The Similarities And Differences Between Buddhism And Christianity

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There were many similarities and differences between Buddhism and Christianity in the way they spread. One was based on trade & ethics while the other was based on colonialism & mythics, yet they both had a common theme that placed a negative impression around desiring objects.

Buddhism spread heavily and quickly through trade on The Silk Road, while Christianity spread heavily due to colonialism. On The Silk Road, travelers would encounter new people that carried fascinating new technologies and goods, and would become interested in their religion simply because of the products they carried with them. These qualities made travelers want to be apart of their religion and culture. For instance, “The expansion of Buddhism brought an increased demand for silk, which was used in Buddhist ceremonies, thereby further stimulating the long-distance trading activity the had facilitated the spread of Buddhism in the first place,” (Foltz, 11) People were further drawn to the religion because the assumption due to the high quality of products like silk, that the religion and culture of the people must be high class as well. On the other hand, in ancient Hawaii, Chrisitanity was spread gradually through colonialism. Colonialism has affected various forms of Hawaiian art and storytelling, such as Hula through cultural domination in the name of Christianity. 

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In effect through the nineteenth century, cultural domination is the imposition of Western beliefs and culture onto a less powerful group, in this case, the native Hawaiians. In the earlier days of interaction, Hawaiian culture was separate, but soon became dominated by Western culture and ideas. “Eyewitness accounts by visitors indicate that chant and hula were widely performed in various social contexts. But with the arrival of the missionaries and their strong objects to the ‘licentious’ hula, there was a rapid decline in practice,” (Buck,107) Hula was a way to tell stories and had been around since ancient times, but to colonialists and missionaries, it was seen as proactive and far too sexual for Christian beliefs, and colonialism was used heavily to spread and convert people to Christianity. Since the Colonialists were the ‘dominant’ group, it was easy for them to force the native Hawaiians into changing their culture practices, therefore turning them on to Christianity and more conservative art forms. Colonialism had affected hula through cultural domination by subtly changing features to become more Christian and Westernized. Colonialists thought of hula as a ‘sin’ and changed what it looked like and forced Hawaiians to cover up and change their clothes more, once again for being too sexual. Colonialism had started as subtle changes but soon enough, it had taken over and changed an entire culture and changed the natives spiritual beliefs to align with Christianity, Through trade, many people found themselves intrigued by Buddhism and wanted to join the religion. While, through colonialism in Hawaii, many native Hawaiians found themselves forcefully joining Christianity through cultural domination.

In Buddhism, the ethical dimension of religion was highly impactful in the spread of religion, while in Christianity, changing the mythical and narrative part of the ancient Polynesian religion was essential to turning Hawaiians into Christians.. In Buddhism, ‘The Middle Way’ is an emphasize on living life in moderation and basic rules to follow, such as refraining from killing, wrong speech, and from taking drugs. “Such morality was to be suffused by a certain great virtues, such as compassion… The good person should reside—friendliness, compassion, sympathy, and equanimity.” (Smart, 64) All Buddhists valued ‘The Middle Way’, and combined with their new technologies, travelers found themselves wanting to become exactly what they were. When encountering a Buddhist on The Silk Road, the kindness of them made travelers realize that they must act this way due to their religion, which roots back to The ethical dimension. Prior to colonialism, the ancient Polynesian religion was focused heavily on the mythical dimension. At the mythical level, hula was a way to tell revealed stories, often about the creation of the world. Hula and chant were often intertwined together and had many deep layers to the performance, it took years to master this art. “The seminal stories of a religion may be rooted in history or they may not. Stories of creation are before history, as are myths which indicate how death and suffering came into the world.” (Smart, 15) Unfortunately, Western civilization dominated the decreasing population of Polynesian people and forced their religion out in exchange for Christianity. Gradually through cultural domination, chant and hula became separated and changed heavily. Changing the mythic and narrative dimension of the Hawaiians was an essential move by the colonialists to turn them on to Christianity. By changing their mythic and narrative part of their religion to more Christian values, it forced them to incorporate Christian teachings and values into their lives permanently. Through ‘The Middle Way’ Buddhists showed travelers kindness, and through cultural domination colonialists were able to change native Hawaiians mythic and narrative level to a more civil and Christian acceptable way.

Buddhism and Christianity have more similarities than one can think. However, there are several key differences between the founders, and given that Christianity is monotheistic, while Buddhism is non-theistic. However, a vital part of both of these religions can be found in the most basic documents that followers live by. For Buddhism it’s The Eightfold Path and Christianity, The Ten Commandments. Looking more closely, an interesting connection between these two— within The Eightfold Path is the Four Noble Truths, which express how is crucial for followers to understand that suffering exists due to desire, and it is important to not desire objects and things that others have. In The Ten Commandments, the tenth and final commandment is “Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s goods” in other words, it is wrong to desire things that you do not have. The Eight Fold Path starts at ending desire, while The Ten Commandments end at ending desire. Within the Bible, the Old Testament opens up with a story of Adam and Eve: the story of what can go wrong when desire and temptation are acted upon. At the core, these two religions share many similar values, including that spiritual values are above all else. Both religions teach that it is essential to obey and to practice and act up knowledge and morals that are learned from the teachings. Although there are many differences, both religions stress the importance of not desiring others for having what one does not and objects. To be released into Nirvana and to go to Heaven, it is essential to obey and practice knowledge obtained in documents. For Christians, the Bible and the Ten Commandments, for Buddhists, the Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths.

Buddhism and Christianity were both founded over 2,000 years ago and have since then grown in very different ways. Buddhism spread heavily through trade in South Asia through The Silk Road with the help of the ethical dimension of religion while Christianity spread heavily throughout the world due to colonialism, and had a large effect on the mythical dimension of religion. At their roots, both religions preach the importance of not desiring objects and others, and teach the essential traits of obeying and attaining knowledge.

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