Basic Belief Systems
Buddhism is different from Christianity in many ways. The Christian founder, Jesus Christ was the Son of The Father, God, while the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama was a normal human being, who achieved enlightenment through meditation and later on was referred to as The Buddha(The Awakened). This brings us to the first major difference, the existence of the supernatural. While Buddhism does not completely reject the Hinduism Gods, it does not see them necessary. At the same time, Christianity has its one and only God, who comes in three faces, The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit.
Christian meditations are also very different from Buddhism ones, while Christians have an open minded meditations, where the mind can wonder off freely, Buddhists have a closed ends meditations, in which there is only one goal to the meditation and your thoughts are limited to concentrate only on certain things. The perception of life differs very much in two religions. Buddhists state that “Life Is Dukka”, life is pain and suffering, while Christians treasure life in every way, and believe that life is the most important thing that God gave us. These are the major differences between the two religions belief systems.
Main Rituals and Symbols
While both religions use their own rituals and symbols, these are very different from each other. Christianity uses symbols such as the Crucifix, Icons, statues, etc, the Buddhism followers are more used to symbols like The Dharma wheel, The victory banner, The knot of eternity, The conch shell, The lotus, The vase, The fish and The umbrella, which are The Eight Auspicious Signs. Christians usually use these signs during their ceremonies and processions, while Buddhists apply the signs in their life, or during meditation and study. The Christian rituals include the celebration of Christmas, Easter, Sunday Masses and other similar rituals and ceremonies, and Buddhists have their rituals too.
They include Offering of Light, Offering of Flowers and Offering of Incense. All these offerings are presented to Buddha’s statues to show that people still follow his teachings. This would be strictly prohibited by any real Christian religion, as it involves creating idols, and is prohibited by the Bible’s Ten Commandments. Chanting verses on the Buddha’s Teachings is believed to give protection to those who listen to them., which is different from Christian chanting which is only used in Masses and are simply used to praise The Lord, All-mighty.
The sacred texts of Buddhism and Christianity do not have much in common. The Christian main book, the Bible consists of passages and chapters written before and after Jesus’ death. It consists of two main parts, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. The Buddhists sacred text is called the Pali Canon, which consists of three groups of discourses, called the Tripitaka, which consists of Sutra – saying of Buddha, Vinya – discipline of the brotherhood and Abidharma – a set of creeds based on essential teachings. The canon includes poetry and prose, Buddha’s conversations with others and myths about the life of Buddha.
While the Bible teaches us the words of God, the teachings of Christ, talks about the Afterlife and Creation, The Pali Canon simply talks about Buddha’s life, what he did, his thoughts, and reminds me more of a Biography, rather then a sacred text of a religion. There are other sacred texts including stories, myths and teachings of Buddha’s disciples, but those are not considered as major and important as the Pali Canon. Christianity concentrates on The Bible more then any other minor sacred texts, while Buddhism considers all the minor texts as important as each other.
The Christian Religion answers all the life’s fundamental questions. If you search within Christianity, you will be able to find answers to questions like what is the meaning of life and how the world was created and why and is there life after death? Buddhism does not give these answers, it concentrates more on self-perfection of the soul and achieving awakening, only then one can understand the mysteries of the universe, but not many can achieve this, while in Christianity all and everyone is able to find answers to these questions. Christians believe that God created the world, he created hell and heaven, the two places where a human soul will spend its afterlife. Some believe that the meaning of life is for God to decide whether a person was good or bad and where will he end up, some think its is simply to help others during our lives. While no-one knows the right answer to these fundamental questions for sure, we may speculate or try to understand the Bible more closely to find the answers we seek.
The main difference between Buddhism and Christianity in these questions is that Buddhists believe in reincarnation, where a human’s soul will be reborn in a different body after death, and this process is only stopped by reaching Nirvana, a stage of complete enlightenment. Christians however believe that after death, the human soul will travel and be judged and either sent to Heaven, closer to God, or Hell, where Satan is. It is believed that Buddha achieved Nirvana, and therefore will not be reborn again, although some believe that Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of Buddha, but their numbers are few. The teachings of Buddha help Buddhists understand their purpose in life, to achieve Nirvana, enlightenment. This is achieved through deep meditation and self control, including self-denial. Meditation performs an important role in achieving Nirvana.
Buddhist monks sometimes go and spend years living by themselves and meditating for most of their time, believing that such deep devotion will help them reach enlightenment and perfection. Some strive to become Buddha themselves, this is achievable through attaining enlightenment on their own, without the help of anyone else. This is considered the highest stage of awakening, and these Buddha are then allowed to go and teach others, and become spiritual leaders. It is obvious that both religions help individuals to answer life’s fundamental questions, and one cannot say for sure, which one helps more or is more right, everyone chooses for themselves, but Christianity is closer to me, and that is the path I choose to walk upon.
Courtney from Study Moose