Significance of the Problem
Buddhism is a religion that has prompted many discussions from literally scholars and other religious scholars. The interest to study Buddhism came as a result of the need to understand this type of religion that has prompted around six percent of the world to be its followers. It is also as a desire to understand the driving force in this religious doctrine. The desire to understand meditation as the base of this religion’s development is another reason why studying Buddhism is necessary.
The main aims of studying Buddhism are to understand the origin of this religion, the founders and how they came to settle and called it Buddhism. The second aim is to find out the various terminologies in Buddhism, for example, Buddha, Shusho and other terminologies. The third aim is to understand the principles that underlie the formation of this faith. Lastly is to analyze the different theories that argue in the light of Buddhism formation.
Scope and Limitations of the Study
The main areas of this study are to analyze theories that underlie the formation of Buddhism. The study also involves the main framework of different beliefs, the eightfold path and the truths that are crucial to this religion.
Definition of Terms
It is indispensable to discuss a few terminologies that define Buddhism in order to provide a conducive ground for the understanding of Buddhism. To begin with Buddhism is a religion that encompasses many people in the Asian countries that professes different forms of the Buddhist doctrine and they also worship Buddha. Buddha is the founder of the Buddhist religion. He is also worshipped as a form of a god. Buddha hood is the process of being enlightened with Buddhism doctrines.
Benefits of the Study
The study provides an in-depth understanding of the Buddhists and its doctrines. Another benefit is that the researcher is enlightened on the various principles of Buddhism, therefore, respecting this religion as much as they respect other forms of religion.
Organization of the Study
The study begins with the basic introduction to some Buddhists beliefs. The study then involves the various teachings of Buddhism, the theories and graphical representation in terms of population of people that practice Buddhism.
Literature Review and Conceptual Framework
One of the first issues agreed upon in Buddhist belief is information about the life of Buddha or, by his given name of Siddhartha Gautama. The Gautama family were rulers of the kingdom of the Sakyas which is found in Nepal. Siddhartha was a prince because his father was the king of Sakyas, and his mother was queen Maya. He lived a life of privilege because he was a royal descendant. He had never seen the outward world that was full of suffering because his father had sheltered him away from these sufferings. He was married to princess Yasodhara when he was sixteen years old. One day, while on a tour with his father, he noticed these problems and realized that life was not all about differentiating people into social castes. Having this notion in mind, he left his father’s kingdom at the age of twenty nine to talk to men he believed to be wise men.
He soon found an ascetic group and became a follower of that group but still it did not satisfy him. After realizing and witnessing many believes, he sat beneath a tree and started meditating. He realized that when he did this he found a renewal of the mind and became enlightened on several things. He, therefore, returned to his old sect and began teachings on the four truths and the eightfold path. From this time and onwards, he was called Buddha. His followers soon realized the truth and errors in their ways. Buddha then preached around the globe without discriminating on the poor, the sick and the hunger stricken. He never judged people on the basis of their castes (Goenka, 2003).
He obtained his followers by teaching those ways of finding enlightenment. He believed that there is no God and that each person had in himself the ability to obtain enlightenment. This was the reason why he was then called Buddha. He believed that his achievements were due to human intelligence. Followers were allowed to think freely and ask questions of Buddha or elder monks in order to help them find the truth in any given situation (Mahamuni, 2001).
Buddha believed that every person was not born evil and that each person knows the difference of what is right and what is wrong. It is pure logic to know these things. He did not believe that religious texts or beliefs should be followed if one has doubt about them or if one is able to ask a question that is unanswerable or the answer given is not clear. Buddha believed it was reasonable to have doubt. He also said that if a person knows something is untoward, then he should give it up. If something is true then practice and accept it. With this said, a reader will see that there is no sin in Buddhism.
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The "greatest evil" is ignorance of a subject and one of the five hindrances to getting past ignorance. One must ask questions on any subject to dispel doubt and gain knowledge, truth and wisdom on said subject. The truth must be found! Just because a person says that they believe or know something does not mean that they actually understand it. The ultimate goal is to dispel doubt beyond any reason. People say to themselves that they believe or they accept without acually understanding the truth behind any subject (Payutto, 2003).
