Since the ancient times, people had an inherent belief in a higher power. Religion has evolved with the development of human civilization. New convictions have appeared. It cannot be unambiguously deduced whether religion depended on the level of human development, or vice versa, people’s beliefs were the key to progress. Religion is a kind of a conscience of the world that is specified by the belief in a higher power. Generally, every religion contains a set of moral and ethical norms, as well rules for behavior, ceremonies, and religious rites, and unites a group of believers into an entity. All religions are based on human belief in supernatural forces, as well as the relationship of believers with their deity. Despite the obvious differences between religions, numerous doctrines and dogmas of beliefs are very similar. This is specifically evident in the comparison of the world’s major religions. There are five major world religions: Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity. All the religions claim that they contribute to the growth of spirituality and inner harmony of humans. This paper aims to prove that, despite particular distinctions between Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity, these religions have many similarities, particularly humanism; worship of superpowers (Buddha, God, Brahma); teachings; beliefs in life after death, soul, sacred places and holy men; etc.
Buddhism is the oldest of major world religions. Its history goes back more than two thousand years. This religion arose in the south-east of India. Despite some differences between the Orthodox Buddhism and the new directions, the basis of this religion is the beliefs in reincarnation, karma, and the search for the path of enlightenment. Thanks to it, a man can become free from the endless chain of rebirth and attain enlightenment, also known as nirvana. The difference between Buddhism and other major religions of the world is the belief that a person’s karma depends on that persons actions, and everyone has their own way of enlightenment and is responsible for their own salvation. Buddhism recognizes that gods do not play a fundamental role in the fate of man, as they are also subjected to the laws of karma.
By its popularity, Buddhism can be compared to Christianity. At present, there are three pillars of Christianity: Catholicism, Protestantism, and Orthodoxy, which have their own branches, as well as a huge number of sects. At the heart of the Christian faith, there is the belief in the Triune God – the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit, the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, angels and demons, and the afterlife. The difference between the three pillars of Christianity lies in the fact that Orthodox Christians, unlike Catholics and Protestants, do not believe in the existence of purgatory. Protestants believe that the key to salvation of the soul is the inner belief rather than adherence to a set of sacraments and rites. Thus, the churches of Protestant Christians are more modest than Catholics and Orthodox ones.
Along with Christianity and Buddhism, Hinduism is considered to be one of the world’s religions. It is the main religion in India. According to Hinduism, beyond the ever-volatile physical world, there is a single universal, immutable, eternal spirit that is called Brahma. Brahma does not punish or reward those for their achievements in life; every soul creates their own rewards and punishments through karma (Nandan and Jangubhai 27). Souls (Atman) of all beings in the universe, including the gods, is a particle of that spirit. The sacred books play an important role in all varieties of Hinduism.
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In Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity, there are similar traditions of ritualism. In particular, the services are conducted in dead languages (Sanskrit, Old Slavonic, and Latin) that are not used in todays communication. The aforementioned religions use resins, aroma oils, and incence for ceremonial purposes. Hindus commonly use the lotus (the sacred flower of Hinduism), rose, musk, amber, etc. They drive away evil spirits. In Christianity, the same action is carried by the fragrance of incense burned in chandeliers. Additionally, oil lamps are lightened in front of the icons. Another similarity is related to the use of water. In Hinduism, believers use water for repeated ceremonial ablutions and washing deities. In Christianity, it is used for the sacrament of baptism. There are statues of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary in any Christian church. In Hindu Mandir, there are the statues of gods and goddesses: Durga and Shiva, Krishna and Radha, Vishnu and Lakshmi, etc. The icons of saints adorn every Christian church. There is an identical situation in Hindu temples. At the end of the service, worshipers can get the ritual consecrated food: wafer and prasadam. Besides the sacred food, the consecration of products is also practiced. In Christian practice, this is applied to Easter cakes and painted eggs. In Christianity, believers leave lighted candles in front of icons. In Hinduism, this function is performed by oil lamps. Both in Hinduism and Christianity, singing is practiced. In Christianity, there is a choir singing psalms. In Hinduism, there are chants of mantras. In addition, these two religions practice fasting. At the same time, there are symbols of faith. Christians bear the cross that symbolizes belonging to Christianity. In Hinduism, there are rosaries from the sacred Tulasi tree and sandalwood.
