Similarities between Buddhism and Catholicism

I would appreciate the forum members’ views about the similarities between Catholicism and Buddhism. Thank you.

What prompt the question sister ?

Emily, there simply aren’t any. Buddhism is very far from Catholicism, and is in no way compatible.

I would say that both Catholicism and Buddhism both place a strong emphasis on morality. Also, both value ascetic practice. On the other hand, there are vast differences. Buddhism has far more similarities with other Indian religions than with Christianity.

I agree. And I tend to think that Buddhism has some worth in its philosophy, leaving aside the religious components. But this is just a shallow westerners approach at it.

I would look at the web site Women of Grace which has a number of resources and articles about Buddhism. Buddhism does not believe in a personal God so starting with that point they are not similar at all. I think people confuse the fact that there are prayer beads, monks and monasteries, emphasis on prayer (meditation really) as well as ascetic practices as being similar but these things are just surface type similarities but the view and teachings are very opposite.

Apart from an appreciation of natural law that inspires a similar moral framework we find inspiring many religions there is nothing similar between the two beliefs. They do not worship a personal God and it slips from there. Grab the light that shines in the living Christ and avoid the dull shade of other pagan beliefs.

I would suggest that the Catholic Church acknowledges, as do several Buddhist Traditions, the existence of a “Higher Power” in the Buddhist religion:

**Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. ** - Nostra Aetate

The Church also very rarely (if ever) uses language that says that other religions are “dull” or “false”

If you notice, the Church always reflects on the Truth (and it’s myriad aspects) of Catholicism as well as reflecting on the Truths enshrined in the several other religions it has found inspiration to reference.

I think it wise for Catholics (in fact, all human beings) to reflect on this method of loving communication and in turn try to emulate it in their own lives.

The words we choose is a reflection of our own spiritual condition.



As has been pointed out, Buddhism is an Indian (Dharmic) religion, not an Abrahamic religion. The underlying theories of the two religions are very different: Buddhism denies the existence of a soul for example.

The similarities lie in the area or morality and practice. The five moral rules in Buddhism are all good Christianity as well:

• to avoid injury to living things.
• to avoid taking what is not given.
• to avoid sensual misconduct.
• to avoid false and malicious speech.
• to avoid intoxicants.

These five rules also indicate another of the major differences between Buddhism and the Abrahamic religions.

Some sayings of the Buddha and Jesus mirror each other: “Love others as you love yourself.” - Bhadramayakara vyakarana sutra, 91.

From the Buddhist point of view, the main lack in Christian practice is the absence of much meditation. The Eastern Orthodox and Catholic traditions have retained some meditations – perhaps because they have also retained monastic orders – but many of the Protestant traditions seem to have lost it. For a Christian meditation, I usually suggest, Saying the Jesus Prayer.



There are a great many similarities. Particularly between Vajrayana Buddhism and Catholicism:

  • Both believe in a system of merit and demerit. These systems are very similar. In Vajrayana Buddhism, merit and demerit can be compared with seeds planted in the Alaya-vijnana, the storehouse consciousness, which color this consciousness. In other words, positive acts create positive seeds. Negative acts create negative seeds. These color the entire alaya-vijnana, from which the gross conscious mind emerges. When causes and conditions are in place, the seeds ripen. In Catholicism, one talks about demerit/temporal consequences of sin as stains on the soul that need to be cleansed. Even if you are completely forgiven by God for your sins, temporal stains may remain, and they will need to be cleansed, for instance in purgatory.

  • In both religions, humans are born less than perfect (under the influence of delusion/original sin), but with a nature that can be perfected.

  • Both use confession as a way of turning away from sin/unskillful acts.

  • Both use holy water.

  • Both have lineages of authority, transmitted through hundreds of years (Apostolic Succession). Being recognized as a validly ordained monk/nun or a valid teacher requires being accepted by a true lineage going back to a real encounter with a Buddha.

  • Both have saints that are used as role models, and who are believed to aid the spiritual practitioner on the path.

  • Both have sacraments and sacred meals, where elements are transformed. But in Buddhism, these transformations are not interpreted in an substantialist way, as in Catholicism.

  • Both have systems of indulgences, where one being may transfer his or her own merit to another, for instance. In Buddhism, gaining merit (indulgences) based on donations (for building temples, for instance) has not been abolished (nor can it abolished, since it is an inevitable consequence of generosity).

  • Both have sacramental last rites that are believed to be highly efficacious.

  • Both have rituals (masses) performed for the dead, so that they may be freed from their demerits.

  • Both believe in purgatory, but in Buddhism these are called hellish rebirths, and there is more than one. Unlike Catholicism, the heavens of Buddhism are also not eternal, just like the purgatories/hells.

  • While Buddhism does not believe in a creator God that decided to make everything out of nothing, in a single, eternal, act of creation, there are analogues to other aspects of God, such as the Dharmakaya (as interpreted in Mahayana/Vajrayana):

The dharmakaya is the Absolute; the essence of the universe; the unity of all things and beings, unmanifested. The dharmakaya is beyond existence or nonexistence, and beyond concepts. The late Chogyam Trungpa called the dharmakaya “the basis of the original unbornness.”

It is important to understand that the dharmakaya is not like heaven, or somewhere we go when we die or “get enlightened.” It is the basis of all existence, including you. It is also the spiritual body or “truth body” of all buddhas.

While the Dharmakaya is not a person it is not a non-person either. It is not both a person and a non-person, nor neither a person nor a non-person. It cannot be pinned down by a concept When it unobstructed in sentient beings, it for instance manifests like compassion, kindness, equanimity and sympathetic joy.

  • The Dharmakaya is an aspect of the Buddhist trinity of Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya and Dharmakaya, known as Trikaya. Dharmakaya we have looked at. Then there is Nirmanakaya, the physical manifestation of a Buddha, sort of like incarnation. And the Sambhogakaya, which is the energetic / spiritual aspect (inner, mind) of a Buddha.

I am sure there are many other similarities. These are just off the top of my head. Many of these are specific to Vajrayana, but not all.

I would be careful regarding buddhists belief in God. Our priest is from China and has direct knowledge of these matters. He states that it is not the lack of belief in God but that God to buddhists is so big that even His name is not to be mentioned. I disagreed with him as history has not shown them to ever acknowledge God. He stands firmly in his appraisal though and it gave me a new perspective as he is very passionate about his Catholic faith and very orthodox. He would not be in this diocese if he was not.

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