Thank you to Sherab Dorje and uan for your helpful responses to my post.
Sherab Dorje wrote:
papaya wrote:Buddhists believe in an impersonal entity, immanent in all existence, a life force, enlightened consciousness.
That sounds suspiciously like Pantheism, rather than Buddhism.
As to Sherab Dorje's remarks:
Pantheism literally means "the belief that God is in all things." Pantheism becomes anathema only to those who hold that there is only one God, a supreme being, supernatural, eternal (outside of time) and infinite (without limits). In Buddhism there can be no pantheism because there is no God as just described. When something is immanent, it is within being. When Buddhists speak of enlightenment, for example, they refer to the awareness of light (knowledge) from within
, not from above
. The Buddha was enlightened to the reality of all existence. Most Christians believe in the doctrine of the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit; that is, that the Third Person of the Holy Trinity lives within the heart, mind, and soul of the believer. When Lotus Sutra Buddhists speak of the Mystic Law, for example, they are referring to a force or a principle that is within (immanent) all reality, not some being that comes from without (eminent).
What is the difference between a Christian and a Buddhist? . .
In a way, your categories are far too broad. There are huge differences in beliefs among Buddhists (Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana) that are as different as the 3 major religions that come out of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which have also all come from the same source, but have taken very divergent paths. Within Christianity, there are huge differences where one wonders if the different traditions believe in the same thing. Which is similar to the different traditions within Mahayana or Vajrayana.
If you remove the external trappings of the different faiths, there's actually quite a bit of overlap to be found among some Christian (as well as Judaism/Islam) and some Buddhist traditions. In certain circumstances, you could have a Buddhist and a Christian that are very close in their beliefs and have more in common than they would have with some other Buddhists or Christians.
As to uran's remarks:
I completely agree with all of your remarks; however when you say that my "categories are far too broad," I must point out that I am responding to the question as posed originally on this sight. In light of your fine and concise exposition of how difficult it is to compare Christianity and Buddhism, I should like to add a bit more to my original remarks.
First of all, as stated, I am referring to fundamental
differences between Christians. To me, fundamental means the bedrock upon which a belief system rests.
The question of whether the world was created in time (temporal) or whether it simply has always existed and will exist forever (eternal) is a philosophical question, actually two. The questions of whether there is a God or not, and if there is, is that God personal or impersonal, and that if there isn't a God, what accounts for the existence of this world, are also philosophical questions. In addition, they can be theological questions.
Doing philosophy starts with a premise or set of premises. For example, the premise that the world was created in time by a Supreme Eternal Being (God). A premise, of course, by its very definition is a given. As scientists know, there is no way to prove whether the world is temporal or eternal. The scientist would say that such a question is not for the scientist but for the philosopher or the theologian.
I have wrestled with the question of the fundamental differences between Christians and Buddhists for over 50 years. The question is important to me for two reasons: I was born into a Catholic family and practiced Christianity until I started practicing Buddhism in 1984, when I was 45 years old. Often I would be asked why I converted to Buddhism. The question is now important to me because I have retired to Thailand, a Buddhist country, where I am asked the same question, but from the other side of the table, as it were. There's one other fundamental difference I have determined between Christian and Buddhist belief, and that is the fact that Christians believe in revealed truth
(through the prophets and the incarnated God, Jesus), whereas Buddhists trust reason
and the ability of humans to wake up to the reality of all existence which dwells within the very heart, soul, mind, and intellect of human beings.