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Budism And Catholicism Essay, Research Paper

Many people believe that the religions of Christianity and Buddhism are completely different. They are practiced in different areas of the world and began at different time periods in history. Although there are many differences between Christianity and Buddhism, they are also similar in many aspects.

To start with the differences of the two religions, people must look at the founders of them. The one who started Christianity was Jesus Christ. He was born into a poor family, but not dire poverty. His family had a profession of carpentry, meaning they were poor but had enough to survive on. The founder of Buddhism was Siddhartha Guatama. He was born prince, son of King Suddhodana, and lived a very rich and sheltered life. Guatama was not satisfied with his life and did not know why. He decided to live the ascetic life, being in complete poverty. This did not satisfy him, so after much contemplation, he decided on the middle way. Where Jesus was never in dire poverty or even close to having riches, Guatama touched both these ways of life. Another difference between these two are that Jesus is considered the son of God, the savior, where Guatama, or Buddha as he was later called, is considered a prophet. His name of Buddha, meaning enlightened one, was given to him because his followers believed him to be enlightened by God. Jesus was called savior, or Christ, by his followers because he was believed to be son of God who would save them.

These differences in upbringing and different settings, including time and place, for the religions may affect the way these religions view god. Christianity refers to God as being a trinity, father, son, and holy spirit. Buddhism on the other hand, views God in only one way, as an impersonal god. References to him are not as commonly made. In prayer, Christians pray directly to God calling him father or something of that sort, whereas Buddhists meditate without spoken words. Christians believe in a personal relationship with God as though he is a family member. They believe that throughout history God has stepped in, or intervened at various times. The scripture, or the bible, is said to be the word of God, influenced by him in its writing. People in Christianity need to read the voice of God to get a better idea that he is close. Buddhists believe God to be impersonal and away from the people. He created all and now lets it live on its own. They hardly refer to God at all. They mostly follow the teachings of Buddha, who they believe to be enlightened by him. Once God is referred to in a name, he no longer is impersonal and is more earthly. He is suppose to be beyond anything people can truly understand here on earth. That is why Buddhism has no written word of God, as the Christians do. Christians believe these images and names allow him to be made personal. People can not have a true loving relationship with an ultimate that is too far beyond that it is out of their understanding. It must be related to things they truly love on earth, such as family members.

Next, many of the specific beliefs are different. Christianity beliefs revolve around Jesus Christ. The belief of incarnation, or the idea that God came to the world in the human form of Jesus Christ in order to redeem the people, is the first major doctrine. This is God showing that he loves the world and will save the people of its sins. From this belief comes the belief of atonement. God died and suffered on the cross in the human form in order to take away the sins of the world. The last doctrine goes back to the trinity, or belief in the three forms of God, as father, son, and holy spirit. Buddhism believes in dharma and karma. Dharma is the divine ordering or structuring in which everything has its place. Karma is the environment or atmosphere that one brings to the dharma, or the ordering of the universe. If a person brings good karma upon himself, he will cause good results upon the order of the universe. If he brings bad karma, he will cause bad results. A person either enhances dharma or destroys it based on the karma he brings. Also Buddhism holds the doctrines of anica and anatta. Anica means everything is inter-related. Anatta means that since everything is constantly changing and if the anica is true then, Buddha said, there are no selves. People are linked together and have a responsibility for all. This connects to the belief of nirvana. This means to blow one s mind away, to be open to see things differently. These concepts lead to the four truths which are life is full of suffering, life is full of selfishness, there is a cure for the selfishness, and the cure is the eightfold path.

There are also differences among the codes and ceremonies of the two religions. Christianity s code, or actions, are based on the ten commandments, the teachings of the prophets, and the gospels. The first three commandments are what is owed to God and the next seven are what is owed to your neighbor. Buddhism follows the eightfold path as expressed by Buddha. These focus on right views, right intent, right speech, right conduct, right occupation, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Buddhism believes, Universal suffering is caused by craving, which can be eliminated by Buddha s Eightfold Path of self-righteousness (www.soulseekers.org). These eight things can eliminate this human caused suffering. The ceremonies of Christianity are the seven sacraments. These are holy orders, matrimony, anointing of the sick, baptism, first communion, confirmation, and Eucharist. The ceremony of Buddhism is based on meditation. It is believed that one you should keep one s self in touch w/ that which is beyond the self. These actions and ceremonies are thought to affect the after life, which is different in both religions. Christianity believes, if one lives his or her life on earth well they will be rewarded with a better afterlife (D Costa, Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered, 166). This is the belief that those who are good will go to heaven. Reincarnation is the belief of Buddhists. This is the idea that everyone returns to the world in a new body after they die.

