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Buddhism: Is Nirvana attainable?

Episode 83

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Hosted by
Carl Joseph

Carl is a biblical scholar, minister, husband, father and life coach. In his mid-twenties he had a powerful encounter with God and saw miraculous healings as a result. He passionately shares these stories and empowers others to fulfill their God-given potential.

Did you know approximately 6% of the global population practices Buddhism, with India, China and Japan being the largest proponents? Many Hollywood celebrities also hold to the tenets of Buddhism having gained popularity in recent years. This eastern religion has its roots in Hinduism, but does it provide a way to heaven (Nirvana) or a false path, which leads to destruction? Is Buddhism unique or simply another branch of the beguiling Mystery Religions which have been prevalent throughout the ages? Join, Carl now as he investigates the origins of Buddhism and its founder Siddhartha Gautama

Here is a complete transcript of the podcast (below)…

Friend I’m talking today about the religion of Buddhism. Now, it’s is estimated that about 6% of the World’s population are practicing Buddhist’s, which would equate to about 420 million people across the globe. The precise number of followers is difficult to ascertain because of Buddhism’s ability to assimilate itself into any culture and subsequently influence that culture’s underlying beliefs. Primarily Buddhism is practiced mostly in the nations of Thailand, Cambodia, Myanamr, Sri Lanka, Laos, Taiwan, China, Japan, Mongolia, Tibet, Bhutan, Vietnam and finally Hong Kong. But friend it’s also on the rise within this nation and Europe. It influences more people than you think, especially within the celebrity circus.

Let me give you a list now of some celebrities who practice Buddhism and you might be surprised at some of these would include: Jennifer Anniston, Orlando Bloom, Angelina Jolie, John Cleese, Richard Gere, George Lucas, Courtney Love, Jennifer Lopez, Sarah Jessica Parker, Brad Pitt, Oliver Stone, Steve Wynn, Mark Zuckerburg, Keanu Reeves, Steve Jobs, Patrick Duffy and finally Penelope Cruz. Anything but the truth, right? Friend I find it ironic that celebrities who live lavish lifestyles follow a religion which at its core claims that human desire is the source of all suffering. Well these guys aren’t really denying themselves very much or living out there so called faith.

Not many people realize that Buddhism stems from Hinduism. The founder of Buddhism was a gentleman called Siddhartha Gautama and he was born in 560 BC in the town of Kapilavastu, which at the time was in Northeastern India, but is now the nation of Nepal. To give you a flavor for what time period this was, we’re talking about a thousand years before Islam originated and of course over half a millennia before Christianity came on the scene. This was also the time when Haggai and Zephaniah were doing their prophetic rounds and Carthage was one of the dominant military forces in Europe. Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Now Siddhartha’s father was a feudal Lord and when his son was a late teenager he married a local princess. Now Gautama’s life was one of vast opulence and comfort. He grew up in the household of a Lord and married a princess. This man was naive and led a very sheltered life. Now just as King Solomon documented in the Book of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes he rapidly grew very dissatisfied with his luxurious lifestyle by his early 20’s.

The legend of the ‘four Passing Sights’ tells how he became aware of the world’s suffering in spite of his parents’ best efforts to shelter him from the rest of the world. One day he saw an old man, a person suffering from a disease, a dead man and a shaven monk. On this fateful day he saw for the first time that great suffering does exist within the world and as a result of this he chose a path of renunciation or repudiation. In layman’s terms; he chose a life of self-denial. However, friend, it’s very easy for a man barely out of his teens, married to a princess, to choose a life of self denial isn’t it? When you’ve got everything to begin with, it’s harder to be so self sacrificial if you’re born in the gutters of Calcutta of Delhi for example.

