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The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha

The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha

3.1 8
by Ravi Zacharias

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Popular scholar Ravi Zacharias sets a captivating scene between Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha in the first book of the Conversations with Jesus series.

Have you ever wondered what Jesus would say to Mohammed? Or Buddha? Or Oscar Wilde? Maybe you have a friend who practices another religion or admires a more contemporary figure. Drop in on a


Popular scholar Ravi Zacharias sets a captivating scene between Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha in the first book of the Conversations with Jesus series.

Have you ever wondered what Jesus would say to Mohammed? Or Buddha? Or Oscar Wilde? Maybe you have a friend who practices another religion or admires a more contemporary figure. Drop in on a conversation between Jesus and some well-known individuals whose search for the meaning of life took them in many directions--and influenced millions. Through dialogue between Christ and Gautama Buddha, Zacharias reveals Jesus' warm, impassioned concern for all people and explores God's true nature.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Ravi takes a scholarly yet imaginative approach to apologetics. The dialogue he sets forth in this unique drama will educate, enthrall, and enlighten you—and everyone you share it with—for years to come.”
“The works of Ravi Zacharias are a vital resource around our house, and this latest addition to our intellectual arsenal is delightfully different: a vivid, dramatized meeting of the minds through which the truth of the gospel—and Dr. Zacharias’s impeccable logic—shines forth with enjoyable clarity.”
“Ravi Zacharias is a first-rate thinker and a preeminent Christian apologist. With The Lotus and the Cross, Zacharias now demonstrates that he is also a gifted and imaginative writer. This captivating dialogue not only clears up confusion about the claims of Christ and Buddha, but also provides us with a highly entertaining read.”
“With signs of spiritual warfare all around us, this book challenges all Christians—male and female—to arm up and engage the enemy. Its pages are chock-full of fascinating insights and solid, practical, biblical advice. It’s a must-read for everyone who takes seriously Christ’s command to ‘Fight the good fight.’”

