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Christianity and Buddhism may appear to have very little compatibility since one is non-theistic while the other in monotheistic. Even though it is not acceptable to talk of Buddhism as an "atheistic" religion, it is a religion is based on man rather than on any god. According to the definition provided by Buddhist Annual of Ceylon of Buddhism being a religion "that religion which without starting with a God leads man to a stage where God's help is not essential." Buddha himself had come from a background of polytheistic Hinduism, which seems to have even treated Brahma, one of highest of the gods, with disdain. Buddha did not deny the existence of gods, but rather be considered them just as the higher grade of living beings, and also to be taught by him. On the other hand, Jesus came from a monotheistic background and went ahead to teach that there is only one God (William and Francisco, 2008).
Generally, many saying of Jesus and the Buddha coincide so much and below are some of the examples: first, Jesus: "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6:31 and conversely, Buddha: "Consider others as yourself." Dhammapada 10:1, secondly, Jesus: If anything strikes on the cheek, offer the other also." Luke 6:29 Buddha: "If anyone should give you a blow with his hands, with a stick, or a knife, you should abandon nay desires and utter not evil words." Majjhima Nikaya 21:6 and finally, Jesus: "When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. Mark 6:48 Buddha: He walks upon the water without parting it as if on solid ground." Anguttara Nikaya 3:60, among others.
Through the teaching of both Jesus and Buddha not only led to the creation of two major religions; but also transcended traditional thought thus revealing various universal truths of human existence. As a result, a number of saying of Jesus and Buddha are usually nearly identical.
The lives of Jesus of Nazareth and Siddhartha Guatam (Buddha) march up from birth to their demise. Both Jesus Christ and Siddhartha Guatama were founders of their respective religions i.e. Christianity and Buddhism and they also had an immaculate birth stories. The mother of Siddhartha, Queen Maya conceived him after he descended from heaven to her mother's womb in the form of a baby white elephant. After giving birth to him, she took seven steps and said "This is my last birth." which signifies that he would be great ruler or religious teacher. Coincidentally, Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit in the womb of Virgin Mary. The farther of Jesus was a carpenter and most probably he lacked formal education. Conversely, Buddha was a son of a King known as Shuddodana (William and Francisco, 2008).
Jesus and Buddha had a strong religious impulse and it has been noted that when Siddhartha left to visit the city he witnessed four sights that in turn gave him inspiration to follow religious impulse. He witnessed the following: sick man, old man, corpse, and an ascetic Hindu monk. After the above mentioned sights he became inspired to finding an answer to human problems and thus he decided to leave his palace and become a beggar. Coincidentally, Jesus also had an awakening of religious by the time he was being baptized by John the Baptist in River Jordan. After he had been baptized by John, Holy Spirit descended from above.
Siddhartha decided to sit under a bodhi tree until he found an answer to his quest. However, during the time he was meditating Mara interrupted him by sending distractions, storms and demons and tried to appeal to his pride. All these attempts by Mara were ignored by Siddhartha, and he conquered all the attempts and attained nirvana. Equally, temptations were also overcome by Jesus when he retreated to the desert for forty days where he faced temptations from the devil and as he was fasting, the devil tried to lure him. He opposed all the temptations and successfully returned from the desert (William and Francisco, 2008).
It is therefore evident that various teachings of Jesus coincide with those from Buddha. The Ten Commandments also coincide with The Precepts in Buddhism and both men based their ethical values on the "Golden Rule" of "do unto others as you would want them do unto you." However, there are areas that they do not march up, Buddha believe in reincarnation while Jesus believe in Last Judgment. Buddha teachings can not be found in a single source unlike Jesus teachings which are found in the bible. Buddha did not consider himself as God while conversely Jesus was claimed as the son of God. Buddha did not also perform miracles as opposed to Jesus who performed many miracles.
Similarities between Buddhism and Christianity
According to William and Francisco, (2008) Christian's attitude towards mankind holds a belief that God created all human beings in his own image and thus they are all equal. Buddhists also believe that mankind is united and on an equal footing too but for varied reasons: all mankind is able to achieve enlightenment and reach Nirvana and thus is equal and should be treated so. In regards to rules: Christians hold the Ten Commandments and use them as guideline for life while on the other hand Buddhists hold the Five Precepts and they use them as guidelines for life. Both include point of not causing harm to each other, for example, Christians say that "Thou shall not kill," wile Buddhism "I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life."
Some Christians adopt a non-violent view in regards to life (pacifist or particularly Quakers), that no human life should be harmed; within the Eightfold Path (a very essential Buddhist teaching in regards to achieving enlightenment as well as defeat suffering) a t4eaching if "Right Livelihood" which clearly demands that people should not take up occupations that harm others or create Karma. Generally, Christians believe that good deeds contribute to good consequences; pursuance of good life and not evil, that may lead to heaven. In Buddhism, good deeds create good Karma which in turn contributes to good rebirth which eventually leads to enlightenment or Nirvana (William and Francisco, 2008).
Buddhism through its founder Buddha rejects extreme asceticism and thus giving emphasis on self liberation through knowledge. Christianity also through Jesus Christ rejects extreme asceticism. The worship in Buddhism includes a number of things such as: monasticism, ringing of bells, use of rosary, use of incense, bowing, tower erection, or stupas, meditation, and prayers. On the other hand, Christianity similarly follows almost the same way of worship: monasticism, Confession, the cult of image, using rosary, incense, erection of towers, bowing, and ringing of bells.
