NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMASAMBUDDHASSA
NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMASAMBUDDHASSA
NAMO TASSA BHAGAVATO ARAHATO SAMMASAMBUDDHASSA
Translation: May veneration be presented to the exalted one who is a Buddha and who has achieved enlightenment by himself righteously. X3
I have received comments about this article stating that I have taken Biblical scripture “out of context”. This makes me laugh! Compare this article to any “Victory Over Death” type of article with a typical Christian perspective and you will see that I give much more complete scripture from the First Book Of Corinthians than anyone! I don’t just allude to certain verses, I give them in their entirety. Any italics that I use emphasize the context. It says what it says, OK! This is the standard response from those who simply don’t like hearing or reading something that goes contrary to their current beliefs. Either you have the courage to expand the perimeter’s of your spiritual knowledge or you don’t. Don’t believe me? Do not take my word for it! Hit the web and compare! You will see that what I say is true!
Something else that I will address before getting started with this is the Christian Apologist claim of “refuting” contradictions in the Christian Bible.
I have never seen a Christian apologist actually do this. What they will do is try to explain the contradiction. Whether the explanation is a valid one is irrelevant to the point. Explaining why a contradiction exists does not refute it as a contradiction. The contradiction is still a contradiction. So just how is the Christian Bible the unerring word of an unerring and perfect creator “God”, when one has to rely upon a story or a rumor or an explanation that goes directly against what the Bible has to say in order to try to explain what the Bible has to say?
They will talk of “original manuscripts” without referencing one that gives anything different in the Greek or the Latin anywhere to explain away anything regarding any of the contradictions of the Christian Bible. When all else fails they will tell us to just have “faith” that someday it will all make sense.
They will give an example or two of how something didn’t once make much sense but then later it did! I will remind such that something that we have come to figure out is not the same thing as banking your spiritual future on something that you hope someday will be figured out.
A Victory Over Death!
All scripture quoted is either from the King James Version of the Christian Bible Or the Pali Canon Version of the Tipitaka , the oldest known extant writing from the oral tradition of what the Venerable Gotama (Buddha) taught as Dhamma (teaching).
The other day I was having a conversation with a man who was eating an ice cream cone on the street, and he told me; “ Well my saviour Jesus was raised from the dead after three days and “conquered death” where’s yours?” “I’ll tell you where… up in smoke!” “It was Jesus who achieved victory over death not the Buddha!” He then proceeded to lick the melted chocolate ice cream off of the silver cross that he was wearing. I have seen many similar things written and I believe this would be a fine time to have a discussion on the topic of just what conquering death means to both the Christian and the Buddhist.
You see, the conquering of death to the Buddhist does not mean that a deity that we worship has been raised or has raised him/herself from the grave and that by believing in that deity as our spiritual savior we gain absolution for our moral misdeeds. Furthermore, as some of my Christian friends have pointed out, according to the Bible, the resurrection of Jesus was possibly a spiritual one:
1 Cor.15: 13: But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised.
1 Cor. 15: 41: There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.
1 Cor.15: 42: So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body.
1 Cor.15:44: it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body there is also a spiritual body.
1 Cor. 15:45: So also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life giving spirit. However most Christians with good overall scriptural justification, will contend that in order for the story to be consistent the resurrection of Jesus was a physical one. For this one need only look at John: 20:27: Then saith he to Thomas, reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless but believing. The words “The last Adam became a life giving spirit” they are then forced to interpret as “metaphorical”, although there are also those who see Paul as more of an early Gnostic Christian who was then written into what became the eventual accepted orthodoxy of the Roman Catholic Church. (1)
Now lets look at the four different gospel stories regarding the story of the resurrection:
1.Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James go to the tomb and find guards and boulder which move after earthquake. One flying angel on the boulder tells what happened.
2.Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Salome go to the tomb, find no guards or boulder and one young man in the tomb tells what happened. But women told no one.
3.Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna, and some other women go to the tomb, and two men in the tomb tell what happened.
4.Mary goes to the tomb to find nothing, she then tells the disciples that someone stole the body so they go back and again find nothing. The disciples then leave and Jesus appears to tell Mary what happened.
