Members of the Faculty, Students, and Guests of the Seminary:
          In this second lecture comparing Buddhism and Christianity we will consider the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  The word Father as we use it refers to God as the Creator, the Preserver and the Destroyer of the world.  We will consider these terms both from the point of view of conventional language(the language of common man) and religious language ( the language of Dhamma).
                    1. "GOD" IN ITS GENERAL MEANING
           From the distant past long before they received Buddhism until present day, Thai Buddhists have had a god.  The word "Phra Chao" is truly Thai and refers to something which one fears and must beseech or flatter, an instinct among all thinking beings.   The word "phrachao" began to be used for the King. A child will have one kind of god and an adult another, a well-educated man  another, each according to the concept that will satisfy him, or according to his education.  Many people know God only in the sense of "person" according to conventional language.  They do not yet know God in the true sense of the word.  They do not know that God is neither a person, nor mind, nor a spirit.   They do not know that in the religious language God means Dhamma or the power of Dhamma which is self-existent according to Nature.
           As long as man still holds that God is a person, as we think of "person" in conventional language, so long will man not know the real God, and so long will there be disagreement, clashes and conflicts.
           For the convenience of our further comparison we will now state clearly these two definitions: The God of conventional language is the God to whom is ascribed some sort of body, a God who loves, who becomes angry, who wants this or that, who can do both good and bad and so forth.   As  for the God of religious language, he does not have a body, does not occupy any place, does not love, does not get  angry, is above all desire, does neither wrong nor right.  However, it may be said that the God according to conventional language can be so interpreted as to mean the God of religious language in every respect.   But the problem is whether believers in a personal God are able to understand this changed meaning.   If they can't, then their God is still a God for children, or for people who are only beginning to learn and there is no way for them to approach the real God as can be done by a person of higher intelligence and wisdom.   There is no way for them to arrive at that goal which is the goal of the Bible or of any other religion.
        It appears that those religions have no God and they are then classed as atheistic religions.  Buddhism and Jainism are such religions.  Another group of religions mostly uses easily understandable conventional language when talking about God, and they are then classed as theistic religions.  Christianity, Hinduism and Islam are such religions.  The classification of religions into two groups, atheistic and theistic, is a very shallow classification and does not touch the real essence or meaning of religion.  The reason they are so classified is because people in general are only able to understand things in a shallow way and thus are unable to get down to the heart of religion.  Consequently they come to despise religion more and more.  And especially they despise God.  Finally some of such people declare that they have no religion and they feel proud to be atheists.
        I shall now speak about 'God' as found in Buddhism, in order to show the characteristics of "God in terms of religious language."


 


