6.3.8 The Problem of Suffering In Buddhism
Buddhism has so focused on getting relief from suffering that it has ended up assuming that if God exists then He created suffering, and therefore their ‘Great Brahma’ was very limited in understanding to have created such a mess. And therefore Buddha’s teachings, which are the way out of suffering ultimately, are far superior than those of the ‘god’ who created suffering. Can Buddhists not see what is going on here? A man, Buddha, is setting himself up above God. Effectively, Buddhism has reduced God to an ignorant force, merely because they lack the faith to accept that suffering is used by Him in ways which we are too limited to fully understand. In short, Buddhism lacks any dimension of faith . It seems to be yet another humanly designed religion which, as it were, is placed on the shop shelf in the hope desperate, hurt people may buy it. Faith is belief in what you cannot see, and according to Jesus and the Bible, faith is the essential quality our currently invisible creator seeks for in us (Heb. 11:1). For Buddhists, devotion to buddhas and bodhisattvas is channelled by the use of artefacts like images and temples. Why? Simply because Buddhism offers humanity a short cut around what is essential for a true relationship with God, namely, faith. In this Buddhism has many similarities with Catholicism- Catholic rosary beads are in principle similar to the mani religion wheels of Buddhism. The question arises as to whether you want mere religion, or… a real and dynamic relationship with your creator, the one, personal, Almighty God who seeks above all else a relationship with you, and to eternally save you into His Kingdom. Likewise the way in Sri Lanka, Buddhist kings have always protected the relic of Buddha’s tooth is similar to the way in which supposed nails from the cross are venerated by Roman Catholics. The practice of Buddhist pilgrimages to places where Buddha is known to have been, or to some object connected with him, is akin to Catgolic pilgrimages to Lourdes and other supposedly holy places. Stupas believed to contain relics of the Buddha are found all over Asia, just as the Catholic church has established shrines throughout Europe and the Middle East. My friends, this is all just mere religion. It isn’t for me, and I plead with you to rise up to something more real and true.
Buddhism has correctly diagnosed the problem of humanity. “Subject to decay, disease, death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair, the desire comes to them: `O, that we were not subject to these things!' `O, that these things were not before us!' But this cannot be got by mere desiring; and not to get what one desires, is suffering”. But Buddhism looks to humanity itself for a solution, when the problem is humanity itself. We of ourselves just can’t solve it. The Bible offers the answer through Jesus Christ, a man like us, whose conception and being God intervened in, with the result that in Him we see a perfect man, who has opened up the way to escape all the problems of our humanity in that He conquered the power of sin. And sin according to the Bible is the root source of all our sufferings. Buddhism seems to say that we suffer because we suffer, we are as we are because that’s how we are. No explanation is given of why this all is, and therefore I submit that the answers Buddhism gives are also irrelevant. For it seeks to tackle a problem which it doesn’t understand. And worse than this, Buddhism’s inability to define where suffering comes from has led it to concluding that the creation was created out of some kind of ignorance of perfection. The Bible describes God as creating everything “very good”- but it was humanity, through Adam and Eve, which spoilt it. And yet God’s intention is to bring the earth back to this “very good” state through the descendant of Eve, the Lord Jesus Christ. Surely nobody can reflect upon the wonder of creation and seriously conclude that this is the work of an ignorant force? Surely the goodness of the creator is seen in His creation? Admittedly, the problem of a marred creation occurs, but the Biblical account of the fall and of earth’s redemption through Christ makes perfect sense of this. Buddhism criticises creation because it is so obsessed with the suffering human condition as the ultimate evil; and it offers no concrete explanation of how this state of suffering came into being. Yet Buddhism has to conclude that creation or existence itself is the cause of our problems, not us: “Buddhists believe in a universe of continuous creation and destruction (flux, impermanence) which is the root cause of pain, loss and separation”. Yet to blame creation is meaningless. It’s like blaming the problem on the problem. It’s a circular argument- which springs out of an inability to face up to human sinfulness as the root cause of problems. Indeed, Buddhism has so devalued the concept of sin that there is little room for any drawing of a clear line between right and wrong. The ordinary Buddhist faces no externally imposed sanctions for transgression of Buddhist precepts- because there is no real sense of right and wrong. Response to e.g. adultery is that a man will die young in his next life, or be reborn with a small penis. Yet we must ask who makes these decisions, and from where does the power derive that causes all this to happen? If there is no Almighty, personal God, then this question remains unanswered by Buddhism. Many offences are merely an inattention to deportment and decorum, and acknowledgement of them is all that is required. Yet the Bible teaches that sin is a real and felt offence against God, and the forgiveness it requires is only realisable through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The feeling of grace, of being forgiven, is what binds a man back in grateful and humble devotion to his God and his Lord, Jesus. This isn’t possible in Buddhism.
The Buddhist obsession with escaping suffering and getting a good life has led them to think that any person born deformed is suffering the result of past evil actions in a previous life. But when confronted with a man born blind, Jesus said that this man was not in that position because he had sinned (Jn. 9:2-3). This is a direct contradiction between Christianity and Buddhism. For some Buddhists to imply that all religions led to the same end is ridiculous. There are crucial differences between Christianity and Buddhism.
Rebirth being possible as a man or an animal, Buddhism sees man as merely an animal. Whilst the Bible says that man is mortal as animals are mortal (Ecc. 3:25-27; 9:5,6), it clearly teaches that we are made in the image of the real and corporeal God who created us. Because we are in God’s image, we must respect each other (James 3:9-10), and give to God whatever has God’s image (Mark 12:16-17), i.e., our very own bodies. If animals and plants are the incarnations of people, and murder is wrong, then it follows that Buddhists should never kill animals nor plants. And yet they do. And they have never given a satisfactory explanation of this massive contradiction in their belief system. It makes so much more sense to believe what the Bible says, that God has created animals and plants to be eaten and received by us with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3-4).