The life of religious figures is commonly marked by extraordinary events, which happen as soon as their conception. The Buddha’s and the Christ lives are no different. What follows is a brief comparison highlighting the most notorious similitudes and differences between their lives and teachings.
Jesus, the Christ, was born from Mary, though she was still pure, in other words, “the son of man” is actually no son of man, as he was not conceived the same way that men are. Siddhartha, the Buddha, was, likewise, miraculously conceived; his mother carried him without suffering any pain from deflowering. Angels or prophets announced both figures signaling to others the ultimate destiny of each of them. However, while the Buddha came to the world without knowledge of his final destination –for him the world was a grove of pleasures until he became acquainted with the fragility of life; the Christ had his final endeavor clear since he was a child. This is seen when, after becoming lost he is found in the temple and says “’Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’” (Christian scriptures 229).
The clearest differences between the lives of both figures lies in the road towards the realization of enlightenment (for the Buddha) and sacrifice (for the Christ). Correspondingly, their teachings differ in this crucial factor; however, the rest of their lives is strikingly similar. After the Buddha is exposed to the fragility and decay of human life, he detaches from the life of pleasure and occupies himself in looking for a way to become finally separated from the eternal cycle of decay, for he says “’. . . turn back the chariot! This is no time to or place for excursions…” (Buddhist scriptures 53).
The Christ, on the other hand, has the way laid out for him, his is not a quest of finding the truth, rather, it is a quest to make others recognize the truth. Therefore, while the Buddha teaches calmness and meditative insight in order to balance mundane pleasures, the Christ heightens and praises the Lord as the fountain of truth and well-being. For the first, the ultimate teacher is oneself, while for the latter, the Lords always has the last word.
Both the Buddha and the Christ face against dangers and temptations in the road to the fulfillment of their destiny; these temptations took the form of the most significant raw emotions in the case of the Buddha and of the most appealing figures of power in the case of the Christ. The objective of the temptations was to make the first falter in his quest, and to make the second negate his father, the Lord. Nonetheless, both remained steadfast, centered on their ultimate quests.
When the Buddha died, he regarded his words as the only teacher his disciples might need, furthermore, these words –his teachings– were clear in their skeptical attitude towards figures of power, claiming that each person should ascertain its truth by him or herself (Buddhist scriptures 62). However, endless questioning is ill advised, for the Buddha was clear in stipulating that in doing so life passes without accomplishing anything. The central teaching of the ways of the Buddha was that of the middle way, the balance between sensual devotion and self-devotion, only in it lies true happiness and the possibility of the happiness of the many.
The Christ, on the other hand, creates his most astonishing miracles after his death; his rebirth, seen as the mark of one that is the son of God, allows him to give the final teachings to his disciples. Central amongst these teachings is the idea of love and the notion that even the sinner should be equally loved –if not more so– as it is the only way they have to attain redemption (Christian scriptures 262). Moreover, this truth comes from the Lord and, therefore, not open to questioning. This is in accordance to some of the sayings of the Christ, that ask for believers to deposit their faith in him and his father, the Lord, as beings, rather than in their general teachings, as the Buddha did.
As remarked before, the main difference between the teachings of the Buddha and the Christ lies in their relation with figures of power, while the former is skeptical of them, the latter encourages followers and believers to place the Lord as a figure of power whose words are absolute. Nonetheless, their lives, as recorded from the sources cited at the bibliography, do not appear remarkably different, on the contrary, they are strikingly similar.