Buddhism Assignment

Buddhism Assignment Words: 3619

Buddhism Buddhism Buddhism is based on the life, revelations and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama (560-480 BC). Siddhartha (Buddah) was born the prince of the Sakhya to King Suddhodana and his wife, Queen Mayadevi. Kumar N. (2004) “Scriptures assert that Buddha chose a king as his father since the royal caste was more respected that the priestly one”. Queen Mayadevi is believed to have been miraculously impregnated by a white elephant that touched her right side with its trunk in a dream.

Royal fortunetellers believed that the dream indicated that Queen Mayadevi was indeed with child and that the child would have extraordinary qualities. The birth of Siddhartha (Buddha) is an amazing tale of miracles. According to Kumar N. (2004)… Queen Mayadevi carried the child for 10 months before giving birth. Following tradition, Mayadevi journeyed to her mother’s home for assistance in the birthing of her child. However, Buddha is said to have been born in a beautiful grove where Mayadevi had stopped to rest during the journey.

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As she stepped out of her carriage she grabbed hold of the branch of a nearby tree and immediately went into labor. Buddha is said to have instantaneously emerged from her right side. The infant Buddha immediately began to walk in the grove and lotus flowers sprang up from his every footprint. He even spoke with comprehensively structured words and is quoted as saying, “Worlds above, worlds below, there’s [sic] no one in the world like me” (Kumar N. , 2004, paragraph 10). Siddhartha was born with at least 32 providential marks (Mahavyanjana) and numerous minor marks (Anuvyanjana) on his body.

Astrologers of the time interpreted these birthmarks as an indication Siddhartha’s future. Their interpretations predicted that Siddhartha was destined to take one of two very different paths to in fulfilling his destiny for greatness. (Rahula W. , n. d. ) “The child, on attaining manhood, would become either a universal monarch (Chakravarti), or abandoning house and home, would assume the robe of a monk and become a Buddha, a perfectly enlightened soul, for the salvation of mankind”. Their predictions included four signs, a crippled erson, a sick person, a deceased person, and a monk seeking eternal rather than worldly pleasure. King Suddhodana realized that for Siddhartha to become Buddha he would have to see the four signs. King Suddhodana tried to hide the four signs from his son in an attempt to ensure his future as a universal monarch. According to Fisher M. P. (2005)… Siddhartha was raised in the lap of luxury. He was accustomed to superior garments, colognes, cosmetics, the company of female musicians, and a harem of dancing girls. He was trained in martial arts and even had a mansion for each season.

He was married to Yasodhara when he was just 16. He also had one son named Rahula. Yet with all the worldly possessions and sensual pleasures of royalty laid at his feet, he felt empty and uncertain of the importance of his existence. Eventually, the Gods brought the four signs to Siddhartha. The four signs brought new meaning to Siddhartha’s existence. After seeing the first three sights, Siddhartha was saddened by the existence of human suffering and inevitable death from old age. The vision of a monk seeking eternal rather than worldly pleasure suggested the possibility of a life of denial.