         God as Creator is known in Buddhism under the term 'avijja'. This means the lack of knowledge, ignorance.   Ignorance is the power of nature which is the cause of all existing things and as such the cause of sufferings.
     God as repenting that he had created the world( as is found in Genesis 6/6,7) is known in Buddhism as 'vijja' or knowledge  opposed to the ignorance of not realizing that the creation of anything is the creation of suffering itself.
         God as controller of the world, who punishes or rewards creatures, is known in Buddhism by the word Karma or the Law of Karma.
     God as destroyer of the world is known in Buddhism  under the name 'vijja', knowledge in its capacity to bring all suffering  to a final end.
         God as omnipresent witnessing all that man does, is again known in Buddhism as Karma or the Law of Karma.
        However, ignorance, knowledge and Karma are all included in the single term Dhamma.  Moreover, such things as kindness, beauty, justice, truth, etc., all of which can be thought of as being God's or parts of God, are all included in Dhamma, Dhamma being all-inclusive.  Therefore, Dhamma is God. There are four aspects of Dhamma:
                1.  Dhamma is the nature of things
(SABHAVADHAMMA)
                2.  Dhamma is the Law of Nature (SACCADHAMMA)
                3.  Dhamma as duty performed according to the Law of Nature. (PATI-PATIDHAMMA or NIYYANIKADHAMMA)
                4.  Dhamma as fruits of practice, or of realization (VIPAKADHAMMA or PATIVEDHADHAMMA)
          All these four are altogether called Dhamma.
           The Law of Nature can be seen easily as standing directly in the position of God.  But equally the other three also stand in the position of God as shown below and must be respected and honoured in everyway.
       The Dhamma as Nature is something that God created, or to put it in another way, it is the (result of the)will of God.  The nature in the garb of different natural phenomena manifests the will of God better than anything else and in fact all natural phenomena constitute the very God.
          As for the Dhamma as duty, we should respect it by practising it strictly and this is the same as abiding by the will of God strictly in order to attain to God.
          Now the Dhamma as results, or good fruits which man should receive should be honoured in a way that in Christian usage is called Thanksgiving for the grace of God.  This grace of God refers to the highest thing that man can receive.  To earnestly desire for this thing is in itself to show great respect for God.  This kind of respect has more meaning than any bodily postures or words uttered according to custom to glorify God.
     In order to understand Dhamma better we might draw a parallel between the four aspects of Dhamma and four Christian conceptions.
Dhamma as Nature = this world with its living creatures.
           Dhamma as the Law of Nature = God
           Dhamma as Duty = Religion as system or practice.
           Dhamma as Fruit or Result = Consummation or Salvation.
           The Dhamma in its four aspects can be found completely in the man or in the life of man.  Thus says the Buddha: "The world, the cause of the world, the cessation of the world, and the way to the cessation of the world-all these things I have shown to be found in this fathom-long body complete with perception and mind" (Rohitassa-sutta, Catukkanipata, Anguttara-Nikaya).  The so-called world here refers to the world of sin and suffering as it also appears in the Christian Bible. The world amounts to creation, the cause of the world amounts to creator, the cessation amounts to consummation and the way to the cessation amounts to redemption.  All these are included again in the one word Dhamma.  Dhamma here has been used in the sense of God as mentioned above.  To put the whole matter in another way, the world itself is the will of God.  The cessation of the world is the final will of God and the way to the cessation of the world is the act of God in helping the creatures of the world.  So all these four things are God either directly or indirectly and cannot be otherwise.  Thus God in this sense is also God in Buddhist terms of religious language.  This God can be met with within this life by any one who has wisdom and who is sufficiently trained.
           If things of nature such as earth, water, fire, air, etc. were not already in God from where would God get these things to create this so-called universe?   If there were anything else apart from God then God would not be perfect.   Therefore, nature itself is included in the word God and there is also   to be found Satan or the Devil, call it what you may.  So we can s
         As for the Law of Nature it is easy to see that it is included in the concept  of God.  If God did not have or was not himself, the power which we call the law of nature, then whence would he get that power to create and control all the things?  Buddhism calls the law of nature Dhamma, in the sense of the natural order of things.
         As for the Duty of Man according to the law of nature ,that is directly the Duty of GOD.   The law of nature requires duty( according  to itself).   If God does not  have duty, or is not himself the natural duty, how can he help, love or punish man?   To take God in this sense and respect him, or hold onto him as such (as duty), is to do the will of God in the best sense.
         Finally the fruit that we receive according to the law of nature, or consummation, is also included  in the word ' God'.  Buddhists also call this fruit of practice, 'Dhamma'.  Though they may give it different names such as fruition, supermundane Dhamma, realization, and so on, ultimately it all comes down to one word 'Dhamma'.
 



