Why I find Christianity harder than Buddhism, pt. 2


Dorian faces his portrait in the 1945 The Pict...

Oscar Wilde's fictional Dorian Grey bargained with Satan to have the consequences of his sin land on a painting, not on himself. (Image via Wikipedia)

I came to Christianity from Eastern-influenced spiritualities. And I found — and still find — Christianity harder.

Here are a few of the differences that, to me, make Christianity a tougher, and very different faith.

Evil does not exist: only error in Buddhism, and many Eastern-influenced traditions including the Christian Science of my childhood. No one has attempted to injure you; you have only misperceived an action which has no significance in reality.

And in my experience and observation, living as if difficult events didn’t really happen is much easier than recognizing them and forgiving them. This is what survivors of childhood abuse often do: “forget” the abuse; then other unpleasant events; then eventually forgetting much of their lives.

Christianity places us in the challenging position of recognizing that an evil deed has occurred; recognizing that we are not entitled to penalize the person who committed that act because Jesus already was penalized for it; and then working out how we will interact with that person ourselves. What measure of trust will we afford them? We are called to trust God, but we often learn that certain individuals may not be relied on. How will we be gracious when we feel hurt or fearful?

There is no moral judgment in Eastern traditions. In Buddhism: there is neither good nor bad, just more or less enlightened; more or less skilful. Western traditions, including Christianity, define good and evil, righteousness and sin.

There is certainly less stress in working through relationships with people you think only need to learn more than in dealing with people you think may have chosen to behave very badly.
In one of my early jobs, we had a manager who couldn’t enter a room without setting off a wave of backbiting and recriminations. I was practicing A Course in Miracles at the time and considered him unenlightened. A colleague, who was not a Christian but had majored in English, said, “He’s the ‘Picture of Dorian Gray.’ ” Remember the story by Oscar Wilde about the man who bargained with the Devil to retain his good looks and have the consequences of his many sins land on his oil portrait only? Without a faith background, she read the manager more accurately than I by having read fiction written by a man living in a highly moralistic time.

The Dalai Lama encourages people to use Buddhist practices while remaining part of their home faith community. And that’s kind of possible.

Many Buddhist teachings match Christian scripture.

  • Abstain from stealing, robbery, fraud, deceitfulness, and dishonesty.
  • Abstain from sexual misconduct
  • Refrain from false, slanderous, harsh., and idle speech.

But other Buddhist and Eastern teachings don’t match the Bible at all.

Most significantly, Christianity says you, personally, have a continuing existence into all time. You, personally, are much more than a misperception by your inadequately developed consciousness. God is the speaker in these Bible texts:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart …” (Jeremiah 1:5)

“The one who is victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out the name of that person from the book of life, but will acknowledge that name before my Father and his angels.” (Revelation 3:5)

There are real differences — sometimes difficult ones — between the traditions of the West and the East. And it’s important for those who want to be Christians to know the differences.

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About Carlene Byron

Writer, editor, publicist, communications project manager ... I've written technology and infrastructure; I used to edit New England Church Life and The New England Christian and I've freelanced to publications ranging from Commonweal to Christianity Today. I'm now living in my hometown in Maine and am speaking about global perspectives on suicide prevention.
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8 Responses to Why I find Christianity harder than Buddhism, pt. 2

  1. Pingback: why Christianity is tougher than buddhism [part ii] « Irresistibly Fish

  2. buttermilk80 says:

    It has been my experience that Christ deals with the reality of things. He comes to us when we don’t even know we need Him. And when He begins to heal us toward holiness, we find Him starting with what we thought was obscure within us. He doesn’t attack the sin, He heals the sinner. Soon enough we find ourselves becoming something far more than anyone can find words to express. Christ is real. Every other form of “religion” is only a shadow of His beauty.

    And one thing more: When Christians speak of the forgiveness of sins it is not a vague concept. We actually experience a clean conscience at the moment of confession. I don’t think that experience can be explained in words. It has to be a personal experience. This is likely the very reason so many people believe in Jesus in so very many ways. Yet there is a singularity of belief between us who are called out.

    By His Grace.

    • I love your attempt to describe that moment at which conscience is cleansed by God’s forgiveness. For me, it’s like suddenly, I’m not afraid; I’m not upset; I’m not anxious. The part of the brain that can be yelling some pretty nasty things (“you stupid screw-up! you messed up again! you always mess everything up!”) suddenly shuts up. It’s like it’s suddenly been shut out of the room.

  3. Herb Presley says:

    Certainly there is a higher standard of expectation of behaviour in Christianity than other “religions”, however I hesitate to call Christianity a religion since the literal meaning of the word “religion” is adherence to a particular set of beliefs or teachings. Christianity is all about relationship. You can take the “founder” or “mentor” out of all world religions and you still have the teachings of that religion. But you can’t take Jesus the person out of Christianity, since without the relationship with Him the teachings are meaningless. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I AM the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” That’s the major difference and while the behaviour standards of Christianity may be high, there is not other faith that offers the same kind of personal resources of a relationship with God Himself.

    • Great points, Herb. Christianity is about our relationships with God (whom we are to love above all others) and our neighbors (whom we are to love as ourselves). The expected behaviors are about perfecting those relationships.

  4. buttermilk80 says:

    I too will make a distinction between religion and faith. It’s an important point to make. We serve the Living God through a living faith. And even our faith is born by Him. You’re right.

    By His Grace.

  5. Herb Presley says:

    I love the thoughtful depth and tone of you discussions, Carlene. I appreciate the thought you, and each respondent has put into the topics. Blessings to you – keep it up!

  6. Herb Presley says:

    I love the thoughtful depth and tone of your discussions, Carlene. I appreciate the thought you, and each respondent has put into the topics. Blessings to you – keep it up!

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