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Buddhism and Christianity: Understanding of Religions

Aisha listens carefully as two of her colleagues continue with the heated debate on whether Christianity is the true religion. In their argument, one believes that Christianity is the only true religion while the other, who is a pagan, prefer believing in Buddhism citing that this is the only religion that nearly offers him total consolation in his desperate search for the true faith. Internally, Aisha smiles softly as she tries to run through her brain to remember what she had been taught concerning the two religions. In a real sense, these are not the only people who are engaged in such heated debates in an attempt to come up with true religion. But as Aisha looked at the Christian member of the debate to argue out his points, she knew that only one thing would have aided him. An insight into both Christianity and Buddhism would help this person not just argue out his points but also preach to the Buddhist and give him an understanding of the true Christian religion. This essay is therefore intended to help bring out the Buddhist’s understanding of Christianity and correct the wrong perceptions through pointing out relevant scriptures so as to support the points.

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To get an appropriate approach to this issue, one has to get a brief background on the basic foundations of faith in the Buddhist religion. Somewhere in 6thC BC in present Nepal, a prince was born. His name was Siddhartha Gautama. He lived a kingly life and never understood what poverty or suffering was. One day, as he was taken out for excavation through his father’s Kingdom, he came across four events that changed his life completely. From these events, he came to understand that suffering existed. This gave him the desire to meditate and come up with a solution for human suffering. This gave birth to Buddhism. Prince Siddhartha, who later came to be known as Buddha sat down under a bodhi tree, and truly, on the forty-ninth day, he got enlightenment (Buddhist tourism par. 5).

Buddhism is founded on five basic principles. It is from these five basic principles that one can achieve the ultimate enlightenment according to the teachings of Buddha. These principles are:

The four noble truths

This was the first of Buddha’s sermons held at the Deer Park near Varanasi. The four noble truths are the truth of suffering which stipulates that human life cannot avoid suffering both physical and mental. The second truth is the truth of the causes of suffering which, according to the teachings, are desire, craving, and ignorance. This leads to the third truth which is the truth of the end of suffering. In this truth, Buddha believes that through an understanding of the teachings, one can easily end suffering. Finally, the fourth truth was the truth of the path leading to the end of suffering which was avoiding extremes of life. The teachings were that through taking the middle path, one could easily attain enlightenment.

The eightfold path

This is the teaching that leads to the attainment of nirvana. The path includes the inculcations of a good understanding, right thoughts, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration.

The five precepts

These are the basic ethical foundations of the Buddhism teachings. They were outlined by Buddha in the Theravada and the Mahayana traditions. They include abstinence from killing, uncouth sexual behavior, lying, and intoxication.

The three dharma seals

These are the basic teachings that must be included in any Buddhist teachings. Without these, then this is not a Buddhism faith. The seals include impermanence, no self, and no wish.

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the five Skandhas

These could be referred to as the five elements that make up the human experience according to the Buddha’s teachings. They are form, consciousness, formation, perception, and feeling.

Based on these teachings, the basic concepts of Christianity could happen to bring some misunderstandings that need clarification in order to come up with some understanding. In Buddhism, Jesus Christ, who is the basic foundation of Christianity, and all the Christian teachings are perceived in a different way. Concepts like God, the human soul, and eternal life are not considered realities in the world of Buddhism. To the Buddhists, these are non-existent absurdities and imaginary issues that have no basis (Yamamoto 1). Unfortunately, these are the basic foundation of Christian teaching. According to Christianity, God is the Supreme Being who is the creator of heaven and earth. In addition, the teachings say that the human body is made up of the body, the spirit, and the soul which should be kept blameless as one waits for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). The body is made up of human pleasures and the only soul will inherit the kingdom of heaven to be rewarded for having excelled through performing good works on the earth.

Just like Buddhists base their faith in the teachings of Buddha, Christians base their faith in the teachings of Jesus Christ. They, therefore, have to emulate the way that Jesus lived and try to make sure that they do everything in life according to Jesus’ teachings. One thing that is for sure is that Jesus was an exemplary person of which trusting in him cannot lead someone into losing direction in life. His ways were completely straight and he walked according to the ways of the teachings of Buddha. According to Yamamoto (pg. 2), Buddhist leaders describe Jesus as a perfect person. For example, one leader Rev. Ronald Nakasone described Jesus in one of his writings as ‘remarkable,’ ‘enlightened,’ ‘spiritually gifted’ and ‘very close to Buddha hood.’ Only, they don’t believe in the deity part of him. This means that Jesus was a perfect person who did not posses the humanly lusts and therefore, it is quite acceptable that he was the son of God (John 8:19).

