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Buddhism vs Islam

By Togetherforever2 Jan 17, 2013 1630 Words
Buddhism vs Islam

From the beginning of human mankind, there has always existed a thirst for truth. In searching for specific truths, people have come to different conclusions of what that truth is except of those that are scientifically proven. For example, in searching the truth about the shape of the earth, scientists concluded that it is round. This is a truth which is accepted worldwide and is not put into doubt. There are many occasions though where people disagree with certain issues and cannot agree on a universal truth. Some of these issues have to do with the three big questions concerning life which are: Does God exist? Who created the universe? Are there absolute moral rules? Because these issues cannot be scientifically proven, they have remained a matter of opinion and faith for every individual. What has played a major role in knowing the truth to these questions is religion. Religions have tremendously influenced and impacted people of all generations in every aspect of life. Two of these great religions are Buddhism and Islam. Although completely different from one another in faith, these two religions served as truth for different people at different times. Buddhism birthed from a single man named Siddhartha Gautama, and Islam was strengthened by Muhammad. Both Siddhartha’s and Mohammad’s lives are very fascinating. Siddhartha was born around 563 BCE in a small country which is now southern Nepal. This country was ruled by a clan called Shakayas. His parents were Shuddodana Gautama, who was the leader of the clan and also the ruler of his country, and Mahamaya. Siddhartha was their first child. When it was time for Mahmaya to give birth, she had to go to her father’s kingdom as it was the custom of that time. On the way to her father’s kingdom, her birth pains began, and she gave birth in a small town called Lumbini. The story that surrounds Siddhartha’s birth is very unique, and I would dare say quite unbelievable. Siddhartha was a baby like no other. As Dr. George Boeree explained, in his analysis of Siddhartha’s life, Siddhartha was born fully aware of what was going on. He could stand upright and walked a short distance. As he walked, flowers blossomed in his footsteps. He could also speak and told his mother that his mission was to deliver mankind from misfortune and pain (Boeree). To be very honest, I find it extremely difficult to believe this event. It does not sound natural for a baby to be able to walk, talk, and have the awareness of his mission in life as soon as he is born. Probably the fact that his birth was unnatural for a human being made him even more important later on in his life. Siddhartha lived only with his father because unfortunately his mother died seven days after his birth. King Shuddodana was very concerned for his son and his future and called a sooth-sayer to predict his son’s future. The soothe-sayer, by the name of Asita, told the king that his son would either be a great king or a great savior of humanity. Excited with the idea that his son could one day be a great king, Shuddodana decided to keep his son away from things that would make him become a sage. So he kept him in the palace and thus presented him a face world- a world that did not include sickness, death and pain. He was basically kept in seclusion and all that surrounded Siddhartha was beauty and health. Siddhartha was trained in the arts of war and got married at the age of sixteen. Unfortunately, his father’s attempt to keep him away from reality did not last long. Soon Siddhartha grew curious of the world outside his palace. Thus, one day he went out of the palace and walked through the roads of the capital city. While walking, he encountered so many things he had never seen before. He saw sick people, old people, and a cemetery, and for the first time in his life he learned that people get old and eventually die one day. Soon after what he had seen, he realized he could not continue living as he had lived before. At last, he left all the pleasures of the palace and went to search the truth and find answers to his questions. He meditated for many days until all his questions were answered. Then it is said that he became the Buddha, which means “He who is awake.” (Boeree) It is said that he was tempted in all ways by the evil one, Mara, but he overcame all temptations. As Boeree stated “Siddhartha, having conquered all temptations, touched the ground with one hand and asked the earth to be his witness.” The conclusion to the enlightenment he received became the religion of Buddhism. He then was convicted to teach to the people what he had received. On the other hand, Muhammad’s life was not as adventurous as Siddhartha’s life, but it surely was unique in its own way. Muhammad was born in Mecca in 570CE. He was orphaned at the age of six and was raised by his relatives. Mohammad did not grow up like Siddhartha in a palace with all the world’s luxuries. He grew just like everybody else and saw what was going on around him. To earn a living, he became a businessman and trader. Muhammad was respected by all and made a difference with his character. He was later given the name ‘al-Amen’ which meant the honest, the reliable, and the trustworthy (Zahoor, A & Haq.Z 36). Muhammad married Khadija and had six children, but throughout his life he had other wives too. Like Siddhartha, Muhammad was deeply concerned with the human condition. He was really troubled and discouraged by the people’s lack of honesty and generosity and would often meditate just like Siddhartha. On one of these occasions, as he was meditating in the Mount Hira during the month of Ramadan, he saw visions and heard voices; later he was convinced that he was inspired by Allah. The first revelation that he received was from the archangel Gabriel. At first Muhammad was very frightened from what had just happened and he hid in a cave in Mount Hira. Eventually he realized that he could not hide for a very long time, for he was constantly receiving revelations. As Dr. Zahoor and Dr. Haq said, “Gabriel visited the Prophet as commanded by Allah revealing Ayat (meaning signs, loosely referred to as verses) in Arabic over a period of twenty-three years.” It must have been an amazing experience to receive so many revelations over such a long period of time! Now due to the fact that Muhammad was acquainted with Jewish and Christian beliefs, he believed that part of the revelations were given to prophets like Abraham and Moses, but now the final revelations were given to him. All these revelations came together in a book called Qur’an (or Koran) and came to be known as the holy book of Islam. The Qur’an contained guidelines by which the followers of Islam, called Muslims, had to follow. Having now the truth in his hand, Muhammad decided full of zeal to go out in the crowds and preach what was revealed to him and to spread this new faith not only in Saudi Arabia but also to other parts of the world. As stated by Dr. Zahoor and Dr. Haq, “The mission of Prophet Muhammad was to restore the worship of the One True God, the creator and sustainer of the universe, and to complete the moral, ethical, legal, and social conduct and all other matters of significance for the humanity at large.” The teachings of Siddhartha and Muhammad were completely different from each other. The religion Siddhartha called Buddhism, was based on Nirvana, a metaphysical reality, and the teachings of Muhammad were based on the Qur’an. For the Buddhist, Siddhartha is considered their god since he was the founder of this religion. For the Muslims, their religion is monotheistic and Allah is the all powerful being who created the universe and everything in it. Both of these religions gave hope to the people of an afterlife but in whole different way from each other. Buddhism teaches that Nirvana is a form of release from the wheel of life. It is not a heavenly salvation but “involves an extinction of selfhood and a final reunion with the Great World Soul” (Duiker, 50). Islam teaches that salvation is gained by good works. For example, if the Muslims follow certain rules they are guaranteed a place in paradise. The ethical code they had to follow were the five pillars of Islam: Believe in Allah and Muhammad as his prophet; have standard prayer five times a day, observe the holy month of Ramadan; take a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime; and give to the poor. In conclusion, today all that mankind wants is a getaway; someone or something to turn to when things get tough and hard. Some believe in different Gods and some believe in nothing. I guess some find it hard to believe in a God because there is so much pain in the world. Nonetheless, the majority wants to believe in a God; a God that will be there for them and will listen to their cries; a God that will restore them from pain and bring them happiness. So no matter how different these two religions were from each other, many people found truth in them and were filled with hope of an afterlife and of a life not filled with suffering, pain and misery, but a life filled with peace and joy.

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