Judaism’s members follow their faith as a way to bring them closer to the one and only God. Buddhism, commonly referred to as the world’s oldest living religion, is a religion based on the philosophical study of nature and oneself. Two drastically differing religions that have the exact same goal: Live your life in a way that makes you deserving of the reward that waits for you after this life. What a simple idea, yet confusing. The same goal with two distinct ways in which each believe they will attain it.
This paper will highlight the differences as well as similarities concerning the values each religion lives by, their idea of freedom and what it means, and what both religions feel their purpose is here on Earth. A corner stone for each religion and it’s followers is its set of values and beliefs, providing structure to their faith and way life. Judaism is a religion that is indebted to God, the creator, and focuses on laws and customs to show devotion. By following the Ten Commandments and the 613 Mitzvots, Jews are bringing themselves to God.
The Mitzvots are regulations to live by, primarily concerning the individual. It is a thick rule book of 248 do’s and 365 do not’s that Judaism’s followers focus on. From the synagogue, religious preparations, attire, life happenings, food, and more. All aspects of life are considered and guidelines for each are set forth. It is through heeding these guidelines, that Jews will become godly, God will raise them above all others of the world as his chosen people, and they will become lagoyim (a light to the nations).
This is their reward for their strict adherence to their faith. Similarly, Buddhists have laws that govern life, The Four Noble Truths; the fourth of which is The Eightfold Path. These “rights” lead Buddhists toward the goal of enlightenment and ultimately, Nirvana. Karma, both good and bad, from this life or a previous one, is dependent upon how well one decides to stick to the path based on their actions. “Every action we perform leaves an imprint on our very subtle mind, and each imprint eventually gives rise to its own effect” (Gyatsu, 2008).
Buddhism has an optimistic approach in laying out the values and morals for its followers; The Eightfold Path is a list of 8 things to strive to do right: Right livelihood, right mindfulness, right action, right speech, etc. These things done and understood completely will lead to enlightenment meaning complete understanding. Enlightenment is the goal and nirvana, the reward. Freedom is a common and important thread that is entwined within both of these vastly different faiths. Twice, the sons and daughters of Israel have had their freedom taken from them.
In ancient Egypt, the Hebrew people were enslaved and forced to labor and serve the pharaohs. They were delivered from slavery through God, His prophet and his miracles. On September 15, 1935, The Nuremberg laws passed in Nazi Germany. These laws were designed to restrict the freedom of the Jews leading up to their attempted annihilation. By the end of WWII, 6,000,000 Jews were murdered after first being imprisoned. That was 2/3 of the Jewish population in Europe and 1/3 of the world’s (Berman, 2013).
Their deliverance from slavery in ancient Egypt is celebrated through Passover, which recalls the miracles in Egypt leading to their liberation. Passover, the first of the major Jewish festivals mentioned in the Bible, is observed and celebrated by more Jews than any other holiday in the Jewish calendar (Kolatch, 2000). It symbolizes the ideal of freedom through words and deeds. Freedom for Buddhists is again, philosophical. It is freedom from attachment and desire; freedom from samsara, which is a cycle of suffering and imprisonment which Buddhists wish to escape from.
For Buddhists, the cycle of rebirth is their imprisonment. To quote the Buddha, “Just as there is only one taste in the ocean—the taste of salt—so in Buddhism there is only one taste. The taste of Freedom. ” (Write, 2010). What comes after moksha, the freedom from samsara, is something that is undefined in the Buddhist religion. The uncertainty of what comes next is not something that takes up the time of Buddhism’s followers. The release from karma and rebirth is what is important. Freedom from mortal life, pain and suffering is what is desired. Aside from whom or how Jews or Buddhists worship, or what
they hope to gain at the end of their lives spiritually, each religion has a purpose for why they are on this earth. Delving into Judaism’s history, there is a medieval mystical doctrine called Tikkun Olam. This mystical doctrine speaks of the purpose of Judaism, which is for the repair of the world. It speaks about how all Jews are responsible for one another. The Pesach Seder Celebration also known as Passover, not only commemorates freedom from Egypt, but also reminding practitioners to reach out to the poor, strangers and slaves ( the word slave not only meant in a physical sense, but those who are being oppressed in any way).
Passover reminds Jews that their ancestors were once strangers and slaves in a foreign land while in Egypt. By reaching out and helping those in need, one kind act at a time, the world is becoming a better place. Ultimately, the reparation of the world will come when God raises them above the other nations of the world as his chosen people, and they become lagoyim. In order for them to be a part in the repairing of the world, the Jews must abide by their laws and way of life. Buddhism as well has a purpose similar to that of Judaism. Theirs is working for and achieving social harmony.
“Human beings are not our enemy. Our enemy is not the other person. When we are armed with compassion and understanding, we fight not against other people, but against the tendency to invade, to dominate, and to exploit” (Hanh, 2001). Through good works and spreading wisdom, Buddhism strives to bring peace to the people of the world. This paper covered two religions that predate Christianity. They are both rich in culture, stories, and devotion. Judaism and Buddhism at first glance, are worlds apart concerning lifestyles, practices, beliefs and even attire.
However, those who practice these two religions, live their lives very similarly. They both follow moral and religious values to reach their ultimate goal. The path to that goal as well as the goal itself is what makes each a religion of their very own. Jews have their traditions and Buddhists their karma. “When we do what is good, the goodness of the world meets us and affirms our choice…the notion that I am destined for some terrible fate or that the choices I have already made condemn me to a future I cannot change is here completely negated” (Newman, Schulweis & Kedar, 2010).
Judaism doesn’t value karma-like beliefs just as Buddhism doesn’t value rules, regulations, and traditions concerning God. Although the contexts in which Judaism and Buddhism refer to freedom differ dramatically, it is a major part of both religions. Both religions value and celebrate freedom. In Judaism, freedom is referred to in a physical way, actual freedom from bondage. Buddhist freedom is spiritual. Rebirth is considered to be a punishment. One must find the path and become enlightened to achieve moksha.
When considering the purposes of these two religions while on this earth, they are the same regarding the fact that they both reach out to those in need. Buddhists concentrate on the tasks in the here and now while Judaism focuses on guidelines to live by to fulfill their commitment to God as His chosen people. Their earthly purpose is to follow the rules so they can serve when the time comes to repair the world and the devoted ascend. Both want to see the people of the world better off.