Soteriology (i/; Greek: σωτηρία sōtēria "salvation" from σωτήρ sōtēr "savior, preserver" and λόγος logos "study" or "word"[1]) is the study of religious doctrines of salvation. Salvation theory occupies a place of special significance in many religions.

In the academic field of religious studies, soteriology is understood by scholars as representing a key theme in a number of different religions and is often studied in a comparative context; that is, comparing various ideas about what salvation is and how it is obtained.


Buddhism is devoted primarily to liberation from suffering, ignorance, and contaminated rebirth. The purpose of one's life is to break free from samsara, the cycle of compulsory rebirth, by attaining moksha and nirvana. Many types of Buddhism, Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana (or Tantric), emphasize an individual's meditation and subsequent liberation from samsara, which is to become enlightened.

Thus, the fundamental reason that the precise identification of these two kinds of clinging to an identity – personal and phenomenal – is considered so important is again soteriological. Through first uncovering our clinging and then working on it, we become able to finally let go of this sole cause for all our afflictions and suffering.[2]

However, the Pure Land traditions of Mahayana Buddhism generally focus on the saving nature of the Celestial Buddha Amitābha. In Mahayana eschatology, it is believed that we are currently living through the Age of Dharma Decline, a period of 10,000 years where the corrupt nature of the people means the teachings of the Buddha are not listened to. Before this era occurred, the Bodhisattva Amitābha made 48 vows, including the vow to accept all sentient beings that called to him, to allow them to take refuge in his Pureland and to teach them the pure Dharma. It is therefore considered ineffective to trust in personal meditational and even monastic practices, but to only trust in the Primal Vow of Amitābha.[3]

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