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I and Thou | Study Guide

Martin Buber

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I and Thou | Key Figure Analysis


Jesus Christ

Jesus the Nazarene, later named the Christ (anointed one), was a Jewish rabbi or teacher and an itinerant preacher who criticized aspects of Jewish orthodoxy. Jesus lived in Roman-ruled Palestine, the ancient land of the Jews, encompassing parts of modern-day Israel. Operating within the Jewish tradition, he became the founder of a new religion that sprang up after his death, when his followers gradually separated themselves (over a period of about 100 years) from Judaism and identified as Christians. Martin Buber believes Jesus should be viewed as a Jewish teacher, following in the footsteps of the biblical prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, who say God can be accessed in the sacredness of his creation.

The Buddha

The Buddha was born into a high-caste ruling family in Nepal. He left behind his life of privilege to become an ascetic, or forest dweller, and practiced yogic meditation, hoping to find the answers to life's most pressing existential questions. Although a product of Indian Vedic culture, its beliefs based on ancient Hindu religious texts, he followed the Sramana sect, which rejected the authority of the Vedic priests (brahmins) and followed a strict program of physical and mental practices meant to lead to spiritual liberation. The Buddha created a new "middle path" toward self-realization; he also rejected the Vedic understanding of God. While the Buddha's philosophy was built on previous Indian philosophical ideas, he did not take his authority from the Veda, and in particular the ritualistic portions through which the brahmin priests had accumulated so much power. The Buddha's atheistic spiritual path eventually became Buddhism.

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