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AP World History Compare and Contrast: The Spread of Christianity and Buddhism in the End of the Classical Period Essay

Compare and Contrast: The Spread of Christianity and Buddhism in the End of the Classical Period.

World History AP

Christianity and Buddhism are two different religions that developed and spread contemporaneously in during the Classical Period different territories. Both of them share some similarities as well as differences. Both of these religions were founded based upon different principles taught by different people; in Buddhism’s case Gautama Buddha a thinker and in Christianity’s it is Jesus Christ who is a prophet. These two universal doctrines spread in times of chaos, in which citizens of their own territories were looking forward to achieve salvation of any kind. Although alike these two doctrines didn’t have a same concept of what is divinity is nor they spread in the same societies. In Buddhism they started spreading in the Indian society and for Christianity in the Mediterranean society conquered by Rome. Both of these religions were the most influential and important doctrines which spread during the Classical Period.

Christianity was founded during the 1st century C.E, it was based upon the teachings of the Jewish prophet called Jesus Christ. He had many followers who later on wrote in his teachings in latin in a book known as The

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Bible, which is considered by Christian’s to be God’s word. Buddhism was founded by the thinker Siddãrtha Gautama, later on known as Buddha. His teachings were also written in Sanskrit in a book known as The

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Sutras. Buddha’s teachings and principles were called Dharma, he taught the people how to make their way to the Nirvana; which is similar to Christians who also believe in this way of after life but, call it Heaven. Nirvana and Heaven are the places or the state of infinity you reach after you died only if you followed your religion’s principles. For example, in Christianity you are supposed to put God in a position in your life in which he is over everything and, follow his son Jesus’ teachings. In Buddhism happens the same thing, you are supposed to reach the state of Enlightenment by following Buddha’s principles in order to reach the Nirvana.

A thing that appealed the people of the Classical Period about this two religions and led to the spread and evangelization of them was the fact that they both promised their followers salvation. As it is stated in the paragraph before their followers state of salvation was achieved when reaching the Nirvana or Heaven. During the Classical Period people were in a state of chaos, the lower class was losing the lands they used for agriculture, middle class’ trade was being affected, and upper class were losing power. These three different social classes needed the hope of salvation, the one that Buddhism and Christianity could give them. Another thing that appealed about these two religions, specially to the lower class was the Universality of it. You were spiritually equal to Buddha or God no matter what, not even social class or race. Also, both of them were against slavery. At last, was how personal it was. You could directly interact with God or Buddha by praying or meditating, which supposedly will help you and direct you throughout your life.

These two religions had very different concepts about divinity, Christians believed in one only merciful god, while Buddhists believed in Buddha’s divinity known as enlightenment and his teachings. Christians had a very complex concept of what divinity is, they believe in only one god who can be manifested in three different ways, as God himself, throughout his son Jesus Christ and as the Holy Ghost; this is known as the trinity. On the other side, Buddhists believed in Buddha’s teachings and in the possibility of reincarnating like Jesus Christ did. Christians believe that God is the only one who is capable of showing this acts of divinity, while Buddhist believe they are capable of this by meditating.

Christianity’s spread began at the decline of the Roman Empire when Constatine the Great converted himself to Christian and beginning of Byzantine Empire, while Buddhism already existed and was known in the Gupta Empire. Christianity became popular and known throughout the territory occupied by Romans, this means that it spread in what today is known as Europe, North Africa, and West Asia. While Buddhism had spread in India and East Asia. They both developed in very different societies and law systems, the Roman society influenced by Greek had a law system which later on was influenced and related by Christianity; while the Indian society and politics had been majorly influenced by Hinduism rather than Buddhism. At last, women had different roles in both societies, in Roman society there was still a patriarchal society in which men were in control of women, while in Buddhism they were active members both religiously and socially. Buddhist women were capable of reaching high meditation ranks helping their families achieve the enlightenment, while Christian women didn’t actively participate of their religion.

To conclude, both Christian and Buddhist doctrines share similar characteristics like, being founded based on a preacher’s teachings like Buddha’s and Jesus Christ’s. Also, the universal and personal aspects of these two religions and how they promised their followers salvation. On the other hand, they were different too. They spread in different territories with help of commerce and conquests, and had very different and complex definitions of divinity. These were the main and most important religions during the end of the Classical Period.

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