Professor Oidinposha Imamkhodjaeva
20 October 2013
In this essay I will provide a summary of Buddhism. Further, I will discuss whether Buddhism is a philosophy or a religion. First, I will summarize what is Buddhism. Buddhism closely relates to Chinese history. I got to know Buddhism since I was in the middle school. However, after this class, I have learned more and deeper ideas of Buddhism. Buddhism is one of the three largest religions in the world and founded by Siddhartha Gauthama, who is commonly known as the Buddha, meaning "the awakened one" (Wikipedia, par.1). Buddha is an awakened teacher to teach the Dhamma to unenlightened beings. Buddhism is documented in the Tipitaka, which in Pali and Sanskrit terms means “three baskets”. It is documented in 83 BCE in Sri Lanka (Calyaneratne, par.1). Tipitaka is the three main categories of texts that make up the Buddhist canon, including Sutras, Abhidharma and Vinaya. There are four noble truths in Buddhism. Firstly, there is suffering (dukkha). Life is full of suffering and is caused by craving (tanha). Buddhists think people cannot avoid death, but the death is not the ending of lives. People are not disappearing after death, they believe in the theory of metempsychosis (samsara). The second noble truth about the cause of suffering is the chain of twelve links. It has a source (samidday) and everything is causally conditioned or produced (Olson, page 45). It talks about the chain of causes and effects that leads to suffering. Buddhists interpret that the present life is the effect of the past and cause of the future (in-class lecture). In China, we say that the present immorality will affect your future life and vice versa. We can see that suffering depends on causes and effects. Everything in the world will be affected each other. The early Buddhist texts express the cycle of causation in this way, which I think it is interesting. “Ignorance (avijja) is dependent on dispositions; Dispositions (sankhara) are dependent on consciousness; Consciousness…) Therefore, causation is a turning wheel in form of birth and re-birth (Olson page 46). The cessation of suffering is the third truth. “When this exists, that exists or comes to be; on the arising of this, that arises. When this does not exist, that does not exist or come to be; on the cessation of this, that ceases.” This summary statement affirms the way that the cycle of causation works, but it also suggests that it can be brought to an end (Olson, page 48). Olson indicates that everything is impermanent and I agree with that. The last one is about the path to liberation, which consists of eight interconnected factors. They lead to the cessation of dukkha when they are developed together. These eight factors are: Right Views (wrong views will cause suffering), right intention (right resolve to reform life), right speech (control of speech), right action (abstention from wrong action), right livelihood (maintaining life by honest means), right effort (banishing evil thoughts), right mindfulness (remembrance of things), right concentration (including four stages) (in-class lecture). There are two branches of Buddhism: Theravada (“The School of the Elders”) and Mahayana (“The Great Vehicle”). Theravada is popular in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia while Mahayana is found throughout East Asia (Wikipedia, par.1). So I believe what I learned in China is Mahayana, which includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen and Tiantai (Tendai). Buddhism is a worldwide religion, and what I find is only a part of it.
Now I will discuss if Buddhism is a religion or philosophy. Personally, I think it’s both. However, it really depends on what you mean by “religion” and “philosophy”. For example, Webster’s New World Dictionary defines religion as: “any specific system of belief and worship, often involving a code of ethics and a philosophy.” Buddhism would not be religion under this definition, because it does...
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