Buddhism Essay Research Paper I have considered

Buddhism Essay, Research Paper

I have considered myself to be a fairly religious person. I went to a

Presbyterian elementary and middle school, a Christian School. At C.S. we had a

religion class everyday. The difference from then and now is then we learned

strictly about Christianity. I had never heard about evolution and other

religions until I was in high school. I had only known that there was one God,

and it was He to which we prayed. I knew that there was a heaven and a hell. The

good people went to heaven and the bad to hell. In much more depth of course,

but needless to say that was very naive. I had a Humanities class my sophomore

year in high school. In this class we learned about all of the religions, how

they operated, and what they believed. It was then that I took a deep interest

in Buddhism. I didn?t know much, but what I did know seemed so much different

and it really caught my eye. Buddhism has two parts. These parts are Mahayana

Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. The first part is Mahayana. It can be defined

as, ??Large Raft? Buddhism; one of the two branches of Buddhism, dominant

in East Asia and Vietnam. So named because it?s people carry a large raft to

carry people to enlightenment.? (Niwano, 87-88) And Theravada is defined as,

??Way of the Elders?; surviving school of one of the two branches of

Buddhism, found in Southeast Asia. Claims to bet he most ancient expression of

Buddhist teaching. Called ?Hinayana? by Mahayana Buddhist teachers.? (Niwano,

87-88) The Theravada Buddhism has dated back to as late as sixth century B.C.E.,

and it?s was founded in one of the countries that it flourishes in today,

Southeast Asia. There one founder of this school of Buddhism that is Siddhartha

Gautama. He has shown people what is known as the ?middle way.? This path is

a path of liberation from the cycle of rebirth. All Buddhists honor this man. No

matter what type of Buddhism they believe the focus is on him. The believers may

not know what the significance of his life is, but they do know that he is of

great importance. Siddhartha was born in about 563 B.C.E. He was a warrior in

India. Siddhartha was raised in luxury to protect him from the bad parts of

life. His father did this in hopes to raise religious questions in his mind.

Guatama felt empty inside, so he decided to venture out into an unknown area.

This is where he saw the ?four passing sights.? ?The first was a

sorrowful, old man. The second was a man racked by illness. The third was a man

being carried on a funeral pyre.? This was the first time that he had seen

that life is not just pleasure and joy. But it does include bad things, such as

misery, despair, and death. He then came to realize that this too would happen

to him. He became almost depressed until one day he saw the fourth sight. ?His

fourth sight was a mink calmly walking alone in a yellow robe.?(Encyc. Brit.)

He was now determined to find out a better way to live. He wanted to finds a way

to get out of the inevitable suffering. This was the beginning of a six-year

quest. Through this quest, he established an order of nuns and monks. He was

enlightened, said to have ?woken up?. His title was now Buddha. His middle

way of thinking and living was a path between self-denial and self-indulgence.

(Gombrish,23) The major, sacred texts of Buddhism are known as ?Pali Canon.?

There are thirty-one separate texts. These all came from five hundred years

after Buddha died. Like many religious books, this book started as stories told

by mouth, before they were written down. The scripture was broken down into

baskets. The first basket included guidelines for being a monk. The second

contained basic teachings of Buddha. The third focuses on an analysis of the

nature of existence. (Gombrish, 23) On the contrary, Mahayana Buddhism says that

any person possesses the ability to become a Buddha. Also, it says that we are

not in our own quest for freedom. Help is available from past Buddhas and other

compassionate beings. ?In this branch of Buddhism there are three forms of

Buddha, the earthly body, Siddhartha, another heavenly body, Amithaba, and those

who inhabit the fully spirited realm.? (Gombrish, 52) There are two major

schools that show the teachings of Mahayana. These are Pure Land and Zen. The

Pure Land is the devotional school and Zen is the meditational school. The Pure

Land is based on the story about the heavenly Buddha, Amitabha. HE lives in the

?celestial region? or area known as the ?Pure Land?. The text describes

a place that is rich, fertile and heavenly. It is inhabited only by gods and

men, not by ghosts or demons. Admission into such a place is rebirth and once

there you are considered to be in a state of nirvana. Zen is the place that

teaches skepticism about ordinary language and mocks attempts to explain truth

rationally. This tradition has brought this insight and beliefs to China. One of

the main ideas of Zen id that we all are and can be Buddha, but it is a matter

of us convincing ourselves that we are not. We do this by becoming attached to

the pleasures of this world and the diversity of objects we think that we see.

