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Comparative Philosophy

Comparative studies for philosophy of Life of Christianity and Chinese Buddhism

Hong Xiuping & Sun Yiping
Nanjing University, China

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Chinese Philosophy not only is the fruit of thinking of the Chinese nation, but also is the important component part of world culture. In Chinese philosophy, there are three main parts, that

Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism . Among them, Chinese Buddhism, which came form India, experienced a course of sinicization under the influence of Chinese traditional culture represented mainly by Confucianism and Taoism , so it keeps the general features of Buddhism ,and also formed its Chinese characteristics. The changes of Chinese Buddhism from "going out of this world " to "being in this world " and "building pure land in this world " fully manifested the humanistic spirit of Chinese culture . Both Chinese Buddhism and Western Christianity are religion, but in the realm of thoughts and culture, they are important symbols of Oriental and Western culture. This paper would like to do a brief comparative study for the two schools' philosophy of life, so as to explore the modern meaning and value from the mankind's common culture legacy.

There are many differences between Christianity and Buddhism, for instance: Christianity believes in that all things are created by God, while Buddhism denies the existence of the Creator ; Christianity holds that salvation will be obtained by faith, while Buddhism advocates to be free from world by wisdom . But fundamentally speaking , both Christianity and Buddhism (this paper mainly refers to Chinese Buddhism ) are philosophies to life. They answer the questions of where persons come from and go to , and inquire the nature of life. They demand people to do goodness and remove evils in actual life, so as to make life more meaningful. Both of there theoretical bases are started from the human nature, but something is different :

Christianity believes that God created human begins according to his own figure, so there is goodness in human nature, human begins could unlimitedly tend towards goodness; but in another aspect, human beings betrayed God, so there is evil in human nature, human beings have endless greed and desires. In this way , in actual life, there are often conflicts and struggles between goodness and evil in human nature. So Christianity stresses that human beings should believe in God, and depend on God's power to ensure tending towards goodness, and entering the paradise after their death.

Buddhism, starting from its basic teaching "arising through causation (Pratityasamutpada)", believes that all things are naturally formed from causes and condition (Hetupratyaya), man is also the combination from Five Classifications (Pancaskandha), under given conditions and the result of ignorance (Avidya). As for "man is the result of ignorance", it's a bit similar to Christian "original sin ". but influenced by Confucius "goodness of human nature" and Taoist "return to nature and true ", Chinese Buddhism specially emphasizes the inner basis of "free from world ", and stresses that human nature, which is naturally pure and enlightened but dirty and befuddled because of being hoodwinked by desire. Only when man could see mind and enlighten nature by practicing Buddhism, then he is free from world and become Buddha.

Comparative speaking, both Christianity and Buddhism have the tendency of paying close attention to what happens after man's death, and take man's goodness or evil in this life to decide the fate of man's hereafter. In Buddhism, "life" is the result or retribution from Karma, so its essence is suffering. In Christianity , "life" means leaving the Garden of Eden and coming into man's world , so its essence of course is not happy either. Both in Christianity and Buddhism , the final goal of life directs at the eternal happiness after man's death (in Buddhism , it means being free from samsara ; in Christianity , it means returning to paradise ). So the significance of this life is only to provide ground for the eternal happiness after man's death by means of doing goodness and removing evil in this world . But Christianity lays emphasis on God's final try so that it holds some viewpoints such as "relying on faith for salvation". While starting from the theory of Karma, Buddhism lays emphasis on "suffering from one's own actions" and believes being free from world entirely depends on oneself, which means "relying on self-reliance for salvation", and there is not any external master for man's fate. Although there is Amitabha faith in Buddhism, Which is "others-reliance", yet "other-reliance" is only a subsidiary cause and wouldn't play a decisive role.

Speaking in a certain sense, philosophy of life of Christianity and Buddhism are ethical philosophies. Both their philosophies of life encourage man to tend continuously towards goodness in this life (the ways to tending towards goodness or the standards of utmost goodness are the same "love and benevolent"), and guide man to the moral practice of life which tend towards utmost goodness, and furthermore, provide ultimate philosophical ground for that. As for the significance and roles to actual life, the Oriental and the Western philosophies of life reach the same goal by different routes, both world make human life more meaningful and this world a better one.

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