The questions about life, its sense, and purpose of human existence on the Earth have been relevant at all times. Various religions give answers to all these questions, denying or proving the existence of meaning of life. Buddhism and Christianity, along with Islam are the three world religions. Of these three religions, only Buddhism does not recognize and even eschews the divine principle. For Christianity, God is the source of life, as well as the force that keeps the world turning every day. Due to the wide spreading of Buddhism in Orthodox countries, Buddhists’ ideas gained considerable popularity in modern mass culture. It contributes to the fact that even those, who do not consider themselves Buddhists, experience some influence of these ideas and more or less pronounce sympathy to this religion. In addition, the purpose of Buddhism and Christianity is similar. Both religions “seek to empower the deepest personhood of people by liberating them from conditions of suffering that hide their deeper identity and impede their fuller potential”. However, these two religions have many disparities. Particularly, although Buddhism recognizes certain divine layer in the design of the existential flux, it refrains from it. According to the beliefs of Buddhists, gods are not eternal. Becoming a god for a Buddhist means to delay the state of nirvana. Thus, despite some similarities between Buddhism and Christianity, there are too many differences between religions, which makes it impossible to combine their practices.
Similarities of Buddhism and Christianity
The importance of knowledge and respect for moral and ethical standards is postulated in all world religions. These standards are a necessary basis for moral growth and personal development; they regulate aesthetic norms in society and keep people from falling into a purely materialistic pragmatism. In this respect, it is significant to compare the moral and ethical standards of the two world religions: Buddhism and Christianity. Moral and ethical tenets of Buddhism are set forth in ten virtues, the essence of which is goodness and compassion. Ten Commandments of Buddhism are presented by ten rules, which fall under three categories: physical, verbal and mental. Despite the same number of moral guidelines, the commandments of Buddhism and Christianity have particular differences in internal content. Nevertheless, some of them correlate. The first four Christian commandments postulate the relationship between God and man. They suggest that the main goal of Christianity is to bring humanity closer to God. The absence of this kind of precepts in Buddhism is quite natural, as it denies the existence of the Creator.
Seventh, eighth and ninth Christian precepts, in general, are very similar to the same Buddhist virtues. Tenth Christian commandment clearly parallels with the Buddhist suppression of greedy thoughts. The last Buddhist precept on the suppression of false views similar to the first Christian commandment. The only difference between the two principles is that instead of believing in one God, a man has to believe in the immutability of the basic postulates of the Buddha’s teachings. Thus, despite the differences in the dogmatic theologies of Buddhism and Orthodox Christianity, there are universal moral and ethical standards, which are reflected in the form of commandments in the two greatest world religions.
Moreover, Buddhism and Christianity have common goals, which pursue the liberation from suffering and oppression. Buddhists and Christians “have apprehended common experiences and resources for working together to liberate human beings and nature from global forces of systematic oppression”. Both religions recognize oppression and poverty as common challenges, from which the humankind needs deliverance. This similarity contributes to Buddhist-Christian dialogue.
Differences between Religions
Themes of love, justice, and morality can be found both in Buddhism and Christianity. Although there are some similarities in doctrines, there are a great number of distinctions between Buddhist and Christian worldviews.
Origin of Buddha and Jesus. Jesus Christ, the son of God, was born as an ordinary person. Jesus’ mother was a poor woman. In contrast, Buddha was born in the royal family. His father ordered to decorate the temple and invited the neighboring kings for this event. The king tried to make Buddha “enjoy the comfort and only see the pleasures of life”. Moreover, Buddha was married and had a son. The only similarity between the two stories is that both future leaders found their way to the temple. The purpose of Buddhist legend is to elevate the Buddha over all the pagan gods of the time. Nothing of this kind could be said about Jesus Christ. There is no reason to assert that these legends are similar or even borrowed from each other.
Role of Buddha and Jesus. Jesus of Nazareth and Buddha belong to the great figures in history and religion. However, their lives and roles in religion are significantly different. The primary distinction between two religions is that Christians believe that Jesus to be God, who was born as a human in flesh and not simply a religious leader. In contrast, Buddhists believe that “Buddha was a human being, albeit a very special human being”. Jesus was acting as a teacher. He managed to change the moral ideology of all mankind. The birth of Jesus was such an extraordinary event to the world, that chronological timeline of human history was divided accordingly.
In contrast, the teachings of Buddha do not release human nature from suffering. The Buddhist religion is a set of practices, but not a set of answers. It does not reveal the mystery of the origin of the Universe, demons, humankind, and concept of ‘karma’. Despite the lack of answers, Buddha devoted his entire life to find a way out of suffering. It can be said that Buddha did not find the answer to his questions and, therefore, could not provide them to his followers.
Nevertheless, Buddha became a positive symbol of human’s devotion to finding salvation from evil and suffering. Cioccolanti emphasizes that Buddha was not the Truth, but a wise man. Consideration of Buddha’s figure causes obvious sympathy for this man, who spent his life looking for the truth. A closer examination of the story of Jesus reveals the gratitude and worship of the people before their Savior. Jesus brought the truth to mankind.