When Gautama was 29 years old, he abandoned his family and began his search for enlightenment, which is the final blessed state marked by the absence of desire or suffering. He went and visited various Hindu masters and then decided to become a dedicated ascetic. Friend if you’re not familiar with asceticism, it’s a lifestyle characterized by few possessions or luxuries. It’s a rigorous self-denial of bodily pleasures and needs. However, it also believes the physical body is evil and therefore Gautama who practiced this for six consecutive years would often beat and cut himself in deeds of self mortification. So much so in fact he nearly died of his wounds, coming very close to the point of death in his pursuit of self denial. You know it wasn’t just Gautama who believed Asceticism was a means to enlightenment, Socrates also believed that self restraint was the foundation of all virtue and therefore asceticism was an integral part of the educational tradition of the Greeks, although beating one’s self like Gautama is not well documented within Greek culture.

So, after realizing that beating yourself to death wasn’t the path to enlightenment as he perceived it. Gautama practiced what is called the Middle Path by keeping himself from the extremes of asceticism and indulgence by using meditation. During one of these long periods of meditation, while sitting under a fig tree, he allegedly attained enlightenment. So much so he entered the state of nirvana, while he was still alive. The state of nirvana is a place according to Buddhists, where personal desire becomes extinct and there is no longer individual consciousness. You could call it their heaven and Gautama claimed he reached this place whilst still alive. Once he attained this enlightenment in 525 B.C., he then became the Buddha or the Enlightened One and the tree under which he sat came to be known as the Bo or Bodhi, meaning wisdom tree.

Does that sound familiar friend? Do you remember another tree of wisdom or knowledge in Gen 2:9? Could it be that Buddha was somehow influenced by the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Obviously this was not the same tree as in the Garden of Eden certainly but he came to the realization of salvation through knowledge rather than by saving grace through faith in Christ. As I said before, there are two branches in this world. One branch is represents saving grace through faith in Christ and another represents salvation through knowledge and this is the path all false religions take, including the Mystery religions and Buddhism is no different. Friend none of us can be saved through knowledge whether it’s esoteric or exoteric.

Now for the next 45 years Gautama or Buddha built a large core of disciples and proclaimed his message in Northern India. His disciples knew him only as the Buddha amongst several other names and he eventually died of food poisoning in 480 B.C. What’s interesting is that Buddha’s approach to religion was in sharp contract from Hinduism out of which he had come. Hinduism followed philosophical speculation, rituals, magic, and superstition. Buddha also rejected the caste system of India and any forms or ritual or occultism. So he definitely had a desire for truth and also hated injustice.

Buddhism puts a heavy emphasis on desire as the source of suffering and identifies the achievement of selflessness as the cure for this situation. Of course we as Christians know that desire is not the issue at all, by denying desires that are godly, very little is achieved for good in this life. I call Buddhism the religion that tunes out and checks out because their entire existence is based on distancing themselves from their community and total self absorption in the pursuit of nirvana. Now here are some of the tenets of Buddhism, some of which are noble certainly, but without a savior all of this is redundant:

  1. Desire causes suffering
  2. Personal peace will be found when we abide in that which is permanent
  3. It is best to live a moral life
  4. Self discipline has spiritual vale
  5. Meditation and prayer are important
  6. Compassion is a virtue that should be nurtured.

Friend, based on this list, Buddha was certainly searching and you could argue he was not far from the Kingdom of God in many ways. He definitely came up with a pretty good list of attributes to live a successful life based solely on this list and some of these are somewhat scriptural. For example, number 2, to abide in that which is permanent, is to abide in Father God and His word. It’s certainly better to live a moral life as God says so and certainly prayer and meditation are important within the context of God’s word. Meditation of course from a Christian viewpoint is focusing and muttering God’s word under one’s breath, not the clearing of the mind to make it more susceptible to demonic suggestion or influence.

In many ways Buddhists are seeking the truth but they’ve come up with their own false framework or path to attain it. In Buddha’s time living on the other side of the world he would have no access to the Hebraic scriptures at the time, some of which were still being written, but once more God makes it clear that His creation and the conscience we are born with are also witnesses for Him. If Buddha came to the realization there is a one true god then God will not hold it against him because at the time Christ had not yet come. But for John Cleese, Sarah Jessica Parker and George Lucas etc. Christ came two thousand years ago and they are without excuse.