Product Details

The Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Great Conversations
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Random House
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2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Writing this book has been an incredible experience. I spent scores of hours in temples with monks and with instructors of students of Buddhist thought. The discussions I had were always cordial and delightful. Over many a cup of tea, we lingered and talked about life’s deepest questions and contrasting answers.
Having enjoyed such rapport with those who embrace the Buddhist worldview, I found it difficult to highlight the deep differences between Buddhism and Christianity and not bring offense. Those differences may be discomforting, but they are real. Even the answers the monks gave to my questions were not always the same depending on which school of Buddhism they represented. At times there was frustration on their faces when the questions became tough and their answers dissimilar. But even in the midst of disagreements, they drew comfort from the fact that, for them, agreement was not as important as the pursuit itself.
I will always be grateful for their courtesy and hospitality. Although we have radically different answers to life’s fundamental questions, we dare not shrink from asking the hard questions just to avoid discomfort.
Although a book like this could be slanted any way one pleases, some fundamental ideas are inescapable and must be engaged. In that sense, at least, I trust I have presented the ideas fairly and subjected them to scrutiny. Many of those I talked with will be reading this, and I look forward to their responses. Jesus and Buddha cannot both be right. The lotus is the symbol of Buddhism; the cross, the symbol of the Christian faith. Behind the two symbols stand two diametrically opposed beliefs. I ask you, the reader, to examine the message of each, using both your heart and your mind. It is worth the exercise because it will determine your destiny. One day we will all find out that being respectful and sincere does not give us license to be wrong. Truth demands investigation and commitment. Our conclusions must be in keeping with Truth that can be tested. To be handcuffed by a lie is the worst of all imprisonments. May the God of all truth lead you to the Truth that sets you free indeed.
It is the first blush of dawn as I step into this long-tailed boat after haggling with the boatman for a suitable price. His jolly countenance and leathery skin tell a story all their own. His toothless grin is a cartoonist’s dream, and a comb has not visited his sparse scalp for ages. If one has to wake up this early, the sight of him beats the face of a clock any day.
He has agreed to take me on a journey along the famed River of Kings. We wend our way through back canals that teem with life, dotted by the corrugated iron rooftops along shores that house a large part of this megacity. A sense of nostalgia surfaces within me as the slumbering multitude begins to stir among the backdrop of temples and pagodas spiraling toward the sky. It is as if the calendar collides here, the past, present, and future all speaking in unison. The morning air is fragrant with aromas ranging from lemongrass to fish sauce, all being prepared for the day’s consumption. Yes, the food here wins the palate of virtually every traveler. This is a city I have
visited often and its people are among the most winsome in the world. The smiles, the graces, and the charms exude as in no other land I know. A carefree attitude toward life is writ large in the cultural ethos, and strangers make you feel very welcome, even when one may have just cheated you into buying a fake name-brand watch or a pirated copy of the latest movie.
I am very much at home on this continent, for it reminds me so much of the land of my birth. But there is a reality here that compels me to ask some hard questions about life. Within this culture, the most reverent of expressions mix with the most unashamed abandon for the sensual. I see a monk walking in the distance, a bowl for begging in his hand, but I also see a man who spends most of his day waylaying tourists and seducing them with pictures to come and visit a nearby brothel. He does that from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. It is quite a juxtaposition: the monk, austere and in pursuit of nirvana; the man, with a roguish smile, promising a different kind of bliss.
