It is wonderful the way the item Is life fair has generated such a uantity of intelligent discussion. One thread that has emerged there that seems worth promoting to a main posting is the question: What is meant by salvation? Buddhism and Christianity both offer
salvation of one sort or another. The question has been raised: If there is salvation, does this mean that there are winners and losers? Is this what we want to believe? Is it true? Does it mean that seeking salvation becomes a selfish act, thus creating the paradox that those who seek salvation may by that very fact disqualify themselves? There are thus two fundamentally different questions here
1. How is the term salvation to be properly understood either according to christian or buddhist doctrine or according to first principles?
2. Is salvation an acceptable concept at all? Why/why not? If not, what alternatives are there? If so, how so?
The idea of spiritual health is often advanced as a fitting metaphor for salvation. In his Systematic Theology, for instance, Tillich's discussion of salvation revolves around this metaphor - or is it more than metaphor? Similarly, the Buddha is sometimes called "the great physician". One can ask if this idea of salvation as spiritual health is appropriate and/or if it goes far enough. Salvation is also closely associated with ideas about the after life and a longer term view than can be encompassed by a single lifetime and with ideas of judgment. Salvation in Christianity is sometimes presented as a function of virtue and sometimes of faith and sometimes a mixture. These options also all occur in Buddhism. So we may soon branch out into ideas about faith and works and the proper relation between them.
Then there are a whole set of ideas around the concept that we are saved vicariously, as by Christ's crucifiction or by Amida's fulfilment of great vows. There are also widespread ideas generally alien to Buddhism and Christianity about salvation as union with the divine and related ideas about salvation as "realisation of original nature" that are espoused by some but not all Buddhists and, these days, perhaps, by some Christians too. This is a big topic.