Buddhism Essay Research Paper Buddhism is one

Buddhism Essay, Research Paper Buddhism is one of the biggest religion founded in India in the 6th and 5th cent. B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha. One of the great Asian

Buddhism Essay, Research Paper

Buddhism is one of the biggest religion founded in India in the 6th and 5th

cent. B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, called the Buddha. One of the great Asian

religions, it teaches the practice of and the observance of moral precepts. The

basic doctrines include the four noble truths taught by the Buddha. Since it was

first introduced into China from India, Buddhism has had a history which has

been characterized by periods of sometimes awkward and irregular development.

This has mainly been the result of the clash of two cultures, each with a long

history of tradition. Most of the difficulties have arisen due to the

transplanting of an Indian religious/philosophical system onto a culture

strongly dominated by indigenous secular, philosophical and religious systems.

In spite of these difficulties, Chinese Buddhism has come to have an important

influence on the growth and development of Buddhism in general and this has

occurred largely because of its own innovatory contributions.(Eliade, M.

p.16-29) The spread of Buddhism into China began in Central Asia and was

facilitated by the efforts of the Indo-Scythian king Kanishka (Encyclopedia

Britt. 273-274) of the Kushan dynasty which ruled in northern India, Afghanistan

and parts of Central Asia in the 1st and 2nd centuries (Encyclopedia Britt.

274). He is said to have undergone an Ashoka-like conversion upon seeing the

slaughter caused by his campaigns. Around the beginning of the common era,

Buddhism started to filter into China from Central Asia via the Silk Road,

brought by monks, merchants and other travelers. It also entered later via trade

routes around and through Southeast Asia. It was nurtured in the expatriate

community of Loyang and other northern cities. (The Encyclopedia of Religion

p58-62) Siddhartha (Buddha) was born around 563 B.C.E. in the town of

Kapilavastu (located in today’s Nepal). Siddhartha’s parents were King

Shuddhodana and Queen Maya, who ruled the Sakyas. His history is a miraculous

one… One night, Queen Maya dreamed that an elephant with six tusks, carrying a

lotus flower in its trunk, touched her right side. At that moment her son was

conceived. Brahmins (learned men) came and interpreted the dream. The child

would be either the greatest king in the world or the greatest ascetic (a holy

man who practices self-denial). The future child would be named Siddhartha,

which means "he whose aim is accomplished." (Snelling, J. p 12-19)

Later when Queen Maya was going to her father’s home to prepare for the birth,

she stepped off her chariot in the Lumbini Gardens and held the branch of a sal

tree to rest. In that instant, Siddhartha emerged from her right side without

any help. The infant walked seven steps each in four directions of the compass,

and lotus flowers sprouted from where his foot touched the earth. Then the

infant said, "No further births have I to endure, for this is my last body.

Now shall I destroy and pluck out by the roots the sorrow that is caused by

birth and death." Seven days later Queen Maya died. Mahaprajapati, Maya’s

sister, looked after Siddhartha. King Shuddhodana shielded Siddhartha from all

kinds of suffering and hardship. When Siddhartha was about 20, he married

Yasodhara, daughter of one of the King’s ministers, and one year later they had

a child named Rahula (meaning "fetter" or "impediment"). At

age 29, Siddhartha asked his charioteer, Channa, to take him out of the city two

times without the consent of the king. During these two trips, Siddhartha saw

"Four Sights" that changed his life. On the first trip, he saw old

age, sickness, and death. The second trip, he saw a wandering holy man, an

ascetic, with no possessions. Siddhartha started questioning the holy man, who

had a shaved head, wore only a ragged yellow robe, and carried a walking-staff.