In regards to love and compassion: the doctrine of Buddhism emphasizes on love for all mankind and every other being as well, be it a friend or enemy. Christianity also their doctrine is based on the principle of love: "Love your neighbors as you love yourself." Which means that love should not only be shown to friends but enemies as well.
Differences between Buddhism and Christianity
Buddhism has long recognized the differences between the two faiths. The original Buddhist doctrine does not have any Godly figure; however, the later Buddhist sects introduced a number of godly figures. In accordance to the doctrine of Christianity, there is only one God, Jesus, who is loving and approachable through the word of God. According to Buddhist concept, one has to work for his/her salvation and thus can not blame or depend on others for salvation. According to Christianity salvation is not based on one's effort but is rather considered as a gift from God to all those who accepts Jesus as their personal savior (William and Francisco, 2008).
According to Buddhist doctrine in regards to Eternal Life is that there is an eternal life that is based on the Karma of one's present life. Christians on the other hand believe in eternal life in heaven and is not related to karma but comes as a gift of salvation. In regards to love and compassion, the concept of Buddhism does not mention anything to do with love of God; however Christianity believes that the bible is the only book for Christians where the God's love for His devotees is mentioned. Buddhists also believe that there is neither the beginning nor a definite end of the world. According to Christianity, God has created the world and everything in it from nothing and has the powers over it in accordance to His own definite plan (William and Francisco, 2008).
In regards to spiritual texts, Buddhist canons includes only those insights that were won by Buddha by his own strength and will after understanding the nature of the truth. Christians on the other hand, regards the bible as the "Words of God" and entails all those realities which are not known to the mankind.
Generally, Buddhism cherishes the distinguishing features between these two faiths and the well-informed Buddhists of the doctrines and the teachings as well as that both the religions oppose one another. For example, Christianity is interwoven with the monotheistic grandeur of an infinite, personal God (Jn. 17:3; Isa. 43:10-11, 44:6); Buddhism is agnostic and sensibly speaking, atheistic.
Philosophically, we can also see the contrasts flanked by these faiths. Christianity stresses deliverance from sin, not from life itself (1 Jn. 2:2). Christianity applaud personal existence as innately good, because they believe that man was created in the God's own image, and promises eternal life and fellowship with a personal God (Gen. 1:26, 31; Rev. 21:3-4). Christianity also is different in regards to the teachings concerning afterlife (heaven or hell, e.g., Mt. 25:46; Rev. 20:10-15). It promises eternal immortality for man as man-but perfected in every way (Rev. 21:3-4).
Conversely, Buddhism teaches reincarnation, and has only a mercurial nirvana wherein man no longer remains man or, where, in Mahayana, there exist impermanent heavens or hells and the final "deification" of "man" through a merging with the ultimate pantheistic-cosmic Buddha nature. But Christianity regards reincarnation as invalid belief, based on the fact of Christ's propitiatory atonement for sin. In other words, if Christ died to forgive all sin, and there is nothing like ("karma") over many lifetimes (Col. 2:13; Heb. 9:27; 10:10, 14; Eph. 1:7).
Consider further contrasts. Biblical pagan mysticism is rejected by Christianity and all occultism (e.g., Deut. 18:9-12); Buddhism accepts or actively endorses them. In Christianity life it is good and given honor and meaning; in Buddhism one finds it difficult to deny that life is eventually not worth living because life and suffering is always together. Thus, in Christianity, Jesus Christ came that men "might have life and have it more abundantly" (Jn. 10:10); in Buddhism, Buddha came that men might simply rid themselves of personal subsistence. In Christianity, God will either glorify or punish the spirit of man (Jn. 5:28-29); in Buddhism no spirit exists to be overvalued or castigated. Christians believe in absolute morality as a central theme (Eph. 1:4); while Buddhists believe that it is peripheral (William and Francisco, 2008).
William and Francisco, (2008) affirms that Buddhism is fundamentally humanistic and only stresses man's self-achievement. Christianity on the other hand is in essence theistic, stressing God's self-revelation and affable initiative on behalf of man's helpless moral and religious condition. Therefore, in Buddhism man is considered as the giver of salvation; Christianity sees this as an absolute impracticality since innately, man has no power to save himself (Eph. 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).
As far as knowing and glorifying God is concerned, according to Buddhists, this is irrelevant and unnecessary. But biblically, to the extent God is ignored or opposed, to that extent man must in the same way suffer. Here we therefore realize the decisive irony of Buddhism: in ignoring God, Buddhists feel they can escape suffering; in fact this will only complete it ceaselessly. This is the factual disaster of Buddhism, particularly the so-called Christian Buddhism. Christians believe that the very means to break away from suffering (true faith in the biblical Christ) is rejected in act of kindness of a self-salvation which can only effect in eternal anguish (Mt. 25:46; Rev. 20:10-15).
In conclusion, I personally think that these religions are incompatible. It is true that both religions have some common grounds like encouraging morality and good will, but eventually their goals are dissimilar. Christians aim to be re-born in heavenly realm whereas Buddhists does not believe in this rather they aim in high regard. Also, the manner in which these religions want to achieve these goals is dissimilar since some Christians believes that conduct or salvation is the basis for which one goes to heaven which is very compatible with the beliefs of karma (Buddhism Law). Other Christians believe in sincere repentance of sins and accepting Jesus as the son of God they are destined for heaven while Buddhists believe that through practicing the Noble Eightfold Path you can make an end to suffering. Even though all the two religions are incompatible on an individual level it is still possible to co-exist with followers of other religions on a societal level peacefully.