But we also fool ourselves by thinking that we need to escape the world that we

know. Zen says that we have to rely on ourselves to know what is true in this

world. ?The truth lies within, for only there can we awaken to reality that

there is no distinction between ourselves and the rest of reality.? (Burtt,12)

Zen uses strict meditation. You are proposed a question, and sit there and

ponder. This is to try to eliminate analytical thinking. It is sometimes said

that Zen does not use any philosophy or scripture, but this is just to the

Buddha himself. It is an inner-self meditation. It confounds rational thought.

The difference with Zen and many other religions is that once one is

?enlightened? he would not withdraw from the world, but he would go on with

the same daily routine. As in every religion there is a story of creation. In

Buddhist beliefs this story is called the ?Shinto.? There are many things

that the Buddhist culture holds sacred. The atheistic religion does not believe

that there is a central role for a personal god or gods. They focus on personal

deities who have a small role in the final transformation. Buddhism claims that

gods have no role to play in human liberation, any more than any other person or

spirit. Each person must find his or her own destiny and final path to spiritual

redemption. ?Buddhism, like Jainism, is atheistic in a functional rather than

a theoretical sense. ?Theoretical atheism? denies that gods exist.

?Functional atheism? is not concerned about the question of the existence of

gods; it only knows whether they exist or not, they are irrelevant to human

destiny.? (Carter,253) As many other religions Buddhists practice many

holidays and religious ceremonies. They are very in depth, but this is a very

serious part of their everyday life. There are few religious festivals in

Buddhism that are observed by all buddhists at the same time. This is due

partially to the nature of Buddhism’s historical development and partially to

the impact of the regions and countries Buddhism entered. On the one hand,

because of the differences in the structure of belief among Theravada Mahayana

and Vajrayana and among the different schools of Mahayana, there is no one event

or person who is understood in the same manner, and thus worshipped in the same

manner. So although all forms of Buddhism celebrate the Buddha’s life, they do

so at different times. Of course, all monasteries have a day celebrating their

founding. On the other hand, different countries have celebrations commemorating

when Buddhism entered their country. Or, they may celebrate the reign of a

particular dynasty. Or, when Buddhism entered the country, it may have taken

over a festival from the indigenous religion. So, with all these different

reasons for establishing a religious holiday, it becomes clear why so few

holidays are celebrated throughout Buddhism. The following discussion will

mention just a few holidays, organized by the three divisions of Buddhism. (Prebish,

98) The main festivals of Theravada Buddhism are Buddha Day and observances

linked to the rain retreat of the monsoon season. Buddha Day is often called

?Visakha Puja? because it occurs on the full-moon day of the month of

?Visakha? (April-May). It celebrates the Buddha’s birth, his attainment of

enlightenment, and his death, which Theravadans believe miraculously occured on

the same day. The lay people gather at a monastery to hear the telling of the

story of the Buddha’s life, wash the sacred Buddha images, observe the Five

Precepts, and the reliquary.(Carter, 91) With regard to the rainy season

retreat, which the monks observe from July to October, Theravada has a small

celebration at the beginning of the rains when the monks traditionally enter

retreat. This is called ?Magha Puja? because it occurs on the full-moon of

the month of ?Magha.? It consists primarily of listening to a sermon by a

monk minister. In countries where it is customary for young men to enter the

?sangha? as their rite of passage into adulthood, it usually happens on this

day. ?The Rain Retreat usually ends with the Kathina ceremony, where the laity

give the monks robes and other needed items, and the monks read certain sutras

for the benefit of the deceased.? (Niwano, 205-209) In Thailand, a Theravadan

country, Chakri Day in April commemorates the founding of the current dynasty.

Many acts of worship are woven into the day’s observances; indeed, the famous

Emerald Buddha statue of Bangkok plays a key role in the ceremonies, receiving

homage from the Emperor. In Mahayana Buddhism, the important action of Buddha’s

Day is the washing of the Buddha’s images. Celebrated in China, Korea and Japan

on the eighth day of the fourth lunar month, the main focus of this celebration

from the sangha’s perspective is the Buddha’s attainment of enlightenment.

?Mahayana Buddhism, especially in China, celebrates the life of the

bodhisattva Kuan Yin: her birthday is the in the second month, her enlightenment

the sixth month, and her entry into nirvana of the ninth month.? (Niwano, 210)

All of these days are the nineteenth. This is a special number. The Buddhist

religion has many new and different things, to me. It is a whole new experience.

Their beliefs are something that I personally would never practice, but I know

that these are the beliefs that these people have grown up with. I know that

they would most likely go to a Baptist church and think that the singing and

dancing that we do is completely sinful. After all, dancing is practically as

sinful as murder to them. It is on their list of sins. I respect this religion,

as I do all religions.



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