Before we embark on comparing the spread of Christianity and Buddhism, as religious doctrines, we will need to come up with the definition of religion, because it will provide us with the insight on the dynamics of religious teachings becoming popularized. From today’s perspective, the classical concept of religion can be defined as structuralized system of spiritual beliefs that emphasize on transcendent essence of one’s existential identity.
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During the course its evolutional development, homo sapiens was becoming less and less subjected to its animalistic instincts, as the tool of insuring its physical survival. It was people’s superior intellect that allowed them to become undisputed masters in animal kingdom. At the same, the concept of intellect corresponds to one’s ability to operate with purely abstract categories. However, it is only when such ability becomes combined with idealistic properties of people’s character, which creates a precondition for the emergence of a religion.
Christianity only became a religion, in full sense of this word, when materialistic spirit of Judaism was being transformed into something opposite to what it originally used to be by European mentality. In other words, Christianity is best defined as Semitic religious worldview that is being adapted to Aryan existential mode. Buddhism, on the other hand, is best defined as essentially the system of Aryan beliefs, which is being dogmatized by Asians. This is the most profound conceptual difference between two religions, which in its turn, resulted in Christianity and Buddhism being popularized in different manners.
It is a well known fact that it was not up until 75 A.D. that the first Gospels were being composed. Apparently, Jesus, who claimed himself as the son of God, could not really be thought of within a context of God’s revelation, at the time when he used to preach. This is the reason why neither of Apostles was present at Jesus’ crucifixion. It is only after recollections of what really happened began to fade in people’s memory, and after the deaths of those who had witnessed the actual events, that the image of Jesus began to gain mythological properties.
However, in Judea, Christianity could not possibly take a root, simply because Jews are not capable of thinking of religion as something that does not provide them with immediate practical benefits. It had to be brought onto a foreign ground, in order to start gaining popularity among people. In their turn, along with being idealistic, these people would also have to be decadent. Such people were Romans at the time.
Once Christianity had taken hold in Roman Empire, Christians began to spread the “word of God”, throughout the known oicumena, because Jesus himself insisted on that: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew, 28:19).
In 5th century A.D., Christianity was being exported to Ireland. In 988 A.D., people in Kievan Rus were being forcibly baptized by Prince Vladimir. By 12th century, Christianity had also reached Scandinavia. With the beginning of “era of discoveries”, Christianity was being introduced to the native people in America and it had the same effect on them as it was the case with Romans – it corrupted them spiritually to such an extent that they were not able to put up any effective resistance against foreign invaders, who had embarked on wholesale extermination of their newly found “brothers in Christ”.
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In 1523, Martin Luther translated Bible from the Latin into contemporary German, which initiated the process of self-destruction, within Christianity. Before Reformation, Catholics were only aware of the fact that Jesus was good and the Devil was bad and that Saint Mary was the person to address their prayers to. However, once they were able to learn about God’s contradicting “commandments” on their own, by reading Bible that was being translated into their native languages, people began to come up with their own interpretations of God’s “shining truth”.
Therefore, even though it appeared that in 16th – 18th centuries Christianity was still spreading its geopolitical influence, it was actually growing weaker from within. By 20th century, Christianity had firmly established itself as one of world’s most popular religions. However, only the “snake handlers” in America’s South can be now considered as true Christians, because they alone take what is being said in Bible as literal truth and actively practice their beliefs. Thus, we cannot seriously refer to contemporary Christianity as “religion of millions”, in classical sense of this word. Nowadays, it is being turned into “religious lifestyle” for majority of those who consider themselves as Christians.
Therefore, we can say that example of Christianity shows that, in order for a particular religion to continue spreading its influence, among people, it needs to be in the state of continuous theological development. Even though Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant leaders claim that there is one God, they appear to be very reluctant, when it comes to discussing the theological differences between their versions of Christianity, since they are perfectly aware of the fact that, once they start doing it, the conceptual absurdity of Christianity, as religion, will become even more apparent.
Thus, we can conclude that when religion becomes fully dogmatized, its geopolitical influence begins to weaken. In the next part of this paper, we are going to prove the validity of this statement, by analyzing the spread of Buddhism from historical and ideological perspectives.
