If Christianity was not on the Table
It may shock you, but if Judeo-Christianity were not on the table, the path of the noble Buddha would most likely have been my Choice for religion. Astonished?
Let me explain. I greatly admire Buddha (5th – 4th BCE) in a certain sense. Like the courageous Martin Luther (1483 – 1586 AD), Siddhartha Gautama, a 16th-century monk and theologian, was a great religious reformer of his day.
I may never consent to his religion, but I deeply respect how he as a prince abandoned everything – his cloistered life of ease and abundance, including his wife, son and religion of birth, Hinduism, in pursuit of the truth and a way out of karmic suffering.
We all must encounter a defining moment or what I often call a ‘burning Bush” encounter on the journey to spirituality. Buddha’s defining moment came at twenty-nine when he encountered a sick man, an old man, a dead man and an ascetic. Siddhartha lived a very protective life within his father’s kingly love and care, and we can imagine that he had never seen these unpleasant aspects of life before.
So he was profoundly moved and confused.
No longer could he ignore the existence of suffering; no longer could he continue his selfishness, enjoying his life of privilege after realising that old age and death are our inevitable fate. At this time, he chose to forsake his sheltered princely life, become an ascetic, and search for the truth to the universe.
Buddha searched for Christ
The cold of the sodden cement slates in the early spring morning pierced up into the severely bruised, fatigued and exhausted muscles of Jesus. He stood barefooted in the Praetorium while Pontius Pilate, the Roman magistrate of Judea (26–36 CE), cross-questioned him – the accused. Pilate examined Christ with the very same mystery Buddha abandoned it all for.
What is truth? Pilate, like most westerners, unfortunately, did not linger long enough to understand the words of Jesus, “…for this purpose, I was born, and for this purpose, I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37).
Yet Buddha, as an eastern prince, was nothing like Pilate as a Roman procurator, in both a religious and a philosophical sense. Moreover, the Buddhism he founded differs vastly from Western Buddhism. You may be further surprised to learn that Buddha’s religion is a lot like Christianity.