Buddism Essay, Research Paper
Buddhism Buddhism is a major world religion which was founded innortheastern India. It is based on the teachings ofSiddhartha Guautama, also known as the Buddha. It hassignificant numbers of followers around the world, with themajority in Asia. India has one of the largest followings ofBuddhism as does China. The total following is estimated atabout 300 million worldwide. Siddhartha Guatama was born in Kapilavastu, India, justinside present day Nepal. He was the son of the head of theSakya warrior caste. According to legend, at his birth sagesrecognized in him the marks of a great man with thepotential to become a sage or the ruler of an empire. Theyoung prince was raised in sheltered luxury. At an early ageSiddhartha showed an inclination to meditation andreflection. This displeased his father who wanted him tobecome a warrior and ruler rather than a religiousphilosopher. Ceding to his father s wishes, Siddharthamarried at an early age and participated in the worldly lifeof the court. Siddhartha found his carefree, self-indulgentexistence dull, and after a while he left home and beganwandering in search of enlightenment. At the age of 29, he left his wife, children, andpolitical involvement s in order to seek truth. This was anexcepted practice at the time for some men to leave theirfamily and lead the life of an ascetic. Siddhartha firststudied Hinduism, he received instruction from some famousBrahman teachers. However he disliked the Hindu caste system and found Hindu asceticism futile. One day in 533 BC, according to Buddhist teaching,Siddhartha encountered an aged man, a sick man, and acorpse. He suddenly and deeply realized that suffering isthe common lot of humankind. He then came upon a mendicantmonk, calm and serene, whereupon he determined to adopt themonk s way of life and forsake family, wealth, and power inthe quest for truth. This decision, known as the GreatRenunciation, is celebrated by the Buddhists as a turningpoint in history. He began practicing yoga and adopted a life of radicalasceticism. In his search he attracted five followers, butlater lost them. Eventually he gave up this approach andadopted a middle path between the life of indulgence andthat of self-denial. Sitting under a Bo tree, he meditated,rising through a series of higher states of consciousnessuntil he attained the enlightenment for which he had beensearching. This moment is known as the Great Enlightenment.It revealed the way of salvation from suffering. The Buddha, as he is known, began to preach, wanderingfrom place to place, gathering a body of disciples, andorganizing them into a monastic community known as thesangha. He regained his original five disciples, and withtheir company he traveled through the Ganges River Valley,teaching his doctrines, and organizing monastic communitiesthat admitted anyone regardless of class. He returnedbriefly to his native town and converted his father, hiswife, and other members of his family to his beliefs. After45 years of missionary activity Buddha died in Kusinagara,Nepal, as a result of eating contaminated pork. He was about80 years old. Buddhism is a religion that shares few concepts withChristianity. They do not believe in a God or gods. They donot have a need for a personal Savior. They do not believein the power of prayer, or eternal life in heaven or hellafter death. Instead they believe in reincarnation, theconcept that one must go through many cycles of birth,living, and death. After many such cycles, if a personreleases their attachment to desire and the self, they canattain Nirvana. The Buddha was an oral teacher; he left no written bodyof thought. His beliefs were recored by later followers. Atthe core of the Buddha s enlightenment was the realizationof the Four Noble Truths. (1) Life is a suffering. This ismore than a mere recognition of the presence of suffering inexistence. It is a statement that says human existence isessentially painful from the moment of birth to the momentof death. Even death brings no relief, for the Buddhaaccepted the Hindu idea of life as cyclical, with deathleading to further rebirth. (2) All suffering is caused by
ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving,attachment, and grasping that result from such ignorance.(3) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance andattachment. (4) The path to the suppression of suffering isthe Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right views,right intention, right speech, right action, rightlivelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and rightcontemplation. These eight are usually divided into threecategories that form the cornerstone of Buddhist faith:morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentration. Buddhism analyzes human existence as made up of fiveaggregates or bundles : the material body, feelings,perceptions, predisposition s or karmic tendencies, andconsciousness. A person is only a temporary combination ofthese aggregates, which are subject to continual change. Noone remains the same for any two consecutive moments.Buddhists deny that the aggregates individually or incombination may be considered a permanent, independentlyexisting self or soul. They regard it as a mistake toconceive of any lasting unity behind the elements thatconstitute an individual. The Budda held that belief in sucha self results in egoism, craving, and hence in suffering.Thus he taught the doctrine of anatman, denial of apermanent soul. The Buddha taught the doctrine of pratityasamutpada, dependent origin. This shows howignorance in a previous life creates the tendency for acombination of aggregates to develop. These cause the mindand senses to operate; sensations result which lead tocraving and a clinging to existence. This triggers theprocess of becoming once again, producing a renewed cycle ofbirth, old age, and death. Through this chain a connectionis made between one life and the next. What is left is astream of renewed existence s, rather than a permanent beingthat moves from life to life. Buddhists also believe the doctrine of Karma. Karmaconsists of a person s acts and their ethical consequences.Human actions lead to rebirth, wherein good deeds areinevitably rewarded and evil deeds punished. The Karmicprocess operates through a kind of natural moral law ratherthan through a system of divine judgment. One s karmadetermines such matters as one s species, beauty,intelligence, social status, etc…. Through varying karmaone can be reborn as anything, human, animal, ghosts,whatever. The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is release fromthe round of worldly existence and its suffering. To achievethis goal is to attain Nirvana, an enlightened state inwhich greed, hatred, and ignorance cease to exist. Intheory, the goal of Nirvana is attainable by anyone,although it is a realistic goal only for members of themonastic community. For those who are unable to pursue theultimate goal, the goal of better rebirth through improvedkarma is the path which they take. This is in hopes of beingborn into a better life, in which they are capable ofpursuing final enlightenment as members of the sangha. Buddhism spread very rapidly throughout India becauseof the religion s political support. King Asoka sent outmany missionaries throughout the land to gain followers. Itwas brought to China by merchants, where it establishedstrong roots. Eventually Buddhism spread to Korea and Japan.In the 7th century AD Buddhism was introduced in Tibetthrough the influence of foreign wives of the king. Someseven centuries later Tibetian Buddhists adopted the ideathat the abbots of its great monastaries were reincarnationsof famous bodhisattvas. A bodhisattvas is one who forgoesNirvana in order to save others. The chief of these abbotsbecame known as the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lamas ruled Tibetas a theocracy from the middle of the 17th century until theseizure of Tibet by China in 1950. One of the lasting strengths of Buddhism has been itsability to adapt to changing conditions and to a variety ofcultures. Buddhism remains strong in Thailand and Myanmar.Buddhism largely died out in India during the 8th and 12thcenturies, but has since had a strong resurgence. Buddhismis still very strong in Japan, and is gaining popularity inthe West. As its influence in the West slowly grows,Buddhism is once again beginning to undergo a process ofacculturation to its new environment. Although its influencein the United States is still small, apart from Japanese andChinese communities, new American forms of Buddhism mayeventually develop. As Buddhism has taken a grasp onHollywood, it could become a major philisophical belief inthe United States
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