Buddhism & Christianity Compared

Ivan Frimmel

Various Pictures of Buddha

Baby Buddha

Amitabha Buddha

Amitabha Buddha

Quan Yin

Thai Buddha

Buddha Mind

Medicine Buddha

Medicine Buddha

Various Pictures of Jesus

Beliefs not shared (1)

Beliefs about God:

Buddhism: In its original forms, Buddhism did not teach of the existence of any transcendent, immanent, or any other type of Being, God or Gods, Goddess or Goddesses... However, many Buddhists -- particularly in Japan -- do now believe in a pantheon of deities, but only a very few would define Buddha as the Jews, Christians or Muslims define the word “God”; they see Buddha as an Enlightened Being and Teacher – and a perfect example to emulate and show respect to. Christianity: Christians believe in One God, the Creator of the universe, as described in the Old Testament, who defined Himself there as “I Am Who I AM”; many believe that He is actually a Trinity (Father, Son Jesus Christ & Holy Spirit), and for many Christians Jesus Christ is not just a Son of God, but a God Himself as revealed to humanity, and for them “Jesus Christ” is a

Beliefs not shared (2)
Unlike Christians, Buddhists do not believe in:

An original golden era in the Garden of Eden, and a subsequent fall of humanity. Original sin shared by all present-day humans, derived from Adam and Eve, and the belief in depravity of man, derived from Calvinistic teachings. A world-wide flood in the time of Adam, causing the greatest human genocide in history. Jesus Christ as a personal savior, whose death enabled individual salvation. Eternal life spent in either a heaven or hell after death. For Buddhists, heaven & hell are only temporary realms. End of the world in the near future.

Beliefs not shared (3)
Unlike Christians, the Buddhists do not believe in:

The existence of soul:

Buddhism: One of Buddhist key terms & beliefs is annata = no (individual & unchanging) self or soul. Christianity: Most Christians believe in “having a soul” or “being a soul”, although many of them find it difficult to define exactly what they mean by “soul”.

Beliefs not shared (4)

The Buddhist idea about the emptiness or voidness (sunnyata) of all concepts & phenomena is not generally shared by Christians, only hinted at by a very few mystical Christians (i.e. St John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, etc).

Main differences between the teachings of Buddha & Jesus

Buddha did not claim to have a special relationship with God.

Jesus did claim to have a special relationship with God. ______________________________________________________________ _
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Buddha claimed to point to the way by which we could escape suffering and attain enlightenment.

Jesus claimed to be the way by which we could receive salvation and eternal life. ______________________________________________________________ _
 

Buddha taught that the way to eliminate suffering was by eliminating desire. Jesus taught that the solution to suffering is found not in

Some Similar Beliefs (1)

Life after death: Almost all religions teach that a person's personality continues after death. In fact, many religious historians believe that this belief was the prime reason that motivated people to originally create religions. Christianity and Buddhism are no exception. However, they conceive of life after death in very different forms:

Buddhism teaches that humans are trapped in a repetitive cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth, through reincarnation (of 9th or Alaya Consciousness). One's goal is to escape from this cycle and reach Nirvana. The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and nonattachment. Suffering ends because desire and craving -the causes of suffering -- are no more. Christianity has historically taught that everyone has only a single life on earth. After death, an eternal life awaits everyone: either in Heaven or Hell. There is no suffering in Heaven; only joy. Suffering is eternal without any hope of

Some Similar Beliefs (2)

On Eternal Life

Buddhism: In a sense, there is a belief in an eternal life, through a cycle of births & rebirths, but one is not sure what one’s next life will end up being - a temporary heaven or hell - it all depends on the actions of one’s present life… Christianity: Eternal life in heaven is promised to all who accept the free gift of salvation by Jesus Christ, without having to do anything else to “deserve” it except to accept this “free gift”…

Some Shared Beliefs (1)

Ethic of Reciprocity (The Golden Rule): Buddhism, Christianity and all of the other major world religions share a basic rule of behavior which governs how they are to treat others.

Buddhism

“...a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?"

353.

Samyutta NIkaya v.

“Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful."

Udana-Varga 5:18.

