Exploring Christianity And Zen

Zen Buddhism has been the religious mainstay of Japan for centuries. As a philosophy that preceded Christianity by a few centuries, it offers interesting comparison with Christianity. With distinct philosophies that originated in different parts of the world, there are both similarities and dissimilarities between them, which offer interesting insights about religious aspirations of humanity.
Exploring Christianity and Zen
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Christianity and Zen are two of the most popular religions of the world. In spite of their different ideologies, practices and traditions, and in spite of the difference time and origin, the two guiding philosophies also share common features, particularly in striving to make humans better beings. Here is a comparative study.


Christianity & Zen

Christianity is A monotheistic religion that arose with the crucification of Jesus Christ and his subsequent resurrection. Zen Buddhism represents the teaching and philosophy of a prince named Siddharth, who gave up his throne, wife and wealth to find a way to reduce human suffering. They certainly

make an interesting comparison for those wishing to learn religion.

They also serve to highlight the similarities in humans of all civilizations and faiths, and the universality of values and human virtues, even though one has its origin in the ancient civilization of India as a reaction to the ritualistic dominance of a certain priestly class, while the other arose in the holy city of Jerusalem in the West.

There are always more than one ways of reaching the same destination, and more than one language can be used to convey the same message. Once you understand that, it becomes far easier to appreciate the difference and similarities of Christianity and Zen. They seem to represent and advocate different paths, yet their destinations are not really far apart.

Christianity Vs. Zen - A Comparative Overview

Christianity has its roots in Jesus Christ, considered the son of the god, who underwent immense sufferings, and was even crucified, only to get resurrection and save people from sin. The tenets of his teaching are provided in the holy Bible, the old and the New Testament. One central theme of Christianity is the belief in the trinity of God as the father, Christ as the son of the god, and the Holy spirit. Another characteristic of Christianity is the significance given to the death and subsequent resurrection of Christ, which is indicative of his special status as the son of god, as well as his control over death and his divine powers.

Zen is a form of Buddhist religion and philosophy that is based on the life and teaching of Siddhartha or Buddha, born in India over 25 centuries ago. The word 'Zen' derives itself from the Sanskrit word 'Dhyan' which means meditation, an integral part of self realization in Buddhism. In 475 A.D., BODHIDHARMA, a Buddhist master, travelled to China and propagated Buddhism there. His teachings lead to the acceptance of 'Dhyan', pronounced as 'Chan', and gave rise to the Ch'an school of Buddhism that became one of the popular religious faiths in China. Around 1200 A.D., Ch'an spread to Japan, where it was called 'Zen'.

Christianity & Zen: The Dissimilarities

The biggest difference between Christianity and Zen is in their reliance of scriptures or written text. Christianity believes in Bible as the gospel of truth, and in many ways the ultimate pure truth that is beyond dispute, even if one can debate on its interpretation. On the other hand, Zen puts its faith in the emphasis on self realization as the essence of Buddhism. It undermines the importance of words in scriptures and religious texts, with a view that words are always open to interpretation and their meaning invariably depends upon the person making use of them. Thus, while for Christians the interpretation of the Bible is the final answer to all questions, for a practitioner of Zen, the final answer to the dilemmas of the world lies inside oneself and not in any text, because the words of a text cannot be understood properly unless the person reading them is wise enough.

Another major difference between Christianity and Zen is that whereas Christianity places a lot of emphasis on the power of the god, and the ability of Jesus to make a difference to the world, Zen does not look towards Buddha as the savior, and instead considers KARMA as the means of salvation.

A characteristic of Zen is its emphasis on social etiquette and politeness. Politeness towards Zen masters and the conduct of Zen followers in the meditation sessions in given very high significance and is one of the reasons for the highly polite manners of Japanese

people. It is something that differentiates Zen from almost all the other religions of the world, including Christianity.

While Christianity believes in evil and the existence of devil, such a concept is not prominent in the Buddhist philosophy of Zen. Thus, Christians believe the worldly temptations for sin are a work of the devil out there to pollute our soul, the Buddhists believe that vulnerability to temptations is a sign of internal weakness and lack of self discipline, and not a design of an outside evil power.

Christianity & Zen: The Similarities

Christianity and Zen, both have a lot common. Both are based on the teachings of a person who sacrificed himself without any returns. Both Jesus and Buddha have divine status in their own faiths, and yet both lived a life of an ordinary mortal. Both look towards their originator, Christ or Buddha for inspiration as well as guidance.

Another significant similarity between Christianity and Zen lie in their origins both were a result of a reformer preacher within a more ancient religion. In case of Christianity, it sprung up from among people who used to follow Judaism; in case of Zen, Buddha himself was born into a family that followed Dharma (commonly called Hinduism).

In the very early phases, neither Jesus, nor Buddha were seen as pioneers of a new religion. As time passed, their followers started identifying separately, and gradually gave rise to a new religion. In case of Zen, the original Buddhist groups in India gradually got merged into the mainline Dharma, which itself is a collection of many schools of philosophy; however, the Buddhist monks who took the teaching of Buddha to other countries gave rise to separate sects that have retained a distinct identity.

Both Jesus and Buddha preached behavior and conduct that is very similar to each other. Like almost all religions, Christianity and Zen, both advocate fairness, self restraint, self-discipline as well as values like truthfulness, honesty and abstinence from vices like treachery, or killing.

Compared to other religions of the world, both Christianity and Zen are not very rigid or extremist. Both are rather tolerant within their fold, towards followers who are rather casual in their approach towards the practice of their religion. Neither Christianity nor Zen gets into the practice of passing decrees against those failing to follow the rules rigidly. Christianity became even more tolerant after the rise of Protestants. In case of Zen, the main characteristic of Buddhism is advocacy of the middle path, which is neither too rigid nor totally bohemian.

While both Christianity and Zen have played a crucial role in developing the social values and characteristics of the society in which they were prevalent, neither has been in the centre of political struggle or involved in the exercise of the power of the state, during the last few centuries. In case of Zen, it has never been involved in state politics in Japan. In case of Christianity, it might have happened occasionally, but has not been seen since the separation of state from the Church.

Both lead to Better Human Beings

Christianity is one of the most common religions practiced in the world, while Zen is practiced largely in Japan and East Asia. Both have their own characteristics, but most of them are at a superficial plane. The similarities they share are far more significant, and make them two religions that lead to a final end product that is not very different. In the end, both strive to make their followers better human beings, promote almost similar social virtues and lead to self actualization and devotion to the almighty god of this universe.

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