The main teachings of Buddha were, a) Violence is an evil act b) people should not engage in businesses that could endanger their lives c) people should not follow other teachings or religions if they doubt d) Do not prejudice other religions e) people should use their intellect to find the truth
Buddhism never required faith so as to believe or follow it. It is founded on seeing, knowing and understanding. These things do not require faith or believe in order to follow it. Sraddha is a Sanskrit term that means an act that is performed with utmost sincerity and faith. It has three aspects a) conviction that a thing is b) serene joy at valid qualities c) Aspiring to achieve an objective or object that is within view (King, 1964).
Buddha knew that, for impurities and corruption to be destroyed within one's life, the person must be willing to know and to see. If the person does not wish to know and to see, then the said person will be stuck in the wheel of suffering until he accepts the path of "Truth". Buddhism was founded on a belief of "come and see" (ehi-passika).
Buddha taught his disciples not to hold on to what he taught and fondle it or think it over too much. The more one holds on to things (even beliefs) or runs them over and over in one's mind, the more we want to become attached to them. Attachment leads to emotions, which; lead to suffering (Inada & Jackson, 1984). This is the subject that Buddha wanted to help others cease to experience. The Buddha said to use his teachings as a "raft". "The raft is for crossing over not something to carry", it would slow your progress. Buddha taught that it is acceptable to give up agreeable things (it strengthens your goal for non attachment), and it is ten times better to give up things we know to be obscene or evil. Buddha wanted his teachings to be able to carry man across life to the feelings of "safety, peace, tranquility and the attainment of Nirvana".
Buddha did not like to discuss topics of metaphysical, theoretical and unanswerable natures. He felt that these subjects would do nothing but waste one's time and hinder their ability to perceive the "Truth" in life. Such subjects were seen as "a wilderness of opinions". Buddha put it best as "the holy life does not depend on such views. That is whatever the opinion of a person these problems there will always be old age, death sorrow, decay, pain, grief, distress and birth." Buddha did not discuss such issues because they are not altogether useful for us to achieve spiritual path in the spiritual and holy life. The discussion of topics of metaphysical, theoretical and unanswerable natures leads to confusion and will not help in the cessation of the above problems (Payutto 1964).
Dukkha according to Buddhists is translated to mean hunger, pain, anguish, irritation, dejection and despair. In other words, it is translated to mean human sufferings.
The "First Noble Truth" is Dukkha. Dukkha translates directly into English as suffering. This is not to say that Buddhism preaches pain and suffering, but; that Buddhism recognizes that all life is made up of suffering. Suffering takes many forms within peoples’ lives. Afflictions can be anything from physical, mental, or spiritual pain. More examples of this can be translated as pain, sorrow, misery, imperfection, impermanence, emptiness, and insubstantiality. One should also note that feelings of happiness towards physical objects, peoples thoughts and spiritual manifestations are also included in Dukkha. These are not forms of suffering, rather; that these happy feelings lead to attachment, and attachment leads to further suffering if it is ever lost or given up (King 1964).
Buddha wanted his followers to understand that enjoyments of one's sense pleasures are not permanent. In order to understand this, he produced a three step list which is, a) Assada which means desire, attraction, enjoyment and gratification b) Adinava which means danger, evil consequences and dissatisfaction c) Nissarana which is liberation and freedom.
When a person experiences Step 1, said person becomes attached or connected to the above feelings. Step 2, if the above things are taken away or withheld from a person after experiencing them, a person becomes saddened, angry, withdrawn, unbalanced, and may act imprudently or thoughtlessly. Step 3, if one does not form this attachment or works past it then one can experience freedom.
Dukkha may also be viewed in three sections. 1.) Ordinary suffering 2.) Dukkha produced by change: This section of dukkha includes the feelings of pain, suffering and unhappiness felt because of variation in the flow of a happy feeling or "happy condition in life". 3.) Dukkha has different conditioned states: This section includes the feeling of "I" or the Buddhist theory of "being", which; is composed of the "five aggregates" (the five aggregates translate as dukkha also) (Byrom, 2002).
The first aggregate is the "Four Great Elements" (solidity, fluidity, heat, and motion or rock, water, fire and wind). Also, included are the derivatives of the "Four Great Elements". These are humans five sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body) and the way they interact with the world (via visible forms, sounds, odors, tastes, physical feelings, etc.) to produce mental concepts of the world around us.
The second is Sensations that are produced by the Four Great Elements to form mental compositions that lead to mental feelings (i.e. sensations). Said sensations may be happy or unhappy, pleasant or unpleasant. Here, it should be noted that the mind is seen as just another organ that can be trained in order to control the above issues be they physicaal or mental.
