Islam and Buddhism:
A Brief Comparative Study of Two Ways of Life
By: Zabie Mansoory
December 12, 2009
Before one can partake in a comparative study of Islam and Buddhism, there must be an understanding of religion through a non-traditional lens. Today, practices of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and other religions are placed into a framework, consisting of a textual reference, a code of ethical and moral behavior, and a physical place of devotion or expression. This organization may be due to didactic utility. However, another depth of understanding will take place once the categories and boundaries of such utility are lifted. To understand the two great religions and ways of live better, it takes more than the amount of time I have to prepare this paper. In the interest of time, I will compare moral values, ethics, concept of human being, attitude towards war and violence and finally attitude towards women in both Islam and Buddhism.
Morality, or Sila in Buddhism, is the foundation necessary for the development of mediation and wisdom. (Thompson, 51). Although there is little focus on “fixed rules,” Buddhists still try to follow basic moral precepts, (Thompson, 51), five of which are: to avoid killing, stealing, misuse of the sense, false speech and intoxication. These precepts arise from another philosophy that promotes utility in some respects. In a constantly changing atmosphere, the definitions of “right” and “wrong” change based on the environment. The terminology used therefore, to describe this phenomenon, is skillful versus unskillful. (Ibid) The action is skillful or unskillful depending in the result of the action. For example, if the action promotes love, then it can be considered skillful.
The Dalai Lama says, “When we speak of… inner discipline, it can of course involve many things, many methods. But generally, speaking, one begins by identifying those.
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Buddhism vs. Islam
While Buddhists have been around for much longer than Islamic people have been, the population behind Islam is far greater than that behind Buddhism. They both originated in Asia and maintain peaceful lifestyles. Buddhist and Islamic people both maintain very moral, ethical lifestyles, but the reasons behind their behavior differ greatly. While that area of their lives may be fairly similar, at least from an outside perspective, their views in categories such as theology and afterlife show astounding gaps in view points. Buddhists don't really believe in Gods, while Muslims practice monotheism, where an all-powerful Deity known as Allah holds them responsible for their deeds. Muslims believe that once they die, they go up to jannah (heaven) where they will be held accountable for their actions throughout their lives. Buddhist look at death from a completely different angle, where they believe a person is reborn until they have reached enlightenment, in which the samsara ends and they have finally reached Nirvana.
The samsara is the process a Buddhist goes through in order to attain enlightenment. He follows a process known as the eight-fold path that gives him the ability to overcome desire and ignorance, and consequently achieve the enlightened state known as Nirvana. While these religions may have certain similarities in areas, the differences between their ideas on theology, afterlife, and ethical behavior differ greatly, and make for two distinct religions.
Buddhism is a religion based on the idea that life, or multiple lives, are one long quest to end suffering. They hold onto four noble truths, which if followed allow one to achieve nirvana. The fourth noble truth speaks of the eight-fold path one must take in order to reach nirvana, and.Citation styles:
Religion is defined as "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God". There are many recognised religions of the world, which all teach its followers to live life "the right way", whose definition varies according to the religion itself. They have some beliefs and practices that distinguish themselves from each other. Some examples are differences and similarities of Buddhism and Islam.
Buddhism originated from India, and was founded by Prince Siddharta Gautama, who later came to be known as Buddha, or the enlightened one. Born of a princely caste, he later renounced his comfortable life in search for nirvana. In order to do that, he joined a band of ascetic, who was a group of Hindu priests. In his teaching, the Buddha taught his followers to follow "the middle way", that is, not the way of extreme asceticism. He attained full understanding of the nature of being by meditation and after his success, decided to impart his knowledge to those who follow him.
Islam, on the other hand, started in Mecca, where Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) was born. He was believed to be that last nabi (messenger) that Allah will give to the world. The religion was not well accepted in its city of origin though, due to the opposition the Prophet faced as a nascent community. Later, he was invited to Medina and Islam expanded from there.
Both these religions have basic beliefs that are relatively different from each other. Buddhists on one hand believe in karma, rebirth, dharma and moksa. Karma is "cause, effect and the law which equilibrates the two". It is the consequences of every action, whether good or bad. This action-reaction may take effect anytime, may be in the current life or not. Rebirth is inter-connected with karma. If one did more good things than bad in his life, his karma will lead him to a life of better condition than the previous one. Dharma is the basic concept of the religion; that is the Buddhist teaching, also meaning the nature of existence. Lastly, moksa refers to the renunciation of the world, which is parallel to the Hindu belief in the importance of asceticism and meditation.
In addition, Buddhism places emphasis on the Four Noble Truths, which is the teaching of Buddha, a guide to enlightenment. These are a set of guidance that basically teaches the followers of Buddha the essence of.
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Nigosian S. 1987, Islam: The Way of Submission, London, Crucible, pp. 21-27, 153-172.
Pearsall, J. (ed) 1999, The Concise Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press, New York, p. 1209.
Rippin A. 1990, Muslims, Their Religious Beliefs and Practices Volume 1: The Formative Period, Routledge, London and New York.
Robinson B.A. 1 Mar 2000 (last update), Islam, Hp. Online. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. Available:
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