The man said, "I am… terrified by birth and death and therefore have

adopted a homeless life to win salvation… I search for the most blessed state

in which suffering, old age, and death are unknown."(Snelling, J. p33) That

night, Siddhartha silently kissed his sleeping wife and son, and ordered Channa

to drive him out to the forest. At the edge of the forest, Siddhartha took off

his jeweled sword, and cut off his hair and beard. He then took off all his

princely garments and put on a yellow robe of a holy man. He then ordered Channa

to take his possessions back to his father. Siddhartha then wandered through

northeastern India, sought out holy men, and learned about Samsara

(reincarnation), Karma, and Moksha. Attracted to the ideas of Moksha, Siddhartha

settled on the bank of Nairanjana River, and adopted a life of extreme

self-denial and penances, meditating constantly. After six years of eating and

drinking only enough to stay alive, his body was emaciated, and he was very

weak. Five other holy men joined him, hoping to learn from his example. One day,

Siddhartha realized that his years of penance only weakened his body, and he

could not continue to meditate properly. When he stepped into the river to

bathe, he was too weak to get out, and the trees lowered their branches to help

him. In that instant, a milk-maid named Nandabala came and offered a bowl of

milk and rice, which Siddhartha accepted. The five holy men left Siddhartha

after witnessing this. Refreshed by the meal, Siddhartha sat down under a fig

tree (often referred to as the Bo tree, or Tree of Enlightenment) and resolved

to find out an answer to life and suffering. While meditating, Mara (an evil

god) sent his three sons and daughters to tempt Siddhartha with thirst, lust,

discontent, and distractions of pleasure. Siddhartha, entered a deep meditation,

and recalled all his previous rebirths, gained knowledge of the cycle of births

and deaths, and with certainty, cast off the ignorance and passion of his ego

which bound him to the world. Thereupon, Siddhartha had attained enlightenment

and became the Buddha (enlightened one). His own desire and suffering were over

and, as the Buddha, he experienced Nirvana… "There is a sphere which is

neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor air…which is neither this world nor

the other world, neither sun nor moon. I deny that it is coming or going,

enduring, death or birth. It is only the end of

suffering."(www.buddhanet.net) Instead of casting off his body and his

existence, however, Buddha made a great act of self-sacrifice. He turned back,

determined to share his enlightenment with others so that all living souls could

end the cycles of their own rebirth and suffering. Buddha went to the city of

Sarnath and found the previous five holy men that deserted him earlier at a deer

park. When they saw Buddha this time, they realized that he had risen to a

higher state of holiness. The Buddha began teaching them what he had learned. He

drew a circle in the ground with rice grains, representing the wheel of life

that went on for existence after existence. This preaching was called his Deer

Park Sermon, or "Setting in Motion the Wheel of Doctrine." Siddhartha

revealed that he had become the Buddha, and described the pleasure that he had

first known as a prince, and the life of severe asceticism that he had

practiced. Neither of these was the true path to Nirvana. The true path was the

Middle Way, which keeps aloof from both extremes. "To satisfy the

necessities of life is not evil," the Buddha said. "To keep the body

in good health is a duty, for otherwise we shall not be able to trim the lamp of

wisdom and keep our mind strong and clear." Buddha then taught them the

Dharma, which consisted of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The

five holy men and others soon joined Buddha, accompanying him everywhere. As

more joined, Buddha organized the Sangha, a community of bhikkus (dedicated

monks and later nuns). The Sangha preserved the Dharma, and allowed bhikkus to

concentrate on the goal of Nirvana. On raining seasons they would settle in

Viharas (resting places in cave dwellings) followers who believed in Buddha’s

teachings, but could not follow the strict rule of the Sangha, were taught to

follow the Five Precepts. Buddha returned to his birthplace in Kapilavastu, and

his father was mortified to see his son begging for food. Buddha kissed his

father’s foot and said, "You belong to a noble line of kings. But I belong

to the lineage of Buddha?s, and thousands of those have lived on

alms."(www.who2.com) King Shuddhadana then remembered the Brahmin’s

prophesy and reconciled with his son. Buddha’s wife, son, and cousin (Ananda)

later joined the Sangha. When Buddha was about eighty, a blacksmith named Cuanda

gave him a meal that caused him to become ill. Buddha forced himself to travel

to Kushinagara, and laid down on his right side to rest in a grove of shala

trees. As a crowd of followers gathered, the trees sprouted blossoms and

showered them on Buddha. Buddha told Ananda, "I am old and my journey is

near its end. My body is like a worn-out cart held together only by the help of

leather straps." Three times, Buddha asked the people if they had any

questions, but they all remained silent. Finally Buddha said, "Everything

that has been created is subject to decay and death. Everything is transitory.