Here a cultural immersion would be impossible without visiting a host of temples—the Emerald Buddha, the Reclining Buddha, the Golden Buddha, and a long list of others. But here, too, the newspapers sound a somber tone. The income from prostitution, they declare, exceeds the entire national budget. Here, drugs and AIDS have ravaged the population, and sincere politicians are trying desperately to deal with it. But this very city is exploited by money-hungry opportunists who bring in planeloads of men, promising them orgies to fulfill every imaginable craving.
And so as I sit in this sputtering boat, smothered in a misty spray, I feel nearly drowned in a sea of emotions. How does one talk about the eternal when both religion and riotous living argue that nothing is permanent? An odd mix of the glory and the shame of humanity within this microcosm ignites a series of difficult questions.
As we make our way down the canal, able to look almost directly into the living quarters of those who live along its shores, I cannot shake the memory of a newspaper article on the front page the previous day. It told the story of a young, attractive woman who left home to earn a living, only to pay the heaviest price of all: the devastation of AIDS. This a summary of that story:
At seventeen, young and beautiful Priya decided to head to the big city to work. Within hours of her arrival, the very friend who had enticed her with the promise of big money mercilessly raped her. Thus began a fourteen-year stretch of untold heartache and tragedy. As if to mend Priya’s torn spirit, the “friend” found her a job as a seamstress. But even there Priya found no relief from the plundering ways of those she had cast her lot with. She was soon being used and abused to deviant ends, only with a new twist—she was paid for satisfying their perverse pleasures. By the age of twenty-three she had become a full-fledged prostitute, managed by a handful of thugs who
shared in the spoils.
Fate struck hard one day when she became pregnant. For a few months her profession was put on hold. Inevitably, financial strain set in, and she could hardly wait to give birth to the child so she could give it away, then return to the sordid life that had enslaved her.
But a more devastating shock awaited her: She discovered that she was HIV-positive. She could not discontinue her lifestyle, for she needed the money to treat her disease and hang onto life. Hardened, calloused, and almost vengeful, she continued to sell her services to hundreds of customers, including bankers, businessmen, and doctors, of whom she kept a detailed record. She knew she was signing each man’s death warrant, but she was drowning in despair, and her life had lost all value.
Eventually she could no longer hide the disfiguring marks of her disease. Blisters blanketed her body. She resorted to desperate methods in search of a cure, even boiling a toad and drinking the
water, a practice that villagers believed might cure her. She made numerous attempts to kill herself, only to fail each time. Finally Priya poisoned herself once more, and this time she set her house on fire and lay down for the last time, enshrouded in flames.
Her once-beautiful body was reduced to ashes. No one would even come close to her charred remains for fear of infection. She died alone. And not far from her others played the same
deadly game, thinking that this same end would never be theirs.
How can I forget this story? My heart is heavy as I remember it. Are some of the faces I see this morning headed toward the same fearsome future? I am told that hundreds, if not thousands, have made their way to this very city over the years, and that the script has been the same for scores of them.
What, Lord Jesus, would You have said to Priya, had she brought her decrepit body and aching heart to You? (Actually, many women in similar situations did come to Jesus.)
And what would Buddha have said to her, this being a land where 95 percent of its people are Buddhists? Interestingly, the faces of suffering were what led Gautama (the birth name of Buddha) to pursue the answers to such grief, and in that pursuit, he became the Buddha, the “Enlightened One.”
A waterfall of questions flows over me, and my mind is caught in a vortex of possibilities. What, I wonder, would Buddha or Jesus say to each other if they were in this boat with me, breathing the pungent smells, witnessing the extreme sights, hearing the lively sounds, and discussing the plight of this young woman? Many Buddhist scholars have drawn parallels between Buddha’s and Jesus’ teachings; one noted scholar even called them “brothers.” Is that an accurate portrayal? Or did this scholar, among others, completely miss the fundamental differences?
I let my imagination take a ride and picture just such a conversation.

