Comparative Analysis of the Key Beliefs of Buddhism and CatholicismRegarding Existential Questions and the Afterlife.
Thesis:Buddhism and Catholicism have both similar and different beliefsregarding existential questions and the afterlife.
Buddhism and Christianity are among the most adhered to religions in the world which means that their existential theories affect the religious beliefs of many people across the globe. This paper will examine the different perspectives on the existence of human beings and the afterlife through the lens of Christianity and Buddhism.
In Catholicism, the primary source of information about the elementary doctrines of beliefs is the Bible. According to Ford (2000), the origin of everything in the universe can be found in the first chapters of the first book of the Bible Genesis. The first 12 chapters of Genesis give an account of the story of the creation of the first man and woman. Furthermore, as Pardillo (2016) notes, the first twelve chapters of Genesis give an account of how the first man and woman, Adam and Eve, fell into sinfulness. The effect of the “sinfulness” nature of Adam and Eve resulted in their expulsion from paradise (Garden of Eden). Therefore, chapter one to twelve of Genesis explain three types of human origins the origin of mankind, the origin of sin, and the origin of social stratification (Ford, 2000).
MEANING OF LIFE
Accordingto Hick (1988), the death of Jesus Christ saves mankind fromtransgression and subsequently demise. The true meaning of life isthe point that human life is saved and beautified through the demiseof Jesus Christ. Accordingly, a Catholic is expected to obey theCommandments of Jesus Christ as set in the Bible because apparently,Jesus is the only way, the truth, and the Life (ibid).
Pardillo(2016) notes that Catholics, the Baptists, Protestants, and otherChristians believe that there is an afterlife. Catholicism trusts thefact that the manner in which we behave and conduct ourselves onearth will define where we will end up in the afterlife either inheaven, or in hell. Hell is for the wicked ones, whereas heaven isfor those that conducted themselves well.
ORIGIN OF HUMAN EXISTENCE
Itis the opinion of Takeuchi and Bragt (1993) that unlike most of thereligions in the world, Buddhists reject the notion of anall-powerful divine being in the name of a “God.” Instead,Buddhism focuses on teaching a way of presently avoiding misery.While most religions believe that the universe came into being as anaction of God’s creative intervention, atheists believe that theuniverse came into existence through a natural phenomenon withoutthe intervention of a “supreme being.” The teachings of Buddha donot subscribe to the existence of a supreme being (Goddard, 1970).
MEANING OF LIFE
AsGoddard (1970) makes it clear, the true meaning of life for aBuddhist laity is gaining good karma (merit), Artha, and Dharma, bydoing other people good deeds.
TheBuddhist doctrine that addresses the issue of the afterlife is knownas the Anatta. According to Buddha, individuals do not possesseternal souls. Instead, Buddhists believe that individuals possess abundle of memories, habits, desires, and sensations that together,make up a stable self (Pardillo, 2016).
Buddhismand Catholicism have both similar and different beliefs regardingexistential questions and the afterlife.
ComparativeAnalysis of the Key Beliefs of Buddhism and Catholicism RegardingExistential Questions and the Afterlife
Humanbeings are constantly in pursuit of answers to the questions thatattempt to shed some light on the origin of life, the meaning oflife, and whether there is life after death. But, what is the primaryexistential standing of mankind in the universe? In trying to findanswers to these queries that puzzle everyone, human beings employdifferent avenues of inquiring which include philosophical,scientific, and religious. In this paper, I will delve into thereligious realm of accounts underwriting the existence of mankind andthe universe. Just like other interconnected religions, Christianityand Buddhism provide explanations as to the existence of humans. Boththese religions give different accounts of the origin, meaning, andfinality of human life.
Buddhismand Christianity are among the most followed to religions in theworld which means that their existential concepts affect thereligious beliefs of many people across the globe. This paper willexamine the different perspectives on the existence of human beingsthrough the lens of Christianity and Buddhism. I would argue that theaccounts posited by both these religions do have some similaritiesand differences as well. In this paper, I will conduct a comparativeanalysis of the key beliefs of Buddhism and Catholicism(Christianity) regarding existential questions and the afterlife. Topursue the clarification of the similarities and differences in theBuddhist and Christian accounts of human existence, I will layparticular emphasis on the origin, meaning, and resolution of life.In conclusion, I will provide a personal evaluation of the waysBuddhism and Christianity (Catholicism) address existential questionsand the afterlife.