 



 
 
 
    3.  "GOD" AS USED IN CONVENTIONAL LANGUAGE
      God in conventional language refers to God as a personility with emotions like man, such as anger and love.  He cannot be in such things as excrement because they are dirty and smelly.  They are too low for the highest to dwell in or to have anything to do with.  As for God in the sense of Dhamma, that is, the law of Karma, the law of cause and effect, the law of creation and destruction and so on, he is impersonal, having no feeling as man.  This kind of God knows no cleanliness, no dirtiness.  Therefore this God can be in everything, even in the dog excrement.
                  Here we should say something about certain terms that some Buddhist sects use.   They are: Buddha-nature(Buddhabhava), voidness or emptiness(Sunnata), suchness or thusness(Tathata), etc.
    They are applicable to everything including dog excrement.  This is simply because these terms do not have reference to a person.  The word Buddha in Buddhabhava implies voidness(meaning absence of a self) of the person called 'Buddha'.   The Buddha-nature is but 'Dhamma' or a reality characterized as different stages of development of knowledge.  Here knowledge signifies understanding of voidness of 'I' or 'self' at different levels.   Development of this knowledge is comparable to the germination of seed into a full-fledged tree.   It(Buddhabhava) may be in latent or dormant state like ungerminated seed or may be beginning to sprout, or growing up, or fully-grown as in a man who has attained enlightment.   Each stage of this development can be called the Buddha-nature. Each stage has equally the characteristics of voidness or emptiness.   It is hidden deep and cannot be taken by appearance or seen on the surface.  The Buddha says: "He who sees the Dhamma sees me" (Itivuttaka, Khuddaka-Nikaya).   It means that he who sees only the person of Buddha has not really seen him.   Only when he has seen the true Dhamma, which is in the Buddha's body and is in everything including his own body, only then can it be said that he has seen the Buddha in a way that the Buddha would approve.   So he who has seen the body of the Buddha has seen him only in the conventional meaning of the word 'see', but he who has seen the Dhamma has seen the Buddha according to the religious meaning of the word 'see', and it is the true Buddha that he has seen. But the Buddha, in the religious meaning of the term, can be everywhere at all time.  Just in the same way, Dhamma in the sense of God, can be in every place even in the excrement of a dog, in its capacity as the law of Karma, the law of cause and effect, and the law of impermanence. So, to put it in other words, God in conventional language is simply a word which is used when speaking to children.   Or it is used by grown-up people who, being intellectually immature, feel and think like children.  They will use the word 'God' in that way until they are intellectually matured enough to understand, as it were, the meaning of 'God' according to the religious language.




     

