Buddhism is one of the more mainstream religions in the world and it is continually expanding throughout the world. Buddhism comes from budhi, which means “to awaken”, the goal of Buddhism. Like all religions, there are many sects of Buddhism. There are over 80,000 different types of Buddhism, the two main ones being Mahayanna and Theraveda. There are about 3-4 million Buddhists in America now (www.pluralism.org/resources/statistcs/tradition.php). Many people have found Buddhism to help them deal with their daily day life. And many others have found Buddhism as an enhancement to their own religion. Buddhism is rich in history and it is discovered by more and more people every day.
Buddhism is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama. Who is Siddhartha Gautama? Siddhartha was a prince born around 563 BC in India. He realized at the age of twenty-nine how empty his life had been and how much suffering there is in the world. Therefore giving up everything he owned, he started on his conquest for the end of suffering. Meditating under the Bo tree one day, he reached the state of enlightenment. Finally reaching what he had been searching for all his life, he set out to teach and preach to others of what he had achieved. His body of disciples is called the Sangha. Individual males of the Sangha, monks, are marked by their shaved heads and orange robes. There is also and order for the nuns of Buddhism.
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The goal of Buddhism is to reach enlightenment. Enlightenment is not only for those who are extremely “good”. Every person has the potential to reach that state of Enlightenment. To reach the ultimate goal, all one has to do is follow the core teachings.
The core teachings of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. The Four Noble Truths are as follows 1) “Life is suffering”, 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”, and 4) “The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path”. (Encarta) Hence, material wealth is not necessary to living.
The Eightfold Path is crucial on the path to finding enlightenment. It is called the “Middle Way, and is the “one and only way” (members.aol.com/_ht_a/thaivipassana/Page2.html?mtbrand=AOL_US) to reach the Four Noble Truths and end suffering”. The eight parts of the Middle Way are 1) right understanding—that is, understanding of the nature of suffering in the world, 2) right thought (the desire to practice Buddhism), 3) right speech (avoidance of lies and slander), 4) right action (shunning extramarital sex and acts of cruelty), 5) right livelihood (refraining from immoral or unsuitable occupations), 6) right moral effort (cultivating a peaceful and good state of mind), 7) right mindfulness (self-awareness), and 8) right concentration (meditation) (Encarta).
Another important teaching of Buddhism is the afterlife. Buddhists believe in what is called Nirvana. But unlike Christianity’s heaven, Nirvana is impermanent. The duration of a stay in Nirvana depends on a person’s karma. Karma is “the sum total of one’s actions, good or bad” (Encarta). After one’s stay in Nirvana, they are reincarnated.
That is the afterlife, but life on earth is different. A person is made up of five aggregates at all times, “the material body, feelings, perceptions, predispositions or karmic tendencies, and consciousness”. (Encarta) These aggregates are constantly in flux.
The daily practice of Buddhism is chanting which clears the mind and aligns the body and mind.
Buddhism, instead of being a problem to society, actually is very beneficial to it. Those who practice Buddhism do not think in violent terms. Buddhism helps to clear the mind and help people become more open minded. A stereotype of Buddhism is that it keeps one calm at all times. And that is true sometimes. Everyone gets angry, but chanting helps calm the mind. Buddhists cause no political problems. They accept other religions and are accepted by others.
Though there are many differences between Buddhism and Christianity (which the chart shows), the church vehemently supports ecumenism, which is cooperation among all the churches of the world.
What Would Jesus Do?
Jesus himself was not exactly a Christian. He was raised in a Jewish environment. He believed that all people should understand each other and be more open-minded. Why can’t we all just get along? “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you” (Matt 7:12). We would all like everyone to understand our beliefs even though they themselves may not practice it. It doesn’t matter what race or religion we are. Everyone is a person with different beliefs.
Jesus accepted those who were physically different, the ill, the lame, the blind, and many others. Why would he not accept those who thought differently? He associated himself with criminals and the poor. We should follow his example and accept those of different religions.
I find myself totally agreeing with the philosophies of Buddhism. Their core teachings are more like guidelines, unlike the church, which I believe, is much stricter. They have rules and laws and all our actions seem to have more dire consequences. Also, Buddha is more human to me than Jesus is. We always talk about the divine Jesus, how he is all mighty. But Siddhartha was a simple man in search of an answer and through many struggles, he finally found what he was looking for. He also died like a human. But Jesus was raised from the dead and is the son of man. Siddhartha is much easier for me to relate to at times.
I really like Buddhism. Some of the ideas of Buddhism have been part of my life as a tradition but I never really understood them. Some people may say oh Buddhism is easy religion, you don’t have to do anything. Learning about it though MAKES me want to do something. I, like every other person in this world, go through stress and anger, and all those negative feelings. If chanting has helped so many calm themselves, I say why not give it a try? Buddhism does not have strict rules and regulations; it is more based on individual terms. I believe that chanting can help me in saying my prayers and instead of taking over my Catholic beliefs, it will actually enhance it.
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