I have been told that the resurrection of Jesus is one of the most if not the most important event in human history, so…..
Why couldn’t the four apostle’s who wrote the four gospels get such an important story straight?
I’ve heard Christian’s say… “The stories are complementary”!
How could the other three apostles not remember such a thing, or not think that a FLYING ANGEL OF GOD as something relevant to at least mention?
Contemporary scholars are willing to regard it as the earliest of the canonical gospels (c 70)1, so how reasonable is it that the apostle Mark forgot about a flying angel of God, or simply did not think it worthy to mention along with Luke and John who did the same as well?
We are not talking about a fender bender of a car accident where one person might say that the car that sped off was light blue but someone else might say no, it was dark blue…..
No, what we are talking about here is a FLYING ANGEL OF GOD for cripes sake!!!
How could the other three apostles not remember such a thing, or not think that a FLYING ANGEL OF GOD as something relevant to at least mention?
As well, was it one man in the tomb or two?
There is also a discrepancy between stories regarding whether Mary Magdalene went by herself or with others and if others , the different stories here seem to disagree on just whom and how many she went with. In John’s version of events Mary goes alone.
While were at it, lets not forget the four gospels where there are 3 diferent versions of the last words of Jesus!
46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Matt 27:46 (KJV)
34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
Mark 15:34 (KJV)
46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.
These two would seem to agree…now let’s look at the other two:
Luke 23:46 (KJV)
30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
John 19:30 (KJV)
Complementary do they say?
Would it be correct to say, that either the Bible is the unerring word of an unerring perfect God who ‘inspired’ the writers of the Bible to write what was written or not ? This is an important question. Even if there are contradictions in the Christian Bible that can be explained, would an almighty truthful God want the truth to be written or a contradiction? Just how does attempting to explain a contradiction whether explainable or not, nullify the contradiction as a clear contradiction? Was there some sort of confusion between the ‘inspiring’ and the writing, while the ‘almighty’ and ever vigilant ‘God’ of the universe was ‘inspiring’?
To put it simply, there are those of us who need something to believe in and who naturally are only looking for that when they seek to convince others of the same thing that they have chosen to believe.
I believe that it takes more courage, but that there are those of us who are true spiritual seekers and as such are willing to ask the hard questions and seriously consider the hard answers, whether it’s what we have come to believe so far or not.
Should our ego decide our spiritual fate? Not where I’m standing!
If we choose our belief based on faith alone then one person’s faith becomes just as valid as any one else’s.”My chocolate milk tastes better to me than your soy milk”… So therefore you should drink my chocolate milk instead” If that is the case then how can anyone reasonably suggest that they would be better off with their belief as opposed to anyone else’s?
The Christian Bible (N.I.V.)
1 King Ch.17 17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”
19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the LORD, “LORD my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the LORD, “LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”
22 The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”
2 Kings Ch 4 29 Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.”
30 But the child’s mother said, “As surely as the LORD lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So he got up and followed her.
31 Gehazi went on ahead and laid the staff on the boy’s face, but there was no sound or response. So Gehazi went back to meet Elisha and told him, “The boy has not awakened.”
32 When Elisha reached the house, there was the boy lying dead on his couch. 33He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to the LORD. 34 Then he got on the bed and lay on the boy, mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands. As he stretched himself out on him, the boy’s body grew warm. 35 Elisha turned away and walked back and forth in the room and then got on the bed and stretched out on him once more. The boy sneezed seven times and opened his eyes!
When I look at the New Testament story of the resurrection of Jesus I find that someone raising someone from the dead is not unique and neither is the story of anyone’s resurrection. Elijah and his servant Elisha these stories tell us, raised people from the dead also. Would this make those raised from the dead by Elijah or his servant Elisha in some way more divine than the rest? I believe that would depend on just what type of story one would like to believe about Jesus in the first place. Understandably for the Christian the story of his resurrection would be more special than anyone else’s due to the doctrine of Jesus being slaughtered like a sacrificial animal to atone for the sins of humanity. As we shall discuss, the doctrine of Christianity would have us believe that Jesus while sitting at the right hand of the father or otherwise wandering around Heaven is still wearing the same corpse of a physical body that he was once executed with after being raised from the dead. John 11:18-46 tells the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. I’ve had Christians tell me that this “proves” that Jesus was the son of God, because he was able to demonstrate his power of life over death.