    4. GOD Always Conveys a Hidden Dharmic Sense. The Idea is that GOD, as Spoken of in the Layman's Language, Whereever Found in the Scriptures of any Religion, could be turned usually into the Sense of the DHARMIC GOD.
          God's creation as described from previous session, was creation with regard to the spiritual(Dharmic) side, as known to Buddhists.   This implies that man, in the process of evolution, developed his mental faculty, from the stage of a low animal to a higher stage whereby he was no more considered an animal.  That is to say, he became a real man both in the physical and spiritual sense.  According to scientific theory, man in physical structure is believed to have appeared approximately two hundred thousand years ago,  whereas the age of our physical world is not less than a billion years.   Calculating from what has been said in the Bible, the creation of the world   could have taken place in roughly eight  to ten thousand years.
               In Genesis 3/24, we are told how God failed in forbidding man to take the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and how He succeeded in preventing him  from taking the  fruit of the tree of life.   This means that    , prior to that time, man had lacked human consciousness in so much as being unable to distinguish good from evil, male from female, the clothed from the naked, and husband from wife.   Even in normal sexual intercourse between  the male and female, the attitude of being husband and wife did not creep in as it did with man in the age of "taking the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil". Because of the very discretion man owned  as a result of his being so developed in mind, he has prided himself as a perfect man, which has consequently  raised in him still more conflicts concerning good and evil, so much so that it has given rise to another kind of suffering which is solely  with man and is not found in animal.  This is exactly the death penalty which man deserved from God as a result of his taking the forbidden fruit.   Man has burdened himself  with the task of having to tackle his life-problem regarding birth, growth, decay and death, which is due to his failing to take the fruit  of another tree known as the tree of life whose fruit of immortality would have given man an everlasting life---as everlasting as God Himself.
    In the Thai version of the Bible, the "tree of life" is translated as " the tree of prosperous life", which in my opinion, falls short of the original sense.   It should be translated precisely as "life" which in itself means " not dying"; for life is what doea not die.   The moment man has taken the fruit of this tree, he will not die, that is, he will secure the wisdom known in Buddhism as "Amata-Dhamma"--the Deathless State, or the seeing of non-self.   Thus, there is nothing which can die, be born, grow old and get sick.   In a way, he is said to attain the Aranhantship in Buddhism, which is characterized by certain expressions such as Gaining the Deathless or Entering the Great Immortal City, that is, Attaining Nirvana within this very life-time as consciously felt by an individual.  The Genesis also contains what we call in Buddhism the Lokuttara-Dhamma or Amata-Dhamma.  If the translation of the Bible is done correctly in Thai, the Buddhists will surely hold as great a love and a high reverence for the Bible as they do for their Tripitaka.  For this reason, a new and careful revision of the Bible in the Thai language is recommended.  The term "prosperous life" according to Buddhist concepts involves a never-ending series of still more refined and more subtle forms of suffering.  To put it precisely, "life"  would refer to another kind of life known in Dhamma as the Eternal life which Christ often talked of in his discourses and which is known in Buddhism as "Amata-Dhamma" or as Eternity or Immortality.
                 What I have so far said, is sufficient to show that whether it is the word "GOD", or "the World", or "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil", or "the tree of life" -----all these can be given a Dharmic sense apart from hte literal meaning.   Then one will see that Christianity has also presented a sublime form of Truth on the Ultramundane plane as Buddhism and as other religions of like Dharmic principles, and is not a mere "ancient Hebrew tale" as it is called by some.
    In Genesis 2/7 we find : "And the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man become a living soul."  "The man of the dust of the ground" here refers to man in the remote past who, despite his possession of a human body, nevertheless lacked human consciousness.  He was a dumb animal, no better than an earthen structure in human form.  Down to the period when he had undergone certain developments which enabled him to distinguish himself from all other animals, God was then said to breath into nostrils the breath of life.  This act can be taken as another new creation--the creation of the spirit or the mind which is the reason for our belief that the creation of the world must be one with regard to the creation of the spirit.
    In Genesis 2/21-22 we read: " And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof.   And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man."
                      No one would be willing to accept the above passage as it is written, without expecting a concealed meaning, and one worth looking for.   From the Buddhist viewpoint, it conveys the idea that woman has not got the same right and function as man.   This is supported by another statement in Genesis 6/2 which calls man "son of God" and woman "daughter of man"-- an inference to show that man and woman are not equal.   Man was created from earth, a symbol of strength of character and that is why he is called "man", whereas woman was but a part of his body and hence called "woman" which means part of a man.   Man ranks himself as the son of God but woman is just the daughter of man; so how can the two be equal both their rights and their functions?  It should be borne in mind that God ( or nature) did not intend man and woman to possess the same likeness and the same  potentiality.   A woman will have to bear children and feed them from her breast.   The attempt in our modern days to assign to both sexes the same office is striving against the will of God or blindly going against nature.
    In Genesis 2/16-17 we also find: " And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat. But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die."   It can be simplified by this explanation. Any suffering that arises in man is a result of his getting attached to what is considered good and evil. Sometimes he is so harrassed by feelings of dislike of evil that he dare not put his hand to anything. Sometimes he is so occupied with the thoughts of doing good as to be unable to sleep at night. Some go so far as to commit suicide to escape being accused. This attachment to good and evil generates desire and craving and illusion which rate as suffering itself. It may also account for the all-round growth of greed, anger and delusion which causes man to suffer. As soon as man rids himself of the attachment to good and evil, releases himself from the idea of virtue and sin and lives entirely beyond the conception of good and evil, he is said to attain Arahantship or the State of Nirvana according to the Buddhist.