Meet the Author

Ravi Zacharias was born in India, immigrating to Canada at age twenty. After earning a Masters of Divinity at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, he began a speaking ministry that has taken him worldwide (including the campuses of Harvard, Princeton, and Oxford University) as a recognized authority on comparative religions, cults, and philosophy. Zacharias' holds three doctorate degrees, and his books include the Gold Medallion winner Can Man Live without God, Deliver Us from Evil, Cries of the Heart, Jesus Among Other Gods, and two children's titles. He teaches a weekly, international radio program entitled Let My People Think. Ravi lives with his wife, Margaret, in Atlanta. They have three grown children.

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The Lotus and the Cross: Jesus Talks with Buddha 3.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Having heard Ravi Zacharias lecture on several occasions, this book was somewhat disappointing. It may be a bit too simplistic and brief considering the subject matter. However, it could be worthwile for those not at all familiar with Christianity or Buddhism or for high school students perhaps as a means of stimulating further exploration. Unlike two of the other reviewers who seemed to have serious axes to grind (see Sanford who, by the way, doesn't even appear to know what the 'a' in 'atheist' means), I feel that the book does point out significant differences between Buddhism and Christianity even though these differences may be grossly simplified at times. One wonders what a geniune dialogue would be like between Jesus and the Buddha. Even if it may not be what Ravi has envisioned, there are some things worth noting while listening to them converse.
BlackAsh13 9 months ago
This was an interesting compare and contrast between the fundamental tenets of Christianity and Buddhism, delivered in the form of a conversation between Jesus and Buddha, as each attempt to offer solace to a recently deceased prostitute. As someone who was raised as a Christian but, as an adult, between to understand and accept some of the teachings of the Eastern religions, I found the exchange between Jesus and Buddha stimulating and rewarding. However, there was clearly a bias in favor of Christianity. I have long felt that no single religion has gotten it all right. As such, I would have preferred mode of a balanced debate of the validity of the teachings of each religious tradition.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Use this to help bring buddhist to Christ
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great in-depth book that is very simple to read.
DannyBD More than 1 year ago
I needed a quick, inspirational read, and this book did the trick. Lighthearted at times, yet interspersed with some very deep thoughts. Ravi comes across as respectful of other religions, but unwilling to "gloss over" the deep, fundamental differences. At their cores, Buddhism makes one offer, and Christianity a completely different offer. One cannot have both. It is up to the seeker to decide, which do you want?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Buddhists of all sects never view life as being born in debt and will die in debt, as the author accused, but simply born neutral and it is up to oneself to do good or bad deeds, one is responsible for. The Buddha simply taught: ¿Volition, O monks, I declare is karma. Having willed, man acts with deed, words, or thought.¿ ¿I am owner of my karma, heir of my karma, born of my karma, related to my karma and abide supported by my karma. Whatever karma I have done, good or evil, of that shall I be heir.¿ It is irrelevant whether there is a creditor to collect the debt or not, as one is responsible for it. Parinirvana is not a state of oblivion (as falsely stated by the author). He passed away while being in the state of full awareness, free of greed, hatred, and delusion, with total liberation of mind. Buddhism was fully formed overnight through the Buddha¿s self-enlightenment. He did not need any more time to understand or any process of clarification, as being made up by the author. The Buddha taught one to avoid the two extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification, but to practice the Middle Path that led him to realize the Ultimate Truths. It was not the other way around as he mistakenly wrote. He intentionally smeared the Buddha as a cold-hearted person, that he cannot touch dying Priya¿s hand, as precepts forbid touching a female, to avoid lust. Not applicable to sick and dying persons, sick monks can be cared by female physicians and nurses, without any wrong doing. True compassion is through mind, not based on touching or physical contact. He would guide her to realize the Ultimate Truth, freeing herself from suffering. He wrongfully accused that the Buddha cannot go back to Priya¿s house¿s with her, while Jesus clearly stated that he can. During the Buddha¿s time, the compassionate Buddha himself personally took care of a sick monk, which resulted in building wards for sick monks by laities, and later on, King Asoka was to build hospitals for the public, the first hospitals in the history of mankind. To visit Thailand does not mean that what he learned from the Buddhist monks are all true, as it still needs further research to confirm the truths. Confrontation is healthy, only when it is done in fairness with proven facts; not with bias as he did. ¿Ravi, you are no Buddha! It is sinful for you to fool and blind others from the truth through your biased misguided statements, denying them future opportunities to further enrich themselves in the ultimate truth of Buddhism, the awakened way of life. You have successfully accomplished in proving your own words and statement that `To be handcuffed by a lie is the worst of all imprisonments.¿¿ Kongsak Tanphaichitr, M.D. Chairman, Buddhist Council of Greater St.Louis
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am one class short of completing a MA in Contemplative Religions, so I have some knowledge in this area. Mr. Zacharias seriously misrepresents Buddhist teachings and the personality of the Buddha. He limits the Buddhist view to the narrowest and most restrictive interpretation in every case. He presents only the Theravada Buddhist view, and then only the most negative interpretation of this view. He ignores the Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings. Both of these schools would do better in this specific 'face-off'. The Buddha NEVER denied God, only that our conditioned concept of God was not the final basis of reality. The Buddha taught a Unconditioned Ultimate Reality: 'O'monk, if there were no Unconditioned there would be no escape from the conditioned.' We live in the world of the conditioned - conditioned by causes and effects (karma). It is the realization of the Unconditioned state in us all that IS (already) eternal (unborn of a cause). The Christian salvation is conditioned, based on causes, it can not be eternal. Conditioned causes can only have conditioned effects. 'Even if a million conditioned causes could join forces they can not change something that is conditioned into unconditioned.' An unconditioned thing already exists, it is eternal and unborn of a cause, it is realized, not changed or created. This unconditioned nature is the 'buddha nature' in all of us, in all things. Some would call the Unconditioned Nature a Divine Nature or 'existence in (and realization of) the mind of 'God'.' The 'conditioned self' (ego self) is 'let go' so that the 'unconditioned being' can be realized. Virtually every Buddhist position related by Mr. Zacharias is in error. It is common in the West to think that Buddhism is atheistic, it is not, it is non-theistic. This means that Buddhism does not believe in a conditioned theistic God as the final reality (they do admit that he exists). Buddhist believe in an Unconditioned Ultimate Reality that can not be defined, limited, conceptualized, named, or otherwise limited by theistic thought. This book is little more than Christian propaganda. It is not a serious work or study.