What Is Buddhism Essay, Research Paper
What is Buddhism?
Buddhism is a path of teaching and practice. Buddhist
practices such as meditation are means of changing oneself in
order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and
wisdom. The experience developed within the Buddhist tradition
over thousands of years has created an incomparable resource
for all those who wish to follow the path of spiritual
development. Ultimately, the Buddhist path culminates in
Who was the Buddha?
The word Buddha is a title not a name. It means one
who is awake in the sense of having woken up to reality . The title was first given to a man called Siddharta Guatemala,
who lived about 2,500 years ago in Northern India. When he
was 35 he found Enlightenment while in profound mediation,
after searching for years. In the next 45 years of his life
he spent traveling through India teaching his way of life. His teaching is known as Buddha-dharma.
Traveling from place to place, the Buddha gained many
disciples. They also taught of the enlightenment, and the chain has continued on to this present day.
The Buddha was not a God, and he made no claim to
divinity. There is no concept of a creator in Buddhism. He was
a human being who, thought tremendous efforts, transformed
The followers of the Buddha believe life goes on and on in many reincarnations or rebirths. The eternal hope for all followers of Buddha is that through reincarnation one comes back into successively better lives – until one achieves the goal of being free from pain and suffering and not having to come back again.
The state of Enlightenment, which he reached, has three
main facets. It is a state of wisdom, of insight into the true
nature of things. It is also a source or boundless compassion,
manifesting itself in activity for the benefit of all beings. It is the total liberation of all the energies of the mind and the body so they are at the service of the fully conscious mind.
At the core of the Buddha s enlightenment was the realization of the Four Noble Truths. (1) Life is a suffering. This is more than a mere recognition of the presence of suffering in existence. It is a statement that says human existence is essentially painful from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Even death brings no relief, for the Buddha accepted the Hindu idea of life as cyclical, with death leading 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 and attachment. (4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path
What Happened After the Buddha s Death?
Buddhism died out in India a thousand years ago, though it has recently revived. In the last century Buddhism has
emphatically arrived in the West and up to one million
westerners have become Buddhists.
What Does Buddhism Teach?
Buddhism sees life as being in process of constant change
and its practices aim to take advantage of this fact. It
means that one can change for the better. The decisive factor
in changing ourselves is the mind and Buddhism has developed
many methods for working on the mind. Most importantly, Buddhists practice meditation which is a way of developing more positive states of mind which are characterized by calm,
concentration, awareness, and emotions such as friendliness.
How do you become a Buddhist?
To become a Buddhist in the full sense means committing
oneself to the central ideas of Buddhism. The Buddhist path is
open to all equally: men and women, young and old, people
of all nationalities, races and backgrounds.
Rebirth in the Six Realms
Birth is not the beginning and death is not the end. This cycle of life has no beginning and can go on forever without an end. The ultimate goal for every Buddhist, Nirvana, represents total enlightenment and liberation.
Buddhism teaches that birth; death and rebirth are part
of the continuing process of change. According to medical experts, after every seven years, all the cells in one s body are replaced by new ones.
At the moment of death, the body can no longer
survive, the mind is separated from the body. At that time, the craving for lives causes one to seek a new existence, and the karma done previously determine the place of one s rebirth.
There are six realms which one may be reborn after
death. They are the realms of gods, the demigods, human
beings, animals, hungry ghosts, and the hells. In general, wholesome actions like good conduct, charity, and mental development, are the causes of rebirth in the happy realms of gods, demigods, and human beings. On the other hand, unwholesome actions like immoral conduct; miserliness and cruelty cause rebirth in the unhappy realm of animals, hungry ghosts and the hells.
Of all the six realms, the realm of human beings is
considered the most desirable. In the realm of human beings,
the conditions for attaining Nirvana are better. In general,
in the unhappy realms, the suffering of living beings is so intense and their ignorance so great that they are unable to
recognize the Truth and follow the path to attain freedom. Alternatively, living beings in the realms of the gods and
demigods experience so much happiness and have so many
distractions that they do not think of rebirth until it is too
late. Then they may be reborn in one of the lower realms
of suffering. In the realm of human beings, however, people
experience both happiness and suffering, and are intelligent
enough to recognize the Truth and follow the path to attain
freedom from the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, one is
indeed fortunate to be born as a human being, and should
remember that the principal cause of birth in the realm is
The Cycle of Birth and Death
Transmigration, the Buddhist cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, involves not the reincarnation of a spirit but the rebirth of a consciousness containing the seeds of good and evil deeds.
Buddhism’s world of transmigration encompasses three stages. The first stage in concerned with desire, which goes against the teachings of Buddha, is the lowest form and involves a rebirth into any number of hells. The second stage is one in which animals dominate. But after many reincarnations in this stage the spirit becomes more and more human, until one attains a deep spiritual understanding. At this point in the second stage the Buddhist gradually begins to abandon materialism and seek a contemplative life. The Buddhist in the third stage is ultimately able to put his ego to the side and become pure spirit, having no perception of the material world. This stage requires one to move from perception to non-perception. And so, through many stages of spiritual evolution and numerous reincarnations, the Buddhist reaches the state of Nirvana.
The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is release from the round of worldly existence and its suffering. To achieve this goal is to attain Nirvana, an enlightened state in which greed, hatred, and ignorance cease to exist. In theory, the goal of Nirvana is attainable by anyone, although it is a realistic goal only for members of the monastic community. For those who are unable to pursue the ultimate goal, the goal of better rebirth through improved karma is the path which they take.
The Buddha pointed out that whenever one is reborn,
whether as a human being, as an animal, or as a god, of
these states of exticence is permanent. The average life span
of the living beings in the six realms of existence differ but
none of them lasts forever. Eventually, rebirth will take
place. The realm into which one is reborn and one s
conditions of rebirth are determined by ones past and present
actions. This is the law of Karma at work.
Because of the force of their karma, people are born
and reborn endlessly, in one realm of existence or in
another. The Buddha declared that there is no permanent
rest in the cycle of birth and death. It is only when one
follows the Noble Eightfold path taught by the Buddha and
eventually attains Nirvana, that one finally becomes free
from the ceaseless cycle and gains supreme and permanent
happiness. The Noble Eightfold Path can be as set out as follows:
1. Right view
2. Right intention
3. Right speech
4. Right action } Conduct
5. Right livelihood
6. Right effort
7. Right Mindfulness } Mental Discipline
8. Right concentration
Karma is the law of moral causation. It is action and
reaction in the ethical realm. It is natural law that every
action produces a certain effect. One s karma determines such matters as one s species, beauty, intelligence, social status. So if one performs wholesome actions, one will experience happiness. On the other hand, if one performs unwholesome actions, one will experience suffering. This is the law of cause and effect at work. In this way, the effect of one s past karma determine that nature of one s present situation in life.
1. Koller, John M. Asian Philosophies. Prentice Hall,
2. Watts, Alan W. The Spirit of Zen, a way of life, work
and art in the far east. Grove Press, New York