With this theory then Elijah and his servant Elisha would be the personal son of “God” also! As well I’ve had it mentioned to me that what Elijah and Elisha did would not be considered “Biblical” resurrections! Really? Lets see… They were once dead….then they were brought back to life! Sounds like a “resurrection” to me!
Although some may say different, if someone wishes to sin believing that your sins (past, present, and future) have already been paid for… doesn’t quite discourage them from sinning. After all, according to this perspective the sins of the future have already been washed clean with the blood of Jesus!
No need for them to even worry about those sins that they have yet to commit!
Yes, I have actually had Christians tell me this!
Supposedly no matter what good they have done in their lives…if they don’t believe in Jesus and the story of his resurrection, they will be punished and tortured for all of eternity! So Jesus will forgive your sins…. but only when your still alive and only if you get the special question of religion right!
I believe that Christians in general don’t bother with the implications of this sort of thing because… “well heck, I’m saved and don’t have to worry….. sure God and I care about you”…..
Again… 2 Kings Ch.4 29 Elisha said to Gehazi, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take my staff in your hand and run. Don’t greet anyone you meet, and if anyone greets you, do not answer. Lay my staff on the boy’s face.”
Why would Elisha think that Gehazi placing the staff on the boys face would do the trick? Was this a reflection of some sort of “mystical” (some would call it “occult”) knowledge that these people believed that they were aware of ? The walking back and forth, stretching themselves out on the body of the one being chosen for resurrection, etc. Could some of the story of Jesus be a reflection of the belief in this? I believe that this is a fair question regarding such stories of a resurrection.
Why would the boy sneeze 7 times before opening his eyes? If this was not something that they felt worth mentioning I doubt that it would have. Should we believe as well that there is something “special” about the number7 ?
If I sneeze 7 times would it be considered good luck? I mean, he did sneeze 7 times before opening his eyes from being a dead child, right?
O.k. let’s assume that there was a physical resurrection. Just for the conversation’s sake…….Let’s do that…….
A physical resurrection. Let us take a good look at what this really means now shall we?
A good place to that would be the Digha Nikaya sutta #22 of the Pali Canon Tipataka: The Maha- satipatthana sutta (The Great Frames of Reference.) …….
(4)“Furthermore…just as if a sack with openings at both ends were full of various kinds of grain-
wheat, rice, mung beans, kidney beans, sesame seeds, husked rice-and a man with good eyesight, pouring it out were to reflect ‘This is wheat. This is rice. These are Mung beans. These are kidney beans. These are sesame seeds. This is husked rice,’ in the same way, monks, a monk reflects on this very body from the soles of the feet on up, from the crown of the head on down, surrounded by skin and full of various unclean things: In this body there are head hairs, body hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, tendons, bones, bone marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, pleura, spleen, lungs, large intestines, small intestines, gorge, feces, bile, phlegm, pus, blood, sweat, fat, tears, skin-oil, saliva, mucus, fluid in the joints, urine.” – Venerable Gotama
This is what the physical “victory over death” regarding the physical resurrection of Jesus represents.
According to Luke 24:51 all indications would suggest that all of this was taken with Jesus as he left for heaven…. “And it came to pass, when he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven”.