Siddhartha set out to find the way to liberate human suffering when he was 29 years old. He literally went from a life of extreme wealth and self indulgence to extreme poverty and self-denial. Siddhartha renounced the life of royalty, left his wife and newborn child, donned the robe of a monk and set out to study Brahman traditions. He dedicated six years of his life searching for enlightenment through traditional Brahman techniques. He is said to have endured personal humility and self sacrifice through a number of extreme Brahman techniques which included intense fasting. Kumar N. 2004) asserts that… As a result of intense fasting, Siddhartha was physically reduced to skin and bones, his spine protruded like a row of spindles, and his skin became withered. Sadly, Siddhartha did not find the path to enlightenment through Brahmanism. Consequently, he left this path to find his own way. Siddhartha found the path to true enlightenment beneath the bodhi tree. He initiated his journey to recovery by ending his fast and through meditating on the two extreme paths that he had taken. The search for truth revealed a path between the two extremes. According to Fisher M. P. 2005)… The middle path was neither self-indulgence nor self denial but rather one of self control. Finally, Siddhartha had fulfilled the prophecies and became Buddha, a perfect enlightened soul, ready to share his revelations with the world through Buddhism. Buddha’s Teachings Buddha shared his teachings with people from all walks of life without making any distinction between social classes. The basic principles of Buddhism are broken into three separate categories referred to as the Tipitaka (sacred scriptures). The following describes the three major categories according to Wenner S. (2001) The Four Noble Truths: ? First: Acknowledge the existence of human suffering. Realize that illness, old age and death are painful. ? Second: Realize that human desire of worldly pleasure is the cause of suffering. ? Third: To end suffering one must shed the desire of worldly pleasures. ? Fourth: The Eightfold Path will lead to a life without suffering. The Noble Eightfold Path: ? Right Views. Accept the four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. ? Right Resolve: Renounce worldly pleasures and respect all life. ? Right Speech: Do not be a gossiper, slanderer, or a liar. Right Behavior: Do not take the life of any living being; do not steel, take no part in unlawful sexual acts. ? Right Occupation: Do not earn a living at the expense of others. ? Right Effort: Strive for perfection by casting down any evil qualities and don virtuous qualities in its place. ? Right Contemplation: Be attentive, arduous, watchful, thoughtful, and free of desire and of regret. ? Right Meditation: “When you have abandoned all sensuous pleasures, all evil qualities, both joy and sorrow, you must then enter the four degrees of meditation, which are produced by concentration. The Five Precepts: ? Do not commit murder. ? Do not take anything that is not yours. ? Commit no adulterous act. ? Do not lie ? Do not use illegal drugs or intoxicating beverages. As with other religions, Buddhism has evolved over the centuries and has many sub-divisions or denominations. Some of these include but are not limited to: ? Theravada: An older, more conservative group following the original teachings of Gautama Siddhartha (Buddha). ? Mahayana: A younger, more liberal group following more practical, diversified, and evolved teachings derived from Gautama Siddhartha’s original teaching.

Who is Buddha? The Buddha was a normal human being, who was a prince and due to succeed his father king Suddhodana. They belonged to the Shakyan clan, a warrior group in a place close to the border of modem Nepal and India. He grew up in the luxury of the royal family, but he soon found that the worldly comfort and security does not bring true happiness. At the age of 29, he renounced the princely lifestyle and left the palace to find an answer to human pain and suffering and the cause of birth and death, all of which every human being dislikes to face.

In the first part of the next six years he went to different renowned teachers without obtaining an answer. He also subjected himself to extreme modes of living, which also brought no adequate answers. Then he abandoned the extremes life styles and tried to remain in the middle (call the middle path). At the end of the period, he suddenly came across the answer to the so far unknown tragic recurrent cause of birth, suffering, pain and death of every human being on earth. This finding is called enlightenment and the person is called “Enlightened One” or “Buddha”.

The ex-prince lived for another 45 years as a mendicant, begging his food, having no personal belongings. He taught his discovery of salvation, the Dhamma (doctrine) throughout northern India. Even though the Buddha was born as a normal human being, he later became an exceptional human being, because he developed his mind to the maximum level possible through meditation and self-understanding. At the age of 80, the Buddha passed away. The Buddha taught all different classes of men and women, Brahmins and outcasts, wealthy and beggars, ascetics and robbers, kings and peasants, without making any distinction between them.

In order to teach the Dhamma (teachings), he had to face a big challenge to overcome the existing harmful dogmas of their society. The society was rigidly controlled according to caste, color, religion, sex, belief and hierarchical customs. After Buddha was enlightened, he expressed the invalidity of the caste systems and other discriminatory practices against any type of human beings. Politicians, wealthy people, high rankers and others carried out these harmful practices. He treated every human being equally by using specific features, which varied in accordance with the impermanence of all living beings.

Buddha’s comment was, “No one becomes an outcast by birth, no one becomes a Brahmin (the higher ranking and spiritual advisers at that time) by birth, one becomes an outcast or Brahmin only by deed. ” If someone can maintain five precepts: abstaining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying and taking intoxicant alcohol and dangerous drugs, he is the higher-ranking person. Whosoever is not maintaining those five precepts then that person is the outcast (Vasala) and not those who are born in specific families and labeled as outcasts.

Why are there images of Buddha that look so differently? When different countries created images of Buddha, the basic structure was similar because it was derived from the history of Buddhism, pertaining specially to the figure of the living Buddha in different postures, such as sitting cross legged, looking down with half closed eyes with his hands resting gently on his lap. The latter is called Samadhi Muddra (meditation posture), which is quite common and found everywhere. There are other different types of the Buddha’s statues with walking posture, preaching posture and sleeping posture.

