Burning Bosom

Theology, History, Culture, Politics & Life from a LDS (Mormon) Perspective

How Mormons Are Buddhists & Vice Versa

Posted by Andrew on March 12, 2008

BuddhaFirst VisionA few months ago, I gave a talk in Sacrament meeting in which I discussed how studying other religious faiths and their scriptures had enriched my life. When the meeting was over, a couple approached me and said they wanted a copy of the talk to give their daughter because she described herself as a “Buddhist Mormon.” The couple said their daughter couldn’t decide whether to be a Buddhist or a Mormon, so she was trying to be both.

I responded that in a certain sense I considered myself a “Buddhist Mormon” as well, and that the beauty of true Mormonism is that when we find truth in another religion, we have no obligation to reject it, but rather, are encouraged to embrace it. As Joseph Smith said: “We should gather all the good and true principles in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out as true ‘Mormons’.” “One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” Thus, one could say that to the extent the principles of Mormonism overlap with the principles of Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, or other religious faiths, one could say that a Mormon is a Buddhist, a Hindu, or a Taoist, and vice versa.

As I’ve discussed in a previous post, the Book of Mormon declares that God speaks the “same words” to “all nations,” and that one day God’s words to all nations will be “gathered in one.” In a follow-up post, I discussed my belief that the existing great religious texts of the world are God’s word to all nations to the extent their principles and doctrines overlap with the Standard Works. In this post, I’d like to share just a few examples of the great overlapping truths found in the Standard Works, the Buddhist Dhammapada, the Taoist Tao Te Ching, and the Hindu Bhagavad Gita. Please bear in mind that the following list is by no means an exhaustive compilation of all commonalities; due to space limitations, I could only list those overlapping truths that are succinctly expressed in just one or two sentences.

Matthew 10:39 - [H]e that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.
The Bhagavad Gita – “Through selfless service, you will always be fruitful and find the fulfillment of your desires”: this is the promise of the Creator.

Matt 5:44[B]less them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.
The Dhammapada – Let us live in joy, never hating those who hate us.

Mark 9:35 - If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.
Tao Te Ching
– If the sage wants to be above the people, in his words, he must put himself below them; If he wishes to be before the people, in his person, he must stand behind them.

Matthew 7:3 – And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
The Dhammapada – Do not give your attention to what others do or fail to do; give it to what you do or fail to do.

Luke 6:38 - Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom.
Tao Te Ching – The sage does not hoard. The more he does for others, the more he has himself; The more he gives to others, the more his own bounty increases.

Proverbs 23:7 - For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.
The Dhammapada – [W]e become what we think.

John 14:15, 15:4,10If ye love me, keep my commandments. Abide in me . . . . If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love.
The Bhagavad Gita – [T]hose who worship me with love live in me, and I come to life in them.

Proverbs 15:1- A soft answer turneth away wrath.
The Dhammapada – Speak quietly to everyone, and they too will be gentle in their speech.

Luke 14:11 - For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Tao Te Ching – The unyielding and mighty shall be brought low; the soft, supple, and delicate will be set above.

Proverbs 16:32 - He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
The Dhammapada – One who conquers himself is greater than another who conquers a thousand times a thousand men on the battlefield.

D&C 38:16 - . . . I am no respecter of persons.
The Bhagavad Gita – . . . none are less dear to me and none are more dear.

2 Nephi 26:22 – [Y]ea, and [the devil] leadeth them by the neck with a flaxen cord, until he bindeth them with his strong cords forever.
The Dhammapada – Little by little a person becomes evil, as a water pot is filled by drops of water.

D&C 93:29 - Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be.
The Bhagavad Gita – There never has been a time when you . . . have not existed, nor will there be a time when we will cease to exist. The body is mortal, but he who dwells in the body is immortal and immeasurable.

Mosiah 4:30 – [I]f ye do not watch yourselves, and your thoughts, and your words, and your deeds, . . . ye must perish.
The Dhammapada – Guard your thoughts, words, and deeds. These three disciplines will speed you along the path to pure wisdom.

Closing Thoughts

Mormons believe Christ is the source of all truth. That being so, can any Mormon deny that Christ is the source of the Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu scriptures quoted above? Can any Mormon dispute that the authors of these scriptures were messengers of Christ? Perhaps Christ’s presence in non-Judeo-Christian scripture is much larger than we have been prepared to recognize in the past due to our cultural traditions. Perhaps millions of faithful adherents to the world’s various religions have already heard Christ’s voice and are already living in accordance with Christ’s true principles without even recognizing it.

