By Vincent Lyn
SINCE the dawn of mankind, humans have attempted to answer the most complex and perplexing questions of the universe through religious beliefs. Questions such as why are we here? How did we come to be?
Religions worldwide set out a set of moral and ethical guidelines on how one should live and interact with the world. This leads to a vast number of teachings on peace and conflict, how to behave when at war and how to avoid it all together.
Before Buddha, Jesus and Mohammad there was Zoroaster. Some 3,500 years ago, in Bronze Age Iran, he had a vision of the one supreme God. A thousand years later, Zoroastrianism, the world’s first great monotheistic religion, was the official faith of the mighty Persian Empire, its fire temples attended by millions of worshippers. A thousand years after that, the empire collapsed, and the followers of Zoroaster were persecuted and converted to the new faith of their conquerors, Islam. Another 1,500 years later — today — Zoroastrianism is a dying faith, its sacred flames tended by ever fewer worshippers.
Even today’s dominant religions have continually evolved throughout history. Early Christianity, for example, was a truly broad church: ancient documents include yarns about Jesus’ family life and testaments to the nobility of Judas. It took three centuries for the Christian church to consolidate around a canon of scriptures — and then in 1054 it split into the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic churches. Since then, Christianity has continued both to grow and to splinter into ever more disparate groups, from silent Quakers to snake-handling Pentecostalists.
In today’s world, Islam is seen as one of the most violent and war-like religions. However, this is not the case. Many of their ancient scriptures and teachings from the Quran and from their prophet Muhammad talk of avoiding violence at all costs.
On the other side of the coin, Buddhism is seen as one of the most peaceful religions in the world. By all accounts it is. The Buddha preached love and kindness and the ending of all suffering. However, due to political and religious turmoil, many Buddhists have turned to violence and hate. Buddhist monks are now persecuting Muslims in Myanmar.
With Buddhism, there is an emphasis on peace and peaceful living but this comes from a focus on suffering and the ending of all suffering. The Four Nobel Truths are the centre of Buddhism. These truths centre around suffering, the cause of suffering, the end of suffering and how one can end suffering. Within Buddhism, there is a large focus on inner peace or “enlightenment”. Once one reaches enlightenment, you no longer suffer and your aim is to ease the suffering of others by aiding them in their path to enlightenment. The very basis of Buddhist teachings is one of peace. If you wish to end suffering, the most obvious way to do that is to be peaceful.
To learn how Islam strives for peace, you must look to see when it was established and in what political and religious climate. The prophet Muhammad was born into an extremely violent tribal culture. In his thirties, Muhammad experienced “divine revelations” from God which led to the writing of the Quran. In these teachings, Muhammad said that God, or Allah, wished for peace for his people. These teachings also preached patience and kindness. These teachings were alien to pre-Islamic Arabia.
Muhammad advocated a policy of non-violent resistance and like Buddhism, Islamic teachings, at their core, call for peace and patience. The Holy Quran 49:10 states ‘Humanity is but a single brotherhood; so make peace with your brethren.’ The word ‘Islam’ even comes from the world ‘Salam’ meaning ‘peace’.
Today, members and leaders of the Islamic faith actively condemn acts of violence. They speak out against injustices and work together with other Abrahamic faiths in interfaith dialogues to aid the spread of understanding and peace. Muslim communities around the world are working with the federal and state governments to combat the radicalization of Muslim youths.
Obviously, the glaring contradiction is terrorist organizations such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and Boko Haram. However, these organizations do not work in the name of Allah, or in any way embody the teachings of Muhammad. These contradictions result from a misunderstanding and misinterpretation of Islamic text. With all religious text, one must continually re-interpret it as society evolves.
In reality, the Quran is no more violent than the Christian bible, it just so happens that there are groups of people who insist on taking portions of the Quran out of context to fit their radical agenda.
In the modern world, Buddhism works with many people and religions in an effort towards peace. Organizations such as The Soka Gakkai International is a global movement of people who are connected through Buddhism. They attempt to bring a “revolution of peace” to the world. This organization has roots leading back to the Cold War where they rallied against the use of nuclear arms. The then president of the organization, Josei Toda, called for the complete prohibition of all nuclear weapons. The Soka Gakkai organization has always said that open dialogue among the various faiths and cultures is the key to peace. They published dialogues with the former soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev, Indonesian Muslim leader Abdurrahman Wahid, and Chinese writer Jin Yong.
Like Islam, there is still the radical sect of Buddhism who insist on interpreting the sacred texts to suit their own agenda. This is never more obvious than with the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar at the hands of Buddhist monks. The origin of this violence is vague at best and there are disputing claims as to why and when these persecutions began. The persecution included boycotting Muslim business and attacking and killing Muslims.
Some claim that the Buddhists of Myanmar became angry at the influx of Muslim migrants to the country. Others say that the Buddhist monks became angry at the accumulated wealth of the Muslims, effectively blaming them for the poverty of their own people. Whatever the origin, these events show that no religion is immune from violent extremism. But these episodes of violence should in no way over-shadow the good done by other Buddhists and Buddhist organizations.
