This is one of the leading world religions in terms of geographical distribution, adherents and socio-cultural influence. Whereas largely an “Eastern” religion, increasingly it is becoming popular and powerful in Western world. It is a unique world religion in its own right, though it has much in common along with Hinduism in that both teach Karma (cause-and-effect ethics), Maya (the illusive nature of the world), and Samsara (the cycle of rebirth). Buddhists believe that the final goal in life is to achieve “enlightenment” as they perceive it.
This is a path of spiritual and practice development leading to Insight to the true nature of reality. Buddhist practices such as meditation are referring of changing yourself to develop the qualities of awareness, wisdom and kindness. The experience developed in the Buddhist tradition on thousands of years has formed an incomparable resource for all of those who need to follow a path - a path which finally culminates in Buddhahood and Enlightenment. An enlightened being observes the nature of reality completely, just as it is, and lives completely and naturally accordingly with that vision. It is the aim of the Buddhist spiritual life, representing the ending of suffering for anyone who attains it.
Buddhism’s founder, Siddhartha Gautama, was born in royalty in India about 600 B.C. As the story goes, he lived a luxuriously life, within little exposure to the outside world. His parents intended meant for him to be spared out from the effect of religion and defend from pain & suffering. Though, it was not long before his protection was penetrated, and he had seen an aged man, a sick man, & a corpse. His fourth vision was a peaceful ascetic monk (one who denies comfort and luxury). Seeing the monk’s peacefulness, he decided to become an ascetic himself. He abandoned his life of affluence and wealth to pursue illumination through austerity. He was skilled at this kind of self-mortification & intense meditation. He was a leader amid his peers. Eventually, his attempt culminated in one last gesture. He “indulged” himself along one bowl of rice and then sat under a fig tree (also called the Bodhi tree) to meditate until he either attained “enlightenment” or died trying. By the next morning, in spite of his travails and temptations, he had obtained enlightenment. Therefore, he became known as the 'Buddha.' or 'enlightened one'. He took his new realization and started to teach his fellow monks, with whom he had already achieved great influence. Five of his peers became his first disciples.
What had Gautama searched? Enlightenment lay in the “middle way,” not in comfortable indulgence or self-mortification. Furthermore, he searched what would become known as the ‘Four Noble Truths’:
1) Life is suffering. The very nature of human survival is painful inherently. Due to the cyclical nature of rebirth and death, death does not bring an ending to suffering.
2) Suffering has a cause: attachment and craving. Suffering is the result of our clinging aqnds selfish craving. In turn this reflects our ignorance of reality.
3) Attachment and Craving can be overcome. While one totally transcends selfish craving, one enters into the state of Nirvana, and suffering ceases.
4) The path to the cessation of craving and attachment is an Eightfold Path:
• Right purpose• Right speech• Right understanding• Right livelihood• Right conduct• Right effort• Right alertness• Right concentration
Behind these unique teachings are teachings common to Hinduism that is reincarnation, karma, Maya, and a tendency to understand realism as being pantheistic in its orientation. Buddhism also offers elaborate theology of deities & exalted beings. Though, like Hinduism, Buddhism can be difficult to pin down as to its view of God. Some of the streams of Buddhism could legitimately be called atheistic, whereas others could be called pantheistic, and yet others theistic, like Pure Land Buddhism. However, Classical Buddhism tends to be silent on the reality of an ultimate being and is thus considered atheistic.
Today Buddhism is quite diverse. It is roughly divisible to the two wide categories of Theravada (small vessel) and Mahayana (large vessel). Theravada is monastic form which reserves final enlightenment & nirvana for monks, whereas Mahayana Buddhism extends this aim of enlightenment to the laity as well, i.e., to non-monks. Within these categories could be found many branches including, Vajrayana, Tendai, Nichiren, Shingon, Pure Land, Zen, & Ryobu, among others. Thus it is significant for outsiders seeking to appreciate Buddhism not to presume to know all details of a specific school of Buddhism while all they have studied is classical, historic Buddhism.
The Buddha never assumed himself to be a god or any kind of divine being. Instead of, he supposed himself to be a ‘way-shower' for others. After his death was he exalted to god status by some his followers, although not all of his followers viewed him that way.
In Buddhism, offense is largely understood to be lack of knowledge. And, whereas sin is understood as “moral error,” the context wherein “evil” & “good” are understood is amoral. Karma is understood like nature's balance and it is not enforced personally. Nature is not moral; thus, karma is not a moral code, and sin is not finally immoral. Therefore, we can say, by Buddhist thought, that our error is not a moral issue as it is finally an impersonal mistake, not an interpersonal violation. The result of this understanding is devastating. For the Buddhist, sin is more similar to a misstep than a transgression against the nature of holy God. This understanding of sin does not accord along with the innate moral awareness that men stand condemned due to their sin before a holy God.
As it holds that sin is an impersonal & fixable error, Buddhism does not agree upon with the doctrine of depravity, a fundamental doctrine of Christianity. The Bible tells man's sin is a difficulty of eternal and infinite result. In Buddhism, there is no requiring for a Savior to save people from their damning sins. For the Christian, Jesus is the merely means of save from eternal damnation. For the Buddhist there is merely ethical living & meditative appeals to exalted beings for the optimism of possibly achieving enlightenment and final Nirvana. More than likely, one will need to go through a number of reincarnations to pay off his / her vast accumulation of karmic debt. For the true followers of Buddhism, religion is philosophy of morality & ethics, encapsulated in a life of renunciation of the ego-self. In Buddhism, realism is impersonal and non-relational; so, it does not love. Not only is God illustrated as illusory, but, in dissolving sin to non-moral error and by dropping all material reality as maya (“illusion”), even we ourselves lose our “selves.” Personality itself becomes delusion.
While asked how the world begun, who/what created the universe, the Buddha is said to have kept silent since in Buddhism there is no starting and no end. Rather, there is an endless circle of and death and birth. One would ought to ask what sort of being created us to live, endure so much pain and suffering, and after that die over and over again. It might cause one to contemplate, what is the point, why bother? Christians know that God sent His Son to die for us, one time, so that we do not need to suffer for an eternity. He sent His Son to tell us that we are not alone and that we are loved. Christians know there is more to life than suffering, and dying, but now it has been revealed through the appearing of our Christ Jesus, Savior who has destroyed death and has brought life & immortality to light through the gospel”.
Buddhism teaches that Nirvana is the peak state of being, a state of pure being, and it is gained by means relative to the individual. Nirvana defies rational explanation & logical ordering and thus cannot be taught, just realized. Jesus’ teaching on heaven, on the contrary, was quite precise. He taught us that our physical bodies die excluding our souls ascend to be along with Him in heaven. The Buddha taught that people do not contain individual souls, for the individual self or ego is delusion. For Buddhists there is no merciful Father in heaven who sent His Son to die for our souls, for our salvation, to offer the way for us to attain His glory. Finally, that is why Buddhism is to be dropped off.
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