Comparing spiritual leaders

LIHUE —It’s a comparison that may catch people off guard, but the two figures have much in common.

Both were exclusive founders of their faiths. Both endured timeless human challenges. And both overcame those challenges to become models for their followers.

“I believe that few persons have done these remarkable things, so they are worth saluting,” Dana Bekeart, retired professor of humanities at Kauai Community College, said about his upcoming lecture, “The Buddha and Jesus,” scheduled for 7 tonight at St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church.

The talk is part of the Rev. Malcolm Miner series of speeches on religion and society presented annually by the church.

And the message the recipient of the 2001 University of Hawaii Regents Medal for Excellence in Teaching hopes to convey to the audience between the two religious giants?

“Appreciation of their positive impacts on many human lives,” Bekeart wrote in an email.

Bekeart taught a variety of humanities courses at KCC from 1973 to 2010. Trained in the history of philosophy, he specialized in comparative world religions.

The lecture isn’t meant to rank one figure equal or above the other, only to examine the similarities based on documents provided.

“I was trained by professors who assumed anthropological and sociological views,” Bekeart wrote. “I have no divine (metaphysical) perspective on either man, other than what has been supplied by their scriptures.”

Jesus is the central figure of Christianity, whom Christian denominations hold to be the Son of God.

Buddha was a sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. He taught in eastern India sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE.

Both figures were transformed by their quests and both inspired their followers to challenge and overcome their limited spiritual conditions and to form new paths for personal renewal.

Compassion was the focal point of both their lives and both are still held up as a symbol of a higher humanity long after their deaths.

“Along with telling some stories from their lives, I will talk about their differences,” Bekeart added.

The Malcolm Miner Memorial Lecture provides lectures, which connect faith, learning, and life. It was established in memory of the Rev. Malcolm Miner (1920-2012) who was priest associate of St. Michael’s, 4364 Hardy St. in Lihue.

As part of the lecture, Bekeart will be showing clips from the 2010 PBS video, “The Buddha,” by David Grubin.

Info: Rev. Phillis Meighen at 647-4346 or 245-3796 or


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