Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Ravi Zacharias on Buddhism, Christianity, and Suffering

According to Buddhism, the source of suffering is desire. Eliminate desire, and you eliminate suffering. The goal, then, is complete detachment.

When his son was born, the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) famously declared: "A fetter has arisen." That is, he perceived his son as an obstacle to his enlightenment. The Buddha then abandoned his wife and child in order to pursue detachment.

Ravi Zacharias compares this response to suffering with the response of Christianity:
"It does not seem accidental that the night Gautama Buddha left his palace to pursue an answer to pain and suffering was the very night his wife was giving birth to their son. In his quest to eliminate suffering, he actually walked out and left his wife alone in the throes of her pain. Contrast this with the God of the Bible, who came into this world Himself in the person of His Son to suffer on the cross, to embrace pain and suffering for the sake of humanity. Buddha walked away from his son and from pain. In Christianity, God is part and parcel of the solution." (Why Suffering?, p. 131)


  1. Maybe we need an Answering Buddhists, because this actually surprised me. It seems to have been deliberately concealed much as we are not meant to learn the dirty truth about Islam (although I've always known he walked out on them, I just didn't know when - and I always thought that was shameful of him to do regardless.)

  2. As a Professor of Religion, I have never heard from any source that Buddha left "on the night of" his son's birth, but that it was in the days shortly after. Not that it makes a great deal of difference, but I've simply never heard or read that in my research.

    Further, in the Hindu culture of the time, it was not considered unacceptable for a man to leave his family to go on a quest of this sort, though from the Western and particularly Christian perspective, it is. And in fact, even among his family and tribe, there would be those who objected to it, though it was not necessarily strictly forbidden in Hindu practice.

    The contrast, however, is rightly drawn. There could not be more difference between Christ and Buddha with regard to pain, its cause, its solution, and how to deal with it. The Buddha offered only imperfect practices and many lifetimes of hopeless re-embodiment bound by Karma, while Christ died once for all, to deliver us from sin, and death, and the pain and suffering that afflict us. The Buddha calls pain and existence "illusory," yet Christ readily takes it upon Himself that we may not have to carry it, in this life or through eternity. And Buddha ultimately offers only a future of "perfect emptiness," while Christ will bring us into His endless glory. There is just no comparison.

  3. a wonderful story to this topic of a man who found Jesus Christ after having been searching the truth in Buddhism.

    Free PDF download here:
    or get a (non profit) print edition here:

  4. A cursory search shows that the "Buddha" left on the night of his son, Rahula's birth.

  5. Yes, Siddhartha Gautama was a prince who was sheltered by his father. He managed to get out of the palace whereupon he encountered human suffering. In time he left the palace, including his wife and child, to seek enlightenment as to how to end human suffering. After many attempts including total self denials this prince born to luxury had the key insight that human suffering is caused by desire.

    He gained many followers in his way and eventually returned to the palace at which time various family members joined his as followers.

    A few key points
    Siddhartha Gautama never claimed to be god, the son of god, or a prophet of god.
    He taught to never take a teacher at face value, including himself. He taught his followers to discard his words if they did not seem to make sense to them.
    It is not all desire that is to be eliminated, rather, unhealthy, or unattainable desires. The serenity prayer echos a similar sentiment.

    The idea that this has somehow been hidden is nonsense, or that Siddhartha Gautama taught to be callous or indifferent or whatever...

    Siddhartha Gautama was dedicated to ending human suffering in this world, not some imaginary afterlife.

    Jesus offers only the nonsensical story of scapegoating human torture and sacrifice in a mock death that was no death at all so that you can be forgiven for doing all the things god knew you would do before he created you so you can worship him and beg forgiveness and go to heaven for all eternity.

    What a disgusting mashup of disjointed suffering nonsense Christianity is.

    1. Jesus did in fact say in John 3:12 "If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?"

      He actually wanted his followers to understand that if his teachings or even the rest of the old testament teachings could not be trusted in matters of things we can observe for ourselves then we have no reason to trust it in regards to matters of the afterlife. Paul furthers explains in Romans 1 how God makes his eternal power and divine nature plain to see in the things he has created. Jesus also taught people to count the cost of discipleship. The bible practically begs you to make the observations for yourself and consider how it will affect your life. There is nothing unreasonable about that.

