Specialisation: Judaism

Comparing Religions

The idea of the soul is a deep and pervasive subject in the great fabric of human spirituality, influencing many civilizations’ religious practices and beliefs worldwide. To better understand the nature of the soul, this article compares and contrasts the teachings of the three main global religions: Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity. Religious beliefs and notions of the afterlife are greatly influenced by the soul, often seen as the core of a person’s identity and the key to comprehending life beyond the material world. The soul’s recognition, translation, and integration into the more extensive setting of these faiths’ differing cosmologies are all seen through particular focal points. We look to unwind the complex web of convictions encompassing the soul while reflecting on these teachings’ reverberation in shaping a person’s worldview. We are going embrace this by diving into the subtleties of Christian conceptions of the godlike soul, Buddhist points of view on Anatta, the nonappearance of a changeless self, and Jewish conceptions of the soul as the breath of life (Neshama).

Christianity: The Immortal Soul

One of the most monotheistic religions in the world, Christianity, includes a solid and enduring conception of the soul. The conviction within the undying soul, an eternal substance made by God, is essential to Christian philosophy (Guetta 2). It is accepted that this quintessence, isolated from the physical body, gives each individual a particular identity that perseveres after passing. The thought of an everlasting soul is based on scriptural lessons, which claims that God gave Adam a live soul by breathing his breath. Christian sees the excellent beyond are molded by this scriptural premise, which emphasizes the heavenliness and indestructibility of the soul (Maxwell).The concept of the eternal soul is further supported by the New Testament, where passages such as Matthew 10:28 highlight the soul’s everlasting character and independence from the mortal body (Christian Publishing House). Theologians and academics have intensely debated the soul’s intricacies throughout Christian history, adding to the religion’s rich intellectual heritage.

Although many Christians believe in the eternal soul, various faiths have differences and disagreements. While some concentrate on the soul’s path to salvation, others explore the complexities of the soul’s relationship with divine grace. These many views demonstrate Christianity’s ability to adapt and explore theology while enhancing Christian knowledge of the soul. In addition to offering consolation in the face of mortality, the idea of an eternal soul forms the basis of Christian ethics and morals, impacting followers’ perspectives on life, death, and the quest for spiritual development.

Buddhism: Anatta and the Transient Self

Buddhism presents the idea of Anatta, or non-self, as a fundamental principle for comprehending the nature of the soul. Buddhism is known for its complex philosophical ideas. Unlike many other religions, Buddhism rejects the idea of an eternal, unchanging self. Buddhist teachings hold that the self is not a static item but a collection of constantly shifting components impacted by the impermanence that permeates everything (Hoang 2). The concept of Anatta, which emphasizes the fleeting and linked aspect of existence, captures this viewpoint.

The real Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, uses a variety of parables and lectures to explain the notion of Anatta in Buddhist texts, including the Dhammapada and the Sutta Pitaka. Rebirth, the focus on impermanence, and the lack of a permanent self are closely related concepts. Buddhists believe there is a cycle of birth and reincarnation known as samsara, in which one’s character is continuously formed by past lifetimes’ deeds (karma) (Hoang 3). This cyclical life challenges traditional notions of an eternal soul by highlighting the dynamic and ever-changing character of the self.

Even though the theory of Anatta has significant philosophical ramifications, it has encountered opposition and criticism, especially from Western viewpoints that have historically upheld the notion of a stable and eternal self. In response to these critiques, Buddhists highlight the usefulness of realizing and accepting the temporary nature of the self. A fundamental component of the Buddhist route to enlightenment (nirvana) is the idea of Anatta, which inspires adherents to embrace impermanence more fully and practice mindfulness in their day-to-day activities.

Judaism: The Breath of Life

With its extensive theological heritage, Judaism provides a distinctive viewpoint on the soul’s essence, embodied in the idea of “Neshama,” or the breath of life. Jewish belief holds that the soul is an everlasting, heavenly substance God breathes into people (Mukuna). This idea stems from the Torah’s creation story, in which God creates Adam from the dust of the ground and gives him life by breathing into his nostrils (Genesis 2:7). The concept of the Neshama highlights the intrinsic holiness of life by denoting a dynamic and personal relationship between humanity and the divine.

