Nowadays, a lot has been written about Buddhism. Moreover, many works proved high dignity of Buddhist teachings and even its similarity before Christianity. According to Irving Hexham, Buddhism is the most misunderstood religion in the Western society, which he says is the consequence of 19th century European writers adapting Buddhism as an option to Christianity and using its texts to fill Western demands. In terms of such interest in Buddhism, this paper compares the fundamental principle of its faith with Christianity.
The first question in every religion should be the following, what does it say about God? If we open Bible on the first page, we will see that Christianity acknowledges God as a prime mover and the first basis for all things. Therefore, the existence of God is supposed to be undoubted and indisputable truth inherent in the consciousness of everyone. Christians understood God as a creator of everything that exists, specifically, as a creator of the whole Universe (Hexham).
If we now look at Buddhist book, we cannot see God at all. Thus, while most religions involve a belief in God, this is not true for Buddhism. Indeed, to the educated Buddhist, God is quite inconsiderable (Hexham). According to Buddhism, in the beginning of Universe, there were three elements: earth, water, light or air. In such a way, world appeared not from God, but with participation of solid (earth), liquid (water) and gas (light or air). According to Irving Hexham, Buddhism is unique in recognizing the existence of God in daily affairs of life, but in declaring in no uncertain terms that as a religion or practice, Buddhism has nothing to do with God.
Christian’s outlook on life does not consider that there is no suffering in our life. In all sufferings of human, they see action of God’s love to all human beings on Earth.
Life is not evil, but the highest good. Evil consists in violation of divine will, and it creates a suffering in the world. Christianity does not remain indifferent to human suffering. Christianity proclaims that people are not alone, and God loves his creation. It is a real consolation to the person. Infinite improvement, having God as ideal prototype, gives human beings a meaning of life. Christianity proclaims that love is one of the main goals in human life on the earth (Hexham).
Buddhist worldview is characterized by gloomy character. According to Buddhism, our whole life is full of pain and frustration, without any joy in the world. Pleasures are purchased at the expense of suffering, pleasure is not eternal. Joy is a mirage, even death does not relieve us from suffering, disappointments and sorrows, because after death man reborn as another person who also will suffer all his life. The Buddhists say that suffering is inevitable destiny of every living thing (Hexham). A person suffers because he/she lives, because life itself is a suffering. If a person wishes to stop suffering then he/she must put out the desire to live, and plunge into the coveted nirvana, where there is no life, no existence, and, hence, no suffering. Buddhist people view themselves and the world itself as an illusion. In particular, they are a product of consciousness, which is a product of the Great Emptiness. According to Buddhism, world is acting only by karmic law (the universal law of cause and effect), all creations, including the gods are subjected to this law (Hexham). Karmic law is blind and does not know forgiveness. Repentance plays absolutely no role in Buddhism.
Buddhism looks at life through suffering. By contrast, Christianity gives human eternal life in heaven. From this, we can conclude that these religions are fundamentally different in the most important understanding of life meaning.
Buddhism denies strong spiritual feelings as it binds person and leaves a will to live. Therefore, love is the cause of many human sufferings. Buddhist is prohibited to insult other creatures, to take revenge; but must take care of all living beings. The reason for these regulations can be found in pity for all living beings on Earth, because life means suffering. A Buddhist refers to his offenders with the patience. They cannot hurt him, since he has no attachments and feelings. Moreover, in Buddhism all feelings are insignificant as his body. By the way, good deeds encouraged only at the beginning of the mystical Buddhist way. As Buddhists achieves “maturation”, they practically rejected as evidence of attachment to personal existence. In order to achieve nirvana, Buddhist must be free from desires. There is no desire in nirvana. Specifically, this state is beyond good and bad, out of love and hate, beyond life and death.
