8 Barriers for Buddhists
2. God’s Wrath and Justice
4. Eternal Life
5. The Preeminence of Buddha
6. God’s grace verses Merit.
7. Sin verses Crime
1. Heaven - In the early 1800s Adoniram Judson translated the concept of Heaven into Burmese as sky. Judson’s method of translation can be described as a wooden literal translation and not so much a meaning based or dynamic equivalent translation. Adoniram’s wife, Ann Judson, translated Heaven into the first Thai version of Matthew as Sawan. In Buddhism, Satan and other demons resides above the sky. The sky is at the top of our world, Manussa level and thousands of demons live in the 6 levels above this world (See diagram on p. 5). Buddhists translate these 6 levels the higher abodes. These higher abodes are filled with Buddhists angels, demons and other creatures who often commit sins. According to Buddhism if a person arrives to these higher abodes and then commit sin then they will fall down the 31 levels of existence. King Lithai summarized the 31 levels in the Thai Buddhist commentary Traiphum, as the Three realms. When Christians say that Jesus is the way to the sky or a higher abode, Buddhists tend to think that Jesus is still caught up in the cycle of reincarnation. The main meaning that our Buddhist friends need to understand is that Jesus came from a place of no sin and no suffering and He promises to take His disciples to this same place. In Buddhism there are 40 words to describe this place. Jesus showed his disciples that He is preparing a Golden City in which there are no more tears and no more sin.
2. God’s Wrath and Justice - When Buddhists hear how God killed the Egyptians in the Red Sea and how He killed Anaias and Sapphira in Acts 5, they are repulsed. Since a very young age Buddhists are taught “Do not kill.” Many monks teach that it is even wrong to kill insects and fish, however all Buddhists do this all the time and it leads to tremendous guilt. Christians should be aware of this barrier in order to find the appropriate bridges. Different barriers call for different bridges. It may be advisable to say that the evil Egyptians chased God’s children into the Red Sea and then the water killed them. We can let new believers understand God’s wrath after they understand His Magnificent love.
3. Sacrifice - A Buddhist man once asked me, “Why did your God die such a terrible death on the cross? Was it because of his sin in his previous life?” In Buddhism if bad things happen to you it is because you have committed sin. We need to explain through the gospel story that Christ was sinless. Christians should be encouraged to say that Jesus gave His “Life Offering” on the cross for our sins. Conscuently priest was translated as Yet braw heet is means one who offers blood to the spirits. All Burmese Buddhists know the story of the Rabbit King. Buddha was once incarnated as a rabbit and Thagyamin came to test him. Thagyamin was disguised as a Holy saint, Arahant. The Rabbit saw that this Arahant was about to die from starvation. Seeing his suffering the Rabbit prepared a fire and was just about to cook himself when Thagyamin revealed his true identity. Jesus gave his Life Offering on the cross for the sin of the whole world.
4. Eternal Life - Buddhists want to be set free from the endless cycle of sin and suffering known as reincarnation, samsara in Pali. Christians meet this barrier when they offer Jesus as the way to Eternal Life. Eternal life means eternal suffering and sin to a Buddhist. Most westerners are erroneously taught through the media that reincarnation is good because we get another chance. This is totally contrary to Orthodox (Theravada) Buddhism. Buddhists are slaves to religion because they want to get out of reincarnation. Jesus is the God of Freedom. He is Freedom from Reincarnation. We waste time trying to argue Buddhists that reincarnation isn’t logical. It may take years of discipleship for new Buddhist Background Believers to understand that reincarnation doesn’t exist.
5. The Preeminence of Buddha Christ - claimed several times that He existed before the world was created. He also is the creator of the Golden City. He said, “before Abraham was, I am (I existed) “ The prophet Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den at the time Gotoma was born. When the King of Persia saw how Daniel’s God save him from the hungry lions he made a decree. “Every ethnic people in my kingdom must worship the God of Israel. Dan. 6:24-28. The Persian kingdom stretched from North Africa all the way to the borders of Myanmar 600 years before Christ came. For 600 years before Christ came all of Asia learned, “Don’t murder, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery.” God told Israel through Daniel that they must obey His commands and that just before the world ends in fire the Savior of the world would come. This is the message that Daniel preached just up the southern Silk Road from Prince Gotama. It is highly probable that Prince Gotama preached what he learned from Daniel. Gotoma proclaimed, “Don’t kill, Don’t steal, Don’t commit adultery.” He also told all his disciples that just before the world ended with fire the Savior, Mettreya will come. Therefore Buddha learned the truths of God and His coming Savior through the Persian King and Prophet Daniel in 544 BC.
6. God’s grace verses Merit - When Buddhists hear Christians say that Salvation is free of charge they are repulsed. They exclaim, “It can’t be that easy! We have to suffer a lot and pay a lot of money to earn our merit.” Christians can emphasize the tremendous sufferings that our Savior endured to earn our Salvation. Our salvation was not free. It was so costly and that Christ prayed, “Lord if it is possible let this cup pass from me.”
7. Sin verses Crime Sin - is often described to Buddhists as aphyit in Burmese and apid in Thai. This term is used when describing the actions of criminals. Buddhist claim that only criminals have a phyit, however they readily admit that even the most holy man has committed kelisa (evil desire) in his heart. loba, dosa, moha are the first 3 of the ten fires of kelisa. Gotoma described these evil desires as a black fire burning in the heart of all people. Jesus describes sin as the same way in Matthew 5-7
8. Creation Buddhists ask, “If your God created the universe then why does he create the blind and the deaf? Why is there so much suffering?” If you can help me add to or clarify this list of barriers then please write to
The following diagram was drawn by the Major, Jay and Saya Si Thu.
It can be summarized into three categories,
and Kama loka
Christ came down from Nibban to our world. He sets us from the cycle of sin and suffering and takes us to his City of No Sin and No Suffering. A Theravada Buddhist’s view of the Cosmos and understanding of Salvation 31 abodes of Existence adapted from Suvano Mahathera I. The Immaterial World (arupa-loka) II. The Fine-Material World (rupa-loka) III. The Sensuous World (kama-loka)