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40 Responses to “How Mormons Are Buddhists & Vice Versa”

  1. ditchu said

    I’ve always liked the buddist friends I have.

  2. Shawn L said

    Andrew — interesting thoughts. I think your textual comparisons shed an interesting light on how we should approach other faiths. That said, I wonder what a Buddhist would say to your assertion that we should recognize the value in these verses because “Christ is the source”? That’s very different than simply saying we should appreciate the beauty and goodness inherent in them.

  3. Andrew said

    Shawn,

    Please keep in mind that my point behind this series of posts was to explore the Book of Mormon’s declaration that God speaks the “same words” to “all nations.” My purpose in identifying these commonalities is to point out where essentially the “same words” can be found in both the Standard Works and in non-Judeo-Christian scripture. My argument is that these commonalities indicate the Standard Works and non-Judeo-Christian scripture are from the same source. From a Mormon perspective, that same source would be Christ.

    I think if the Buddhist acts consistent with Buddhist principles, he won’t be offended by appreciative remarks about his faith that are plainly being given from a Mormon perspective.

  4. Shawn L said

    I do see where you’re coming from. I also like the notion of a single source, expressed in different faith terms, for truths we hold sacred. The sooner we all learn to practice these teaching, regardless of the text, the better. Great posts, Andrew.

  5. greenfrog said

    As a person who has identified himself more frequently in recent years as a Buddhist than as a Mormon (despite my geographical location for 3 hours every Sunday), I thoroughly enjoyed this post. I too believe one can be, awkwardly, both LDS and Buddhist, but only at relatively limited degrees of Buddhist belief. The farther I have pushed my meditation practice, the more I have experienced that seems fundamentally at odds with at least traditional LDS interpretations of LDS scripture.

    Mormons believe Christ is the source of all truth.

    I’d be interested to understand better what this means. As I understand my LDS instruction, Jesus Christ is central to the entire model of salvation, but he is neither the architect of it, nor is he the embodiment of all creation. (Setting aside, for a moment, the intriguing descriptions of the role of the “light of Christ” in D&C 88).

    That being so, can any Mormon deny that Christ is the source of the Buddhist, Taoist, and Hindu scriptures quoted above?

    Perhaps this is the litmus test for whether I am still a Mormon, as I no longer view the divine fabric of existence (with which I believe both as a Mormon and as a Buddhist that I can interact) as characterized by Christ-ness, any more than I view it as characterized as Krishna-ness. Christ and Krishna and Buddha-mind are all cultural overlays on the same basic experience. As overlays, they give us useful perspectives and tools, but they are secondary to that experience, and mistaking one for the other can lead to mis-perception and unskilled actions.

    Can any Mormon dispute that the authors of these scriptures were messengers of Christ?

    Maybe some of us who hold our Mormon-ness at a greater distance than you?

    Perhaps Christ’s presence in non-Judeo-Christian scripture is much larger than we have been prepared to recognize in the past due to our cultural traditions. Perhaps millions of faithful adherents to the world’s various religions have already heard Christ’s voice and are already living in accordance with Christ’s true principles without even recognizing it.

    This recognition was my first introduction to Buddhism — watching how unself-importantly (either by self-aggrandizement through ego-building or by self-despising through attaching labels of sin) the Buddhists I met went about making the world a better place to live in, and how uninterested they were in notions of self or of sin, but rather of wisdom and skilled actions. Their lives convinced me that Christ was not an exclusive club, but rather anyone of any belief stripe at all was free to live a life that accorded with the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.

    That experience also gave rise to a deepened understanding of what Jesus might have meant in the passage recorded in Luke 9:

    49 ¶ And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
    50 And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

  6. JB said

    Great post Andrew! I’ve long loved the study of other religions, partly because I grew up in an area that was predominantly Jewish, but other friends were Hindu, Sikh, Muslim or non-denominational Christian.

    It is so true that there is truth everywhere. Anyone that has studied other religions knows that, and I’m glad that we’re admonished to seek after the truth in all things.

    As for my Buddhist connection, Karma. As far as I’m concerned it exists and is evident all over the place! Well, I believe it in this respect: “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

  7. Ron Beron said

    Interesting thoughts. I taught Japanese Buddhism at a local community college for a few years and I was struck with some of the similarities between Christianity and Buddhism, but I was also taken by the contrasts as well. It seems those who try and infuse one thought process with the other usually do so at the expense of diluting the other. Buddhism has some doctrine that will always be incompatible with not only Mormon beliefs but Christian ones as well.

