What is sin in Christianity and Buddhism religious perspectives?
All religions have diverse views regarding sin. Some of them share a common opinion as regards to its causes and possible consequences. Despite their difference, Christianity and Islam both agree that sins are acts against God’s laws, and the offenders shall be answerable during judgment. Buddhism and Hinduism, on the other hand, have entirely different views. They do not recognize the existence of God or punishment for not adhering to God’s laws. These differing views lead to the disparities between Christian and Buddhist beliefs. Christianity has the Ten Commandments that outline God’s divine laws. The consequence of going against these laws is death. Buddhism, on the other hand, has the five precepts. Failure to follow the Buddhist precepts will result to impermanence, suffering and uncertainty.
Christians view sin as any act that contravenes the laws of God or His character. Other Christian scholars view sin as the loss of love for God by man, and the emphasis on self-love. Several scriptures from the Christian bible have defined sin and outlined it consequences. The five broad concepts that stand out are sins of commission, omission, mortal, venial and original sin. In the first concept, any action that goes against God’s divine laws is regarded as a sin. The Ten Commandments issued to Moses stipulate God’s laws for man (New Jerusalem Bible, Exd. 20.1-17). The second concept describes failure to perform actions that express God’s character. Failure to practice acts that depict God’s nature, such as expressing unconditional love, is regarded as sin in Christianity.
The third concept is the mortal sin. In Christianity, a mortal sinner is any person who intentionally violates the laws of God. Mortal sins are considered to be extremely grave and detach humans from the kingdom of God. In addition, they have greater weight during judgment. On the other hand, venial sins are unintentionally committed. This fourth concept states that unintentional sins are very light and do not have serious repercussions as compared to mortal sins. The second and third concepts are views mainly held by Catechism of the Catholic Church. The fifth concept refers inherited or imputed sin. Christianity believes that the original sin was committed by Adam and Eve when they ate the forbidden fruit. Their disobedience led to the birth of sin, suffering and death. Christians believe it was the original sin that led to the loss of unrestricted access to God by the human race. The doctrine of original sin is used to explain the ‘Sin of Adam’ or ‘fall of Man.’ The doctrine explains that being descendants of Adam, the entire human race inherited sin from him. In Christianity, humans are born as sinners because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Hence, people commit sin because they inherited the sinful nature at birth.
Most Christian denominations consider all sins are equally wrong. In the bible, God has commanded humans to be holy for He is holy (New Jerusalem Bible, Lev. 11.45). This scripture has been used to set the standard of God’s character. Despite its magnitude, any action that goes against or fall below this standard is considered sinful. However, there are a few denominations believe that sins have weight and their consequences also vary. They also base their argument from the bible. The bible states that some sins merit greater punishment that others (New Jerusalem Bible, Mat. 11.22). Nonetheless, both groups believe that all sins have penalties. In Romans, the bible states that the wages of sin is death (New Jerusalem Bible, Rom. 6.23). Furthermore, Christian theology believes that everybody has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (New Jerusalem Bible, Rom. 3.23). They argue that the only way humans can disassociate themselves from sins committed or inherited at birth, is through redemption in Jesus Christ. Christian theology states that the death of Jesus Christ on the cross was aimed at liberating the human race from the sins of Adam. Since the penalty of sin is death, passing away of Jesus Chris is highly significant in Christianity because it meant that He had died in behalf of all sinners (Van 269).
Buddhists, on the other hand, have a completely different view regarding sin. Most of them have claimed that sin does not exist, and the term has been inappropriately used. They believe that inappropriate actions by people do not offend anybody (God). This view by Buddhists is attributed to the fact that they do not believe in the existence of a Creator. Unlike Christians, Buddhists believe that the consequences of person’s actions will not be judged by God. According to them, these actions will ultimately affect the happiness of the wrongdoer. Unlike the Ten Commandment in Christianity, Buddhism has five precepts that govern its faithful. These precepts act as training guidelines for Buddhists in their quest to achieve enlightenment. However, each of these precepts carries the message of treating everybody with respect and love.
The first Buddhist precept is ‘to abstain from taking life’. This includes injuring or killing people and all animals including insects. However, it excludes plant life. This precept can be translated to the sixth commandment in Christianity, ‘do not kill.’ However, in Buddhism, it has a stronger significance since Christianity allows for sacrifice of animals. ‘Not taking what is not given,’ is the second Buddhist precept. This can be translated to the eighth commandment in Christianity, ‘do not steal.’ The third precept is ‘to refrain from sexual misconduct.’ In Christianity, this is translated the seventh commandment, ‘do not commit adultery.’ ‘The practice of truthfulness’ is the fourth Buddhist precept. The ninth commandment in Christianity, ‘do not lie,’ has a similar message. Finally, the last Buddhist precept is ‘to refrain from drinking fermented and distilled liquors which are intoxicants.’ Even though they might appear alike, the Ten Commandments and the five precepts are completely different in terms of their original intentions and consequences. The Ten Commandments in Christianity are unquestionable laws, and the penalty of misconduct is death. The Buddhist views are entirely different. These precepts are simple guidelines to achieving enlightenment, and the penalty of not adhering to them is impermanence, suffering and uncertainty (BBC 2).
The teachings of Buddha and Jesus Christ are almost similar. They both recognize that there will be consequences for misconduct. Meditation and prayer practiced by both religions also seem very much alike. However, the absence of God in Buddhism resulted to the different perfectives regarding sin and its ultimate consequences. According to Christianity, sins will separate humans from their Creator. Buddhists, on the other hand, believe that inappropriate behavior will stop anybody from attaining enlightenment and hinder the existence of peacefully harmony within the society. The result of sin in Christianity is death while Buddhists believes that misbehavior will only lead to impermanence, suffering and uncertainty. Lack of consensuses regarding the definition of the term sin can be attributed to the different views. Despite these differences, it is crucial for both religions to respect the values held by each side.
BBC. “Buddhism at a glance.” BBC. 17 Nov. 2009. Web. 07 Aug. 2013.
New Jerusalem Bible. Gardners Books, 2010. Print.
Van, Voorst R. E. Anthology of World Scriptures. Boston: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.