I was thinking this morning on my walk from the MAX station to work about a conversation I had with one of my coworkers about two weeks ago. I happened to mention in passing friendly conversation that I was a Religious Studies minor in college. Typically I’m reluctant to mention this fact to people, especially coworkers, considering it is a touchy subject for many and I don’t think it is very appropriate to discuss religion at work. In fact, it just may be against the law. Actually, I don’t really remember what brought it up but what I do remember is the conversation that ensued.
A little background on me: I was raised in a Christian family, and was quite active in the church up until I went to college. My beliefs went through an adjustment period as I grew and changed and came into myself as an individual. Hubby’s family is, for the most part, Jewish with the exception of Hubby’s Mom who practices Bon. When asked, I typically respond that I am a Buddhist because the majority of what I believe is encompassed in Buddhism. I’m not going to get in to the deep recesses of why I believe what I believe, suffice to say that it is my choice and I have put A LOT of thought in to it.
Let’s get back to where this all started - that conversation. What it came down to was me trying to explain to her as how I viewed the Buddha in terms similar to Christianity. Somehow, I managed to end up comparing the Buddha to Jesus. This may seem to be a strange bridge but allow me to explain. Christians generally believe that Jesus came to earth as a means by which God could save the sinners from Hell. Similarly, Buddha found a way to escape Hell – in Buddhist terms this would be continual reincarnation and the suffering that is life – and shared. That is not where the similarities end. Both taught to love, be kind, be spiritually faithful, and one can escape from Hell. Now, to clarify, I’m not saying that the Buddha is “the savior” in the same respect that Christians consider Jesus to be their savior. Buddha (which means the enlightened one in Sanskrit) would be more of a prophet or a teacher, the one that figured out the key to enlightenment for the everyday practitioner (or Average Joe Buddhist). Buddha came in to the world as a Hindu and didn’t necessarily intend to start his own religion. Similarly, Jesus was raised as a Jew and probably had little intention of starting his own religion either – he was sent to put people on the right path.
I realize that comparing Christianity to Buddhism may seem like comparing apples to a prickly pear, but my personal understanding is that most religions when you take away the dogma all come down to two things: answering the question of powers larger than us as humans, and being a good person.
As ShoeDiva would say: “I’m just sayin’…”