Contrariwise, the purpose of the Christian life lies in full union with God. Christians seek the holiness of God (Hexham). Following the example of God’s infinite love to man, man himself has to love God and all that God has done. Furthermore, a person must not only do not do evil things, but to do well to others. Love has a soul and an active principle of donation for anyone. In Christianity, man struggles with his resentment, anger and bitterness. After all, patience, compassion and infinite love for all offenders come on their place. In Christianity, love has great importance.
Christianity and Buddhism have similar conclusions about love (Hexham). Many things that are welcome in Buddhism are welcome in Christianity. For instance, not take revenge for insult. However, the reasons for these findings are different. In Christianity, the reason is love for all living things, in Buddhism is regret for them. Thus, Christianity prohibits adverse actions, as Buddhism. Therefore, Buddhist charity fundamentally differs from Christian one. Mercy for the followers of Buddha is an opportunity to find nirvana. It is known that the purer is karma, the faster possible to reach nirvana. For Christianity, act of charity is one of the fundamental principles due to which a person becomes interconnected to God. Moreover, true charity should be done for the name of love. A Christian sees the reflection of the divine in people, a Buddhist sees nothing.
At first sight, Buddhism and Christianity have one similar feature. According to these two religions, people should keep a fast. However, similarity lies only in the existence of fasting in both religions.
First fast of Buda lasted six years during his wandering life in the woods. The purpose of this fast was a renunciation from all human needs for the sake of truth. Gautama began his fast sitting on higher ground with his legs pulled, protected from the sun, wind, rain and other natural phenomena.
Fast of Jesus Christ lasted for 40 days in a bleak desert. The main purpose of fasting in Christianity is to prove that man lives not only for food, he still needs saturation of the soul, the commandments of divine law, because food will not save your life either material or spiritual. Saving lives depends on the will of God.
Buddha was looking for scenic area to fast. Contrarily, Jesus withdrew to the wilderness and bleak desert for a perfect retreat. Buddha fasted for six years, and Jesus Christ only 40 days. Fasting for Buddha was self-torture, and neglecting of the body; however, the fast of Jesus Christ was in abstinence from food. Jesus Christ was mulling his destiny as the Savior and decided to carry it out during his fast. Instead, Buddha humbled himself to death. He thought it would cause his full awakening. These two positions are similar to each other. However, they are quite different as goals are different. Finally, it can be concluded that within story Buddhism and Christianity are not related.
There is a significant difference in the origin of existence of Jesus and Buddha (Hexham). According to Buddhism, Buddha taught and drew all Buddhists, who like the sand of river Ganges, came to him, and lived on the earth in the long past. Yet, at that time, Buddha himself had no more than 40 years. Buddha resolves this mystery saying that he has already become a Buddha million times in his previous births. According to Christianity, John the Evangelist narrates that when Jesus told his listeners, “Your father Abraham was glad to see my day: he saw it and was glad”. Therefore, the Jews asked him, “You are only 50 years old. How you could see Abraham?” In response to this objection, Jesus told them about his eternal divine existence. From the words of Jesus Christ, we can conclude his eternal existence. By contrast, Buddha affirms its human nature, subject to the universal law of the continuous degeneration of Buddhism.
To sum up, the Great Emptiness is the starting point in Buddhism. By contrast, the Great Fullness is the core purpose of Christianity. In order to achieve the Great Emptiness, a person must suppress all the needs. In turn, desire is the driving force in order to achieve the Eternal Being in Christianity. However, this desire should be totally focused on the creative, tending to the divine will. In other words, a Christian must overcome weakness and inferiority of will and redirect the vector of their desires in accordance with teachings of Christ. Thus, Buddha guarantees freedom from death through destruction of life, Christ promises rescue from death by destroying it.
Finally, by comparing of two religions, we could see some similar details. In general, legends and history of religions have helped to compare some superficial elements of Buddhism and Christianity. Nevertheless, the essence and meaning of religions lies in meaning of life and attitude to love. Meaning, purpose, life, love of Christianity and Buddhism are very different. However, some commands are the same; however they differ in their origin.