In a study of the religious significance of food to medieval woman, Caroline Walker Bynum argues that the ascetic practices embraced by these women are signs of a commitment to explore the religious potentialities of the body rather than being indications of a hostile attitude to the flesh. She comments that belief in the ‘salvific potential of suffering flesh (both our's and God's)’ differentiates Christianity from other world religions, since it is a ‘characteristically Christian idea that the bodily suffering of one person can be substituted for the suffering of another through prayer, purgatory, vicarious communion etc….’ In the discussion which follows I shall attempt to draw out this differentiating characteristic in a comparative study of Christian and Buddhist concepts of, and attitudes to, suffering. I shall suggest that the divergent orientations which structure the religious treatment of this issue are related not only to radically opposing conceptions of the religious ‘path’, but also to different understandings of ‘self’. Although the categories ‘self’ and ‘suffering’ are intimately related in each context, it is my contention that in the Christian context the religious meaning of life becomes apparent to the individual in so far as the content of self is defined progressively in the reflexive encounter with the ‘Other’ (God), an encounter which can be facilitated through suffering. In a Buddhist context, on the other hand, it is precisely such a reflexivity (between self and ‘others’ if not the ‘Other’) which is understood to create and reproduce both self and suffering, and from which the Buddhist desires liberation.