The Jewish conception of the soul is not limited to philosophical conjecture; it is entwined with the real-world realities of existence. The Neshama, which stands for a person’s distinct spiritual identity and moral awareness, is said to be the deepest part of them. Jewish beliefs emphasize the need to foster and protect this divine spark through moral conduct, virtuous living, and observance of the Torah’s commandments (New International Version 15). One of the main principles of Jewish ethics is the reciprocal link between the Neshama and human deeds, which helps followers develop a moral compass and lead holy lives.

Although the Jewish understanding of the soul is similar to that of other Abrahamic faiths, it is unique because it emphasizes the connection between the material and spiritual worlds. Judaism’s interpretation of the breath of life emphasizes the unbreakable connection between the body and the soul, bolstering the idea that human life’s material and spiritual aspects are inextricably linked. This all-encompassing view of the soul enriches the continuing discussion about the nature of the divine in the Jewish tradition and adds to the larger fabric of religious variety.

Personal Reflection

With its extensive theological heritage, Judaism provides a distinctive viewpoint on the soul’s essence, embodied in the idea of “Neshama,” or the breath of life. Jewish belief holds that the soul is an everlasting, heavenly substance God breathes into people (Mukuna). This idea stems from the Torah’s creation story, in which God creates Adam from the dust of the ground and gives him life by breathing into his nostrils (Genesis 2:7). The concept of the Neshama highlights the intrinsic holiness of life by denoting a dynamic and personal relationship between humanity and the divine.

The Jewish conception of the soul is not limited to philosophical conjecture; it is entwined with the real-world realities of existence. The Neshama, which stands for a person’s distinct spiritual identity and moral awareness, is said to be the deepest part of them. Jewish beliefs emphasize the need to foster and protect this divine spark through moral conduct, virtuous living, and observance of the Torah’s commandments (New International Version 15). One of the main principles of Jewish ethics is the reciprocal link between the Neshama and human deeds, which helps followers develop a moral compass and lead holy lives.

Although the Jewish understanding of the soul is similar to that of other Abrahamic faiths, it is unique because it emphasizes the connection between the material and spiritual worlds. Judaism’s interpretation of the breath of life emphasizes the unbreakable connection between the body and the soul, bolstering the idea that human life’s material and spiritual aspects are inextricably linked. This all-encompassing view of the soul enriches the continuing discussion about the nature of the divine in the Jewish tradition and adds to the larger fabric of religious variety.

Conclusion

In conclusion, studying the nature of the soul in Buddhism, Judaism, and Christianity highlights the diversity of human perspectives on life and spirituality. Every religion has unique viewpoints, such as Buddhism’s Anatta, Judaism’s breath of life, and Christianity’s focus on the eternal soul. Knowing these many points of view highlights the complexity of the human experience and how people look for purpose in life and a connection to the divine. Although my views align with the Christian concept of an everlasting soul, acknowledging and valuing the plurality of viewpoints helps people better understand how spirituality is complex and multidimensional in many religions.

Works Cited

Christian Publishing House. “Immortal Soul Vs Being a Soul: Unraveling Biblical Truths.” Christian Publishing House Blog, 29 July 2023, christianpublishinghouse. Co/2023/07/29/immortal-soul-vs-being-a-soul-unraveling-biblical-truths/.

Guetta, Alessandro. “The Immortality of the Soul and Opening Up to the Christian World.” Italian Jewry in the Early Modern Era: Essays in Intellectual History, Academic Studies Press, 2014, pp. 1-32, doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt21h4w96. Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

Hoang, Nguyen Q. “The Doctrine of Not-self (anattā) in Early Buddhism.” International Review of Social Research, vol. 9, no. 1, 2019, pp. 18-27.

Maxwell, D. “Genesis 2:7 & the Meaning of ‘Life’ in Cyril of Alexandria’s Theology.” henrycenter, 17 May 2017, henrycenter.tiu.edu/2017/05/genesis-27-the-meaning-of-life-in-cyril-of-alexandrias-theology/#.

Mukuna, J. “Language and Theology: a Case Study of the Metaphor of Breathing in John 20:22.” Academia.edu – Share Research, 1 Jan. 2011, www.academia.edu/29871891/Language_and_theology_a_case_study_of_the_metaphor_of_breathing_in_John_20_22. Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.

New International Version. NIV Bible eBook (New International Version). Hachette UK, 2011, ISBN-13: 9781444701852. Accessed 6 Dec. 2023.