Gautama Buddha, who was born as Prince Siddhartha in 563 B.C., belonged to the royal caste of Khatrees. As we know from Buddhist sources, the future Buddha used to spend days, while contemplating on the essence of very abstract categories. The traditional schools of Buddhist thought emphasize that one’s ability to indulge in abstract philosophizing is the essential precondition for “enlightenment”. This is the reason why the original Buddhism can hardly be referred to as religion but rather as philosophy of life.
There is no concept of emotional deity can be found in Buddhism, because people, among which this philosophy had originally gained popularity, still possessed the remnants of Aryan mentality, which prompted them to look for the God within themselves. This explains why Buddha never insisted that his teachings should be spread out among foreign nations – apparently, unlike Jesus, he was well aware of the fact that it is people’s biological makeup that defines them as individuals more then anything else does.
However, as more and more people were being attracted to Buddha’s philosophy of life, they started to quarrel about what particular interpretation of Buddhism was the proper one. In other words, Buddhists were engaging in ideological discussions, which, just as it was the case with Christianity, boosted the appeal of their religion as whole; because, for as long as internal divisions exist within a particular religion, it remains alive.
As catacomb Christians, early Buddhists relied on oral transmission, as the tool of popularizing the teachings of their guru. This proves once again that the birth of a religion is quite impossible, until the figure religion’s founder is being mythologized to a considerable degree. While being spread out, Buddhist wisdom was slowly transforming its original essence. In its turn, it required the most prominent Buddhists of the time to get together, every once in while, to discuss the theoretical aspects of their religion.
There were three so-called “Buddhist Councils”, that had taken place between 5th and 2nd centuries B.C., which had structuralized Buddhist teachings. This however, did not lead to Buddhism becoming an undisputable religious doctrine in India. It is only when Buddhism was being exported in other countries, which resulted in “petrifaction” of its local versions. For example, Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayāna), has very little to do with the original concept of Buddhist enlightenment, as something that can only be achieved through lengthy meditations.
In order for Tibetan Buddhist monk to qualify for the “enlightenment”, he will need to spin the prayer wheel non-stop for twenty years. On the other hand, despite the fact that Zen Buddhism is a creation of comparatively recent times, its ideological essence closely relates to Buddha’s original teachings, which can be explained by the fact that Japanese cannot be referred to as Asians, in full sense of this word, because they have a considerable amount of Aryan blood running in their veins.
Unlike Christianity, Buddhism was not being forcibly imposed upon people. Its spreading across Asia followed the establishment of a Silk Road, which was being used for transporting various goods even to as far as Europe. After having helped establishing Buddhism in India, Indian King Ashoka also tried to promote Buddhist philosophy in other parts of the world by sending Buddhist emissaries to China, Bengal and Afghanistan. Buddhist monks even succeeded in converting many Mongolic tribes to Buddhism.
In 4th century A.D., a Buddhist monk Kumarajiva was being granted a permission to found a translation center in China, where Buddhist tests were being translated into various Chinese dialects. It is now estimated that by 6th century A.D., there were close to 2 million Buddhist in China. During the course of the process of Buddhism being popularized, across the Asia, it largely transformed its essence from being a method of achieving self-awareness, to the tool of suppressing one’s desires, as the ultimate mean of eliminating suffering, which in its turn, corresponds to Asiatic mentality. This is the reason why, out of today’s 350 million Buddhists, 95% are Asians.
In recent times, Buddhism started to appeal to more and more people in Western countries, which can be explained by the fact that the essence of Buddhist teachings correspond to White people’s existential mode. For example, the majority of these people think of sacrificing animals to God Jehovah as something utterly horrible, even though they are being explicitly required to do this by the Bible. Buddhism, on the other hand, promotes humane attitude to animals. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the original spirit of Buddhism corresponds to White people’s mentality more then the Semitic religion of bloodthirsty tribal God Yahweh. This is the reason why Buddhism is going to be embraced by more and more people in Western countries, as time goes by.
Thus, we can conclude that both religions are based on historical events that were being mythologized. The reason why Christianity and Buddhism were able to win millions of adherents is because these religions could be adapted to the racial psyche of people, among which they were being popularized. At the same time, whereas Christianity is now rapidly loosing its appeal, the Buddhism continues to gain more adherents, which is why we can predict that, in near future, it will became the second largest religion after Islam.
- Howard Marshall, “Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earlier Christianity”. Early Church. 2002. Web.
- Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, “The Three Buddhist Councils”. Simhanada. 2001. Web.
- New King James Version: Scofield Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1982.