Christianity

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you,

Some Shared Beliefs (2)

Themes of morality, justice, love: These themes are found through both the Buddha's teaching and the Hebrew and Christian Bible. Beliefs about the power of prayer: Some traditions within Buddhism believe in the power of prayer; others do not. Most Christians do believe in the power of prayer. Unlike most Buddhists, especially Zen Buddhists, only some Christians believe in the wisdom that can be found in striving for an “empty mind” or total mental silence. Beliefs about coming Savior: Some Buddhists believe in Miroku, or Maitreya Buddha – the "future Buddha." They expect him to be reincarnated and spread Buddhism further.

Some Shared Beliefs (3)

Inability to express the highest Truth in words

Just like many Buddhists, many Christians, especially of the “mystical” kind, realize that the highest Truth cannot be expressed in words, only in

Silence - i.e. total absence of cerebration

Story of Meeting between a Zen Buddhist Monk & a Trappist Monk (1)

A Zen Buddhist monk and a Trappist Christian monk met on a balmy spring day with the trees leafing out and many flowers in bloom. They bowed and shook hands admiring each other's robes and discussing many points of similarity in the organization of their monastic lives. Both had taken vows of poverty. Both were celibate. Both lived in separated communities. Both had rituals they did every day. Enjoying this process of comparing their lives, they decided to explore the ideas that informed their religious orders. They found a shady bench to gain shelter from the afternoon sun and began to talk. First the Trappist monk exclaimed, "Central to our thinking is the Trinitarian understanding of God. God is one expressed as three: The Father God from whom the Universe was created and to whom it will return; The Son who took human form to show us, the alienated creatures of God, how to restore our relationship and who gave his life to appease the Father; and the Holy Spirit who continues the Divine presence in our daily lives by making the reality of God known to us in each moment.“ The Zen monk responded, "Your ideas of God are very strange to us. We do not believe in an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God. In fact we believe just the opposite. That there is nothing beyond this wheel of cause and effect. Here is how we talk about it in the Lotus Sutra, one of our most inspiring texts: The Bodhisattva of Compassion From the depths of prajna wisdom saw the emptiness and sundered the bonds that caused suffering. Form here is only emptiness, emptiness only form. Form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form. Gate, Gate, Para gate, Para sam gate, bohdi svaha! Gone, Gone, Gone beyond; Gone beyond the beyond, Wow! (very loosely translated) Respect, honor and attention to the Awakened One! "Hmmm," said the Trappist Monk. "This isn't going to be as easy as I had hoped. Some of what you say reminds me of the centering prayer we do but it is also different. One thing I think we can agree upon is the importance of what we do to help people get to heaven. I know that the fruit of my cloistered life will be to ascend to heaven after I die”.

Story of Meeting between a Zen Buddhist Monk & a Trappist Monk (2)
"Very noble and courageous!" said the Trappist monk. "I see our cosmologies are very different. I think though there is one area that I'm sure we can find agreement. The importance of faith. We must believe our scriptures and teachers. We must clean out our doubts and fill our mind with Divine Truth.“ "Sadly, again we have differences in thinking" said the Zen monk. "The Buddha taught that we must not speculate about the nature of divine truth or overly revere a particular teacher. In fact if we meet the Buddha on the road, kill him! This expression is a very profound puzzle, what we call a koan, we wrestle with. Our goal is to be independent of outside authority and find out what is true for ourselves. The Buddha insisted that his disciples not take his word for anything. The disciple was encouraged to sit down, meditate, follow his instructions and find out the answer through personal experience.“ For a moment the two sat with their brows furrowed wondering how they could talk to each other when they had so many conceptual disagreements. One believed in God and the other didn't. One was guided by faith and the other wasn't. One believed we had one life and the other many lives. How could they communicate? "I propose another way for us to dialogue with each other." Said the Zen monk. Quietly he drew in a long deep breath and slowly exhaled the breath followed by a short shallow breath in and out. The Trappist monk winked at him and repeated the same breaths. The incense of lilac was in the warming spring air which awakened their minds to the present moment. The Trappist monk gestured to a bold robin as it flew to their feet and chirped at them. The Zen monk closed his eyes as a gentle breeze brushed his cheek. The Trappist monk scooped up some water from a nearby pool and sprinkled a little on the Zen monk's shaved head. The Zen monk smiled and bowed.

