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Christianinty vs Buddhism

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Essay topic: Compare and contrast the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama as the founder of Buddhism with either the teachings of Jesus as the founder of Christianity or Muhammad as the founder of Islam.
Guidelines: In topic 8 we deal with New Religious Movements and the fact that each of the major world religions was once a New Religious Movement. In topic 9 we dealt with the role of the founder in New Religious Movements. Use the material of topics 8, 9, 10 and 11 to present an overview of the teachings of the founder in the two traditions. What are the similarities and differences in the teachings of these two founders?

Word Count: 2746

Virtually every major Christian doctrine is denied in Buddhism and vice versa, yet many consider that there are similarities between the two religions. From looking at the founding figure of each, it is clear that these two religions emerged from two vastly different times and each taught opposing values for their followers to abide by. Although there are some values and ideas that the founders both taught as important, the major aspects of the religions differ greatly and suggest that following the other religion will only result in suffering or eternal punishment.

By examining the founding figure of each of the religions and how each began, it illustrates the opposing ideas of each religion. The initial similarity of the two religions is that both of the founding figures existed in the flesh and lived among their followers and disciples. In the time around 624B.C# the founding figure of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama was born as a prince in Northern India. His birth is considered as a miraculous event as it was predicted by Brahmin that he would become a person of great importance.# According to legend, “his mother dreamed that the Buddha-to-be took the form of a white elephant and entered her womb, and she ceased to have any wish for sex.”# Although his mother had previously given birth to other children, it was regarded “in a loose sense a virgin birth”#, as no sexual act was performed to conceive the child.
This event portrays a very similar story to the birth of Jesus Christ. In contrast however, Jesus was born in Bethlehem to a virgin named Mary, chosen by God to borne his son in a manger in a stable. Many Christians consider the birth of Jesus to be a miraculous event, as not only was it a virgin birth, but Mary was informed of his decision when an angel of the Lord came to speak to her. It was here that Mary was informed of the importance of the child she was to give birth to, as God sent Jesus “to save the world”# from their sins. From this it is evident that each of these figures were seen to hold important roles in the development of each of these religions.

As a young man Siddhartha Gautama was sheltered from all sickness, death and old age, but when he ventured out of the kingdom and witnessed such events, it is said to have “robbed him of all peace of mind”# and therefore encouraged him to make the resolve to dedicate his life to finding a cure for suffering. It is interesting to note that Siddhartha did not immediately know what path to take. He experimented with several religions and “after six years of seeking, he arrived at the system that became Buddhism.”# It was only after living a life of severe austerity and reflection that he concluded that self denial was the “path to victory of the spirit over the flesh”# and would therefore lead him on the road to higher consciousness and ultimately to become a Buddha.
In contrast, Jesus was born with a distinct purpose and role for his life, to save the world from their sin. Through examining the bible it is apparent that he was aware of this role from his birth. A passage in the Bible recorded by John, recounts a conversation Jesus has with a woman about awaiting the return of the Messiah. It is at this point that Jesus displays his awareness of his role as he replies to the woman, “I who speak to you am he.”#
Aspects of the lives that both these founders lead whilst on earth can be viewed not only as an example for their followers, but also gives insight into details of the religions. Whilst Jesus openly claimed to be the Son of God, Siddhartha (Buddha) “did not claim divinity or even a divine source for his teachings. He saw himself as only an example.”# The scriptures record that both men performed miracles, highlighting their unique power, from Jesus raising the dead#, to Buddha using his powers to send people into a deep sleep#
The deaths of these two men portray two vastly different events as one signifies the end of a single individual and releases them to the afterlife, and the other enables the world to have the opportunity to live in eternity with God. When Buddha had reached about 80 years old, he came to his death after a meal brought on an attack of mortal illness.# It was at this point that his physical death enabled him to accept his place in Nirvana. The death of Jesus was a more dramatic and pivotal moment in Christianity as it not only meant the death of Jesus, but also saved the world from their sins. By order of the Jewish people and the king, Jesus was sentenced to death on a cross as punishment for claiming to be God’s Son. After enduring hours of humiliating and excruciating pain, Jesus was crucified on the cross, taking the punishment for the world’s sins.#

