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Buddhism &

Christianity
Compared
Ivan Frimmel

Various Pictures of
Buddha

Baby Buddha

Thai Buddha

Amitabha Buddha

Amitabha Buddha

Buddha Mind

Medicine
Buddha

Quan Yin

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 synonym for God.

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.


_______________________________________________________________

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


eliminating desire but in having right desire.

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 9 th or
Alaya Consciousness). One's goal is to escape from this cycle and
reach Nirvana. The mind experiences complete freedom,
liberation and non-attachment. 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 cessation for the
inhabitants of Hell.

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 ones next life will end
up being - a temporary heaven or hell - it all
depends on the actions of ones 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?"

Samyutta NIkaya v. 353.

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,
do ye even so to them.
Matthew 7:12.

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. Most
Christians believe in the second coming of Jesus
Christ.

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.
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.
"Not me!" said the Zen monk. "I
"I have taken Bodhisattva vows. I will be reborn in this world again and
again until all beings have been brought to enlightenment. If being born in hell helps in that process,
I'd gladly go.

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.
While they couldn't agree conceptually about the structures of their religions, in that silent
moment of spiritual practice, they recognized something in the other which connected them as
brothers in wordless agreement.

Ten Precepts / Virtues

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
neighbor.
10. You shall not covet.

The Four Noble


Truths
All life involves suffering

1.

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. Right view
2. Right thought
3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right livelihood
6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness
8. 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 enlightenment.

Questions & Answers (3)

Isnt 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;

arriving at the non-dual experience called


Nirvana

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?' - It's the
one that's right for you!

Questions & Answers (5)

Dont 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)

Dont 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 consciously or subconsciously that their
beliefs are based on insecure foundations, which cannot withstand
rational examination.

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
isnt one.

From Ask the Awakened by Wei WuWei

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