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Along with ceremonial similarities, religions have analogous ideologies. All three religions have sacred books. Christians have the Bible, and the Hindus have Bhagavad Gita. Bhagavad-gita is sometimes called the bible of Hinduism because of its popularity. Buddhism has Tipitaka. The perception of one God is the same in Christianity and Hinduism. The idea of trinity is certainly very similar in Hindu and Christian scriptures. This idea does not negate the perception of one God. The purpose of the religious life in Christianity and Hinduism is saving the soul by following the prescribed religious commandments. The concept of salvation as the main purpose of religion, which found such a strong expression in Buddhism and Hinduism, is one of the cornerstones of the Bible. There are similar religious ordinances that include wedding, christening, and burial. Achari emphasizes that common doctrines in Hinduism and Christianity include beliefs in god and soul, sin and grace, eschatology, beatitude, and theodicy (issue of evil) (6). In Hinduism, meditation is an essential attribute of life of every Buddhist. In Christianity, through meditation or reflection on a biblical text or passage, the believers penetrate the inner meaning of the text in order to can evaluate their own lives and situations. There is a similar holy faith in the coming of the Messiah. Moreover, there are comparable beliefs in heaven and hell, apocalypse, and denial of the supreme earth values.
Talking about the similarities between Christianity and Buddhism, it should be noted that many Christians are interested in Buddhism. Therefore, it may be useful to compare the main provisions of both of these religions. There are particularly common beliefs. Both religions believe in life after death. They teach that human personality continues to exist after death. However, Christianity and Buddhism imagine life after death in different forms. According to Buddhist teachings, individuals are absorbed in the repetitive cycles of birth, life, death, and rebirth. Every subsequent rebirth could be better, worse or the same, depending on the individuals karma – their sins and merits, which have accumulated during the current and past lives. The purpose of an ordinary Buddhist is breaking out of this circle and attaining nirvana. Then, they can experience complete freedom and affection. At the same time, Christianity has historically taught that everyone has only one life on this Earth. After death, a persons beliefs and actions are estimated for the final judgment about his future destination. Eternal life awaits everybody. Depending on the decision of higher powers, it will be spent either in heaven or hell.
The ethics of the religions are characterized by a set of similarities. Buddhism and Christianity share basic rules of conduct. Topics of morality, justice, love can be found in the teachings of the Buddha, as well as in the Jewish and Christian Bible. The beliefs that are shared by some Buddhist traditions and Christianity are related to God. In its original form, Buddhism does not teach the existence of a transcendent, immanent being, or any other gods or goddesses. Nevertheless, many Buddhists, especially in Japan, where Buddhism is often combined with the Shinto religion, believe in the pantheon of superhumans.
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There is a strong dependence of historical roots. Buddhism developed in India in the overall context of Indian philosophy and religion, including Hinduism. The Buddha was born in a Hindu family (Nandan and Jangubhai 29). Buddhism contributed to the liberation of people in India from orthodoxy and oppression of traditions. Buddhism and Hinduism have impacted each other in various ways. Nandan and Jangubhai state that both religions share emphasize the illusory nature of the world and the role of Karma in keeping men bound to this world and the cycle of births and deaths (30). They teach that desires constitute a key cause of suffering. There are common beliefs in karma, birth cycle, existence of hells and heavens, as well as lower and higher worlds. Hinduism and Buddhism underline non-violence and compassion. They share particular spiritual practices, such as concentration, meditation, etc.
Thus, Hinduism and Buddhism are derived from the same root, but combining them is not explained by a common origin, but rather a certain similarity in relation to death. Great Eastern religions are concerned about the ethical evaluation of suicide to a much lesser degree than Christianity and do not tend to consider suicide as an issue of paramount importance. Both Eastern religions proclaim repeatability of earthly incarnations of people, who are destined to live and die many times. At the same time, the wheel of samsara is a series of transformations, an ordeal that one has to stand with dignity, and then, reaching holiness, the soul will break out of the vicious cycle and will no longer need to be born again. The idea of reincarnation is common to Buddhism and Hinduism. It makes the idea of suicide meaningless.
In conclusion, despite the differences in rituals, beliefs and certain doctrines of Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism, all these beliefs have certain features in common. The ideas of superpower, the soul, the afterlife, destiny and the possibility of assistance of higher powers are inherent in all three discussed religions. The similarities between the world religions are clearly visible in the moral and behavioral norms, which should be observed. In Hinduism, Christianity, and Buddhism, there are some common rules. They forbid the faithful to commit crimes, harm other living beings, lie, behave promiscuously, be rude or disrespectful to other people. Furthermore, they call to treat others with respect, care, and love and develop positive qualities. Therefore, despite certain differences, Christianity, Hinduism, and Buddhism share a number of ideas and beliefs.
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