In order to better understand Buddhism during our travels in Southeast Asia, we decided to do a comparison to Christianity, since we are Christians.
The following is what we have learned from speaking with Thai people, researching and reading. If any practicing Buddhists find this inaccurate at all, please let us know in the comments. This is our honest efforts to learn more.
- Buddhism is based on the life and teachings of Gautama Buddha. He was a man who taught a path to enlightenment from his own experience, he is not considered a God.
Christianity is based on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, who was thought to be the Son of God.
- Buddhism is a nontheistic religion, it does not believe in a supreme creator or God. Buddhists do not believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent creator of the universe. They can be known as atheist. Christians believe in One God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Christianity is a monotheistic religion and believes that Christ Is the Son Of God
- Buddhism evolved out of Hinduism in India. Christianity evolved out of Judaism in Judea.
- Buddhists worship at monasteries, temples or wats, and shrines. Christians worship at their church, chapel, cathedral, basilica, home bible study, and personal dwellings.
- Buddhists practice meditation and The Eightfold Path, which includes the following:
1) right view
2) right aspiration
3) right speech
4) right action
5) right livelihood
6) right effort
7) right mindfulness
8) right concentration
It is very common for Buddhists to use statues and pictures as meditation objects that reflect qualities of the Buddha. However, they do not worship these objects. They are merely paying respect to images of the Buddha and allowing it to remind us of its quality. Bowing to the statue is an expression of gratitude for the teaching.
Christians practice prayer, worship in church, discipleship, evangelism, reading of the Bible, acts of charity, communion, sacraments (some branches)
6. The goal of Buddhism is enlightenment or nirvana, by following the Noble Eightfold Path, and be released from the cycle of rebirth and death.
The goal of Christianity is salvation through Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. To love God and obey his commandments while creating a relationship with Jesus Christ and spreading the Gospel so that others may also be saved.
7. The Buddhist Sangha, composed of bhikkhus (male monks) and bhikkhunis (female nuns) are respected. The sangha is supported by lay Buddhists.
Christian leaders include priests, bishops, ministers, monks, and nuns, deacons, and elders.
8. Buddhists believe in rebirth. We are in an endless cycle of birth, death and re-birth, which can only be broken by attaining nirvana. Attaining nirvana is the only way to escape suffering permanently.
Christians believe they will spend eternity in Heaven or Hell, in some cases temporal Purgatory.
9. The Buddhist holy writings include the Tripitaka – a vast canon composed of 3 sections: the Discourses, the Discipline and the Commentaries, and some early scriptures, such as the Gandhara texts.
Christians have the the Holy Bible
10. Sin is not a Buddhist concept.
Protestants confess straight to God, Catholic confess mortal sins to a Priest, and venial sins straight to God (Orthodox have similar practice) Anglicans confess to Priests but considered optional. God always forgives sins in Jesus.
11. The Buddha (born as Prince Siddhartha) founded Buddhism. Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, who was born in Lumbini (in present-day Nepal). He became enlightened at Bodhgaya, India and delivered his first set of teachings at a deer park in Sarnath, India.
The Lord Jesus Christ founded Christianity. Christianity originated with Jesus around Jerusalem, approx. 33 AD.
12. Buddhism has a majority or strong influence mainly in Thailand, Cambodia, Sri lanka, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Japan, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Vietnam, China, Mongolia, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Other small minorities exist in other countries.
Christianity is a majority in Europe, North and South America, and Australia and New Zealand.
Four Noble Truths of Buddhism
First Noble Truth – life is suffering, whether physical or psychological
Second Noble Truth – suffering is caused by craving and avoiding. “Rather than constantly struggling to get what you want (or trying to get people to act they way you want), try to modify your wanting. Wanting deprives us of contentment and happiness. A lifetime of wanting and craving and especially the craving to continue to exist, creates a powerful energy which causes the individual to be born. So craving leads to physical suffering because it causes us to be reborn.”
Third Noble Truth – “The third truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness can be attained; that true happiness and contentment are possible. lf we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time (not dwelling in the past or the imagined future) then we can become happy and free. We then have more time and energy to help others. This is Nirvana.”
Fourth Noble Truth – Noble 8-fold Path is the path which leads to the end of suffering.
Noble 8-Fold Path- “being moral (through what we say, do and our livelihood), focussing the mind on being fully aware of our thoughts and actions, and developing wisdom by understanding the Four Noble Truths and by developing compassion (qualities of sharing, readiness to give comfort, sympathy, concern, caring) for others.”
5 Precepts or the moral code within Buddhism
1. Do not to take anything not freely given
2. Abstain from sexual misconduct and sensual overindulgence,
3. Do not lie
4. Do not get drunk from anything and lose mindfulness.”
5. Do not kill any living thing.
We found however that Theravada Buddhists eat pork, chicken and fish if the monk is aware that the animal was not killed on their behalf. While we discovered at Elephant Nature Park that most monks who dwelled in the forest wore ochre (more red) and were vegetarian and often vegan, while city monks wore saffron (more orange). Many lay people we talked to say it is mostly about proper balance in their lives.
In Thailand, male novices are common and no younger than 8. Very often they have taken vows only temporarily and often during rainy season, during summer holidays from March to May, or just for a few days in order to make merit when a parent or grandparent has passed away. They follow fewer precepts. Helps them be more mature and learn basics of meditation and sometimes in rural communities helps provide education.
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