The third is Perceptions that are produced by the six senses (sixth being the mind) to form the recognition of objects within a persons life. These objects may either mental or physical.
The fourth aggregate is that of mental formations that correspond to the first three. There are fifty two such formations titled as "volitional activities" or the act of will and the physical movement it causes. They include confidence, repugnance, conceit, ignorance and the idea of self.
The fifth is consciousness, which; has the sixth sense as its base and one of the six interactions made by the senses as an object. Consciousness simply means the awareness of an object due to the above faculties. The awareness of the object simply means one "sees" it but does not recognize it, thus; producing no knowledge or understanding of the object. The sixth sense is the mind. These aggregates combined are what most people understand as the self.
The "Second Noble Truth" deals with the issue of where dukkha originated. Simply stated the origin of dukkha is thirst. All humans are thirsty for sense pleasures, thirst for self existence or to become something more, and the thirst for nonexistence. Another way to look at this is that humans thirst, greed, desire, and crave more things in life, both physically and mentally. If the cravings are not met or halted, one suffers and may desire an end of the suffering through death. Unfortunately, this only allows more suffering to enter through the form of rebirth into the next minute or next life (Burns, 1971).
The thirst that humans crave includes dhamma-tanha which is the attachment of beliefs, theories, ideals, ideas, and conceptions connected in religious, philosophical, or political areas). This attachment to beliefs, as well as the attachment to sense pleasures, causes all the problems within the world. Buddha seemed to believe as Aristotle did, in that if there must be the king to rule over people then that king must be one of utter philosophical knowledge that is not attached to the world, enlightened, not craving of the "Thirst". Unfortunately, we see that thousands of years later neither Buddhist nor Aristotelian beliefs has taken affect. This is due to the fact that "thirst" contains the false ideas of "self arising out of ignorance". All around us we see the ignorance of our leaders and that nothing but suffering and strife arises from their thirst.
Buddha taught that the "mental volition" of humans is what ties us to suffering within this life and the next. People have the desire to live, live longer, and accumulate riches. To be able to destroy the thirst we must understand that the start of dukkha is found within itself. Not only is the start found within, but; the cessation or destruction of dukkha is also within itself.
Though Karl Marx came years later, he seemed to understand this concept and used it to explain the rising and falling of both political and economical systems throughout human history.
While on the topic of "mental actions" one should explore the word kamma or karma. Literally translated, karma means "volitional actions" and not all actions within individual lives. Karma is not the result of anything, rather; kamma is the effect. The results of kamma may be acceptableor immoral but in the end only have "one force as its effect" this is the force of continuation, in a direction one’s choice (the choice made before, which; is kamma). We have within us the answer to any choice presented. Whether we choose the correct choice, (which we know), is what determines the effectual force of kamma. These choices may affect us in the afterlife. The afterlife is of course a mystery.
What we understand within Buddhist teachings is that an afterlife may be within the next second. The afterlife carries on after the physical bodies cease to exist. Every moment within our lives the five aggregates come into being, whither away and then pass into nothingness. But in the next second another flow of this pattern starts again either within this same physical body or by ideas/theories/ideals passed on to the next generation, in other words every thought or mental action that I have is born, decays, and dies every second, minute, day. Within my physical lifetime, I am reborn millions of times, therefore, my physical being (including my mind) both is not the same, and the same at each different moment. It is always changing, but may have a residue of old mental volitions that have affected it. Not only am I reborn within this physical body, but the ideas/theories/ideals that I had in the past, have in the present, and will have in the future will carry on due to my contact with other physical beings, thus; a part of what I do now will carry on or affect someone else’s life (thus never truly dying).
Another way to look at this is within science. Scientists discovered that energy never dies it only transforms. This can also be seen in the light of a star.people have always seen the star, and if, at a time, we stop seeing that said star it only means that the light it had has finally passed us but carries on into its opposite directions away from us. The same can be reflected in peoples’ deeds, in their lives, (life is nothing more then energy transfers). The volitional actions or karma we choose are expended energy that was passed to us from the past, and will continue through us into the future (possibly in the same or different form, though; nothing is unchanging).
The Buddha saw that as long as there was thirst there is continuity and kamma. The only way to beat this vicious cycle is through the cessation of dukkha. The cessation of dukkha can only be found through wisdom. Wisdom leads a person to see Truth, Reality, or Nirvana.