‘Self-Reliance’ vs. God-reliance

Humanity is plagued with a multitude of hardships and psychological boundaries that create uncertainties in the human mind. Religion is an outlet that serves as an all for one answer to the pressing concerns and questions haunting humanity. As humans, it is inevitable to feel helpless against the nature of the universe when disasters, natural or man-made, strike. Religion bestows upon people the strength and counsel needed to feel reassured in hard times. There is a particular comfort in religion in regards to unpleasant things like death and justice. Religion will adamantly take care of its followers by providing care and claims that deny any uncertainty (ppt. Introductory, slide 5) These reasons show why millions of people in this world choose to dedicate themselves to a religion. Thousands of individuals practice Buddhism and Christianity, two religions that populate our earth in sheer numbers. Both follow distinctive belief structures regarding theism, salvation, and afterlife that it is clear to see where both religions diverge from each other. With that, however, in-depth analysis in these themes reveals a beautiful connection between the two religions.

To begin, each religion in the world hold unique views about who or what shapes and possess authority over the material world. Theism can be philosophically described as the belief in a divine being like a God. It becomes the base word for many belief subsections in religion across the world To start, Buddhism holds a theistic approach that there is no creator God controlling the material world which in essence defies the base term’s definition. Buddhists hold a hard fast idea that everything is continually changing in the ebb and flow of time with no type of divine outside influence. This does not mean however that there is no spirituality in Buddhism, in fact, spirituality is present in the various branches in Buddhism. (ppt. Buddhism, slide 2). Analyzing Buddhists approach and then contrasting to what Christianity believes it becomes evident quickly that the two religions are on opposite sides of the spectrum. Christianity takes a monotheistic approach to the concept of outside divine influences on the world. In basic understanding, monotheism is defined as believing in a single creator God that influences the human world (ppt. Vocabulary, slide 1). This God for Christianity is a guiding factor and provides meaning to life because his grace and love promote spiritual well being and healing. The theistic beliefs that each religion propagate represent how these two religions are in contrast. A deeper analysis of these theistic beliefs can bring up interesting comparison points. According to the book, “…some Buddhists view the Buddha as a supreme heavenly being” (p 113, VanVoorst). Although not common, this relates to the heavenly being that is God in Christianity. This raises the point that both religions view some character as a person to be revered and understood. Secondly, the Buddha is not worshipped like a divine being, but he is considered to be a guiding character for individual spirituality. He was the awakened one that preached teachings for Buddhists to follow for a successful, liberated life (ppt. Buddhism, slide 2) Similarly; God is a character that indirectly influences and trains Christians to seek repent for sins and live a gracious life. Both are held to different standards among the religion’s believers, but it is clear to see how both influence and guide people toward salvation.

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Secondly, salvation is a notion that is not foreign to either of these religions, but the means to achieve it are greatly varied. First off, salvation as a religious concept can be defined as “…the delieverace of humankind from such fundamentally negative or disabling conditions as suffering, evil, finitude, and death…the idea of salvation is a characteristic religious notion related to an issue of profound human concern” (Brandon). For different religious, salvation can represent varying ideals with contrasting ways of achieving this soul liberation. Where these two religions will differ is in their means and duties for obtaining salvation. In Buddhism, salvation is a religion that believes that people are inherently responsible for their own salvation. As stated in the book, the Buddha spoke this advice to his followers just before his death, “Decay is inherent in all things; work out your salvation with diligence!” (p 117, VanVoorst). Personal determination and self-reliance are the two qualities Buddhists need to achieve ultimate liberation from the soul-destroying world. This relates to how Buddhists do not cling onto an outside being to do the work for them. Thus, this self-reliance creates a slower salvation process leaving Buddhists to use multiple lifetimes to achieve Nirvana. In contrast, Christianity stresses the point of salvation is to release any sins from birth to death so that the individual can be sent to Heaven upon judgment day. A concept that is central to Christianity’s teachings in particular salvation is agape. Agape is practicing “altruistic love and self-giving” which relates to how Christians do good works can help aid them in the quest to salvation (ppt Christianity, slide 4). Another contrast from Buddhism is that Christians are not alone in their quest for Christianity. Instead of self-determination and reliance, Christians must trust and depend on Jesus and the saving grace to save them. Buddhists are dedicated to themselves to become their own saviors. Christians, on the other hand, are urged to be dedicated to their saviors in order to go to Heaven. Reviewing the salvation belief structures allows for one to decode the similarities. First off, the Buddha’s teaching and revelations are detailed in the Four Noble Truths that he preached to his converts. Similar to a physician the Buddha identified the problem, what causes endless suffering, promoted a cure, and then prescribed a path to reach enlightenment all in the Four Noble Truths. At the end of the Four Noble Truths is the Eightfold Path which is the ultimate path to releasing a Buddhist from suffering to reach Nirvana (ppt. Buddhism, slides 17-24). In comparison, Christianity also identifies the issues in life that lead to suffering and how to fix the problems to reach the goal of salvation like Buddhism does. For example, a basic combination of baptism, repenting, and trusting the Savior are the beginning necessities to obtaining salvation (Robinson). Both of these religions have instruction provided by higher beings for obtaining the final goal of salvation.

