Buddhism Ethics Compared to Christianity Ethics

Essay on Presentation

Christianity in Context

April 29, 2004

When starting this research with my group, I was only slightly familiar with the ethics of Buddhism and only slightly more familiar with the ethics of Christianity. However, even with the minimal amount of knowledge I had of both, I had a preconceived notion that we would be contrasting the two much more than we would be comparing them. I figure my assumption was due to the stark contrast of the cultures and not due to the fundamentals of each religion. However, what we found was quite surprising. The ethics of Buddhism and the ethics of Christianity were strikingly similar. I came to understand Buddhism as a much less exotic religion than I ever had conceived and found that its ethics and doctrine hit very close to home and to my own beliefs as a Christian. The major difference I found in the two religions was not the canons themselves, but the motivations behind living by them. In this essay, I will summarize the research we conducted, the comparisons we made, and the results we came to.

The main points of Buddhist ethics that we covered in our presentation were The Five Precepts, Virtues, Rights, Abortion, and Bioethics. First, I will start with The Five Precepts. They are a list of five rules or guidelines which a Buddhist must always obey. They are “Do not kill, do not steal, do not be sexually immoral, do not lie, and do not take intoxicants.” Living by this list of rules is an essential part of being a Buddhist. One cannot help but see the striking similarity between The Five Precepts of Buddhism and The Ten Commandments of Christianity. Even their names mean essentially the same thing: a certain number of rules. And each rule is based on what even Christians can embrace as a positive moral understanding of what is right and what is wrong. In this way, Christianity and Buddhism follow a path of religion almost hand-in-hand.

The second thing we covered in our presentation was the Virtues. The Virtues are simply descriptions of not what a Buddhist should do, but how and why a Buddhist should do what he does. In other words, even if a Buddhist lives life by the Five Precepts, if his motivations do not follow the Virtues closely, then he has done wrong. This is very similar to the Christian idea of “sins of the mind.” Christians believe that even if one does not commit a sin with his hands, he can still commit the same sin with his mind. For example, The Bible says that if one hates his brother, than he has murdered him. And if one looks upon a woman lustfully, he has committed adultery. These are examples of simply the Christian version of the Buddhist Virtues. However, I believe one contrast between the two is not found in any book or doctrine but in daily observation of other Christians. Too many call themselves followers of Christ, live by the rules, but are only motivated by the endearing myth of Heaven. Buddhists do not have the promise of paradise after death, only reincarnation. They also do not have the fear of Hell, as Christians do.

This brings us to one of the main contrasts within the two religions. Buddhists do not have a god. Christians have not only God, but they have trinity. A higher power separated equally into three parts who will eventually “judge the quick and the dead.” Buddhists work on a sort of honor system and live by their rules and virtues simply for the sake of living as a good Buddhist. Many Christians do not live by the word of the Bible simply to be good Christians, but instead to be rewarded in the end. It almost seems as if Christianity has a babysitter when Buddhism does not.

Buddhism beliefs also follow a strict discipline of loving all living creatures and honoring them as they would themselves. This idea is very similar to the Christian Golden Rule, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I found that Christianity and Buddhism upheld many similarities in our last three subtopics just as they did in