Buddhism vs Christianity: Diffusion Essay
Christianity and Buddhism are two very different religions.
It’s not surprising how they diffused and spread from one place, class, or person took different turns. Christianity began covertly, with secret cults and meetings; while Buddhism, from the beginning, agreed with the native religion, allowing it to be accepted in society and spread through monasteries and schools. However, they both did become incredibly popular and proliferate. There are multiple arguments that can be taken on to explain the differences in diffusion during this time period.
Politically, Christianity posed a greater threat to the Jews than the Buddhists to the Hindus. Economics also played a role; Buddhism had the silk roads to travel and spread through. Religiously, Christianity and Buddhism were able to eventually appeal to multiple classes. It is observed that while both began ascetically, they evolved to fit the religious needs of different social classes and degrees of wealth. The political situation of a country can affect religion. A political advantage is a huge advantage.
Christianity did not become a majority religion until it gained political power; namely, with Constantine.Before so, Christianity was a minority–and in some cases persecuted. Rome was a large civilization, and when Constantine legalized and adopted Christianity, it spread to all the lands Rome had conquered–not only Italy or the immediate area of Rome. This greatly expanded the monotheistic Christianity through a pagan empire, gaining converts. You can also note political advocation for Buddhism from Ashoka as an example of the entertwining of politics and religion. Ashoka was a devout Buddhist who wished to spread his faith throughout the world. He built residences for Buddhist minks and donated to “viharas” and “mathas. He inspired monks to compose religious texts and constructed great monuments to the religion.
It is seen that these two religions both benefitted greatly through control of political power, or possessing a poltical advocate. In Buddhism’s case it was king Ashoka, in Christianity’s case it was emporer Constantine. Economics also play a heavy role in the diffusion of and conversion to a religion. Trade routes, merchants, and missionaries are largely responsible for the spread of religion. In particular, the Silk Roads were used to spread Buddhism. The Silk Roads did not only carry silk, paper, and goods.It carried philosophies, ideas, and moral beliefs. Among these, was Buddhism.
Later on, Christianity was spread among the same roads. Both religions used trade as a factor for gaining converts, though the method differed. Buddhism was generally spread through merchants expressing their faith, through the observance of monks, or monasteries that were used as inns. Christianity was based more on missionaries and merchants openly trying to spread their faith. For example, Buddhists established a presence in oasis towns that heavily depended on trade. These towns allowed Buddhists to build monastaries and host travelers and merchants.When these guests would stay at these monastaries, often the Buddhist faith was adopted.
Christian diffusion was mainly through the efforts of zealous Nestorian missionaries. Sometimes, the religion itself is better suited for diffusion. Buddhism and Christianity both had appeal. Buddhism appealed to those who wished to escape the cycle of incarnation without having to rely on brahmin priests. Buddhism also did not acknowledge the caste system, which was very important to the lower castes. In Buddhism, native or more commonly spoken tongues were also used in favor of the tongue of the vedas used in brahmin ceremonies.This made it easier to understand Buddhism.
When comparing the two religions, you realize that in the earl beginnings of both, they began ascetically. Early Buddhists lived very ascetically, through living in monastaries. Early Christinaity also required to live in this manner. Despite the simple lifestyles these religions started out with, through time you see them change to fit the lifestyles of different classes. Originally these religions appealed mostly to the poor who sought salvation. Later, they became much more powerful and needed to mold around the wealthy religious.Buddhist monastaries began to accept money from rich patrons, and Christianity did not require an ascetic lifestyle. Both of these religions evolved along with the people.
Politics, economy, as well as the religion itself are factors for the success of diversion. Christianity could not become a major religion until gaining political power. Buddhist monks used the trade routes for strategic placement of monastaries, while Christians used them to carry missionaries. And the fact that both of these religion diffused shows us that they were willing to adapt.