Buddhists believe that only through following the five basic principles of Buddhist teachings can one attain enlightenment which could be equated to the Christians’ perspective of salvation. According to the teachings, it is only through putting your mind right, your thoughts right and all your ways do you then attain enlightenment. Apart from this, one has to make sure that he avoids overindulgence into any extremities of life which are usually the cause of human suffering and therefore following the teachings of the five precepts.

Just like the Buddhists, the truth of human suffering is accepted in Christianity. Human beings are bound to suffer both physically and emotionally as long as they are on this planet earth. The only difference comes in terms of causes and the way through which someone can salvage himself from suffering. It is true according to Buddha’s teachings that indulging into extremities of human life can lead to suffering. Also, human desires and wishes lead to suffering. The truth is, when God created man, he was clean and without sin or suffering. This was like that until Satan came in and lied to man who ate the forbidden fruit and thus brought a curse unto himself. This is the curse that brought suffering and death to humankind (Romans 6:23). This needed that human kind is salvaged from eternal suffering. God being a merciful Being had to give man a second chance so that he could reform and live according to the original desire of God which was life without suffering or death. As a result, God gave his only son Jesus Christ so that he would be crucified to save mankind from sin and that whosoever believed in him would not perish but would have everlasting life with the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16).

Buddhism bases its faith in trying to get rid of the, “endless cycles of births and deaths.” (Lim et al). They have their main concern in ending suffering and helping people live a good life free from strain through man’s own effort. This is a concept that does not hold water in the Christian teachings. The human flesh is weak and has many desires. Making an effort to salvage one’s self by one’s own effort can be a very difficult task. This calls for a supernatural effort that could give a human being power to overcome his desires of the flesh. In addition to this, God’s original desire was that mankind lives eternally and without suffering something that was diverted after Satan lied to man by telling him to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad (genesis 2).therefore, Human beings have to trust on God to help them avoid sin and therefore defeat the desires of the flesh which will not only enable them to attain enlightenment according to Buddha but also inherit heaven where there will be no suffering. In addition, it should not be the effort of man to end suffering but through faith that Jesus was send down to redeem mankind from suffering one can easily end suffering in his life. For it was, for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was made flesh of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man, and was crucified for us…and rose again on the third day” (John 1).

One of the most founded beliefs of Buddhists in terms of their faith is that their faith is founded on science. This makes them refer to Christianity as a baseless religion which has no foundation but created from creative story telling abilities of man which created the basics of this religion (Lim et al). They purport that Buddhism is scientific and can be “measured “scientifically. This is not very solid evidence as science has been found to fail in some explanations concerning fundamental aspects of life like the universe, galaxies and life forms. In addition to this, one of the greatest names in science, Albert Einstein, a self confessed atheist, came to a point of confessing that there is a perfect brain behind all the natural physical laws (Visnu par. 7). These fundamental issues have been perfectly explained in the Christian faith. In the book of genesis, God created the heaven and earth and all that is within it. He even created man in his own image. Therefore, Christianity offers an explanation to fundamental questions that have eluded the science world. Furthermore, the issue of God has eluded the scientific world which has failed to experimentally prove the existence of God. This means that matters of faith cannot be explained scientifically. Therefore, the only option remains the believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and was send down to earth to die for the sins of mankind leading to his redemption (John 14: 6). The only way that can lead one to attaining answers to those questions that have not been answered scientifically.

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In conclusion, faith of Buddhism is good only that it runs short in some aspects. For example, their main aim is creating happiness in one’s life but fails to explain what comes afterwards. Christianity therefore offers remedy not only to a happy life on earth but also after death. In addition, Christianity offers answers to the questions that could not be provided through the scientific nature of Buddhism. It is therefore important for one to embrace the teachings and have eternal life.

As the heated argument subsides due to the entry of the boss, Aisha simply says politely, “I would prefer Christianity.”

References

Buddhist tourism. “Zen Buddhism.” Updated 2007. Web.

Lim, David, Spaulding Steve and De Neui Paul, Sharing Jesus Effectively in the Buddhist World. William Carey Library: New York, 2006.

The Holy Bible. King James Version. Electronic Text Centre. University of Virginia. Web.

Visnu, Swami. “Has Science Failed Us?”  2009. 

Yamamoto, Isamu. “Effective Evangelism.” Christian Research Institute. 2009. Web.

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