  8. Cord Sharp said

    I don’t see why one can’t be Mormon and Buddhist. Mormons belive in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. Buddhists belive that Siddhārtha Gautama achieved enlightenment through meditation and following the Noble Eightfold Path. These beliefs shouldn’t conflict in any way, proving one follows Mormonism as a religion, and Buddhism as a philosophy (which I’ve always found it more of anyways). Besides they both tend to create genuine good people.

  9. ditchu said

    I see no error in the Philosophy of Buddism. If you aspire to that Philosophy it does not seem to me conflict with “Mormonism.”

    -D

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  13. Dano said

    My life was dramatically altered when, during a 10-day silent retreat I experienced the deepest peace I’ve ever felt except when filled with the peace of the spirit.

    All religions have at their core the loss of self. In Christianity, it is “thy will be done”. The word Islam means surrender. Buddhism simply tackles this a little more directly employing well tested techniques (of which meditation is only one) to break down the ego, piece by piece. When President Benson said that pride is the universal sin, indeed he was speaking directly about the sense of self. The description of the feeling the spirit is essentially a description of what naturally happens when the self gets out of the way.

    The whole purpose of meditation is to get us in touch with the present moment. To really be in the present moment, one has to accept everything as it is. Completely accepting everything (and everyone) exactly as it is my definition of unconditional love. Part of this accepting includes accepting yourself. In Mormonism, we make ourselves believe acceptable through repentance and the atonement. Once our mind is completely accepting of everything including ourselves, we are able to experience reality as it is, not as we’d like it to be. This allows us to see the world and everyone in it as Heavenly Father sees it, with pure love.

  14. SAC said

    I love this post. I have always thought that Buddhism was more of a philosophy, but it does carry certain traditions of an organized religion: Temples being one example (probably more along the line of Mormon chapels). I have always wanted to go to Thailand or Japan on a spiritual exchange mission. I am Mormon, but know of no such program existing in our Church rather we have humanitarian and proselytizing missions. I think we should have a spiritual exchange mission; something along the lines of enhancing people of our own faith and others faiths by testimony sharing. Slightly less intrusive then the proselytizing mission, but probably more effective. This type of mission though would probably be coordinated between the Church and other faiths and at times be seen more as interfaith relations then a mission. I don’t know if this will every be. I am just rattling of my ideas. And no a testimony does not have to be shared in Mormon speak: using the phrase “I know”, but rather it can be expressed by living our faith. The best place for a mission of this type of nature to start would be in the Free World first. Until all nations have freedom of religion, and the freedom to proselytize in the public square as well as in the homes of the people, Humanitarian missions will have to remain the norm in many countries like Turkey. These are my beliefs. I have no idea if the current Humanitarian missions are structured in this way or not? Its just a thought.

  15. SC said

    I think I should comment on the article now. I believe that all faiths have doctrines that do overlap the Gospel Principles. I should say that we don’t know everything and as Church members we should accept revelation from whatever source. One of my seminary teachers (this was three to 5 years ago so I am paraphrasing) said that “sometimes revelation comes as a wow moment” I believe we should take those “wow” moments when they come. I can only describe these feelings as a piercing to the heart. I am sure people of all faiths have had those deep spiritual feeling, when they can feel with out a doubt that what they did is right, and every time they reflect upon that moment it brings back that deep sense of awe and gratitude toward their Deity (God, creator, Allah, Mother Nature if you wish). I think people can see people of other faiths as one of them. We are all human and we must recognize our limitations, and embrace one another on our similarities. There will be things we disagree on but we can disagree peacefully.

  16. solsrchr said

    I know that spiritual principles are universal and can be found in all faiths. I’d like to point out that SAC has it right, Buddhism is a philosophy and a philosophy does not force one to accept a particular lable. Having traveled to many different countries including India, Singapore, and Taiwan I’ve experienced many cultures. Much of Confucius’ teaching are very Christ like.

    I spoke with a Chinese man very familiar with Confucius who told me that some experts believe that Confusius’ true goal was to bring the Chinese back to a belief in one God. He also taught “The kingdom of God is truly within the man himself.” Confucius also taught “A man who goes over somehting which he has already learned and gains some new understanding of it is worthy to be a teacher.

    I expect the teachings of another faith to help me gain a new understanding of spiritual principles. If it were not so what is the use of learning anything new. All I learn should add to my understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ and I am only a witness of Him as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

    Respectfully Yours, Sol.

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  18. lokey said

    mormons are not even in the same class as buddist’s how dare! mormons have nothing to do with buddist’s they are nothing alike and never will be you can take that misconseption and take it elsewhere.

