept of suffering includes the experiences of pain, misery, sorrow, and unfulfillment.

2nd Noble Truth – Everything is impermanent and ever-changing. We suffer because we desire those things that are impermanent.

3rd Noble Truth – The way to liberate oneself from suffering is by eliminating all desire. We must stop craving that which is impermanent.

4th Noble Truth – Desire can be eliminated by following the Eight-fold path, which consists of 8 points. These 8 points can be categorized into 3 major sections.

8 points1
8 Points
  • *These are not steps that must be done in sequential order. Instead, they are attitudes and actions that are to be developed simultaneously with each other.
  • The first two points serve as the foundation from which the other points flow.
  • When one has Right Understanding, he sees the universe as impermanent and illusory and is aware that the “I” does not, in reality exist. Right thought follows Right Understanding in that you renounce all attachment to desires and thoughts of illusory selves.
  • As a person attains to such literally selfless perspective, he or she finds the power to speak well of others (Right Speech), to obey Buddhism’s moral commands or abstentions (Right Actions), and to avoid making his living through an occupation that breaks the moral precepts of Buddhism (Right Livelihood). .
the silas
The Silas
  • The Silas are the code of ethical conduct a Buddhist must follow. They are moral precepts. They must refrain from:

1. the taking of life

2. stealing

3. Immoral sexual behavior (monks must be celibate).

4. Lying

5. The taking of intoxicants.

  • The Samadhi is mental discipline that addresses one’s attitudes and state of awareness.
  • It is a deep state of consciousness in which all sense of personal identity ceases.
  • Through Right Effort one can prevent evil from entering the mind.
  • Through Right Awareness one is especially conscious of the events in one’s life.
  • Through Right Meditation one can attain the bliss of enlightenment.
  • a transcendent state in which there is neither suffering, desire, nor sense of self, and the subject is released from the effects of karma and the cycle of death and rebirth. It represents the final goal of Buddhism.
  • Synonymous with Heaven or Paradise.
  • Buddha described Nirvana as: “There is a sphere which is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air, which is not the sphere of the infinity of space, nor the sphere of the infinity of consciousness, the sphere of nothingness, the sphere of perception, or non-perception, which is neither this world, neither sun nor moon. I deny that it is coming or going, enduring, death, or birth. It is only he end of suffering.”
  • A person is not annihilated when entering Nirvana because the person never existed anyway.
  • There is a split within Buddhism as to what the scriptures are or are limited to.
  • Theravada’s believe the scriptures are only Buddha’s sermons, rules for monks, and philosophical teachings. These are referred to as the “three baskets” of teachings. They believe the canon to be closed after these were recorded. They are also referred to as the PaliTriptiaka. It is 70x longer than the Bible.
  • Mahayana’s saw the Canon as remaining open. They include writings from Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and Tibetan sources. The popular scriptures they believe were added are: the Lotus Sutra, the Perfection of Wisdom, Diamond Sutra, and the Heart Sutra.
  • Vajrayana scriptures are the Kanjur and the Tanjur.
evangelizing buddhists
Evangelizing Buddhists
  • Buddhist have a hard time understanding how Christians can believe in a God with emotions like love and anger. Buddhists see emotions as negative. Emotions mean attachment to ego.
  • “Most Buddhists have never heard the Gospel because they have misheard it.”
  • Buddhists believe in many paths to God. The emphasis is on the paths that one must walk. Salvation is based on human effort to a Buddhist.
  • A Christian must be able to explain the exclusivity of the biblical way of salvation as having to do with the need for reconciliation between God and man due to a broken relationship caused by man’s rebellion. God has provided the means for reconciliation and forgiveness through Jesus, as we confess our sins and place our trust in Him.
  • Jesus is not just another spiritual Master on par with Buddha. He is greater than Buddha.
  • Encourage a Buddhist friend to read the gospel of John and study who Jesus claims to be.
evangelizing buddhists1
Evangelizing Buddhists
  • Start with common ground. There are similarities: desire can cause suffering, personal peace will be found when we abide in that which is permanent, it is best to live a moral life, self-discipline has spiritual value, meditation and prayer are important, compassion is a virtue that should be nurtured.
  • Buddha taught that the source of all suffering is desire and in order to eliminate suffering you must eliminate desire. This is impossible because it requires desire to eliminate desire. Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.”
  • Christians believe in a personal God. Buddhists believe that ultimate reality is an impersonal Void or Emptiness. A personal God can hear our prayers, empathize with our suffering, and love us. God chose to have his Son suffer in our place to make an end possible for his people’s suffering.
  • The individual is important and has significance in Christianity as well as the community of believers. It is not one over the other.
evangelizing buddhists2
Evangelizing Buddhists
  • The result of salvation is not the individual disappearing in the Void, but being joined in an interpersonal relationship with God.
  • Talk about sin. To a Buddhist, sin is a matter of both ignorance and of karma. Sin carries no consequences with respect to breaking one’s relationship with the Void. We can only deal with sin individually, on our own. The Void can’t fix the problem or offer a solution. There is no forgiver to the Buddhist. You don’t ask forgiveness from the law of karma.
  • God cares about our suffering and offers forgiveness for our sins to create a personal relationship with him
  • A great bridge to discuss is the Buddhist belief in transferring extra karmic merit to the one who believes in bodhisattva. Jesus can transfer his merit to us if we believe in him.