The first interaction between Christian missionaries and Buddhists took place in the 13th century. Since that time, the two religions have been always compared. The current paper focuses on similarities, differences and the potential associations between the two religions. The evaluation that commenced in the 20th century has improved the comprehension of various issues and concepts involved. Buddhism’s main focus is around the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha, and there is no belief in existence of a supreme creator, also referred to as nontheistic (Abe & Heine, 1995). Christianity’s main focus is on life and teachings of Jesus Christ, with the belief that a supreme creator exists and that Christ is the Son of God. However, the need for more understanding of these two religions cannot be ignored. Therefore, the current research paper analyzes various concepts of the two religions. The concepts are the following: origin, fundamental beliefs, rituals, number of followers, global reach and growth or decline impact. The analysis focuses on similarities and differences of Buddhism and Christianity.
There are similarities in the origin of both Buddhism and Christianity. There are opinions that Buddhist practices arrived in Europe in the 13th century, followed by the arrivals of Christian missionaries. Authors pointed out the similarities between the two practices after the contact. The Buddhists’ bells, rosaries, popes, confessional and its processions were considered similar to the Romans. There are suggestions that the rosaries belong to Christians originated from India and arrived in Western Europe through the tasbih, which is a Muslim version (William, 1904). These suggestions hint the dependency in the origin of the two religions.
There are also fundamental differences in the origin of Buddhism and Christianity. Buddhism developed from Hinduism and is a Dharmic religion, while Christianity developed from Judaism, and the religion is Abrahamic. Buddhism originated in India, Nepal, while Christianity originated in Judea, Roman Province. Buddhism originated in 562 before Common Era (BCE), while Christianity is estimated to originate around 33AD.
Buddhism and Christianity Beliefs
There are similarities in beliefs of Buddhism and Christianity. The most significant is the fact that life continues after death. Both religions teach that a dead person’s soul and spirit are eternal. They both believe that eternal life after death is the fundamental reason that initially encouraged people to turn to religions (Bentley, 1993, p.240).
There are significant beliefs that are shared by the two religions. Buddhism does not believe in the initial era of the Garden of Eden and the fall of man. The humans obtained the first sin from Eve and Adam. Buddhists do not recognize the floods experienced during the time of Noah, causing massive deaths. Buddhists do not believe in the presence of a pure personal savior whose death was a source of personal salvation to mankind. Buddhists do not believe in the God-savior born out of purity who died and resurrected. Christians’ belief of salvation is that it derived from good deeds and beliefs such as repentance, baptism, and sacraments.
Christianity has a belief in the soul and the second coming of the Creator. Finally, Christians believe that they will rise in their following, and that Christianity will become a universal religion. A part of Buddhists believe that their religion will eventually die, which is in line with their thought that all things, including religion, are temporary. However, they also believe that a different being will obtain Buddha-hood, and the religion’s recreation will resemble Buddhism (Guang, 2005, p.89).
Some rituals are common in both religions. Confession of sins by Christians is done directly to their Creator, some talk to the Priest. Christians believe that God forgives people’s sins through His Son Jesus Christ. Buddhists also confess sins and have a way of doing this. Rites such as baptism, confirmation, holy orders, penance and anointing the sick are common between Buddhists and Christians. Both Buddhists and Christians use images and statues (Bentley, 1993, p.240). Buddhists use statues which are symbols for remembrance of Buddha while worshipping. Some Christian denominations, such as Roman Catholics permit the use of pictures and statues and their veneration.
Both religions perform rituals. They both pay attention to the benefits of worship which reflect on followers’ faith. Worship is different in various religions. However, Christians worship their Creator for the gifts, such as a gift of life granted unto them. They also believe that worship draws them closer to their Creator. On the contrary, Buddhists believe that worship is intended to achieve affirmative merit. They have high respect for Buddha but do not believe in specific worship (Abe & Heine, 1995). Buddhists worship for their benefits and not for Buddha. There is a confession in both religions. Buddhists, however, try to ignore evils already committed unless they are as bad as matricide. Christians confess before God and priests, but there is a basic thought that God forgives evils through his son Jesus Christ. Buddhists use wheels as their symbols, while Christians have the cross and the image of Mary, the mother of Jesus and Jesus, the baby. Buddhism teaches that people should not divorce unless there are some serious personal issues which are not reconcilable then they are allowed to divorce. Christianity explains that a man and a woman are joined to become one in the institution of marriage, and no man should put the couple apart.
