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Change over Time essay: Buddhism and Christianity

By zachary8495 Feb 25, 2014 1733 Words
Change over time essay By: Zachary Damasco

With the discovery of America in 1492, along with help from the Columbian exchange, Christianity was able to expand to new places. It expanded to North and South America, as well as diffuse it’s religion into new cultures while remaining dominant in Europe. It even helped contribute to new hybrid religions such as a widespread new American beliefs that infused traditional Native American beliefs with Christianity. An example being how Native Americans kept their traditional rituals but incorporated new Christian relics such as the crucifix. Buddhism was largely popular in South-East and Central Asia, where it remained one of the staple religions of the region. However, it didn’t just remain as traditional Buddhism, because it diffused with other cultures and faiths. The new Shinto-Buddhist hybridity, incorporated the common practices of the Buddhist faith in Shinto ceremonies and meditation. Both Buddhism and Christianity through the help of travel and trade syncretized into new cultures and religions, all while keeping their prior beliefs and remaining dominant in it’s initial region. While the 1450’s to the 1750’s are most notable for the changes that occurred to Christianity and Buddhism, the numerous continuities that remained from the previous time period all the way through 1750 give us a great idea of how origins remained unscathed. Christianity had been the staple religion of Europe from the early times, nearly a thousand years back after it replaced Paganism, and remained unchanged, because of the Christian stronghold of all of Europe. The pope was an incredibly powerful figure and even had the power to grant land rights to countries. Since countries such as Spain and Portugal wanted to keep up a good reputation with the church, being Christian allowed the elites to rule more smoothly, and their acceptance of Christianity trickled down to the lower classes beneath them for the same reasons. Also, Christianity was so against other adopting religions that if you were of another religion, you were for the most part shunned and neglected from society. For example, Islamic people were despised by Christians, for a few reasons, one being that Christians and Muslims have notoriously fought for hundreds of years (crusades) and already had a bad reputation, but then when the Ottoman empire gained control of the path from Europe to Asia, it created a buffer that disallowed trade between Europe and the rest of the known world. This actually benefited Europe in the long run, because it forced the Europeans to expand outward which caused them to discover the new world in the Americas.Christianity also kept its most common principles and ideals relevant in all religions it diffused into, keeping its idea of one god, taking part in sabbath gathering, Jesus being the son of god who died for our sins, the idea of praying to god for either forgiveness or for acceptance, and for the most part Christian like the Crucifix, the holy grail, and idols such as Jesus himself, The virgin Mary, Joseph, John the baptist and many more. The acceptance of these traditions and crucifix helped Christianity remain and even become more of a dominant religion in the world, because with more adoptance of practices, the more closely associated these groups were with each other (aside from Lutheranism which denounced the then modern Christianity as being tainted and wanted nothing to do with the papacy and its new teachings), creating much better relationships and a much easier way to spread the overall idea of the faith of Christ throughout the world. Buddhism was one of the most followed religions in South-East and Central Asia, and it remained so throughout the entire time period. Buddhism’s main way of attracting new followers, was to use missionaries that were set up along trade routes. By sharing their faith with travellers, they were able to not only convert the people in their area, but actually the people around their area, because the same travellers they converted would end up sharing their new found faith with the people they met further down the road. This form of conversion that was dominant on the trade route of the silk road was adopted by the sea trade of spice islands in the South-East such as the Philippines and Vietnam which are over 90 percent Buddhist majority, after the decline in use of the silk road and the increased use of Indian ocean ship trading, since the Indian ocean allowed a more vast connection between trading countries and allowed for the faster shipment of larger loads. Buddhism, wherever it went and diffused, kept its essential practice of reaching enlightenment as well as using meditation and peace to be in acceptance and harmony with oneself and the world. Even when Buddhism diffused itself into Bushido, the Shinto-Buddhist mix, the Samurai’s who practiced the faith remained intent on reaching enlightenment, all while maintaining the idea of war as traditional to Samurai’s. Buddhism was accepting of everybody and so peaceful, which made it a very appealing religion, and it almost never took part in forced conversion, because having no god it didn’t