Furthermore, you may have noticed also different looks in the Buddha’s face. These differences are a result of the different cultural backgrounds in different countries. The images created by the artists follow the basic structure of the Buddha while the general features correspond to those of the local peoples’ faces and the rest of the body. His compassionate looks tend to produce in us peace and calm within. Do Buddhists worship the statue of Buddha? No! In his teachings Buddha has clearly stated not to worship him. We use the statue as a symbol of virtue and morality.

All religions use symbols to express various concepts. In Christianity the presence of the cross is used to symbolize his sacrifice. In Sikhism, the sword is used to symbolize spiritual struggle. We do not worship the statue of Buddha. But we admire his virtues and the associated practices may tend to look like worshipping him. There are many such virtues as loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic delight, equanimity, charity, generosity and patience. So we put Buddha’s image in front of us and recall his great qualities into our mind, and also it is object of meditation.

Did the Buddha believe in a god or gods? Actually Buddhism does not go along with the concept of an absolute creator or god. Before Buddha’s era, people used to worship many gods; people thought the natural objects such as mountain, water, sun, moon and other powerful people were taken to be gods; e. g. Indra and Prajapati were considered to be gods. Later the concept of multiple gods became part of their belief and it revised the concept of a single god. Then they began to believe that there was only one creator or god. Then the Maha Brahma concept arose.

People then believed he was the only god who had executive powers. Buddha did not accept any of those concepts. The Buddha said, “Many who are scared seek the protection of rocks, forests, trees, groves; seeking their refuge. No one can achieve liberation by beliefs only. By seeking their refuge, no one can overcome suffering” – (DP. II8). Buddha did declare the presence of the deities and other beings living at different levels of enlightenment. The deities are claimed to be some sort of living creatures operating at a higher state than humans.

In his teachings the Buddha says that human beings can develop their minds to the maximum potential, because no other being can attain the higher levels of enlightenment and reach Nirvana (state of no rebirth and no suffering). Otherwise man creates heaven and hell himself through his own body and mind. The Buddha pointed out that you should be able to find your salvation by yourself. What does the concept of Salvation mean in Buddhism? In Buddhism salvation means to gain one’s liberation from recurring agony, disquieting mental pain, anguish, repeated rebirth, etc.

Every human being is affected by these qualities and by practicing Sila (morality), Samadhi (meditation) and Panna (the knowledge gaining insight) is only way to liberate from the sufferings. Salvation may be obtained by each individual through the practice of morality, meditation and wisdom. An outsider cannot take someone into Nirvana, where there is ultimate happiness. A teacher is able to show the path to salvation, but the individual has to follow the required path. Similarly if someone wants to swim, that individual has to train and practice in a swimming pool.

What does Buddhism mean to you? Buddhism is a way of life to me. It is a very simple way of living. Easily I can be satisfied with whatever I get, and I expect to do some service to others. I don’t harm others intentionally, I respect others and live very peacefully. Those are some benefits I get by practicing Buddhism. Do you have dietary restrictions? Yes! I take 2 meals a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, I take only liquids such as soft drinks, milk and water in the afternoon. I depend entirely upon food offered to me by others.

I am expected to take any foods offered to me; I generally get vegetables, but rarely devotees offer non-vegetarian foods. I am obligated to eat any foods given to me and should not refuse anything given to me. According to the Buddha’s teaching, the only foods we can refuse are animal derivatives, where the animal has been intentionally killed to provide material specifically for our consumption. Do Buddhist pay tithes? No! Buddhists are not compelled to offer any amount of money or help in other ways. All contributions towards the temple are voluntary.

If there are special needs such as capital expenditure for construction and other maintenance work, then the devotees provide them voluntarily. The existence of the temple is met exclusively by voluntary efforts of its devotees. Is it difficult to practice Buddhism in America? No! Buddhism is derived from what happens in nature. The ordinary happenings and the other apparent aspect of nature have been critically analyzed to derive its conclusion. Therefore it is not difficult for anybody to practice wherever they are. If we maintain its simplicity, then it is not a hard to ractice Buddhism in America. However if we are looking for more worldly pleasure and joy, which incidentally are considered to be transient, they lead to pain and suffering. If anyone is after transient qualities, though pleasurable, such acts make it difficult to practice Buddhism anywhere. The main purpose of Buddhism has been to find out the consequences of adherent to transient and pleasurable activities. Even in the USA we wear our regular robes and go from place to place and state to state as part of our services.

Incidentally, passers-by look at us as being strange and sometimes ask questions. I have had some funny experiences though. Once when I was living in Los Angeles, I was walking down the street and a Mexican gentleman asked me, “Hey man! Why are you wearing a blanket? ” I laughed and briefly explained to him that this blanket was my robe. Usually when people ask questions like that I don’t go into detail about who I am and what I practice. What is the significance of the color of your robe? We actually wear brown, orange or yellow.