However, whatever the crucifixion and resurrection might mean otherwise to some, regarding a “victory over death” this can only indicate a personal victory over death, and not one for the rest of humanity. Why? Let us take another look at the book of 1Cor.15: 23: But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at his coming.15: 24:then comes the end. When he hands over the kingdom to the God and father, when he has abolished all rule and all authority and power.15: 25:For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.15:26: “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.” It is true that in the First Book Of Corinthians Ch.15:54, Paul quotes Isaiah 25:8: “Death has been swallowed up in victory” but lets look at this a bit closer shall we?!1Cor.15:51: “Behold, I shew you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall be changed, 15:52: In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye at the last trump for the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised incorruptible and we shall be changed.” Cor.15:53: “For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.”1Cor.15:54: “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruptible and this mortal shall have put on immortality then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, death is swallowed up in victory.” After this further on then we have 1Cor.15:57: “But thanks be to God which giveth us the victory through the lord Jesus Christ.” Paul also quotes the prophet Hosea 13:14 at 1Cor.15:55 as Hosea seems to taunt death: “O death where is your victory O grave where is your sting?” Ha! Ha! Ha! Yeah that’s right! So where is that “bad ass” sting O Mac Daddy Death? Ha! Ha! Whew hue he he! Ha! Ha! Ha! … OPPS! Wait a minute! According to Paul, This is supposed to happen after the return of Jesus and the resurrection of humanity….. someday. Let us all make a careful note here of the fact that according to the First Book of Corinthians unless Jesus has returned and has since won his “victory over death”, which would also mean of course that we have all missed that all important news flash, the victory being spoken about has yet to someday occur! When Christian evangelists discuss the victory over death topic and the First Book Of Corinthians Ch.15 this is what they are usually sure to ignore!
There are those of course who will say “It does not matter, I believe I will go to paradise someday because I believe in Jesus, and that now is my victory over death!”
Too bad for such that the First book of Corinthians Ch.15 would not seem to agree, as we are being told here that death is swallowed up in victory after the second coming of Jesus.
Once we can acknowledge this, we can better understand the fact that the victory having yet to be won means that there is still an active spiritual war in progress.
Think about it…can any of us who still live in this world today seriously doubt that fact?
In case anyone is interested, The First Book Of Corinthians is acknowledged to have been written by the apostle Paul at Ephesus, an ancient Greek city on the West coast Anatolia Greece, between 53-57 C.E. (2)
So just how can anyone regarding the presumed resurrection of Jesus, talk of a “victory over death”, when the disciple Paul discussing the second coming and return of Jesus tells us that the last enemy that will be destroyed is death? Does the Christian not read their own scripture?
If death is still with us then it has not been conquered or destroyed, and nor has it been “swallowed up in victory”. Why would anyone say otherwise? Because we now have a chance to go to heaven? According to their own Christian Bible, others went to heaven long before Jesus was ever born!
Although John 3:13 tells us that no man has ascended into heaven this is contradicted by:
2 Kings 2:
11 As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. (Italics mine)
As well we have……
5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: “He could not be found, because God had taken him away.”
How spiritually mature for the Christian to have such empathetic joy for what would seem the personal accomplishment of their savior! And what an accomplishment! From all present scriptural indications we can presume that Jesus is still wearing this physical body and all that goes with it after having been raised from the grave more than two thousand years ago!
Thankfully, according to 1Cor.15: 42 -15:44 we can look forward to the Christian paradise as being something more than a 144,000 strong population of heavenly zombies, having been freshly brought forth and now alive once again from the grave.
Remember that 1 Cor.15: 52 puts it pretty simply for them: in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet, for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. Their resurrection is (thankfully) the spiritual kind.Either that, or we’re talking about a physical body that is somehow immortal, so if you don’t like what you look like after you’ve been raised…too bad, it’s yours for eternity!
The Buddhist understanding of a “Victory Over Death”.
Before I get started with this I would like to point out a distinction between the Christian and Buddhist approach for “salvation”, something I believe to be very critical in such a discussion.
Where as Christianity seeks to be subject to a God of whatever name might be to their choosing,
to be rewarded or reprimanded as such said God deems desirable, Buddhism seeks to provoke by way of a methodical process one t wards a spiritual progression which culminates in one sharing consciousness and actual being with what is termed in monotheistic terms, “God”.
“Samsara” and “Nibbana” are not a place but a process and cessation of that process.
The whole purpose of Venerable Gotama’s teaching is what is referred to as “Nibbana”in Pali.
(Sanskrit: Nirvana). Nibbana is often misinterpreted as some sort of “celestial suicide”, because the word is used in application to the extinguishment of fire. Actually because fire was thought to be in a state of “entrapment” when it burned, the “extinguishment” was actually considered a form of “unbinding”. The Venerable Gotama gives a very good illustrative example of this in
Pali Canon Tipitaka: Samutarra Nikaya 12.64:
“Just as if there were a roofed house or a roofed hall having windows on the North, The South, or the East. When the sun rises, and a ray has entered by way of the window, where does it land?”
