Seeking wisdom and the spiritual which cannot be crucified | Sunday Observer

Seeking wisdom and the spiritual which cannot be crucified

9 April, 2023

What are the basic commonalities in spiritual and wisdom based teachings of both Jesus and the Buddha?

In studying the lives of the two spiritual masters we can observe that they were social reformers who sought to correct the societal ills they witnessed, often carried out in the name of religion or tradition.

Jesus stood against the hypocrisy in how religion was adopted for outer show and recognition and how it was used as a tool of oppression of some segments of society. He interacted with those labelled as sinners and broadened the understanding of redemption and mercy, removing it from the confines of human manipulation.

This is very evident in Jesus preventing public stoning as per the Mosaic Law (from the Old Testament connected with Moses). Jesus was exceptionally compassionate to the sick and dying, especially the lepers who were put in segregated leper colonies which were in deplorable conditions. His healing energy restored to health, life and hope.

Human prejudices

The Buddha emerged in the world at a time when much suppression was carried out owing to human prejudices such as caste discrimination which was justified using religion as a route.

The rationalistic destruction of this fallacy as proven through intellectual discourse by the Gautama Buddha was so strong that it was the highest caste nobles who were amongst his first followers. They shared monastic space equally with diverse castes, regardless of the hitherto falsely sanctimonious caste hierarchy.

The Buddha, like Jesus, transformed rigors of confining those who err in wrong doing to the eternal damnation of human judgment. The story of Angulimala is a case in point where a man who carried out countless murders and acts of terror, became a follower of the Buddha and an arhat – a being who accomplishes the gaining of insight into the true nature of things.

Both Jesus and the Buddha are spiritual masters who taught that if the human mind recognised an incorrect action and changed the conduct genuinely that it will create a path towards a positive reality. The difference is that in Buddhism there is no external power that could save a person.

Every effort hinges on the internal awareness engineered by the mind. In a practical sense, even in a dogmatic interpretation of Christianity, one cannot be ‘saved’ unless the mind decides on the need to free itself from wrong thought or action.


Such a decision of the mind is usually aided by a well trained, healthy consciousness which identifies defilement of thought as an obstacle to inner and outer wellbeing and seeks to rectify it before it is further contaminated in wrong action.

Jesus taught to dedicate all actions to God. When we think about this we will comprehend that the concept of God is one where the pettiness of human attachment is nullified. Hence dedicating one’s actions to ‘God’ as mentioned in religions such as Christianity is a refining process.

This process is meant to help in developing limitless positive qualities that rise beyond the confines of the self. Thereby we achieve attributes and levels of selflessness, unconditional generosity and empathy detached from personal motives that enables the seeking of the wellbeing of the other as one would want secured for oneself.

Loving one’s neighbour as oneself as preached by Jesus is part of the cultivation of an unlimited, boundless and thereby consciousness that extend beyond the wants and needs of the self. Similarly profound is the teaching of unlimited love for all beings, enunciated by the Buddha, although this unlimited love is approached in Buddhism devoid of any dedication to a Supreme God but equating the mind as the sole gateway to redemption and holding within it the entirety of universal reach and manifestation.


“God” in secular as well as dogmatic linguistics can be described as an infinite, omnipresent, cosmic reality and hence an all knowing, bountiful intelligence. Some modern western scientists has carried out many interesting experiments that aid in practically communicating this mysterious word through different branches of knowledge that include cosmology and quantum physics alongside similar interesting explanations of the universe as the sustainer.

In monotheism, however, definitions of ‘God’ remains outside the evidence based framework and hence bordering between the shores of the poetic and the devout.

The concept of God in monotheism is linked to the liberation of man where, after death his ideal destination is the eternal abode of God –heaven where his life energy – the soul - is expected to rest for evermore, freed forever from the trap of life. All the strict rules and regulations of dogma are expected to assist in taking man through the straight unwavering path to this eternal unfettering.

In contrast, Nirvana, the final goal of Buddhist liberation is a logical conclusion that is associated with complete freedom by breaking of all ties linked to the karmic cycles of attachment that knot man to life yearning.

Here attachment is the edifice that is constructed by the bricks of thought mediated actions that one would have accumulated over time – which in Buddhist interpretation may chain one to recurring lifetimes – through the energy of such thoughts/actions.

Hence a well aware, mindful set of unattached and selfless actions are prescribed to be enacted by a well guarded mind so that the craving of life is reduced and the karmic debt collected in life brought to zero.

Keeping the above in mind, let us dwell on the festival of Easter marking the resurrection of Jesus. Resurrection literally means rising from the dead.