The color helps us to remember the season of autumn. The falling down of leaves and changing color of the leaves in Autumn indicate the impermanence of life and all other things, living and non living, which we naturally assumed to be permanent. Similarly, a beautiful red flower one day becomes brown or exhibits other fading shades and then becomes a dying object. No one is able to prevent these changes by any means. Similarly and also shown scientifically day after day all things are changing and nobody can stop such change, which is a good indication of impermanence.

Buddha said there are three characteristics of the life. The first is ‘Anicca,’ meaning impermanence; everything on this earth is changing continuously. The second is ‘Dukkha,’ meaning suffering such as birth of a child, getting old, becoming sick, etc. The third is ‘Anatta,’ meaning no-self or absence of a true self entity. The conditions in life are always changing and are in a transitory state. Therefore neither living beings nor physical objects can be considered to be permanent. What Does Buddhism offer to the world?

Buddhism offers much to the world: peace, happiness, living without fear and worry, being compassionate to every living beings, not harming any living things including plants (e. g. unnecessarily cutting down and destroying plants are also unwholesome acts), expression of love and kindness to every individual; also encouraging people to abstaining from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, lying, and taking intoxicant alcohol. If the people were to observe the previous five precepts, most of the unwholesome acts or evil behavior will disappear. For a start, we can gain peace and happiness by practicing the five precepts.

Only through special type of meditation discovered by the Buddha can Buddhism offer solutions to human problems. It can help to eliminate greed, hatred and delusions (misinterpretation of things and of acts presumed to be wholesome at the common level of the mind’s operations). By practicing meditation one can gain peace, calmness, happiness, humbleness, selflessness and elimination of egotism. During the early stage of meditation one must set aside a certain specific time so as to calm one’s mind. During this special time once must look into one’s mind and notice what comes and goes into and out of it.

Then one can critically analyze the subject matter. Over a period of many sessions, one discards harmful unwholesome thoughts, retains and fosters good wholesome thoughts and ignores those which have neither of the other two qualities. Through this demanding process of training of the mind and gradually improving it in stages, one will be able to extend the practice of meditation to all times, even while having a conversation, washing dishes, etc. However when one is doing risky acts like driving or using tools one should be mindful only on the subject concerned and nothing else.

This is referred to as full awareness or mindfulness, which was introduced by the Buddha. The development of mindfulness is the ability to focus on what one is doing. If one has no training in concentration to be mindful, as explained above, then it is difficult to pay attention to what is really happening at that specific moment. We start the meditation process using the breath as the tool to stay with the present moment. At our Vihara we have meditation practice for beginners and advanced meditation every Saturday afternoon. Are there different Sects of Buddhism?

Partly yes, partly no, because there are some differences in the modes of practice to suite various cultures and localities. We of course meet and mix very well and support each other. Similarly, the following analogy illustrates the point. There are many different rivers, some famous and others not so famous, some wide and some narrow, some beautiful with huge waterfalls and others without. But the water of all rivers flows to end in the Ocean. Then the river waters mix with the salt water to give the single taste of salt. Similarly, in Buddhism, Theravada, Mahayana, Zen, Vajrayana, etc. are sects of Buddhism, but all of them abide by the same primary fundamentally Buddhist way of life. As the taste of the multiple river-water in the ocean became the single salty taste, the fundamental practice of Buddhism in the various sects is similar. Thus the fruits of the Buddhism from different sects impart the same expression of calmness, of loving kindness, of joy and of peacefulness and ultimately lead to the same attainment of Nibbana (the ultimate eternal happiness). References Fisher M. P. (2005). Living Religions, (6th Ed. ).

New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc. Retrieved April 5, 2009. Rahula W. (n. d. ) The Buddha: Life and teachings of the Lord Buddha. Angelfire. Retrieved March 25, 2009, from http://www. angelfire. com/realm/bodhisattva/buddha. html. Kumar N. (2004). The Life of Buddha and the Art of Narration in Buddhist Thangka Paintings. Exotic India. Retrieved April 5, 2009, from http://www. exoticindiaart. com/article/lifeofbuddha. Wenner S. , (2001). Basic Beliefs of Buddhism. Retrieved March 28, 2009, from http://www. mnsu. edu/emuseum/cultural/religion/buddhism/beliefs. html.

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