Resemblances between Buddhism and Christianity
Christian, Buddhist, Roman, Found, Incense, Life
Within the sacred edifice everything to strike the senses was lavishly displayed. The passion of the East, as opposed to Greek simplicity, is for decoration; yet in Japan, decorative art, though sometimes bursting out in wild profusion or running to unbridled lengths, was in the main a regulated mass of splendor in which harmony ruled. Differing though the Buddhist sects do in their temple furniture and altar decorations, they are, most of them, so elaborately full in their equipment as to suggest repeatedly the similarity between the Roman Catholic organization, altars, vestments and ritual, and those of Buddhism, and remarks on this point seem almost commonplace. Almost everything in Roman Catholicism is found in Buddhism,20 and one may even say, vice versa, at least in things exterior. We take the liberty of transcribing here a passage from the chapter entitled "Christianity and Foreigners" in The Mikado's Empire, written twenty years ago.
"Furthermore, the transition from the religion of India to that of Rome was extremely easy. The very idols of Buddha served, after a little alteration with the chisel, for images of Christ. The Buddhist saints were easily transformed into the Twelve Apostles. The Cross took the place of the torii. It was emblazoned on the helmets and banners of the warriors, and embroidered on their breasts. The Japanese soldiers went forth to battle like Christian crusaders. In the roadside shrine Kuanon, the Goddess of Mercy, made way for the Virgin, the mother of God. Buddhism was beaten with its own weapons. Its own artillery was turned against it. Nearly all the Christian churches were native temples, sprinkled and purified. The same bell, whose boom had so often quivered the air announcing the orisons and matins of paganism, was again blessed and sprinkled, and called the same hearers to mass and confession; the same lavatory that fronted the temple served for holy water or baptismal font; the same censer that swung before Amida could be refilled to waft Christian incense; the new convert could use unchanged his old beads, bells, candles, incense, and all the paraphernalia of his old faith in celebration of the new.
"Almost everything that is distinctive in the Roman form of Christianity is to be found in Buddhism: images, pictures, lights, altars, incense, vestments, masses, beads, wayside shrines, monasteries, nunneries, celibacy, fastings, vigils, retreats, pilgrimages, mendicant vows, shorn heads, orders, habits, uniforms, nuns, convents, purgatory, saintly and priestly intercession, indulgences, works of supererogation, pope, archbishops, abbots, abbesses, monks, neophytes, relics and relic-worship, exclusive burial-ground, etc., etc., etc."21
Nevertheless, these resemblances are almost wholly superficial, and have little or nothing to do with genuine religion. Such matters are of aesthetic and of commercial, rather than of spiritual, interest. They concern priestcraft and vulgar superstition rather than truth and righteousness. "In point of dogma a whole world of thought separates Buddhism from every form of Christianity. Knowledge, enlightenment, is the condition of Buddhistic grace, not faith. Self-perfectionment is the means of salvation, not the vicarious sufferings of a Redeemer. Not eternal life is the end and active participation in unceasing prayer and praise, but absorption into Nirvana (Jap. Nehan), practical annihilation."22 At certain points, the metaphysic of Buddhism is so closely like that of Christian theology, that a connection on reciprocal exchange of ideas is not only possible but probable. In their highest thinking,23 the sincere Christian and Buddhist approach each other in their search after truth.
The key-word of Buddhism is Ingwa, which means law or fate, the chain of cause and effect in which man is found, atheistic "evolution applied to ethics," the grinding machinery of a universe in which is no Creator-Father, no love, pity or heart. If the cry of the human spirit has compelled the makers of Buddhist theology to furnish a goddess of mercy, it is but one subordinate being among many. If a boundlessly compassionate Amida is thought out, it is an imaginary being. The symbol of Buddhism is the wheel of the law, which revolves as mercilessly as ceaselessly.24
The key-word of Christianity is love, and its message is grace. Its symbol is the cross, and its sacrament the supper, in token of the infinite love of the Father who wrote his revelation in a human life. The resemblances between the religions of Gautama and of Jesus, are purely superficial. They appear to the outward man. The inward man cannot, even from Darien peaks of observation or in his scrutiny de profundis, discover any vital or historical connection between the two faiths, Christianity and Buddhism. In his theology the Christian says God is all; but the Buddhist says All is god. Buddhism says destroy the passions: Christianity says control them. The Buddhist's watchword is Nirvana. The Christian's is Eternal Life in Christ Jesus.25
|Written By William Elliot Griffis|
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