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Buddhism vs. Christianity

The human problem refers to the way in which each tradition or ideology presents our approach and leverage to that which we perceive to the source of our human limitations and /or flaws. How we perceive the divine, informs the stories of creation, which in turn, influence the narrative of the human problem. We are often overwhelmed by a sense of alienation, our own weakness and inadequacy. In response, we seek enlightenment, reconciliation, progress, and order. Every tradition and religion propose a particular view of the root of the problem and solution. 

Buddhism strips religion of all its usual elements- gods, demons, saviors, cosmogonies, heavens, and hells. What is left are a few fundamental laws that explain why things are the way they are. Only Karma can explain the mysterious problem of good and evil and reconcile man to the terrible apparent injustice of life. There can be no excuses, no appeal to blind chance or to the prevenient action of an omniscient God. The analogy of the cave as our sheltered ignorance was introduced by Buddha to amplify the problem of human hostility toward new ideas that can challenge our ideologies. According to the Buddha, the human problem is mainly connected to suffering. The Buddha proposed that the idea of the self directly contributes to the human problem in that awareness that the self in constant flux helps us cope with the problem of attachment 

The Buddha establishes core doctrines of the human problem with three signs of existence: no self, suffering, and impermanence. It is believed that the human identity is a “constant happening”, a constant becoming because of our never-ending process. It is essential to overcome the illusion of permanence and the fear of change. Realizing this persuades us to attain enlightenment. The problem with reaching enlightenment is suffering. Buddhism suggests that the cause of suffering is desire, so in order to eliminate it, we must remove desire. The solution is an eightfold path which enforces the ideas of right views, thought, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. Further broken down it is to be knowing the 4 noble truths, painting a sincerity of heart and mind, the need to acquire a life-style that is consistent with the proper goal, painting mental control, and proper medication to signify harmony between the mind and body. Buddhism states that reality is a process, not a substance. Not only do all things change, but all things change because they are inter-depended with each other. The ultimate idea of salvation for Buddhism is nirvana.

In western monotheism, the problem of theodicy is sharply put by the philosopher David Hume: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence the evil?” The root of the human problem in Christianity is our likeness to God. Christianity recognizes the stark reality of both moral and natural evil and innocent suffering, but just the same they also affirm the sovereignty, providence, and benevolence of God. They turn to the Book of Job as a response. They believe suffering as recompense for sin, suffering as a test and as a necessary condition of “soul-making”, and suffering as submission. Christianity encourages the belief that the evils and sufferings of this life will be compensated for and that justice will be meted out in a future life. The problem may not arise from the core same concepts as Buddhism, but it is surely the same: suffering.

John Hick attempts to solve or at least explain the problem of human suffering by analyzing the divine purpose of God and the world. The assumption that man is God’s complete creation, God’s purpose in making the world was to provide a suitable dwelling-place for him, and since God is good and loving, the environment he created is natural pleasant and as comfortable as possible, is explained otherwise. Christianity has never supposed that God’s purpose in the creation of the world was to construct a paradise whose inhabitants would experience a maximum pleasure and minimum pain. Instead, the world is seen as a place of “soul-making” in which free beings, grappling with the tasks and challenges of their existence in a common environment may become “children of God” and “heirs of eternal life. The hopes for salvation lie in the resurrection of the body, heaven and hell, and the enteral life. Reliance on God’s grace is the prescribed way to liberate self from sin and bondage.