Buddhism and Christianity were both founded by great Spiritual Masters who sought to offer a path to salvation. The terminology they used was often quite different. Also, given the different circumstances they incarnated in, they taught different paths and emphasised different approaches to spirituality.
Neither the Buddha or Jesus Christ wrote down their own teachings. In both cases, their teachings were written down many years after they had left the world. This gap between their teaching and the written version means there is always a potential for error and misunderstanding of their teachings. Also, as the new religions developed they evolved in different ways.
Some of the Significant Differences Between Buddhism and Christianity
Buddhists do not talk about a Creator God. In Christianity, the concept of God looms large. In the Old Testament, God appears as a dispenser of Divine Justice, this is a concept largely absent in Buddhism
Meditation and mindfulness are at the heart of Buddhism. Christianity places greater stress on prayer.
Grace / Personal Effort
Buddhism places greater emphasis on personal effort, Christianity places greater emphasis on Grace.
Buddhism emphasizes the endless cycle of birth and rebirth and the idea of reincarnation. Christianity teaches we have one life and one chance.
Salvation and liberation
Christianity emphasises the concept of ‘salvation.’ Salvation comes through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as the saviour. For those who trust in Jesus Christ, Christians believe they will gain eternal life in heaven. Buddhists have a different emphasis, they believe that an individual has to work for his personal liberation – a discipline that may take several lifetimes. A Buddhist holds that belief in the Buddha is not enough, the seeker has to experience nirvana for himself through transforming is nature and stilling his mind.
Similarities Between Buddhism and Christianity
- Founded by a spiritual Master who accepted disciples.
- Taught through the use of simple parables.
- Both Jesus Christ and the Buddha sought to reform existing social/religious practises which had denigrated into ritualistic forms with no spiritual meaning. Christ criticised the money lenders in the temple. Buddha criticised the caste system and hypocrisy of the Brahmins.
- Both were egalitarians. Buddha accepted all castes into his sangha. Christ taught his philosophy was not just for a small race.
- Shared values . The Five Precepts of Buddhism (abstention form killing, lying, stealing, sexual immorality) would be welcomed by most Christians.
- Both religions stress ethical living, compassion / love to other people.
- Both taught to overcome the forces of hate through the power of love. The Buddha ‘hatred cannot be overcome by hatred.’ The Christ ‘Love your enemy’
- Like Buddhism, Christianity also encourages followers to take steps to improve their well being. Like Christianity, Buddhism has a strong devotional aspect. This is characterised by faith in the Buddha. This is especially marked in traditions such as Pure Land Buddhism, which stresses prayer to the Buddha.
- Both religions encourage its followers to be charitable towards the poor.
- Both religions have both a monastic and lay approach. Though the monastic element is largely absent in contemporary Protestantism.
- Both aspire to greater spiritual perfection. Though they may have different approaches they are both seeking a higher spiritual perfection.
- Both seek to transcend the material world. They believe real happiness is to be gained from spiritual values and spiritual consciousness.
- The Divine Consciousness. It is true the Buddha did not talk about God. He felt the Supreme Consciousness could never be expressed in words. But, Buddha did talk about the infinite peace, infinite light and infinite bliss of nirvana. What is God if not this transcendental consciousness?
The Spiritual Dynamic between Buddhism and Christianity
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