After comparing the spread of early (500 B.C.E. to 1000 C.E.) Buddhism into China to the spread of early (500 B.C.E. to 1000 C.E.) Christianity and Islam, what are some of the common themes?
The common themes between the spread of these religions is not in their ideological dogma but in the practical impact that they made. Buddhism is of a totally different philosophical background than either Christianity or Islam. Buddhism was born out of the Hindu polytheist tradition while Christianity and Islam are derived from and monotheist worldview. Most importantly Christianity and Islam were primarily through conquest and domination while the spread of Buddhism in China occurred almost exclusively by peaceful means. However the three religions do share some common themes on why they existed and how they were adopted. Some of these features are:
- They are all reform movements: Christianity started as a reform movement of Judaism and Islam reformed both Christianity and Judaism. All three religions are referred to as Abrahamic because they all consider the Prophet Abraham to be their patriarch. Buddhism is an offshoot of Hinduism and other Indian religious traditions of the era.
- They all spread relatively quickly: Christianity was adopted primarily as a result of the Roman Empire. After the Emperor Constantine adopted the religion and the rest of the nobility followed, it quickly disseminated throughout the empire. This same theme can be observed with both Islam and Buddhism, as the nobility were converted the religions spread quicker and gained wider acceptance.
- Their spread followed trade route patters: The missionaries and merchants that were responsible for spreading the religions did so primarily through land and sea trade routes.