    • Floyd Pepper said

      Wow, i’m new to this discussion, but I feel that I need to respond. It saddens me to read such arrogance from those who would call themselves Christians. One big thing that is been failed to be recognized here is that, Eastern Religions I.e. Buddhism, were around way before Christ walked the Earth, but a few hundred years. Have you even considered the idea that Jesus Christ may have been a student of Buddhism? Meditate on that for awhile. And buy the way calling Buddhism a “philosophy” is as offensive as calling Mormonism a “cult”.

      The hole purpose of meditation is to achieve enlightenment in ones life time (which my never be possible) the real reason to meditate is to help others. If one can achieve enlightenment, we are to forgo the passing into Nirvana, and not break the cycle of reincarnation. To return a next lifetime to help others to achieve enlightenment, so they to can do the same. Once everyone has does this, then going into Nirvana will be possible. Huge difference from the Mormon belief of a second coming buy Jesus Christ, to resurrect everyone to bring them to judgment.

      In addition when I was raised in the L.D.S. church, I was taught never question anything that was taught to you, in Buddhism, you never stop questioning.

  19. silversrt said

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  27. Tria said

    Nice post – to have found the similarities in various texts and post them. But Christ is the source of all texts is going too far.
    Other religions also proclaim that the source is one.By your argument, people of other religion can also claim the bible’s source to be their own supreme.

    It is good to see the similarities in scriptures of other religions.It is further good to respect the supreme god believed in other faiths.To lay claim to that – well,defeats the purpose of oneness.

  28. chiranjeevi said

    APPODEEPOBHAVA means light your own means no need of other source to remove your darkness.This does not mean God is not necessary it means God is in you.Whole is in you( jesus, Buddha, Allah,Ram r in you).Dont follow unless your inner accepts.If you do for all, you will become all.When Buddha leaving his body his disciple Ananda asked who will stay with me then he Buddha replied APPODEEPOBHAVA. Buddha in you.Then his all sorrow converted into EVERLASTING JOY(SACCHHIDANANDAM).Same philosophy you will get in all religions.Dont depend on others except God within you,I like simple and easy teachings of Buddha.Thanks for reading,thanks to Googly and all

  29. chiranjeevi said

    I dont know the exact meaning of Marmons. Even though I got the meaning. Our mind we find terrorist and human and animal we can become Mother theresa even Laden.In Buddha converted Anguleemaludu(terrorist) in to Buddha. He awakened Buddha in him.You can get Anguleemaludu story.I want to say that our mind has all personalties, religions.One who is in control of evil thought he ll become evil One who is in control of god thought he ll become God un trained thoughts or contolled by Vipashyana meditation. It is simple meditation just observing our thoughts. Ok I will once again to tell the truth that Our mind is full of different personalities. One who reaches final personality that is God, He/she/nutral merges in God

  30. TF said

    Hmmm… I’m a 26yr old Mormon female living in China. I’m just coming out of a nearly 3yr relationship with a Nepali Buddhist-Hindu. While I agree that there is some overlap, there are some inherent differences. Buddhism never specifies the belief in a god, and advocates rebirth. Hinduism has a pantheon of gods. I spent much of my undergrad studying Chinese Islam. Islam has many things in common with Mormonism, and some interesting lessons on devotion to teach.

    While I personally consider myself a Buddhist-Muslim-Mormon, I am still realistic that I practice Buddhism and Islam through a Mormon perspective. In other words, I practice the bits which seem to fit. Mohammed is not the last prophet for me, Allah is not the only god in existence, and reincarnation doesn’t fly with me too much.

    As for Chinese philosophies, the Dao De Jing is a little wacky. While the appreciation of nature is nice, many of the ideas directly conflict. The uncarved block vs. the idea of overcoming the natural man? As for Confucius, his main goal was the stability of society. He did not talk about God, and there was no idea of ‘right’ coming from God. Instead, ‘right’came from the rituals of the Shang (or was it Zhou?) Dynasty. I think Mozi’s response to Confucius and his ideas about universal love would fit much more closely with Mormonism. After all, he believed in a higher power which dictated right and wrong. He did, however, have some strange ideas about music and dance.

    In the end, other religions can help us have a deeper insight into our own. The danger, however, is that we must be smart about finding truth in those religions. I find that often in pursuit of being ‘open minded,’ I instead lose sight of what is true and what is not.

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  35. MikeK said

    All the good, kind, meaningfull stuff in Christianity was copied from Buddhism. Dont forget The Buddha was teaching over 500 years before the story of Jesus was invented. Christians took the Buddha’s teachings, deleted the parts about “thinking” and added alot of stuff about killing, hate, rape, child abuse and silly superstitions…… that is how Christianity was written.

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