feel like they had a divine mission to convert, only the idea that people should follow this religion, because it is a genuinely good religion. Since Buddhism was so versatile (could have any aspect of its religion adopted by other, most commonly the use of meditation) and had conversion tactics that rivaled everyone else, it allowed Buddhism to remain a dominant religion as well as increase its following. As I said before, this time period was an era of change, and when it came to Christianity, the biggest changes were the new areas Christianity reached as well as the new religions started such as Lutheranism. With the discovery of the Americas, Christianity was able to spread its faith to a new region as well as convert new people, the Native Americans, to their religion. Since Christians believed that all people must be saved in order to reach salvation, they began mass conversion of the Native Americans in the 1500’s. The native Americans were considered to be inhuman and had to be converted in order to be saved. The Natives were almost viewed as Africans, who weren’t allowed to be Christian due to their skin color, but they, like the Native AMericans found ways to follow faith. The Africans actually even made their own Black Catholic community in Brazil, where they were transported to during the Columbian exchange slave trade. So, the European-African-American Columbian exchange allowed for the first ever black Catholic faith to rise up. Back to the Native Americans though. After these large scale conversions, many Of the Native Americans decided to fuse their own faith with Christian ideals. In many cases we see the idea that there is one god (new idea) that controls and sets free the ancestral spirits (old belief) and can determine if your soul will reach salvation and be a happy spirit (mix of both ideas). There wasn’t one specific Native American-Christian mix, because the Native Americans had certain rituals and faiths relative to their tribe, so a Native American church in the Western portion of North America, would not be teaching the same things as a church in Central North America. The only thing that may have stayed the same was the teaching of the Christianity portion. The faith itself wasn’t the only thing that changed, but the traditional covenant architecture changed as well. Churches in Europe were flat platformed buildings, because there was nothing in Christianity to cause churches to be higher up. However, Native American traditions had the ideal that you must be higher up to be closer to god, so they incorporated steps into their churches much like previous ziggurats had, and even built churches on hills, one reason why even today you have many churches that have the name “Church on the hill”. Changes didn’t just occur in America though, in fact a very large scale movement, the protestant reformation was taking place in Europe. The leader of this movement was Martin Luther, a man who was fed up with the churches sale of indulgences as well as its disregard for the common man. He also hated how over time Christianity became tainted and strayed from its original and true meaning.This marked the beginning of the Lutheran church and an era of reform in Europe,something that hadn’t occurred for hundreds of years. While Christianity had many outstanding changed, Buddhism, although being far more subtle, changed significantly. The most important change had to be that the spread of Buddhism was stagnating. Prior to its stagnation, it was converting on a regular basis and reached many millions of people, however, there was a point where regions began to just stay with their religions, because of the perks that came to being of that religion. In Islamic lands, you had to pay a non-islamic tax, and in Europe, forget about being anything but Christian, and really the only places Buddhism could have an impact was where it already was. This is why Buddhism remained only in Central and South-East Asia and failed to spread any further. It did though change the people and faith of the areas it was dominant. In Japan, the traditional Samurai’s who were Shinto (and became Bushido after Buddhism’s addition), adopted aspects of Buddhism in order to better serve their home life. It allowed the Shinto believers and warriors to reach enlightenment (Nirvana-Nevermind, great album). This was great for them, because it, in their eyes, allowed them to understand themselves, their enemy, their surroundings, and all aspects, giving them the edge in battle. So Japan’s warrior mindset allowed for China’s Buddhist ideal to spread, because it benefited the mentality of the warrior. Overall, Christianity and Buddhism both had significant changes that occurred between 1450 and 1750, as well as having some aspects remain the same as it was from the previous era. With the help of cultural and religious syncretism and hybridity, Both Christianity and Buddhism were able to establish new religions such as Lutheranism and Shinto, as well as diffuse themselves into new religions and cultures like the Native American traditional-Christian fusion along with their impact in the American churches. These religions were able to remain influential and important in the regions it affected for years to come.

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