February 23, 2015
Buddhism is a religion to roughly 300 million people around the world today, and is the primary religion in countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. Additionally, Buddhism has been adopted by many Western cultures and many “Wats” and temples have a place in North America and other countries outside of Asia. With such an impact to different people from different backgrounds around the world, one must question what makes this religion attractive enough to embrace. Buddhism has a rich history and core beliefs that present world views of how to reach Nirvana. Additionally, Mahayana Buddhism presents a unique perspective to Buddhism. To date there is no official biography of the Buddha, but it has been generally agreed that his life followed a timeline. The story starts with Maya dreaming of a white elephant entering her side, which is now considered the time that the future Buddha was conceived. Born a son to the prince of the Shakya tribe, Siddhartha was also delivered from the side of his mother Maya. With Maya dying a week after his birth, Siddhartha was raised by his aunt and was raised to succeed his father to become a great king. Siddhartha’s father forbade him from leaving the royal grounds and being exposed to suffering, but decided to disobey him. When visiting a nearby town and witnessing the suffering that was integral to ordinary life, Siddhartha was moved by his encounters and decided to escape his sheltered and carefree life. Leaving the royal grounds and relieving himself of all luxurious belongings, Siddhartha sought spirituality from several teachers and learned different methods of meditation and philosophies. “Siddhartha spent about six years seeking answers to his questions—particularly about the troubling facts of suffering and death. His own mother had died young, a death that was apparently without meaning. Why, he often asked, is there suffering? Why do people have to grow old and die? Is there a God or unchanging divine reality behind the surface of things? Is there a soul? Is there an afterlife? Are we reborn? Can we avoid suffering? How should we live?” (Malloy, Page 126, 2013). In seeking the answers to his questions, Siddhartha attempted to rid himself of distractions by living on little food, drink, and sleep to inhibit insight and gain spiritual powers. At one point, Siddhartha collapsed from weakness due to this practice of austerity. When he was revived, Siddhartha realized that his practices did not bring him any closer to finding answers to his questions, and decided to live a life of moderation instead. In this new state, Siddhartha resisted all temptation and reached a profound state of awareness and understanding that is now coined Bodhi, or his awakening/enlightenment. At this point, it is fabled that Siddhartha was able to see his past lives, the laws of karma, and finally the insight to life and rebirth. Siddhartha was said to have “woken up” from this and adopted “the Buddha” as a new name. From here, Buddha traveled and shared his learnings and taught disciples. These teachings were all facilitated verbally and through chant, and were not written down until after the Buddha’s death. There are early Buddhist teachings that are the core of this religion, such as the Three Jewels (Triratna), The Three Marks of Reality, The Four Noble Truths, and the Noble Eightfold Path. After his death, disagreements over Buddha’s teachings surfaced and created different branches and schools of Buddhism. Of these, three are considered the major schools, which are Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, and Vajrayana Buddhism. Focusing on Mahayana Buddhism, the most significant difference in this school is that everyone (not just monks) is capable of achieving nirvana. By definition, Mahayana means “big vehicle” which is a metaphor for a large ferry that is capable of carrying many different people...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document