Originof Human Existence
InCatholicism, the primary source of information regarding theelementary doctrines of beliefs is the Bible. According to Ford(2000), the origin of everything in the universe can be found in thefirst chapters of the first book of the Bible Genesis. The first 12chapters of Genesis give an account of the story of the creation ofthe first man and woman. Furthermore, as Pardillo (2016) notes, thefirst twelve chapters of Genesis give an account of how the first manand woman fell into sinfulness. The effect of the “sinfulness”nature of Adam and Eve resulted in their expulsion from paradise(Garden of Eden). Therefore, chapter one to twelve of Genesis explainthree types of human origins the origin of mankind, the origin ofsin, and the origin of social stratification (Ford, 2000).
Apparently,the etiology of the human race is embedded in Genesis’ story of thesix days of the creation of the universe by God. Man and woman werecreated by God in his image. Being supreme creations, Adam and Evewere given the privilege of living in paradise to take care of it.Therefore, according to the Bible, the world and everything in it isan outcome of God’s creative supremacies. The account of the fallof Adam and Eve, which culminated in their expulsion from paradise,gives us the enlightenment of the starting point of sin. It is theopinion of Sj (2010) that sin is the refusal to obey God. Sjcontinues by explaining that sin is a human choice, often considereda form of misuse of the liberty to choose between right and wrong.The story of Cain killing his younger brother is a Biblicalillustration of the beginning of social fragmentation as a result ofsinfulness nature of mankind. Because of this sinful nature, mankindis cut-off from their creator. The guaranteed fate of a man or womanin a sinful state is death (Sj, 2010).
Cunningham(1987) argues that the narrative of the mankind that falls tosinfulness is certainly not devoid of optimism. The creator ofmankind, who is good and forgiving, promises to offer the wicked menan opportunity to restore the mislaid harmony between Him,themselves, and each other. Jesus, also referred to as the “NewAdam,” fulfills this promise to humanity by offering hope to thoseblemished by sin. This permits them to escape the eventual fate of asinful individual death (Ford, 2000). In other words, Jesus is thesavior of the universe because He is the one that brings salvation tothe entire human race. Through the passion, death, resurrection, andreincarnation of Jesus, the creator of mankind has managed tore-unite with his people in affection. Therefore, according to Hick(1988), the death of Jesus Christ saves mankind from transgressionand subsequently demise. The true meaning of life is the point thathuman life is saved and beautified through the demise of JesusChrist. Accordingly, a Catholic is expected to obey the Commandmentsof Jesus Christ as stipulated in the Bible because apparently, Jesusis the only way, the truth, and the Life (ibid).
Pardillo(2016) notes that Catholics, the Baptists, Protestants, and otherChristians believe that there is an afterlife. Catholicism trusts thefact that the manner in which we behave and conduct ourselves onearth will define where we will end up in the afterlife either inheaven, or in hell. Hell is for the wicked ones, whereas heaven isfor those that conducted themselves well. According to Cunningham(1987), there are references of heaven and hell in the Bible, and itis clearly stated that those who do not believe in Jesus willeventually end up in hell while those who achieve salvation will endup in heaven. Ford (2000) notes that the doctrine of Incarnation isparticularly cherished by Catholics. The Catholics use the term“incarnation” to express the idea of Jesus Christ existing onearth in human form. Catholics believe that Christ was one being withtwo natures one human and one divine, all joined together. Thisimplies that Jesus Christ is both fully an incarnation of God andman which is why he walked among human beings in flesh. The othertwo parts of the Trinity, the Father and the Holy Spirit, are bestunderstood through the nature of Jesus Christ the Savior (Sj, 2010).
Originof Human Existence
Itis the opinion of Takeuchi and Bragt (1993) that unlike most of thereligions in the world, Buddhists reject the notion of anall-powerful divine being in the name of “God.” Instead, Buddhismfocuses on teaching a way of avoiding misery. While most religionsbelieve that the universe came into being as an action of God’screative intervention, atheists believe that the universe came intoexistence through a natural phenomenon without the intervention of a“supreme being.” The teachings of Buddha do not subscribe to theexistence of a supreme being (Goddard, 1970). Buddhism teaches thatthe factual origin of the universe is not well-known. As a matter offact, there is a famous historical Buddhist narrative which gives theaccount of how Buddha declined to answer a follower’s questionsregarding the origin of the universe. Instead of providing an answer,Lord Buddha chose to tell his follower that the past and the futureare insignificant when trying to presently liberate oneself fromdistress. The Buddhist doctrines on the origin of mankind are lessambiguous (ibid).
