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Buddhism

By zbuhr16 Sep 07, 2013 1031 Words
Buddhism, a Religion or a Philosophy?
Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy? To find the answer to this question, I believe we must first identify the difference between the two. The definition of “religion” is “the commitment and detection to a faith or observation.” The definition of “philosophy” is “the pursuit of wisdom.” So from this, we can say that the difference is that philosophy is to pursue wisdom through learning and experiencing, while religion is to commit yourself to a certain belief by means of faith. There are many philosophers today that say Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion. They say this on account of what Buddhism teaches. It teaches you to always better yourself by seeking knowledge and understanding of the world (although this understanding is to come from Buddhist history and not from one’s own perceptions). To continue on the path of answering the question aforementioned, I will give a basic understanding of the Buddhist beliefs. First of all, you may not realize this but Buddhism is one of the larger “religions” in the world, with an estimated four-hundred million Buddhists. As with a lot of large religions, Buddhism is not completely united under one exact belief system. What I mean by this is that within the Buddhist religion there are many different sects with differing beliefs. For the purpose of this paper, I will inform you of the basic beliefs that Buddhism was founded. Buddhism revolves around one certain man popularly known as The Buddha. The legend of Buddha is about the son of an Indian war king named Siddhartha Gautama who lived from approximately 566 B.C. to 480 B.C. Siddhartha, having become tired of his extravagant and monetary life style, renounced his royalty and became a monk at the age of twenty-nine. As a monk, he searched for the truth of the world around him. Several years after becoming a monk, Siddhartha went for a walk through the forest. While in the forest, he came across a large tree which he sat under and began to meditate. Suddenly a vision came to him, a vision that supposedly showed him the answer to happiness. Because of this vision Siddhartha was given the title “The Buddha” meaning “The Enlightened One.” This was the legend of Buddha that is most widely accepted. Another part of Buddhism or even the very essence of it is the teaching of the Four Noble Truths. The first truth is, “the truth of suffering”, which identifies the presence of suffering. The second truth is, “the truth of the cause of suffering,” which deals with determining the cause of suffering. According to Buddhism, the root of suffering is desire and ignorance. The third truth is, “the truth of the cause of suffering,” it deals with either the end of suffering being in this life here on earth or in the spiritual one. Finally, the fourth truth is, “the truth of the path that leads to the end of suffering.” This truth charts the method for attaining the end of suffering, and it is broken up into eight steps which is called “The Eightfold Path.” In the Eightfold Path there are three themes which organize each step into separate levels. The first theme is known as good moral conduct, which includes the first, second, and third steps which are right understanding, right thought, and right speech. The second theme is known as meditation and mental development, which includes the fourth, fifth, and sixth steps. These are right action, right livelihood, and right effort. The third and final theme is known as the wisdom or insight which includes the seventh and eighth steps which are right mindfulness and right concentration. After one goes through all these truths and completes these steps, one achieves a transcendent state of being free from suffering and the worldly cycle of birth and rebirth. This achievement is referred to as Nirvana; it is also the level of spiritual enlightenment which Buddha was the first to achieve. Another large part of Buddhism is known as Karma. It refers to the good or bad actions people take during their lifetime. Speaking in terms of Karma, good actions include either the absence of bad actions or actual positive actions. Bad actions relate to things such as lying, killing, or stealing. The weight of these actions depends on five certain conditions. The first condition involves frequent, repetitive actions. The second condition involves a determined, intentional action. The third condition involves actions performed without regret. The fourth condition involves actions against extraordinary persons. The fifth and final condition involves action toward those who have helped one in the past. There is also Neutral Karma, but this has neither benefits nor cost. Such actions include breathing, eating, and sleeping. Karma also plays out in the next part of Buddhism which is called the cycle of rebirth. This belief says that if you die then you will be reborn into one of six realms. Of these realms there are three fortunate realms and three unfortunate realms. The three fortunate realms are the realm of gods, the realm of demigods, and the realm of man. The three unfortunate realms are the realm of animals, the realm of ghosts, and the realm of hells. Of the three fortunate realms, Buddhists believe the realm of man is the most fortunate, because gods and demigods are so full of jealousy and envy that they are in eternal conflict. Whereas men are free of this curse. If one was to achieve Nirvana, then the cycle of rebirth would end, and the fires of desire and ignorance would be blown out. After studying Buddhism, I have learned that unlike most religions, Buddhists do not pray to an idol or deity. A lot of people think they worship The Buddha but they do not. If you see one bowing to a statue of The Buddha it is merely out of respect like you would bow to a king or salute a flag. Because Buddhism doesn’t actually have an idol or deity that they worship, I seem to think of it as more of a philosophy than a religion.

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