Now when it comes to practicing monks today, they follow an order laid down by Buddha in His lifetime called the triple jewel which comprises of Buddha, Dhamma (the law), and Sangha (the congregation). Each devout monk must have a shaven head, wear a yellow robe, practice meditation and affirm the doctrines of Buddha contained within this triple jewel. Their goal in this lifetime is the attainment of the state of nirvana as Buddha supposedly accomplished sitting under his fig tree after long hours of meditation. In their Buddhist order, these monks sit under a teacher who are bound by ten vows, which are: neither to kill nor to steal, to abstain from impurity, falsehood, and intoxicating drinks, not to eat at forbidden times, to abstain from the folly of dancing, singing, music, and the theater, to use no manner of adornment, not to sleep in a high or a broad bed, and to receive neither gold nor silver. The monks are also bound to celibacy and poverty and they cannot be ordained before their twentieth year. Twice a month the monks of each monastery assemble for the confession of sins, and annually a retreat is held both for rest from the pilgrimages and to gain new strength for the coming season. Even in the lifetime of Buddha women were admitted to the order and nunneries were built for their accommodation. The truth is there are many forms of Buddhism in the world today friend. In Japan alone there are 200 sects and sub sects of Buddhism, so it has a medley of different aspects of its faith.

Friend, sin is the reason for suffering in this world, not desire. No matter how long one meditates under a tree or stares at a white washed wall, you’ll never achieve so called enlightenment or the path to nirvana. This my friend is a lie from the pit of Hell and quite frankly it’s a self obsessive compulsion to spend hours alone in pursuit of something that doesn’t. Buddhists today are deeply dissatisfied and frustrated, with a false hope that one day they will reach this so called place of Nirvana, but the truth is friend, they desire salvation through Christ like everyone else, and require a savior to be rid of their sin issue. Meditation is not the way friend. In fact, those who practice Zen Buddhism are in fear of losing all rationality. Unfortunately, friend, this religion is another vain attempt by Satan to counterfeit Christianity, by offering it as another path that leads to frustration in this life and eternal damnation in the next. None of these counterfeits confront or overcome the problem of sin. No form of Buddhism has a place for the Biblical doctrines of God, man, sin, salvation or resurrection. Most Buddhists are either pantheistic or atheistic.

Friend, beware also of the practice of yoga in the United States. Yoga fronts itself as a form of bodily exercise but as one progresses in its practice it focuses more on the meditative or spiritual aspects of Yoga. This practice of meditation is rooted in Buddhism in the pursuit of enlightenment as I’ve explained. Since the 1960’s, yoga has been on the rise and it teaches disciplines that run parallel with Buddhism. You could say Yoga is the evangelistic division of Buddhism but without the Western mindset being aware of its darker agenda, it lull’s people into its frustrating practice of meditation which desires to clear the mind. Therefore in this clear state of mind, it becomes more receptive to demonic attack and programming. Some yoga practitioners espouse there’s a dormant special force at the base of the spine called kundilini, or better known as the coiled serpent. This special force is supposed to rise up within the mystical points of the body toward the brain, culminating in a feeling of euphoria or bliss, and finally making connection with the Sakti, one of the goddesses of Hinduism.

Friend, if your yoga instructor desires to get spiritual then run out the door as fast as you can. This is nothing more than communing with the demonic realm and very dangerous. As with other cults Buddhism wears a cloak of benevolence and masks itself as means to better humanity, but it has fallen into idol worship, mystical practices, and a path to salvation through knowledge. We need to reach out to our Buddhist brothers and sisters with the Gospel and engage with them when we have an opportunity. I also wish to thank Dr. Kenneth Boa for granting me permission to use some of his source material in this broadcast.

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Episode 83