Throughout the years of its existence, the religion of Buddhism has gone through many changes. One example of how Buddhism changed is when the Mahayana was adopted as an official interpretation. The “Great Vehicle” was the name that the Buddhists came up for this new way of thinking. The Buddhists spent much of their lives concentrating on reaching nirvana, which was balanced with everyday activities. Judaism also experienced many changes during this time, which was far more drastic than the Mahayana Buddhism religion. While the Mahayana kept the basic beliefs of Buddhism, Christianity changed far more in terms of thinking. When comparing these two religions, it is obvious that each religion is quite similar and different in many ways. These religions are similar in the fact that they both allow the saving of ones soul and that they are both variations on more strict religious rules, while they contrast each other in the fact they each have their own idea of the “supreme being”.
In order for someone to reach nirvana, one had to be very dedicated and meditate a majority of the day. This limited the amount of other work that could be accomplished in a days worth of time. If everyone in the world followed this religion “to the tee”, no work would ever be accomplished. This is one of the main reasons that Buddhism had to be changed in order to make it a world religion. Buddhism was changed into a slightly new interpretation that was to be known as Mahayana, which literally means Great Vehicle. The first step to the change was the creation of the Hinyana, which translates to the Lesser Vehicle. This interpretation only allowed a small portion of people to achieve nirvana because of the many strict rules of meditation. This lasted for a small period of time until the Mahayana interpretation was presented, which allowed more people to reach enlightenment. The reason for an increase in people reaching nirvana was because of a smaller amount of meditation that was involved. This allowed more time during the day for people to complete their everyday tasks. In addition to meditation, one must believe in the Bodhisattvas and the Buddhas to reach enlightenment. These were beings that were between living and enlightenment to help those still on earth striving to reach nirvana.
Christianity was created as a slightly new interpretation of Judaism. Some small divisions of the Jewish religion didn’t have the same beliefs and interpretations as the Covenant. One division gathered around a prophet known as Jesus (Andrea, 198). This new interpretations main goal was to teach people forgiveness and understanding. This was a small change made to the original Jewish version of the Covenant. Although this change was very minuet, it played an important role in the creation of Christianity. The idea of the Messiah to the religion of Judaism was very critical. The most important change was the belief that the Messiah would regain Israel as a free state for the Christian and Jewish religions. In response to this new way of thinking, Constantine gave the Edict of Milan, which stopped the persecution of the Christians. As the persecution ceased, the Christian religion spread out widely to the population. This created a more compassionate and understanding sense of religious beliefs.
One area in which you will find considerable differences is in the writings of the two religions. In the Mahayana religion, the Lotus Sutra was the text used, with described the “ten cosmic levels of existence” (Andrea, 184). Within this text, a passage can be found that shows the ninth level of existence, the Perceiver of World’s Sounds.
Though enough yakshas and rakshasa to fill all the thousand-millionfold world should try to come and torment a person, if they hear him calling the name of Bodhisattva Perceiver of the World’s Sounds, then these evil demons will not even be able to look at him with their evil eyes, much less do him harm (Andrea, 185).
The Perceiver of World’s Sounds was said to be the savior of the people. He would come to the aid of anyone that called out his name. This was quite a relief for the people under this religion, knowing that they can call upon a Bodhisattva at any time, and they would be saved. A different approach to saving a soul is related in the Sermon on the Mount. With the Christian text, it can be found that in order for someone to be saved, they must concentrate on being compassionate, sincere, and “pure in heart” (Andrea, 201). The text goes on to explain that the meek, mournful, and the peacemakers have a place beside God in the kingdom of Heaven. In addition, the Christian text goes on to preach compassion, which is something that the Lotus Sutra does not mention. “Turning the other cheek” defines the Christian way of thinking about the subject of tolerance (Andrea 201). If someone shows uncompassionate behavior towards you, you should turn the other way and show them that you are the stronger man. Those who do this will also receive a place beside God in the kingdom of Heaven.
It is quite evident that in order reach either nirvana or to receive a place in Heaven, one must concentrate on believing their particular God. This faith towards their Gods is the key to each religion. When concentrating on the actual religion itself, there aren’t any exact similarities between Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism. Within Christianity, you must focus on one God. This is quite different then the Mahayana Buddhism, whereas there are many Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in which are worshiped. Buddhism concentrates mainly on meditation, whereas Christianity focuses compassion, sincerity, and pureness of heart. These religions have proven to be quite different in many aspects, but their goal is ultimately the same - reaching an eternal harmony with their respective Gods. The Mahayana and Christians allowed a slight variation on each of their religions in order to allow more people to practice their religions, and to successfully reach their goals in faith. Overall, each religion was received openly, and are each presently world religions.
Andrea, Alfred, and Overfield, James. The Human Record: Sources of Global History. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1998
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