Buddhistsacknowledge evolution as the only source of life on earth. Buddhadescribes the source of human life and the universe in the AgannaSutta.According to these teachings, the universe was initially devastated,after which it re-evolved into its present state and form over a timespanning over millions of years. Lord Buddha presents a cosmologicalmodel in which the universe evolves and expands outwards, reaching anequilibrium point, and then regressing back towards a focal pointthat results in its annihilation and this process is repeatedinfinitely (in cycles). One particular theory Buddhists believe in isthe Big Bang Theory, among many others. Since Buddhism is moreconcerned with the gratification of personal desires, Buddhists donot contest with proven scientific wisdoms even if they refute withsome of the elementary doctrines of Buddhism (Ray, 1963).
InBuddhism, the primary resolution of life is to put an end to anguish.According to Lord Buddha, human beings suffer because we incessantlypursue the worldly things that do not offer lasting contentment.Mankind is desperately clinging onto material wealth, friends,health, and many more other elements that do not last foreveroccasioning suffering and sorrow (Takeuchi & Bragt, 1993). Thus,to put an end to suffering, Lord Buddha is positing the recognitionof these impermanent things, and liberating oneself from the closeattachment to these “derailing” elements. Accordingly, Buddhaposited the Noble Eight Path of eliminating suffering by leading amonastic life which is the surest way to enlightenment. Thisdoctrine, also known as Thervada Buddhism, still remains to be themost predominant in Southeast Asia (ibid). In Thervada Buddhism, thelaity participates in Buddhism, but it is thought that someone mustbe reborn as a monk before they can attain enlightenment. Therefore,as Goddard (1970) makes it clear, the true meaning of life for aBuddhist laity is gaining good karma (merit), Artha, and Dharma, bydoing other people good deeds. However, a few centuries after thedeath of Buddha, new perspectives of the path to enlightenment wereborn. For instance, the Mahayan Buddhism was born after the death ofBuddha. It provides more ways of enlightening people without thecycle of rebirth which means that Buddhists need not hope forrebirth in the next life as nuns or monks. In other words, theMahayan Buddhism provides a quicker route for the attainment ofMokshawhen likened to Thervada Buddhism making it possible to realize theobjective of leading a monastic life in a single lifetime. It becomesapparent, therefore, that the meaning of life, according to aBuddhist laity, is gaining good karma, Artha, and Dharma, attained bydoing well to other people thereby escaping the cycle of death andrebirth (Takeuchi & Bragt, 1993).
TheBuddhist doctrine that addresses the issue of the afterlife is knownas the Anatta.According to Buddha, individuals do not possess eternal souls.Instead, Buddhists believe that individuals possess a bundle ofmemories, habits, desires, and sensations that together, make up astable self (Pardillo, 2016). In the event of the separation of thebody from the bundle of habits (death), a “false” self stillhangs together and even reincarnates itself in one body afteranother. Following death, these bundles of habits go through a 49 dayprocess divided into four stages that are known as the “bardos.”At the end of the bardos, the individual either returns to earth forrebirth, or enters the nirvana (state of one’s own incarnation)(ibid).
PersonalEvaluation of How Both Religions Address Existential Questions andthe Afterlife
Eventhough Buddhism and Catholicism are different religions, they sharesome similarities and differences. First, the most noticeablesimilarity is that both religions have doctrines that form thecentral part of their religious beliefs and values. There arenumerous doctrines of Christianity, but the applicable one in thisparticular study is the discussed Christian doctrine of the Trinitywhich amalgamates the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.Similarly, Buddhism has many doctrines, but the significant one inthis study is the Buddhist Eight Noble Paths, contained in a doctrineknown as AgannaSutta. Forthat reason, it is evident that both these religions share onestriking similarity they are all centered on doctrines although theyposit different theories and values.
Thesecond similarity is that both religions believe in the concept of anafterlife. In the Bible, there are references of a heaven and a hell.It is clearly stated that those who do not believe in Jesus willeventually end up in hell while those who achieve salvation will endup in heaven. Similarly, with the Buddhists, the bundles of humanhabits that an individual possesses while alive either transfer tothe nirvana, or come back to earth for the process of rebirth. Thus,it is evident that both religions do believe in the concept of anafterlife although the “souls” or “bundles of human habits”face different destinies. Another similarity stems from the fact thatthe fate of these “souls” depends on the quality of life anindividual was living on earth. In both religions, the souls of the“good” individuals go to a better place, like heaven forCatholics, while the souls of the bad people enter the nirvana forthe Buddhists.
