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Buddhism A Religion Based On The Beliefs Of One Essay, Research Paper

Buddhism, founded in the late sixth century BC by Siddhartha Gautama, is an important religion in most of the countries of Asia. Buddhism has assumed many different forms, but in each case there has been an attempt to draw from the life experiences of the Buddha, his teachings, and the spirit or essence of his teachings as models for the religious life.

Siddhartha s era in general was one of spiritual, intellectual, and social ferment. This was the age when the Hindu ideal of renunciation of family and social life by holy persons seeking Truth first became widespread. As a young man, he once went on a series of four chariot rides where he first saw the more severe forms of human suffering: old age, illness, and death, as well as an ascetic speaker. The contrast between his life and this human suffering made him realize that all the pleasures on earth were in fact transitory, and could only mask human suffering. Leaving his wife and new son, he took on several teachers and tried severe renunciation in the forest until the point of near-starvation. Finally, realizing that this too was only adding more suffering, he ate food and sat down beneath a tree to meditate. By morning (or some say six months later), he had attained Nirvana, which provided both the true answers to the causes of suffering and permanent release from it. Now the Buddha began to teach others these truths out of compassion for their suffering.

Buddha began to teach many things that he learned through Nirvana. The most important doctrines he taught included the Four Noble Truths and Eight-Fold Path. His first Noble Truth is that life is suffering. Life as we normally live it is full of the pleasures and pains of the body and mind; pleasures, he said, do not represent lasting happiness. They are inevitably tied in with suffering since we suffer from wanting them, wanting them to continue, and wanting pain to go so pleasure can come. The second Noble Truth is that suffering is caused by craving–for since pleasures and for things to be as they are not. We refuse to accept life as it is. The third Noble Truth, however, states that suffering has an end, and the fourth offers the means to that end: the Eight-Fold Path and the Middle Way. If one follows this combined path he or she will attain Nirvana, an indescribable state of all-knowing lucid awareness in which there is only peace and joy.

The Eight-fold Path often represented by a wheel with eight spokes. The Noble Eightfold Path consists of eight factors: Right Understanding Right Thoughts Right Speech Right Action Right Livelihood Right Effort Right Mindfulness Right Concentration. Right Understanding is the knowledge of the Four Noble Truths. In other words, it is the understanding of oneself as one really is. The main idea of Buddhism is Right Understanding. Buddhism is based on knowledge and practical concepts, as opposed to unsubstantiated beliefs. Right Thoughts are thoughts of renunciation, kind thoughts, which are opposed to ill will, and thoughts of harmlessness that are opposite to cruelty? Right Speech deals with refraining from falsehood, stealing, slandering, and harsh words. Right Action deals with refraining from killing, stealing and unchastely. It helps one to develop a character that is self-controlled and mindful of right of others. Right Livelihood deals with the five kinds of trades: trade in deadly weapons, trade in animals for slaughter, trade in slavery, trade in intoxicants, and trade in poisons. Right Livelihood means earning one’s living in a way that is not harmful to others. Right Effort is the endeavors to discard evil that has already arisen, prevent the arising of evil, develop good which has already arisen, and promote that good which has not already arisen. The Buddha teaches that attaining happiness and Enlightenment depends upon one’s own efforts. Effort is the root of all achievement. Right Mindfulness is also fourfold. It involves mindfulness with regard to body, feeling, mind, and mental objects. Right Mindfulness is the awareness of one’s deeds, words, and thoughts. Right Meditation means the gradual process of training the mind to focus on a single object and remain fixed upon the object without wavering. The constant practice of meditation helps one to develop a calm and concentrated mind and help to prepare one for the attainment of Wisdom and Enlightenment ultimately.

After the Buddha’s death, his celibate wandering followers gradually settled down into monasteries that were provided by the married laity as merit-producing gifts. Although Buddhism became virtually extinct in India, as a religion, it has more than proved its viability and practical spirituality in the countries of Asia to which it has been carried. The many forms and practices that have been developed within the Buddhist fold have also allowed many different types of people to satisfy their spiritual needs through this great religion.

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