Both Buddhism and Christianity have enjoyed widespread success as missionary religions,
transforming entire cultures with their spirit and being themselves transformation in the process. Both
have flourished over many; centuries in a wide variety of regions and cultures and political and social
systems. While Buddhism has taken a wide variety of forms in different; countries and while
Buddhists have disagreed on many points of interpretation, they are united in their veneration of
Siddhartha Gautama, who became Shakyamuni Buddha. The account of his life is perhaps the most
accessible way to enter into the meaning of Buddhist life. Christian history has also been marked by
wide variety and by intense doctrinal disputes rich have contested almost every possible issue
concerning the significance of Jesus Christ. While Christians have often disagreed bitterly with each
other over many central questions of interpreting their tradition, Christians agree in honoring the name
and memory of Jesus Christ.
Examining the lives of these two remarkable figures in relation to each other is an important aspect of
dialogue, for the narratives of each figure set a tone for all that follows. The lives of the two leaders
play a number of differing roles in their later respective traditions. While both traditions acknowledge
that it is impossible to state absolute truth literally, they both look to the lives of the Buddha and the
Christ as concrete embodiments of the truth they taught. The narratives of the lives of Shakyamuni
Buddha and Jesus Christ serve as unifying threads through the histories of their respective traditions,
as normative models of thought and action for their flowers, and also as concrete exemplifications of
the ideals their teachings present. For Buddhists, Shakyamuni Buddha exemplifies the ideal of
awakening to wisdom and practicing compassion, and he also later came to be interpreted as the
manifestation of absolute reality itself. For Christians. Jesus Christ is the presence of God among us,
the revelation of who God is and of the deepest meaning of human existence.
Part I will examine the accounts of the two leaders from whose lives jest: two traditions are inspired.
The first chapter will explore one of the most influential accounts of the life of Shakyamuni Buddha,
the Buddha- carita of Ashvaghosha, and will examine his central teachings and some later
interpretations of his significance. The second chapter will then examine the life, death, and
resurrection of Jesus Christ in relation to the life and teaching of Shakyamuni Buddha. In each ease
my focus will be on the way the tradition remembered its leader rather than on the quest for the
historical Jesus or the historical Siddhartha Gautama. While the role that each figure plays for his
tradition is in many ways very different, the effort to hear the accounts of their messages and lives
together can illumine the relation between the two figures and their later followers.
Most Buddhist accounts of the life of Shakyamuni have focused primarily on his early life, his search
for wisdom, his awakening, and his initial preaching. The canonical Gospels, by contrast, never
describe a search for wisdom or an awakening from ignorance by Jesus. The focus, with a few
important exceptions, is almost exclusively on his public life, preaching, death, and resurrection.
The similarities and differences between the traditions founded by Shakyamuni, called the Buddha,
and Jesus, called the Christ, fascinate both scholars and students of religion. Interest burgeons as
encounters between Christians and Buddhists increase, and as the world becomes smaller through
technology and travel. By exploring the two religious founders through the lives and views of their
followers The Buddha and the Christ introduces readers to major Mahayana Buddhist perspectives
and explores the dynamics of discipleship—past and present—of both Christian and Buddhist
The Buddha and the Christ begins with the lives and teachings of both Shakyamuni and Jesus.
Lefebure then examines the classical paths of transformation they inspired: the Zen and Pure Land
traditions of Mahayana Buddhism and the perspectives of the early Christians Dioynsius the
Areopagite and St. Augustine. Finally, he turns to the examples of two contemporary figure the
Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh and the Peruvian priest Gustavo Gutierrez.
Nowhere are the convergences and confluences of these two religious traditions as refreshingly
illuminated and clarified as they are here. The Buddha and the Christ offers readers a vital and
accessible view of the Buddha and the Christ that wonderfully captures the fruits of recent
"The Buddha and the Christ is a unique achievement .... Lefebure’s discussion and exploration are
insightful, provocative, and also challenging to the dominant pattern of Buddhist-Christian dialogue.
He offers a truly stimulating development for the continuing of dialogue between the two
“A refreshing book….It should set a new direction in inter-religious dialogue.”
“A book that dares an interfaith dialogue out of the strengths of each tradition….Lefebure’s
comprehensive yet easy-to-read style make this a book for both the scholar and the
Leo D. Lefebure, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, is associate professor of theology
at St. Mary of the Lake University and Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois He is author of Life
Transformed: Meditations on the Christian Scriptures in the Light of Buddhist Perspectives.
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