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Buddhism and Christianity

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In the early sixth century Christianity was evolving at a rapid pace. The spread of Christianity was not only moving westward through Europe, but it was also moving eastward down the Silk Road. The eastward spread of Christianity was primarily a form of Christianity known as Nestorianism, after the teachings of Nestorius, a fifth century patriarch. By 635 Nestorian Christianity had reached the heart of China spreading through all of Persia and India. During the middle of the seventh century Nestorian churches were found in cities all along the Silk Road, though there were unquestionably many fewer Christians than Buddhists in Asia

Up until the turn of the sixteenth century Christianity endured great persecution in China and Japan. Christianity became extinct in China and Japan until sixteenth century when European Christian missionaries first came to Asia. Upon meeting Buddhist monks the Christian missionaries realized there seem to be many similarities between Christianity and Buddhism. They noticed many other similarities in doctrine and books as well. The early missionaries to China and Japan were both shocked and disturbed by their findings that another religion had similar beliefs. The missionaries determined that this was the devil at work, inventing a counterfeit faith. In recent years scholars discovered the evidence of Nestorian Churches in Asia. Many people now believe that the similarities between Buddhism and Christianity are due to the influence of the Nestorianism in Asia.

It is evident when reading many Buddhist teachings that there are many

similarities between Christianity and Buddhism. Similarities between Christianity and Buddhism are evident in every sect of Buddhism, but are strongest seen in the Pure Land sect of Buddhism. In this essay I will compare the similarities and differences between Pure Land Buddhism and Christianity.

In the largest Pure Land scripture or sutra, composed in India, a story of Amitabha is told. It is said that many eons ago, Amitabha a monk, learned from the eighty-first Buddha about the wonders of immeasurable Buddha Lands. According to the sutra in the second century AD Amitabah vowed to create his own Buddha Lands. He said that he would make them eighty-one times more outstanding than all the other lands. Amitabah who's name means endless life and light vowed that all people would be granted rebirth in these Buddha Lands or "Western Paradise". He also vowed that all people who inhabited these pure lands would have easy entry in to Nirvana. The sutra explains that salvation could be gained by calling on the name of Amitabha with absolute faith in his vow of a pure land. It is said that with absolute faith in Amitabha he would appear at the time of death to lead the faithful to paradise or the pure land.

In China the beginnings of the Pure Land Buddhism can be traced back as far as the fourth century. During the fourth century a well-known scholar named Hui-yuan formed a society of monks who meditated on the name of Amitabha. Hui-yuan a former Taoist promoted this school of Buddhism and in 402 AD he founded the Fellowship pf the White Lotus from which Pure Land School was developed. During the sixth and seventh centuries T'an-luan, Tao-ch'o and

Shan-tao spread the sect of Pure Land Buddhism and are recognized as the first patriarchs of the school.

Monks of the Tendai School later brought the Pure Land teaching to Japan. In 1133 AD Honen was born and at the early age of thirteen he was ordained as a Buddhist monk. Honen spent thirty year in training at the Tendai School on Mt. Hiei where he gained a large knowledge of all forms of Buddhism. At the age of forty Honen broke away from his Tendai teaching and began to write the foundations of Pure Land Buddhism. Honen completed his work in 1175 AD and began to preach the faith of Pure Land. As a result of Honen simple religion of hope he became exceptionally popular. His popularity was achieved because his genuine heart and personal appeal. His tremendous popularity created controversy and political unrest and he was deported from his home from 1207 AD till he was allowed to return in 1211 AD. After his return he died a year later with a following that increased due to his persecution.

After Honen's death his disciples continued to preach the new school of Buddhism. Pure Land Buddhism also known as Jodo grew in numbers at a large rate. Previously Buddhism was more of a spectator religion, but now people committed to this new faith that had relevance to their everyday lives.

One of Honen's main disciples Shinran was the founder of one of the largest sects of Pure Land Buddhism. This sect was known as Jodo Shinshu or True Pure Land Buddhism. Shin Pure Land Buddhism continues to exist today as one of the largest sects of True Pure Land Buddhism.

Currently there are a number of different schools and sects of Pure Land Buddhism around the world. Each school and sect differ in minor ways but all based upon the same sutra or scriptures. Pure Land



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