All human beings, irrespective of religion can celebrate during Easter, the symbolic surviving and rising of the spiritual essence from the mortal remains of flesh– the infinite attributes of love, truth, justice, compassion and mercy.

These are the mindsets that Jesus taught humans to cultivate.

Today we find the polarised interpretation of religion rampant which creates many a sharp divide between people practising diverse faiths, moulding and heightening a ‘us versus them’ version of separateness’. The integrated and complimentary fruits of spirituality, philosophy and wisdom found in every religious dictum which could assist in ushering world peace, often remain unexplored and unappreciated.


In a historical context, where religions have been used for territorial conquests and subjugation of people, the humanistic essence of the teachings could be buried in ignorance and the scope of holistic comparative analysis thwarted by the politicisation of religions.

The concept of absolute and unconditional love is the core of the preaching of Jesus which rose above the harshness of religious rigor, punishment and judgment carried out in his time. Mercy and unconditional love were not common options accepted as religious norms in how the ancient Judaic religion was practiced by the Pharisees.

A good example is the story of the good Samaritan that Jesus used to explain that honest purity in action surpasses public laudations or the mantle of ‘goodness’ that may be bestowed by others based on religious titles or prestige.

The significance of the parable of the Samaritan is mostly lost because we today do not know the social context in which it was narrated.

The story of the Good Samaritan is as follows – a man (assumed to be from the Jewish majority of the land) is lying on the ground beaten and left to die by robbers and is passed by men respected as righteous– a Jewish priest and a Levite. A Levite is a person considered by the then socio-religious backdrop to hail from the lineage of Jacob and held in high esteem. The two personages who ignore the dying man quicken their pace (because they will be late for worship and so on).


Then comes the Samaritan– who is akin to a religious outcaste in how the Jews saw Samaritans. The Samaritan attends to the dying Jewish man as he would a close relative by dedicating time and resources to restore him to health.

Why was the Samaritan used as an example to show who a good person is? It is apparent that this was done to emphasise that actions and not social or religious labels that mark out authentic ‘goodness’ in a person. In the social context that Jesus lived and taught, this was an unthinkable example to use to portray a good person – a Samaritan was considered untouchable by the Jews - based on differing religious creeds which was starkly pronounced at the time.

Hence for a Samaritan to be taken as an epitome of goodness would explain the revolutionary measure of the teachings of Jesus – teachings which made him so unpopular with the religious leaders of the time that they wanted him crucified.

Jesus was a man who exemplified the unlimited nature of “God,” who prevented sinners from being stoned, who mingled with the outcastes, who drank from the wells of the ostracised and who preached that forgiveness should be repeated without count.

Thus, in celebrating the resurrection of Jesus after his crucifixion we are reminded that truth, justice, peace, love, compassion and mercy can never be nailed into oblivion and crucified. These Godly virtues live in man and will rise within his mind and heart every-time an opportunity is provided.

The willing sacrifice on the cross by Jesus of his human form is seen as a supreme example of love for humankind – where to free human beings from illusion and hypocrisy he adhered to the will of ‘his father.’ Here ‘father’ is not how we would describe a worldly biological father but if one were to give a non dogmatic universal interpretation, the term ‘God the father’ could be described as a phenomena which represents an entirety of magnanimous universal protection – wisdom – love and forgiveness.

Male gender

In secular interpretation the use of the male gender for God has been debated and there are many ancient spiritual traditions and cultures where the concept of God is associated with the Mother God concept and the world seen as a womb of all life.

This kind of delving may run parallel to how we interpret diverse descriptions in other religious doctrines and beliefs used to decipher and name that which cannot be seen. Rather than opt for feuding, groping in different tunnels of stringent debate, we could greatly enhance our minds and hearts if we study the lives of religious leaders and founders of spiritual traditions to highlight the spiritual core messages of the relevant teachings that will make us better people in how we live out the rest of our lives.

What should also motivate us are the integral lessons from the lives of these sages. Jesus taught humans to be the “salt of the earth and the light of the world,” as preached on the acclaimed Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus taught that man ‘reaps what they sow,” focusing on the merit and de-merit the consequence each human action carries within the sphere of free will.

Within the teachings of Jesus is explained the diverse fixed mental conditions of human beings that facilitate or not, correct understanding, where his parable of the sower of seeds, describe them falling on fertile, thorny, arid or rocky ground and thereby deciding on their flourishing or perishing – in the way words of wisdom would fall on the fertile or arid ground of the mind.

The writer is a student of comparative spirituality, exploring different routes to linking humanity, through the concept of integrated knowledge. She especially promotes peace building and holistic, sustainable development through traditional knowledge and intangible cultural heritage which encompasses spiritual heritage .