Finally, one of the purposes religion serves in life is providing comfort for the unnerving thought of death. The answer to what happens after death can be found in the core beliefs of many religions. Understanding what happens after death also plays a role in guiding behavior during an individual’s lifetime. Beginning with Christianity, after death it is believed that a person is subject to a Day of Judgement where God will decide if the individual is to eternally live in Heaven or Hell (p 296, VanVoorst). The judgment is based on how the Christian carried him or herself through life. Were their overall actions benevolent and were sins repented for? Or did this individual live a life that did not uphold the core values of compassion and love? In contrast to Christianity, Buddhism believes in an afterlife very different from a single eternal resting place. In essence, a Buddhist’s whole life is dedicated to leaving the cycle of Samsara thus ending suffering in order to spend life in the state of Nirvana eternally. This cessation of suffering, however, can take a couple lifetimes to achieve finally. Thus, the Buddhist community believes in the concept of rebirth. The idea that a person remains themselves but through lifetimes will alter perceptions and work toward Nirvana. The skandas of a Buddhist work and interexsist with other things so that you do not really go anywhere. You are not the same person when you are reborn, but yet you are not separate from the past lives (ppt. Buddhism, slides 32- 36). For Buddhism, the contrast to Christianity is the concept of starting over in a new life in order to reach the final destination. Christianity is a one-shot type life that will decide the eternal resting place based on the life one lived. Once again, comparisons can be made between the two belief structures. The most basic is that both religions have some set belief about what happens after death. There are clear conceptions about the afterlife and how it affects the current material lifetime. Abstractly speaking, both religions have a judgment that decides if a person has obtained salvation for paradise. Buddhists and Christians alike are judged on some level after a lifetime of making free willed decisions.

In conclusion, religion as a whole has a beautiful way of representing strength, guidance, and dedication in an individual. Academically pinning Christianity against Buddhism opens up doors for interesting points to be made about their similarities and differences. One can see how converts of each religion hold belief systems that are closely related to each other. Both of these religions work toward salvation with the goal of obtaining a spot in the respective paradise. However, it is interesting to notice the different means each religion take to work toward salvation. Buddhism is far more focused on self-reliance and dedication whereas Christianity takes the approach of relying on the savior and grace for salvation. The most significant difference is the theism that is held by each religion. It is amazing to see the different ideals about God and how that one small thing can alter an entire religion. If an individual were to switch Christianity and Buddhism theistic beliefs, each religion would be unrecognizable. Important things can be learned from comparing and contrasting two religions. It opens up one’s eyes to see the beauty behind differences in the world. It educates individuals on deeper meanings and levels within the two religions. One can learn new angles and understanding by delving deeper into the context and teachings of a religion. It is beneficial to see how religions can be similar in a world where differences are often not celebrated but rather hated.

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‘Self-Reliance’ vs. God-reliance. (2022, Jul 26). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/self-reliance-vs-god-reliance/