Sunday, May 30, 2004

Buddhism and Isaiah

When I was on my mission in upstate New York, I once tracted (knocked doors on) a particularly interesting street in Rochester. There we met Jehovah's Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Muslims, and a Buddhist monk with his own backyard temple -- all right next door to each other. I love studying religion, and we chatted with the Islamic fellow for a few minutes about postbiblical prophets and books of scripture.

The Buddhist monk was quite interesting. He spoke very limited English, but was extremely kind and even allowed us to enter his very elaborate temple (after we had removed our shoes). He showed us his large, brightly decorated Buddha shrine and some scrolls that appeared to be rather old and of great importance to him. We were also given a pamphlet (written by someone else, but also in broken English) explaining some of the practices of Buddhism for novices. (As a token of our gratitude, we brought him a Thai translation of the Book of Mormon the following day.)

There were many Buddhist practices outlined in the pamphlet that should be quite familiar to Latter-day Saints and other Christians. I was studying Isaiah shortly after reading the pamphlet, and I came across a passage that struck me as similar to some things I had just recently read. The following is based on some notes I wrote in my scriptures.


Isaiah 57
The Ten Precepts (or Novice's Precepts) of Buddhism have many similarities to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Two of the more obscure precepts (#8 and 9) seem to possibly coincide with verses 9 and 7 of this chapter of Isaiah.

The Ten Precepts
  1. I observe the precept to abstain from taking of life [Thou shalt not kill]
  2. I observe the precept to abstain from taking what is not given [Thou shalt not steal]
  3. I observe the precept to abstain from sexual intercourse [Outside of marriage? Perhaps relates to law of chastity. If generally intercourse is to be abstained from, may relate to celibacy practice of some Christian faiths]
  4. I observe the precept to abstain from telling lies [Thou shalt not bear false witness]
  5. I observe the precept to abstain from drinking intoxicating drinks [Word of Wisdom—law of health]
  6. I observe the precept to abstain from taking any food after noon [Perhaps has ties to Jewish customs? May relate to fasting]
  7. I observe the precept to abstain from dancing, singing, playing music and looking at shows [some Christian religions denounce dancing as abominable]
  8. I observe the precept to abstain from wearing, decorating or adorning oneself with flowers, scents and cosmetics [Isaiah 57:9 seems to imply that "increasing [one's] perfumes" is abominable. According to the pamphlet, to pay homage "one should make an offering of flowers, candles and incenses to the Buddha image then bow three times to the Buddha image." Frankincense, an ingredient in holy sacrificial incense and also used as a perfume, was offered as a gift to the baby Jesus.]
  9. I observe the precept to abstain from using of luxurious and high seat and bed [Isaiah 57:7 begins "Upon a lofty and high mountain hast thou set thy bed..." LDS footnote "a" (in reference to "bed") says "IE as an altar for idolatrous use." The Hebrew word from which bed was translated here is mishkâb, "a bed," according to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.]
  10. I observe the precept to abstain from accepting any gold and money and not to be desirous in spending them [Thou shalt not covet; "the love of money is the root of all evil" (1 Tim. 6:10). Perhaps the first part relates to unpaid ministry.]

Pretty interesting stuff, eh? I'm not implying any particular reasons why similarities might exist between these practices of Buddhism and Isaiah's writings, or between Buddhist practices and those of various Christian faiths; I'm just listing some interesting observations and similarities that I've discovered.

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