Buddhism and Christianity Occupy Different Realms of the World and Mind..

The best religions unite us. The worst religions divide us. Most do nothing at all—except give a momentary feeling of satisfaction, at a job well done, vindication for following a path, any path, and somehow defining one’s life in the process, even if the changes are subtle.

We can snicker now at the circumstances surrounding the split between the universal Catholic church of Rome, as it splintered into a thousand Protestant denominations—names—as if, ‘What’s the big deal?’ But at the time it was a very big deal, even if the results and ramifications would not be known for a century or two, just like Athens and Rome before it, and those are the lessons, contained in the names, as each country tries to personify itself in the religion of its choice.

But one of my favorite themes is that at its origins and Sunday best, a religion should try to change you into something better, so not necessarily what you want to be, but what you should be, as determined by the high priests of your subconscious. But I’m not sure that works. Has Christianity made Europe and America less violent and aggressive? Good question. Has Buddhism made Asia less possessive and grasping? I’m not sure.

What I am pretty sure of, though, is that it makes us feel better, if only for a day, week, month, or year, and serves as a constant reminder of what we should be doing, even if we fall so unfailingly flat so often. But if our feelings of guilt once pushed us toward religions that chastised us for our failings, now we tend to gravitate toward those that make us feel good in spite of them, best not to even mention them, lest someone should feel a twinge of regret for not doing better.

So at the same time that we now feel less guilty, our societies and families continue in a downward spiral, those who can’t be bothered to improve themselves, at the cost of a moment’s self-sacrifice. And that is a shame, because instant gratification is a cheap trick at best, and a descent into the abyss at worst. And as it is with Christianity, so it is with Buddhism, and other Eastern religions.

Buddhism often gets written up as the export version of Hinduism, and if I can’t really agree with that, there is certainly some circumstantial evidence to support it. What is acknowledged less often is the contribution of the resident Jains, who, at the time of the Buddha, were the inspiration of much of the religious seeking, defining and refining that was going on in India at the time of the Buddha, around the mid-millennium before the time of Christ.

And the same splintering occurred with Buddhism, Hinduism only spared the process, because it was never a doctrine in the first place, and maybe that’s why it was never suitable for export. Ask an Indian. Given sufficient time and circumstances, I think that all religions, despite best original intentions, will devolve into devotion, pure and simple.

Is that what it takes to unite us? If so, then I suppose the only question is: to what are we devoted? Take your pick. When the world is too cold, warm it with your heart. When the world is too cruel, make it kinder. When you are weary, sleep…