Thereare striking differences between these two religions as well. First,there is a difference in the manner in which the Catholics andBuddhists view the origin of the universe. Catholics believe in theBiblical story of creation, whereas Buddhists believe that the worldwas not created but has been evolving to its present state. Second,both religions differ on the meaning of life. Catholics’ truemeaning of life is the point that it is saved and graced through thedemise of Jesus Christ. Accordingly, a Catholic is expected to obeythe Commandments of Jesus Christ because apparently, Jesus is theonly way, the truth, and the Life. However, with Buddhism, themeaning of life to a Buddhist laity is gaining good karma, Artha, andDharma, achieved by doing well to other people in that way, escapingthe cycle of death and rebirth. Third, it is evident that Buddhistsbelieve that a human being possesses no soul, but a bundle of habits.On the contrary, Catholics believe in the possession of a soul byhuman beings.
Thefinal difference between Buddhism and Catholicism is the issue ofincarnation and reincarnation. Whereas the Catholic doctrine of theTrinity emphasizes on the existence of a God-man (in flesh), theBuddhist doctrine of Anattaposits that human bundles of habits are reincarnated. Besides, theBuddhists do not believe in the existence of a God, which means thatthe concept of incarnation does not apply to Buddhist doctrines.Accordingly, it is apparent that both Catholicism and Buddhism areamong the world’s most renowned religions that boast of a hugenumber of followers. They both have doctrines that guide the beliefsof their followers regarding the existence of mankind, the meaning oflife, and the afterlife. While some of their practices, doctrines,values, and beliefs may be elementarily different, they do have somesimilarities as well. In as much as these religions differ, the factremains that they do have a huge impact on the values and beliefs oftheir followers regarding the origin of mankind, the meaning of life,and the afterlife.
Cunningham,L. (1987). TheCatholic faith: An introduction.New York: Paulist Press.
Inthis book, Cunningham explains how Christians can be redeemed from astate of sinfulness through the death of Jesus Christ as the saviorof mankind. Cunningham also explains the concept of heaven and hell.
Ford,M. T. (2000). Pathsof faith: Conversations about religion and spirituality.New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Inthis book, Ford expounds the varied differences surrounding theissues of religion and Christianity with specificity for Christianityand Buddhism.
Goddard,D. (1970). ABuddhist Bible.Boston: Beacon Press.
Inthis composition, Goddard explains the origin of human existence withrespect to the teachings of Lord Buddha.
Hick,J. (1988). The Thomist-Catholic View of Faith. Faithand Knowledge,11-31. doi:10.1007/978-1-349-19036-2_2
Inhis paper, Hick expounds on how Jesus Christ redeems the lives ofthose scathed by transgression and sin. Additionally, Hick discussesthe varied elements of Catholicism as a religion.
Pardillo,U. (2016). Christianity and Hinduism on Human Existence. RetrievedJune 02, 2016, fromhttp://www.academia.edu/9022229/CHRISTIANITY_AND_HINDUISM_ON_HUMAN_EXISTENCE
Inthis page, Pardillo is comparatively delving into the differences ansimilarities of Buddhism (Hinduism) and Christianity (Catholicism)with specific regard for the existence of humans, the meaning oflife, and the afterlife.
Ray,R. J., Prabhavananda, S., & Manchester, F. (1963). The SpiritualHeritage of India. BooksAbroad,37(1),101-107. doi:10.2307/40117563
Inthis composition, the authors shed light on the spirituality ofBuddhism, specifically zeroing in on the existence of mankind and theafterlife.
Sj,A. P. (2010). Spirituality as Mindfulness: Biblical and BuddhistApproaches. Spiritus:A Journal of Christian Spirituality,10(1),38-51. doi:10.1353/scs.0.0082
Inthis composition, Sj explains the doctrines that form the elementalpractices of the Buddhists, with close comparison to Biblicalteachings.
Takeuchi,Y., & Bragt, J. V. (1993). Buddhistspirituality: Indian, Southeast Asian, Tibetan, and early Chinese.New York: Crossroad.
Intheir composition, Takeuchi and Bragt delve into the varied spiritualpractices and norms of the Buddhist with specific regard to theafterlife, human existence, and the meaning of life.