Religion and human society have always been a great part of any country or nation. A person’s belief in something that is unexplained and higher is inseparable from a human being. In a book titled “Living Buddha, Living Christ” Thich Nhat Hanh explains the close relationship between the two religions. Christianity and Buddhism have many common themes and criteria by which people should live their lives and follow moral guidelines of existence. It is a fact that people have a need to believe in something, in order to lead a life on Earth and these two religions offer clear cut and easy to follow guidance.
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Thich Nhat Hanh begins by saying that people must have an open mind and take the best from all religions (Hanh). Reason bases itself on rational thinking of a wise and educated human being. Religion is what is taught by the culture, society, family and possibly friends. The close relationship between religion, culture, morality, human kindness and happiness is in reality the same thing. Christian laws of “do not kill, respect the neighbor and yourself” are all based on the wisdom of the world and all creation. Whereas Buddhism states that a person should “not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow minded and bound to present views” (Hanh, 1995).
It is clear that the essentially concrete laws of all religions and particularly Christianity and Buddhism, determine the life of a human being and have many parallels. The unifying feature is that both religions teach a person to leave a life free of bad deeds and find peace with themselves and the surrounding environment (Gerner, 2008). If a person is of sane mind and healthy, they understand that to hurt anything that is alive is wrong and this is based on the truth that if you do not want to be hurt, then do not hurt others. Thich Nhat Hanh references the Vietnam War and how horrifying the reasons and consequences were. No nation should involve themselves in the slaughter of other people and allow own nation to devastate itself in the armed conflict (Hanh, 1995). War is the opposite of peace and teaching that the higher being transfers to people.
The author makes a reference to the time when the French were colonizing his land and religion was one of the paths that were forced. Christianity was introduced as a new and “proper” faith while Buddhism was not paid much attention to (Hanh, 1995). Even though this took place, the author was able to look past the ideologies of extremists and see the good of a widespread religion. Thich Nhat Hanh makes it clear that he was able to see the best of Christianity in people that he came in contact with. Martin Luther King and Hebe Kohlbrugge are mentioned as people who had goodness lighting their presence. This allowed for Hanh to feel the kindness of religion and beliefs people had. Thus, both Christ and Buddha have become his “spiritual ancestors” and he takes great pride in this (Hanh, 1995). Even though there are some differences in the presentation and references that are made in religions, the general theme is the same. Christianity states that God created everything that surrounds us and so, people must thank God for such a gift (Gort, 2002).
The two religions are united by the concept that there is Supreme Being who possessed an understanding much higher than that of regular people. A difference is in the fact that Christianity wants people to trust God or Jesus Christ and put life’s choices into “the hands of God”. But Buddhism, focuses more on personal wisdom, knowledge, understanding and discovery of own abilities and powers. To analyze this point rationally one would come to the same conclusion. People are not the ones who created Earth and the Universe. This reasonably leads to the fact that there is some sort of Force that is greater than all the elements known and unknown to humans, which in Christianity are aligned with the concept of God and Buddha in Buddhism. The next line that is drawn between Christianity and Buddhism is the study of truth, nature of the world and humanity.
Every person thinks about the reasons for their life and how it is connected to all things that are (Brummer, 1992). A religion is in a way a philosophy that is the study of life and the search for reasons of why it was created. The thoughts about nature of the world, humanity and life in general, all boil down to the same fact, which supposes a great purpose that everyone must find out by themselves. Simply hearing what the purpose of life is, would not mean anything to a person, they must come to this realization themselves, through feeling and understanding. This concept is present in both Buddhism and Christianity, as people are offered a chance to get to know themselves better and hope for the best. It is obvious that there is a connection and close dependence between human beings and religion.
Religion and what people truly believe are closely tied in explaining what life is about. Every person is filled with emotions and thoughts. Of course, sometimes it is difficult to avoid voicing a critical opinion about own or other religions. It must be the goal of every human being to become more patient, kind and understanding towards others. Buddhism and Christianity teach kindness and peace which is enough to respect both.
Brummer, V. (1992). Speaking of a Personal God: An Essay in Philosophical Theology, New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Gerner, K. (2008). Buddhism. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish.
Gort, J. (2002). Religion, Conflict and Reconciliation: Multifaith Ideals and Realities, New York, NY: Rodopi.
Hanh, T. (1995). Living Buddha, Living Christ. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Inc.