Work out your own salvation with diligence. After passing through several states

of meditation, the Buddha died, reaching Parinirvana (the cessation of

perception and sensation). Buddha is not a Supreme God nor the Creator of

Universe in Buddhism. Buddha is just an enlightened being. If a person

enlightened, the person is Buddha too. All sentient beings can be Buddha. There

are numerous enlightened beings in millions and millions of worlds in millions

and millions of years. Shakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, was the enlightened

being in the world of time. Although Buddha is the most supreme being known in

all realms, he has no power to control everything. For instance, he is unable to

change the principle of cause and effect. In other words, if you commit an evil

deed, Buddha cannot save you by "waiving" the effect caused by your

evil deed. Nevertheless, Buddha can advise you how to mitigate the diverse

effect, if a person repent of his/her?s evil deed.( Snelling, J. p47-55)

Buddhism is perhaps the only religion that claims the eventual extinction of

itself, and also the sutra. Buddhism and its sutra inevitably abide by the

universal truth of impermanence. Whichever exists, it will extinguish, and vice

versa. Buddhism is a "vehicle" to carry all beings to the shore of the

Sea of Suffering. When you arrive at the shore, get off the vehicle. Don’t

attach to it! Let other beings use it. It is just a "convenient tool"

to facilitate all beings to understand and certify the reality of the nature and

lives, and liberate themselves. Thus, in view of highest wisdom, all verbal and

written Buddhism with names and forms are "not real" By the time of

enlightenment, there will be no Buddhism. However, before one is enlightened,

one has to study and practice Buddhism wholeheartedly and vigorously,

cultivating all merits and virtues.(Buswell, R. p29-46) Buddhism is pragmatic

and practical. Buddhism was originated from and established for the sentient

beings. It teaches how to observe and understand and certify the reality of the

nature and lives in objective and scientific way. Do practice and don’t just

study theories, especially those which are abstract. Some people would like to

know about the origin of the universe, finite or not, eternal or not, before

they will undertake to practice a religion. It is just like a man who is wounded

by an arrow wishes to know who shoots the arrow, what the arrow is made of, and

other irrelevant questions before he will have the arrow removed. Buddhism is

optimistic and enthusiastic towards life. It rejects the principle of fate,

though it emphasizes karma. The principle of impermanence and the principle of

no-self enlighten us that we should not attach and crave to fame and wealth, not

benefit ourselves by hurting others. One can enlighten and realize oneself by

enlightening and realizing others. Therefore, one has to cultivate and commit

oneself in society. Without selfishness, we can really serve the society and

people. Without the craving and clinging to personal fame and wealth, we can be

really free, comfortable and "rich". The principle of Middle Way

enlightens us about the interdependent nature of existence, therefore we should

not go extreme. Be optimistic! The secret of happiness is not doing things what

we like, but liking things what we do. The 3 processes of learning, namely

belief/faith, interpretation, practice and certification, are known as The three

Ways. The faith to a religion should not be affected by the behavior or

performance of an individual in the religion. A group of people is just a

miniature of society, having some good guys and some had guys. All religions and

philosophies have their doctrines, values and functions. Within a specific time

frame and space, different religions will serve and benefit a particular group

of human beings towards kindness and wholesomeness. Amongst the right religions,

there is no such religion that is "better" than the others. However,

since the wisdom and vision of the founders of the religions are different,

there are different levels in their doctrines, different methods of teaching and

different goals and objectives. Therefore, the extent of the benefits of the

religions is different.(Hinnells, J, 45-68)

Siddhartha Hesse, herman New York; bantam 1951 Buddhism: Central Asia and

China. 1994. The New Encyclopedia Brittanica. (15th ed). Vol 23. Chicago:

Encyclopedia Brittanica Inc. pp.273-274. Buswell, R. (Ed). 1990. Chinese

Buddhist apocrypha. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. Eliade, M. (Ed). 1987.

The Encyclopedia of Religion. New York: Macmillan Publishing Company. Hinnells,

J. (Ed). 1985. A handbook of living religions. London: Penguin Books. Snelling,

J. 1992. The Buddhist handbook: A complete guide to Buddhist teaching and

practice. London: Rider.