Through the teachings of Muhammad, Muslims are instructed to be patient, to be kind to those of differing faiths. Buddhists have a similar view. They must not cause suffering and should shy away from violence. Much like Muhammad, they preach non-violent resistance.
Many people would be shocked to think of Islam and Buddhism being comparable in any way and yet if you look closely at their teachings, and their efforts towards peace, they are more similar than one may suspect.
The lives and teachings of the three religious symbols among the religions that are still practiced in the world today have similarities and differences in equal measures. The differences range from the lives of individuals who represented the various religions such as Muhammad for Muslim, Jesus for Christianity and Buddha for Buddhism, their beliefs and teachings to those they represented on how to coexist in life and the destination of human beings after death.
Generally, though we have some similarities between the three religious practices that are popular in the world today, there are some differences that are evidenced by a number of observable features such as the books that the three religious sects use in practicing their beliefs; the Christians use the bible, Muslims use the Quran while Buddha use the Pali. While Christians and Muslims believe in one Supreme Being, God, Buddhists believe in an impersonal life after death also regarded to as Astika. Some of the notable features with regard to the coming into of three religious symbols start from the life before their coming into life, while there is no evidence confirming the coming of Buddha into life, Muhammad had wrote about his coming in the 610AD while Jesus’ coming had been prophesied by a number of prophets who existed before him.
Buddhism and its beliefs
Buddhists do not worship any gods or God. People outside of Buddhism often think that Buddhists worship the Buddha. However, the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) never claimed to be divine, but rather he is viewed by Buddhists as having attained what they are also striving to attain, which is spiritual enlightenment and, with it, freedom from the continuous cycle of life and death.
Most Buddhists believe a person has countless rebirths, which inevitably include suffering. A Buddhist seeks to end these rebirths. Buddhists believe it is a person’s cravings, aversion and delusion that cause these rebirths. Therefore, the goal of a Buddhist is to purify one’s heart and to let go of all yearnings toward sensual desires and the attachment to oneself.
Buddhists follow a list of religious principles and adhere to personal restraint, fasting and very dedicated meditation. When a Buddhist meditates it is not the same as praying or focusing on a god, it is more of a self-discipline. Through practiced meditation a person may reach Nirvana — “the blowing out” of the flame of desire. Buddhism provides something that is true of most major religions: disciplines, values and directives that a person may want to live by.
Christianity and its beliefs
Christians believe in one eternal God who is creator of all that is. He is viewed as a loving God who offers everyone a personal relationship with himself now in this life.
In his life on Earth, Jesus Christ did not identify himself as a prophet pointing to God or as a teacher of enlightenment. Rather, Jesus claimed to be God in human form. He performed miracles, forgave people of their sin and said that anyone who believed in him would have eternal life.
Followers of Jesus regard the Bible as God’s written message to humankind. In addition to being an historical record of Jesus’ life and miracles, the Bible reveals his personality, his love and truth, and how one can know and relate to God, as you could a friend.
Christians believe that all people sin, including themselves. They see Jesus as their Savior, as the Messiah who was prophesied by all the prophets of the Old Testament, in the Bible. They believe that Jesus Christ, out of love for us, paid for the sin for all of humanity by dying on a cross. Three days later, he rose from the dead as he promised, proving his deity.
Islam and its beliefs
Muslims believe there is the one almighty God, named Allah, who is infinitely superior to and transcendent from humankind. Allah is viewed as the creator of the universe and the source of all good and all evil. Everything that happens is Allah’s will. He is a powerful and strict judge, who will be merciful toward followers depending on the sufficiency of their life’s good works and religious devotion. A follower’s relationship with Allah is as a servant to Allah.
Though a Muslim honors several prophets, Muhammad is considered the last prophet and his words and lifestyle are that person’s authority. To be a Muslim, one must follow five religious duties: 1. Repeat a creed about Allah and Muhammad; 2. Recite certain prayers in Arabic five times a day; 3. Give to the needy; 4. One month each year, fast from food, drink, sex and smoking from sunrise to sunset; 5. Pilgrimage once in one’s lifetime to worship at a shrine in Mecca. At death — based on one’s faithfulness to these duties — a Muslim hopes to enter Paradise. If not, they will be eternally punished in hell.
For many people, Islam matches their expectations about religion and deity. Islam teaches that there is one supreme deity, who is worshiped through good deeds and disciplined religious rituals. After death a person is rewarded or punished according to their religious devotion. Muslims believe that giving up one’s life for Allah is a sure way of entering Paradise.
It is safe to say, that the goal for every religion is to reach a state of peace, whether it’s inner-peace, or world peace. The radical sects of some religions do not speak for these religions as a whole, and the majority of adherents of these religions are appalled at the things done in the name of, Buddha, Jesus and Allah.
CEO/Founder at We Can Save Children
Director of Creative Development at African Views Organization
Economic & Social Council at United Nations
Middle East Correspondent at Wall Street News Agency
Rescue & Recovery Specialist at International Confederation of Police & Security Experts