Number of Followers
Both religions are experiencing a rise in the number of followers in different parts of the world. The highest number of Buddhists can be found in Asia, Europe and North America. There has been a tremendous increase in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. In Australia, it is one of the highly increasing religions – 79.1%. The number of Christians is also rapidly increasing in the non-western countries. In countries like Vietnam, there is 600% increase recorded. Other countries experiencing the growth are China, Nigeria and South Korea.
Follower representation in the religions varies. Christianity has a tremendous following as compared to Buddhism. Research shows that Christians make up an estimate of 31.5% of the entire world population whereas Buddhists makeup an estimate of 7.1%. Buddhism followers are more prevalent in Asia, Europe and North America; however, Christianity following is wide since they are available in most parts of the world (Numrich, 2008, p.10).
Global Reach of Buddhism and Christianity
In terms of the global reach of Buddhism and Christianity, they both tend to be globally present. Buddhism is a global religion because of its missionary spirit. Buddhism is considered to be global. There has been a revolution in Buddhism to keep up with the continuously religious changes in a bid to sustain their reach and development (Maguire, 2001, pp. 159-160). The global reach of Christianity is felt around the world. The western hemisphere is mostly Christian. Christianity is virtually present all over the world.
Global reach of Christianity is more dominant than Buddhism’s reach. It is important to note is that Christianity is more prevalent in the Pacific region, Asia than in North America, which is considered Christianity dominated region. Christianity has a better global reach due to its initial missionary outreaches which enabled the conversion and assimilation of Christianity as a religion (Numrich, 2008, p.10).
Impact of Growth and Decline
The growth of both religions has a fundamental impact. The religions act as comfort zones in the times of unrest in the social and political fields. Both religions have made efforts in appreciating the role of women in the society. They have both championed for the rights of women. Christianity and Buddhism are similar in disregarding material things and instead focusing on spirituality. Christianity and Buddhism had a vital monastic movement, whereby the people associated in order to live a life of spirituality and sanctity (King, 1963).
There are fundamental differences in the impact of growth and decline of Christianity and Buddhism. The decline of Christianity in Rome influenced the spread of Christianity to the west from the Middle Asia and later on played a central position in the postclassical civilization. Buddhism has spread to the east from India. Its spread further intensified due to international trade (Durant, 1954, pp. 711-720).
There are similarities in ethics of both religions such as treating other people with respect and integrity. Ethics is a common way of behavior that dictates how people treat each other (Crooke, 1906). The Buddhist writing states “Hurt not others in ways that you would find hurtful” (Udana-Varga 5:18). This writing’s reflection in the Bible of Christians, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” Matthew 7:12. Both religions have concepts of love, justice and morality.
There is a difference in ethics of the two religions. Buddhism suggests that people should control their mind and thoughts. One’s mindset should be fully comprehended and refined thereafter; a helping hand can be extended to the needy in society. In Christianity, not much attention is focused on the mind, although it is a topic of study. Focus is mainly drawn to the speech delivered in a form of encouragement and the physical, material aid (Abe & Heine, 1995).
Culture is perceived to be non-existent without religion. Religion is neither involved with beliefs alone or a cult that evolved with time. If religion is restricted to beliefs, then there is no need to point out the similarities and differences of the two religions. Both religions deliver the same information that is triggered by similar goals. Both religions seek to help one another. Love and care are the fundamental motivations. Christianity and Buddhism have ceremonies of the New Year, but they are celebrated in different manners. However, the major goal for the celebrations is to wish people a new year, full of good luck and happiness. The connection between Buddhism and Christianity is the fact that they obey rules, so as to have peaceful and happy life. They both stress that the less complex life is, the greater happiness is derived from it. The differences of Christianity and Buddhism in terms of rituals, beliefs and practices, number of followers and impact of growth, are more fundamental than the similarities. They outweigh their similarities in the above-mentioned aspects.