Ten Precepts / Virtues
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1. No killing any living beings 2. No taking what has not been given 3. No sexual misconduct 4. No lying 5. No drinking of liquor 6. No wearing or adornments and perfume 7. No enjoying singing & dancing 8. No sleeping in large, raised beds 9. No eating after noon 10. No possessing of gold, silver and other precious metals

The Ten Commandments

      

1. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. 2. You shall not make for yourself a graven image. You shall not bow down to them or serve them. 3. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. 4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. 5. Honor your father and your mother. 6. You shall not kill. 7. You shall not commit adultery. 8. You shall not steal. 9. You shall not bear false witness against your

The Four Noble Truths

1.

All life involves suffering

2. The cause of suffering is desire and attachment 3. Desire and attachment can be overcome, and this state is called Nirvana 4. The way to end suffering is through following the Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path
       

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

Right view Right thought Right speech Right action Right livelihood Right effort Right mindfulness Right concentration

Wisdom & Understanding

Ethical Conduct Mental Discipline

Questions & Answers (1)

Do Buddhists believe in God?
It depends what you mean by God. Within the various schools of Buddhism there is a great deal of variation in the belief in a Supreme Being. Beliefs range from atheism, through agnosticism, monotheism ('ground of being')  up to multifaceted aspects of Enlightened Mind… One of the pre-eminent deities of Tibet is actually a Goddess - Tara, the compassionate rescuer and Holy Mother. She is often seen as being equivalent to the Virgin Mary in the Christian pantheon. At a more philosophical rather than devotional level, there are certain difficulties with accepting the Judeo-Christian idea of an omniscient, omnipotent, logically necessary being or First Cause. Within Buddhist philosophy this view of God would be regarded as suffering from a number of internal logical contradictions, and possibly a rather dubious politically motivated history.

Questions & Answers (2)

Isn't the aim of Buddhism to become completely detached from everyone and everything? No,  the idea that Buddhists seek total detachment or indifference to others is disinformation originated in the Papal Bull  'Crossing the Threshold of Hope'. The truth is that Buddhists are motivated by compassion to work towards being reborn into situations where they can reduce the suffering of all sentient beings, and ultimately lead them all to

Questions & Answers (3)

Isn’t Buddhism a form of nihilism?
No. Buddhism uses negation (similar to theVia Negativa in Christian mysticism) in their philosophical arguments for the purpose of:

highlighting the relativity (thus only partial truth or falsity) of all opposing viewpoints; stilling the usual discursive, fickle and conceited mind;

Questions & Answers (4)

There are so many different schools of Buddhism, more than there are sects of Christianity. They can't all be right, so most of them must be wrong. Which is the real Buddhism?
One reason there are so many different schools is that Buddhists accept and respect diversity. It is said that there are 84,000 gateways to the Dharma (Buddha's teachings).  Buddha presented the same underlying philosophy with different 'user-interfaces' according to the predispositions of the students.  When you think about it, people are so different in character, temperament and experience that it would be surprising if one size did fit all. Another reason for the great diversity is that, in general, the various schools of Buddhism don't persecute one another.  There have been a few local exceptions, but nothing on the scale of the fratricidal sectarian wars which have waged for hundreds of years within Christendom. So the answer to the question 'which form of Buddhism is right?' -

Questions & Answers (5)

Don’t all religion reject evolution? Buddhism is the one exception, and is quite happy with the theory of evolution. In fact Buddhist philosophy actually requires evolution to take place -  all things are seen as being transient, constantly becoming, existing for a while and then fading.  The idea of unchanging species would not be compatible with Buddhist teachings.

Questions & Answers (6)

Don’t all religions cause terrorism and war?
With stories of religious terrorism seldom out of the news nowadays, there is a tendency in the West to regard all Asian religions as dangerous fanatical cults. Non-Western religions are often lumped together as being barbaric, primitive, intolerant and aggressive. This is discriminatory, ethnocentric, and very unfair to Buddhism. Buddhism is peaceful, promotes the arts and sciences, forbids wars of conquest, and has been associated with some very advanced civilizations, such as that of King Ashoka in the third century BC.    Any religion which propagates by intimidation rather than reasoned argument, or needs to silence its critics by the bomb and bullet, is obviously deeply insecure. Fanatical aggression demonstrates that a religion's memoids know

Quote from Christian Mysticism

St John of the Cross

In order to arrive at being everything, desire to be nothing.

Quote from Buddhism
Why are you so unhappy? Because 99,9 per cent of everything you think and everything you do is for yourself— and there isn’t one.

From Ask the Awakened by Wei WuWei

Thank You
Ivan Frimmel
Cell: 082-454-0311 E-mail: ivan.frimmel@nanhua.co.za

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