The Rise of Buddhism

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From its development in sixth century B.C.E, Buddhism has spread across the world and influenced many different cultures through its ideas of reality and enlightenment while also having a profound impact on the human condition and on a new way of thinking as a religious philosophy. Buddhism emerged in India as a religious philosophy to gain understanding of the human condition through meditation and personal reflection. Buddhism’s ancient teachings, as described by Dr. Jay Stevenson, were developed as ideas about the reality of nature and to find a way to achieve enlightenment. (Stevenson 125-127) The focus of Buddhism was advanced ideas that encouraged a greater understanding of life and living. These ideas originated with the teachings of Buddha that have now become part of one of the most widespread philosophies in the world. This is shown over time as Buddhism has spread and also changed while emerging as an influential way of thinking.

Buddhism’s spread from not just Asia to the United States but also to the entire world has had a profound impact on the way people view the religion. The presence of Buddhism in many countries has shaped their cultures and the people that practice feel that their lives are fuller and richer because of it. According to Debra Mason the teachings and rituals of Buddhism “differ by time and place, the concept of following the Buddha's fundamental teachings and doctrines as a way of avoiding suffering holds constant.”(Mason 1) Having the practice of Buddhism spread as a new way of living and thinking will be very beneficial for many people as its principles deal with mindfulness, simple living and the interconnection of all living things. As the world grows more stressful and chaotic people are turning to Buddhism to seek peace and understanding. Buddhism is now considered the fourth largest religion in the world (Mason 1) and steadily growing. That growth is contributing to awareness, influence, and variety in the world with those that consider themselves spiritual if not religious.

At the beginning of my research I knew very little about Buddhism and even less about its influence and spread across the world. My knowledge of Buddhism covered what I saw on TV, read in the papers, and the generalities of the religion. I knew that a key detail of the religion was meditation and knowledge of personal suffering in order to gain peace and enlightenment. I also was familiar with the Dali Llama but not his precise teachings and the influence he and Buddhism has had on millions of people around the world. Through my research, I have expanded my thinking from Buddhism as a religion to Buddhism as a philosophy and way of life. The participation in Buddhism does not have to be a religious commitment but a spiritual one. It is up to the individual to choose and they are only guided by the teaching of Buddha. His core teaching being the Four Noble Truths: suffering exists; suffering is caused by attachment to desires, by wanting things to be different than they are; suffering can be eliminated by ceasing to want things to be different; and there is a path to eliminating those desires. (Mason 2) This teaching leads to the process of meditation to achieve enlightenment or Nirvana through the Eight Fold Path. The Eight Fold Path consists of eight rights that end ones suffering: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. (Mason 2). Buddhism is meant to be seen as seeking and gaining answers through enlightenment which can be a lifelong process and journey. Buddhism teaches that in order to live a life that is free from 0pain and suffering, one must eliminate any attachments to worldly goods. Only then will they gain a kind of peace and happiness. They must rid themselves of greed, hatred, and ignorance. They must then strive to cultivate four attitudes, loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and...
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