Most Christians have a passing familiarity with the major holidays and notable dates in other religions’ calendars—Jewish holidays like Hanukkah are well-known, as is the Islamic observance of Ramadan. Similarly, most Christians have at least a basic knowledge of those religions’ basic beliefs.
But how much do you know about what Buddhists believe? Do you know how the claims of Buddhism compare and contrast with Christianity’s?
February is a fitting time to learn more about Buddhist beliefs, since it’s when many Buddhists celebrate Parinirvana Day, the day that, they believe, Buddha died and achieved complete Nirvana. A good place to start is an article on the basic beliefs of Buddhism from Campus Life, which also identifies points of similarity and difference between Buddhism and Christianity. A short article at Answers to Tough Questions explains how Buddhist beliefs differ from Christianity.
If you’re interested in further reading, J. Isamu Yamamoto has written a more in-depth article on how Christians should understand and respond to Buddhism in North America (and the article points out that there are different branches within the umbrella of Buddhism, so Christians who’ve studied up on one branch shouldn’t assume they know everything there is to know). Christianity Today has a short discussion of theological issues within Tibetan Buddhism, and an accompanying collection of articles for additional reading. And of course, you can’t beat Wikipedia for sheer volume of information about Buddhist history and beliefs.
So this month, as Buddhists around the world commemorate Buddha’s life and death, take some time to read up on Buddhist beliefs, and consider how you might share your faith with a Buddhist friend or neighbor.