Buddhist and Christians are among the world’s larges religions. They are characterized by different teachings and practices that they observe. They both have different origins and beliefs that form part of their structures. The two characteristics that I am going to look at are: the ethical teachings of both Christians and Buddhists and their religious scriptures. Ethical teachings: Ethics is one of the issues which stand out among the teachings of both religions. The two religions emphasize on the need for proper ethics through believes, practices and worship.
Despite the emphasis that they both put on ethics, differences emerge between the two in their theoretical and practical aspects. There are several areas in which the differences can be evident such as: their ideas concerning sin, the notion and model of ethics together with the codes of ethics. Sin: in both religions, human beings are regarded as sinful beings. Sin is the basis of religious doctrines and without it: it is possible that ethical religious believes could not be there. According to both religions, human beings are characterized by sin, imperfection and guilty.
It is only through moral religious principles that one can be made pure and perfect. The births of both Buddha and Christ were good news to both the Buddhist and Christians respectively. Jesus was born to bring salvation and love from God while Buddha was born to bring the message of wisdom and compassionate to mankind as well as show them the path to enlightenment (King, P. 3). Christians believe that all human beings are connected to the first sin in the Garden of Eden by the first parents: Adam and Eve. This sin has over the years been passed down from one generation to the other.
This story explains the origin of sin which according to the story was human disobedience to God. Therefore, Adam and Eve went against God’s wishes when they decided to ignore the orders He had given them of not eating the fruit they ate. Because God is perceived as a model for perfect ethics, then going against his wishes will be the same as sinning. Therefore, according to Christians, sin is not only the original sin that has been passed down though generations but also the heart’s disobedience in following or practicing the divine morals, ethical codes and spirit.
Hence the base of Christian ethics is not only believing in Christ but also living according to his teachings (Locke, P. 237). In Buddhism, there is no that kind of “original sin” as in Christianity. They instead believe that every individual is born of craving and ignorance which results to human beings being born in a cycle referred to as samsara: a birth and death cycle. It is only through enlightenment that an individual can overcome craving and ignorance. According to Buddha’s personal experiences, sin is originally caused by impunity, bad karmas and imperfection: there is no any other source.
In the Buddhist structure, it is believed that sin originates from oneself and can therefore be overcome by oneself. Therefore, the basis of Buddhist’s ethical teachings is the mind: that sin originates from the mind and can only be overcome by the mind (Smart, p. 77). Model and ethical notion: both Christianity and Buddhism take the perfect model of ethics to be an important aspect of religious morality. Ethical teachings of both religion focus on Christ and Buddha because both of their lives were full of noble virtues and love that cannot be compared with any other.
These models are the foundations of both religions although there are different ideas concerning ethics between them (Locke, P. 237). For Christians, love (agape) is the basis of moral life which is shown clearly in the life and teachings of Christ as well as in the bible. They believe that God is love and it is what constitutes his heart. Therefore, it is through his grace and forgiveness of human sins that ethical values can be cultivated in individuals and salvation can be attained. Christian moral standards are basically established on sin, forgiveness, belief and the love of God.
They also believe that belief must go with actions: a Christian can best be recognized by his/her deeds as compared to what he/she says. Contrary to the Christians, Buddhist morality is not based upon the power or the life of Buddha but instead it is based upon his teachings about “cause and effects”. They believe that an individual’s positive or negative attitude is determined by his/her actions and thoughts. Buddha taught people to: “make an island of yourself, make yourself your refuge; there is no other refuge. Make truth your island, make truth your refuge; there is no other refuge,” (King, P.
3) Therefore, in both religions: human beings are perceived to be sinful. The mind’s purity is perceived to be the basic step in ethics through which suffering and impunity which has been created in individuals can be overcome. If the overall aim is transformation from the evil nature to divine: then Christians could achieve it through uniting with Christ while Buddhist could achieve the same by observing Buddhahood. Religious scriptures: According to the interviews I conducted with a Christian and a Buddhist leader, I found out the following about their religious scriptures:
Teachings concerning God: conservative Buddhists’ scriptures teach nothing about existence of God. It does not affirm or deny existence of God and does not state who is divine not even Gautama himself. Liberal ones do not put emphasis on this concept but they pay homage to Buddha, Buddhist teachers, deities and ancestors. They worship using images, bow before them, give offerings to them, chant and pray to them. Although earlier Buddhism did not recognize Buddha to be omniscient, they now consider him and other teachers to be omniscience.
Contrary to Buddhist scripture teachings, Christians refer to the bible that teaches them that God exists. It states that the fact that there is a universe is an indication that there is a God somewhere. Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. ” & Romans 1:20 – Though God is invisible, His power and divinity can be seen through the things that are made. The only way the universe could exist is because there is a supernatural being powerful and wiser than anybody else (Scott, p. 87).
Purpose of religion: The purpose of religion was to better man’s relationship with God. Buddhism scriptures do not teach anything about God while the bible teaches that the whole purpose of humanity is to serve and have a better relationship with Christ. Ecclesiastes 12:13 – The whole duty of man is to fear God and keep his commands. Ephesians 1:7-9 – The will and purpose of God was to redeem man by the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus. Teaching about a true and supreme God: Buddhism teachings allow for worship of many gods while the biblical teachings forbid the worship of more than one God.
Matthew 4:10 – “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him ONLY shalt thou serve. ” We are not to worship many gods, nor any god other than Jehovah [2 Corinthians 6:18; Colossians 1:19-22]. Destiny of man: Buddhist scriptures teach about reincarnation (rebirth), Karma which teaches that the future lives are influenced by current actions and that what happens currently is the result of previous actions and nirvana which teaches that the ultimate purpose of man is to get out of the birth and rebirth cycle characterized by suffering.
While the bible teaches that: an individual only lives once and physically dies once after which there will be resurrection, judgment and eternal rewards. 1 Corinthians 15:22, 23 – All die as a result of Adam’s sin; as a result of Jesus, all live again. Resurrection is the opposite of death; hence the spirit is reunited with the body. Matthew 25:31-46 – The wicked go to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. Buddhist scriptures do not teach about death and resurrection (Scott, p. 87).
Suffering: Buddhist scriptures teach that suffering is essential in life, it’s brought about by human desires and they can be eliminated by getting rid of earthly desires by not wanting to exist as an individual. The bible teachings teach that suffering is part of life; it is a consequence of sin physical desires are neither good nor bad, it depends on how you seek to satisfy them, an individual’s desire to exist is not bad and it’s through trust in God that you can be able to overcome suffering and not through defeating yourself.
The Buddhist teaching of not to desire to be an individual can be considered to blasphemy God’s work by Christians. Works cited King, L. Winston. Buddhism and Christianity: Some Bridges of Understanding. Taylor and Francis. 2008, p. 3. Locke, A. Kenneth, “The Foundation for Ethical Behavior: A Christian perspective for a dialogue with Buddhism,” Hsi Lai Journal of Humanistic Buddhism 3 (2002): 327. Scott, Archibald. Buddhism and Christianity; A Parallel and a Contrast, Being the Croall Lectures for 1889-90. General Books LLC. (2009): p. 87. Smart, Ninian. Buddhism and Christianity: rivals and allies. University of Hawaii Press. (1993): p. 77.
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