Jesus and Buddha are founders of two of the largest religions in the world. Both of them desire of making the world better, letting people love together and giving happiness to all the people in the world. However, Christianity unlike Buddhism is unique in that it strips us of our self-righteousness by exposing our sinful nature, and causes us to see that our only hope is for God to reach down to us in mercy.
Jesus was born approximately 2040 years ago. The birth of Jesus was revealed to his mother, Mary, by the angel Gabriel, who prophesized, "The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end" (Luke 1:32-33)(The Holy Bible NIV, 2003). Similarly, Queen Maya, the mother of the Buddha, had a vision in which she was carried by the gods to a sacred place and Buddha entered her womb.
Both births were in unusual places, which the mother of the child had to travel to. Jesus was born in the town of Bethlehem, many miles from his hometown of Nazareth. Mary laid him in a manger. Buddha was born in a grove of sala trees at which his mother stopped while traveling from her home to her native city. Jesus' birth was accompanied by divine signs, such as choirs of angels and a new star. Three wisemen visited Jesus sometime in his infancy, worshipping him and presenting him with luxurious gifts.
Siddhartha's birth was announced by the earth and heavens singing his praises. Siddhartha was also visited by a total of one hundred eight Brahmins, who were considered the wisest men of India. Instead of worshipping him, they tried to divine his destiny in the world (Groothuis, 2004). Buddhism is the belief system of those who follow Buddha, the Enlightened One. It was founded as a form of atheism. It is the world’s fourth largest religion. The founder of Buddhism was Siddhartha Gautama, a prince from northern India near modern Nepal who lived about 563–483 B.C. It is the world’s fourth largest religion; with adherents of 613 million worldwide and one million in the United States.
Buddhists regard the United States as a prime mission field, and the number of Buddhists in this country is growing rapidly due to an increase in Asian immigration, endorsement by celebrities such as Tina Turner and Richard Gere, and use in major movies such as Siddhartha, The Little Buddha, and What’s Love Got to Do with It? Buddhism is related to the New Age Movement and may to some extent be driving it. Certainly Buddhist growth is benefiting from the influence of New Age thought on American life. Buddhism is an impersonal religion of self-perfection, the end of which is death, not life. The Buddhist belief system is in the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and several additional key doctrines.
The Four Noble Truths are life is full of suffering, suffering is caused by craving, suffering will cease only when craving ceases, and this can be achieved by following the Noble Eightfold Path consisting of right views, right aspiration, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right contemplation.
Other doctrines include belief that nothing in life is permanent, that individual selves do not truly exist, that all is determined by an impersonal law of moral causation, that reincarnation is an endless cycle of continuous suffering, and that the goal of life is to break out of this cycle by finally extinguishing the flame of life and entering a permanent state of pure nonexistence (Pickar, 2011).
In complete contrast to Buddhism, Christianity states that the very existence of the universe shows that God exists; “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork.”The basic principle of Christianity is the belief in God and man’s need to build a relationship with him. Christians are told that they are made in the image of God; it is therefore the individual’s duty to respond to God’s offer of a relationship with him. Christians have a relationship with him through prayer, worship, praise and resting their faith in him.
Buddhists are deeply concerned with overcoming suffering but must deny that suffering is real. Christ faced the reality of suffering and overcame it by solving the problem of sin. Now, those who trust in Christ can rise above suffering in this life because they have hope of a future life free of suffering. “We fix our eyes not on what is seen [suffering], but on what is unseen [eternal life free of suffering]. For what is seen [suffering] is temporary, but what is unseen [future good life with Christ] is eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18, NIV) (The Holy Bible NIV, 2003).
Buddhists must work to convince themselves they have no personal significance. Jesus taught that each person has real significance. Each person is made in God’s image with an immortal soul and an eternal destiny. Jesus demonstrated the value of people by loving us so much that He sacrificed His life in order to offer eternal life to anyone who trusts Him. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8, NIV) (The Holy Bible NIV, 2003).
The hope of nirvana is no hope at all; only death and extinction. The hope of those who put their trust in Christ is eternal life in a “new heaven and new earth” in which God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [suffering] has passed [will pass] away” (Rev. 21:4, NIV)(The Holy Bible NIV, 2003). Life for a Buddhist is very oppressive. There can be no appeal, no mercy, and no escape except through constant effort at self-perfection.
Christians understand that they have a personal God who listens to those who pray; who has mercy on those who repent, and who with love personally controls for good the lives of those who follow Christ. “In all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28, NIV)(The Holy Bible NIV,2003)(Pickar,2011). Buddhists struggle to earn merit by doing good deeds, hoping to obtain enough to break free from the life of suffering.
They also believe saints can transfer excess merit to the undeserving. Jesus taught that no one can ever collect enough merit on his own to earn everlasting freedom from suffering. Instead, Jesus Christ, who has unlimited merit (righteousness) by virtue of His sinless life, meritorious death, and resurrection, now offers His unlimited merit as a free gift to anyone who will become His disciple. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8,9, NIV)(The Holy Bible NIV, 2003).
Buddhists live a contradiction, they seek to overcome suffering by rejecting desire, but at the same time they promote desire for self-control, meritorious life, and nirvana. Christians are consistent , they seek to reject evil desires and develop good desires according to Christ. “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and a peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22, NIV)(The Holy Bible NIV, 2003)(Groothuis, 2003).
Although many people look at Buddhism as being similar to Christianity, it can be seen from these two religions that the teachings, ideals, and redemption are vastly different. Not only do they teach different things, but in many cases they contradict each others’ teachings and suggest that a person can only gain freedom from their suffering by adhering to the guidelines that they each establish.
International Bible Society. 1984. The Holy Bible New International Version
Groothuis, Douglas K. (2003). Jesus and Buddha. Christian Reach Journal. Volume 25, (pg 4). Retrieved from http://www.equip.org/articles/Jesus-and-Buddha
Pickar, Katherine M. (2011). Encountering Jesus and Buddha: Their Lives and Teachings. Scholarly Journals Volume 31, (pg 260-263). Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com