Not only are the lives of these two founders vastly different, but the doctrines and values that they teach also give great insight into the varying religions. One of the major issues that differ between the two paths is that on the existence of God. Although Buddha never denied or affirmed that a god existed, his teaching contains no mention of any divine or ruling, eternal being. He believed that “the universe abounded in gods, goddesses, demons and other nonhuman powers and agencies, but all without exception were finite, subject to death and rebirth”# With no divine or ruling being, there is no record or explanation for creation or the origin of the world, nor is there any need for “faith nor worship, neither prayer nor praise nor forgiveness of sins.”#
In complete contrast to Buddhism, Christianity states that the very existence of the universe shows that God exists; “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork.”# The basic principle of Christianity is the belief in God and man’s need to build a relationship with him. Christians are told that they are made in the image of God; it is therefore the individual’s duty to respond to God’s offer of a relationship with him. The followers maintain a relationship with him through prayer, worship, praise and resting their faith in him. In the Bible, it states that “The whole duty of man is to fear God and keep his commands.”#

Within their teachings, each of these founders and leaders provide their followers with an idea about the purpose of life, and what it is that they are aiming to achieve.
In Buddhism the central focus of their human existence is to escape it. Known as ‘The Four Noble Truths’, Buddhist teaching states that suffering is an essential part of human life as it is the result of an individual’s desires that cause it, and it is only that individual that can save themselves by eliminating all early desires by following the Eightfold Path.
In order to help his followers achieve a life of renunciation Buddha established a set of rules to be used as a guideline. Known as the Eightfold Path, it states that the individual must understand the truths of Buddhism, direct their mind to achieving the ideals established, speak without desire and also act accordingly. In addition to this, one must find a job suitable to Buddhist life, make a conscious effort to promote good thoughts, be aware of all the sensations associated with body and mind and finally, one must practice Buddhist forms of meditation.#
After achieving enlightenment, Buddha claimed that all life is suffering and if “man will abandon his desire to live, his existence will be extinguished.”# As it is taught that each individual is trapped on earth in a cycle of rebirth and reincarnation, life is seen merely as fulfilling what you have earned in a previous life. This is based on Buddhist’s belief in the power and importance of karma. The laws of karma state that everything that happens to a man is a result of his actions in previous lives and that the future existence of the individual is determined by his actions now.#
Buddhism teaches that the only way to escape from the suffering of disease, death and old age is to eliminate all earthly desires, so that the individual is able to focus on achieving enlightenment. According to Buddha’s teaching, “The quality of human life depends not upon external development or material progress, but upon the inner development of peace and happiness.”# This teaching puts a negative spin on the value of life as it suggests that it is merely a means to an end and holds no value. By encouraging individuals to eliminate all desire and earthly possessions to ensure escape from rebirth, it is suggesting to followers that they must rid themselves of anything that makes them an individual. This strict and reclusive lifestyle can be seen through the lives of the monks and nuns that were discipled by Buddha, as they detached themselves from any family they had, wore the same simple and uniformed clothing and dedicated their lived to achieving enlightenment, away from any earthly distractions. It has often been suggested that “Budda’s ethics were essentially anti-work, since any kind of work presupposes an attachment to existence and material things.”# This would therefore suggest that Buddhism is perhaps only suited to monks, as only monks can live a life renouncing all material things that is needed to achieve full enlightenment.

In Christianity, many of the values that are taught contradict that of Buddhist teaching, in particular, “its central teaching involves the absolute necessity for belief in Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour from sin”.# It is as a result of this belief that the individual desires to have a relationship with his creator and Saviour and therefore lives according to his will. In contrast to that of Buddhism, Christianity teaches that life is good and is given meaning as Jesus came that his people “might have life and have it more abundantly”# and emphasises that individuals require freedom from their sin as opposed to freedom from life itself. It teaches that this life is of great importance as “there is no other life on earth and no other chance to please God after this life. We must obey in this life to have hope.”#
Although the issue of suffering is not as prevalent in Christianity, it is still addressed in the Christian teaching as it is an unavoidable aspect of life. Similarly to that of Buddhism, it is taught that suffering is a result of man’s actions, however Christianity states that it is not always the actions of the individual that causes this suffering. In the beginning of the Bible, during the creation of the world, man made a decision, against God’s instructions, creating sin. As a result of this action, pain and suffering were inflicted upon man.# However as mentioned it is taught that not all suffering is as a result of an individual’s own actions, in many cases it is as a result of another’s actions including suffering that is a “temptation from the Devil, who is trying to get righteous people to commit sins.”#
Despite this presence of suffering, Christianity provides hope for its followers as it states that the way to overcome suffering is not to strive for defeat on your own accord, but to put your faith in God and trust in his grace to guide you; “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.”# As a reward for this suffering, God promises his followers, eternal life in heaven with Him, free from any type of suffering.

