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Buddhism Essay, Research Paper

Buddhism is probably the most tolerant religion in the world, as its teachings

can coexist with any other religions. Buddhism has a very long existence and

history, starting in about 565 B.C. with the birth of Siddhartha Gautama. The

religion has guidelines in two forms in which Buddhist followers must follow.

These are the "Four Noble Truths" and the "Eightfold Path. It all

started in about 565 B.C. when Siddhartha Gautama was born. He was a young

Indian prince born to the ruler of a small kingdom that is now known as Nepal.

Gautama’s father was said to have been told by a prophet that if Gautama saw the

sick, aged, dead, or poor he would become a religious leader. If he didn?t see

these four things he would become an emperor. Because of this prophecy Gautama’s

father decided to isolate his son from the outside world, where he might

"see how the other half lived", for the good of his empire and his

citizens. Trying to shelter Gautama from all the four sights was impossible, and

Gautama ventured out and that is when he eventually saw the four sights, which

would, if experienced as it had been told to Gautama’s father, lead the young

prince to a religious leader. These sights or as how Buddhists refer to them

"The Four Signs" were in turn, a sick man covered with terrible sores,

an old man, a corpse, and a wandering monk. The sightings of these men made

Gautama think of the suffering and inevitable death which comes to all people

great and small. This brought further questioning such as the meaning of life

and the ultimate fate of man. As time passed these thoughts became great burdens

to Gautama and he increasingly became dissatisfied with the shallow dissolute

life of the royal court in which he lived. Therefore at the age of 21, although

married with a beautiful young son and also the heir to a very rich throne he

forsook it all and became a traveling holy man. After a while of traveling as a

holy man there was a great even that transformed Gautama into the Buddha (or the

Enlightened One). Siddhartha had been meditating under a bodhi tree for six

years, but had never been fully satisfied. Eventually at dawn it all began on

Gautama’s thirty-fifth birthday. He finally realized the essential truth about

life and about the path to salvation. He realized that physical harshness of

asceticism was not a means of achieving Enlightenment and Nirvana. From then on,

he encouraged people to follow a path of balance rather than extremism. He

called this path the Middle Way. "Devotion to the pleasures of sense, a low

practice of villagers, a practice unworthy, unprofitable, the way of the world

[on one hand]; and [on the other] devotion to self- mortification, which is

painful, unworthy and unprofitable. By avoiding these two extremes the Buddha

has gained knowledge of that middle path which giveth vision, which giveth

knowledge, which causeth calm, special knowledge, enlightenment, Nirvana."

He cleaned his mind of all evil thoughts and achieved Enlightenment at the age

of thirty-five, earning the title Buddha, or "Enlightened One."

Because of this Gautama then became the Buddha and remained at this spot for

many days while remaining in a trance-like state and told his teachings to five

ascetics for many weeks. This experience made Gautama feel a desire to share his

knowledge with others, so he and his five students preached to the world.

Gautama was a teacher and guru until his death in about 483 B.C. Buddhism is a

lot like other Indian religions based upon the beliefs. Such as the beliefs in

reincarnation, dharma, karma and Nirvana. But mostly in Raja Yoga the profound

meditation which holds the key to enlightment and therefore to the way of

Nirvana. Buddha himself expressed the base of his beliefs when he said, "I

teach only 2 things, O disciples, the fact of suffering and the possibility of

escape from suffering. These ideas are expanded upon in the "Four Noble

Truths" and the "Eightfold Path". In His first sermon to the five

ascetics in the Deer Park near Varanasi, the Buddha spoke of the Four Noble

Truths. The Four Noble Truths summed up, in a systematic formula, are the

central teaching of the Buddha and can be summarized by saying, life is

suffering (dukkha), the cause of suffering is desire (tanha) the way to end

suffering is to overcome desire, and to overcome desire one must follow the

"Eightfold Path". Buddha taught that man is a slave to his ego. That

man wishes happiness, security, success, long life, and many other things for

himself and his loved ones. However, pain, frustration, sickness and death are

all impossible to avoid and the only way to eliminate these evils is to overcome

desire. The "Eight Fold Path" is a little more difficult to summarize

it begins with, "Right to Knowledge", which means basically the four

noble truths. "Right Aims" in next, one must resolve in order to make

progress towards salvation. "Right Speech", our speech reflects our

character. We must avoid speaking falsely, obscene, slanderous, and belittling

words. "Right Conduct", you must follow the five constitutes at the

core of Buddhism’s moral code which are, no killing, no stealing, no lying, no

committing indecent sexual acts or no consuming of intoxicants. "Right

Livelihood", some jobs are condemned by Buddha such as slave dealer,

butcher, prostitute, and traders of lethal weapons and substances. "Right

Effort", one must have the will power to overcome obstacles. "Right

Mindfulness", Buddhism says that what a person is, comes from what he

thinks. By improving our thoughts we can become more virtuous. And the last is

"Right Meditation" by this meaning the practice of the Raja Yoga.

Since Buddhism emphasizes the desirability of self-removal from the problems

involved with everyday life, Buddhism easily became a monastic religion. Within

monasteries, everyone has the same goal, which is to attain Nirvana. The

Enlightenment which dwells in life does not belong to only one form. Man is

always changing and entirely mortal. Buddhism is a natural religion. It does not

violate either the mind or the body. The Buddha became aware that men are born

and die according to their good or evil actions, according to their self-created

Karma-the consequences of good or evil acts. Nirvana is "self annihilation

or the extinguishing of all traces of desire, which repre- sents final

enlightment and which releases a person from the cycle of rebirth". There

are many monasteries in the world, in some of them in countries such as Burma,

Thailand, and Ceylon, almost every young male spends at least a few weeks of his

life within a monastery. Typically at the age of four the boy celebrates an

elaborate ceremony which involves first dressing him in fine clothing. Then

stripping the clothing from him, shaving his head and giving him a beggar-bowl

along with a saffron-colored robe. These three things are all traditional

symbols of a Buddhist monk. For those who become monks it is a life of poverty

and celibacy. Before gaining the admittance into the monastery a monk must

proclaim his faith by saying "I go to Buddha for refuge; I go to Dharma for

refuge; I go to Sangha for refuge" by saying this a monk gives up his civil

rights such as voting and being eligible for public services. Also a few sects

permit marriage. This report was just a short overview of traditional Buddhism,

the Buddha, its beliefs and its way of life. It did not include the two major

sects; Theravada the conservative sect, and Mahayana the liberal sect. Much more

could be said of Buddhism but there are so many more aspects that could be

explored that it would take a twenty-page report and forever to do.

42f

Hopfe, Lewis M. Religions of the World. New York: Macmillan Publi- shing

Company, 1991. Mazour, Anatole G. and John M. Peoples. World History People and

Nations Revised Edition. Orlando, Florida: Holt, Rinhart and Winston Inc., 1993.

www.buddhanet.com


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