is defined as undergoing practical contact with something, which results in the
acquisition of knowledge. Experiences can shape who a person becomes and
influence their future actions. By the same token, Buddhism and Christianity
share many similarities and differences but it is the religious experiences of
their founders that make them homogeneous. Jesus Christ and Siddhartha Gautama
are both “enlightened” figures that begin a major world religion – Roman
Catholicism and Buddhism respectively – and share many commonalities.
Initially, both leaders are
prophesized to be great religious figures. In Buddhism, Queen Maya receives a
dream of an elephant touching her right side while holding a lotus flower in
its trunk. Brahmins interpret this dream to mean that her future child will
either be a great king or a holy man by the name of Siddhartha Gautama. His
destiny to reach enlightenment – just like a lotus flower grows past the mud to
find sunlight – is predetermined for him. Establishing his name also develops
Siddhartha’s personal identity before he is even conscious of it because people
are defined by their names. Similarly, in Christianity the Angel Gabriel visits
Mary to tell her that she will give birth to the Son of God, who was to be
named Jesus. He is destined to be a new king to lead people back to the
covenant and to be a Messiah to open up the way for humanity’s reconciliation.
Furthermore, his divinely given name, Jesus, means “God saves” because the Lord
is planning his death and resurrection all along for the sake of mankind. In
both cases, Siddhartha and Jesus are fated to be important leaders even before
they are born.
Secondly, the founders both have
their own miraculous birth. Buddhists believe that Queen Maya gives birth to
Buddha from her right side. Immediately after, the newborn baby walks seven
steps in each of the four directions with lotus flowers blooming at his feet. This
shows the inherent divine nature of Siddhartha because he is able to perform
actions that no other human baby can do. It sets him apart from the common man
and establishes him as something akin to divine despite ultimately being human.
Likewise in Christianity, Jesus is born of the Virgin Mary who is conceived by
the Holy Spirit. Shepherds and magi visit Christ shortly after his birth to
symbolize his humility and unique royalty status. These special births indicate
the workings of a higher nature that is beyond human biology.
Thirdly, both of these two great
leaders establish their first small group of followers before spreading their
teachings worldwide. When Siddhartha Gautama is first attempting to find the
answer to the end of suffering, he practices extreme self-denial and
meditation. His holiness is so evident that five other monks join him in
meditation, hoping to learn from his example. After six years of this life,
Buddha abandons his ascetic life to reach enlightenment through the Middle Way.
He returns to the monks to teach them his ways, and even though they are
skeptical because they thought him to have given up his mission, they still choose
to convert to his practices and beliefs. In addition, Jesus’ first disciples
follow him without any hesitation. This is illustrated when Jesus calls out to
the fishermen saying, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”.
Immediately they leave their nets to go with Christ and later become the first
Christians. In a world with a multitude of disputing opinions, it is clear that
Jesus’ clear path and wise disposition (much like Buddha’s) make people look to
him for guidance and leadership.
Moreover, Jesus and Buddha share an
unwavering commitment to their beliefs and are able to overcome temptation from
an evil archetype. This can be seen when Buddha is determined to sit under the
Bodhi tree until he finds the key to the end of suffering and the demon Mara
attempts to seduce him with his three beautiful daughters. Buddha recognizes
that giving into his baser desires would only harm him spiritually and
ethically, so he resists Mara and stays true to his quest for knowledge. In a
like manner, Jesus faces his own trial and tribulations from Satan while
fasting in the desert for forty days. The devil tries to tempt Jesus into
proving that he is the true Son of God by performing miracles like turning
stone into bread to satisfy his hunger. But each time Jesus refuses and recites
Scriptures that he must follow in order to live in the light of God. These stories
show the strength of character that these two posses and that they are truly
pure in heart to not break their resolve for lust.
In addition, the founders’ teachings both
have an underlying message of treating everyone with love and kindness.
Buddhism states that human beings are trapped in a cycle of reincarnation, also
known as Samsara. Our actions accumulate good or bad karma, which influences
our current and future lives. To reach Nirvana, the end of suffering, one must
follow the eightfold path including ‘Right Action’. This division of the path
promotes good moral conduct and emphasizes the importance of helping others
lead an ethical life. Good, selfless actions give you more good karma, which
helps you attain enlightenment. Similarly, Jesus preaches that treating others
with same unconditional agape love is the ultimate goal in life. This is seen
when he preaches the Golden Rule saying, “So in everything, do to others what
you would have them to do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”. This
rule helps people develop a sense of empathy and realize the personal two-way
relationship that they share his each other and God Himself. These teachings
are similar because they show that you must not only know the beliefs of the
religion, but also act them out in your everyday life.
The next similarity is found within the
‘teacher’ role that Siddhartha and Jesus take on for their disciples and their
use of parables to teach lessons. This is evident when Buddha tells the Parable
of the Mustard Seed, in which a woman begs Buddha to bring back her dead son.
He agrees should the woman bring him a mustard seed from a house where no death
has ever occurred. When she realizes that she cannot find such a house, she
discovers empathy for the people that she meets who have suffered losses like
hers. Siddhartha uses this parable to show people that death is universal and
cannot be escaped. Although it is just a fictional story, Buddha gives it a
deeper meaning about facing and accepting death. Comparatively, Jesus tells a
different Parable of the Mustard Seed, which likens the kingdom of heaven to a
mustard see. The moral of the story is that the socially outcast are equally as
welcome in God’s kingdom as everyone else. Both of these teachers use parables
to explain heavenly messages to people using mundane things that they can
understand, like a mustard seed.
Next, around the ends of Christ and
Buddha’s respective ministries the founders pass on knowledge with their
disciples one last time before departing from their lives. At the age of 80,
Siddhartha Gautama becomes terminally ill and gives instructions to his monks
to continue to live out his doctrine after he is gone. He wants his teachings
to outlive him and help others experience the end of suffering. These teachings
are then passed on orally until it is written down to be turned into the
religion know as Buddhism. Similarly, a few weeks after Jesus’ crucifixion his
disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit and are granted the gift of tongues
so that they could carry on Jesus’ work. This day is known as Pentecost, and
marks the birth of the Church and a religion that would last for eons to come.
However, the founders differ in terms of
their legacies and how they are viewed in their respective religions. According
to The Buddhist Centre “He Buddha did not claim to be a god or prophet. He
was a human being who became Enlightened, understanding life in the deepest way
possible”. Siddhartha does not consider himself to be sent by God, but merely
wishes to help others find their path. Conversely, Jesus is believed by Roman
Catholics to be God incarnate in human flesh and a part of the Holy Trinity. He
is sent by God to spread the Word of the Lord and bear the punishment of
humanity’s sins so that they can have a relationship with God once more. While
Buddha is one who finds the Truth and chooses to share it with others, Jesus is
part of a divine being and is sent to earth to spread the Truth.
In conclusion, Buddhism and Roman
Catholicism are similar because of the religious experiences of their founders.
This can be seen through their prophecies to be great religious figures and
their miraculous births, which suggest that they are different than the common
man. Furthermore, their shared ability to resist temptation along with the
teachings that they spread shows that they have the same ethics and morals. And
finally, although they have different legacies they still take the time to
share knowledge with their most devoted followers before they leave the earthly
plane for good. Religions can often be a source of conflict between people and
create borders, but one characteristic that they share is experience.