                                             5. GOD THE SON
         As the Son, Jesus Christ may be considered in four different lights:
                          1.  As a Son of David
                          2.  As a Prophet
                          3.  As the Son of God
                          4.  As God Himself
           (a) Jesus as a son of David
                    This is his physical state, much in the same way as the Lord Buddha being the son of King Suddhodana, and his little dharmic value.  Jesus himself discounts the significance of this relationship when he reported by Matthew(12/49) and Mark(3/34) as saying: " For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in Heaven, the same is my brother and sister and mother". Hence, the attempt to trace the genealogical relationship back to David, an ancestor of Joseph, who is not his true father any way, must have been of later fabrication in order to enhance Jesus family status.
                  (b) Jesus Christ as the Prophet
                The term "prophet" has also been applied to Jesus Christ in his own words as quoted by Matthew 13/57: " A prophet is not without honour save in his own country and in his own house".  Similarly, Lord Buddha is also recognized as one of the religious teachers.   Some even refer to the Buddha as a pagan, as distinguished from heathens when referring to outsiders.   In the Thai language, pagan is applied to all outsiders, as if we don't have a pagan among ourselves.   A religious teacher or a prophet also belongs to a pagan class.   The reason I mention this is that there are some ignorant Buddhists who refer to Jesus as a pagan in a degrading sense.
    Jesus used parables to get his points across in his Sermon of the Mount and so did Lao Tsu in Tao Teh Ching.  The parable of the sower of seeds mentioned in Matthew 13/3-9 very much resembles the sayings of Lord Buddha.  Take for instance, "They that mourn are happy, they that hunger are contented, and they that are persecuted are blessed."(Matthew 5/4-6-10).  Very much the same thing appears in Buddha's sayings.  And just as Jesus, Buddha also gave such startling injunctions such as "Kill thy father and thy mother", "Be thou ungrateful"(DHAMMAPADA).  These statements have special meaning by themselves, for they are similes in the Dharmic language.
               The Christian principle of kindness as taught by Christ in Matthew 5/39-40: "But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him on other also and it any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak too", represents the highest form of forbearance.   The counter-part in Buddhism is Lord Buddha's saying: "Hadst thou been captured by a robber, who cutteth thy flesh with a saw unto thy bones and thy bones unto the marrow, and should any of thee, O Bhikkus, feel even as much as the least enmity towards the robber, thou art not of me." Let anyone compare these two statements in all their subtleties.  It is safe to imply that these two religious are the religions of mercy.  It is pity that religious men in modern days have again succumbed to the law "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth". That is why the world is constantly harassed by wars and crisis of enduring permanence.
             Miracles have always been the most baffling issue in all religions. For those in constant fear, who havenot quite grasped the Dhamma yet, miracles must of course be resorted to, otherwise they would never pay any attention to religion at all.   Even a common act like a persuasion which has convinced a man against his former convictions, may rightly be spoken of as a miracle.  The Lord Buddha himself had made use of, and has recommended to others to make use of this sort of miracle.  He disapproves of, and has forbidden, the use of witchcraft or other supernatural means, which, he points out, can be performed by any magician.  Had Lord Buddha resorted to magic, he could have easily been regarded as one of the magicians, just like Jesus who, upon having expelled the devils, had become known as owing his success to the Prince of the devils, rather than as the son of God.
                      For instance, by "causing the blind to see," we interpret blindness as ignorance, so that the Lord Buddha, by virtue of his being enlightened and thus ridding himself of ignorance or blindness, has also prescribed a remedy for the world to follow.   The world has thus been saved from blindness when the way becomes clear or the means to eliminate sufferings becomes understood, etc.
               We may however conclude that what is considered miraculous, whether in Buddhism or in Christianity, presented in fairy-tales for children or child-like adults must be reinterpreted in the Dharmic sense, otherwise it would only make us seven times more ignorant as if seven more devils have entered our spirit.
    (d) Jesus Christ as God Himself.
              The New Testament contains suggestions that Jesus Christ also possesses heavenly messengers and kingdom.   This might show that Jesus Christ is here referred to as God Himself.   We might reason, for instance, that in Jesus Christ is godhood.  His body contains the soul of God, and that soul is endowed with the attributes of qualitive faculties of God.   Lord Buddha says: " He who sees the Dhamma sees us; he who sees not the Dhamma, sees us not, even as he be holding our robes." (Itivuttaka, Khuddaka-Nikaya)  This means that those who see the Buddha are those who see the Dhamma in his mind, not just his body or his mind only.   For that which lies in his mind, is the Dhamma or God.   "Buddha" is the "Dhamma", and "Dhamma" is the God.
                    Hence, Jesus Christ in his fourfold role as a son of David, a historical teacher of religion, a son of God and God, may then be understood in the same way as we Buddhists are familiar with our Lord Buddha.



