Buddhist Ethnography

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The Buddhist Experience
Buddhism is a religion that focuses more on the individual and the actions of that individual, which was prevalent to me when I made my way into Portland and set foot in a Buddhist temple. The man I met within the walls of this temple was far from my stereotypical thoughts of Buddhist monks. The man I met looked like your plain old, average Joe, American man. Before I delve into the depths of my visit to this inspiring place, I need to sum up the Buddhist religion and why I chose to study this particular group of people.

First, Buddhism. Buddhism is a religion based off of the idea that there is a path that one can take to achieve enlightenment, instead of believing in a god or multiple gods. Buddhism began with a man named Siddhartha. Siddhartha, the son of a king and heir to the throne, was forbidden to leave the castle walls within which he was confined. His Father, the king, made him stay within the walls at all time so as not to see the suffering that was happening in the outside world. His father even hid all aging and sickness from his son. One day, Siddhartha told his personal bodyguard that he wanted to venture beyond the walls of the castle. The servant had no choice but to obey what Siddhartha had told him. The two set out and on their journey, they came across an old man in the street who was very close to dying. Siddhartha asked the bodyguard what was wrong with the man and the bodyguard had no choice but to tell Siddhartha the truth. They repeated this feat of leaving the castle walls on 3 more occasions, seeing a sickly woman on the side of the road one day, a dead body on the side of the road the next, and a renunciator on the fourth and final day. Each time the bodyguard was asked what was wrong with the person they saw, and each time, he was forced to tell Siddhartha the truth. These four people became known as the four sights, and eventually lead to Buddhism’s main teachings: life is suffering but there is a way out...
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