“On the Western wall lord.”
“And if there is no Western wall, where does it land?”
“On the ground, lord.”
“And if there is no ground, where does it land?”
“ On the water lord.”
“And if there is no water, where does it land?”
“It does not land, lord.”
Notice that it does not say that with no place to land, the sunray ceases to exist.
When the sunray “lands” in this analogy you have birth in “Samsara”, not a “place” really
But a process of being identified or “binded” by ones circumstances as a consciousness of “this” or “that”.
When you have such birth or becoming in the process of samsara it is because the consciousness has now become limited by its circumstance caused by attachment and grasping and is now defined by wherever it has “landed.”
A true and lasting“ Victory over death”, is to therefore avoid this process.
Lets look at the Pali Canon Tipitaka: Majjhima Nikaya # 72:
“Even so, Vaccha, any physical form by which one describing the Tathagata ( Pali:“One who has gone forth” a term used to describe the Buddha) would describe him:
that the Tathagata has abandoned, its root destroyed… not destined for future arising
Freed from the classification of form, (Samsara) ‘reappears’ does not apply.‘does not reappear’ doesn’t apply. ‘both does and does not reappear’ doesn’t apply. ‘neither reappears nor does not
reappear doesn’t apply.”
In the Pali Canon Tipitaka: Digha Nikaya sutta #22 The Maha – satipatthana Sutta, The Venerable Gotama gives the formula for the methodical process as a sort of “road map- vehicle” approach with Vapassana as the roadmap and Jhana (concentration) meditation as the vehicle.
There are those who might say “ Well that’s a nice theory but what about the here and now?”
The Pali Canon Tipitaka: Anguttara Nikaya 3.55 has something for those who wonder about something more immediate…
“Overwhelmed by desire anger and confusion one aims at ones own ruin, others ruin, at the
ruin of both, and one suffers much mental pain and frustration…
If however, desire anger and confusion are eliminated, than one aims neither at ones own ruin,
nor at others ruin, nor at the ruining of both, and one suffers neither any mental pain nor any frustration at all! Hence is Nibbana realizable right here and now, in this very lifetime, immediate, inviting, intriguing, and intelligible to each intelligence!
Exactly in so far as anyone has made real the complete ceasing of all greed, hate and confusion,
just in so far, to exactly that very degree- is Nibbana realizable, right here and now in this very life, immediate, inviting, instant, interesting and intelligible to each and every intelligent being.”
Venerable Gotama (Buddha)
If the issue of being born into the process of Samsara is resolved… then the issue of “victory over death” from that process has been well dealt with also.
There are those who might find topics such as mindfulness, meditation, contemplation etc., just a bit of hard work! Why do the hard work to find their own infinite potential for spiritual development when they can just take the name of some sort of deity (weather its officially called that or not) who presumably has risen from the grave as their Lord and savior, or perhaps if they “summit their will” to a name given to represent the “Lord of the universe” who we must as well summit to we are told, or else be punished and tortured for all of eternity for not doing so etcetera, etcetera…
I exhort all to engage and embrace the challenge of learning new things and discovering their spiritual potential while still on this planet in their current physical form. What a truly precious opportunity we all have.
There are those who say: “If I can’t see it, feel it, hear it, smell it or touch it… it doesn’t exist.”
with all due respect to their approach, perhaps they have forgotten that science never would have made much progress past the chiseling of the first wheel if they didn’t create tools like the magnifying glass, the microscope or the x ray machine to allow them to comprehend things that they would not normally otherwise be capable of comprehending.
This is why meditation for the discovery of the spiritual self can be likened to a spiritual microscope. This is why it is such a useful tool for ones spiritual salvation, capable of unlocking ones own infinite spiritual potential.
A victory over death … I am thankful that the Venerable Gotama (Buddha) both achieved that victory and showed others the path to do so as well.
After all, a spiritual victory by its own nature should concern that of the spiritual, termed by the First Book Of Corinthians the ‘imperishable’ not the ‘perishable’.
May you all be blessed with the best of all things spiritual.
Bhikkhu aggacitto a.k.a. Brother Mark:)