What do Buddhism and Christianity teach about the significance, purpose and value of human life?
" The concern of Buddhism is with man rather than with the material universe. The phenomenal world is held to be without substance and to be in a constant condition of flux. Man himself is no less impermanent than the material world."* 3/4 Human life is subject to Anicca, the law of impermanence. This means that nothing ever stays the same
To be born human is a rare opportunity. Buddhists take this notion so seriously that a story was written for the sole purpose of illustrating it. It is called 'The Turtle and The Yoke'. A turtle is described, swimming around in the ocean, popping up for air every thousand years or so. It is claimed that the chance of being incarnated human are the same as that of the turtle putting his head through the yoke (which also floats around the ocean) on one of his trips to the top. It follows, therefore, that to waste it is to waste numberless lives spent trying to gain this precious rebirth and also the chance of enlightenment.
The law of Karma says: All actions will entail consequences in the next life, so a Buddhist's freedom could be said to be somewhat compromised. This law means that, to be reincarnated human, you must live a near-perfect life. Any wrong doing on our part is foolish, because the condition experienced in present existence is regarded as having been caused by past deeds. It is beneficial, therefore, to use the golden opportunity wisely, as you are unlikely ever to get another 'crack at the apple'.
Buddhism and therefore human life is 'a quest to free us and the world from suffering and to promote happiness.'
"Human life is the basis of all values; it is the source and indispensable condition for every human activity and all society"†
Each human is made in the image of God, with power to reason and choose.
Therefore every human life should be cherished and preserved and all lives, rich or poor, strong or weak, young or old. 'Society itself can be judged by its attitude towards its weaker members.'
God 'owns' our lives and bodies, or rather he gave them to us as a gift and we must not give it up or abuse it.
"Do you know that your body is a temple of the holy spirit, which you have from God? You are not on your own, you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Pope Jean Paul II summed up this idea in a statement he issued in 1980. He says we must 'render faithful' God's gift of life to us. Also (1) 'no one must attack the life of an innocent person' (2) that 'all humans must live their lives in accordance with God's plan' and (3) Intentional death or suicide is just as wrong as homicide', because it is a violation of God's will and can be interpreted as a rejection of God's supreme authority and loving plan.
However he goes on to say: "At times, however, as everyone realises, psychological factors may lessen or even completely eliminate responsibility."
The two religions are agreed on one theme. They both make it clear that you are planted on this planet to fulfil a purpose and that nobody can achieve that purpose unless they follow a clearly laid out path and obey a set of rules. The two sets of rules have much in common with each other. To us, most of them are common sense to us today. They, if obeyed, constitute the requirements of being a 'good' human being. The Buddhist rules are called 'The Five Precepts' and the Christian rules are the 'Ten Commandments'.
Followers of both religions must follow their rules to attain their ultimate goals (Nirvana or Heaven) but they must also put in some extra. Buddhists must nurture their Karmas and Christians must ingratiate themselves to God.
* Bryan Ronald Wilson in: Religious Toleration & Religious Diversity
† Pope John Paul II in: The Value of Human Life