      The scapegoating of sin is not an arbitrary decision either. Its God's way of offering mercy and justice simultaneously since he is the perfect source of both. I would challenge you to offer some rather clear evidence of the death being staged, as that is a reasonable request for me to make of you and for you to make of yourself.

    2. Dear Stardusty Psche,

      I suspect the Buddhism that you are referring to is the one re-packaged and sold largely by the Western world, advertised by celebrities who are searching for something and willing to latch onto anything.

      Repackaged or not, Buddhism is a sinister danger.

      It is dangerous for the struggling student who has a yet un-diagnosed learning disability but is told that their problem is because of they were a uneducated murderer in a past life.

      It is dangerous because it twists emotions into what and has people straining out gnats and swallowing camels.

      It is dangerous because it relies on a force known as kharma that decides your yesterday, today and tomorrow, so that you are never fully in the moment that is before you, never seeing the truths as they are.

      It is dangerous because it is packaged as a less harmful version of religion, a faith without someone to have faith in, which means that it can be taught as a better way of thinking while thinking itself is being destroyed.

    3. Siddhartha Gautama was dedicated to ending human suffering in this world? Hardly! What greater selfishness and shirking of responsibility is there than the way he treated his wife and child? Buddha's answer was to shut down the conscience. Buddhists become antisocial & empty. People are designed to be fulfilled. Love exists because Jesus, the One who is LOVE exists and He offers us Himself if we will receive Him. Don't shut down because of wounds or rejections. Let Jesus heal you!

  6. Interesting contrast... run from pain to 'gain enlightenment' or stay and help the one suffering through their pain. This is Jesus on the cross... he didn't leave us to our own pain and suffering, he came and stood with us!!

  7. That is stupid and heartless!!

  8. I typed comment in about Jesus relieves suffering on earth while he was here and for all generations following according to the will of God as revealed in Bible..to stardusty..not sure if it submitted or not. I might resubmit with scripture refs.

  9. Dear Stardusty Psyche:
    I didnt like your critique of Christianity and Jesus. Your comments displayed your complete ignorance of Jesus s life while he was on earth. Your words about Siddhartha wanting to relieve suffering on the earth ..real suffering as opposed to what you presented as some future nonexistent anyway eternal pain...were an unjust vtiticism of what you imagine Christian theology to be.
    There is no one more real than Jesus Christ...while he was on earth..in his death..and in his current and future activities.
    Jesus s whole minisyry on the earth addressed everyone s physical and psychological pain and suffering and relieved it. Every person who asked Jesus to heal their physical sickness and pain..Jesus healed. He put an end to their suffering right there and then. Likewise Jesus relieved psychological and emotional pain immediately by giving forgiveness and cleansing for sin...which is often the root of psychological and emotional suffering.

    Jesus still ministers both of these reliefs of suffering to people today through the ministry of the Holy Spirit through other human being believers on the earth.

    Jesus deserves every credit for as King David so aptly put it in the psalms..Bless the Lord oh my soul ..and all that is within me...Bless His Holy Name...and forget not ALL His benefits..who forgives ALL my iniquities ..and heals ALL my diseases. Bible quote.

    No one provided more pain relief than Jesus while he was on the earth..and even more pain relief since he left it.

  10. one important point should be noticed here.when Buddha left his palace he was an ignorant person he left his place not for the pleasure but for the answers of suffering and pain to mankind.He need not to leave his house and luxury for pleasure. He sacrifice his all pleasure and luxurious life for mankind

  11. To desire not to desire is a desire. Bhuddism is a form of nihilism, which self destructs. What was paid for at the first birth? If all life is suffering, why am I so happy?
    Bhuddism is a dead end that seeks to die.

  12. The real secret to Buddhism, for those who are not aware of the faith, is that anyone can practice it. You can certainly enjoy and employ certain aspects that could enhance your life. Many people utilize Buddhism in some way every day but just do not realize it. It may be Buddhist art, meditation, a visit to a Zen garden or even yoga.
    buddhism sacred book

  13. I was raised in liberal Protestantism, "born again" thru the street ministry of Jesus people in the early 70s, and eventually obtained a degree from a Baptist seminary. After 40 years of studying and teaching the Bible, I came to a place where I could no longer continue as a Christian. Over the years since, I have found the teachings of the Buddha to provide the clearest spiritual path I have kknown.It is not perfect, nor do I believe it covers everything, but I.believe it faces the questions of life more honestly than Christianity.