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by Spencer J. Palmer

"Buddhism has been the most important religious force in Asia for nearly two thousand years. No other religion has affected the thought, culture, and politics of so many people. In aesthetics, architecture, dance, drama, handicrafts, literary arts, and music Buddhism has also been the single most important civilizing influence in the Eastern world" (Palmer and Keller, p. 49).

Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 B.C.), the founder of Buddhism, acknowledged no God, no soul, and no future life; he taught of the bliss of nirvana, which involves the extinction of ego and lust. Caught in the legacy of karma, one's life is bequeathed to another who falls heir to it—a continuation that is sometimes called "stream of consciousness," the "aggregates of character," or the "skandas." Consequently, the historical Buddha did not advocate worship or prayer, but practiced introspective meditation as a form of spiritual discipline.

The philosophy of Gautama (Gotama, in Pali), sometimes called Theravada Buddhism, with its emphasis upon the worthlessness of the physical body, of individuality, of this phenomenal mortal life, of faith in God, and of judgment, disagrees with LDS doctrine. In the restored gospel, mankind is the literal, personal offspring of God. It is a privilege to be born into mortality to gain a physical body, so that one can become more like the Heavenly Father, who is a personal, tangible being (cf. D&C 130:22). Self-fulfillment, not self-negation, is the purpose of earth life. Latter-day Saints seek to emulate Christ and, through the power of his divine Atonement, to be personally exalted into the presence of God after death, and to become like him (see Godhood).

This is not to say that the gospel and Buddhism contradict one another in every way. The LDS religion, like Buddhism, advocates meditation, reverence, inspiration, and moderation. Latter-day Saints embrace elements similar to those of the Eightfold Middle Path, which advocate freedom from ill will and cruelty, and abstinence from lying, talebearing, harsh and vain thought, violence, killing, stealing, and sexual immorality (see Commandments).

Other dimensions of Buddhist doctrine and practice, in the schools of Mahayana Buddhism in northern Asia, are similar to LDS doctrine and practice. Both LDS belief and Mahayana Buddhism are theistic. The Bodhisattva ideal of benevolence and compassionate service, of helping others who cannot by themselves reach the highest realms of spirituality, is not only largely consistent with the vicarious sacrifice and redeeming love of Jesus Christ, but also is expressed in wide-ranging, loving service on behalf of the living and the dead carried out within Latter-day Saint temples (see Temple Ordinances).

(See Daily Living home page; Interfaith Relationships home page; World Religions (Non-Christian) and Mormonism home page)


Palmer, Spencer J., and Roger R. Keller. Religions of the World: A Latter-day Saint View. Provo, Utah, 1989.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, World Religions

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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