For over centuries, the term religion has been used interchangeably in close relations with faith, set of duties, system or set of beliefs. In 2012, a global poll reported that approximately 62% of the world's population relies on religious beliefs while 38% are not religious (does not belong to any religion), including 10% who are atheists. Religion is a collection of organized cultural systems, beliefs, and views of the contemporary world, which relate humanity to the order of existence. A number of religions encompass symbols, sacred histories and symbols, which intend to expound the meaning of life and/or clarify the origin of the Universe, as well as the existing life in it. Every religion may have an organized set of behaviors and clergy, as well as the description of what constitutes membership or adherence, the scriptures and holy places. According to the 2012 report on religion by the global poll, there are approximately 4,000 diverse religions on the entire globe. However, this paper explores two religions-Judaism and Buddhism. It covers the major concepts and aspects of these religions, possible differences, beliefs and life perception, as well as their historical contexts.
Judaism is one of the prehistoric religions that still exist today. This religion began as a religion of a small nation of Hebrews, and through centuries of suffering, dispersion, persecution, and occasional victories, it continue to be an influential and profound religion, as well as culture. Currently, approximately 15 million people who identify themselves as Jewish community, belong to this religion. The modern Judaism is a multifarious phenomenon, which incorporates both religion and nation and habitually combines stern adherence to the ritual laws, but with an attitude that is liberal towards religious beliefs. Van Voorst (2007) elicits that this religion is monotheistic, with its foundation strongly relying upon a foundational text known as the Torah; also widely recognized as the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh. Religious Jews consider Judaism to be a covenantal expression of the relationship that God established with the descendants of Israel. Judaism encompasses a broad-based corpus of practices, texts, theological positions, as well as the varied forms of organization. There exists a diversity of movements, which mostly emerged from the Rabbinic Judaism. The Rabbinic Judaism holds that God revealed his commandments and laws through Moses on the Sinai Mountain, both in written form and oral Torah (Esposito, 2008).
Currently, the most common Judaism or Jewish religious movements include Conservative Judaism, Reform Judaism, and Orthodox Judaism (Orthodox Judaism and Haredi Judaism). The principle differences among these groups relies the type of approach they give to the Jewish laws, rabbinic traditions, and the connotation of the Israel State. The Orthodox Judaism holds that both the Jewish Laws and Torah have divine origins hence they are unalterable and external, and thereby should be followed strictly (Esposito, 2008). On the other hand, Reform and Conservative Judaism are quite liberal, with Conservatives encouraging more traditional interpretations of Judaism's necessities than the Reformists. The position of a typical Reform Judaism views the Jewish laws as a set of open guidelines rather than just a set of obligations or restrictions observed by all Jews. Judaism traces its historical origin about 3,500 years ago, with its roots structure within the Middle East during the Bronze Age. It is the foundation of the three original Abrahamic faiths, which as well involves Islam and Christianity. The Israelites/Hebrews were already known as the "Jews" within the later books Tanakh, such as the Book of Esther, which replaced the title "Children of Israel" by the term Jews. Thereafter, the Judaism values, texts, and traditions had a great influence over the Abrahamic religions, including the Baha'i, Islam and Christianity.
Jews believe in a solitary God who did not only create the universe, but also with whom each Jew can develop both inter-personal and intra-personal relationships. They believe that God rules the entire universe, with His mighty works affecting every individual's daily activities. Their relationship with their God is a covenant relationship in which they worship Him in exchange of the prodigious deeds He has done and that He continues to do among the Jewish community. According to Van Voorst (2007), this religion entails much of a family's faith in God and the witnessing of its ceremonies begin when a Jewish baby son is circumcised at the age of eight days following the instructions given to Abraham by God around 3,900 years ago. Judaism thereby has a history of its religious texts, which most importantly centers on the most vital religious document- Torah, interpreted by spiritual leaders known as Rabbis (Van Voorst,2007).
Hebrew Bible, Tanakh, Nevi'im, or Ketuvim are acronyms for Torah. However, Torah is the recognition name for the first five books- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, which also refers to as the Pentateuch. Nevi'im and Ketuvim are books of prophecy, poetry, history, and any other sacred documentation. Moreover, the Oral Torah is known as Talmud, which comprises the interpretation on Torah and rabbinical commentaries. Judaism followers worship in sacred places known as Synagogues (Esposito, 2008). The Jews observe Sabbath as a holy day that helps in keeping the laws and customs. It begins at the nightfall of Friday until the nightfall of Saturday hence lasts approximately 24 hours. In order to observe the sacredness and specialty of this day, the Jews avoid work by ensuring that all chores such as cleaning, shopping, cooking and any other work is complete before the Friday's sunset.
Buddhism is a religion of approximately 350 million individuals across the entire globe. This religion draws its title from the term "Budhi," which literally means "to awaken." It traces its origin about 2,500 years ago when Gotama Siddhartha- known as Buddha, awakened himself (got enlightenment) at the age of 35 years. Several religious records reveal Buddhism to go beyond the limits of a religion hence becoming more of a philosophy, idea, viewpoint or way of life than a religion. Elaborately, philosophy means the love of wisdom, and its path can be summed up as "to lead a moral life, be aware and mindful of human thoughts and actions, and develop understanding and wisdom. Siddhartha Gotama was born and raised in a royal family within Lumbini- currently located in Nepal, during 563 BC. At the age of 30, Siddhartha realized that luxury and wealth could not guarantee happiness in human life. He thereby sacrificed a significant part of his life exploring teachings from the diverse world religions, which existed by then in order to find the basics of human happiness. Upon seven years of meditation and study, Siddhartha finally got enlightened and achieved his success in tracing the middle path of his study. Thereafter enlightenment, Siddhartha / Buddha spent the remaining part of his life in teaching and spreading the principles of his outcomes- known as Buddhism (called the Truth, or Dhamma) until his death at 80 years of age.
As opposed to Judaism, Buddhists neither believe that Siddhartha Gotama was a God, nor do they claim him to be. They have certainty that he was just a man who sacrificed a precious part of his life to teach the path of human life, thereby gaining enlightenment from his personal experience. At times, Buddhists pay respect to idols and images of Buddha, neither in worship of him nor to ask for any favor. Esposito (2008) elicits that bowing to the statue of Buddha simply implies the expression of gratitude for his wise and knowledgeable teachings.The statue of Buddha gently rests his (its) hands on the lap and gives a compassionate smile, which simply reminds Buddhists to strive for developing love and peace amongst themselves.
According to Esposito (2008), Buddhism firmly holds its roots to a spiritual tradition, which focuses on an individual's spiritual development, as well as the attainment of a deeper insight into the actual nature of life. Buddhists believe that life is endless and is a subject to impermanence, uncertainty and suffering. This state of life refers to as the three signs of existence, or tilakhana. Therefore, existence is endless due to individuals' habitual reincarnations over and over, thereby experiencing suffering throughout human life. There is no belief in a personal god. Buddhism is built on four noble teachings contained within the teachings of Buddha who declared that suffering, its path, cessation, and origin to be part and parcel of human life (Esposito, 2008). It was upon the principles of these four noble truths that Buddha created a concrete understanding during his introspection under the Bodhi tree: (i) Dukkha- the truth of suffering, (ii) Samudaya- the truth of the foundation of suffering, (iii) Nirodha- the truth of cessation of suffering, and (iv) Magga -- the truth of the path towards cessation of suffering. Buddhists regularly compare Buddha to a physician. Within the first two noble truths, Buddha diagnosed the suffering problem and recognized its cause. In the third noble truth, he realized that there is at least a cure…