Catholics and Buddhism


An evangelical friend of mine heard that I was considering converting to Catholicism and told me that it was man’s way of reaching God, much like Buddhism which tries to reach Nirvana. I didn’t understand what he meant but he explained that much in the same way people go to a temple (church), there are monks, there are steps, prayer beads, and that one must earn salvation. He sees it as religion through and through, not a personal relationship with the Father.

I didn’t know what to make of this, but I am sure it’s because he has little interest or little knowledge in what the Catholic Church teaches. I will be beginning RCIA soon, so I will find out more, but he has to be wrong, right? I think he, like a lot of protestants, just see the CC as religious in nature.


i will tag @rossum


Your friend does not understand Catholic teaching if he thinks we teach that one must earn their salvation. And I’ve always hated it when people said, “it’s a relationship, not a religion”. It is religion. Whether you’re Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, etc. it’s a religion. Religion and relationship are not mutually exclusive, in fact one stems from the other.


Buddhist teachings don’t even believe in God. There are Gods in Buddhist writings but they aren’t same God we believe in. They are merely used as another example of beings suffering like us except in a divine realm , so they’re not much different from us in that they suffer but only differ in realm

Nirvana is ending cycle of being countlessly reborn over & over. Buddhists believe we’ve all been reborn so many times that every human you see was your mother in a past life. Nirvana is achieving a state where you stop this endless cycle of being reborn. If you have bad karma in this life, they believe you’re reborn in less favorable circumstances in next life

Completely different to Catholic teaching on heaven, purgatory, etc. Also completely different in that we all have to do God’s will as expressed by Jesus in Gospel & do sacraments.


I lived with Tibetan monks for a year. I can assure you there is no similarity between Buddhism and Catholicism. Yet, many westerners, even Catholics, draw an erroneous conclusion that these religions are compatible based on the mere comparison of externals.

Indeed, I have know westerners who believe they practice Buddhism, or a blend of Buddhism and Catholicism, but are only going through the motions since they still think with a western perspective. Such imitation, without a truly formed spirituality and intellectual formation, always lacks authenticity.

The same can hold true for those converting to Catholicism. For the convert always runs the risk of settling for externals of the faith over true substantive spiritual growth and true Catholic identity.


I am looking for that substantive spiritual growth, not externals. That is why I am leaving protestant evangelicalism. Something always told me that there is more to it than just getting saved and reading the Bible (sola scriptura). When I began reading St Augustine, it started to click with me that this man was a devout Catholic.

How can one best describe the synergistic process of salvation to a non-Catholic? Through the sacraments, attending mass, etc? What are “works” to Catholics in the faith + works?


The process of salvation, for Catholics, is best described without words. For words alone are often empty, and once heard, are soon forgotten. But actions, especially actions which express the Gospel, are not easily forgotten. This is why the Catholic Faith is so full of signs and symbols. For this silent language reminds us constantly that we must express the Gospel through the actions of our lives. In this way, we too, become sign and symbol proclaiming to all what Christ has done, and is doing, for the world.


That’s amazing.


Christianity and Buddhism are similar at the external level:

To avoid all evil,
to cultivate good,
and to meditate -
this is the teaching of the Buddhas.

– Dhammapada 14:5

The first two are essentially the same in both religions, though Buddhism only has five rules, not ten commandments; it leaves out the ones about God. For the second: “Love others as you love yourself.” – the Buddha.

One of the advantages of Catholic/Orthodox Christianity is that is has preserved more of the meditation part of the religion than many Protestant groups. See Saying the Jesus Prayer for a good example of Christian meditation that is similar to some Buddhist techniques.

However, the internal Buddhology/theology of Buddhism is very different from the Abrahamic religions. Gods are of relatively little importance. You yourself created the world you are living in through your own accumulated karma from previous lives. No god can attain nirvana for you, it is something you have to do for yourself.



We’ll make a Zen Buddhist of you yet. :smiley:

Then the Bodhisattva Manjushri said to Vimalakirti, “We have all given our teachings, noble sir. Now, may you elucidate the teaching of the the entrance into the principle of nonduality.”

Thereupon Vimalakirti kept his silence, saying nothing at all.

The Bodhisattva Manjushri applauded Vimalakirti: “Excellent! Excellent, noble sir! This is indeed the entrance into the nonduality of the Bodhisattvas.”

– Vimalakirtinirdesa sutra, Chapter Nine



Contrary to what others have claimed in this thread so far, authentic Buddhism and authentic Catholicism are identical in essence, though obviously the theological concepts, the outward form, and the community feel are quite different. The trouble is that Westerners are exposed to a modern re-interpretation of Buddhism that is radically different from what Buddhism is in the minds of “native” Buddhists, i.e. those who are born and raised Buddhists.

This problem is nearly impossible to fix. As a Westerner you can fly across the world and sit in a monastery somewhere in the Orient, but what you’ll be taught (and especially how you’ll be taught) will still be tailored to your foreign background. Besides, it is difficult to undo the prejudices that the Westerner typically takes in before he travels East. Simple example: for any native Buddhist, the practical backbone of Buddhism are its basic ceremonies: kneeling, prostration, prayer, offerings, etc. That is where and how Buddhism starts if you grow up in a Buddhist nation. For a foreigner, much though he may learn to practice these rituals also, Buddhism typically starts conceptually: noble truths, eightfold path, three characteristics, etc. The Westerner typically ends up tacking the rituals onto a theoretical core that he has subconsciously already taken to be Buddhism’s essence. But the truth is that the rituals are much closer to Buddhism’s core and that the theoretical concepts are tacked-on; they didn’t even exist in their current form until the 18th century.

Anyway, my rant aside, authentic Buddhism’s goal is Salvation. Authentic Catholicism’s goal is Salvation. There is no difference, much though Catholics will insist otherwise. And while we’re at it, Islam’s goal is Salvation, Hinduism’s goal is Salvation, Jainism’s goal is Salvation, Sikhism’s goal is Salvation, Bahai’s goal is Salvation, etc. etc. I’m not saying all religions are equally good for anyone – they aren’t. I’m saying they are the same in essence. Best to stick with what you grew up with, unless the call to change becomes extremely strong and you are ready to deal with the massive consequences of conversion.


I’m interested to know more about your thoughts in this regard if you would be so kind.


I have often thought that the wisest man would say nothing at all but we are asked to spread the gospel of the Lord and do we love our neighbour best by ignoring him?


Well, this being a Catholic forum an all, I guess I’ll be the one to say that this: no, it’s not best to stick with what you grew up with; it’s best to become Christian and enjoy the fullness of God’s revelation to us.


I like that answer!
Though I will follow Christs teachings. :blush:


Rossum and Roguish, I think the external similarities are why my protestant friend thinks that Catholicism is like Buddhism, in that they’re ritualistic attempts to reach something, whether it be a state of Nirvana, or God. He knows they differ internally, and that their theologies are quite different.

Protestants like to think that they have some non-ritualistic, spiritual relationship with God that doesn’t count as religion. They see it as God’s attempt to reach man. I think this is due to their monergistic belief in salvation. So the works is just an outward expression of God working through them.

In my opinion, they think this way now because of the historical trajectory of the Protestant reformation running parallel to the Enlightenment and modernity. Luther and Calvin both believed in a Christianity that was still “religious” in nature and would think modern day Protestants are practicing modernism.

In essence, my protestant friend sees any rituals, traditions, etc as religious. Hence, why he thinks Catholics and Buddhists are similar, albeit superficially.


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