                          6. God the Spirit or God the Soul
             From what John 1/1-5 said in the New Testament:
              1.  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
                   2.  The same was in the beginning with God.
                   3.  All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
                   4.  In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.
                   5.  And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

                    What then is 'the Word'?  I think the Word is what may be referred to as the Spirit, which has been rendered into Thai by 'the Holy Ghost' or 'the Soul'.  Such rendition has caused a great deal of misunderstanding among the Thai readers.   The 'Spirit' being wrongly conceived, the concept of God the Spirit must consequently be also misunderstood.  God has therefore been taken in the sense of consciousness or soul.   "The Word" signifies Life and Light as clearly shown in the above passage.  What we call the Spirit comprehends Life and Light in full measure.  Hence it cannot be the equivalent of 'the Holy Ghost' or 'the Soul' as rendered in Thai, unless these two words are defined to reflect the special meaning not present in the ordinary sense of the words in Thai, or even in Pali from which these two words are derived.



                                     7. God the Trinity
                    In order to explain the Trinity to a child, we might use such analogies in the language of the layman as follows:
                The Father in Heaven may be thought of as the owner of an enormously vast quarry of gems.
                    The Son - Jesus Christ - is the man who brings forth the gems for distribution to all mankind.
                    The Spirit ( or the Soul) represents those gems.
                    These three are one.   They all have gems in common.   Their functions are in unison and inseparable.   They resemble the Buddhist Trinity - the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha.
    The Buddha discovers an immense resource of gems.
                    The Dhamma is all the gems that exist.
                    The Sangha brings the gems to the whole world.
                    Thus defined, let anyone see for oneself the relationship between the Trinity of the Buddhist and that of the Christian.
                    The Trinity, viewed from this angle, would enable Christians and the Buddhists to work together side by side in a way that has never been possible before.
                    This will enable one to know the real God in the Dharmic sense and enjoy the company of God for successively longer periods until one lives with God, without leaving his company even for a moment.
    The result of this would be the same as that of realization of the Dhamma by the Buddhist, that is, making the mind clean, clear and calm.
    God as the Law of Karma is to be seen in the performance of action culminating in the end of both good and bad Karma.   The end of good and bad Karma is to bring the cycle or wheel of becoming to a standstill, which refers to the very state of peacefulness.
                    God the Son, i.e. Jesus Christ, whether in the sense of a son of David, or a historical Teacher or the Son of God, or even as an embodiment of perfection, has strangely enough a career in resembling that of Lord Buddha.
                   God the Spirit should be viewed as the NIYYANIKA-DHAMMA of Buddhism as the best gift to mankind the spiritual gem which is the most gratifying.   The concept of God the Trinity is common to all religious known to man in some form or the other.
       God in its general meaning  In Genesis 2/7 we find
    God in Terms of  #In Genesis2/21-22
     Ther are four aspects of Dhamma  In Genesis 2/16-17
    God as used in conventionalDhamma as
     Buddha,God & Dhamma are the sameJesus used parables
    God always conveys a hidden Dharmic sense Jesus Christ as God Himself
     In the Thai version of Bible God the Spirit
     The Buddha discovers an immense  God the Trinity
    God as the Law of Karma Buddha's way

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 Summary

  Thompson                                      Christ&Buddha                          HOME


 
 








 








































 
 










 
































 
 












 








































 
 











 




































 
 




 






Click to see more great pages on Society.
1