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Christianity And Buddhism Essay, Research Paper
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 atmosphere than such other religions which are as large as the Christian. The Christian religion is one of few religions where punishments for sins are not severe. In the Christian religion, even if you have lived a life of sin, so long as you repent in the end, you will be saved and given eternal life. This is not so in other religions. Such religions as Hinduism for instance do not believe this. For everything you do wrong you will be punished. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, if not in this life, then the next. Hindu’s also believe that punishing the body is part of the path to salvation. Christianity is nothing like this. Many Christians live in high class society. Christianity is one of the most appealing in that any sins may easily be corrected and that Christians may live comfortable, if not wealthy lives without guilt.
Christianity, like other religions though, has many weaknesses. Although as time goes on, Christianity is slowly evolving and trying to become even more appealing to society, there are still many downfalls. One thing with Christianity is that from day one we are given a guilt trip. We are born evil. We are born with “the original sin”. We are at the mercy of God. If we beg forgiveness however, it shall be granted. My grandmother for instance has been a firm believer in the Roman Catholic faith. She, being taught in the old style, firmly believes in going to confession weekly and begging for forgiveness. It has been taught to her that man is born evil. All we can do is pray, beg and hope for forgiveness. With such a guilt upon his sub conscience, man can never be truly happy.
Yet another strength with the Christian faith is that it is one of the more flexible religions. Under the leadership of the pope(s), the Catholic faith has evolved with modern society and become a more “reasonable” faith. Such practices as not eating meat on Fridays, and so forth, have been abolished as the Christian faith has bent to conform with modern society. Some people may see this as a weakness. This is not so. The Christian religion has modified its rituals yet the central beliefs have not been
altered since the very beginning of this religion. This is actually quite a good thing. A religion should change as the modern society does and conform to a more “acceptable” approach to continue its teachings/practices. This is one great thing about the Christian faith.
A small, often overlooked draw back to the Christian faith is that there is not any solid proof that Jesus existed. To the Christian faith, Jesus is the central figure. A Christian will tell you that the Bible is proof that Jesus existed. The Bible however was written much later, after Jesus’ death. Therefore the stories contained have been transferred by word of mouth, which has certainly been distorted and exaggerated. The Shroud of Turin used to be the Christian religion’s artifact which was believed to be the original shroud that Jesus was wrapped in when he was buried and therefore solid proof he existed. Recently due to modern carbon dating, this “artifact” has been proven to have been created with paint approximately one thousand years after the day Christ died. To a non believer, this is a major drawback.
One very strong point about the Catholic/Christian religion is that they strongly believe in correcting our corrupted world. Many missionaries are sent yearly to third world countries where they help educate, feed and provide moral support for a people who have nothing. With such a practice in place, the Christian religion has put a smile on faces which normally would never know anything more than tears. Probably one of the greatest features of the Christian church which helps it survive in modern society
is the hierarchy system upon which this religion is based. Such strong organization structure help this religion in well organized money distribution, etc. In a modern society, such structure is necessary.
As one of the largest religions, the Catholic/Christian religion is one of the great religions which stills lives strongly among us in our increasingly modern society. Despite its many weaknesses, the Christian faith has even more strengths upon which its survival is based. Times may change, technology may advance, but essential beliefs never alter.
Now that I have explained what the basics of christianity are and how the religion views things I need to do the same with Buddhism. Buddhism is probably the most tolerant religion in the world, as its teaching can coexist with any other religion. Other religions, on the other hand, do not possess this characteristic and cannot accommodate Buddhism at the same time. The Buddhist teaching of God is neither agnostic nor vague, but clear and logical. Buddhism began this way: Siddhartha Gautama was born in the sixth century B.C. in what is now modern Nepal. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the Sakya people and Siddhartha grew up living the extravagant life of a young prince. According to custom, he married at the age of sixteen to a young girl named Yasodhara. His father had ordered that he live a life of total seclusion, but one day Siddhartha ventured out into the world and was confronted with the harsh reality of life and universal suffering. The next day, at age twenty-nine, he left his kingdom and new-born son to lead and plain, reclusive life and determine a way to relieve this universal suffering. For six years, Siddhartha meditated under a bodhi tree, but he was never fully satisfied.
