April 8th this year is unusual because it marks two holidays at once: Easter according to the Western calendar (the resurrection of Jesus Christ) and the birth of Shakyamuni Buddha according to the Japanese Buddhist calendar.1
The photo above is the front cover of issue 3 of the excellent manga seinto oniisan (聖☆おにいさん, “Saintly Young Men”) which I enjoy reading a lot. It features both the Buddha and Jesus as bachelors living in modern day Tokyo. It offers some pretty witty views of Japanese society and religion as a whole without being crass or tasteless. I like this particular cover because it fits the theme of this post. Here, the Buddha and Jesus enjoy a train ride together as friends, and enjoy the countryside. 🙂
Anyhow, I know a lot of people tend assume either Jesus was really a Buddhist, or that the Buddha was a good teacher (though not divine like Jesus). I never really felt comfortable with either view because I feel like it subsumes one religion under the other. Japanese history shows that this happened too between Shinto and Buddhism in the Heian Period onward, and the result wasn’t entirely satisfactory to either one.
But that’s just me. Please don’t flame me over it.
I simply prefer to celebrate both holidays as two completely separate but venerable religious traditions on their own merits, even though I personally consider myself a follower of one, and only one, of them.
Anyway, for all you readers out there, Happy Easter and Happy Buddha’s Birthday! 🙂
P.S. Easter also reminds me of this funny comic from Sluggy Freelance.
1 China, Korea and Vietnam use the lunar calendar for Buddhist holidays, so according to that, the Buddha’s birthday was in March for 2012. Oops, I noticed that too late. Sorry faithful readers. 😛 But if you’d like an interesting Korean-language fact, the Buddha’s birthday is called either seogga tanshinil (석가 탄신일) or bucheonim osinnal (부처님 오신 날).