Buddhism and Christianity Essay
Buddhism and Christianity: Controversies and Similarities
Religion helps one to find the way out of his/her life problems and a shelter to hide from certain circumstances. Religion can also give answers to numerous questions concerning both religious and non-religious matters. It is something that is believed in but cannot be explained in words. A person constantly searches for this substance and can find it in religion. Buddhism is one of the three most popular religions in the world. It reveals cultural traditions of many countries and became a unity of “philosophy, lifestyle and code of ethics” (Keown, 2008). All the rules in Buddhism are based on morality, wisdom and meditation (Kreon, 2008).
Buddhist principles state that everything is changeable as “All that exists is spontaneous arising, in the same way that a flower grows organically from seed, given the right course” (Brannigan, 2004). According to Buddhism, the most important thing is to choose the right direction (religion) and have a good teacher. Thus, one should expand effort to go till the end of the path and achieve happiness.
It is believed that there are three signs of existence (Brannigan, 2004): suffering is universal and personal; nothing is permanent in life; absence of soul. The above principles emphasize that a person is reflected through his deeds which can be either good or bad.
There are four Noble Truths taught by Buddha that form the basis of the given religion: life is suffering (it teaches how to avoid): man’s desires are not to be confronted by other people; It is possible to overcome suffering and achieve happiness; one should finish an 8-fold Path to overcome suffering. To learn how to understand these truths one should visit places of worship and communicate with monks who may help to understand and interpret correctly the main principles of Buddhism.
Muttodaya Forest Monastery
Muttodaya Forest Monastery in Germany is a unique place. The monastery is located among gorgeous trees that have their own long history. Here is enough space to relax, communicate with other people or merely spend time walking through the forest and meditate about the life, feelings and thoughts.
The name of the place is translated into English as: Liberated Heart in Pali. All the monks who live here follow the traditions similar to the countries of Theravada. Their teaching is mainly based on the Dhamma-Vinaya, a branch of Buddhist religion, mostly embraced by those Buddhists living in forests.
Buildings in the monastery are not large as there is no necessity in space. Monks and quests live in small rooms without modern conveniences, which makes one feel satisfied and meditate a lot. The location allows spending much time in the forest to think and recreate.
Visitors are permitted to attend some common ceremonies, such as evening puja. If they wish to observe the ones that are only for monks, they have to inform the senior monk. As a rule, all ceremonies are followed by small talk. The teachers clarify statements from Buddha’s sayings and principles of everyday life. Monks are at the same time teachers and advisers.
Location of Muttodaya Forest Monastery reveals ability to meditate and communicate in order to embrace everything needed for achieving happiness in life.
Interview with a Monk
An interview with one of the most prominent monks of this monastery and the founder of the temple, Adjahn Cattamalo was a great pleasure. The main points concerned strict rules for the monks, relations between Buddhism and a real life and peculiarities of meditation.
The monk explained popularity of Buddhism by its ability to find the way out of difficult situations and, what is the most important, to achieve happiness. People come to such places as Muttodaya Forest Monastery for answers and meditation over the relevant points in the life. The words “Life goes to happiness. You are the only one to find it for yourself ” were real food for thought. There is no reason in wealth but in spiritual state of mind and the balance of thoughts. Deliberate truth of this statement can be percieved through meditation.
Staying in the monastery should last at least two weeks in order to escape from city reality and feel better connection with nature and one’s own thoughts. The monks here are free to contact visitors, hence it is easy to find an instructor.
The monks answer only those questions that are closely connected to religion and personal achievement of happiness. Entertainment is forbidden as well as long sleep which is considered distracting from the main aim of the visit to the monastery. “Lord Buddha” worked as other people and meditated when he was free. The work within the monastery is rather important and develops the feeling of being a part of the community.
The life of monks here is very special beginning from their outlook to the rituals and meditation. Nevertheless, Adjahn Cattamalo admitted that if a person wants to ordain, he should study a lot. Upon completion of the study a special teacher (preceptor) decides whether the person is ready to take the gown. For this reason, he should not only have appropriate qualities, but also show the aptitude to lead Dharma conversations around the world.
In most cases when a monk needs help, he should find the way out himself. For this reason, he can ask a senior monk, and it is also not forbidden for other people to support him with food or remedy.
Bowing is a common sign in Buddhist monasteries. While bowing a monk says to himself three words: “Buddho”, “Dhammo” and “Sangho” that shows appreciation to other person. Putting hands together expresses giving the warmth of heart to other people.
In case if a person decides not to take a gown upon completion of the study, he come back to the life he led before. As It is said, “It is better to be a good lay person than to be a bad monk”. Generosity is one of the virtues of Buddhist religion. Though, it is not emphasized directly but prompts are made and a person should take a decision about donation by himself.
Similarities and Contrasts of Buddhism and Christianity
All world religions have both, common features and distinguishing point. The feature that is present in most religions is the belief in life after death. Regarding Buddhism, this belief entails reincarnations: “movement like a flow of a river … creatures reborn until they attain nirvana”. Before this happens, a person goes through six realms and the result depends on his/her karma that has been gained during all his/her life. Being reborn as an animal in the next life is a sign of not working off one’s karma, while the highest level of reincarnation is to be reborned as a god.
Christianity believes that soul never dies and after death goes directly to the Heaven or the Hell. Everything depends on the life of a person.
Both religions have representatives who act as advisors, teachers and instructors in following particular religion. In Buddhism as well as Christianity, monks take the responsibility of commenting on the principles of the religion. The highest blissfulness is achieving Heaven (Christianity) and Nirvana (Buddhism).
The rules and principles regarding both religions are stated holy books: Buddhist Tripitaka and the Bible for Christians respectively.
Christians believe in God that is one in three persons: “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son, has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins” (O’Collins, 2008). All three are not physical substances and cannot be seen.
Buddhists have no obvious leader in but a set of rules that are to be adhered to in a particular way. The main goal in self-development is to reach nirvana, but it is impossible unless one behaves correctly. Damien Keown (2008), admits that it is not only suffering the most important, “only nirvana offers a final solution”. Thus, happiness is closely related to Nirvana though impossible without suffering.
On the contrary, Christianity does not presuppose suffering of its followers. And, though a lot of martyrs were murdered in God’s name, they didn’t choose this way themselves as in Buddhism.
Christianity is also characterized by numerous ceremonies hold on various occasions. There is also a hierarchy of priests that serve in churches and monasteries.
Each religion plays an important part in social, political and cultural life of any society. Various nationalities living in the country may have their own religion and places of worship.
Buddhism and Christianity are two world’s most popular religions. Though, the two religions seem to be completely different, they have certain common points. Thomas Friedman (2007), stated that the main problem in modern world is the decline of culture. Regarding personal attitude, in Christianity, everything is laid on the God’s will, while in Buddhism all the responsibility is laid upon the person meaning that one should live a life to have a good karma for reincarnation.
Both religions lead a person to better life: in the Heaven or in Nirvana. On the one hand, their rules are strict and don’t allow many things, but on the other hand this way is the shortest to achieve a desirable state. Therefore, both religions emphasize upon moral and spiritual aspects of one’s life while money and luxury are given the wooden spoon in this ranking.