However there are some similarities between the values that are taught in both the religions, but they are enacted in vastly different ways. In both teachings, followers are encouraged to follow their leader’s example and use them as a guideline of what they need to achieve. They both encourage the fact that a love of material possessions will only result in suffering and distraction from the final goal. Similarly they both encourage the individual to possess charity, humility, meekness and a purity of heart.# In spite of these common values; they are suggesting different uses of these ethics. In Christianity, purity of heart is encouraged to ensure that the follower lives a life acceptable and similar to that of God; “Do all things without murmurings and disputing: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.”# In contrast, Buddhism maintains these values as they believe that an individual’s actions determine their character and subsequent life; “All that we are is a result of what we have thought… if a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him… with a pure thought, happiness follows him.”#

The issue of salvation in the two religions varies greatly as Christianity states that it is only by God’s grace that man can be saved and not by his own actions. This theology clearly contradicts the purpose of Buddhist existence - to achieve self-enlightenment. Buddhism centres on the need to achieve enlightenment and to be able to reach a state of higher consciousness, which can only be achieved by human effort, without divine aid. It is by following the Eightfold Path that an individual can achieve this higher consciousness as their salvation is based on merit.
In accordance with Christian teaching, the only thing that man has earned is death. As each individual is judged on their sins, no man has or can achieve freedom from their actions except through Jesus; “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”# Christianity also teaches that Jesus is the only man that can save another from their sins. As Jesus has taken the punishment for man’s sins by dying in their place, he offers salvation to anyone simply by believing in what he has done for them and accepting him as their Lord and Saviour.#
As there is no recognition of an eternal or divine God, Buddhist’s have no knowledge of sin, or need for redemption by forgiveness.

As previously mentioned, Buddhist teaching states that once reaching the point of death, the being is reincarnated depending on their actions in their previous life. If enlightenment has been achieved, they are able to pass into Nirvana, a freedom from the cycle of rebirth and suffering. Although Buddhism teaches that the eternal goal is Nirvana, there is no actual knowledge of what Nirvana is; Buddha himself simply described it as “bliss… a condition beyond limitations of thought, feelings and will”#
In contrast to this, Christianity states that “It is appointed to man once to die”# therefore dismissing the belief in reincarnation and the cycle of rebirth. As Jesus as taken the punishment for man’s sin, there is no need for a person to pay the penalty of their actions over several lives. Despite the fact that man has fallen short of the glory of God, Christianity teaches that those who follow him, are promised eternal life with him in heaven.#

The scriptures of the two religions give great insight into its details and are often used as a primary source for referencing its teachings. Buddhist scriptures consist of three groups of writings, known as the 3 baskets or Tripitaka. These writings provide its followers with sermons and doctrines explaining and aiding one to attain full enlightenment and liberation from suffering, although it is based on oral tradition as it was not written until after the death of Buddha. It has been stated that the teachings “are stated chiefly in negative terms”# and that it claims that “the truth must be experienced… it cannot be defined.”# and therefore offers limited insight into how to reach full enlightenment.
Christianity’s scriptures is considered a historical recollection and account of history as it occurred. Broken into two sections, the old testament consists mainly of laws and prophesies, predicting and paving the way for the coming of Jesus Christ and the new testament tells of Jesus’ fulfilment of God’s plan. The Bible gives Christian’s insight into creation, heaven, hell and is used as an instruction manual, teaching them how to live for Christ.

Although it is commonly stated that all religions are the same and it does not matter which an individual chooses, it can been seen from these two religions that the teachings, ideals and redemption aimed at being achieved are vastly different. Not only do they teach different things, but in many cases they contradict each others’ teachings and suggest that an individual can only gain freedom from their suffering by adhering to the guidelines that they each establish.