One day, however, he was offered a bowl of rice from a young girl and he accepted it. In that moment, he realized that physical harshness was not a means of achieving liberation. From then on, he encouraged people to follow a path of balance rather than extremism. He called this the Middle Way. “Devotion to the pleasures of sense, a low practice of villagers, a practice unworthy, unprofitable, the way of the world [on one hand]; and [on the other] devotion to self-mortification, which is painful, unworthy and unprofitable. By avoiding these two extremes the Tathagata [or Buddha] has gained knowledge of that middle path which giveth vision, which giveth knowledge, which causeth calm, special knowledge, enlightenment, Nibbana [or Nirvana].” (Smart 236) That night, Siddhartha sat under the bodhi tree and meditated until dawn. He purified his mind of all evil thoughts and attained Enlightenment at the age of thirty-five, thus earning the title Buddha, or “Enlightened One.”
For the remainder of his eighty years, the Buddha preached the dharma in an effort to help other people reach Enlightenment. The Buddha examined the phenomenal life objectively. Studying effects and tracing their causes, he produced a science of living which ranks with any other science known to man. He describes life to be one and indivisible. Man, he declared, can become Buddha, Enlightened, by the principle of Enlightenment within. This process is simply to become what you are, to develop to the full innate Buddha-Mind by destroying the ignorance, sin and evils of human nature. All forms of life, according to the Buddha, can be shown to have three characteristics in common; impermanence, suffering, and an absence of permanent soul which separates us from other forms of life. The Buddha also pointed out that nothing is the same as is was only a moment ago. Everything is changing. Even the hills are being worn away, and every human particle is being replaced every seven years. There is no finality or rest within the universe, only a ceaseless becoming and never-ending change. Buddhism denies that man has an immortal soul. The Enlightenment which dwells in life does not belong to one form of life. Man is always changing and entirely mortal. In addition, Buddhism is a natural religion. It does not violate either mind or body. The Buddha became aware that men are born and die according to their good or evil actions, according to their self-created Karma — the consequences of good or evil deeds. Even though there are several different forms of Buddhism that have come into existence since Buddha s death, there is still a basic essence that all Buddhists agree with.
All Buddhists recognize these. In all, there are four basic noble truths. The first noble truth of the world according to Buddha is dhukka, or suffering. The second truth is tanha, or desire, which is the cause of suffering. The third truth is that in order to free oneself from suffering, one must overcome desire. The fourth truth tells us how this can be accomplished through the eight-fold path. According to Buddha, the eight-fold path is the means to achieve liberation from suffering. It helps one weed out cravings and ignorance, to overcome rebirth, old age, disease, death, sorrows, lamentation, grief and despair. It helps to end mass misery and aids people in attaining Nirvana, or salvation. Specifically, this path includes: 1. Right View 2. Right Thought 3. Right Speech 4. Right Action 5. Right Livelihood 6. Right Effort 7. Right Mindfulness 8. Right Concentration The most simple teaching of the Buddha was to do good, to avoid evil and to purify the heart. According to Buddha, the hearts of ordinary men are not pure. They are filled with greed, ill will and delusion. Greed and hatred are impurities caused by desires, and ignorance is the cause of delusion, especially delusion of self. Ignorance, in fact, is the cause of desire and thus the primary cause of all suffering and of rebirth. The Buddha said that one may purify his heart: 1. By practicing self-control and self-restraint 2. By meditating upon one s own self 3. By following the Eight-Fold Path that leads to the end of all suffering All of these points are the basic essence of Buddhism. They help people understand the worlds of suffering, personal or otherwise, and how to overcome that suffering. Buddhism is a simple religion that focuses on changing the evil of man and society into good. It bring a message of salvation and hope to whoever will follow its paths.
As you can see the two religions are very different yet very similar. It is very interesting to see that even though the cultures of the two religions are quite possibly exact opposites, the underlying message of the religions is quite similar. It seems that human nature all over the world needs something or someone to believe in and entrust their faith in which helps them live a comfortable life. Who is to say that which one is correct, but the idea of a higher being and being saved when we pass, is definitely a prevalent aspect of everyone s lives.
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