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Comparison of Different Religions


Buddhism teaches that all life is suffering but that there is a way to break free and experience enlightenment. While each person may require a different technique to achieve it, there are important ideas that everyone must understand. One such idea is that of non-duality. If everything is non-dual it would seem then that enlightenment does not depend on the gender of a person yet in countless stories women who want to end samsara and attain enlightenment are constantly told that because of their female bodies it is impossible (Fisher 2005). The only women that have managed to break through the barrier opted to change their sex or were able to change between the sexes, showing the extent of their understanding of non-duality because they were not male or female at all. Though these women could attain enlightenment, it is still hard for women to look up to them since these stories are merely fiction. Perhaps the reason why duality arises, in this case, is because of how women were regarded in history. In the past, Asian women were stigmatized as second-class citizens and in a way, it continues in some places today. Though amid the oppression women have had to endure, some have not let it stop them from taking on a path toward enlightenment. These women are none other than Buddhist nuns (History of Buddhism n.d.).

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Similar to Buddhism, Islam promulgates obedience and submission. Islam is a potent unifying force that oversees a multitude of spiritual, natural, social, and secular forces. The philosophy of Islam on family matters establishes norms and codes for its followers. Despite the fact, Islam’s treatment of men and women differs greatly from the Western religions. In contrast to Buddhism, the expansion of Islam remains one of the critical elements and turning points in world history. The great expansion of Islam was always associated with the growing number of Islamic adherents and the expansion of Arabs that necessarily led to the expansion of Islamic religion in the Asian world. The truth however is that Islamic expansion did not necessarily lead to conversion to the Islamic faith. The concept of Islamic expansion is surrounded by numerous myths and historical misconceptions, and what was traditionally regarded as the rise of the new Islamic culture, in reality, was the expansion of the Islamic empire which did not deprive new Islamic states of religious freedom (Tsiji 2008).

When Buddhism arrived in China, Confucianism was already being practiced, instilling the idea that women should be submissive to men. While Buddhism is nothing like Confucianism, the effect it had is apparent when comparing monks to nuns. If a woman wanted to enter the monastic life, she had to have permission from the person who had authority over her. Her reasons for doing so may simply have been to find refuge from an unwelcome marriage, flight from war, homelessness, lack of protection, and so on rather than specifically for enlightenment. Enlightenment would have been more of a perk for these women, and perhaps some did not care for Buddhism at all while taking refuge in being a nun. Once part of the assembly though, a nun still faced oppression in how she was still subject to a monk even if she was further along the path of enlightenment. More on the types of women who became nuns are educated and from good backgrounds. Difficulty also arose in the form of legitimacy. In many stories, Chinese nuns are asked how they are eligible to be practicing monasticism in the first place without receiving the obligations from both assemblies of monks and nuns (What is Islam n.d.). Though the Buddha’s aunt did not have an assembly of nuns to receive obligations from and regardless of the nuns were practicing Buddhism correctly or if they had already reached enlightenment, it was not legitimate in society’s opinion until the correct ceremonial rules were performed. The Holy Qur’an, as it was descended upon the prophet, Muhammad (PBUH), became the highest authority for Muslims all over the world. The holy book of all Muslims is a guide according to which the supporters of Islam build their lives, work, and daily communication with people. The Holy Qur’an is, thus, more than a religious book – it is a philosophical work providing people with information as to how they should live to find peace with the outside world and their souls. Rather, it reports that women exist to reproduce and without them, the cycle of life is never complete. It analyzes the myth of Adam and Eve that perpetuated the belief that Eve was the reason for Adam’s exile from Heaven (Islam/Muslim n.d.). This verse shifts the blame from Eve to the demon that lured both of them to sin. In contrast to Islam, Buddhists believe in reincarnation and rebirth of the body and soul (Fisher 2005).

As one would assume, Buddhist nuns also perform many of the same rules and rituals as nuns elsewhere. While this may ease distraction in practice, it also visually represents non-duality among people. This does not mean, however, that the nuns automatically let go of duality when they enter the monastery. Nuns are human beings like anyone else only working towards the ultimate goal of enlightenment (Fisher 2005). For a nun, the monastery provides close, intimate living quarters for what Aria describes as bumping and polishing themselves from their emotional attachments, much as stones help one another become polished by bumping up against each other and chipping off rough edges. Another interesting contrast to the idea of non-duality is the fact that there is a hierarchical system within the monastery. Like the monks, a nun that has been practicing Buddhism longer than another will always have seniority regardless of age.


In sum, both Buddhism and Islam promulgate the divine nature of the human soul but interpret differently the place of a man in this world. Islam sees women as secondary citizens while Buddhism recognizes equality between men and women. Islam rejects the idea of rebirth but Buddhism sees reincarnation as the main goal of human suffering and self-development.


Fisher, M.P. (2005). Living religions (6th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.

History of Buddhism (n.d.). Web.

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Islam/Muslim. (n.d.). Web.

Tsuji, T. On Reincarnation. (2008). Web.

What is Islam? (n.d.). Web.

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