In the world today, there are over 327 million Buddhists. Most of these Buddhists are in Asia, with Japan, South Korea and China having some of the highest fractions. Within these different areas, Buddhism shows regional differences such that it can be viewed as a compilation of different sects. Approaching these sects with one uniform message is hence difficult, as they all have their different perspectives. For example, in Japan alone, there are over 200 distinct sects. The reasons behind this diversification lie in the history of Buddhism (Reason, N.D.).
Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism. The ancient Asians were all united under Hinduism, at one time. However, some people within it grew tired of the caste systems, and the other restrictive regulations that Hindu has. One person in particular, Siddhartha Guatama, was so troubled by questions of destiny and purpose in life that he gave up his prestigious status in society and became a monk. Guatama lived from around 566BC to 480BC. One day, while meditating, he got an epiphany- a revelation of the ultimate truth. Thereafter, he devoted the rest of his life to teaching the rest of the society what he had just discovered (PBS, N.D.).
Siddhartha Guatama came to be known as the Buddha, which means the enlightened one. People who followed his teachings came to be called Buddhists. Buddhism quickly gained ground in the Eastern world because of its unique perspectives. One major uniqueness is that Buddhists do not believe in a god. Buddhists don’t pay homage to a superior being. They believe that they are the masters of their destinies, and that their actions, not fate or some other outside force, determines their success or failure in life (Reason, N.D.).
Buddhists’ unique perspective makes them hard to approach on any religious base. This is because their system is more a philosophy of life than a religious doctrine. Buddhism is full of moral teachings, and the overall theme is the importance of enlightenment. Thus, it is difficult to judge Buddhism in terms of its errors. Although Buddhism does have a few controversial perspectives about the destiny of humanity, it is easier to point out its inadequacies than its errors.
One of the reasons for so many divisions within Buddhism is the open minded approach they have to issues of personal believes. According to Buddhism, personal enlightenment is an individual path, and given the basics of morality and self discipline, everybody should seek it in his or her own individual way. Therefore, there is no one unifying deity or figure head within Buddhism upon whom everybody can focus on (Tom, 2007). How one leads life then becomes a matter of personal philosophy, built on experience, aspirations and expectations. Splits within Buddhism are inevitable with this approach.
On the other hand, Christianity revolves around the concept of a personal God. The word Christian itself means “Christ-like” (GNB: Acts 11:26). This personal God is the source of all wisdom, direction and purpose in life, according to Christians. Christians are answerable to Him for their actions, and thus are obliged to live a responsible life in accordance to His dictates. Most of the laws about living the Christian life are to be found in one central source; the bible, which was inspired by God Himself. When one strives to live this kind of life, he or she becomes similar to Jesus Christ, the son of God, hence the term Christ-like. Jesus was sent to the world to set an example of how life should be lived in accordance to God’s will. Thus Christians have a unified, ideal way about how they should live life. The splits within Christianity, also known as denominations, are hence fewer, and the differences between them are not very profound.
Buddhists have, as a core principle within their teachings, what is known as the four noble truths. These truths are all connected with suffering: what it is, what causes it, how it can be ended, and the path that leads to ending it (PBS, N.D.). While Buddhists claim that this worldview is realistic rather than idealistic, it also shows a pessimistic point of view. According to Buddhism, happiness, pleasure and wealth are fleeting, and only temporary. Only sickness, aging and death are certain. Thus, a core pursuit of every Buddhist is freedom from all sorts of desires, since desires are considered to be abhorrent.
Christianity takes a more ambivalent perspective. Christians believe that both joy and sorrow are part of the human experience. Positive and negative experiences are a necessity for the wholeness of the human. They enrich the human experience, and are inevitable. But while negative experiences do occur, Christians believe that they are part of a less than perfect world, and that beyond death, a world exists whereby everything is perfect. To reach this world, Christians are expected to live an honorable life while on earth, while always acknowledging the supremacy of God in their lives. This gives Christians faith, and unifies them in their focus on an eternal reward (GNB: John 3:16).
Regardless of individual prosperity, there is a certain part in all humans that remains unsatisfied. Different religions have different perspectives on this. In Buddhism, the person is believed to reach a state of satisfaction when he or she reaches Nirvana. Nirvana is a state of mind, and so the implication is that perfection is within the capabilities of every individual (Reason, N.D.). However, Christians believe that this portion of the human psyche that never gets satisfies is actually seeking its creator. The Christian world is full of accounts of miracles whereby a restless soul got satisfied only after accepting the core concepts of the religion. And indeed, when a person accepts salvation within Christianity, he or she abruptly changes in his or attitude in life. It is like an external force is transforming him or her. Christians believe that God takes care of his own, and proves his presence by distinguishing his own from those who have rejected him.
