Buddhism Religion and Afterlife
The idea of death and the afterlife is a topic that everyone can relate to. Whether one has a bigger belief towards western religion, eastern religion, or no religion at all (atheism), the idea of life after death exists in the minds of many. All the major world religions teach that life continues after death. As for my religion, Christianity; the beliefs can be generally classified as a linear, whereas the faith traditions such as Buddhism and a few others can be classified as mainly cyclical. Cyclical is the opposite of linear, People do not just live and die once, but can be reborn a number of times (and live a series of lives) before reaching their final end-state. After death, the soul (or the essence of a person) is reborn in this world to live a new life. The process of being re-born into the world is also known as reincarnation. This continuous cycle of life is known as samsara, and it is the aim of every Buddhist to achieve freedom from it so that they will no longer be reborn into the world. Buddhists believe people are continually reborn into this world, unless they have achieved liberation (freedom) from samsara (the continual process of birth, death and rebirth). The Buddha experienced samsara when he saw the effects of old age and sickness, leading to death. Freedom from samsara occurs when a person has reached nirvana. Buddhism began as a way to address the suffering that exists in the world, and was not overly-focused on ultimate salvation. Salvation in early Buddhism was nirvana; it is ultimately not a place or state, but the end of rebirth. Buddha said little about nirvana, because he felt that the alleviation of suffering was far more important, and that focusing on the goal of ultimate salvation would only lead to more attachments, and therefore more suffering. Nirvana literally means “blowing out”. It describes the state of mind people have extinguished, all the desires which promote selfish attitudes (greed, hatred, etc) and the idea that all things in life do not change. Holding onto these emotions only increases dukkha, and is also evidence of still being on the samsara cycle. The Buddha taught that freedom from samsara would occur when a person reached enlightenment. Buddhists were taught not to think on nirvana as a goal, instead were encouraged to give donations of goods, services, or money to monks or monasteries; to chant or copy sutras; and to engage in other activities in order to gain worthiness that could lead to a more desirable rebirth, which would bring them closer to enlightenment. The world enlightenment implies ‘awakening’. It suggests that people who have not been enlightened are in some ways ‘asleep’, or not seeing things as they really are. Enlightenment is normally expected to take place over many lifetimes and is occurred as one realized the Four Noble Truths and has practiced The Eightfold Path.
It is interesting that the Buddha refused to speculate about things such as how the world came about, and what life after death is like. This is because the subject was somewhat unknown on such matters, he felt no-one could ever know for sure how life began and what the after-life would be like. Instead of speaking about the unknown, he was more concerned with dealing with the practical problem of living in the here and now, and pondering about the nature of things elsewhere simply prevented people from addressing the real issues they face today. The belief that there is no point pondering the nature of things beyond our everyday experience is reinforced when speaking about nirvana. Some people think nirvana is like heaven, but it is more of a state of mind than a physical place. The Buddha would question the wisdom of trying to establish what nirvana was, before seeking Enlightenment. Instead, he would advocate seeking Enlightenment, in order to find out what nirvana was like. When religions speak of heaven/paradise, they often understand it as a...
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