Despite major differences between Christianity and Buddhist ethics, their perception of the world and philosophy of life, obvious parallels also exist. Both religions point the way towards deliverance from selfishness, spiritual blindness and from succumbing to worldly desires. In both cases, religious experience and inner transformation offer a practical path to salvation. Not only intrinsic moral values but also an all-embracing call for goodness, joy, compassion and love are mutual fundamental traits. The yearning for discipline, justice, morality and an ethical conduct in Buddhist teachings is likewise a fundamental component of Christian thought. The image of evil is also similar. Both religions recognise demons and Hell where, after death, sinners are mercilessly tormented by the inhabitants of the Underworld for their shortcomings on Earth.
One of the greatest masterpieces of traditional Thai literature, King Lithai’s Traibhumikatha (The Three Worlds), written in the mid 14th century, describes the three different realms of Hell in the First World where the torment to which sinners are subjected serves to purify them and rid them of their shortcomings. In Buddhism, salvation comes ultimately to everyone whereas in Christianity, the fires of Hell burn for all eternity. Thai Buddhists are generally familiar with the imagery in Traibhumikatha from temple murals. Even today, young artists studying traditional Thai painting at art colleges still draw on the imagery found in ancient Buddhist art and its myths, fables and tales, weaving it into a highly decorative and narrative fabric of people, animals and unknown creatures which are equally fascinating to a foreigner’s eyes.