Lesson 7: “Egg Rolls & Enlightenment”
Scenario: During dinner at a Chinese restaurant your child asks, “What does the gold fat statue near the door mean?” How do you answer?
Most of us have visited a Chinese restaurant, and chances are a statue of the Buddha, more specifically Maitreya (Chinese image of a prophetic Buddha) greeted you at the door. So what does it all mean? Is it just a decoration, or does it represent more than great fried rice? As in the previous lesson, let’s consider the overall themes, and look at opportunities for discussion.
I. The Framework
The Origin – Around 540 B.C. in the Lumbini area ofIndia (present dayNepal) a prince named Siddhartha Gautama observed the suffering of people and began his spiritual quest, lasting 6 years or so. After receiving “enlightenment”, he developed an explanation/solution for suffering and began delivering philosophical discourses.
His teaching moved away from the pantheism/polytheism of his Hindu upbringing to a non-deity path, focused on self-perfection. He became known as “The Buddha” or literally “The Enlightened One”. Even though there are many sects, with varying depictions of the Buddha, wisdom and self-realization are common components of the teaching.
The Tenets – Although Buddhism shares some common tenets with Hinduism (Reincarnation, Karma, Nirvana, and Meditation) it’s different in key areas. Buddhism is more creedal. The core teaching is the Four Noble Truths, and is more atheistic in nature.
The Four Noble Truths –
- Life is suffering (Dukkha) – (to be comprehended)
- Suffering (Dukkha) is caused by cravings – (to be abandoned)
- Suffering (Dukkha) is stopped by ending cravings – (to be realized)
- The way to end suffering (Dukkha) is the Noble Eightfold Path – (to be developed):
- Right View (the world as it really is)
- Right Resolve (unselfishness and compassion)
- Right Speech (refraining from harmful speech)
- Right Action (no violence, theft etc.)
- Right Livelihood (earning a proper living)
- Right Effort (preventing evil)
- Right Mindfulness (total attentiveness – body & mind)
- Right Concentration (training the mind in meditation)
II. The Conversation
When considering these tenets in light of scripture, there are two approaches:
A. Starting Points – Where do we see positive elements to build a conversational bridge on?
- Recognition of the reality of suffering – Life contains suffering, but suffering’s origin is the key. The Bible tells us in Genesis 1&2 that God made everything good. There was peace and direct fellowship with God. When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God’s instructions, the result was death, separation, and a curse on the earth. As a direct result of Adam’s sin, suffering is part of an ongoing cycle of pain. We are all subject to difficulty, either as a result of sinful choices (ours/others), or the collateral damage from living in a world ravaged by darkness. The good news is Jesus overcame sin and death (John 16:33) and offers us eternal hope when we place our trust in Him as savior (Romans 10:9-13).
- Recognition of cravings as a problem – Often I’m reminded of Romans 7:13-25 where Paul describes the daily battle of his flesh versus God. By nature, we are inclined to pursue our own thoughts and interests. Not only do we fail to live up to the 10 Commandments, but we fail to even live up to our own consciences (Romans 1). God’s call to repentance is the only way to permanently deal with our penchant for self-gratification. His Holy Spirit delivers me from sin and death, setting me free from bondage! (Romans 8:1-7)
- Recognition of a disciplined life as desirable – Discipline is a good thing. An army, sports team, or organization struggles without it. The pursuit of discipline is commendable, and the Bible speaks of Christians living a quiet disciplined life (I Thess. 4:9-12). The question is how? According to Romans 12 & 13, a person transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit is to live a type of life that positively influences everyone around (family, friends, government officials, poor, etc.).
B. Breaking Points – Where do we see flawed premises that break down under scrutiny?
- Life is suffering – Based on observation of our natural world, the premise that life is just variations of suffering is not true. God has blessed us in many ways regardless of our acknowledgement of Him. For example, there is the joy of a newborn baby, a sunset, laughter, and the warmth of love. These things point to a Creator who shows His love, even in the midst of a world full of strife.
- Abandonment of craving – As much as we would love to self-eliminate our problems, superficial improvement is the best we can hope for. Romans 3:23 says we have all fallen short of God’s glory, meaning we fail to measure up to the only standard that matters…God’s standard of perfection. Inside, there is a tenacious selfishness wanting its way, and according to Galatians 2:20 the only way to win is by putting “self” to death. I must abandon my own way, identify with His death, and experience the Son of God alive in me through faith. That’s not just a better path, but redemption, freedom, and victory!
In Conclusion – Our capacity for discipline can accomplish tremendous things, even amazing things…but not perfection. No person can leave this world without some measure of imperfection – that’s why we need a Savior. Hebrews 9:27 states we’ll all face judgment after death, and His perfection is my only hope. Faith in Christ is not a way among many, but the only way (John 14:6). If you’ve experienced God’s grace, your story may just be the hope someone needs today…share it!