Buddhism has a rather grim destiny awaiting all humans. Buddhists believe that life is cyclical, with deaths and rebirths. Every consecutive life determines the quality of the next life. If one lived a good life, he or she can become a god, a demi god or a human being. However, if one lived a bad life, he will transform into a beast, a ghost, or be sent to hell. Buddhists thus strive to achieve the higher forms of lives. All through, however, they understand that the cycle is endless (Ven, N.D.). This scenario can make anybody despair. Christians believe that there is only one earthily life. Afterwards, there is a singular after life. With God’s grace, one goes to heaven, a place of joy, rest and peace, for an eternity. This promise keeps the Christian hope alive, for all troubles in this world are to be faced but once, and thereafter, an eternity in bliss.
The Gospel of Mark, chapter 10, verse 18 says that only God is good. Jesus Christ himself said that he is not perfect. The Christian view of God is that he embodies all things good and desirable, and is the source of any worthwhile achievement in life. The Buddhists’ belief that personal efforts will lead to success and prosperity makes for a bleak and dreary livelihood, because human beings really do have limits on what they can achieve alone. Beyond this limit, only God can lead the way to success. In fact, Jesus himself encouraged his followers to cast their worries and troubles to God, and he would give them rest (GNB: Mathew 11:28). Christians take comfort in the knowledge that they don’t have to walk alone on earth. They have an Almighty God, who cares for them, understands their every need, and is willing to take their burdens away from them. The Christian God is a lifelong companion, and never deserts his dedicated subjects.
Christians believe that God is love. This has been proclaimed over and over again in the bible. 1st John 4:10 shows that the love of our God is not conditional: it is not because we have loved him that he has loved us in turn. Rather, it is because He is. In other words, by His very being, God signifies pure, unconditional, and everlasting love. So much did he love mankind that he sacrificed his only son in order to redeem it. Christians believe that this is the most selfless acts that anyone can perform. And even now, God’s love is such that he is a very real and personal force to anyone who strives to know him better (GNB: Psalms 16.8-11). Through him, we stand the chance for redemption, for a healing from all the earthily afflictions, and for an eternity in pure harmony and joy with our Creator.
However, God so loves us that he gave us free will. He gave us the option of accepting his love or rejecting it. This is because according to his principles, love is only valuable if given freely and willingly. So God loved us first, and it is upon us to decide whether to love in return or not. This explains why Christians are so free in their religious acts: after all, love can be expressed in all sorts of ways. We can utilize our diversity in talents and mindsets to honor our God in all manner of ways. This is a source of richness in the Christian life- where free will, free love and free companionship are on offer. Through it all, God promises us that if we draw near to Him, He will also draw near to us (GNB: James 4:8).
Converting to Christianity, and getting the eternal reward, is a simple process. God’s grace made it simple. The requirements are as follows: Acknowledge that all mankind is in error, and we have fallen short of God’s glory (GNB: Romans 3: 23). Thereafter, understand that all deeds have consequences and that the wages of sin is death (GNB: Romans 6:23). But if we acknowledge our sins and seek forgiveness, God will accept us through his eternal love (GNB: 1 John 1:9). We should understand that God is full of grace, and that is why he will accept us, not because of our personal merits. God’s greatest requirement from mankind is faith (GNB: Ephesians 2:8-9). And finally, when accepted by God, he transforms everything in us, and we start our life anew (GNB: 2 Corinthians: 5:17). This is the hope that all Christians have, and through 2000 years, it has held them steadfast in their faith.
Once one has accepted Jesus Christ as a personal savior, one starts the Christian walk with Him. In this walk, there are new experiences to be learnt, new personalities to develop, and new hardships to overcome. This is because one starts interacting with the Christian community, which is subtly different from the liberate society. The Christian perspective on all the new experiences that one undergoes is that they optimize one for the after-life. Though one is assured of going to heaven by virtue of accepting Jesus as a savior, one still has a lot to learn in order to be fully ready for the heavenly experience. Luckily, Christians have religious leaders like priests and pastors that illuminate the way. They also have church sermons, during which the God’s words are interpreted by the religious leaders, for everyone’s understanding and application. All in all, the Christian walk, though challenging, is not a lonely walk. It has its moments of sorrow, but then it has its peaks of abundant joy. And the peaks far outnumber the depths.
GNB Good News Bible. The United Bible Societies, 1994.
PBS (N.D.). Basics of Buddhism. Web.
Reason (N.D.). Basics of Buddhism. Web.
Tom (2007). Void or Victory? The higher nature of Christianity over Buddhism. Web.
Ven S. Dhammika (N.D.) Good questions good answers: Is one always reborn as a human being? Web.