Bibliography

Websites:
. Christianity and Buddhism, Dr John Ankerberg and Dr John Weldon, accessed 2nd May, 2008 http://www.ankerberg.org/Articles/_PDFArchives/apologetics/AP3W1101.pdf . The Gospel Way, David E Pratte, accessed 2nd May, 2008, http://www.gospelway.com/religiousgroups/buddhism.php . O.M.F., accessed 3rd May, 2008, http://www.omf.org/omf/buddhism/about_buddhism/christianity_and_buddhism Books:
. The Holy Bible
. Cory, Steven, The Spirit of the Truth and the Spirit of Error 2; World Religions, 1986, The Moody Bible Institute, Chicago
. Dickson, John, A Spectator’s Guide to World Religions, 2004, Blue Bottle Books, Sydney
. Gyatso, Geshe Kelsang, Introduction to Buddhism, 1992, Tharpa Publications, London
. Lochhaas, Philip H, How to Respond to The Eastern Religions, 1979, Concordia Publishing House, Missouri
. Noss, David S, A History of the World’s Religions, 2003, Persons Education, New Jersey
. Smart, Ninian, The World’s Religions, 1989, Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, Cambridge…...

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...This paper is a comparison between two very different religions. Specifically Christianity and Buddhism. Coming from opposite sides of the globe these two religions could not be any farther apart in any aspect. I will discuss who Christ is for Christians and who Buddha is for Buddhists. I will also get into the aspects of charity, love, and compassion in both religions and I will be looking at the individual self and how christians see resurrection where the buddhists feel about the afterlife. One thing to keep in mind is that the two religions are very different but they seem to have a very similar underlying pattern. Both believe that there was a savior of their people, Buddha and Christ, and both believe that there is something good that happens to us when our time is done here on earth. This is a very generalized summarization but in order to go in to depth I need to explain the two religions more to fully convey this theory.  The Christian religion, like all other religions has its strengths and weaknesses in our modern society. Perhaps the strengths out weight the weaknesses as this is one of the largest religions in the world. Hundreds of people follow the Catholic/Christian religion yet still a greater number follow yet other religions. Perhaps this is because they see the weaknesses or perhaps it is simply because their parents have taught them that it is a sin to follow this religion. The Christian religions do however present much more of an appealing......

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Buddhism vs Christianity

...We are all at some point in our lives drawn to some form of religion, whether this is in the form of believing or not believing. A religion brings us a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Each of the different types of religion, whether that be Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism or any of the other ones, all share many similarities as well as many differences. However, it is these differences that set each of them apart from one another. Two of the most prominent religions in the world today, Christianity and Buddhism, couldn’t be more different, but yet share many similarities. Both Christian and Buddhists ideas and teachings have served to guide and influence the lives and decisions of each of their respected followers for many centuries and both continue to be a dominating force in the world today Christianity offers a distinct and comforting sense of purpose for those who believe. As a human, we are destined to make mistakes. Christianity offers us a way of knowing that we are forgiven of our sins. It shows us that we are loved no matter what, and it gives us a sense of how we should live our lives in order to be who God wants us to be. Christianity provides us with an ideal father figure to look up to and pushes us to live up to his ideals. We believe that our purpose is to work to be the best possible person we could be and to treat everyone with love and kindness. We believe that God made us just the way he wanted us to be and that God has a path......

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Hum 130 Final Paper Buddhism vs Christian Faith

...Buddhism and Christian Faith HUM/130 Week 9: Final Assignment January 22, 2012 Introduction This paper presents research of the beliefs and practices of Buddhism; describes the worship space of the temple; summarizes an interview this writer had recently with a believer; and finally, compares Buddhism to Christianity. Religion has been around since the beginning of time, and religion has so many different meanings and different interpretations that people take in. Who created it all? Sometimes we tend to lose track of what is really there. There are so many different types religions and beliefs that each one has its own tale on how this world evolved and what took place that when it comes to beliefs and we should all respect each other’s faith because when it comes down to it we are all seeking the same desires when we all die, or some would say the day we are to be judged by God himself on Judgment day. In this paper I will thoroughly explain the differences and if they share any common beliefs. Buddhism In my research and experience with this practice, I have come to learn a whole other philosophy on what others come to believe besides the traditional religions and practices. Buddhism originated from a man name Gautama Siddhartha who later became what we know of him the Buddha Shakyamuni also known as “the enlightened one” he was born into the life of luxury but soon to escape his former life in search for the answers of the world’s suffering and......

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