10—16 March 2008
Issue No. 10
Ravi Zacharias is a well known Christian apologist and his many books on the subject are considered as vital resource for Christians wanting to reach out to their friends of other faiths. One of those commending this little book (just 94 pp.) says, on the first page: “this latest edition to our intellectual arsenal is delightfully different: vivid, dramatized meeting of the minds through which the truth of the gospel- and Dr Zacharias’s impeccable logic- shines forth with enjoyable clarity”.
Review: The Lotus and the Cross — Jesus Talks to Buddha by Ravi Zacharias
In size and format this book looks like the book on The Prayer of Jabez and is published by the same Multnomah Press. Cost wise it’s quite affordable (S$ 11.45) and could just fit into any small handbag or a jeans’ pocket.
The plot is set on a boat in one of the back canals of Bangkok. Although the city itself is not mentioned, it’s unlikely anybody would not guess it because the country is described as having a 95% Buddhist population, and the city as having a host of Buddhist Temples, including the Emerald Buddha, the Reclining Buddha, and the Golden Buddha.
Zacharias is brilliantly imaginative when he sets the dialogue between Jesus and Buddha on the painfully difficult issue of prostitution that has been plaguing this nation for decades. The news media claims that the income from this trade exceeds the entire national budget!
Taking a real life situation published in a local newspaper about a young woman caught up in prostitution, Zacharias weaves the threads of conversation between Jesus and Buddha on the issues raised by this problem for both society and religion in general and Christianity and Buddhism in particular. The introduction of the dialogue is so smooth that it naturally lends itself to tackling the problem head-on by the founders of the two of the most popular religions in the world.
At seventeen, young and beautiful Priya decided to head to the big city to work, so goes the newspaper story.
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.
From the celestial home of eternal grandeur
To the darkest secret of the human bosom,
In the virgin womb of the created,
The Maker was lowly in the making.
With each growth of cell,
A mark of guilt was sealed
Like staining a white wedding gown
On and on till t’was fully stained,
Till the human shape was formed,
A form afflicted and condemned
Awaiting a leprous end
Dreary night in heaven
Did the angels really sing in joyful chorus?
A lone star stood still in wonderment,
The wise men followed it in awe.
With all that load of human filth upon you
Did you ever hope to enjoy our humanity?
The creature for whom you bore the disease
Did you ever imagine what will be done unto you?
Like a white blood cell that lives to die
Caring not for its life but the one it saves
You were humbly here long ago
Just to take our flesh to heal our wounds
And to suffer our ills to give your cure
And to die our death to let us live.
Chapel Last Week
The speaker was Dr Toh See Kiat, the Council Chairman of BGST. Focusing on the text “It Seemed Good To Us and to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 15: 28), he shared about one of the most difficult experiences in his career when he launched into ventures that landed him with enormous loss and unbearable debt only to realize at the end that the Lord the Holy Spirit was missing in his plans as they were only “seemed good to him”. (AP)
Chapel Next Week
M.Div student, Dr Ng Liang Wei, will speak this Wednesday.
BGST students who hope to graduate at the forthcoming Convocation on 28th June are reminded to inform the School as soon as possible. You may download the “Application to Graduate” Form from our website or pick up one from the Admin office.
Please contact us even if you are uncertain whether you can complete your course requirements by then: we would rather hear from you now than wait until nearer the date. We are requesting that students intending to graduate submit all uncompleted assignments by 15 May 08 at the latest.
Please contact Dr. Aquila Lee for any other information you may require about the Convocation.
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 on to 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 blanked 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.’
Unable to shake off the memory of this sordid story, Zacharias thinks hard and raises some uncomfortable questions to the so called ‘religion’. He asks,
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 go to Jesus). He gives his own answer. Then he goes on…
And what would Buddha have said to her, this being a land where 95 per cent 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, hearing the lively sounds, and discussing the plight of this young woman? Many Buddhist scholars have drawn parallels between Buddha’s and Jesus’ teaching; one noted scholar even called them “brothers”. Is that an accurate portrayal? Or did this scholar, among others, completely miss the fundamental differences?’
With these words the conversation between Jesus, Buddha, Priya and the boatman begins and the author Zacharias withdraws himself from the boat. Here is one of the most imaginative and deeply engaging conversations taking place as the author lets the founders of those religions offer their own answers to some of the most difficult questions of life and death, time and eternity.
Besides being an excellent read, this book would offer some wise counsel for Christians to engage with their Buddhist friends. I do not advise that you present this book to your Buddhist friends, which some of us might be tempted to do in order just to avoid some embarrassing conversations. Some intellectuals may not like it thinking that the author is biased, engineered the conversation for his own advantage. At some point even Christians might come to that conclusion. So the rest is for you to read!
(Dr Augustine Pagolu)