I was watching this video on YouTube about Buddha  and Ashoka, and was intrigued by the summary of ascetic Buddhism.  The Buddha taught that the path to enlightenment was achieved through the elimination of Desire.  This Eightfold Path can be summarized as:

The Noble Eightfold Path describes the way to the end of suffering, as it was laid out by Siddhartha Gautama. It is a practical guideline to ethical and mental development with the goal of freeing the individual from attachments and delusions; and it finally leads to understanding the truth about all things. Together with the Four Noble Truths it constitutes the gist of Buddhism. Great emphasis is put on the practical aspect, because it is only through practice that one can attain a higher level of existence and finally reach Nirvana. The eight aspects of the path are not to be understood as a sequence of single steps, instead they are highly interdependent principles that have to be seen in relationship with each other.

1. Right View: to see and to understand things as they really are and to realise the Four Noble Truth Wisdom
2. Right Intention: commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement.
3. Right Speech: mental purification can only be achieved through the cultivation of ethical conduct. Ethical Conduct
4. Right Action: unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind.
5. Right Livelihood: one should earn one’s living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully.
6. Right Effort:  mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. Mental Development
7. Right Mindfulness:  the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition.
8. Right Concentration: a state where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object.

As I read through this list of eight disciples, I was struck by the fact that so much of what passes for Christian Theology from the pulpit and in popular books is just Buddhism with a Jesus veneer.

  • “Do these 5 things and you will be happy.”
  • “Follow these 5 action steps to be Spirit filled.”
  • “Commit to our Church’s Vision and follow our Mission and you will be a disciple of Jesus.”

I think there is something missing in much of what is popular in books and sermons.  Look at your pastor’s sermon from this week.  Reread your favorite book by that author you love to much. Ask yourself…

  • What makes your worldview uniquely Christian?
  • Can you replace the name “Jesus” with the name “Buddha” and get the same message?
  • Does your theology point people exclusively to “The Way” or to “The Eightfold Path of Enlightenment?”

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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