Despite these many differences in specific beliefs, I believe Christianity and Buddhism are a lot more related than they appear to be. First of all, both these religions are monotheistic. They also both broke off from other religions. Christianity broke off from Judaism. Jesus was a Jew who saw problems with the religion the way it was. He was not trying to start a new religion, but just reform the old one. Nevertheless, his followers took his teachings and broke off from the Jewish people because they would not reform their ways. Buddhism broke off from the religion Hinduism. Once again some felt this religion had flaws. Siddhartha Guatama also was not trying to create his own religion. He was a Hindu who saw flaws that he wanted reformed and spoke about these. His followers took his preaching and ideas and formed the religion of Buddhism.

There are also similarities in the critiques Jesus and Buddha had of their religions. Jesus complained of the Jewish leaders taking advantage of the poor. For example, they put a church tax on them called a tithe. Jesus believed that the poor should not have to pay for their beliefs. Buddha, also, was angered by the authority, or religious leaders. He felt these leaders, or Brahmin, who were more educated than the poor, were exploiting the poor when they came for religious help. Both Jesus and Buddha felt that the people of a religion should not have to worry about being taken advantage of when they need help from its leaders. You should have trust in the heads of your religion, otherwise you can not have true faith in it. Jesus criticized Jewish leaders for sticking too closely to the letter of the law and not enough to the spirit of it. He said that laws are created for the people, people were not created for laws. Therefore they should benefit the people not hurt them. Buddha felt that meditation was too introspective, too self-involved. He believed its original purpose was being lost, Buddhism had forgotten why meditation was used. Meditation should not lose touch with the outside world. Jesus thought it was time for reform in Judaism, too many things had become rigid and would not change with the appropriate times. People again were just doing things because they had always been done and were forgetting why. Two of Buddha s big critiques were that the rituals were too mechanic and traditions needed changing. People were going through the motions of the rituals without knowing why. There were many traditions that needed to reform to help people keep touch with the religion s meanings. An example of this is that rituals were still performed in the Sanskrit even though most people did not speak this anymore. Years after Jesus death, at Vatican II, Christianity would take mass out of Latin and put it into the vernacular, or language of the people of whatever area the mass takes place.

Over the years the religions of Christianity and Buddhism were each broken into three different branches. In Christianity there are the Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox, and the Protestants. They differ in specific beliefs in their religions, but they all believe in the basic doctrines of incarnation, atonement, and the trinity. Buddhism also breaks up into three groups, called schools or vehicles. The first group is the Theravada School, The School of the Elders , which focuses on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, the two central sets of beliefs in Buddhism. The second school is the Mahayana School or, The Great Vehicle , which believes in an all-inclusive approach to liberation and a desire to liberate all beings, and the third group is the Vajrayana School, The Diamond Vehicle , which involves rituals and visualizations that can only be learned from a master (www.buddhism.about.com). These each have differences distinguishing them from the others, but they all keep the major ideas such as the four truths and the eightfold path.

One basic similarity between all the groups of both Christianity and Buddhism, which I believe to be the most important, is the contribution to global responsibility. Christianity believes that the most important idea involved in global responsibility is respect for human dignity. Everyone must respect their neighbor and beware of his or her needs. In order for people to get along there must be an acceptance of all people regardless of race, gender, color, or religion. Justice should be shown in all circumstances whether they be political, social, or economical. People must try to sustain God s creation and show a love for it. This general belief is held by the Buddhists, too. Their ideas express inter-relationship as being the most important aspect in living together. You must put it first, over individualism. Individual and community must be linked based on an understanding of inter-relationship. Then a transformation can be made in the world for the better.

There are many differences between these two religions, as is expected from religions that developed in different places and at different times. But not enough people see the similarities. Despite being different in many of the specific beliefs, Christianity and Buddhism are related in many other ways that are not always seen by people.


D Costa, Gavin. Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered. New York: Orbis Books, 1990.




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