Buddhism vs. Christianity
Buddhism and Christianity are two of the most prominent worldwide religions; the Buddhist faith has three hundred and sixty million followers while Christianity is the largest religious sect worldwide with two billion believers. These particular sects of religious belief are the two largest religions in the world but have conflicting views on things such as the religions individual views of the afterlife and death, and moral code or ethics. The foundation of Buddhism is based upon personal mental anguish and guilt if committing a wrongdoing. Christianity on the other hand has firm beliefs of sins that are punishable by separation from God the Creator. The Buddhist Karmic Law and Christian Moral Code however are very comparable in values and beliefs but the way in which they are carried out are where the differences become apparent. The beliefs and morals of the two religions are very similar on the surface; the differences between Buddhism and Christianity become visible in the way in which the followers of each faith carry out their religious life.
The ethics and moral conducts that are involved in the Buddhist faith are very detailed and complex rules put into different categories. Two different sets of religious laws in the faith are the five precepts and the eightfold path that are followed by the lay and clergy of Buddhism. The five precepts of Buddhism are to avoid taking the life of all living beings not just humans, do not ever take anything that is not given to you the object received must be specifically intended for you, and avoid any delinquencies of the senses including things other than sexual misconducts such as gluttony, persons are to abstain from false speech such as lies, deceptions, and slanders, lastly a Buddhist of strong faith must avoid any intoxicants because intoxicants very often lead to breaking the other precepts (Oxtoby). In comparison to the Christian Ten Commandments that are punishable the Five Precepts are not punishable. Rather these precepts are to be looked upon as training mechanisms for the Buddhist people. These precepts are not punishable because a large part the Buddhism is intense personal mental anguish and guilt to strengthen the believer. The eightfold path is another tool used in the Buddhist faith. The eight steps of the path are divided into three different parts wisdom, ethical conduct, and mental development (Oxtoby). The first two components of the path make up the wisdom portion; they are right view and right intention. Right view is considered by Buddhists to be the beginning and end of the eightfold path. To move to the next step on the path one must grasp the ever-changing nature of the world, the unimportance of ones possessions and objects and fully understand the laws of karma. Right intention is the second aspect of the path the three intentions are intentions of renunciation, of good will, and harmlessness, which simply means to act without harming others. The next three steps of the path are in the category of ethical conduct; they are right speech, right action, and right livelihood. Right speech is a guideline to moral discipline because words can greatly affect a person’s life, this too involves the concept of avoiding lying, slandering and using harsh words. Right Action is the next step that involves not harming any living beings, not taking anything not intended for you, and sexual misconducts. Right livelihood gives the faithful four things to avoid that are dealing weapons, dealing in beings even cattle, meat production or butchering, and selling intoxicants. The last three components of the path are classified under mental development. Right effort is the first and gives Buddhists four endeavors, preventing the rising of unwholesome states, to abandon already risen unwholesome states, to arouse the wholesome states, and maintain wholesome states already rose. Right Mindfulness involves contemplation of body, feeling, state of mind, and phenomena. Right Concentration is detailed as unification of the mind, concentration on wholesome things, this is obtained through the practice of meditation (Oxtoby). The ethical and moral codes of Christianity are comparable to Buddhist beliefs in essence because the morals of the religion are similar. The differences between these two religions are noticeable not in the moral codes but in the way the codes affect the religious and each religions respective view of a God or Creator. The moral code of Christianity is primarily just an expansion of the morals that most people follow. Christian ethics are founded upon the belief of moral objectives being embedded within all persons. The moral code of Christianity was passed from God the Creator down to the created human beings not to cause difficulties for His people; rather the codes of Christianity are intended to help the faithful to lead a life by God’s example. The primary moral system of Christianity is the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are thou shalt have no gods before me, thou shalt not worship false idols, thou shalt not take the lords name in vein, keep holy the Sabbath day, honor your father and mother, thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not commit adultery, thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods. These commandments are crucial to the morality of Christians, they are the guidelines passed down by The Creator that are necessary to follow in order to live a Christ like life. Views of afterlife and death are another area where the religions of Christianity and Buddhism differ greatly. The Buddhist concept of afterlife primarily relies on transmigration, which Buddha explained as a row of candles being lit all by the flame of the candle that precedes it. This simply shows that each life is affected by what one accomplishes or do not accomplish in a person’s previous life. The Buddhist view of a heaven is called Nirvana, which is a state of final liberation for the Buddhist people. In Nirvana the faithful has cleansed themselves of all desires and selfish motives. The Buddhist belief Anatta explains that we do not have souls because nothing can be recognized as immortal (Oxtoby). The Christian perceptions of afterlife and death almost seem to be polar opposites of the beliefs of the Buddhist faith. As directly opposed to the Buddhist faith Christians believe in an afterlife and no reincarnation. The Christian place for those who have been saved is simply called Heaven. It is impossible for the Christians to save themselves as is possible in Buddhism but rather Christians rely on God’s saving grace and living a divinely inspired life to reach the Promised Land. A person’s earthly conduct is what will eventually lead them to eternal salvation with God or for sinners’ eternal damnation in Hell. Purgatory is the third destination for Christian believers. Purgatory is an empty space described as a limbo where the soul is sent for preparation for entrance into heaven. It is stated in Christianity that people who have venial sins on their soul when they decease. In order to be completely saved one must erase all trace of sins from the soul, purgatory is a cleansing place for these people in preparation for heaven. The main difference between the views of these two religions is that Christians maintain that a person’s being carries on following death and the actions of ones life, sins or good deeds, ultimately determine ones destination in the afterlife, while Buddhists state that there is no ultimate destination for the soul but one’s essence is strictly reborn again. In addition to these five precepts and eightfold path Buddhism also has Four Noble Truths to exemplify the suffering during a humans life. They are Dukkha, Samudaya, Nirohda and Magga (Oxtoby). These truths are the path of suffering the existence, the cause, the end, and how to get to the end or eightfold path. All in all, the faiths of Buddhism and Christianity are similar in each respective moral code, but are extremely divided in the concepts that branch off from their governing moral laws. Other divisions between the two religions are apparent in their views of a God of creation. Christians believe in having a strong relationship with God, while Buddhists maintain that there is no creator. There are many Buddhists that worship multiple gods in addition to their worship of Buddha; Christians however worship no god other than that of the Lord Creator. To worship another god is blasphemy, according to Christianity. Another concept where these religions differentiate is the perception of salvation. Buddhism beliefs of salvation rely on personal growth and freeing oneself from all yearnings (Oxtoby). The Christian perceptions of salvation are considered by the faithful to rely upon God’s saving grace, along with living an ideal Christian life. The Christian religion strongly believes that to be saved, one must accept the sacrifice God made through Jesus Christ dying on the cross and completely trust in God’s methods of salvation. The concept of sins are involved in the beliefs of salvation in both of these religions. Buddhist remain faithful to the concept that while there cannot be sin against a god because they do not believe in a creator, sin and living an unrighteous life will hold you back from reaching Nirvana. The Christian religion maintains that sin plays a major part in God’s salvation of humanity. Another massive divide between the religions is the view on human life. Buddhists see the human form to have little worth because of its temporary nature; Christians on the other hand maintain that human beings are of incredible importance because people were made in the likeness of God. Other than on terms of moral grounds of Buddhism and Christianity are avidly different faiths.
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1. Oxtoby, Willard Gurdon., and Alan F. Segal. A Concise Introduction to World Religions. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford UP, 2007. Print. 2. Gibbs, Andrew. "Class Notes." Rel1300. HCB, Tallahassee. 22 Mar. 2012. Lecture.