A Look into BuddhismThis research paper is going to be about the ancient religion of Buddhism. One of the major religions of the world. A religion where it is not that one god or many gods that is worshipped, but where the religion’s followers try to pursue the same path as its founder, in order to gain ultimate enlightenment. It is a religion which does not require the same amount of blind faith such as Christianity or others. The reason is because the people do not have to wonder whether or not this man exists or once existed. In Christianity, everything is based on the assumption that God created everything.
God created the earth in seven days, God controls everything we do, God decides whether you go to Heaven or Hell. The goals of the Buddhists is to follow this man’s path, to base what they do on what he did and said, and to have faith in their own decisions and their own good nature, while not taking any day for granted because it could be your last. Buddhism, today, has about 350 million followers. According to an article by Frank E. Reynolds, most of them live in Sri Lanka, the mainland nations of southeast Asia, and Japan. ( Reynolds p. 1). This is a much smaller amount of followers than that of Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism.
However, at various times, Buddhism has been a dominant religious, cultural, and social force in most of Asia. ( Reynolds p. 1). Buddha’s real name was Siddhartha Gautama. He was born sometime during the 500’s or 400’s B. C. in South Western Nepal. He was a member of a royal and powerful family. He was never allowed to see all of the parts of life that are bad and even normal for most of us. He did not know about death or sickness. He did not know about the spiritual side of life either. He had been protected from all of these things since the day he was born.
He couldn’t take the questions that had arisen from his life of protection so he started sneaking out to see what was really going on. On one of his ventures outside of the castle walls he saw an old man first, then he saw a sick man, and then he saw a dead man laying in the street. This really frightened young Siddhartha to a point where he didn’t know if life was worth living. (Boeree p. 1) On another one of his ventures he saw an ascetic, which is a person that has denied themselves pleasure. He then began to understand a little bit more of the spiritual side of life.
At the age of 29, he abandoned his wife and infant son to gain religious enlightenment as a wandering monk. After traveling throughout India for about 6 years he decided that he had reached his enlightenment. In the town of Bodh Gaya, Siddhartha decided he would sit under a fig tree and meditate for as long as it took the answers to come to him. He sat there for many days and suddenly began to recall his previous lives. (Boeree p. 2). He believed he had discovered why life was filled with suffering and how people could escape from this unhappy existence. (Boeree p.1) After others learned of this, they called him Buddha, which means the enlightened one. (Reynolds p. 2).
The way of the Buddhists is to escape the cycle of birth and re-birth and to remove the suffering from the equation. Siddhartha discovered that denying yourself of all pleasures in life is not the way. The best road is usually going to be the middle road. The 4 noble truths of Buddhism are very important because they all have to do with things that cannot be controlled. They all basically have to do with suffering and the ignorance that we have. The first noble truth is the fact of suffering.
The second noble truth is the cause of suffering. The third noble truth is the cessation of suffering and the fourth is the freedom from suffering. They also follow the noble eight fold path, which consists of 3 steps. It consists of steps of wisdom, steps of conduct, and steps of discipline. Ultimately what the religions main theme is that ultimate good is total detachment. The Dhammapada, which means the path of Dharma, is basically a list of the Buddhist sayings grouped into different sections. It consists of 423 sayings grouped into 26 categories.
The sayings are not only for people who follow the religion, but a path in which anyone can follow. (Hooker p. 2) “Let no man think lightly of evil, saying in his heart, It will not come near to me. Even by the falling of water-drops is a water-pot filled; the fool becomes full of evil, even if he gathers it little by little. ” This is a direct translated quote from the Dhammapada. I believe what he is trying to say here is that your ignorance is what is your ultimate doom. You can tell yourself that what you are doing is not evil, but sure enough, if you continue doing what you are doing then you will eventually become consumed with it. (Hooker)
Ignorance is what causes evil because the evil doer does not truly know what he is doing is wrong. Buddha taught that each persons existence was a continuing cycle of death and rebirth. Each persons position and well being is determined by their behavior in their previous life or lives. Good deeds may lead to a persons rebirth as a wise or wealthy person, while bad deeds may result in becoming a poor or sickly person, or even end up in hell. Buddha also taught that as long as a person remains in the cycle of death and rebirth that they can never become free from pain and suffering.
Buddha said people can break the cycle by eliminating their attachment to worldly things. (Hooker) By ridding themselves of the attachment, people gain a kind of perfect peace and happiness. This was to be called, “Nirvana. ” Before taking an Ethics course, my assumption about Buddhism was completely different than where I stand today. I did not know that it was older than Christianity and I did not know that a lot of the same beliefs are involved. Buddhists do not worship a small, funny looking statue.
They meditate and think of what Buddha would have done, at all times trying to follow his path. I once classified Buddhism with the ranks of Atheists and devil worshippers. Just someone bringing up the religions name would put negative thoughts into my mind. The truth of the matter is that the teachings and actions of its founder, Siddhartha Gautama, cannot even be perceived as evil once you have done your research. All of the sayings do not make sense to me, but the ones that do seem to really spark something in your mind that makes want to act better and want to be a better person.
Out of all the religions before, during, and after Christianity, who is really to say that theirs is the only one that is real. Whose to say that they all can’t be true or none of them. The main thing about the Buddhists ways that I respect and admire is that they really do want to go through life being good people. “Ultimate detachment comes from within. ” To be ultimately happy is to remove yourself from the temptations that surround you. I think we could all learn a little bit from the ways of the Buddha.
Even if we have our own religious beliefs, we cannot always justify our actions as that being what we were supposed to do or that was the way it was supposed to happen. We control our own actions and we control our behavior. It is however, hard to control what happens to us, but the only thing that we can control is how we handle it and how we react. The teachings of Buddha, to me, really bring out the idea of ignorance being the reason we are so self absorbed and so wrapped up in attachment to the temporary.
If you knew you were not going to be here tomorrow would you have really been that upset that you struck out 5 times in your baseball game or would you be so mad for weeks and weeks because you lost your favorite watch. However, ignorance is also a sort of bliss at the same time. To say its ok and not worry about things at all because of your detachment is definitely inhumane. If a close relative dies, your parents separate, or you become paralyzed does not cause you a certain amount of grief then you are probably going to be deemed with some kind of emotional disorder. Buddha’s expression of how life should be lived has a lot to with moderation.
You should have a certain amount of pleasure, but not so much to where it interferes with other parts of your life. You should have a certain amount of grief strike you when something terrible happens and you should feel a certain level of anger when you are betrayed. Having these types of emotions is one of the best and the worst things about being human because to not experience these types of feelings is to be robbed of our souls. Hence, my conclusion after learning what I have learned about Buddhism is that most all religions have a lot of the same goals in mind.
Some would say that all religion is basically a spine for the governments across the world. You should act a certain way because if you don’t you will go to hell or if you don’t obey the laws of your society than you will be cursed by the gods. This is just one of the many interesting questions that comes from religion, new and old, but Buddhism obviously had nothing to do with the government and nothing to do with the gods. It is basically an ethical code one should follow to obtain absolute happiness, whether that is while you are in the body you are given or in the afterlife.
1.) Reynolds, Frank E. “Buddhism.” World Book Online Reference Center. 2005. World Book, Inc. 13 Sept. 2005. http://www.aolsvc.worldbook.aol.com/wb/article?id=ar081080.
2.) Boeree, Dr. George C. “The life of Siddhartha Gautama.” 2004. Sept. 2005.
3.)Misistry. “Basics of Buddhism.” 2005. Sept.
See H.C. Warren, Buddhism in Translations(1896, repr.1963) The Dhammapada, and Foundations of Japanese Buddhism.